2018-06-14 / Life in Leelanau

MURAL MAKEOVER

Business owner aims to build 'street life' in Northport
By Jen Murphy
Of The Enterprise staff


ALMOST READY. Shawn Santo (right), owner of Pure Detroit, smiles with her sister Melissa Nabozny (left) in front of the now-completed mural on the Northport building. Nabozny traveled from London, Ontario to help put the finishing touches on the interior of the building. ALMOST READY. Shawn Santo (right), owner of Pure Detroit, smiles with her sister Melissa Nabozny (left) in front of the now-completed mural on the Northport building. Nabozny traveled from London, Ontario to help put the finishing touches on the interior of the building. Anyone driving down Third Street can’t miss it.

The backside of the building that used to be home to Northport’s North End Eatery has gotten a makeover.

Commissioned by the new building owner, Shawn Santo, artist William Bevan’s distinct black-and-white mural spans the back of the building.

“Northport has a strong arts community, and we want to keep nurturing it,” Santo said. “It’s a challenging mural facade because of the architectural detailing of the building. Will was perfectly suited for it.

“This type of architectural challenge is right in his wheelhouse.”

And the town at the tip of the peninsula seems to have welcomed the building’s new look with open arms.

“We have had tremendous support. People jumping off of golf carts and out of cars to come and talk,” Santo said. “The only negative comment I have heard is a gentleman who told me the only problem he has with it is that the mural should have been in front.”

When open next month, offerings inside the building should be as interesting as artwork on the outside.

Santo plans for a three-sided business in the L-shaped building.

The physical space naturally lends itself to three separate spaces, which Santo said will be home to a Porcupine Cabin retail affiliate, a restaurant and a guest house.

Each of these components is scheduled to be up and running in July.

“It will be a very family- and community centered hub,” she said.

Santo’s has visions for the back patio area as well. She said there will be string lights, a fire pit, some greenery and, of course, activity. “We see the whole project as vibrant,” she said.

Activities may include live music or a pop-up dinner prepared by a visiting chef.

The “North End Guest House,” located on the building’s upper level, is outfitted as an artist’s loft with an airy, open feel.

Santo said she is currently “lining things up.” The apartment will house visiting artists, musicians and chefs all season long. The first artist, of course, was Bevan.

She and her business partner opened their first store in Northport, Porcupine Cabin, last summer. They have other businesses in both Detroit and Traverse City. No matter where her businesses are located, however, she said they follow a model with a mission.

“It’s a mission-based business model to create street vitality through small street-front businesses,” she said. “We work against the distressed communities that are being taken over by big box stores by bringing in businesses that get a more active street life.”

And proceeds are reinvested in the local communities.

Along with the proceeds, Santo aims to weave a bit of the culture of Northport into this new venture.

“Picture pop-up chef dinners and live music,” she said.

She described fireside storytelling and poetry reading, a streetside beer garden and children’s play area.

She said she wants to see Northport’s dark skies embraced in whatever they do. It’s an added bonus for the downstate staff, Santo said. Branching out to Northport has been “very nourishing to Detroit group, who will come up and recharge their batteries by seeing the starry skies.” Some of the Detroitbased staff members will also work in Northport as needed.

Scott Cain, vice president of the Northport-Omena Chamber of Commerce, said he’s excited to see what Santo’s new business venture brings to the village.

“Everyone (on the Chamber board) is elated to see these people who have made success of another business here in Northport to expand and grow,” Cain said. “We are totally confident they’re the ones who can do it.

“I’ve known Shawn and Kevin for years. They’re great people. I think they’re a great fit in our community.”

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