BY GLENN PUIT
---- — NORTHPORT — A business renaissance is sweeping through this coastal town like a refreshing breeze coming off Lake Michigan.
At least eight new businesses have cropped up in the last two years, with many opening their doors for the first time this spring and summer. Tourists who make their way to the small village near the tip of Leelanau County will notice a new golf course, a new hotel and remodeled café, and eatery and even a new brewery.
“Its been a long, hard fight that has involved a lot of people who have the vision, patience and the right mindsets,” said Lisa Drummond, president of the Northport-Omena Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve been working hard for our businesses. It’s really wonderful to watch.”
The string of new businesses include:
n Lelu Café and the Northport hotel at 109 W. Naganoba St. The café that serves as a hotspot for local music is getting a complete remake this spring by owners Erik and Deirdre Owen. The couple is also opening the nine-room hotel on the second floor of the corner building.
“The community is great, the schools are great, the quality of life is great,” said Erik Owen. “Northport has all of that going for it. I look at the future being pretty rosy. More and more people from the coasts are looking for these real places. You see it in Traverse City. People coming back and staying when they could live and work anywhere.”
n Northport Brewing at 112 W. Naganoba St. The brainchild of Collin Gaudard and Scott Cain will serve locally crafted beers by May 23. The young entrepreneurs are already licensed for production and are nearing a final permit for a bar. They are also launching a Kickstarter campaign.
“We are planning on using local ingredients,” Gaudard said. “There’s a lot this area has to offer as far as beer making. We’ve seen the wine industry boom heavily and now we are growing hops (in the area). There’s talk of barley getting grown and malted here in the area. We have everything right here.”
N Set in Stone Historic Depot, 102 Bay St. Jay and Diane Homan will operate the diverse retail oulet featuring wine, cigars, chocolate, beer and other local products.
“The depot is located at the mouth of the marina so it makes it kind of a logical choice to try and bring a lot of wonderful local products into one spot that the boaters and community can take advantage of and access,” Jay Homan said. “We really love Northport and always have. We also love the building and want to make it look the best it can be.”
N Tucker’s of Northport. This diverse business represents a huge investment for the community. The 12,000-square-foot business at 116 Waukazoo St. was built from the ground up by Ben and Kathy Walraven and opens this month. The business will feature a restaurant, bar, arcade and bowling boutique offering six lanes of bowling.
“A gathering place,” said general manager Dave Waskiewicz. “We will have very nice dining - a destination restaurant, also with a lounge area where you can catch a game on television or just relax. We also have a real neat entertainment package with bowling and arcade… we have a lot to offer.”
N Red Mullein, 106 S. Waukazoo St. Proprietor Clare Gengarelly specializes in selling what she calls “wearable art,” including vintage silk jackets from Japan. She said she had a very strong summer last year and is expecting a good one this year, too.
N Northport Creek Golf Course, 355 Eighth St. This brand new facility offers sixty-three acres of golf right in the heart of the community.
N Tribune Ice Cream & Eatery on Nagonaba Street. Owner Eric Allchin is rehabbing an old property to turn it into a year-round destination that also caters to tourists.
Business leaders and community members said cheaper real estate prices and a new sewer system in Northport helped facilitate growth. Bruce Viger is a longtime restauranter in Northport who now runs the Garage Bar and Grill. He said the sewer system was huge because it allowed new business owners to get proper business permits while justifying long-term investment in commercial real estate.
“The business (community) I think sensed this is the time to strike when the iron is hot,” said Christopher McCann, director of golf at Northport Creek.