Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 23, 2013

Frankfort a hot spot

BY LAURIE MIHOLER-ZACHRITZ Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — FRANKFORT — The name "Stormcloud" of the new Stormcloud Brewing Company is meant to be a reference to the turbulence often found in a brilliant artist's mind, but the brew pub's co-owner, Brian Confer, doesn't mind if the name also serves as an allusion to the weather systems that regularly rumble in to Frankfort off Lake Michigan.

"It (Stormcloud) was sort of my own analogy to the creative process...but the great thing about the word is it works here on the shore of Lake Michigan, where the weather rolls in and the weather rolls out," Confer said. "It has the power of Lake Michigan behind it.

"It’s a stormy and dramatic name," Confer said. "I hope we can embody that."

Stormcloud Brewing Co. is one of several brand new businesses opening up this summer in the picturesque lakefront community of Frankfort. City Manager Josh Mills said Frankfort is seeing a strong demand this summer for storefronts from new business ventures.

"One thing that has been a draw to the community recently is all the accolades for the beauty of the region in general. That has trickled down to Frankfort,” Mills said. “Every downtown storefront is occupied, except for one, and that’s the owner’s choice. We’re turning people away.”

Other businesses coming to Frankfort this summer include Glenwood Market, located next to the Chamber of Commerce, and which opened in late May; wine bar and emporium Cru Cellars Michigan on Main Street, now open; Petals and Perks on Main Street, opened in May; and Bay Sport Rentals, a kayak and bike rental shop, which will debut at the corner of Main and 8th streets later this year.

"It (Frankfort) is the only location on the Third Coast that has everything,” said Bay Sport co-owner Greg Ball. “It has a 22-mile long bike trail, it has a gorgeous river, it has unspoiled beaches that go on for miles, and it is a well-run city. It’s just a real jewel of a place.”

Bay Sport Rentals, the Ball’s kayak and bike rental shop, will debut in downtown Frankfort on the corner of Main and 8th Street. Ball and his wife Liz had retired for exactly one week before they realized they needed something more to do. So, moving from Hawaii to Frankfort to open their own business seemed like a good idea, Ball said, even though the two had no previous experience. The Balls will live and work there once renovations are completed.

Petals and Perks is the creation of Victoria and Chris Mekas, owners of both Victoria’s Floral Design and Hill Top Soda Shop in Benzonia. The business blends a traditional flower and gift shop with the laid back vibe of a true coffee house, complete with lounge area and homemade waffle bar. The business features an extensive array of Michigan-made products, an outdoor bouquet stand, with pre-wrapped flowers and specialty desserts, including Chris’ mother’s Baklava.

A touch of glamour and fame are also on their way with the addition of Cru Cellars Michigan. Co-owner Jen Bingham is a Certified Sommelier. Her wine list has been featured in Wine Spectator magazine and she was previously the wine director at the upscale wine tasting room, ENO, on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue.

“That’s not important,” she said. “We are not wine snobs. This is a nice place to come and relax, have a glass of wine with a cheese plate or meal, or do some tasting. It’s not an intimidating place.”

The Bingham’s new emporium, an addition to their Tampa-based enterprise, boasts a combination wine bar, tasting room, wine store and restaurant. Jen’s handwritten tasting notes help customers when choosing among the 200 to 250 different wines they carry.

Glenwood Market is an offshoot of parent operation Glenwood Restaurant, which has been a fixture on Portage Lake in Onekama since 1972. Owners Donna and Chris Ervine will carry exclusively made Michigan items, including several of their own label food items and brand names familiar to northern Michigan residents and tourists, such as Cherry Republic, M-22, Michigan Mittens and more.

“We’re all about Michigan,” Donna said. Everything here is 95 percent Michigan made."

Glenwood will make custom gift baskets and ship anywhere.

Stormcloud, meanwhile sits next to the renovated Garden Theatre on Main Street. The building has a combined space of 3,200 square feet, shared equally by the brewery and the brew pub, which seats 60 patrons. An outdoor Beer Garden in the front of the brewery showcases an interior view of the brewing process and seats 50.

Stormcloud serves 15 of their own brews and specializes in Belgian Ales. Leelanau’s Tandem cider is also on tap along with three, private label wines from Left Foot Charlie’s in Traverse City. A limited menu features their signature flat bread pizzas and a variety of cheeses and spreads, as well as charcuterie (smoked meats).

The new brewery and brew pub will be open year-round.

“There’s nothing like it within 40 miles,” Schmitt said, adding the long-term plan is to expand into distribution and make their product available throughout the area.

Frankfort’s calendar for this summer includes more than new business openings. The entire downtown corridor and beach have Wi-Fi service by the July 4 holiday. Everyone can access the service for free for at least two hours a day, Mills said, and there is going to be a web cam on the beach for beachgoers and surfers to be able to check conditions with another planned for the lighthouse.

It’s no surprise to Mills that a lot is going on around Frankfort these days.

He credits Frankfort’s “phenomenal” restaurants with spurring the flurry of new business. But beyond that, Mills notes, “Frankfort is a beautiful and compassionate community. It’s nice, it’s clean, and it’s safe.”