When someone really loves where they live – it shows. To feel a soul-filling connection to the place you live is what many of us are searching for. If you are lucky enough to feel that connection already, you can appreciate Bob Sutherland’s story. Bob lived in Glen Arbor, Michigan among the lakes, forests, beaches, and cherry orchards found in Northern Michigan – an idyllic combination, to be sure. He loved where he lived.
He transferred his love of place into a design for a t-shirt and began selling them out of the trunk of his car. A simple design, “Life, Liberty, Beaches, and Pie” spoke to the things he loved. The t-shirts were a hit and a few years later Bob decided to also try selling a cherry and chocolate cookie he called the “Boomchunka” to area stores. It took a while, but the cookies were a hit too, and he stopped working out of his car and opened a small 10’x10’ storefront selling just 8 products. Once he expanded into a full on cafe, the path forward was set.
The path has not always been straightforward, but slowly he expanded the businesses to include offices, a retail store dubbed “the Great Hall”, a winery, and a restaurant and taproom. That winding path greets you when you visit. Follow the crooked path under the cherry trees that lead you to the Great Hall, with soaring timbered beam ceiling where you can sample what is now over 200 different cherry products. Head over to the winery where adults can sample the wines they create – all contain at least some cherries, of course – or choose to sample hard fruit-inspired ciders. Kids can do their own samplings too – with a tasting of seven different cherry soda pops. The Cherry Public House offers a chance for a delicious lunch or dinner, and a chance to sample some Cherry Republic Brewing Co.’s variety of ales and lagers including a sweet cherry porter or a Hoppy Bobby pale ale. Save room for dessert to try their famous homemade cherry pie and ice cream.
Their quirky hand painted signs keep the atmosphere light and folksy. There is something about a cherry you just can’t take seriously, (it’s hard to be serious when eating a cherry.) You can even try your hand at the cherry pit spitting arena – although no hands are allowed.
Bob’s business has expanded and grown over the years – sharing his love of the great Michigan cherry to retail stores in five cities outside of Glen Arbor, but he still keeps his light hearted approach to running a business. His mantra seems to be to keep your employees happy, your customers satisfied, and your community thriving. The company actively supports issues close to his heart – protecting the lakeshore, supporting farmers, and his community. They have donated 1% of all sales for over twenty years. While that may not sound like much at first, it has added up to over two million dollars donated to organizations around Northern Michigan. He hopes to inspire other corporations to do the same. They also recently began the Cherrish Michigan program which donates money to environmental non-profits that are helping to protect Michigan’s land, water and quality of life.
It all began with a simple t-shirt design by one guy who likes cherry pie. And who doesn’t like cherry pie?
To get your cherry fix, you can order from their online shop. They have retail outlets in Holland Michigan, Traverse City, Charlevoix (between Traverse City and Mackinac,) Frankenmuth (little Bavaria), and Ann Arbor (the closest to Detroit.) But for the full Cherry Republic experience, you’ll want to visit the pretty little town of Glen Arbor on one of these Lake Michigan cruises: