Eastward ho! Wiesens expand as Glen Arbor grows

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Beloved highway gets M-22 store, wine tasting bar, and parking lot

By Jacob Wheeler
Sun editor

“M-22 is all about the northern Michigan lifestyle,” an excited Matt Wiesen says while standing behind the wine counter at his and wife Katy’s new apparel store and tasting room in Glen Arbor. “It’s about a glass of wine on the boat, beaches, bonfires and a laid-back attitude.”

Outside, the town is abuzz. Construction crews and earthmovers hurry to pave a parking lot by Memorial Day weekend on the Wiesens’ new land just east of the M-22 store and across the road from their signature business, Crystal River Outfitters. Next to the canoe and kayak outfitter, customers occupy every seat inside Sue’s Riverfront Deli. Up the street, Carol Worsley buries her hands in soil as she plants colorful flowers outside Thyme Inn. The innkeeper is still giddy about the nervous young couple that got engaged while staying in her suite the previous weekend. And at the Good Harbor Grill, tools, sawdust and paperwork cover tables that, by May 26, will host hungry tourists. Summer is coming fast.

The Wiesens are teaming up with the “Broneah Brothers”, Matt and Keegan Myers, to sell M-22 brand apparel along the scenic Michigan highway. To them, and to thousands of locals and tourists alike who wear the now ubiquitous brand on their clothing or on automobile bumper stickers, M-22 is more than just a road — “it’s a way of life.” The Myers brothers, whose parent M-22 store is located in downtown Traverse City, are best know for the M-22 Challenge triathlon, which they’ll hold this year on Saturday, June 11. (Visit M22Challenge.com for more information.)

“We became friends with the Myers brothers three years ago through the inaugural M-22 Challenge,” explains Matt Wiesen. “We’ve been their paddle directors ever since year one. Our friendship has grown.”

Crystal River Outfitters supplies kayaks for M-22 Challenge participants, who paddle 2.5 miles on Little Glen Lake, following a 2.5-mile run up the dunes and a 17-mile bike ride around the Glen Lakes. The Myers brothers, who live on Old Mission Peninsula, liken Crystal River Outfitters to a godsend for satisfying the Challenge’s biggest equipment demand. (This year’s race will expand to 550 participants: It sold out within hours of registration opening. You can watch videos of last year’s race on GlenArbor.com.)

The Myers brothers looked at Frankfort, Suttons Bay and Leland for their M-22 store location, and ultimately favored Glen Arbor. Last year they rehabilitated the old Fisher House east of Glen Arbor near Bay Lane, but soon realized that zoning wouldn’t let them turn the space into a retail location. So in December they approached the Wiesens and proposed opening an M-22 store in the space that Katy’s business Campfire Pottery occupied last summer.

“We realized that the M-22 store could compliment Crystal River Outfitters,” says Matt Wiesen, adding that Campfire Pottery didn’t fit as well into their outdoorsy business model. “Campfire Pottery was way off in right field compared to our other ventures. We knew that long term Crystal River Outfitters (and M-22 apparel) was the real opportunity.”

This winter, Matt and Katy Wiesen escaped for a week to Florida, then Mexico, where they hung out with the “Broneah bros”. Matt and Keegan Myers kiteboarded offshore, while the Wiesens favored tanning (and sunburning) on the beach. Glen Arbor’s M-22 store opened for business on Friday, May 13 — a good omen, they hope. And a grand opening will follow once they secure a liquor license for the wine-tasting bar.

Black Star Farms will produce seven signature wines exclusively for the M-22 store, and though the bulk of Leelanau County’s wineries are clumped near Suttons Bay, this summer the Glen Arbor area will boast three wine-tasting locales: the M-22 store, Cherry Republic, and Longview Winery in nearby Cedar. Matt Wiesen believes that wine tasters will discover a laid-back and unpretentious atmosphere at the store, as visitors sip Leelanau grapes while surrounded by surfer gear, wetsuits and sunglasses.

The Glen Lake Chamber of Commerce also finds the new locale to its liking. The Chamber has officially moved its office and rack of business brochures to the M-22 store. There Matt and Katy will employ approximately five workers this summer: the Wiesens already have 19 at Crystal River Outfitters.

And the massive landscaping project next door? Last year the Wiesens bought the house of the late Bill Rohn, a colorful college professor, car dealer and descendent of this area’s early settlers. Inside his house, Matt and Katy found original prints of early artwork of Alligator Hill. That house will become Crystal River Outfitters’ bike rental and repair shop in 2012. The destination will likely include an outdoor lounge and concrete patio. In the near-term, the parking lot behind the building should be ready by this Memorial Day, and Matt believes it will relieve congestion downtown, while encouraging tourists to use Glen Arbor’s sidewalks and get to know the growing east side of town.

“This can be a new demarcation point for entering Glen Arbor from the east,” said Katy. “Glen Arbor is working its way eastward, becoming a more walkable community that uses its sidewalks.”

Gallery game of musical chairs

In the old garage behind the new M-22 store, Glen Arbor native-returned-from-afar Keenan May is on a creative mission. His stellar photography will soon be on display at the Leelanau Lab gallery, but the architect/futurist’s experimenting with light and sound are just as likely to bewitch you. Keep an eye out for impromptu movies being shown at the Leelanau Lab this summer.

Elsewhere in Glen Arbor, a game of “musical chairs” is underway. Dickinson Gallery has moved from its spot on M-109 near Ruth Conklin Gallery to the garage next to Art’s formerly occupied by Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak. In Dickinson’s place, the Mimi Nieman Fine Art Gallery is back in town after a 12 hear hiatus (in other words, the previous millennium). MacBeth & Company, which was in the former Leelanau Interiors Location on M-109 has re-opened in the former Cottage Collections space next to the Glen Arbor Athletic Club. The Cottage Collections Design Studio has downsized and now occupies the back area. Tiny Treasures (Village Sampler Plaza) and Bittersweet (M-109) have sadly closed their doors, but in Bittersweet’s place is Century 21 Real Estate and realtors Laura Sielaff (Empire Eagles, which hosted the Dunegrass Festival the past two years) and former Glen Lake football coaching legend Bill Hollenbeck.

Salon turns 50, with upgrade

Sherri Lynn Richard, a well-known stylist at Pavlova in Traverse City, purchased the Glen Lake (Beauty) Salon on Christmas Day last year following months of serious consideration. “I thought it was a dream come true but, initially, too expensive,” she says. Richard opened on New Year’s Eve and exalts at how well Glen Arbor has treated her. “Happy, sunny people,” she calls us. Richard has inherited many of former owner Marilyn’s clients, and also drawn her former patrons from Pavlova. The atmosphere of the Glen Lake Salon today, which is open Tuesday thru Saturday, from 9-6, isn’t quite debonair Pavlova, and not quiet small-town Glen Arbor either. Marilyn’s wicker chairs are still there, but Richard has painted them light mango orange. The forest green walls are now blue and, in a nod to the previous owner, the goddess of an era past, Marilyn Monroe flashes her seductive smile from a portrait on the back wall.

Long Island at the WAG; boating-dining fusion at the Narrows

Western Avenue Grill bartender Bill Skolnik, a native of Long Island, desperately missed good oysters and seafood here in the Midwest, so he has incorporated a half-shell oyster bar at the WAG, on Thursdays through Sundays, and nightly between July and Labor Day. Pair your ocean pearls with oyster-friendly wines, and stay late for karaoke. Only problem is, “we desperately need shuckers,” says Bill — in his Long Island accent.

Meanwhile, over at the Glen Lake Narrows, the McCahill family from Colorado followed up last year’s acquisition of On the Narrows Marina with their purchase this spring of the deli/diner/ice cream shop south of the Narrows Bridge. The locale likely won’t open until July, but when it does, look for a fusion of boating and dining while watching sunsets on the lake.