Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor, Carlson’s in Leland Fishtown reopen May 15

Photo of Bob Sutherland by Taro Yamasaki

From staff reports

Cherry Republic will open all six of its Michigan stores this weekend. Cherry Public House, the restaurant and brewpub on the flagship Glen Arbor campus will open Friday from noon until 8 p.m. and hold those hours through the following week. Cherry Republic may extend hours for Memorial weekend.

Cherry Public House’s brand new menu will be available starting Friday, May 15. Call 231-226-3033 to place an order for takeout. Cherry Republic marketing director Andrew Moore reports that online ordering will be available within the next week or so. Customers can also place curbside orders for Cherry Republic retail products from the Glen Arbor store by calling 231-226-3014. Online ordering will also be available within the next week or so.

The Glen Arbor Sun asked Cherry Republic president Bob Sutherland about the decision to reopen now, what will be different about the shopping experience, and the biggest hurdles he, his family and his staff have had to overcome during the coronavirus pandemic.

Glen Arbor Sun: Why the decision to re-open on Friday, May 15?

Bob Sutherland: As a specialty grocer/agricultural products producer, Cherry Republic has had our Governor’s essential business blessing from the beginning, but we felt it was best for our staff and community if we closed [initially]. But we knew, when the time was right, that we’d open. All of our stores are opening this weekend. We’ve been planning for this opening for a month and my staff and I are excited to show our customers a newer, better, safer version of ourselves. Our stores provide much more spatial distancing for each customer while shopping and at check-out. And we even have some random surprises in store to make up for the executive order against food samples.

This year, thanks to COVID-19, our Great Hall will stretch out into the outdoors for shopping. We will also convert our winery into a second place for people to shop. I am excited about that. That was our main store 12 years ago and it will be fun to bring that classic store back to its old prominence.

Glen Arbor Sun: What will be different about the Cherry Republic / Cherry Public House dining/shopping experience?

Bob Sutherland: This year, thanks to COVID-19, our Pub House will be more focused on to-go orders, but packaged in a way that our customers can eat anywhere. Our hope is that they can eat at our appropriately-spaced outdoor tables by Memorial Day Weekend. Or at the township park or the beach, their boat … a million ideas come to mind. We are also planning for drive-in style dining — eat in your car and look out at our garden.

Glen Arbor Sun: What have been the biggest hurdles to overcome during the pandemic? Both for Cherry Republic and for you (and your family)?

Bob Sutherland: It’s all been a challenge, but my staff is amazing. Their ability to overcome. Their can-do attitude. Their willingness to try new ways to do things. It’s been awesome to be a part of. The biggest hurdles have been employee-related. It was difficult to lay off half our workforce when we didn’t have any work for them once the stores closed and sales slowed. It was also a big transition to have company-wide work-from-home implemented.

Amazingly, after a week of shutting our stores down, we started working all the staff behind those closed doors with taking mail orders, shipping, and labeling bags. Thanks to our generous customers who are sending “hope you are well” gifts all over the country, we’re having a mini Christmas of activity and it has really saved us financially. Our “Vice President of Fulfillment”, Roni Hazelton has been terrific. We needed staff to safely process and ship the gifts out and she has done a terrific job managing this.

For my family, the biggest hurdles for Steph and I have been meeting the needs of my boys. Talk about lives that changed — No school. No sports. No friends. We might as well have stuck them on a railroad box car to Siberia! They need projects to feel fulfilled, so they’ve been updating their fish tanks, building raised bed gardens, putting out bird feeders, building bike trails and giant bike jumps and obstacles. Hiking in the park has been a lifesaver for Steph and me personally. I don’t know how people are surviving in the city with all this stress and no real outlets. She and I both need time outdoors and we are so fortunate to have our long walks together.

Glen Arbor Sun: How is the staff, doing during this crazy and difficult time?

Bob Sutherland: With the staff, we are taking extra time to just enjoy each other. Hikes in the park. Zoom meetings where we just talk about our favorite vacations, etc. They are all rock stars for how they are handling this. We are all into the journey, and the ride these last few months has been something to remember.

Glen Arbor Sun: What are you most excited about for the summer ahead?

Bob Sutherland: I look forward to summer. I look forward to seeing what bit of normalcy we can bring back. And how we can make that which needs to change feel like an improvement in our lives.

Carlson’s Fishery opens Friday in Leland Fishtown

Carlson’s Fishery in Leland Fishtown opens Friday, May 15, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Due to limited parking in Fishtown, the business reports on Facebook that it will use a pick-up window in lieu of curb-side pickup. Both fresh and smoked product will be available.

This story was sponsored by Trish’s Dishes in Leland