SUTTONS BAY — A loss for Leelanau County’s business community is a gain for a charitable outreach in the region.
After 13 years in business — the last dozen at 405 N. St. Joseph St. in downtown Suttons Bay, At Home is closing on Oct. 31.
But don’t be spooked for At Home owner Peggy Miller. Even though she’s sad to see the doors closing on her home goods store, another opportunity is opening for her in retirement.
When the COVID-19 pandemic closed At Home for nearly three months, Miller joined forces with Michelle White to assist those experiencing food insecurity and homelessness via 5Loaves2Fish, a community outreach program through the Leland Community United Methodist Church.
When At Home reopened partially in June, Miller decided it was time for her to make a decision. With a 25 percent decrease in revenue and a possible return of the coronavirus, Miller chose 5Loves2Fish over At Home.
“I’m afraid (COVID-19 is back) on the rise; business was down,” Miller said. “I found something very much fulfilling to do, something I should be doing.
“I’m really, really happy with my decision. It seemed like the right thing to do.”
Miller and a business partner opened At Home in Lake Leelanau in 2007. In October of 2008, the store moved to Suttons Bay. Miller has been running the store on her own for five or six years after relocating to the north end of downtown Suttons Bay.
When the business temporarily closed at the end of March, Miller started working with White at 5Loaves2Fishes. With schools not in session and other food charities slowed or closed altogether, 5Loaves2Fishes helped fill the void.
“All of a sudden they didn’t have food; everything was closed,” Miller said. “We made food, had food donated and took it in to them.”
When At Home reopened during the pandemic, Miller tried to limit her time in the store and interaction with the public to lessen exposure to her daughter, a Type 1 diabetic. So paying her two employees to run the business didn’t make much sense financially.
Add husband Geno Miller’s retirement and the decision was cemented. Plus, she had found something she loved as much as At Home.
“It’s not totally COVID,” Miler said. “COVID was my neon sign. I’d been thinking about about retiring for a while, but I loved it so much.”
Miller said 5Loaves2Fishes has received food donations from places like the Leland Mercantile and Island Thyme Catering, among others. Miller said 5Loaves2Fishes soon will have use of the From the Ashes Wood Fired Pizza Truck.
She said those looking to receive assistance or volunteer with the organization can contact the group on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/5loaves2fishteam.
“If you need food, let us know,” Miller said. “We’ve had this wonderful flow of volunteers, food and people wanting to help.”
Since announcing At Home was closing, Miller has received dozens of Facebook messages.
“It’s been very heartwarming, the love and the support I’ve received,” she said.
Cathy Sehnert of Lake Leelanau made a Facebook post about the closing.
“I’m sad,” Sehnert said in a phone interview Tuesday morning. “I love that store. But I understand Peggy’s situation, too. She’s ready to enjoy life.”
Sehnert said she enjoyed the unique, functional pieces At Home offered. Sehnert joked she would visit the store “too often, according to my husband.”
“When I had people visiting, that was our first stop,” she said.
The official Going Out of Business sale began at the business on Friday.
“It’s going fast,” Miller said. “Business has been really good the last three days.”
As is often the case, businesses seem to boom after a closure announcement. Not that Miller blames anyone in the slightest.
“That’s OK,” she said. “I get it. I like a deal, too.”