24 Traverse City Brands We Love
The beauty of Traverse City lies in its lakes, forests and meadows. It’s also reflected in its brands. Traverse City’s entrepreneur’s express their creativity not only through their food, products and events, but also through the brand experiences they create for their customers. From beautiful visual identities and packaging, to stunning architecture and interior design, to great playlists piping through sound systems, there’s more to shopping and dining out in Traverse City than, well, shopping and dining out. Walking through the doors of many Traverse City establishments is an experience in itself.
As the holiday shopping, dining out, party, and vacation season heats up, we decided to highlight twenty four of our favorite brands in and around Traverse City. Please note that Life and Whim has no affiliation with any of the brands we feature. They are simply brands that we spend time and dollars with. We recommend them because we enjoy what they have to offer, and hope you do too.
We drink a lot of coffee. And when we’re in the mood for something special, we head to BLK/MRKT in the Warehouse District. The coffee is great, and the space is modern and minimal. It’s one of our favorite spots to work as well. It’s always busy, with just the right amount of white noise – perfect conditions for us to tackle a creative project. BLK/MRKT also has one of our favorite Traverse City Instagram accounts. blkmrkt.coffee
The Little Fleet
Anyone who is a regular reader of this blog knows that The Little Fleet is one of our favorites. We love the quality and variety of food available at the food trucks, as well as the great beer selection and excellent craft cocktails. But what we like most of all is that The Little Fleet is, in many ways, the hub of creative fun in Traverse City. It hosts the best parties, bands and special events in town. And on top of it all, it’s extremely kid-friendly. thelittlefleet.com
Alliance is a relative newcomer to the culinary scene in Traverse City, but it has arrived with a big splash. It serves what it describes as “vegetable forward” small plates that brim with subtle but sophisticated flavors, textures and colors. Alliance was founded by Pete Peterson – the former owner of Tapawingo – and the kitchen is run by a young, outstanding chef named James Bloomfield. Together they’ve created something remarkable. Dining at Alliance is a multi-sensory experience, as you can enjoy delicious food while watching the cooks work their magic in the open kitchen space. foodforalliance.com
Mario Batali has named The Cook’s House one of his favorite restaurants – not just in Traverse City, but in the world. We don’t have Mario’s refined palette, but we certainly agree with his opinion on this one. The Cook’s House features delicious farm-to-table cuisine, impeccable service and an intimate dining experience. cookshousetc.com
When we’re downtown with the kids, we often pop in Cherry Republic for lunch, coffee or a slice of pie. It’s a chance for us to relax while the kids burn some energy climbing the cherry tree house and bouncing around in the bin of cherry pits and red balls. We love Cherry Republic’s fun, quirky brand, and have purchased gift sets from Cherry Republic for our marketing agency clients for the last couple of years. Their customer service is always excellent. cherryrepublic.com
Jolly Pumpkin is located in a beautiful spot on the west shore of Old Mission Peninsula near Bowers Harbor. It features pub fare including sandwiches and salads as well as handcrafted beers. The restaurant is rustic and the food is hearty. It’s a popular dining spot for people touring the vineyards of Old Mission Peninsula, many of which are nearby. From the mugs hanging from the ceiling, to the huge stone fireplace, it feels like stepping back in time (in a good way) every time you walk in the door. jollypumpkin.com
M22 stands out among Traverse City’s Front Street retailers. M22 is a brand, not just a shop. Its customers buy M22’s gear because it’s a way to express something about themselves – specifically their passion for the adventurous, outdoor lifestyle that Traverse City offers. Its products are well designed, high quality and clever. And it’s a design-centric company that expertly and effectively leverages social media to build its brand. There’s a reason you see throngs of tourists and locals adorned in M22 apparel. They connect with the lifestyle that the brand is selling. m22.com
Brew is our favorite Front Street coffee shop. For one, it brews good coffee. Two, it features a great vibe for hanging out. Three, it has a really cool interior, with exposed brick walls and distressed wood floors. And finally (although this may sound insignificant to those who don’t work remotely like us), it has plenty of power outlets to plug a laptop or iPad into. Next time you’re strolling Front Street, make sure to pop into Brew and drop a dollar into the mason jar and grab yourself a delicious self-serve coffee. brewtc.com
Farmer Foot Drums
Farmer Foot Drums designs and handcrafts beautiful musical instruments including foot drums, backbeat kits, bass drums, foot pedals and harp holders that are used by musicians all over the world. The instruments are designed and built in the business’ workshop in Cedar, which is one of the most unique and fun spots in town to catch a live musical performance. footdrums.com
Green Island Earth Friendly Goods
Green Island is one of our favorite downtown retailers. It features a great selection of quality, natural living products in a cute, comfortable and uncluttered environment. Our kids love exploring the unique toys that Green Island features, especially those from another well-designed Traverse City brand called Hazelnut Kids. When we need to pick up an interesting, high quality and well-packaged gift for someone, we often head to Green Island. gogreenisland.com
Nature. Community. Craft. These three words are The Workshop Brewing Company’s manifesto, through which they strive to preserve nature, reinforce community, and honor craft. The beer is great and The Workshop also serves up delicious scratch-made pizzas and a variety of appetizers. The Workshop is also a hub of creativity and culture in town, and frequently hosts events and after-parties for groups like TedX, the National Writer Series and Here Say. traversecityworkshop.com
The Parlor is located in an historic train weigh station, and its relaxed atmosphere – from the furniture, to the black and white TV monitors, to the bartenders’ attire – feels like a prohibition era bar. It’s one of our favorite spots in town for happy hour, and serves outstanding craft cocktails and tapas-style food. theparlortc.com
7 Monks Taproom is always a good choice to grab a beer and listen to live music. We love 7 Monks extensive beer selection displayed on its tap wall, and its food is fresh and delicious. 7 Monks gets busy, and spots at the bar fill up fast, so one of the things we like most about this establishment is the fact that it has a space designated at the bar for ordering drinks, leading to a more organized and efficient ordering process. Make sure to check out 7 Monks’ new Boyne City location, and upcoming Grand Rapids location. 7monkstap.com
Traverse City’s Moomers Homemade Ice Cream was named the “Best Ice Cream Parlor” in America in USA Today’s online voting contest this summer. We couldn’t agree more. If you’ve never visited Moomers, put it on your list. It’s located on a farm just outside of town – the cows whose milk is used to make the ice cream are raised on the farm. This, of course, helps explain why the ice cream is so good. If you do visit, don’t forget to grab a few of the ice cream cookie sandwiches to go. moomers.com
Traverse City Whiskey
Traverse City is renowned for its beer and wine scene, but it’s increasingly becoming a hot spot for spirits as well. One of the best distilleries in town is Traverse City Whiskey Co., which makes great whiskey and serves it in a quaint, rustic tasting room. Traverse City Whiskey Co. has a fun, irreverent style that we love. If we’re bringing a bottle of whiskey somewhere, it’s going to be Traverse City Whiskey. tcwhiskey.com
We love to dig in and get our hands dirty at Darling Botanical, a unique shop and florist located in the Warehouse Marketplace. Grab a hot drink at the adjoining BLK/MRKT and head over to Darling Botanical where you can build terrariums – gardens under glass – at the terrarium bar. Of course there’s much more to Darling Botanical than just terrariums. It also features some of the most interesting and unique plants, flowers and arrangements that you’ll find anywhere. darlingbotanical.com
Wood + Cloth
Wood + Cloth is another favorite of ours located in the Warehouse Marketplace. It sells beautiful, carefully curated home furnishings, clothings, specialty edibles, and other goods. The layout is minimal and airy, and the selection diverse. It’s a go-to spot for us when we need to pick up a nice gift. woodandcloth.com
Light of Day Organic Farm and Tea Shop
Head west on M-72 out of Traverse City toward Glen Arbor and you’ll find Light of Day Organic Farm and Tea Shop, North America’s only organic tea farm. While there, enjoy the beautiful farm and saddle up to the bar and try a shot of matcha – which has been dubbed 2016’s hottest beverage for its purported health benefits. The matcha is mixed with pineapple juice and coconut water to make a smoothie shot, so kids of all ages can enjoy. The folks at Light of Day are true tea artists. lightofdayorganics.com
Croque Madame or Chicken and Waffles for brunch? Pulled Pork or Korean Beef tacos for dinner? These are some of the vexing dilemmas posed by Harvest restaurant. It’s all so good, it’s hard to choose! Harvest is located behind Brew downtown, and you can also indulge in its delicious fare from the Roaming Harvest food truck at The Little Fleet in the warmer months. Everything about Harvest – from its decor, to its brand – is perfectly sparse and minimal, with the exception of its food, which is packed with flavor and complexity. roamingharvest.com
Bonobo is one of the newest players on the Traverse City wine scene and it has quickly earned a reputation as a must-see and sip stop on any wine tour. It features one of the most beautiful tasting rooms we’ve ever stepped foot in, and the views of West Bay from the large patio are breathtaking. Looking to catch a sunset in Traverse City? Head to Bonobo. It is owned and operated by brothers Carter and Todd Oosterhouse of TLC’s Trading Spaces fame, as well as Carter’s Hollywood actress wife, Amy Smart. Renowned chef and Traverse City summer resident Mario Batali developed the winery’s tasting room menu. If you’re lucky, you may enjoy a celebrity sighting along with your Chardonnay at Bonobo. bonobowinery.com
Everything about Modus 45 is built for efficiency and fitness. It’s one of Heather’s favorite spots to engage in a satisfying workout. Modus describes its workouts as comprising “less than 60 minutes of incredibly efficient, effective and sustainable exercise.” It’s also located in the Warehouse Marketplace (notice a theme here?). We really like Modus’ simple and stark brand, which is reflected in its decor, apparel and website. modus45.com
Yen Yoga and Fitness
Yen Yoga and Fitness is Heather’s other go-to place for exercise classes. It features a serene atmosphere and nice selection of beautiful and functional fitness apparel and gear in its front lobby shop. Another nice touch? Yen Yoga and Fitness has complimentary Light of Day tea available for a soothing post-workout drink. yenyogafitness.com
Farm House Candle Co.
Farm House Candle is located in Cedar and makes artisan candles from 100% natural soy. The candles come in a variety of fruit, herb, and masculine aromas, including eucalyptus and clove, and orange and cinnamon, which are two of our favorites. Farm House Candle products are sold in a number of retailers throughout Michigan (as well as stores in Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee). We recently bought several candles as gifts at the Holly POP! Holiday Market in Leland. farmhousecandlecompany.com
We really enjoy stopping in at Hop Lot on our way to and from Sutton’s Bay. It’s a relatively new player on the scene, but you wouldn’t know if from the buzz it has created in the community and its overflowing parking lot. One of our favorite things about Hop Lot is an apparent contradiction — it’s a family-friendly brewery with a big open space for kids to wander and explore in the 3/4 acre beer garden. The beer garden features plenty of space to run, campfires and games to play — for kids and adults alike! order a beer, cider or wine while enjoying lunch, dinner and live music at Hop Lot. hoplotbrewing.com
It Has to End Somewhere!
The hardest part about writing this post was picking just 24 brands we love. We could have easily doubled the list, and probably will in a future post! In the meantime, we hope you enjoy exploring all of the amazing shops, restaurants, breweries, wineries, distilleries and other entrepreneurial ventures that Traverse City has to offer.
What are some of your favorite Traverse City brands? Let us know by leaving a comment below!