Local premier-birder Nate Crane’s pursuit of the “rare bird” took a different twist several years ago. Unfulfilled earning a living in his first career of insurance, Nate began working on the necessary prerequisites to obtain a masters degree in evolutionary biology and ecology at Cornell University (of ornithology fame). To earn some cash he found himself managing the bar at a local microbrewery and thinking to himself, “You know? I could do this!” Fast forward to today and you’ll find Nate working his tail feathers off seven days a week towards opening day of his new pursuit: Rare Bird Brewpub at 229 Lake Avenue in Traverse City.
Rare Bird won’t just be another taphouse or brewery, but a unique blend of both that you won’t find elsewhere in the area. They’ll offer 35 beers on tap, 6-10 of which they’ll brew in house, with the rest of the lineup being filled by the burgeoning craft beer industry in addition to wine, cider, and liquor. The brewpub is situated in the old TC Canning building next to Om Cafe (formerly the Loading Dock). Nate has reclaimed some of the history of the fruit cannery by renovating the interior with old apple crates obtained from local farms. The space will include a relaxing lounge area, along with U-shaped, high-back booths, and big open tables milled from the remains of a Cottonwood tree that was on a friend’s farmhouse in Northport (what was once the tallest tree in Leelanau County). We were lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the unfinished space, and while it was still a work in progress, we’re eagerly anticipating the finished product.
Rare Bird brewer and co-owner, Tina Schuett, originally from Wisconsin, will focus on American-style ales. When the duo found their brew equipment from Cape May Brewery in New Jersey, a primo birding location with its own birding festival, they knew it was meant to be.
A menu of fusion pub food (think classic burgers, Mexican-inspired dishes, and Asian-influenced tastes) will also be offered late into the evening – 1 a.m. on the days the bar stays open until 2 a.m. Nate, a fellow nacho connoisseur, also personally promised to have the best nachos in the area (excitement uncontrollable).
Crane recalls that it hasn’t been an easy process. The venture has been in the works for about 10 months. He also had to resort to crowd-funding (a successful $19,000 IndieGoGo campaign) in order to raise capital when his SBA loan got stalled with the government shutdown. Not only has he relied on his own elbow grease and handy-man skills, but the support of a group of willing friends who have been making the push towards opening the doors. Special shout-outs go to Nate’s fiancée Hanna Taylor for her support throughout the process; Rory Carroll, who has made the drive up from Detroit (where he works as a senior editor for Autoweek magazine) many a weekend; Rod Lowes, a renaissance man recently retired from TCAPS who religiously comes in to lend a hand daily after dropping his wife off at work; and Del Whitman, a local gunsmith – his name is Del and he fixes guns, need we say more?
While this project has consumed all of Nate’s free time as of late, he still tries to fit in time to spend with his feathered friends, a passion instilled in him at an early age while building bird boxes with his grandpa and spending time with Marie Hoffman, the bird lady of Central Neighborhood (where Nate grew up). He spoke to us of hopefully getting away this winter still for a birding trip to the eastern UP. When searching out our avian companions locally, he surprised us by suggesting we visit the Boardman River Trail south of the YMCA, or Wuerfel Park near Chums Corners where there have been quite a few Snowy Owl spottings. When not out birding, Nate can be found hiking through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore or fishing on Long Lake. And when asked where he’d grab a pint other than his own taproom, he had plenty good to say about what’s on tap at 7 Monks, Brewery Terra Firma, and Short’s Brewing Company.
So whether you see Nate Crane behind the bar or out on the trails with his binoculars, we believe he’s one of those individuals making Northern Michigan one of the best place there is to live, eat, and play: so please say thank you (how to sign thank you can be found here so as not to disturb the birds) when you cross paths with him.
Stay tuned for updates on Rare Bird’s opening day (hopefully in February) on their Facebook page and see more photos of the process in the gallery below.
Todd Gyulveszi’s has a pretty sweet day job: organizing the festivals, events, and tours for everyone’s favorite Antrim County craft-beer maker, Short’s Brewing Company. If you have ever had a chance to go on a brewery tour there, led by Todd, you know first-hand the amount of knowledge this man holds in his head about Short’s history, culture, and the brewing process. Us Northern Michiganders, as well as those who travel from afar, have Todd to thank for his role in organizing the many outdoor events that Short’s puts on. Among these are the Short’s to Short’s 27-mile paddle (Todd’s personal favorite), Shanty to Short’s run, Short’s Fest, and Summer Kick-Off Party. Todd also runs the many beer festivals Short’s attends, including The Great American Beer Festival, the Michigan Summer & Winter Beer Festivals, UP Beer Festival, the Detroit Beer Festival, & Suds ‘n Snow (another favorite) at Timber Ridge.
Part of the culture at Short’s, as they phrase it, is “a driving passion for recreation.” Enjoying the playground that is the natural surroundings of Antrim County isn’t just encouraged, it’s almost mandatory. You could say Todd and this culture line up, but that would be an understatement. Todd spends at least an hour and a half outdoors every day doing what may be referred to by some (Todd included) as recreating, others as exercising, and still others as killing oneself. Physical activity is important to Todd. He wrestled competitively until age 35 and also hopes to compete in the senior U.S. National Biathlon Championship. Yes, Biathlon: the awesomest and (to some) most random Olympic event ever just behind synchronized swimming. So when you’re out on the trails and you feel that cyclone whip by you, a la the Tasmanian Devil, that’s just Todd flying by on his skis or mountain bike.
Todd’s efforts and passion for Antrim County and the surrounding area go beyond his day job. He puts his degree from Lake Superior State in natural resources (and apparently the 48 hours he is gifted with each day) to use as a board member with Grass River Natural Area, Green Elk Rapids, White Pine Stampede, Paddle Antrim, the Elk Rapids 4B committee, and a volunteer for NMMBA (Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association). We are pleased to be able to say that as of yesterday Todd is also a board member of the Bellaire Chamber of Commerce. When we asked to meet with Todd for this bio, he offered to give us a personal tour of Grass River Natural Area. In fact, Todd’s excitement about Grass River rubbed off on us. Keep your eyes posted for a whole post on Grass River, one of the first nature preserves in Michigan.
So how did Todd land in Antrim County? You could say the path was a winding one. He grew up in Southgate, south of Detroit, but fell in love with northern Michigan at a young age when visiting his parents’ friend Albert’s place on Otsego Lake. Prior to making the official move to the area, he owned a border cheviot farm in Stockridge and then a bookstore in Brighton. He moved to Traverse City when offered the job as sales director of Mackinac Island Press and eventually landed in Bellaire, where he may be to stay given the positive changes he’s seen in the area.
When asked about the changes, a list is easily rattled off that includes, “the continued growth and expansion of my employer and the creation of jobs by Short’s, the building and completion of the Grass River Natural Area Education Center, the building of the Glacial Hills trails by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, everything ISLAND is doing, Pete Bigford being named COO and his leadership at Shanty Creek…”. We have a feeling this list could go on and on.
When Todd’s not spending time outdoors, you might find him in the kitchen. He loves to honor his Eastern European heritage by preparing traditional Hungarian meals. He owns over 200 cookbooks. Some of his specialties are chicken paprikas, dumplings (gombocs), letcho (a ratatouille-like stew with lots of peppers), and curried lamb meatballs (which doesn’t necessarily mean he turned those cute cheviot fuzzballs into meatballs…at least in my mind’s happy place).
If you see this smiling face around town, thank him for all he does for the area and congratulate him to his new position on the Board of Directors of the Bellaire Chamber. But don’t be surprised if you leave the conversation being sold on the idea of paddling, biking, skiing, or at a bare minimum eating gombocs and letcho up in Antrim County.
Want to join Todd out on the trails? He suggests Hansen Hills, VASA, and Forbush Corner for skate skiing. Or if you prefer two wheels to two skis, you’ll find Todd mountain biking at Glacial Hills or doing “out and backs” on the VASA getting ready for Iceman.
You may recognize Matt Hall. His friendly face is oft seen behind the bar at Red Ginger, where he shakes and stirs the very concoctions that put the happy in happy hour at one of downtown Traverse City’s premiere restaurants. But there’s more to Matt than the mixologist that never forgets a face of someone he’s served. He is also mixing up plans to bring his own spin to the “eat local” food movement that incorporate his true passion: gardening.
“The answer to our food issues, whether they be concerns over factory farming practices, GMOs, or hybrids, will always be in our own backyards,” Matt explains.
After taking classes at the Michigan State extension and understudying on a local farm, he knows his way around a raised bed. I got a personal tour of his own backyard system where he utilizes aggressive succession planting, a 20′ x 20′ hoop house with 8 raised beds, and a drip irrigation system to produce more vegetables than he knows what to do with (I call dibs on the acorn squash).
But Matt isn’t stopping in his own yard. He sees a market in helping local residents plan, construct, install, and grow their own dream gardens. He has already provided on-site work to several people in the area, relishing in their excitement as plans come to fruition. Matt hopes to get his consulting business in full swing this coming growing season and says February is the perfect time to start planning. He also has some larger plans in the work that aren’t quite ready for the public’s ear, but stay tuned.
Matt thinks northern Michigan’s interest in self-sufficiency and knowing where its food comes from is only increasing. That interest with the excitement that comes from growing plenty from nothing is a combo to be reckoned with. He plucks a small tomato off the plant in his garden and splits it open, showing me the seeds inside. “You see all those seeds? From one tiny tomato? And all those seeds will make more plants and more tomatoes and more seeds. It’s exponential!”
I don’t know about you, but I was sold. In fact I already have Matt working on a plan for my dream garden. (I will let you know how he does with planning one that will water and weed itself and grow vegetables that taste like s’mores thus avoiding the nightly “Eat your vegetables” conversation at our dinner table. That’s not too much to ask is it?)
With all of our people profiles, we like to ask a few standard questions that offer a little peek into folks’ lives in Northern Michigan. See Matt’s answers below:
Favorite restaurant in the area and your go-to menu choices there:
“Honestly, and this is gonna sound biased, but it is Red Ginger. I love our cuisine, our drinks, and our service. I don’t think I could have worked in a place this long and not believe in what I was doing.
Usually I begin dinner with some apps like the calamari and beef ishi-yaki. Then follow with a sashimi plate with some rolls like the tunagi and dynamite rolls. Drink-wise I’m quite plain because I tend to stick with red wine such as Meiomi Pinot Noir (which is one of the best wines I’ve ever had and great price!) If I do drink a cocktail it’s usually Hendricks and tonic with half of a freshly pressed lime right into it, it screams summer.”
Favorite place for some outdoor recreation:
Manistee River for canoeing/kayaking without hesitation.
How did you come to live/stay in the area?:
Born and raised in TC. I’ve moved away plenty of times only to come back to this area and thankfully I have found a passion for what I am going into because it also allows me to be close to friends and family. TC is such a great place once you can get out there and enjoy what it has to offer and having lived outside of TC many times I came to realize how good we have it here compared to other cities.
Favorite Northern Michigan activities by season:
Summer – Canoeing/Kayaking/Beach
Fall – Bonfires, canoeing, road trips to see the colors
Winter – Vacation to a warmer spot
Spring – Garden planning (of course)
Matt can be contacted about greening your thumb at email@example.com.