When you don’t know anything about retail, retail is hard / weird / confusing. But when the idea of a market was introduced to me by Lee of Fieldguide Farmhouse
, that sounded like the perfect way to jump into this world in a low-risk environment. We were chatting about her dog, Louis CK
, on Instagram messenger in early April (because he’s the cutest and resembles a Gordon Setter...AKA my obsession) when she said, “On a different note, I would love to collaborate with y’all by hosting a pop-up shop kind of event if you’re ever keen to come to Central Lake, MI. It can be a cause or a fundraiser to protect the Great Lakes or...
” I was already sold. My response was, “May 6 weekend too soon?
” “Never too soon
” was her reply, and so the madness began. I’d been itching to get back to Northern Michigan since my love of this region was amplified when I passed through last summer for the first time in 6 years. And her next message about being kindred spirits in our moderate craziness to do this in such a short time was spot on - we’d learn that we had more in common than the average two strangers, and it was truly hilarious. And so, the True North Market
was born. On my way to the Farmhouse, I took a short stop in beautiful Empire, MI for a sunset shoot on Lake Michigan. The time zone change certainly worked to my advantage as the golden hour
was from 8-9pm, just about when I landed on the beach. After that magic (both sunset + awesome time with lake-loving Mae Stier
), I made the final leg of the trip to Central Lake where I was treated to winding roads, small towns, and cautious speeds after being pulled over (no ticket, thank goodness) on my way into Empire. And when I pulled up at the Farmhouse, I felt so at home. I was welcomed by an open barn/garage door that I pulled right into. Next up was the welcome committee, Louis CK the dog (with his perfect, flowing dark locks) and Lee, the owner of the farmhouse. This is no ordinary farm-style, this is the ultimate classy, yet totally casual situation. I felt as if I’d known Lee and Louis for years, and we had to force ourselves to stop gabbing and head to bed because there was an early wake-up on the agenda - MARKET DAY! I woke up far too early but was not mad about it, as the sun was creeping up and illuminating the lake. After staring out the window and dozing in that giant 4-poster bed for an hour or so, I heard Lee & the pups (CAMP DOG is an old gent and was another already snoozing when I arrived. He gave me an annoyed sigh when I tried to get his attention the night before) so I dragged myself out of that heavenly bed. Fieldguide Farmhouse is perched atop a hill overlooking Intermediate Lake in the town of Central Lake, MI, and aside from being perfectly decorated and situated on the property, it also has the most amazing morning light. We enjoyed coffee and chitchat and I walked the house over and over again before realizing we didn’t have much time before vendors would be arriving. After spending hours getting ourselves dressed and made up….KIDDING... After 5 minutes of throwing on fresh clothes, we were in the thick of market prep and people were beginning to arrive to set up. Despite chilly temps, the sun was shining and the deck adjacent to the house where my table would be was drenched in sunlight and had a great lake view. Ask my sun/windburn how that went… Before we completed setup, cars began to park along the grand, tree-lined drive to the house. Shoppers! The actual market hours were a bit of a blur. I was impressed with the interest and purchases and conversations. If I hadn’t made a single sale, I would have been happy knowing that I’d met so many great people and received many encouraging words. But luckily enough, Lake Effect Co. spoke to more than just a few. And to top off the fun of seeing people excited about my product, 5% of market sales benefited Paddle Antrim
, a local organization that works to protect and support Antrim County’s waterways, so we were all working toward a common goal of bringing in support for that organization and our beloved water resources. In slow traffic moments, the conversations among vendors were so, so lovely. What a crew! Lee knows everyone - everyone loves Lee - she’s the epitome of hospitality. After a quick takedown, the rest of the afternoon was spent chatting on the front lawn of the Farmhouse, taking in more sunshine, enjoying the lake view, and of course rosé, locally made cheeses, whitefish spread, etc. We later explored a few nearby spots, including catching the derby at Mammoth Distilling
, browsing Cellar 152
, enjoying dinner & a little too much dessert at Siren Hall
before collapsing into bed totally spent. And of course before that, we took in one more stunning “late night” Michigan sunset. Morning brought coffee on the farmhouse porch swing bundled in parkas and blankets. The birds were singing. The clouds stayed away. The wind was low. Totally at ease. Though bummed at the thought of leaving, I packed up, but I was excited that when I headed north through Charlevoix I’d see fellow market-maker and shenanigans-haver Meredith of Tiny Bits of Happiness
hand-lettering signage in a downtown cafe, That French Place
. The cafe owner sent me on my way with a major sugar high and some snacks for the road - honey lavender macarons? DUH. As I worked my way home, I took in the Traverse Bay, crossed the Mackinac Bridge (and enjoyed views of the island rooster-tailing ferries), and wound my way along the Lake Michigan shoreline in both the UP and Wisconsin. All that time alone with my thoughts was the perfect opportunity to process the weekend and my emotions after such a whirlwind. There were so many good connections and a wildly positive, hopeful energy - we’re all just a bunch of small businesses working on balance & hustle. This time gave me, and hopefully them, great momentum. I am so grateful for these new relationships. Our conversations took twists and turns that I wouldn’t have imagined with folks that were basically strangers the day prior, but again, the power of social media and kindred spirits. These pure Michiganders shared my thoughts on unconventional living and chasing lifestyles and (literal) views that bring you joy. We support being intentional with where/how you spend your time and money. But really, your time and financial investments speak for your values. Support local. Join or create a community. Stand up for something that makes you feel “ALL THE THINGS.” And to top it all off, when I landed in Milwaukee and headed to my roof for a glimpse at my city, I was rewarded with a gorgeous, clear sky and both a sunset and the moon rising over the lake. Long Live Lake Life!