Category: Business

This 330-mile trail system, the Snowmobile Capital of the Midwest, is in Michigan

snowmobiling in Munising, MI

It seems perfectly fitting for 2020, which has been unusual in so many ways, that a lack of significant snowfall has delayed activity in the Upper Peninsula’s Snowmobiling Capital of the Midwest, centered around 330 miles of trails near Munising.

But weather reports indicate that a return to normal is coming as the late December and early January forecast shows snow accumulations to hit the area in 7 of the next 10 days.

friends pose in front of the frozen Eben Ice Caves in Munising, MI area“There’s never really a problem or a question if we’ll have enough snow,” said Cori-Ann Cearly, the president of the Munising Visitors Bureau. “It’s always just a matter of when.”

The region averages 230 inches of snow each winter, making Munising and Alger County the perfect destination and starting spot for sled riders looking for a complete trail system that allows travel between towns, through magical woods, and to majestic ice caves and ice structures that daring climbers scale daily.

The groomed terrain matches any snowmobiler’s taste for adventure, or an easy day on the packed surfaces to visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Miner’s Castle. The wide berths and stress-relieving scenic views are the perfect tonic to the tumultuous year stained by the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of the virus in Alger County has been minimized by safety measures and social distancing. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in winter

“Going on an adventure and seeing things that bring you joy is something we all really need right now,” Cearly said. “The most important thing is that it offers an opportunity for activity that is safe and healthy.

“The trails are like a highway in the woods, and it’s a place that we can slow down take your time and just be outdoors.”

Here is what Munising visitors will find:

330 miles of trails groomed daily

Members of the Snowmobile & O.R.V. Association of Alger County (SORVA for short) begin grooming the trials Dec. 1 and continue as long as the snow lasts, which is usually into April. The system provides access from Au Train to Shingleton and all trails and points between, Cearly said.

Widened trails improve safety

The trails that already allowed riders to glide across the snow will now include a median of sorts. SORVA brought in brush-hogging equipment over the warmer months to provide more room to ride – a key safety factor when sled operators encounter each other while traveling in opposite directions. Cearly estimates that the paths have 30 percent more room. While the width could allow three riders to fan out side-by-side, it is still strongly recommended to travel the trails single-file.

Low-lying areas have been in-filled

More off-season trail preparation has brought even better grading and filling to eliminate large depressions and holes. Don’t worry, there are still great hills and varying terrain, but riders won’t hit pothole-like conditions while zipping around the trail. Previously snowfalls would not completely fill and level the terrain since the snow packs down and forms around the hole, just like a pothole that will jar you while driving on pavement.

“All of this has been done to make it a better experience,” Cearly said. “You’re going to have just as much fun, probably more, because it’s going to be such a smooth ride.”

Smaller season crowds and better rates

Now, to be fair, with hundreds of miles of trails and countless off-trail spots to ride, there’s rarely snowmobile gridlock. History, however, shows that winter is slower than the summer influx of sightseers. Lodging rates fluctuate with demand, so that means there are even better deals to be found at area hotels.

If you don’t have your own machine, you can potentially find rental sleds available at a lower cost as well. It’s the perfect time for a quick winter weekend up north.

Shake off the holiday (and pandemic) stress: The holiday haze is real as we spend much of November and December rushing around shopping and only to hunker down with the turn of the new year. Break out of the cabin fever doldrums and see natural beauty that will relieve all the pent-up pressure.

Learn more about all Munising has to offer here.

 

From beer delivery to Facebook Live: How local Michigan businesses are changing

downtown Kalamazoo, MI

Sleepwalker Spirits & Ale has been in a constant state of change since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring.

First, the new brewery in Lansing’s REO Town changed the design of its kitchen and the front of the house to better accommodate takeout orders, which immediately went from about 5% of business to 100% during Michigan’s stay-home order. Then, a side door was converted into a pickup window for third-party delivery drivers on apps such as DoorDash. The local Michigan business also started offering contactless curbside pickup and added a patio for outdoor dining.

Now, Sleepwalker has launched its own beer delivery service. The brewery teamed with local artists to create special labels for 22-ounce bombers that you can have delivered right to your door.

“All you have to do is say ‘Hey, I want you to drop this off at my house’ and we will do that, and we’re not even charging for it right now,” said Jeremy Sprague, president, founder and head brewer. “We’re constantly on the move to find the next thing that makes our customer happy and is compliant (with pandemic health and safety rules).”

For restaurants and breweries that have been limited to takeout orders for several weeks both last spring and this winter, COVID-19 has been challenging. Ditto for many other local Michigan businesses that have had to adapt to new ways of serving customers during the pandemic.

With customers in many cases unable to visit shops and restaurants or uncomfortable doing so, businesses have come up with novel ways of connecting people with their products and services.

glass of beer“The last nine months they have just had to constantly innovate,” said Laurie Lonsdorf, regional director of the Michigan Small Business Development Center in Lansing. “It’s been such a trying time for so many businesses. For those people that have a brick and mortar location, they are working so hard thinking creatively and trying to do everything they can to bring more sales in.

“A common theme is local Michigan businesses either trying to bring customers safely into the store or bring the store to the customers.”

RELATED: Get ideas for shopping, eating and staying local this winter

Here are some more examples of local Michigan businesses taking inventive steps to survive and thrive during unusual times:

  • Private shopping – While an increasing number of local Michigan businesses now offer online sales, many people still yearn to browse items in person. To do that safely, some stores are setting up private shopping appointments where you get the place to yourself for a period of time. For example, Lansing Art Gallery is offering items from its retail gallery for sale online, but customers also can schedule an appointment to get a personalized, curated hourlong shopping excursion. “It’s one way to ensure a safe shopping experience and that all the protocols are followed,” Lonsdorf said.
  • Private dining – Sit-down dining inside Michigan bars and restaurants has been prohibited at times during the pandemic, prompting some creative workarounds. For example, while the Detroit Foundation Hotel’s on-site restaurant has been closed for dining, the hotel converted several suites into private dining rooms – replacing the beds with tables – so that visitors can enjoy the restaurant’s menu in a safer, private setting. Outdoor igloo dining is another trend picking up steam this winter.
  • Local delivery – In addition to beer delivery from breweries such as Sleepwalker and Presidential Brewing Co. in Portage, many Michigan restaurants are offering delivery of full meals. You can find a statewide listing of restaurants offering takeout, curbside pickup and delivery at com. Retail stores, too, are increasingly offering home delivery services as online orders have surged during the pandemic, up from just 1% or 2% of sales to a quarter or a third in some cases.
  • Facebook Live – Another way to bring a store to the customer is through Facebook Live events. At Bella Grande, a plus-size women’s consignment clothing store in Charlotte, owner Angel Fulkerson uses the platform to spotlight specific items. It lets her connect directly with customers, pandemic or not, and even sell items live. Viewers can comment “SOLD” in the chat along with the number of the item they’re buying, then come into the store to pick up their purchase or have it shipped or even delivered locally.

people shopping downtown“People aren’t waking in the door and you’ve got to figure out a way to have those sales to keep your business running,” Fulkerson said. “Speaking in front of people gives me anxiety, but I know these ladies. They’re my shoppers! I can have a conversation with them in my store, so why can’t I talk to them via Facebook Live?”

Fulkerson was hesitant to give Facebook Live a try, then finally decided that it wasn’t a choice. It was something she just had to do. The sales alone have been worth the effort, along with positive feedback and the thrill of serving customers in a new way.

“It’s not that people don’t want to shop (during the pandemic),” Fulkerson said. “They still want to shop. We just have to figure out other ways for them to be able to do it.”

Eat Local to help Michigan endure COVID-19 pandemic

Beyond washing our hands, wearing a mask and social distancing, many of us may feel helpless when it comes to getting our state through the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is another to help: We can eat!

Specifically, we can Eat Local. We can try to eat just one more meal a week from a local restaurant. Local restaurants not only employ our friends and neighbors, but they also cycle our money right back into the local community and often are the first to step up and contribute to local causes.

These are also the kinds of restaurants that are hurting the most during the ongoing pandemic, with many already having closed and many more on the brink of shutting down.

None of us alone can snap our fingers to make COVID disappear and return things to normal for these restaurants. But eating just one more meal a week would have a bigger effect than you might think.

a loaded hot dogIn fact, if everybody switched just one of every 10 out-of-state purchases to a local Michigan option, the state would experience at $1.2 billion increase in economic activity. That’s enough to support 10,600 jobs and an extra $350 million in income across Michigan.

“People too often discount the power of one, but one plus one plus one into infinity makes a huge difference,” said Dave Lorenz, Vice President of Travel Michigan. “Imagine the impact that 10 million people would have if they change their habits to be more intentional about supporting their local businesses.

“If we support our local businesses, they’re keeping people working and everybody benefits. It’s a virtuous circle. One additional purchase this week will make a difference.”

RELATED: Find resources to eat, shop and stay local and help Michigan thrive through this holiday season and into the new year

Restaurants all over Michigan are doing what they can to survive, many of them adjusting operations to keep serving the public through the pandemic. They’ve taken the Pure Michigan Pledge to keep guests safe by committing to new health and safety precautions, such as marking spaces on the floor to maintain proper social distancing at ordering counters and installing plastic shields at cash registers. They’ve made call-in and online ordering more efficient, established curbside delivery procedures and started offering home delivery options. Some Michigan restaurants have even made structural changes to their buildings to accommodate walk-up windows for carryout orders or opened greenhouses and igloos for outdoor winter dining!

Most important, restaurant workers have put their own health at risk so that we can enjoy dining out and experience a sense of normalcy through the pandemic.

Pure Michigan LogoNow is an opportunity to repay the favor and support our unique local restaurants before it’s too late. We each can help soften the pandemic’s blow to restaurants and restaurant workers all across our state by making a conscious choice to support the local restaurants in our communities.

With local restaurants, it’s not just the fate of the business that’s at stake. These local restaurants support our local schools and youth sports leagues. These local restaurants help make our cities and towns vibrant places. These local restaurants give our local Michigan communities character and personality.

You probably have a few favorite local restaurants. But if you’re looking for more opportunities to Eat Local, here’s a list of local restaurants offering takeout, delivery and curbside services. Many local Michigan restaurants also have gift cards that make great holiday gifts.

When we eat local – even if it’s just one more time each week – more of the money we spend stays in our local Michigan economy. It also opens us to memorable experiences like these that are happening at local restaurants all over the state:

  • Running into masked-up friends and neighbors at a local pizza shop while waiting to pick up online orders on a busy night when a portion of sales are being donated to the local school
  • Getting an apology and heartfelt thank you from the manager of a local chicken shack because so many customers placed orders that the restaurant momentarily ran out of chicken!
  • Parking outside a local burger joint, placing an order on your phone and having your food brought out to you as if it were an old-fashioned drive-in restaurant
  • The joy of giving a local restaurant worker an extra tip for making a curbside delivery right to your vehicle on a cold night

Of all the things 2020 may be remembered for, it would be nice to add a few of these kinds of memories to the list.

“I’m hoping this is going to be a season of thoughtfulness toward each other that goes beyond the traditional holiday sentiment,” Lorenz said. “I’m hoping some of these things we’re doing today will end up being comforting memories in the future.”

Whenever you’re ready, you can travel safely in Michigan

Snowboarding in beautiful wintery Michigan

Michigan’s about to get a bunch of snow. But even in a pandemic, that doesn’t mean we have to stay cooped up at home.

Sure, the holidays look different this year and there’s uncertainty about how COVID-19 might affect our winter plans. Yet, this you can know for sure – whenever you are ready to get out of the house and travel, you can travel safely in Michigan.

In fact, lots of people who don’t feel comfortable going to far-flung destinations right now are changing their winter travel plans to include places they can drive to and experience safely right here in their own state.

And why not? Michigan already has the best winter environment in the Midwest with incomparable scenic beauty. Our state is a mecca of active outdoor winter recreation, too, Pure Michigan Logowith everything from downhill skiing on hundreds of slopes and ice fishing on more than 11,000 frozen lakes to fat biking and snowmobiling on endless miles of groomed trails. And because so many tourism businesses have taken the Pure Michigan Pledge, you can travel knowing that precautions are in place to ensure a safe and healthy environment.

Let’s face it: Many of us need a little break in the routine and to get away from our everyday stresses and struggle – probably now more than ever! If you need to get out of the house, check out Pure Michigan’s Featured Deals eNewsletter. This month’s edition highlights a handful of travel excursions with special pricing that you can enjoy this winter.

Is it time to start a new family holiday tradition by spending an unforgettable weekend together at one of Michigan’s 40-plus ski areas?

Time for a romantic getaway in a cozy chalet for just the two of you?

How about doing something truly extraordinary this winter, like snowshoeing through the solitude of Pure Michigan wilderness, hiking through one of Michigan’s ever-beautiful national parks or elk viewing from the seat of a horse-drawn sleigh?

Every featured deal comes with plenty of opportunity to get outside and enjoy the season. And who couldn’t use a breath of fresh air right now?

If you are ready to travel right now, here are a few tips to make your trip go as smoothly as possible:

  • Make a solid plan in advance of your trip. You can still enjoy moments of spontaneity but try to plot most of your travel before you leave.
  • Some outdoor recreation attractions may be doing business a little bit differently during the pandemic, so check ahead to make sure you know what to expect. Some ski areas have daily limits on lift tickets, for example, and may be taking only virtual e-passes purchased online rather than physical tickets.
  • Go ahead and try a new winter activity this year. You don’t even have to buy all new equipment first. Instead, you can find information on rental equipment at michigan.org/winter.
  • Identify shops to visit along the way to your destination and call ahead to make sure they’re open. Explore all things local and take the opportunity to discover some of Michigan’s many one-of-a-kind shops including charming boutiques, independent bookstores and more.
  • When you get hungry, search out local restaurants where more of your dollars will stay here in the Michigan economy. Here’s a searchable list of local restaurants offering online, takeout and curbside services.
  • Be cognizant of social distancing guidelines and be sure to have face coverings on hand and wash your hands frequently. If we take those simple steps, we all can safely experience the best Michigan has to offer this winter.

Explore Local: Shopping local has a real impact for shoppers and communities

Explore Local image

Have you ever wondered what happens to the money when you buy local? Eric Hultgren has partnered with the MEDC and Pure Michigan in order to dig into the impact shopping local has on your community.

Shopping local means that your money has more impact; $73 of every $100 spent locally, stays local. It means you are a name, not a number; vibrant, thriving communities; 52% of Michigan jobs are provided by local companies; and MI continues to move forward.

Related: How to add local Michigan flavor to your holiday shopping style

So, as you shop, please try first to find local Michigan options for the items on your list. A helpful way to get started is by checking out this Pure Michigan Shop, Eat & Stay Local page.

You can also subscribe to Pure Michigan’s Featured Deals eNewsletter and get a look at money-saving Michigan offers. Each month will highlight a selection of packages and specials available throughout the state.

Feeding the Front Lines: See behind the scenes on a day of giving

Serving a meal

It’s a good day when you can bring some of Michigan’s Best food to deserving people, with the help of incredible sponsors in order to help feed the front lines. That is just what happened on Monday December 14, as MLive partnered with businesses to bring meals to hard working health care workers around Michigan.

One of our sponsors, Woman’s Life Insurance Society, was happy to help this effort to acknowledge the work that our front line medical workers are doing every day. “Woman’s Life Insurance Society greatly appreciates the dedicated healthcare workers at McLaren Port Huron and everything they are doing to help keep our community strong and healthy during these especially challenging times,” said Karen Deschaine, manager of communications for Woman’s Life. “We are inspired by their strength and grateful to have this opportunity to express our gratitude.”

Our generous sponsors for this initiative were:

Woman’s Life Insurance Society-Port Huron

The Iles Schropp Group at Merrill Lynch-Saginaw

Rotary Club of Saginaw-Saginaw

Community Foundation of Greater Flint-Flint

Check out the podcast below to learn more about Feeding the Frontlines, and what kind of impact those meals have on frontline workers.

MI Best Stories: In this episode, Eric Hultgren talks with

 

Read the rest of the article and find more at MLive.com/michigansbest.

4 holiday gifts for the BIGGBY® COFFEE lover (plus 3 bonus ideas)

Biggby holiday gift options

The clock is ticking toward the holiday gift-giving season and BIGGBY® COFFEE, with more than 240 locations, has the solution for all shopping procrastinators alike.

Whether it’s a cup of joe to get folks going in the morning, an interesting read for an aspiring entrepreneur or other items in the BIGGBY® catalog, there’s a gift for everyone on your list.

Items available at your local BIGGBY® COFFEE (while supplies last) or on BIGGBY®’s online store, where you can shop from the comfort of your own home. There’s even free shipping for orders over $50, a move that will show the importance of a giver’s relationship to the recipient all while staying socially distanced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are four ideas for our favorite items this year:

Coffee (of course)

Biggby coffee

This is the bread-and-butter of how BIGGBY® went from a single start-up shop in Lansing to a 25-year-old, $100 million business that employs thousands and pleases even more with carefully chosen and perfectly roasted brews.

Choose the size and flavor, caffeinated or unleaded and the right brewing style, from a whole pot to single-serve K-cups, BIGGBY® has the right gift for family, friends, work colleagues or neighbors. There’s even a subscription that can send coffee at four different time intervals from a weekly frequency to every other month.

It’s a can’t-miss gift.

Coffee (with a larger purpose)

Biggby Living Hope Coffee

This collaboration with the non-profit Living Hope International plants seeds far beyond the trees from which the beans are picked. This farm-direct coffee comes from the Living Hope property in Ndola, Zambia, a farm co-founder Bob Fish and his wife visited while working to source 50 percent of BIGGBY®s coffee purchased each year before 2023.

The proceeds from Living Hope coffee supports the group’s ministry to provide shelter, food, education and hope to orphaned and at-risk children in Zambia. Since the partnership began, the organization has been able to add 70 beds to its orphanage, which also educates and prepares the children for their future lives.

The phenomenally rich flavor with notes of with tones of citrus, chocolate and spices are an added bonus, Fish said.

Gift cards

Biggby Coffee gift card

This checks all the boxes, cards or stockings, you name it. Don’t know what to buy or prefer to let the people on your list choose their gifts? A gift card of your chosen value gives the best of both worlds – gift-giver fulfills goals by giving what people want, and the recipient takes it from there for something to eat or drink. You can even send the present digitally here.

Mugs (and more)

Biggby coffee mugs

All this coffee (or tea) has to have a vessel to get it from hand to mouth, right? BIGGBY® has mugs in all shapes, sizes and materials. There are ceramic mugs for at home, on-the-go travel containers and a variety of reusable and dishwasher-friendly plastic cups.

And because Biggy wants guests to hydrate when they aren’t drinking coffee, there are water bottles to get you through the rest of your day.

A ‘must-read’ for start-up dreamers

Michael J. McFall's book Grind

Mike McFall wrote the book on what it takes to be an entrepreneur, using his background as BIGGBY® Co-CEO,  to explain the dedication and mindset necessary for success. Hint: It doesn’t come overnight or for the faint-at-heart. McFall’s no-nonsense advice tracks successes and pitfalls from both the BIGGBY® perspective and franchisees who achieved beyond initial projections. But it’s also an unvarnished look behind the scenes and a must-read, according to business leaders, educators and investors.

 

Gear (including this adorbs onesie)

Biggby clothing - onesie

That cute little nugget of yours (or a relative or friend) can represent BIGGBY® COFFEE and the development of a coffee-lover in any of four colors of this 12-month-old onesie. Shoppers find it hard to resist. Don’t worry, there are adult T-shirts, hats, sweaters, hair scrunchies and even a nod to 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic with an all-new mask.

Pet water bowl

Biggby portable pet water dishes

For your favorite traveling companion, whether hiking, camping, driving or just hanging out in the yard, BIGGBY®s water bowl keeps your buddy refreshed and ready to go. The 2-inch foldable bowl comes in two colors (we don’t think your dog will judge your selection) and has a carabiner coupling for easy transport.

Check out BIGGBY® online to learn more about the company’s values of bringing people together, spreading joy and making everyone feel special – even when it’s not the holiday season.

At Home with Eastbrook Homes: Holidays with the Villegas Family

Welcome to the Holiday-themed “At Home with Eastbrook.” In today’s episode, Eric Hultgren visits with the Villegas family as they share their Christmas decor inspiration, how they remain present during this different season, and tips for engaging the whole family in traditions. Don’t miss this Christmas fireside chat with the Villegas!”

For more pictures of the Villegas home, check out their Holiday Home Tour: https://bit.ly/37kgPzy

How to add local Michigan flavor to your holiday shopping style

Child and parent on a ski/sledding slope

Do you like to cross things off your gift list early or are you more of a last-minute holiday shopper? Would you rather buy online or is picking things out in person your preference?

Each of us in this great state of Michigan is a little different when it comes to how we shop this time of year. And, of course, what we shop for. Just as some of us are looking for Spartans stuff, others of us are eyeing all things Wolverines.

But, however we shop, we’re all Michiganders. That’s important to remember in the midst of the busiest shopping season of the year, especially this year during a global pandemic that has been so trying for so many stores and employees.

Whether we shop early or we shop late, online or in person, when we shop local Michigan businesses, we make a direct, positive impact in the communities where we live. We help both our local Michigan businesses and our friends and neighbors employed by them to thrive. It’s as if both the Spartans and the Wolverines win!

So, as you shop for gifts this holiday season, please try first to find local Michigan options for the items on your list. A helpful way to get started is by checking out this Pure Michigan Shop, Eat & Stay Local page.

You can also subscribe to Pure Michigan’s Featured Deals eNewsletter and get a look at money-saving Michigan offers available this holiday season. Each month, we highlight a selection of packages and specials available throughout the state.

In this eNewsletter you’ll find a Cold is Cool Passport that lets fourth- and fifth-graders ski free this winter. You’ll see unique T-shirts and face masks on sale to support Michigan hospitality workers in need during the pandemic. There are packages on shopping excursions to Grand Rapids, weekend adventures in Ann Arbor and cottage getaways Up North, too.

That’s just a sampling. Shopping local also means exploring vibrant Michigan downtowns, taste-testing craft beer from Michigan breweries and patronizing our state’s delicious array of local Michigan restaurants. Even with sit-down dining limited as a COVID-19 precaution, we can support our local restaurants by purchasing gift cards or ordering take-out. To find carry-out options near you, the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association has created this handy, searchable list.

For those of us who prefer to shop from the comfort of our own homes, keep in mind that many Michigan restaurants (and retailers, too) are offering safe online ordering. Many of our local Michigan businesses are delivering items to your home or offering curbside pick-up options through the pandemic.

If you enjoy doing your holiday shopping in person, take comfort knowing that hundreds of businesses have taken the Pure Michigan Pledge to protect the health and safety of Michigan employees, residents and visitors by maintaining cleanliness and social distancing protocols to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Even though we all have different ways of holiday shopping, if we all do more of our shopping from local Michigan businesses this year then more of our money will stay within our state’s economy. That way, we all can have the happiest of holidays this year!

MI Best Stories: Shopping local with the Michigan Retailers Association

Classic plaid Stormy Kromer cap

MI Best Stories: In this episode, Eric Hultgren and Meegan Holland, of the Michigan Retailers Association, break down the importance of shopping local. Check out the MLive.com local gift guide for ideas on filling your holiday shopping list with local goodness, mlive.com/news/2020/11/michigan-holiday-gifts-we-love-to-give-online-ordering-and-downtown-shopping.html