2018-01-11 / Front Page

Pinning down the name ‘Sugar Loaf’

By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

The marketing and communications director of Sugarloaf Mountain Resort said he’s not surprised that people are confused about whether the name of his favorite ski area should be spelled “Sugarloaf,” “Sugar Loaf” or “SugarLoaf.”

Ethan Austin works for well-known Michiganbased Boyne Resorts which owns several winter sports destinations in the U.S. and Canada.

But Austin does not work or live in Michigan. He’s the marketing and communications director for Boyne’s Sugarloaf Mountain Resort in Carrabassett Valley, Maine.

Other than an almost identical name, the Sugarloaf that Austin works at has absolutely nothing to do with Sugar Loaf Resort located here in Leelanau County.

“You’d be surprise at how many places are named Sugarloaf,” Austin said. “I know because I get Google-alerts all the time for people searching for one Sugarloaf or another,” he said.

Officially, Leelanau County’s Sugar Loaf is two words, not one. Historical documents on file at the county Register of Deeds office show that the place has been called Sugar Loaf – not Sugarloaf or SugarLoaf – in almost every land record dating back to the 1960’s.

Nonetheless, the place was being marketed for sale as “Sugarloaf” when California real estate attorney and developer Jeff Katofsky purchased it in 2016 after it had been closed for 16 years. Perhaps that’s why, when Katofsky corresponds in writing about Sugar Loaf, he spells it “Sugarloaf.”

“I don’t space between” the two words, Katofsky said. But, he readily admitted, “(I) haven’t given it a thought.”

Katofsky has scarcely begun work on Sugar Loaf Resort since he acquired it, focusing his attention instead on two other downstate properties he also acquired in 2016, a hotel near Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus, and the historic St. Clair Inn south of Port Huron. Katofsky has said it will likely be 2019 before his plans for Sugar Loaf are finalized and any substantial renovation begins.

Katofsky also has yet to decide on how his Sugar Loaf property will be marketed — making moot the question of whether it’s Sugarloaf, Sugar Loaf, or something else.

“Ultimately it depends on how we brand or market,” Katofsky said.

Katofsky has said repeatedly that “branding” of Sugar Loaf will likely include putting the property under the name of a major hotel chain such as Radisson or Marriott.

Up in Maine, meanwhile, Austin points out that “Sugarloaf Mountain Resort” and its logo are already trademarked.

“That doesn’t mean somebody can’t use the word ‘Sugarloaf’ or a version of that,” Austin said. “There are places called Sugarloaf all over the world.”

It’s believed the first place to be so-named was a mountain on a peninsula jutting into a bay off Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The name “Sugarloaf” was reportedly coined in the 16th Century during the heyday of the sugar cane trade in Brazil.

Back then, blocks of sugar were placed in conical molds made of clay to be transported on ships. The shape of the peak in the Brazilian harbor was like the shape of the molds.

Sugarloaf Mountain in Brazil was featured in the 1979 James Bond movie “Moonraker,” and was the site of a ferocious battle between secret agent 007 and the villainous henchman “Jaws.”

Sugarloaf is also the name of a 1970’s rock band from Denver, Colorado, which had two top 10 hits, “Green-Eyed Lady” and “Don’t Call Us; We’ll Call You.”

There’s also a Sugar Loaf “artisan village” in New York. There’s even a Sugarloaf Mountain in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, near Marquette, which offers hiking trails and views of Lake Superior.

“Heck, there’s even another Sugarloaf Mountain right here in Maine that is hours away from Sugarloaf Mountain Resort,” Austin said.

“It’s a pretty popular name.”

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My mother, Viola Behne Dechow

My mother, Viola Behne Dechow was born in 1915 a short distance from Sugar Loaf along Townline Road. She always referred to the hill as Sugar Loaf and would walk around it on her way to Shetland School. I think the local use of the name much predates the land records from the 1960s.