By Chris Loud
If you love a region, move there. If you love a certain type of food, but can’t find it near your new home, start making that food near your new home. Lyndsey Egli & Alicia Manson of Gold Baby Biscuits in Suttons Bay did just that, and their passion for tasty, no-fuss food has already landed with Leelanau locals and visitors alike. Grab one of their delectable biscuit sandwiches for breakfast and lunch, keep it simple with biscuits and jam, or go hearty with biscuits and gravy. They also serve pies, soups, and hope to offer dinner options in the future.
Lyndsey and Alicia come from the “cornfields of the Midwest,” and before moving to northern Michigan, lived in Chicago for several years. In March of 2018, they moved up to Traverse City looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city. Alicia knew the area a little from visiting as a child with her family, but Lyndsey had only been to the region once before moving up here.
“The biggest adjustment was getting through the first winter,” said Alicia, “where things sort of come to a standstill and people are gathering their nuts, and I don’t think we understood how much things stopped during the winter, so that was a real wake up call.”
In a small town like Suttons Bay, and across Leelanau, there’s a definite community within a community for small businesses owners, especially for young businesses and young businesses owners. Alicia was very appreciative of the help and support they received. “It really was amazing, and I don’t think it’s the kind of welcome you’d get in a bigger city. It seems like people here in the industry really want to support each other, and do everything they can for each other. We feel so lucky to be a part of that.”
Lyndsey and Alicia come from different career backgrounds. Lyndsey has worked all over the restaurant and service industry, all over the country, from front of the house to back of the house. Alicia was an art teacher and art education administrator, and had worked at the same school in Chicago for almost 18 years. “I was in love with it [educating], but at the same time I always wanted a restaurant. I’ve always done a lot of home baking and cooking, and I knew it was going to be the next career path for me when it came time to sort of close that chapter on education.” The next chapter started officially a year after they moved here, when they opened their biscuit shop in the Spring of 2019.
As you might have guessed, one question Alicia and Lyndsey often get is, “why biscuits?” Not only do they get that question from customers, new friends, and newspaper reporters, but they also sometimes ask themselves, “What happened? How did we end up here, making biscuits?” Well, the way it came about is appropriately simple, but really a very thoughtful approach to starting a business.
“We’d been envisioning our restaurant concept since we met,” Alicia remembered. “We had lots of ideas about the restaurant we wanted, we merged our two main ideas, and then had this loose concept when we moved here. But we knew what we really needed to do was to connect to the community, start meeting people and figure out what the needs of the community are. What kind of eaters are here, and what kind of restaurant is necessary? So it was really good for us to have that first year. Lyndsey worked a few restaurant jobs, I worked a few different jobs, and we just met a lot people, and talked to a lot of people about food and about what Traverse City needed, and what Leelanau needed. It was just a really good time for us to take stock of the needs of the community, and merge that with our own dream. We heard a lot that there weren’t enough breakfast options, and that folks really wanted to take out. We were also really missing biscuit shops. There’s a handful of shops in Chicago that we love, and Lyndsey worked at one of them. So we really missed those places, but we also really love southern food. People ask us all the time if either one of us is from the south, but we’re not—Lyndsey is from Des Moines and I’m from Central Illinois. So we’re not from the south, but we love the culture, and Lyndsey also lived in Savannah for a while. The food really connects with us. So it was a lot of different pieces that all came together.”
The plan for summer of 2019 was to start small, with a presence at the farmers’ markets, and some catering, while continuing to look for a place to set up shop. They wanted something small, simple, and close to their home in Traverse City. Just as they were about to roll out the mobile kitchen, their friends at Mundos Coffee Roasting told them about a space close (very close) to the new Mundos location in Suttons Bay. “We came to check it out the next day, and signed the lease a few days later,” recalled Alicia. “It’s just a perfect location, and perfect size.” After building out the space for their biscuit operation, before they knew it, Lyndsey and Alicia had their restaurant, ahead of schedule, with a storefront on the main drag of Suttons Bay.
Of course, I had to ask about the name. Alicia explained, “When we first started thinking of names, Gold Baby was one Lyndsey threw out there, and we kind of laughed at it. But then when it came time to decide, it stuck around, and felt right, and we just loved it. So we stuck with it.”
Gold Baby Biscuits purposely has a very small menu. It’s just Alicia and Lyndsey for now, and the small menu mirrors the clean and efficient shop. “People seem to be responding really well to the biscuits, and you know, we both really love biscuits, so it’s a good thing.”
Check in on their social media, or pop into their shop in Suttons Bay to see their weekly specials.