Business owners in the Livingston area are grateful for the customer support

Coming from a family with strong roots in the Portage Lake area, Melissa Kunnert has spent most of her life enjoying the Huron River and its lakes. Now she and her father are using their extensive experience of Michigan waters to embark on a new adventure.

Her father, Kerry Klave, and his family ran Klave’s Marina until it was sold to new owners in 2021. Later that year, father-daughter team NautiMI on the River, which charters small watercraft, launched a boutique of mostly Michigan-made boats products, coffee, breakfast and light meals and ice cream at 9260 McGregor Road.

“I’ve received personal messages and comments on my posts from people thanking us for bringing a company like this to the community,” Kunnert said. “I think people appreciate that we’re not just a shop trying to sell them things. We want to be a part of their lives.”

Kunnert said she feels gratitude when customers experience special moments in store.

“There was a girl who won a cheer contest and she wanted her picture here with me with her trophy. It was so cute,” she said.

As Small Business Saturday approaches this weekend, a number of local small business owners highlighted how the community has supported them and helped make their businesses a success over the past few years.

Small Business Saturday was founded by American Express in 2010 and has been co-sponsored by the US Small Business Administration since 2011. The day celebrates and supports small businesses and all they do for their communities.

According to the SBA, reported projected spending by U.S. consumers who shopped on Small Business Saturday at independent retailers and restaurants historically reached an estimated $23.3 billion, according to the 2021 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey commissioned by American Express -Dollar.

Brighton helps the ‘Captain’ Pizza Slice Ribbon

Nick Mannisto is delighted with new pizza boxes for Captain’s Wööd Fired Pies. Mannisto folded at Captain’s on Main, 423 W. Main St. in Brighton on a Tuesday. The insides of the boxes are now designed so that people can fix their heads on a picture of his professional alter ego, the captain.

Mannisto was preparing for the restaurant’s grand opening celebration on November 18th. After getting himself a food truck and then throwing cakes out of a mobile wood-burning oven, he decided to open the brick-and-mortar pizzeria in Brighton.

Earlier this year, he took over Two Brothers Coffee, buying the business from Jim Starnes, who opened the coffee shop in 2008.

“The community that we have with the food truck has been really supportive of us, and then they like to come here and not have to track us down,” Mannisto said, also saying, “During our soft openings, we reserved seats and sold out of food truck people They all wanted to support us when we tried it out of the pizzeria’s (new) oven for the first time.”

As new customers find him, he wants the restaurant, which also offers coffee, tea, beer and wine, to become a “communal” place for the community.

“In the past, the wood-fired oven used to be used as a community space for the neighborhood, and they made pizzas because they needed the oven hot to bake in the morning. I want this to be a community-driven pizza,” he said.

Craft salesman and shirt shop owner loves being part of the Howell business community

Morgan Cherry says that since opening The Simply Cherry Collection, 204 W. Grand River Ave. Earlier this year, received a lot of support from other small business owners in downtown Howell.

“The Howell business owners are some of the coolest people I’ve ever met,” Cherry said, adding, “It’s very community rather than competitive.”

She said downtown businesses support each other by collaborating at events, educating their customers about other businesses and promoting each other on social media.

She opened the shop after some of her custom shirt designs were shared on social media.

She said that going viral with her work has enabled her to open a shop that also features products from other Michigan artisans, mostly local.

“We’re a collection of local vendors, so everyone makes something different and I make the shirts. It’s a permanent craft exhibition,” she said.

The daughter-mother team feels the love in Brighton

Chef and caterer Allie Lyttle opened LaLa’s Too in downtown Brighton earlier this year and her mother, Mary Lyttle, is helping her run the shop.

Her store, 529 W Main St., serves as a “grab-and-go” style establishment. It doesn’t have a dining room or on-site kitchen. She and her staff prepare meals, salads, sandwiches and snacks off-site. Customers either place orders for pickup or stop by to pick up something along the way.

“Our word of mouth has been amazing,” said Allie Lyttle. “People tell me, ‘I told all my friends. I told my whole yoga class about it.’ It was really incredible that so many people want us to be successful.”

She said the storefront has also brought her new catering customers.

“It seems like one hand is feeding the other,” she said.

Mary Lyttle said she was thankful for the customers in her daughter’s shop. For years she worked in a pharmacy in St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor.

“I wanted a job in retail. I love the customers,” she said. “Everyone likes to come in here.”

Support small businesses on Saturday

On Saturday, many shoppers focus on supporting local businesses and restaurants for Small Business Saturday.

Some Livingston County stores have special discounts, promotions, or other offers. Some will remain open later on Saturday to accommodate local shoppers.

Each year, more than a dozen local shops, restaurants and other businesses in downtown Howell celebrate the tradition of Saturday shopping with specials and offers until 9:00 p.m

Howell Main Street Inc. is giving away grab bags containing coupons from local retailers and some freebies. Purchases can be picked up at Bridget Gallagher’s, 201 South Michigan Ave., 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. while supplies last.

Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Eberbach at [email protected]


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