Hillary and Matt Voight are proprietors of a new Omena art gallery called V Gallery, which is located in the former Tamarack space and is set to open this May. In 2023, the Leelanau art community entered a void in representation as three prominent art galleries closed their doors. One was Tamarack Gallery, founded by David and Sally Viskochil more than 45 years ago and beloved by art lovers from around the world. “As I walked through the door to meet Matt and Hillary, I knew I was experiencing a unique moment in time, a mere blip between the old guard and the new generation representing art here in Northern Michigan,” writes Abby Chatfield in this story the Sun published in our April 11 print edition.

A black bear has visited Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate in Empire on five consecutive evenings this week, rummaged through a dumpster and spreading garbage around the village, and pulling open the back door and devouring a 50-pound bag of sugar. On Tuesday night, April 16, around 10:30 pm, the bear entered the beloved chocolate shop for no more than 20 seconds, stole the sugar and returned to the sidewalk to eat it. It touched nothing else in the shop, not even the small, chocolate bears on display by the checkout counter.

Glen Lake Restaurant Week, which runs April 26-May 4 and offers diverse culinary options and special prices at restaurants throughout the Glen Arbor region, started with a simple idea proposed by Blu owners Randy and Mari Chamberlain more than a decade ago: why not hold an event in the spring that brings more commerce to the region during the off-season? “I raised my hand, suggested a restaurant week for Glen Arbor, and they nominated me as chairman,” said Randy. “It’s been a nice springboard for us every year. Now we’re nearly fully staffed from Restaurant week through October. It’s been fun to watch the success.” The Chamberlains recently announced their retirement from Blu, effective April 1, with son Brandon taking over as the new owner. Chef Todd M Thompson will manage the kitchen. Thompson and Randy have worked together since the 1990s. Blu reopened for the season on April 12.

Food, folks, farm and fun—plus a festival or two. Those are all part of the plan at the Lively Farm, a.k.a. Backyard Burdickville, f.k.a. the Eagles property on M-72 just east of Empire. Lively NeighborFood Market is set to debut Memorial Day weekend, pending any surprises with the buildout or weather. The brainchild of Jim and Kelly Lively is the latest addition to the property, which has also served as home to the LivelyLands music festival and the Lively Farm, a CSA farm.

The restored Mill on the Crystal River in Glen Arbor will open its long anticipated dinner service on Wednesday, April 17. The restaurant named “Supper,” which seats 32 people in the building’s lower level, will be open five days a week, Wednesday-Sunday, from 4-9 pm and eventually add Tuesdays for the summer season. Reservations can be made online, no more than seven days prior, at TheMillGlenArbor.com.

This month Northern Latitudes Distillery in Lake Leelanau will release two new spirits—On the Rocks Bourbon Cream Liqueur and Crema Di Limoncello—in paper bottles that are made from 100% recycled paper and have a much smaller carbon footprint than glass bottles. Manufactured in Ontario, Canada, by Kinsbrae Packaging, these will be some of the first spirits released in the United States in these easy-to-recycle bottles.

Riverside Canoes will not need a commercial use authorization from the National Park Service to continue renting canoes, kayaks and tubes on the Platte River at the southern end of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Nor will the business have to share five percent of its gross sales with the Park. On March 1, federal judge Paul Maloney with the Western District of Michigan ruled in favor of Riverside, which will celebrate 60 years of operating on the Platte when it opens on May 1. The National Park Service has until the end of April to appeal. Riverside previous owners fought a long legal battle with the Park after Sleeping Bear Dunes was created in 1970. In 1992 they signed an agreement that allowed the business to continue operating within the National Lakeshore. It’s unclear why the Park sought to revisit the matter in 2022. Officials with the National Lakeshore declined to comment, citing active litigation. “Riverside is an anomaly. The business existed before the Park was there,” said Riverside co-owner Kyle Orr. “We try to provide family fun for generations. But we also recognize that we are stewards of the river. We are not anti-park. At end of day, I just want to coexist.”

Living in Leelanau invites the wearing of many hats, with individuals often finding themselves sitting on multiple boards, working more than one job, or filling numerous needs throughout our small communities. Many of the most successful businesses also operate in this way, meeting multiple needs under one roof: the coffee shop that is also a music venue, the vintage store with the art club, the restaurant with an inn above. At one such multi-functional establishment—Farm Club—writer Mae Stier sat down to talk with Elijah Nykamp, who is himself a wearer of many hypothetical hats. Owner of the clothing studio and shop Nykamping in Suttons Bay, Nykamp is the designer and sewist of all the clothing he creates. Not only does he design and create beautiful, wearable pieces, he is also a community builder, frequently partnering with other artists.

The historic Sleeping Bear Inn, the oldest hotel in the National Park System, is now taking reservations for August and beyond. Click on the story to read more and to reserve a room. Originally built between 1865-1867, the inn located in Glen Haven across the street from the cannery building served as a frontier hotel for business travelers and local workers. It continued in operation throughout the next century, evolving into a tourist hotel. It has been closed since the mid-1970s. The nonprofit Balancing Environment and Rehabilitation (BEAR) signed a lease in 2022 to renovate the Sleeping Bear Inn and operate it as a bed and breakfast. “This year marks two years of active renovation at Sleeping Bear Inn for our BEAR team, and with the finish line in our sights, we are elated to start thinking about the hospitality aspect of our work,” said executive director Maggie Kato.

In a significant move to bolster the agricultural community, Cherry Republic announced that during National Cherry Month in February, 2 percent of all sales from its six stores and online will be donated to the Farm Stress Program, supporting the mental health and wellbeing of Michigan farmers. “This February, every purchase at Cherry Republic is not just a tribute to the iconic Michigan cherry, but also a direct support to the heart and soul of our agricultural community — our farmers,” said Sara Harding, vice president of Marketing and Impact at Cherry Republic. The donation to the Farm Stress Program is a cornerstone of Cherry Republic’s campaign to spotlight the importance of mental health among farmers. The program, with MSU Extension, provides free resources including teletherapy, educational presentations, farm financial analysis, and business management strategies, among others.