LEELANAU COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) – For many businesses in 2020, survival has gone hand-in-hand with creativity.
One Michigan bed and breakfast has found a way to mix comfort, culture and the great outdoors by building ice shanties for outdoor dining.
“What’s more northern Michigan than ice shanties? So, we built them, and here we are,” Little Traverse Inn Owner and Chef Graeme Leask said.
A bright idea turned into reality. Leask said it's inspired by “hair, brains, Scottish ideas, and northern Michigan."
“I had some great local artists who chipped in,” Leask said. “You’re looking at Richard Stocker’s work on all the vinyl’s, Kaz McCue over here, Michelle Schulte painted the one behind you.”
“I’m an Anishnaabe citizen. So, this is like our ancestral ground, and so when Graeme said he wanted to do fishing shanties, I thought, 'Perfect, let’s just put everybody into it,'” local artist Michelle Schulte said. “Bold colors, feelings of spirit put in there with the different shapes, and these are some of our traditional fish that you would find in these waters with some fancy artwork.”
But the beauty did not come overnight and did not come with ease; roughly two months and $25,000 later, five shanties were finished that can house up to six people.
“I think they’re wonderful. Everybody we’ve had who has come and dined in them has thoroughly enjoyed it,” Leask said. “We have a fire pit over here which is a great gathering place in the winter. In fact, we had kids roasting marshmallows last night, it was wonderful.”
Leask said that from a business perspective, 2020 was the most unusual year.
“I knew by the end of summer the writing was on the wall and we needed to come up with something,” Leask said. "Fortunately, with the shanties open now we’ve managed to bring four people back to work and hire somebody,” Leask said. “That’s wonderful. I thank everybody for their support in keeping local people working.”
After opening the shanties roughly one month ago, Leask said they’ve been jam-packed with reservations. He says he plans to use the shanties every winter and store them on the property during the summer months to allow local artists to display their work.
He said they can call his backyard home.