LAKE LEELANAU — Mark and Mandy Moseler turned layoffs from their downstate public teaching positions into a career break.
The couple moved north and commenced a journey that led to the founding of Leelanau County’s only distillery, Northern Latitudes. The producer of unique, locally based products like Apollo Horseradish Vodka, Jack Pine Gin, Ice Dunes Vodka, Manitou Passage Rum and Deer Camp Whiskey is in its second year, and the couple said business is good.
“I found my niche,” Mark Moseler said. “I love it. I pat myself on the back, but I’m really good at it. I have a knack for it. There are things you have to do during distillation to make the product taste good, and I feel I have a knack for it.”
The Moselers worked as school teachers in their native White Cloud until layoffs prompted their move to the family cottage in Benzie County. Mandy Moseler bought a fitness gym for women while Mark Moseler worked in painting and plumbing as he tried to get back into teaching. He hired on as a teacher in Frankfort but was laid off again, a move that sparked the fire that led to his passion for making hard liquor.
“It was the second time I was laid off, so within that conversation with Mandy, we said ‘Let's do this,'” Mark Moseler said.
The couple spent two years consolidating resources, crafting a business plan and learning the trade. Mark spent a lot of time educating himself on distilling through courses taught by Kris Berglund at the Michigan State University Artisan Distilling program.
Mandy focused on the business side or, as she puts it, “Everything electronic and on paper.” They opened their business in October 2012, and manufactured and sold their product on-site from the retail location at 112 E. Philip Street in Lake Leelanau.