By J.D. Booth
Nov. 7, 2013
We all need to eat.
Which means there’s also a need to support the people around us who make it their business to produce that food.
And because the things we call food are actually part of a relatively complex and variable system (even systems of systems), we owe it to ourselves to pay attention to companies and individuals who are worthy of celebration.
The fact is, Michigan has some of the most innovative, successful and industrious operators when it comes to food and agriculture.
They include not only those who’ve been in business for decades but those who have more recently come up with an idea they fully expect will change the world. Or at least their part of it.
It’s people like those at Tecumseh’s Aquaculture Research Corp., who see as their mission the promotion of a large-scale industry that will create a sustainable and affordable seafood industry in the area.
Or those who had the vision for an urban garden near Compuware Corp.’s downtown Detroit headquarters. They created Lafayette Greens, a hive of sustainable food pioneers who grow more than 1,000 pounds of food they donate to charitable organizations while teaching those around them the beauty of living in harmony with skyscrapers.
Lafayette Greens was the overall winner of the non-profit category in the Food and Agriculture Awards event held Oct.17 at VisTaTech Center, Schoolcraft College, in Livonia. Other overall winners were Spartan Stores in the large category, and Sklarczyk Seed Farm LLC in the agriculture category.
And then there’s the tech side of the food equation, embraced by Ypsilanti’s Local Orbit, which provides flexible sales, marketing, finance, inventory and logistics tools to those who want to up the ante on the production of local food.
Certainly there are dozens of examples of innovators exercising their passions for food and agriculture in our state.
But there are also what we might call mainstay operators, like the members of the Michigan apple industry who are working non-stop to bring in a bumper crop-typical of the year following a devastating crop loss caused by a cold snap that virtually wiped out the 2012 harvest.
There are also those in between, like the organizers of RecoveryPark, an urban project that seeks to transform thousands of acres of unused Detroit property into productive, sustaining and employment-providing agriculture land.
Farmers. Producers. Processors. Innovators. Restaurateurs.
Throughout Michigan, there are people thriving in an industry that’s often overshadowed by others seemingly more newsworthy.
But food and agriculture in a state that is poised, not only to continue to feed its own citizens but in many ways those of the world, is worth celebrating.
Join with us in recognizing the organizations and those who work to better our lives in this most worthy of professions.
Putting food and drink on our tables.
Aquaculture Research Corp.-¨
A non-profit research and education organization, the Aquaculture Research Corp. is in business to promote the development of a large-scale aquaculture industry in the Great Lakes Region. Its intent is to have a quality space for many diverse studies in the field of aquaculture. As it remodels its building in Tecumseh, ARC plans to have a 6,000 square foot aquaculture research facility. Today, with its two climate-controlled brood stock rooms and a modern laboratory, the ARC has a spacious grow out area, water treatment room and conference room. The current focus is off-season spawning of Yellow Perch in climate and light controlled situations, grow-out systems, and feed options that work best for the system. With future goals to improve monitoring and control systems, automated processing systems, waste stream management and value enhancement, the ARC expects to connect these different aspects of the aquaculture process in support of a sustainable and affordable seafood industry in the Great Lakes Region.
From its roots as a single school and neighborhood garden site in 1999, Growing Hope bloomed as the result of community interest. Those same volunteers began partnering with other organizations, creating more gardens and expanding their garden-based earning and extracurricular programs. Today Growing Hope is a leader in the area, spreading the accumulated knowledge to make a serious impact on the food and accessibility culture in Michigan and even beyond. While there are dozens of programs at Growing Hope, the most innovative approach has been around social entrepreneurship. As the non-profit organization grows through garden services, consulting and installations continue to grow, its sustainability improves as well. Growing Hope has been empowering local communities to grow and eat healthy food. Young and old come together to grow their own fresh produce, revitalize their neighborhoods and teach one another the beauty and hope that comes from nurturing soil, seeds and self. Neighbors and vendors gather at the farmers’ market to connect and share around healthy, local food and the Growing Hope Center is the next step in anchoring its mission and permanently rooting in the community.
Established in August 2011 as a partnership between Compuware Corp. and the city of Detroit, Lafayette Greens sits on the corner of Lafayette and Shelby and serves as a wonderful example of corporate citizenship. The operation was designed to promote urban agriculture in the city and to encourage all visitors to support their local farmers and food vendors. All the materials used to build the garden, from the soil, lumber, and metal beds came from Detroit businesses. The end result is a beautiful green oasis located among the skyscrapers and local businesses, offering a peaceful respite from the surrounding urban architecture. Colorful tables provide a place to dine al fresco with lunches purchased from area restaurants. Flowers and vegetables mingle in harmony, adding color and softness to the cityscape. More than 2,000 people visited Lafayette Greens this summer, many attending “Lunch and Learn” programs on a variety of topics: building raised beds; making natural dyes from flowers and vegetables; how to make papyrus from vegetables and many others. More than 1,000 pounds of food harvested from Lafayette Greens was donated to various charitable organizations, thanks to the help of garden volunteers that include children, high school students, and citizens who simply want to learn more about gardening, healthy eating and food production.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
As a company dedicated to helping entrepreneurs involved in the local food economy, Local Orbit is making a mark by offering the technology that’s often overlooked in the development of systems that actually work. The firm’s flexible sales, marketing, finance, inventory and logistics tools help those whose vision is the creation of local food systems to build profitable businesses and healthier communities. Even with the growing recognition that food produced locally tastes better and is safer and more nutritious, the traditional process of making that happen is time consuming and expensive. Local Orbit wants to change the economics through a platform that enables entrepreneurs to establish stronger, more efficient, local food networks that can meet the demand for food that is produced closer to where people live. In the past year, Local Orbit has grown to support more than 22 local marketplaces across the country, including five Michigan communities and sales through Local Orbit’s platform have increased more than 300 percent.
Michigan Apple Committee-¨
The apple business in Michigan couldn’t be better as it enjoys a bumper crop this year, a nice change from a devastating 2012 that knocked out most of the state’s production. All that has changed this year as Michigan producers, making the state the third largest in the nation, work hard in one of the greatest turnarounds in recent history. “Our growers, packers and shippers are working seven days a week, day and night to move this bumper apple crop,” says Diane Smith, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee. “These numbers illustrate not only that we have a large crop, but also that there is great retail and consumer demand for Michigan-grown apples.” October is always a busy time of the year for apple growers in the state but Smith says she sees a difference this year. “I think what we are seeing is the start of a new normal, with increasing demand for Michigan apples and more trees in the ground, as well as new technology that has been incorporated into production and distribution of apples. We are planning to see larger numbers over the next few years.”
Michigan Vegetable Council-¨
It was nearly 50 years ago that a group of vegetable industry leaders, concluding that Michigan needed a statewide vegetable organization, formed the Michigan Vegetable Council. Today the organization, in cooperation with the Michigan State Horticulture Society, runs an annual show for fruit and vegetable growers, greenhouse growers and farm marketers. This year’s event, scheduled for December 10-12 at the DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, will include more than 75 sessions and workshops over the three days.
When the management team at a publicly funded addiction rehabilitation program found themselves discussing why so many clients were returning to the program, one reason stood out-the lack of permanent employment. Out of that came another idea, an initiative that would help revitalize Detroit through self-sustaining food-related businesses. Today RecoveryPark operates as an independent nonprofit organization that puts unused buildings and land to work for the betterment of the community, creating jobs through community gardens and small farms and jumpstarting food entrepreneurs through collaborative projects, all related to the burgeoning agricultural sector. RecoveryPark, nearly 2,500 acres of previously dormant land in urban Detroit, is growing thanks to a collaboration with more than 100 community partners in the design and implementation of projects as varied as year-round farming, fruit, nut and berry orchards, indoor fish farming and even a food processing center. The RecoveryPark vision includes not only providing badly needed jobs but increasing the availability of fresh, locally grown foods in the city, in effect creating a self-supporting network of closely related businesses.
ViMax Media is a fully integrated marketing agency offering complete creative services from conception and design consultation through project management and execution. The company offers targeted custom content specializing in the food industry, delivered through print, digital and social media platforms. ViMax works diligently to come up with innovative ways to market food content for its clients and has recently launched new services to expand its client recipes into the digital realm, incorporating social media, mobile and micro-sites into its marketing capabilities. ViMax Media prides itself in the ability to produce the best food content for its clients. And it’s able to distribute it in as many fashions as their customers demand. Using world-class food photography, compelling content and outstanding creative, ViMax Media is dedicated to designing effective, enduring products that facilitate the advancement of a brand.
Sterling Heights, Mich.-¨
As the great-grandson of the founders of Morley Candy Makers, Detroit Chocolat founder Casey Petz certainly has a heritage of putting smiles on the faces of the people he serves. Having a passion for chocolates and four generations of experience dating back to 1919, Petz has taken Detroit Chocolat to the forefront of the local industry as it manufactures some of the world’s finest chocolate products. Woven into the Detroit Chocolat recipe for success is the belief that the city of Detroit is more than just boundaries on a map. The city is about the great traditions, cultures, products, and most importantly, the people who call metro Detroit home. Detroit Chocolat cares about its customers, the quality and wholesomeness of the products it sells, and the environment. It’s committed to offering products, desserts, gifts, and services that are a reflection of the great people who live in the area. About 70 percent of the company’s products and confections are entirely naturally grown, processed, and manufactured. The company takes pride in serving a wholesome product to its customers and makes every effort to source all of its chocolates, confections, and supplies from Detroit-based, Michigan-based, or regional companies.
While the Edible Arrangements business is heading to worldwide status, the Metro Detroit area is growing as well, with 15 locations established through the leadership of Vikki Brown. As the leading supplier of high quality, artistically designed fresh fruit arrangements, Edible Arrangements provides practical and healthy gifts and centerpieces for everyday occasions and events. There are several local retail stores-in Ann Arbor, Berkley, Brighton, Dearborn Heights, Detroit, Farmington, Grosse Pointe, Lake Orion, New Baltimore, Plymouth, Shelby Township, Sterling Heights, Troy, West Bloomfield and Wyandotte. Brown has maintained her status as the highest-ranking Edible Arrangements co-op for five years in a row and recently celebrated its third annual Random Acts of Happiness campaign, awarding unsung heroes in the Metro Detroit area with a complimentary arrangement. When the majority of the 15 Edible Arrangements locations in the area opened, it was near the height of the recession. “We were fortunate and continue to be grateful that our guests responded so favorably to our product and supported us throughout the metro-Detroit area,” says Brown. “We understand that gift-giving is a well-thought out choice. So the fact that people select us for our combination of unique designs and healthy eating is encouragement that there are still growth opportunities within the agriculture and food industry.”
Forgotten Harvest-Ore Creek Farm-¨
Oak Park, Mich.-¨
In its first year of operation, Forgotten Harvest’s Ore Creek Farm is in the midst of a bountiful harvest season, growing healthy food for distribution to partner agencies. Those in turn are providing emergency food to tens of thousands of people facing hunger in metro Detroit. For many years, in partnership with local farmers, Forgotten Harvest has participated in rescuing surplus nutritious fruits and vegetables. The experience inspired Forgotten Harvest to begin growing its own fresh food on a large scale, a dream that became reality in 2012 with a pilot program that produced 440,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables from a total of 37 acres, all of which were delivered to emergency food providers in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties. Forgotten Harvest has now expanded and consolidated its farming operation onto one 92-acre site in Deerfield Township. Ore Creek Farm, donated by Forgotten Harvest board member Nora Moroun, will produce 75 acres of sweet corn, summer squash, potatoes, cabbage, and winter squash with sequential plantings designed to maximize a consistent source of fresh, healthy, locally grown food throughout the harvest season. More than 280 food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens, and farmer’s market-style mobile pantries will be the recipients of more than one million pounds of food, thanks to a small staff and a large, dedicated cadre of volunteers.
In 2006, using their great grandmother Lala’s recipe, the McClure family started McClure’s Pickles after years of making pickles in their tiny Michigan kitchen. They learned how to make the pickles from their grandfather and parents and now the brothers-Joe and Bob-along with the McClure family continue the tradition with a bit more room. They make the pickles, relish, bloody mary mix and other McClure’s products just outside of Detroit. McClure’s uses as much local produce as possible when it is in season; when it’s not, they call up the farms and speak directly with the growers to know where the produce they buy is coming from and how it is being grown, making sure they’re getting some of the best, freshest produce available. Every jar is hand packed, the cucumbers hand sliced in their own factory, not from a private labeler. “We’re happy that after so many years, we can bring our family recipe, to yours,” says Joe McClure.
Mid-Michigan Meats LLC
Mid-Michigan Meats, a privately held company, has cultivated personal relationships with family farmers and meat processors-small, well-established, family run operations that are clean, safe, humane and considered “best-practice.” The firm buys livestock directly from family farms and provides what is says are the finest beef, pork, lamb and chicken consumers can get. The company has tapped into a growing desire by consumers to eat more locally and have control over the meats they serve the family. The company is on track to more than triple its sales in 2013 compared with 2012. While beef and pork sales have grown steadily, the challenge until recently was to source a chicken that would be consistent with Mid-Michigan Meats standard for a product that did not come from corporate farms and that was free of steroids and growth hormones. That source has recently been identified and the company expects to see significant growth in that area.
Since 1926 the Olejnik family has been providing local produce, garden flowers and fruit from its farm in Macomb, Mich. Now in its fifth generation, Olejnik Farms is carrying on the traditions begun by Adam Olejnik. Today the family operates more than 100 acres, cultivating vegetables that are picked by hand on a daily basis. The operation also includes more than 2 acres of greenhouses in an operation that includes some 78 varieties of heirloom tomatoes. Olejnik Farms specializes in hanging baskets, producing more than 25,000 creations in any given year and making a regular appearance at the Oakland County Market since 1977.
Orion Township, Mich.-¨
Powers has trademarked a process that incorporates extensive training of its staff in beer (styles, brewing, and selling), in the process creating true beer professionals. Powers Distributing works with tools and information to give its customers the best possible preparation to achieve the mutual objectives of selling beer properly, responsibly and profitably. The firm has passionate, professional sales people who are fact based and love beer. Powers Distributing has a number of Certified Cicerones on staff, referring to a certification program that specializes in the knowledge and handling of beer products. In short, its sales representatives are consultants who listen to customer needs and know beer and how to sell it. Powers also has a proprietary training process geared specifically to the marketplace that it serves, whether it be bars, taverns, bowling centers, golf courses or restaurants, a large format chain store, a neighborhood liquor or convenience store, or a drug store.
Prielipp Farms & Greenhouse-¨
With a heritage that began in 1936 when its founders sold tomatoes at the Detroit Market-three bushels for a dollar-the mission of Prielipp Farms hasn’t changed much. Their goal is still to provide the highest quality plants and produce at the best possible prices. Now in its fourth generation, the family still sells what it grows and still hand picks what it sells. Now involved with the Oakland County Farmers Market for more than four decades, Prielipp Farms grows corn, soybeans and wheat field crops. Plus in its greenhouse operation it grows a full line of annual bedding plants, along with many varieties of accent plants, geraniums, hanging baskets, and perennials. Throughout the summer, the Prielipp family grows a large selection of vegetables, “specializing” in tomatoes, sweet corn and melons. For the fall season, it offers a full line of decorations, including fall mums, pumpkins, gourds, squash, corn stalks, and straw. And it finishes out the year with Christmas decorating items, including wreaths, and garland roping. Prielipp Farms sells on a retail basis as well as to wholesalers, landscapers and commercial accounts. It also sells to groups and organizations for fundraising purposes.
Brown City, Mich.-¨
A certified organic operation since 1991, Raub-Rae Farm has been owned and operated by the same family for more than 100 years, raising beef cattle, chickens and selling eggs. The operation, currently owned by Robert Linck, uses certified chicken feed milled on the premises and also grows a wide variety of vegetables.
If even the term “gluten-free” seems distasteful, Steve Ciric wants a chance to change your mind. Forever. The owner of Rumi’s Passion, a Plymouth-based gluten free bakery (and more), Ciric has worked with his family in the baking industry for at least three decades, although it’s been less than five years since he began noticing a growing demand for gluten-free baked goods and four years since his trial and error recipe building took hold. Today, Rumi’s Passion is getting rave reviews and a growing list of customers who can’t believe just how great his gluten-free creations taste. But Ciric is building more than a local following. Through extensive word of mouth (including on UrbanSpoon and Yelp! websites) he’s earning a well-deserved reputation for quality that’s spreading even beyond Michigan.
Safie’s Specialty Foods-¨
Chesterfield Twp., Mich.-¨
It’s been more than 75 years since Dmitri Safie began manufacturing pickled condiments at the dawn of the Great Depression. Today granddaughter Mary Safie is continuing the venture, having joined the business in the same kitchen where her grandfather and his children worked. But there have been a lot of changes between the day Dmitri launched the business and today’s modern business. Indeed, the original Safie’s was sold when Dmitri’s children retired, having built the brand into the largest pepper manufacturer in the country. In 1994, when Mary Safie took the reins, she brought the old-fashioned tradition into the 21st century with a state-of-the-art packing facility. Safie’s remains true to the classic tradition that began with Dmitri Safie and continues with his granddaughter, incorporating a passion for food and love of cooking.
Sklarczyk Seed Farm LLC
It started in 1942 when Michael and Theresa Sklarczyk purchased a farm in Johannesburg, Mich. The couple grew potatoes and traditional crops for feeding livestock, with Mike trucking the potatoes to the Detroit Eastern Market, where a competitor offered to buy his crop at the same price Mike was receiving at the Market, hoping to eliminate the competition. Nearly 40 years after the business was first formed, their son Don and his wife Mary Kay began actively researching ways to dramatically reduce the bacteria that had been a problem in growing potatoes. Adopting methods pioneered by a laboratory with connections to Cornell University, they began a test crop that eventually led to the seed potato industry as it is known today. On Frito Lay’s urging the Sklarczyk operation eventually converted to a hydroponic operation and today Don and Mary Kay’s son Ben, the third generation in the family, is chief operating officer of a company that produces more than 4 million seed potatoes annually from two crops. Customers throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Chile and the Middle East benefit from the combined wisdom of the Sklarczyk family, and the 650 acres of land, no longer needed for seed potatoes, grow many bushels of wheat and soybeans.
Srodek’s Pierogi and Sausage
It all started in 1980 when Walter and Marianna Srodek immigrated to the small city of Hamtramck, Michigan. This is when they decided to open a family-owned and operated delicatessen. Over the years Srodek’s has become an upscale market in the heart of Hamtramck, focusing on rich Polish and European food traditions. The company’s new location will feature a restaurant covering nearly 5,000 square feet with an indoor/outdoor patio and an in-house microbrewery. The new Srodek market will cover 5,900 square feet, which will include a state of the art production facility, offering a one of a kind shopping experience. The new location, the second for Jozef Srodek (son of Walter and Marianna), will also include a European style bakery, truly a one of a kind experience. Srodek’s Campau Quality Sausage Co. has played an active role in the community and continues to support many church organizations through out the Metro Detroit area. The Polish and European specialties that we all recognize instantly are kielbasa, sauerkraut, pierogi, and stuffed cabbage (Golabki). Throughout the years Srodek’s has been synonymous with quality; producing and offering high quality products to its customers with a homemade style and taste.
Tollgate Education Center-¨
The views of rolling farmland available around the Michigan State University Tollgate Education Center are practically unknown elsewhere in present-day Oakland County, making it one of the original historical sites of Novi, Michigan. The 160-acre farmstead, owned by Michigan State University and the Americana Foundation, represents a working farm with several kinds of animals and retired working horses from Greenfield Village. Prime features of the facility include the MSU Tollgate Education Conference Center (open for rentals), offices of the Americana Foundation, and the MSU Extension office (which serves Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties). The site provides educational experiences and programs using research based curriculum and materials to bring the vast knowledge resources of MSU directly to individuals, communities, and businesses. The Tollgate Education Center provides experiences in gardening for master gardener volunteers and last year delivered some 3,000 pounds of orchard produce to Forgotten Harvest.
Washtenaw Food Hub-¨
Ann Arbor, Mich.-¨
The Washtenaw Food Hub’s first priority is to provide area farmers and food businesses with the facilities and resources needed to be economically and ecologically sustainable. As part of this, the Hub will be a central point for distributing and adding value to local food. For eaters, artisans and investors, the Washtenaw Food Hub will provide a new paradigm for meaningful participation and a trusted destination for healthy, local food. Organizers see this venture as a way to knit together the strengths of the community, offering resources and shared facilities that will allow small, sustainable farmers (and other food entrepreneurs) to aggregate and scale up to meet growing demand. And it will also be a beloved place for local eaters of every income to participate, meet their farmers, and have access to fresh, healthy food. The guiding principles of the Washtenaw Food Hub are fostering sustainability and demonstrating the possibilities of health for soil, people and place as they create a network of complementary businesses, small-scale processing facilities, gardens, demonstration projects, and a location for community participation, events and food education.
Yates Cider Mill-¨
Rochester Hills, Mich.-¨
With a history that dates back to 1863, Yates Grist Mill opened its doors beside the rapidly flowing waters of the “then” Clinton-Kalamazoo Canal. Amid the beautiful countryside of Rochester, Mich., the memories began in full bloom. The Clinton River cascades over the Yates dam, which supplies the headwaters to power the mill. The dam was built to create a stream that the mill uses for waterpower. By 1876, the Yates family installed a cider press into the existing water-powered process and began producing delicious Michigan cider. It then became known as Yates Cider Mill. Local farmers, orchard owners and landowners would bring their apples to Yates for custom apple pressing. Over all these years, Yates has been producing the same kind of fresh 100 percent all natural cider that folks enjoyed way back in 1876. Yates cider is made without preservatives, using a UV light process to treat the cider instead of pasteurization.
Andiamo Restaurant Group
Andiamo founder and CEO Joseph Vicari, who takes pride in his Italian-American heritage, knows what it takes to build a restaurant group based on three simple Italian principles - great food, great family, and great zest for life. Over the past 23 years, Vicari has developed nine Metro-Detroit Andiamo restaurants. “Our philosophy was created over 23 years ago by the late Master Chef Aldo Ottaviani: Buy the freshest seasonal ingredients and prepare them from scratch each and every day.” This belief resonates today and is carried on by Corporate Executive Chef Jim Oppat, who is instilled with this same philosophy. The passion is quality products. When great food is paired with excellent service and atmosphere, lasting memories are created. Vicari operates his business based on a personal belief that treating other people well will enhance your life. He’s committed to having a team that feels that it is an integral part of growing the business. Many members of the team have been there from the beginning and finding their own professional growth has mirrored the growth of the business. The Andiamo Restaurant Group is a stellar example of giving back to the community, supporting numerous charitable organizations including the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, Henry Ford Hospital, Hermelin Brain Tumor Center, and St. John’s Hospital.
Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn-¨ Restaurant
How to do you celebrate 125 years of service in the restaurant business? If you’re Frankenmuth’s Bavarian Inn, you keep serving the famous chicken dinners, fresh baked goods and Michigan’s greatest selection of German beer. As a state landmark and gastronomic destination, the Bavarian Inn is where visitors from near and far experience the old-world European charm of Michigan’s Little Bavaria. The Bavarian Inn is one of the top consumers of Pure Michigan agricultural products, using homegrown ingredients in recipes prepared in-house for the enjoyment of their guests. And with a long history of buying local, the Bavarian Inn continues the tradition on a grander scale than ever before, with tons of Michigan agricultural products used in a modern kitchen. In the 63 years since the Zehnder family bought it in 1950, Frankenmuth’s Bavarian Inn has become one of the oldest and largest eateries in the country, seating 1,200 guests in 12 dining rooms with more than 600,000 meals in a year.
Better Made Snack Foods-¨
Founded in 1934 after four years operating under the first names of its founders, the late Peter Cipriano and the late Cross Moceri, Better Made has become an iconic brand doing business in a better way. Even in the early days of the company, its founders insisted on only the best ingredients and methods of production. And that included simplicity. Burlap bagged select potatoes were cooked in the best oil available, weighed, and hand packed into greaseless bags. Distribution was chiefly through the company’s own store outlets, which later grew into small delivery routes. Today, however, Better Made uses 60 million pounds of chip potatoes every year and the entire process is a little more complex. Potatoes are purchased in bulk (45,000 to 85,000 pounds per truck load) and unloaded from delivery trucks by a hydraulic lift. The potatoes are then transported by conveyors to storage bins. When needed, the potatoes are automatically conveyed to the fryers where they are washed, peeled, and sliced, and inspected before being cooked in 100 percent cottonseed oil. Untouched by human hands from the time the potatoes leave the farm until a customer brings them to their mouth, Better Made chips are made eight months of the year from Michigan potatoes and in the off season from wherever in the U.S. the best potatoes are available.
Established in 1936 on the corner of Conant and Six Mile Roads as a neighborhood tavern, it was not until 1946 that Buddy’s first introduced its famous square pizza - the first of its kind - to Detroit. It was love at first bite. More than 67 years, and numerous awards later, Buddy’s continues to serve Detroit’s original square pizza, made from scratch soups, and its celebrated Antipasto salad. Over time a variety of items have been added to the menu, including gluten-free pizza, multi-grain crust, pastas, burgers, sandwiches and more-each prepared just as they would have been in 1946, with the freshest ingredients and an acute attention to detail. One of the secrets to Buddy’s success has always been its dedicated, hardworking staff. Many of those who started at Buddy’s original location now take pride in keeping Buddy’s traditions alive at the nine metro Detroit locations. Buddy’s gives back to the community through a number of charitable causes as well as the “Got Pizza, Give Dough,” “Sometimes You Need Some Buddy’s,” “Celebrity Signature Pizza,” “Dining With The Stars,” “Motor City Pizza Collection” and “Great Lakes Pizza Collection” campaigns.
Garden Fresh Gourmet Salsa
Like many food operations, Garden Fresh Gourmet Salsa began small when it opened its doors in 1997. Based in Ferndale, the firm has since grown to the point where some 423 people work in five locations across Michigan. In addition to award-winning, top selling fresh salsa, Garden Fresh now supplies chips, hummus and dips to some of the top retailers- Costco, Walmart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Kroger, Safeway and stores from Florida to South Korea. And they haven’t stopped yet. New product development has led to the latest new facility in Clinton Township where Garden Fresh will manufacture chicken burgers stuffed with feta cheese and spinach, meatballs stuffed with ricotta and hamburgers stuffed with cheddar cheese. It’s a big operation but the people there have big hearts when it comes to giving back. Whether it’s to the University of Michigan Cancer Center, Children’s Hospital, the Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Clubs and Tony’s Foundation, Garden Fresh is giving back, even as it remains loyal to its roots in Ferndale, Michigan.
Gordon Food Service-¨
With roots as a butter and egg delivery business more than a century ago, Gordon Food Service has since become the largest family-owned foodservice distributor in North America-and one of the largest privately held companies in the United States. Gordon Food Service has weathered a lot of changes since 1897 and even instituted a fair number of them, leading the industry into new and more efficient ways of doing business. But its values remain the same as those of the 23-year-old entrepreneur who started it all: hard work, reliability, and integrity are the only business practices that really matter. Buying local has become a rallying cry for individuals and businesses, and nowhere is it proclaimed more loudly than when it comes to food purchases. Gordon Food Service supports its customers’ desire to understand their local purchasing content as a component of stewardship and social responsibility. And it’s making it easier to identify local purchases with NearBuy, a comprehensive, accurate, and reliable product-source database designed specifically for the foodservice industry.
Founded in 1941 and still family owned, Hiller’s attracts loyal shoppers to its eight stores throughout the southeastern Michigan region, including Ann Arbor, Berkley, West Bloomfield, Northville, Plymouth, Commerce Township and a new 52,000 square-foot store in Union Lake. Under the leadership of Jim Hiller, the second generation CEO, the firm continues to innovate, notably through its leadership in the provision of gluten-free groceries. Indeed, a food fair held at its Plymouth store is sure to be an event that will be repeated in the months to come. “Imagine learning you cannot eat foods you’ve always enjoyed,” says Hiller. “And then realizing you’ll have to drive to many stores to get the groceries you need - or worse, search the Internet for items you can’t find in a store. It is my priority to give my customers everything they need, all in one place.” Hiller’s works in concert with the Tri County Celiac Support Group. Leaders of that group laud Hiller’s for being the first grocery in the area to aggressively market to gluten-free consumers and affirm that it maintains the largest selection in the Midwest.
Starting with a vision of a family entertainment and corporate outing “destination” on the west side of Michigan, Sarah and Jay Jollay now offer a delightful combination of “you pick” apples, sweet and tart cherries, and peaches. But the operation is substantially more than that: hay rides, a haunted house, fishing pond, corn maze, western town, ferris wheel, petting zoo and even a dinosaur farm. And now there’s Grandpa’s Cider Mill, where visitors can watch cider being pressed, shop in a store that features a variety of private-label jellies, specialty foods and gifts, sample one of the 25 flavors at the cider bar or sample custom bakery items and fresh donuts baked on site. The Jollays also formed the Bainbridge Beverage Company to wholesale healthy, natural apple cider to local farmers markets and stores, and now supply Whole Foods stores in Michigan and five nearby states as well as Martin’s Supermarkets and other local markets. The Jollays’ foresight in diversifying their services paid off last year when an early thaw followed by freeze events in April wiped out their apple, cherry and peach crops before the season even opened. Excellent relationships and ingenuity in identifying alternate sources for apples to press and fruit to stock the Orchard and Cider Mill were critical elements of their success.
Kalamata Greek Grill-¨
Royal Oak, Mich.-¨
Kalamata Greek Grill has redefined Metro Detroit’s fast casual arena with its fast casual Greek concept. One of two owners, Tom Chinonis, has taken Greek food to a new high by carefully researching and creating authentic Greek food recipes and making them available in the fast casual segment. Kalamata has been relentless at getting the freshest ingredients possible-separating their business from traditional Coney Islands by insisting that all of ingredients are fresh, never frozen or prepared. They have taken the time to ensure that their menu has excellent gluten free options available-insisting that their manufacturers and distributors carry products that cater to this type of diet. Kalamata has also chosen to team up with local suppliers for their food products and their distributor is located in the city of Detroit. “We will ALWAYS prefer local product when it is available,” notes Kalamata’s chef. The owners are building the foundation of a great restaurant chain and have taken the steps to ensure a superior product, and an amazing culture.
-¨Madison Heights, Mich.-¨
Business is definitely looking up for Kar’s Nuts, which four years ago launched its “Second Nature” brand to fuel the appetite for even more natural, healthy products that feature premium ingredients. With medical research showing nuts to be among the healthiest foods available, the trend to more natural, minimally processed foods is fueling the growth of Kar’s, even with the volatility of raw material and food commodity prices. The company has enjoyed strong support from Michigan retailers and consumers alike and a strong national distribution that was in place before the recession resulted in a healthy bottom line. The goal of CEO Nick Nickolay: to be the everyday brand in the top 75 grocery stores nationwide. “We’re currently more than halfway there,” adds Nickolay, a former banker whose father bought the business from founder Sue Kar in 1967. “If we continue to innovate with unique, tasty, healthy combinations that meet consumer demand at the right price points, we will be successful.”
Kuhnhenn Brewing Company-¨
A favorite of aficionados who just naturally crave their craft brew, Kuhnhenn has been in business since 1998 and brewing since 2001. And it’s already a winner, having garnered a gold medal in the IPA category for its Double Rice India Pale Ale at the World Beer Cup in 2012. But the firm is growing so fast it can’t keep up with demand at its current facility. Hence, the plans to move to Clinton Township where it will use a 35,000-square-foot facility for production, cellaring, packaging and storage, plus administrative offices and even a tasting room for the public. Owner Bret Kuhnhenn’s plans are great news to those who have seen the building sit dormant for some time. Plus the expansion will boost employment in an area hit with high job loss.
Lindo Mexico Restaurant Inc.-¨
Gricelda Mata’s dream of a sit-down authentic Mexican restaurant is alive and well, in spite of her being denied a loan to expand the operation in 2010. Today Lindo Mexico’s focus remains the same: to serve fresh food with authentic flavors in all its dishes, including sopes, camarones a la diabla, mojarras, enchiladas Mexicanas, and even a wet burrito to satisfy all tastes. And on Saturday night, guests are entertained with a live Mariachi/Ranchera singer. Even when the bank said no, Mata was able to reach out to family to nearly triple the restaurant, now seating 142. “We have had tremendous support from the community,” she adds, crediting word of mouth for the expansion in business. “We strive and work hard to deliver a quality product and provide an excellent experience to each one of our customers,” she notes, adding that she feels the future will be a bright one for those like her. “I feel Michigan is heading in the right direction as far as the food industry. We recently participated in Restaurant Week, where the focus was on cooking with fresh local ingredients. Events like this help us to get the word out about our agriculture and food industry.”
-¨Grand Rapids, Mich.-¨
The Michigan-based mega-retailer has recently expanded a program that supports the state’s small businesses to feature 55 new Michigan-made grocery products in all its stores statewide. “Meijer is committed to supporting Michigan businesses, and the Made in Michigan initiative is a great opportunity to highlight some fantastic small businesses throughout the state,” said co-chairman Doug Meijer. “The response we received from our customers last year about this initiative was overwhelming, which is why we decided to further invest and expand this selection into all our Michigan stores.” Originally launched in January 2012 with some 49 grocery items, the initiative resulted in an estimated economic impact of $400,000 statewide. The expanded program is expected to have an economic impact of $900,000, said Matt Birbeck, High Impact Venture Action Team project manager for the MSU Product Center. Meijer worked with the MSU Product Center and its HI-VAT initiative to expand the program and ensure that all the suppliers had the right food protocols and supply chain procedures. The items are expected to remain on the shelves for a year, and will have an opportunity to expand throughout the chain.
Oakhurst Golf and Country Club
Oakhurst, a private golf and country club, is finishing up 2013 with one of its biggest growth surges since it was founded in 1998, the result of a series of initiatives to build relationships, not only with existing members but also new arrivals. Starting with what it expects to be an annual vendor appreciation luncheon, Oakhurst continues to execute a strategy designed to meet the needs of both senior and new members. The club credits the continued growth of the technology industry in the area for stimulating the market, especially among younger workers who have moved back to Michigan. Looking ahead, the club will continue to work on building relationships in the community while promoting high industry standards.
Peteet’s Famous Cheesecakes-¨
Oak Park, Mich.-¨
If you like cheesecake, than Peteet’s Famous Cheesecakes is where you must end up at the end of the day. This three-year-old family owned and operated business is a true innovator in the creating the most delicious and unusual flavors in cheesecakes, with no additives, filler or preservatives. As Patrick Peteet says: “If you can’t find a flavor you like with our over 90 flavors, well then I guess you don’t like cheesecake.” Peteet, who has been baking since he was 11, decided to launch the business when the family real estate business was badly hit. When he opened the first shop in Oak Park, he became head baker and creator and never looked back. Since the founding of the company, Patrick Peteet has kept innovating, including the introduction of a liquor line of cheesecakes-strawberry shortcake vodka is a favorite-along with a sweet potato cheesecake (the number one seller year round) and gluten-free and sugar-free options. Peteet’s is also a kosher bakery and buys local for everything except key lime (only available in Florida). The business is open 364 days a year, has samples daily in the bakery and is philanthropic by nature, providing products for DMC Children’s Foundation, Detroit Zoo, and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute (every slice of Strawberry Delight results in a donation).
Sahara Restaurant and Grill-¨
Oak Park, Mich.-¨
When Saad Attisha opened his original restaurant, the Sahara in Ferndale, it became the first Mediterranean Chaldean restaurant in Michigan. Today, Saad and Zeanna Attisha are the parents of four children and their restaurant in Oak Park is still going strong. With timeless traditional recipes that honor the culture and heritage of the Chaldean people, Sahara Restaurant and Grill reflects the excellence of how the family continues to live their lives on a daily basis. Besides Oak Park, the largest of three restaurants, the family operates locations in Warren and Sterling Heights. Plus there are two international markets with a bakery and meat market attached, each providing unique and delightful food items from all over the world. With a passionate belief in Michigan, the family plans to open a small lunchtime restaurant in downtown Detroit, continuing a tradition of impeccable quality, use of the finest ingredients and a standard of excellence that remains unsurpassed.
-¨Grand Rapids, Mich.-¨
Founded in 1917 as a food wholesale cooperative with a primary objective of group buying to compete with the chains at the time, the initial 27 independent grocers formed a bond that served them well. It set the stage for a new method of competing in the marketplace. With a history spanning over 90 years, the company, now known as Spartan Stores, has seen threats to its survival, including recessions, depressions, world wars, competition and defection of large customers. But through it all, the company’s vision, commitment and a relentless pursuit of quality and excellence have kept it growing, successful and a leader in the grocery industry.
Star of the West Milling Company
When the original 15 settlers of Frankenmuth welcomed the arrival in 1846 of an additional 100 colonists, little did they realize that two of them, brothers Johann Mathias and Johann Georg Hubinger, would change Frankenmuth’s physical and business life for many decades, beginning family enterprises that would overshadow all other business activities in the small village during the 1800s. The Hubingers, having come from a German family that had been in the milling business for two centuries, did what they knew best when they arrived in the New World and a year after arriving built a wooden dam (cost $1,000) and a flour mill (another $3,000) plus a waterwheel to drive the operation. Today, while the dam exists (albeit covered with concrete), everything else has evolved, including the Hubinger family’s ownership. But what remains is the passion for milling, carrying on right to the present Star of the West Milling Company, incorporated in 1929-the year corporate minutes were taken down in English rather than the original German. Today Star of the West is the 17th largest miller in the U.S., supplying pastry flour to some of the nation’s largest pie and cookie bakeries as well as a steady little business in Battle Creek-Kellogg Cereal Co.
It’s a fact: the best tasting milk chocolate is made from the highest quality ingredients. Chocolatiers like Lindt know this, which is one reason they buy from VernDale, a company that’s been making roller dried whole milk powder for more than half a century. VernDale’s artisan approach to dairy processing combines trusted craftsmanship with modern equipment and technology, resulting in a milk powder used only in the most desirable chocolate formulas. Founded in 1958 by LaVerne and Marlene Johnson, VernDale eventually moved from the Detroit riverfront to the old Twin Pines dairy plant on Lyndon Street in Detroit, quickly filling that as the company continued to grow, as it has today. Indeed, a new dry powder milk manufacturing facility is set to open early in 2014.
Westview Orchards Adventure Farm & Winery
Washington Township, Mich.-¨
Located on a 200-year-old family farm, Westview Orchards Adventure Farm & Winery has grown into an agri-tourism destination for Metro-Detroit families. From the sales of Michigan fruits and vegetables on the 188-acre facility (including u-pick strawberries, cherries, freestone peaches, pumpkins and 20 varieties of apples), Westview owners Abby Jacobson and Katrina Schumacher are using their college degrees (in chemistry and nursing, respectively) to bring the latest in science and integrated pest management practices. As they work with Michigan State University’s agricultural extension and researchers, Westview is now one of only two farms that are verified under the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Practices program, voluntarily holding itself accountable for the highest standards of care for land, water and air. They also partner with dozens of charities to help those in need. Westview Orchards’ owners also have plans to expand their winery, including a larger wine-tasting room.