Thursday, August 12, 2010

Life, Liberty, Beaches, and Pie



I recently took my annual pilgrimage to the Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor, MI. Nestled near one of Michigan’s most scenic roads – M22 – Glen Arbor is adjacent to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The National Park makes this a fabulous destination whether you make it a day trip or a week at a rental cottage. And, M22 is the only MI road that I know of that has its own line of apparel.

The Cherry Republic complex – and that is what it is becoming – began in 1989 when owner, Bob Sutherland, was a college student selling t-shirts from the trunk of his car. The t-shirts are still available and feature a cherry tree (of course). By 1993, he was selling the still popular Boomchunka cookie and dried cherries. Now the company has their offices, wine tasting room, café, and retail store in downtown Glen Arbor featuring over 160 cherry products. All of the products are made with Michigan cherries. The production facility is a couple of miles down the road. And, there is a 10,000 square foot warehouse in Empire.

They add products all of the time. There are even dog biscuits. This year was the first time that I saw the fudge! Of the dozen or so flavors, I purchased the dark chocolate cherry; two of my favorite foods. Here are some of rather unexpected cherry products that they offer for sale: White Chocolate Cherry Peanut Butter, Kabob’s Kicken’ Hot Sauce, Organic Cherry Chipotle Salsa, Sweet Cherry Balsamic Vinegar. And of course, they produce various preserves, candies, and dried cherry mixes.

My pilgrimage always includes a trip to the café for cherry pie. The entire menu includes Michigan cherries: burgers, ice creams, cheddar cheese, lemonade, hummus, chili, guacamole, and many more items. This annual trip is also one of the times during the year that I stock up on cherry products. The store is just loaded with shelves of packaged products and samples everywhere. On the Tuesday that I went, there were crowds of visitors enjoying the fruits of Michigan.



As I walked through the property, I could tell that this is an organization that lives its values. Cherry Republic donates 1% of gross revenues to organizations in Leelanau, Grand Traverse, and Benzie counties to help preserve the local rural landscape. The café features rooftop solar panels, beverage cups made from plants, and dual flush toilets.

Cherry Republic’s mission is “to place the fabulous cherry in every household in America. This will help increase cherry sales, keep Northern Michigan cherry farms in business and help preserve orchard lands.” Today Michigan produces 70 – 75% of the tart cherries grown in the U.S. – as well as sweet cherries. Cherry Republic has stores in Traverse City and Charlevoix in addition to the one in Glen Arbor. When you visit, tell them we want one in Grand Rapids. We have a Cherry Street in the Cherry Hill district after all.

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