Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — Just two or three years ago, while Michigan was still suffering a hangover from the Great Recession, it would have been hard to imagine that Benzie County would be home to a host of new businesses.
Things were, to put it nicely, flat. Few individuals were investing in a local economy that seemed to be treading water, like much of Michigan.
But one by one, some gutsy entrepreneurs are opening new businesses that are bringing new interest — and some much-needed jobs and dollars — to Benzie.
Frankfort, perched on Lake Michigan on Betsie Bay, is seeing a lot of action. Stormcloud Brewing Company recently opened its doors, Glenwood Market opened in late May, Cru Cellars Michigan, a wine bar and emporium, opened on Main Street, Petals and Perks opened in May, and Bay Sport Rentals, a kayak and bike rental shop, will debut later this year.
In Honor, the new Platte River Inn, an upscale restaurant along U.S. 31, has created a lot of buzz. It is seen as a key component in a long-term effort to breathe new life into the village.
Benzie County Chamber of Commerce president Mary Carroll said some longtime residents who have wanted to open a business for some time are finding that this is the time and Benzie is the place.
It seemed inevitable that Benzie, with its wealth of natural resources - including a big hunk of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Crystal Lake, the Platte and Herring lake systems, the Betsie River and Betsie Bay, plus miles of Lake Michigan shoreline — would eventually see some of the economic revitalization that has happened elsewhere across the region.
But it has taken a while, and there had to be times when some in the county had to wonder when it would be Benzie’s turn.
Honor residents have been working for years on a revitalization plan that is just now bearing fruit. Their persistence is an example for others to emulate.
There are no guarantees any of this will work. But there are still plenty of people willing to put their financial futures on the line to build a business. The recent reopening of the Garden Theater in Frankfort helped build momentum; right now, every storefront in the downtown but one is occupied, and that’s closed by the owner’s choice.
“We’re turning people away,” City manager Josh Mills said.
Michigan is slowly getting back on its feet, thanks in part to places like Benzie County and the people willing to take the risk. It’s how things happen.