TRAVERSE CITY — Other than an alliteration, boutique and bartending don't seem to have much in common.
Amber Jaeger aims to unite the two words with Tonic & Lime, a newly re-branded business she's been running in the area since 2014 that offers a personal and professional bartending service.
Jaeger said Tonic & Lime caters its services to the needs of each party's party.
"We have packages that we can offer to clients, but we really want to customize every experience," Jaeger said. "Our packages are completely customizable ... we'll do whatever they envision for their event.
"We can do an event for five people or we can do an event for 500 people. Boutique is kind of customizing that."
Kelley Bowker needed a bartending service when her daughter, Alexandra, got married on Sept. 3. Bowker needed service for the 250 expected guests for the reception at the Cathedral Barn at Historic Barn Park. The catering company that Bowker hired didn't offer bartending service as part of its package.
Bowker found Tonic & Lime after some internet research.
"They were fantastic to work with last year," she said
Tonic & Lime had two separate bars set up for the event, one for a cocktail hour in the adjoining pavilion. Bowker said Jaeger staffed the event with three bartenders and kept her informed throughout the process leading up to the nuptials.
"She was excellent on communication," Bowker said. "I had some good vendors, but she was my very best vendor. "There was no lack of communication with her."
Tonic & Lime does not have a liquor license, so clients need to provide the alcohol for the event. Bowker said Tonic & Lime handles everything else including non-alcoholic beverages "all the garnishes and the mixers" and the ice.
"She was very, very good about giving me how much of everything to buy," said Bowker, who said Jaeger even developed a "signature cocktail" for the bridge and groom.
Jaeger is the lone "full-time" employee at Tonic & Lime. She has 12 to 15 contracted employees who staff events. She also has a stand-by crew available in the Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo area.
"Every weekend is different," said Jaeger, who worked three events on Saturday in Elberta, Suttons Bay and Boyne Falls. "My staff basically all have other jobs or something else going on. They are contracted out to help me out when I need it."
Jaeger runs the business out of her house. She keeps equipment in a storage facility as well as in her garage during the summer season.
"My husband has no place to park in the summer, but I promise by the winter, I'll let him back in the garage," she joked.
Ninety percent of Jaeger's current business involves weddings, but Jaeger would like to see that expand to more commercial events and private parties.
Already sher has seen the busy wedding season in northern Michigan extend from May to October and, on weekends, beyond. Tonic & Lime recently worked its first Thursday wedding reception.
"Two years ago it was June to August," she said. "As Traverse City keeps getting bigger and more well-known ... our season is getting longer on both ends of the spectrum as there gets to be more demand for people to get married up here."
A Traverse City Central graduate, Jaeger first was exposed to bartending service by Greg Jones when she was living and working as a teacher in Colorado.
Jones eventually franchised his With a Twist business in northern Michigan in 2012 and Jaeger ran it from afar and during her summer vacations.
"For anybody who knows anything about running a small business, that is not ideal," she said.
Jaeger returned to the area in 2014 and "went full speed ahead with running With a Twist." She went out on her own with a new name in 2017.
"It's the same business model, same idea, just making it a little more polished and coming up with some higher-end concepts and offerings for our clients," Jaeger said.
For 2019, Jaeger plans to partner with Little Fleet for more specialty cocktails. She's also creating a mobile bar to take to events.
Tonic & Lime already is booking dates for 2019 events, but also recently took a call for a Sept. 2 event. Jaeger said the "make it happen" attitude is what northern Michigan delivers.
"You can ask myself or anybody in the wedding business, there's always things that come up," she said. "But we're professionals and we know how to deal with it.
"And we have a great business community up here ... we all work together. It's the old motto of a rising tide raises all boats. We all help each other out whenever we can."