The Northport Renaissance

Here’s a nice feature on Northport by Mike Norton of Traverse City Tourism

Northport and Lake Michigan

Perched at the very tip of Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula, the village of Northport isn’t on the way to anywhere else. You have to want to go there. Fortunately, there are a great many reasons why you should.

A picturesque resort town at the mouth of Grand Traverse Bay, Northport was founded in 1849. With its clapboard houses and busy harbor, nestled in a hilly landscape of orchards and small vineyards, it has the look and feel of a New England fishing village.

Just a few years ago, Northport seemed to be on the ropes, its population dwindling and many businesses closing their doors. Out-of-towners might drive through while exploring the local wine country or visiting the nearby Grand Traverse Lighthouse, but there was little (except, perhaps the cinnamon rolls at Barb’s Bakery) to persuade them to stop. But that’s all over now.

Today, the little village is undergoing a boom of sorts. Over the past year, new restaurants and shops have been springing up all over town – some moving into vacant storefronts, others building brand-new digs. Northport now has its own wine-tasting room, its first microbrewery and a nine-hole, solar-powered golf course.

“There’s a lot of good stuff going on here,” said Lisa Drummond, president of the local chamber of commerce. “We want to preserve our small-town feel, our uniqueness, because that’s crucial to us. But it’s exciting to see all this activity.”

Drummond believes the village’s remoteness has preserved it from inappropriate development over the years. But it wasn’t until the village replaced its aging sewage system in 2009 (a move that generated considerable controversy at the time) that business owners began investing in the downtown area again.

“It doesn’t hurt that this is an astonishingly beautiful, relatively undiscovered place, and that the people who live and work here care about it very passionately,” she added.

(It also doesn’t hurt that Northport has some very prominent admirers, including celebrity chef Mario Batali, who has a summer home nearby and is frequently heard singing the region’s praises.)

Northport Marina

Among the new and recent businesses are…

  • Tucker’s of Northport, a $1.5 million bar/restaurant and “boutique bowling alley” serving lunch and dinner, which opened in May on the site of Woody’s Settling Inn — a village icon whose 2004 closing was a major blow to Northport.
  • The Northport Inn, a nine-room boutique hotel in a renovated downtown commercial building, scheduled for a mid-September opening.
  • Motovino Cellars, a wine-tasting room featuring its own label of wines produced from nearby vineyards as well as specialty foods, chocolates and cheeses.
  • Café Lelu, a full-service restaurant/bar/coffee bar serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night food, already becoming known as the place to go for local music.
  • The Northport Brewing Co., a craft “nanobrewery” (brewing less than 200 barrels a year) that opened in August.
  • Set in Stone Historic Depot, an upscale gift shop featuring wine, cigars, chocolate, beer and other local products, that opened this summer in the fieldstone train depot beside the village marina.
  • Tribune Ice Cream and Eatery, a breakfast and lunch café, scheduled to open this fall in the building that once housed the village newspaper.
  • The Northport Creek Golf Course, a nine-hole, par 35 course set on 63 acres at the edge of the village. Designed by famed architect Jerry Matthews, it’s billed as the nation’s first and only solar-powered golf course – the irrigation system and all the golf carts run on solar energy.
  • Red Mullein, an art gallery and vintage store that opened in 2013, and has already moved to larger quarters.
  • The Soggy Dollar, a full-service upscale restaurant and bar that opened Memorial Day in the former home of Stubb’s a favorite village hangout that closed in 2012.

Tuckers of Northport



7 replies
  1. Sheila
    Sheila says:

    You forgot to mention the Garage Restaurant. Bruce Viger has been the owner and operator of Stubb’s, (which is now the Soggy Dollar), The Eat Spot, (which is now The North End), and currently, The Garage. Bruce has lived in Northport most of his life and has brought people here with his great food and wonderful atmosphere in each restaurant he has had. He has stayed open year after year when other places closed their doors. He was here before it was “cool” to be here.

  2. Sheila
    Sheila says:

    The article talks about the Soggy Dollar and other “not so” new places. The article seems to be about Northport and it’s revival. The “old” businesses are as important to a towns “revival” as the “new”. They are the reason that “new” businesses are willing to take a chance because they can see how someone who’s been there is thriving and so the “new” businesses are more likely to take a chance, too.


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