2018-04-26 / Life in Leelanau

Partnership helps Cherry Republic tackle workforce housing shortage

By Jen Murphy
Of The Enterprise staff

CHERRY REPUBLIC founder Bob Sutherland has found another resourceful way to offset the Leelanau County’s summer workforce housing shortage. - File Photo CHERRY REPUBLIC founder Bob Sutherland has found another resourceful way to offset the Leelanau County’s summer workforce housing shortage. - File Photo Creativity abounds in Leelanau County. And no one knows this better than business owners and employees who are faced with a shortage of affordable housing.

Creative problem-solving and community partnerships have helped some Glen Arbor employers remedy the situation. At least for now.

One of the region’s largest employers, Cherry Republic, has tried a multi-pronged approach to slay the high dollar housing market beast. The first step owner Bob Sutherland took to create housing for staff members was the purchase of a home in Glen Arbor in 2016 that provides a housing for a handful of employees each summer.

The second step was the purchase of a much larger, six-bedroom home the following year. But this time, Sutherland didn’t act alone. Cherry Republic partnered with Anderson’s Market to purchase the home on the corner of Trumbull and Dunn’s Farm roads for employees of the two companies to share.

This year, Sutherland took step number three. Cherry Republic and Leelanau School found solutions to the firm's summer housing shortage and the school’s need for a building renovation.

“We have been good partners in the community for a long time, helping each other with issues,” Sutherland said.

It isn’t the first time the store and the school have worked together. Sutherland recalls a situation that happened last summer. “I remember reaching out to them in desperation with a couple of people we couldn’t find housing for, and the seed was planted. This winter, they came up with a bigger plan.”

The plan was for a partnership that provided Leelanau School with upgraded dormitory space and gave Cherry Republic summer staff a place to call home.

Cherry Republic donated $30,000 to renovate an existing dormitory to create space for 16 residents. “We can support the school and all the good things they’re doing for the community,” Sutherland said.

Once completed, the renovated building will have expanded common room space, an additional kitchenette, more laundry machines and upgraded bathrooms. Cherry Republic staff members will be considered tenants of The Leelanau School and they will pay rent to live in the housing.

The Leelanau School tenants will have access to campus facilities including tennis courts, bonfire pit, observatory, sports fields and track.

“Leelanau School has been terrific to work with, and we are excited for our partnership with them. We both want to help our community thrive. It’s been nice partnership. And they’ll be able to use for their students during the school year.”

Current head of school for Leelanau School J.D. Friley said, “When fall comes, the underclassmen boys of the Leelanau School will be moving back into a much-improved space thanks to the generosity of Cherry Republic and Bob Sutherland’s vision.”

A ribbon cutting ceremony will be

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