EMPIRE — The cherries used in Cherry Republic’s granola, salsa and pie come from orchards across northwest Michigan, and production of those cherry products is scattered around the region, too.
Not for long. Cherry Republic is building a new food factory in Empire to consolidate its food production into one building, instead of using four facilities in Leelanau and Grand Traverse Counties.
“It’s a challenge with food when you’re spread out, especially with staff,” said Todd Ciolek, Cherry Republic COO. “We’ve been looking at other facilities, like in Traverse City, but (Cherry Republic owner Bob Sutherland) and I, we’re both from Leelanau County originally. We said ‘This is where we’re from; let’s support our local community. We’ll do it here.’”
The new factory will be next to Cherry Republic’s Empire distribution center. Ciolek said the bakery should move into the new facility by the end of summer and other production lines, such as canning and packaging, will move in through the next year. Consolidating will make more space in Cherry Republic’s warehouse and Glen Arbor store, and allow the business to expand its Glen Arbor café and Empire distribution center.
Ciolek said opening the new factory could lead to shifting 10 seasonal employees to full-time schedules because employees can shift between positions as needed if all production lines are under one roof.
“I’m just excited we’re able to do this in Leelanau County,” Ciolek said. “There’s not a lot of commercial development out here and we were able to keep the jobs out in Empire and add some, too. We’re right next to the place we’ve grown up loving, Glen Arbor, Empire and the national park. It’s really cool.”