Page 114 - Visitors Guide 18
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FAMILY-STYLE has deeper meaning when dining in
By Jennie Berkson
Special to the LVG
When you hear the phrase “family style restaurant” it often means that kids are welcome or that menu items are meant to be shared. While that is certainly true about many restaurants on the Leelanau Peninsula, a family restaurant here also means it’s owned by a family or couple, and likely employs family members.
The seasonal nature of Leelanau County’s is a factor. Only the most committed restauranteurs can weather the swings in demand that characterize county eating establishments.
Corporate algorithms prefer monthly stability.
Big Cat Brewing Company
is owned by Nikki and Aaron Ackley, who began the establishment in 2006 as the Cedar Rustic Inn. The Aaron got the beer brewing bug, leading the couple to get a brew pub license and reopen under a different name in 2015.
“Big Cat is Aaron’s kitchen nickname,” Nikki said. “When we  rst opened, our sous chef at the time always called him that. And also, we have a ‘big cat’ roaming our area.
“Three of us, on two different occasions about 6 years ago, saw a cougar crossing the road out in front of the restaurant. After having a long name like Cedar Rustic Inn, we wanted
a name that was short and catchy, but also had meaning.”
Keeping it all in the family, Aaron’s brother Matt works at the restaurant a couple of
days a week and the Acklety’s daughters Annabelle and Adrienne are being primed
to help out with busing duties when they are old enough.
Aaron trained at the famed Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., after working
at the Homestead under Bob Ewing, now owner of Boone Docks in Glen Arbor. Nikki waited tables all through college, “but the management- ownership side of it was a very steep learning curve for about the  rst  ve years.”
Now the “family restaurant” theme is expanded.
“Many of our customers become like extended family,” Nikki said. “Because of our small community, we get to know people very well. They bring their families in, and we get to know them too. Because of that, they get more personal service and our place feels like home to them too.”
Pegtown Station has been owned and managed by Mary and David MacDonald for the last 14 years.
The MacDonalds’ son Stuart, a Glen Lake Community School freshman, “has been working with us since our start,” Mary said. “I remember him at a young age coming in with his babysitter asking us if he could help wash dishes. Now that
he is older and able to take
on more responsibilities he
helps his dad cook on the line, prepping omelettes and making toast. I’m still trying to talk him into working out front, in the dining room but like his dad,
he enjoys being behind the scenes.”
Dave, Stuart and Mary MacDonald of Pegtown Station are shown after a busy Sunday morning brunch session.
With a nod to community history, the MacDonalds did not change the name of
the restaurant when they purchased it. According to Mary, Pegtown was the former name of Maple City, which was  rst settled by J. T. Sturtevant who opened a factory making shoe pegs in the middle of the 19th century.
“Dave and I both grew up
in Leelanau county and love calling this amazing place our home,” Mary said. “Owning a business in a small community has given us the opportunity to know our customers personally. Many times we will see our customers parking their car and for those of them that order their ‘usual’ Dave has already started cooking their breakfast and the coffee is already at their table before they walk through the door.”
Passing on a family business tradition can be dif cult, although the Telgard family has kept the Bluebird Restaurant going for 90 years.
Today owners Skip and Lynn Telgard split responsibilities.
“I am in charge of our beverage program, menu production, many front of
the house issues, and most
day to day operations,” said Skip who with Lynn took over management of the restaurant
in 1996. “Lynn does the lion’s share of the bookwork, and directs the operation of the kitchen, overseeing our head chef and sous chefs right
on through to our valued dishwashers. She is also very much involved in our front of the house personnel as well.”
The Bluebird has stayed in business for a reason: Their formula that works.
“We march to our own drummer in terms of food
and beverage offerings,” Skip said. “We cook our famous white sh, walleye, perch,
and smelt the same way my grandparents did in the early days. We maintain some ‘old school’ characteristics, while always looking ahead at new food trends and cooking methods, as well as staff hiring and retention.”
He and Lynn are not averse to changing things up a bit to continue the success of the family business.
“We are enhancing our outdoor patio offerings this summer, more local beers and wine, live music, and expanded hours,” he said. “Several major menu concept changes are being planned for this year, both in our dining room and our tavern, with even more healthy and local foods than in the past.
(Continued on Page 115)
Leelanau Visitors Guide 2018

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