Economy

‘Anatomy of a Shingle Mill’ by Roy Dodge

Roy Dodge (1918 – 1978) was president of the Clare County (Michigan) Historical Society and an author of a number of books about Michigan, including “Ticket to Hell, A Sage of Michigan’s Bad Men” (out of print) and the three-volume “Ghost Towns of Michigan” series.  Dodge also wrote a number of articles about

The Old Clare County Courthouse.

The Old Clare County Courthouse.

Clare County. One of them was called “Anatomy of a Shingle Mill” and its origin goes back to a discovery of some papers when the old Clare County Courthouse in Harrison was torn down in 1968.

The paper is enlightening as to life back in the late 1870s and early 1880s when all of Clare County was booming because of the lumber industry. The paper tells the story of Philip (U.S. Census records show name as Phillip) Cory who came to the area with nothing but an old horse and made his fortune making wooden shingles. Whether he kept it isn’t clear in the papers and neither is where his brothers came from who are mentioned. However, these are just minor details to a picture of a county a century ago. I’ll let Dodge tell the story from here.

Anatomy of a Shingle Mill 1887 – 93

by Roy L. Dodge (1968)

The story of two brothers who came to northern Michigan to make their fortune during the logging days of the late 1800s came to light when the 85-year old Court House at Harrison, Mich. was torn down in 1965. A box of dusty, yellowed records consisting, of ledgers, contracts, canceled checks and letters, all laboriously written in various colored ink with a goose quill pen, revealed the following story.

Harrison in the late 1880's about the time Phillip Cory lived here. Structures in distance are sawmills around Budd Lake. Photo from the Harrison Public Library collection.

Harrison in the late 1880’s about the time Phillip Cory lived here. Structures in distance are sawmills around Budd Lake. Photo from the Harrison Public Library collection.

Philip Cory, address unknown, arrived at the company store of George B. Erenkbrook in the hamlet of Avondale, a few miles north of Evart in Osceola county, riding a tired old horse on the morning of Oct. 2, 1887 at the start of the winter logging season. His only possessions were the clothes on his back and his horse, which was of little value.

George Erenkbrook was a man experienced in every phase of the lumbering industry “from the stump up.”  He was in his middle fifties, almost old enough to be young Cory’s father, and had lumbering interest both in lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Erenkbrook was a partner in a shingle and sawmill located In Beechwood, Iron County, Michigan and owned his own mill and store at Avondale.

Cory explained to Erenkbrook that he intended to operate in the area as an independent logger, cutting his own shingle bolts, railroad ties, and any other type of timber in demand on a “piece work” basis.

His problem was that he was short on cash. Apparently he made a good impression on Erenkbrook, for upon leaving he was outfitted to begin his career as a woodsman and private contractor. He carried an invoice in his pocket for which he was billed for the following:

0ne cant hook, toe calks for his boots, files and rivets, two blocks of salt, axes, grub-hoe, swamp hook, neck yoke, sleigh bells, hammer, boring machine, one yoke of oxen, 3 pair wagon tongues, one sleigh, groceries and supplies totaling $36 and the “Diffarance”(sic) on a horse, $40.”

Cory worked hard and became a successful “jobber,” cutting logs and shingle bolts, which he sold to various mills in Missaukee and Osceola counties. He kept a meticulous record of all his expenditures, both business and personal, his stained and worn booklets disclose. Cory wasn’t satisfied with his lot as a common jobber, as later records reveal.

He soon traveled to other areas and began promoting a deal to set up his own mill.

During the next two years, his personal “Tally-book” lists expenditures for such items as one Turkey, strap and pack, $1.25. (Note: turkey was a pack in which lumberjacks carried their personal belongings.) One Rubber coat, $2.95; Shirt and Collar $1; roundtrip to Saginaw, $16.80.

During the month of July 1887, Cory bought a new straw hat for 75 cents; wrote a check for $5; bought another shirt for $1; “paid Mrs. Norman 75 cents for doing washing; and spent 50 cents attending two dances. His earnings for June and July totaled $177.50.

Philip Cory prospered during the winter logging season of 1887-1888. He also traveled extensively negotiating with companies in Saginaw, Grand Rapids and Muskegon for contracts to supply them with shingles and lumber products with intentions of setting up his own mill.

During a six-month period, he purchased a new suit of clothes for $30; tie and coat, $3.50; pair of dress shoes, $2; and made several trips. In Saginaw, he spent $23.50 for train fare, hotel and entertainment. He also made a “Trip north,” $54.  A shirt, handkerchief and soap cost him $3.60. He spent $1 for medicine, made a trip to Six Lakes, cost $6; and railroad fare to Grand Rapids, $8. Total earning from June to December (1888), $343.82.

By the spring of 1889, Philip Cory had the groundwork laid for the big venture of his lifetime. He again visited Mr. Erenkbrook of Avondale who had outfitted him two years earlier to work in the woods, only this time Cory had a signed contract with the C. C. Follner & Co of Grand Rapids, Michigan to “Purchase the cut of Cory & Co. Shingle Mill at Hamilton Township, Michigan (ClareCounty) from July 1889 until two million are cut.”

This contract included specifications for various grades of White Pine and Cedar shingles to be “Well made from good sound timber, evenly jointed and smoothly sawed, free from shaky or rotten wood,” and “To be branded at the mill with C. C. Follner & Co. brand.” The contract also called for shingles to be piled and under cover, “As fast as cut at Mostettler’s Switch near Hatton Station.”

Mr. Erenkbrook, apparently pleased with the business acumen displayed by young Cory, put up a sum of money to organize the firm of “Cory Bros. & Co.,” with himself as chief stockholder, although his name didn’t appear on the first letterheads and invoices that Cory ordered from the printers.

Upon the assurances of Erenkbrook that a substantial sum would be deposited to the Cory Co. account at the L. Saviers Bank in Harrison, Mr. Cory made another trip, this one to Bailey, at that time a booming lumbering town in Muskegon County. There he visited a Mr. Jerome Bitely who had abandoned a steam operated shingle mill near Harrison and had moved to greener pastures.

Cory made an agreement with Bitely whereby he was to take possession of the machinery located in ClareCounty and move it to Dodge City in Hamilton Township. Cory made a deposit on the mill, giving his note due one year from date for a balance of $3,000. His next visit was to the L. J. Calkins’s Co., Dealer in Lumberman’s Supplies, of Harrison where he purchased the following materials:

  • 10,700 ft. of Mud Sills
  • 1-M posts
  • 1,500 ft. beams
  • 1,300 ft. rafters
  • 4,300 ft. sheathing
  • 2,300 ft. roof boards,
  • 1-M ft. of Engine Board
  • 23 hundred thousand shingles
  • 14 windows
  • 3,500 ft. of timbers for engine bed
  • 2 sets of skylight
  • 1,300 ft.Cedar beams
  • 6 doors at $1.50 each
  • 3,600 ft. flooring
  • 50 barrel water tank
  • 1,200 ft. bridge trusses
  • $12 for nails
  • labor for moving and setting up machinery. $500

Total Outlay: $1,134.85

Cory's sawmill might have looked something like the sawmill in this photo from the Harrison Public Library collection.

Cory’s sawmill might have looked something like the sawmill in this photo from the Harrison Public Library collection.

During the next two years, things went well for the Cory Brothers, Philip, James and David. During the season of 1890, the Cory Mill grossed nearly $4,000 with expenditures of $2,500, which included their own wages as well as that of 50 mill workers and payment to private jobbers. It also included the payment of $12 paid to William H. Bryan of Gladwin, Grant Township. For that amount, Bryan agreed to sell to Cory Bros. all the Basswood, Ash, Oak, Hemlock and Pine lumber on lying, standing or being on a certain designated forty acres. “Said Wm. H. Bryan agrees to except (sic) and does hereby except (sic) $12 paid to him in hand today at Cory Bros. store for all the above described timber,” signed and dated March 8, 1889. (Note: Above document executed with red pencil on a jagged scrap of tablet paper.)

An idea of the cost of living during the years 1887 – 92 is shown in bills rendered to the company during this period. Some examples are as follows: Felts and rubbers (favorite footware of lumbermen), $3.50; shirts and drawers, $2.50; Pisas Cough Syrup, 10 cents per bottle; whiskey, 50 cents a pint. The blacksmith charged $1.20 for shoeing horses. Overalls were 75 cents a pair.

Horses brought premium prices and were considered more important than men. Cheap labor was plentiful while horses were scarce. Good teams ranged from $400 to $675 a span. A pair of calked drive shoes (for the front feet) cost $3 installed. An entry of Feb. 1889, reveals that one man and his wagon team were paid only $24 for eight days work. Wagons sold for $30. A set of heavy work harness for $12.

Misfortune struck the Cory mill on May 10, 1891 when it burned down to the ground. They were sued for unpaid bills, notes due and overdrawn checking accounts of banking accounts on banks in Grand Rapids, bay City and East Saginaw.

Mr. Erenkbrook of Avondale sold his interests there and moved to Beechwood, near Iron Mountain in the U. P.  From there he wrote letters to friends asking them to keep tabs on the movements of the Cory brothers. He hired Henry Hart, a Midland attorney, to list their debts and assets and with a court order in an attempt to recover his interest in the enterprise.

Jerome Bitely of Bailey, Michigan, demanded, in no uncertain terms evidenced in a three-page letter with no punctuation marks, that he was about to attach the land upon which the burned out mill was located to satisfy the balance owed him for the original machinery. His letter read in part: “if you and Company had don as you ought it would have pade for it selfs several times over before this time…”

In the final accounting by attorney Hart, it was determined that the company’s assets amounted to nearly $12,000. This included $2,000 owed by the C. C. Follmer & Co. of Grand Rapids for singles and lumber ready for shipment on Mostettler’s Siding several miles from the burned out mill. Another $2,000 was owed to the company store. Other assets were horses, wagons and machinery not burned. A balance of $4,965.80 was left after debts to be divided between owners and debtors.

Mr. Bitely wrote his bill for machinery off as profit and loss. Cory hired A. W. Scoville, Attorney at Law, of Marion, Mich. to collect bills due him from the firm of Desmond Brothers of that town. Erenkbrook was forced to pay a $500 note due to C. H. Rose of Evart. Philip Cory, the former protégé of Erenkbrook, was allegedly overdrawn nearly $2,000 on various bank accounts where the firm conducted their business.

In a final letter postmarked Creston, Iowa, May 11, 1893 to Mr. P. Cory, Harrison, Mich. the firm of Maxwell & Winters , Lawyers, notified him that “On this day we have sent a draft for $436.30 to your attorney, Wm. H. Brown, drawn on Anchor Insurance Co. for your loss incurred when your shingle mill burned.”

Cory then rebuilt the mill and operated under the name of Cory & Hudson-Dealer in Shingles and Pine Lumber, Dodge City, Michigan.  

There are some related incidents connected with the Cory Shingle Mill lawsuit, that although not proven definitely, court records and evidence point toward the following facts:

  • On or about the same date as the lawsuit, Mr. Mostettler who owned the storage sheds and the railroad siding where the Cory mill output was stored, committed suicide. Old timers in the Harrison area tell different stories of the incident, including Mr. Mostettler having had an affair with another woman, whereupon his wife shot him. But Mrs. Winifred Coveart, now 75, of Clare, Michigan, who lived at Dodge, said that Mr. Mostettler lost all of his money or was “tricked” out of it by some businessmen. He became despondent and one morning while his wife was out pumping a pail of water she heard a gun shot, ran in the house, and Mostettler laid on the bed, fully clothed and had shot himself in the head with a shotgun.  Mostettler Rd., at the south city limits of Harrison, running east and west, was named after the above Mr. Mostettler.
  • Philip Cory refers in his notes and accounts that certain items were purchased for “Mother.” Apparently he was not married. However, in Clare county marriage records, a David E. Cory (one of his brothers) married Foslenia Hall on Sept. 18, 1889 at Coleman, Mich.

##

Editor’s Note: According to 1880 census records, Phillip (or Philip) Cory was born in 1852 in Ohio. That means he was about 30 when he came to Clare County. His father was Wyman Cory, born in England and mother was Sarah Kiger, born in Virginia. Philip married a woman named Ettie D. (although census records show a total of three different women as his wife over the decades) and had six children living in his home in 1900.  in that year, Cory and his family had moved to Mansfield, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula, near the Wisconsin border. His children at the time were shown as: William, 18, John 16, Claude 13, James P. 11, Olga 5, Clare 4.

By 1910, he and his family had moved to Skagit, Washington. Phillip died July 22, 1919 at the age of approximately 67 years, and is buried near there.

In all the records, Cory described himself as a shingle manufacturer so it’s probable the family moved to follow the lumber industry and moved on once the lumber played out.

Categories: Clare County, Economy, Harrison, History, logging | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Surrey House in Harrison, Michigan

Plans are underway to reopen the Surrey House in Harrison if grants can be obtained to purchase and renovate the building. The goal is to take the historic two-story building that most recently housed a restaurant and bar and turn it into a mixed-use facility to help grow retail businesses. Tenants could include a small restaurant and community kitchen, and possibly several hotel rooms and a spa, according to an article in the March 1, 2012 issue of the Clare County Cleaver.

The Middle Michigan Development Corporation, a private, non-profit economic development organization responsible for the industrial and technological development of  Clare and Isabella Counties, and the Small Business Initiative Council, an organization that seeks to foster entrepreneurial activity the county and create an atmosphere that is inviting for business growth are assisting in the project.

The city of Harrison agreed to the project including taking title to the building as long as the city would not be under any financial obligation if grants do not cover the costs involved. The Surrey House has been closed since January 21011.

This is an ad that appeared in the Clare County Cleaver not long after the Surrey House reopened.

The building was constructed around 1880, a time when Harrison was booming thanks to the logging industry. Trains pulled into town on a daily basis bringing lumberman, storekeepers, families and even criminals like the infamous Jim Car (one of the most despicable men Michigan has ever produced), and taking lumber back south to construct cities in Michigan and in the Midwest.

The building was originally called the Lockwood House and served as a boarding house and restaurant during the logging era. Later renamed the Ohio Tavern and then the Colonial Hotel,  it was bought by two Flint businessmen in fall of 1945. At that time it was remodeled and renamed the Surrey House, according to an article in the June 13, 1945 issue of the Cleaver announcing the reopening. (There was no reason cited in the article for the name change.) Changes at that time included a Colonial porch constructed on the west side, two available entrances and “Beautiful sleeping quarters are on the second floor all remodeled rooms with splendid beds and cleanliness that is bound to please those seeking lodging.”

Rumor has it the building is haunted by a small boy that prowls the rooms upstairs. While his is a restless and sometimes mischievous spirit, it is not an evil one. Moving items from one location to another or opening closed doors is about the worst a waitress at the restaurant told me several years ago.

It will be nice to see the building reopened for use by more than just restless spirits.

Categories: Clare County, Economy, Harrison, History, Jobs and the economy | Tags: | 3 Comments

Hunger in Clare County

Hi-lo unloads food from semi-truckI knew hunger existed in Clare County, Michigan but I never experienced it like I did on Oct. 29, 2011 when I participated in a food distribution sponsored by the Community Nutrition Network.

I volunteered to assist with the distribution on what turned out to be a cold rainy Saturday. The distribution was scheduled for 11 a.m. that day and when I arrived at 8 a.m. there were already people waiting to get into the building carrying bags, boxes and other containers with which to take their free food home.

As the time came nearer to 11 a.m. the line grew steadily until several hundred people waited in a long line that snaked through the empty bus transit building that opened for the purpose. There were elderly people with walkers and canes, young families or single parents carrying babies or standing with  children who–in a perfect world–would have been sitting in a warm house Food cost comparisonwatching cartoons. Each person was different but they had one trait in common: they all waited patiently.  Some of them asked how they could volunteer so they could give back to this organization that was helping them. Some offered thanks for the fact they were being helped. As they waited they could also view nutritional information,recipes and tips to make them better shoppers and showing them how they could eat better at less cost.

My heart broke for those in line, not only because they were in need but also because I Volunteers unpack delivered food for needycould see myself in that line in the not-to-distant-future if I am unable to secure a job.

The Community Nutrition Network is a group of volunteers who wrote a grant to bring food to the needy in the county. For more information on how you can become involved contact Pastor Mike Simon at The Gathering Church at 989-539-1445 or Genine Hopkins at 989-539-1352. The group is looking for faith-based organizations to sponsor a truck for upcoming months.

Categories: Clare County, Economy, Harrison, Jobs and the economy | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Gas Prices–All Over the Board

I took a trip to Metro Detroit yesterday (Sept.25, 2011) from Harrison and enjoyed the changing colors and the scenery. What I didn’t enjoy (or understand) were the differences in gas prices I encountered along the way. I found them to be $3.56 in Beaverton; $3.26 in Flint; $3.68 near Highland and $3.46 in Livonia.

I make that trip on a fairly regular basis and the cheapest gas prices seem to be in the Saginaw-Flint corridor along I-75. Not sure why. One would think gas would be cheaper in the Detroit area but it is not, at least not in the stations I saw. Makes no sense to me, but then few things in this world do. For example, just read an article in the Detroit Free Press Sunday on how much of a premium air travelers pay who take Delta Air Lines out of Detroit Metro compared to those who fly from Lansing, Flint, K-zoo or even Pellston to Detroit, connect at Detroit Metro and then on to Asia. The differences can total in the thousands of dollars. It’s the free market at work, supply and demand and the effects of competition, I supposed mixed in with a little greed.

Anyway, it’s frustrating and it hurts at the wallet but there’s not much one can do to avoid the high prices but stay home. And while I like my home in Harrison I’m not yet ready to do that, so I climb into my car, belly up to the gas pump and pay (and sometimes save 5 cents a gallon by using my Meijer credit card). Oh, and I don’t fly to Asia. That I can’t afford to do at any price.

Categories: Economy, Michigan, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Small city, Great art

515 Art Gallery building in Clare, MichiganOn Saturday, July 23, I attended a “Block pARTy” at the 515 Art Gallery in Clare, Michigan. Now, I didn’t expect much, after all, Clare may be a nice city, but it’s in mid-Michigan for goodness sake, where art is usually found in the quilts the Amish hang from clotheslines on street corners to sell to tourists.

What I saw this weekend blew me away. And in an art gallery run by high school students, no less. The artwork was wonderful, mostly by area artists. All have talent.

I was especially taken by the paper sculptures of Jane Cloutier and would like to take home her piece entitled “Sumacs on a Rock Pile.” It’s wonderful with a badger and rabbit tossed in for good measure. According to the gallery brochure, Jane is a computer programmer. Left-brained AND right-brained. Go figure.

Then there is Judy Thurston’s “Begonias and Pears” watercolor, one of several of her works on display.  It too is a wonderful piece of art.  Judy teaches art at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, just down the road a piece.

Ryan Taylor is a potter. I would say he is serious about his art, yet doesn’t take himself seriously. There’s something appealing about his work and this from a person who is not really big on pots. I especially liked his piece entitled “Composite Floor Vase.” It’s big, but I have just the place for it.

One of the things I found most appealing about the gallery is the works are reasonably priced. The paper sculpture I liked is only $200.  Of course, it’s probably best I hold off purchasing anything until I get a job.  Then I can support the arts and boost the local economy.

The gallery is housed in an old brick building next door to  a very nice coffee house and sandwich shoppe called Coffee Talk and down the street  Cops and Doughnuts.

The Block pARTy was run by nine high school students from Clare who also run the gallery. According to the gallery’s website, they not only learn about the arts but also receive first-hand experience in running a business. How cool is that?  The pARTy was well-attended. I hope it did well and the art is sold. Well, all except for the pieces I like. I hope those will stay on the walls until I get a job. Or hit the lottery.

By the way, 515 Art Gallery is open Fridays and Saturdays  from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment. Stop by. You will be amazed at what you will see. I was.

Categories: Clare County, Economy, Life, Michigan, Travel and tourism | Tags: , | Leave a comment

A sign of Frustration–or Surrender

South of Harrison on old US-27 stands a sign that reads: “Thinking of moving here? Don’t. No jobs. No value. No help.”

I’m very curious about that sign–and about the person who posted it. What event made the individual go to the bother of putting it there? What does he or she expect as a result?

The sign also got me thinking about the bigger picture: If Clare County residents want to encourage jobs in this region and improve the local economy, is this the way to do it? What responsibility do we who live and work here have to encourage visitors to visit this area, people to settle, and entrepreneurs to set up their business here? What can we as residents do to improve the county so it is more appealing for businesses and families and encourages our young people to stay once they graduate?

One hopes that whatever caused the sign to be posted will be resolved and the sign removed since venting doesn’t solve problems. I do hope the sign is only a sign of frustration because things in the county, state and nation are not as they  should be and not a sign of of surrender because the person feels things are never going to  improve.

Categories: Clare County, Economy, Home life, Jobs and the economy | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Cops, Doughnuts, a Small Town, a Growing Tourist Draw

Cops and Doughnuts storefrontPeanut butter and jelly, ying and yang, orange juice and breakfast. They go together like, well like Cops and Doughnuts. No, not the stereotype connection of police officers snacking on the fried snack, but the real thing: The Cops and Doughnuts bakery in Clare, Michigan. The particular bakery has good coffee, a wide assortment of tasty baked goods, clever bakery related merchandise, a strong connection to the community and a great story to tell that all began a couple of years ago on the back of a pizza box.

In 2009, the only bakery in Clare, established in 1896, was in danger of closing. That’s when the nine full-time members of the city’s Police Department banded together to save it. They drafted a business plan of sorts on the back of a pizza box, pooled their resources and purchased the bakery housed in an historic building on the city’s main street. They then set to hiring additional staff and broadened the offerings. The place took off—and not because the bakery’s owners were its own best customers. Locals were glad to still have the bakery. Plus, it was a clever concept and the police officers added to it by installing displays of police related items like badges and photos. The bakery’s opening received press coverage all over the state, which helped contribute to its early success.

The bakery itself was small, with barely room for the counter and a few tables, so when a store next door became available, the bakery expanded into the building, adding even more tables, free Wi-Fi, merchandise including t-shirts, coffee mugs, bumper stickers and even Cops and Doughnuts branded coffees produced by Paramount Coffee of Lansing, MI. Their coffee is sold in stores in five states. The merchandise sports clever statements like “Don’t glaze me, bro,” “Fighting Crime One Doughnuts at a Time and D.W.I. Doughnuts Were Involved. The merchandise is also being sold online at copsdoughnuts.com. While some of the merchandise sports a photo of the nine owners in uniform, all of it mentions the bakery’s location n Clare.

And Clare, Michigan can use the promotion. A town of slightly more than 3,000, it was once a vibrant lumbering town in the late-1800s as trains and wagons brought men and machinery to harvest the giant white pine that grew in the surrounding county.  The money those pines represented then brought retailers, bar owners and other to the area. However, once the trees were gone, the lumbermen moved onto greener pastures, Clare became a sleepy town relying on agriculture and tourism. The city is home to a number of nice shops and boutiques but many are struggling because they lack the number of shoppers needed to survive, much less prosper.

The bakery is helping to grow tourism. While not quite yet “world famous” as some of the bakery’s ads state, people are coming to Clare to visit the bakery.  In fact, the bakery was recently recognized as one of 2011’s “Michigan 50 Companies to Watch” by the Edward Lowe Foundation and presented the Michigan Celebrates Small Business. McEwen, Clare’s main street, was recently one of five main streets in Michigan chosen to receive branding services from the Michigan Main Street Center at Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Among the services were be help in developing a brand to help distinguish main street along with a new logo and a new website.

Cops and Doughnuts is a great example of a community coming together to save a community asset and then taking advantage of branding opportunities to market and grow a business. Whether the police officers knew what they were doing when they developed their initial plan or not, they have done a great job of promoting their business and getting others to help them do so.

The Cops and Doughnuts doughnut logo

The other day I was sitting in the bakery using its free Wi-Fi and overheard one of the owners talking about the fact the bakery’s sign out front sports pink glaze on the doughnut.

According to the conversation, a young girl came into the bakery along with her parents not long after the place reopened. When asked what kind of doughnut she wanted, the girl responded that she had hoped for one with “pink frosting and sprinkles,” but didn’t see a doughnut like that among all the other doughnuts in the display case.

The woman behind the counter told the girl conspiratorially, “We knew you were coming and didn’t want anyone else to buy it so I kept the doughnut with the pink frosting in the back. Wait here.” She then headed into the back.

The owner, who was telling the story, said he followed the woman to see what she was up to because he knew the bakery didn’t have pink frosting. He watched the woman take the red and white frosting they did have, mix them together, smear the resulting frosting on a doughnut, add some sprinkles and head back to the front where she presented the doughnut to the little girl who was amazed to have gotten the doughnut with  pink frosting she was craving.

“I tell that story to all our new employees as an example of the customer service we give here at our bakery,” the owner said, adding that when the bakery’s logo designer asked what color frosting the bakery owners wanted on its sign on the bakery  everyone was in agreement color should be pink, as a reminder of the little girl and the bakery’s commitment to service.

It’s a great story in a bakery with a great doughnuts and a great future. And, as its website states, with cops as owners the bakery is easily one of the safest places around.

Categories: Economy, General, History, Michigan, Travel and tourism, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Dangers of Personalization

I received a letter of congratulations from the Rails-to-Trail Conservancy. This organization is dedicated to turning old railroad beds into trails for such things as walking, biking and horseback riding. In its 25 years of existence, the group has managed to build nearly 20,000 mile of rail trails in communities from coast to coast, including Michigan.

I’ve walked and written a bike on a number of the Michigan trails and have belonged to the group since 1989. I believe in the group’s mission and each year, I  send in my dues to support their good work.

Yesterday, the group apparently wanted to show their appreciation and sent me a certificate of recognition and a letter of thanks recognizing me for my loyal support.

The certificate was made out to Ms. Marty Johnson. The letter began as follows:

Dear Ms. and Denise Johnson:
I’m writing to day to introduce you to a real champion for America’s rail-trails…Their names are Ms. Marty Johnson.

The letter then asked me for an additional donation.

They are not getting it. Not because they have my gender wrong or even the fact the letter was filled with errors (although they did get my wife’s name correct). I’m not sending money because I simply don’t have it. However, I wonder how many people who received a similar letter and certificate will choose not to contribute any longer because the group’s effort at personalization was all screwed up and the recipient was insulted? Or how many will not support an organization that spends member dues on such a lousy marketing campaign?

One of the marketing trends nowadays is personalization. It’s a way of connecting buyers with sellers, charities with donors. But, as this mailing shows, there is a danger if you use a poor vendor or the organization doesn’t have the correct information in its database–or pulls it improperly.

Maybe the organization will see a good return from this campaign for those who are flattered to receive a correctly worded certificate and properly constructed letter. However, they won’t get it from me. And if they waste my dues again with such a mailing, next time I won’t renew.

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A no-win Scenario in Harrison

It’s the Kobayashi Maru–a no-win situation–come to Harrison, Michigan.

We support Michigan Moto Mania lawn signHarrison is a community of some 2,000 people located near the middle of the state’s lower peninsula. Harrison and the surrounding area are relatively poor lacking any major industries and having to depend on tourism and agriculture to stoke its economic engine. And even in regards to tourism, Harrison is more of a stopping point than a destination.  That’s why when Doug and Robin Longenecker, came to town with the promise to being in more tourists and their dollars, the Longeneckers were welcomed with open arms by most of Harrison’s citizens. Unfortunately, one important group of citizens, a group that really matters most–its neighbors–don’t want it.

The facts of the story are this: The Longeneckers purchased 200 acres of land located about 4 miles east of Harrison on Mostetler Road for an attraction they called Michigan Moto Mania. It would be a  road park for motorcycles, quads and various other vehicles. The property the Longeneckers chose consisted of rolling terrain off of a lightly traveled country road. The surrounding area had few residents, but most of the land was in private hands with some state land sprinkled about.

Mosteller RoadThe Longeneckers purchased the property on land contract  after receiving a variance from the township zoning board that the land could be used for the purpose the new owner intended. The township zoning board, consisting of volunteers, was more than happy to grant that  variance, especially since it would mean additional visitors and dollars to the community.

There was just one problem. The zoning board gave its blessing to the plan without giving the neighbors in the immediate vicinity proper notification as required by law. So when the Longeneckers began to cut down trees and bulldoze trails for MMM, several neighbors went ballistic–and one can’t blame them. Most of the neighbors purchased their property in order to enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside, to watch deer in their yards along with wild turkeys, fox, birds and other assorted wildlife. They didn’t have anything against a resort for motorized vehicles, they just didn’t want it located on Mostetler Road where they would be subjected to the whine of small motors and the roar of large motors day in and day out.

So the neighbors filed suit and have stopped MMM in its tracks and trails. Although the Township Board andMMM property and trails Township Planning Commission have both voted in favor of MMM, the Zoning Board of Appeals and the township attorney have ruled against it.  The courts have so far failed to rule other than to keep the track from opening and tossing the problem back to the township to resolve.

So it’s neighbor against neighbor. The Longeneckers played by the rules, but may lose their investment due to the incompetence of a zoning board that consisted of volunteers who were trying to do what they thought was the right thing. However, members of that board failed in their duty to protect the rights of nearby landowners who should have had a voice and who just want to enjoy their isolated homesteads in peace.

MMM has a Facebook page and has more than 2,100 friends. At least one blogger opposed to the resort posts on a blog called the Hayes Township Watchdog. Sadly, both sides demonize the other. So no matter what happens, someone is going to be harmed and someone’s rights will be trampled. It’s an ugly situation in a town my wife and I have grown to love.

Update: According to an article in the January 13, 2011 issue of the Clare County Cleaver,a local newspaper, the Longneckers have submitted a new plan “complete with a variety of nature-themed activities including horseback riding, cross country skiing, hiking and camping.” The same article states that the opposition seeks removal of  Zoning Board Chairman Lyle Criscuolo from the Zoning Board stating he is biased toward granting a permit to Longeneckers to open their resort.

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