Melissa Kunert, who comes from a family with strong roots in the Portage Lake area, has spent most of her life enjoying the Huron River and Lakes; now she and her father are using their deep experience with Michigan’s waters to embark on a new adventure.
Her father, Kerry Klave, and his family operated Klave’s Marina until it was sold to new owners in 2021. Later that year, the father-daughter team launched NautiMI on the River, which offers small craft rentals, a boutique with products primarily made in Michigan, coffee, breakfast and light meals and ice cream at 9260 McGregor Road.
“I’ve gotten private messages and comments on my posts from people thanking us for bringing a business like this to the community,” Kunert said. “I think people appreciate that we’re not just a store that wants to sell them stuff. We want to be a part of their lives.”
Kunert said he feels grateful when customers have special moments at the store.
“There was a girl who won a cheerleading competition and she wanted a picture of her with her trophy here with me. It was so sweet,” she said.
As Small Business Saturday approaches this weekend, a number of area small business owners pointed to how the community has supported them and helped their operations succeed over the past few years.
Small Business Saturday was founded in 2010 by American Express and has been co-sponsored by the US Small Business Administration since 2011. The day celebrates and supports small businesses and all they do for their communities.
According to the SBA, historically reported projected spending among U.S. consumers who shopped at independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday reached approximately $23.3 billion, according to the 2021 Small Business Saturday Survey commissioned by American Express.
Brighton helps the bar for a slice of Captain’s Pizza.
Nick Manisto is excited about the new pizza boxes for Captain’s Wööd Fired Pies. Manisto folded Tuesday at Captain’s ön Main, 423 W. Main St. in Brighton. The inside of the boxes now has a design that allows people to place their head on top of an image of his professional alter ego, The Captain.
Manisto was gearing up for the restaurant’s Nov. 18 ribbon-cutting celebration. After winning a food truck followed by throwing pies from a mobile wood-fired oven, he decided to open the pizzeria in Brighton.
He took over Two Brothers Coffee earlier this year, buying the business from Jim Starnes, who opened the cafe in 2008.
“The community that we have with the food truck has really supported us, and then they like coming here and not having to track us down,” Manisto said, also saying, “During our soft openings, we’ve reserved seats and we sold out the food truck folks. They all wanted to support us the first time we tried it out of the oven (the pizzeria’s new one).”
As new customers begin to find him, he wants the restaurant, which also offers coffee, tea, beer and wine, to be a “community” place for the community.
“Historically, the wood oven was used during the day as a community place for the neighborhood and they made pizzas because they needed the oven to be hot to bake in the morning. I want it to be a community-driven pizza place,” he said.
Craft seller, shirt shop owner enjoys being a part of Howell’s business community
Morgan Cherry says she’s gotten a lot of support from other small business owners in downtown Howell since she opened The Simply Cherry Collection, 204 W. Grand River Ave., earlier this year.
“The business owners in Howell are some of the coolest people I’ve ever met,” Cheri said, adding, “It’s very much community over competition.”
She said downtown businesses support each other by collaborating on events, spreading the word about other businesses to their customers and promoting each other on social media.
She opened the store after some of her custom shirt designs were shared on social media.
She said her work going viral has allowed her to open a shop that also features products by other Michigan artisans, mostly from the local area.
“We’re a collection of local merchants, so everyone makes something different, and I make the shirts. It’s a permanent craft show,” she said.
The mother-daughter team feel the love in Brighton
Chef and caterer Ali Little opened LaLa’s Too in Brighton city center earlier this year, and her mother Mary Little helps her run the shop.
Her shop, 529 W Main St., serves as a grab-and-go style eatery. There is no indoor dining room or kitchen on site. She and her staff prepare meals, salads, sandwiches and snacks off-site. Customers either place orders to pick up or come in to pick something up on the go.
“Our word-of-mouth has been incredible,” Ally Little said. “People tell me, ‘I told all my friends. I told my whole yoga class, ‘It was really amazing that so many people wanted us to be successful.’
She said the storefront has also brought her new catering customers.
“It seems like one hand feeds the other,” she said.
Mary Little said she is grateful for the customers at her daughter’s store. She worked for years at a pharmacy in St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor.
“I wanted a retail job. I love the customers,” she said. “Everybody comes here happy.”
Support Small Business Saturday
On Saturday, many shoppers focus on supporting local small business shops and restaurants on Saturday.
Some stores in Livingston County will offer special discounts, promotions or other offers. Some will stay open later on Saturday to accommodate local shoppers.
Each year, more than a dozen local shops, restaurants and other businesses in downtown Howell celebrate the Saturday shopping tradition with special deals and offers until 9 p.m.
Howell Main Street Inc. will be giving away coupon bags from local merchants and some free items. Shoppers can pick them up at Bridget Gallagher’s, 201 South Michigan Ave. from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. while supplies last.
Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Eberbach at [email protected]