Melissa Kunnert comes from a family with deep roots in the Portage Lakes area and has enjoyed the Huron River and lakes for most of her life. Now, she and her father are using their extensive experience in Michigan waters for a new adventure.
Her father, Kerry Klave, and his family ran Klave’s Marina until its sale to new owners in 2021. Later that year, the father-daughter team started NautiMI, a small boat rental service on the river, a boutique selling primarily Michigan-made products, coffee, breakfast and light meals, and ice cream at 9260 McGregor Road.
“I’ve had private messages and comments from people thanking us for bringing this business to the community,” Kunnert said. “I think people appreciate that we’re not just a store trying to sell them stuff. We want to be part of life.”
Kunnert said she feels grateful when customers have a special time in the store.
“There was a girl who won a cheerleading competition and she wanted to have her trophy photo with me. It was so sweet,” she said.
As Small Business Saturday approaches this weekend, small business owners in many areas are pointing out how the community has supported them and helped them succeed over the past few years.
Small Business Saturdays was founded by American Express in 2010 and has been co-sponsored by the US Small Business Administration since 2011. This day celebrates and supports small businesses and all they do for their communities.
Historically, according to the 2021 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey commissioned by Amex, U.S. consumers spent an estimated $23.3 billion on Small Business Saturdays shopping at independent retailers and restaurants, according to the SBA.
Brighton helps ‘captain’ pizza slice ribbon
Nick Mannisto is excited about the new pizza box from Captain’s Wööd Fired Pies. Mannisto folds Tuesdays at Captain’s ön Main, 423 W. Main St. in Brighton. The inside of the box now features a design that allows people to place their heads on his professional avatar, the image of the captain.
Mannisto is gearing up for the ribbon-cutting celebration of the restaurant’s grand opening on November 1st. 18. After getting a food truck and throwing pies from a mobile wood-fired oven, he decided to open a brick-and-mortar pizzeria in Brighton.
Earlier this year, he took over Two Brothers Coffee from Jim Starnes, who opened the coffee shop in 2008.
“The community we’ve built with the food trucks really supports us, they love coming here and not having to track us people down,” Manistow said. “When we first tried taking it out of the (the pizzeria’s new) oven, they all wanted to Support us.”
As new customers start finding him, he wants the restaurant, which also serves coffee, tea, beer and wine, to become a “public” place for the community.
“Historically, wood-fired ovens have been used as community commons during the day, and they’ve made pizza because they need the oven to heat up to bake in the morning. I hope it’s community-driven pizza,” he said.
Handicraft vendor, shirt shop owner loves being part of Howell’s business community
Morgan Cherry said she’s had a lot of support from other small business owners in downtown Howell since opening Simply Cherry Collection at 204 West Grand River Ave. earlier this year.
“The business owners at Howell are the coolest people I’ve ever met,” Cherry said, adding, “It’s a very community competition.”
Downtown businesses support each other by collaborating on events, promoting other businesses to customers and promoting each other on social media, she said.
She opened the store after sharing some of her custom shirt designs on social media.
Making her work popular led her to open a store that also featured products from other Michigan artisans, mostly from the local area, she said.
“We’re a collection of local vendors, so everyone makes something different, and I make shirts. It’s a permanent craft show,” she said.
Mother-daughter team feeling the love in Brighton
Chef and caterer Allie Lyttle opened LaLa’s Too in central Brighton earlier this year, and her mother Mary Lyttle is helping her run the store.
Her storefront at 529 W Main St. is a grab-and-go store. It does not have an indoor restaurant or on-site kitchen. She and her staff prepare meals, salads, sandwiches and snacks off-site. Customers either place an order for pickup, or drop by to pick up something while on the go.
“Our word of mouth is incredible,” says Allie Lyttle. “People tell me, ‘I’ve told all my friends. I’ve told all my yoga classes.’ It’s unbelievable how many people want us to succeed.”
Owning the storefront has also brought her new dining clients, she said.
“It was as if one hand was feeding the other,” she said.
Mary Lyttle said she was grateful for the customers in her daughter’s store. She worked for many years at a pharmacy in St. Louis. Joseph Messiaen Arbor.
“I want a retail job. I like customers,” she said. “Everyone is happy here.”
Support Small Businesses Saturday
On Saturdays, many shoppers focus on supporting local stores and restaurants for Small Business Saturdays.
Some Livingston County stores will be offering special discounts, promotions or other offers. Some will remain open later on Saturday to accommodate local shoppers.
Every year, more than a dozen local stores, restaurants and other businesses in downtown Howell celebrate the Saturday shopping tradition with special offers and products until 9 p.m.
The Howell Avenue Company will be handing out tote bags with coupons for local businesses and some free items. Shoppers can pick up at Bridget Gallagher’s at 201 South Michigan Ave. 10am-1pm, while stocks last.
Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Eberbach at email@example.com.