Editor's note: This article was published in Grand Traverse Scene magazine's Fall 2021 issue. Pick up a free copy at area hotels, visitor's centers, chambers of commerce or at the Record-Eagle building on Front Street. Click here to read GT Scene in its entirety online.
Name: Alice Tighe
Restaurant: Good Harbor Coffee + Bakery, going on 30 years in downtown Traverse City.
Cuisine: “Home cooking, from scratch. We don’t take any shortcuts; we don’t buy any frozen dough.”
Why baking? “I was first interested in having my own business. There are three kids in my family, and I don’t know why, but we each have our own businesses. [Baking] was something I thought I could work around with having a kid — little did I know how much it really involved.”
Culinary background: “I first was interested in candy making, and went to a candy-making school in California. I very quickly realized that I was either going to have to get a lot of expensive equipment — which I couldn’t afford — or change what I was doing. I had already segued into coffee, and it seemed like a natural fit to add pastries to that.”
Finding Good Harbor’s classic recipes: “Back [when Good Harbor opened], you just had to look through cookbooks and magazines, ask your friends, and experiment. You had to try it, keep trying it, and keep trying it! It’s a little different now. A lot of people have already tried a lot of things, and you can get a recipe off the internet and tweak it.
Our base recipes for all our base muffins, scones, and cookies — we’ve had those recipes for decades, like our lemon-blueberry scones. Some of them are ideas from bakers who have come and gone. We’ve just tweaked a few things as we’ve gone along. But we have a lot of the same things that we’ve had for 30 years, which is kind of incredible.”
About Good Harbor’s coffee: “I use organic coffees, and we get our organic coffees from Coffee Express in Ann Arbor. I’ve been dealing with them since the very beginning. They’re very helpful, and I can always talk to the owner/roaster. He’s been around a long time, and he still goes into the store every day.”
Espresso Matchmaking: “I went on a bit of a road trip to search for the right espresso. I ended up with a roaster in Chicago called Metropolis for our espresso drinks — I just love the flavor for their espressos. We’ve been using them since 2003.”
On Traverse City 30 years ago: “You could just stare down [Front] Street and see no cars, especially in the middle of winter. Things are different now; if someone opens a new business, especially in food service, they have to be ready to be overwhelmed.
Back then, maybe it was easier, because I just kind of eased into it and it grew over 30 years. It was easier to start a business back then; you didn’t need as much money to throw into it at first.”
On using local ingredients: “I grow my own herbs — we use those in our savory scones and our quiches. We use local produce when possible; lately, we’ve been featuring asparagus in our quiches. In the summertime, we buy from the farmer’s market, since it’s right over [by Good Harbor Coffee + Bakery].”
On Good Harbor’s inclusion of vegan and gluten-free options: “I’m vegan and a couple of our employees are vegan, so that was kind of our thing — ‘If we make something that’s vegan, we can eat it too!’ Of course, it’s not the bulk of our stuff. Most of our stuff is just regular — butter and flour. But we do have choices every day. We have plant-based milk, so we can make vegan non-dairy drinks.”
On working in the food industry: “I like to come in here early before everyone gets here and make myself a coffee and just kind of slowly open the store up. There’s a lot of good things about it — like the daily interaction with the employees, who are all great. Plus, it’s really rewarding to be in business for yourself. Sometimes frustrating, because you have to solve all your own problems, but also rewarding.”