About Cherry Republic
Celebrating the beauty and spirit of northern Michigan in everything we make and do, Cherry Republic has grown from a t-shirt sold out of the trunk of a car to the world’s largest exclusive retailer of cherry food creations. Along the way, we have turned one man’s vision into a nation of citizens embracing his creed of life, liberty, beaches, and pie.
A Brief History of Cherry Republic
Cherry Republic began in 1989 with founder Bob Sutherland selling a t-shirt from the trunk of his car. A few years and many thousands of those t-shirts later, Bob branched out into cherry products. What started by simply putting that same t-shirt design on the label of bags of Dried Cherries and Cherry Boomchunka Cookies quickly blossomed into a line of over 170 cherry products.
As the product line has grown, so has the business. We outgrew the trunk of Bob’s car many years ago and now have four retail locations: our headquarters at our Glen Arbor campus and embassies in Traverse City, Charlevoix, and Ann Arbor. In addition to those, our thriving website and catalog business help serve the cherry cravings of our citizens around the nation and throughout the world.
Of course, the success of Cherry Republic has been punctuated by its fair share of challenges too. We well remember those humble and inexperienced beginnings of trying to launch a crazy little startup, of creating a great tasting cookie that nobody would purchase, and of trying time and again to get that first bank loan – you try pitching a business plan of nothing but cherries to a roomful of bean-counters!
We take pride in our cherry niche today. It makes sense - our headquarters resides in the county that grows more cherries than any other county in the country. We love cherries. We’re proud to support the local cherry farmers and to help preserve the stunning lakeshores of northern Michigan. We want to put cherries in every household in America.
But Bob’s 83-year-old mother has another view of why he started a company that only sells cherries. It's on a t-shirt that she wears when she works at Cherry Republic. It says, "The owner is a simpleton. Selling more than one fruit would be too complicated for him."
And what of the trunk of that car that started it all? Bob cut it off and it’s now attached to side of the Great Hall in Glen Arbor!
Cherry Republic Giving
Cherry Republic is proud of the following giving programs that we have established in the last decade. Over the years, Cherry Republic has given over $1 million to good causes in northern Michigan. We are doing our best to preserve the environment and quality of life in the woods, farms and communities of the north. Our philanthropy reflects our core values of generosity and doing our part to make the world better.
One Percent Off The Top
Each year, we donate 1% of our sales and give it to causes that we believe will have a positive influence in our region. A few recipients are:
- The Michigan Land Use Institute's Food and Farming programs
- Friends of the Sleeping Bear Dunes
- Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear
- Homestretch Affordable Housing Agency
- Glen Arbor Township
When someone comes into one of our stores we charge them a refundable 1% tariff on their purchase. This tariff was enacted by the Cherry Republic legislature in 2002. The typical tariff amount on each purchase is 25 cents. This money is set aside and donated to agricultural programs in northern Michigan. Primary focus is on preserving our farmland forever and strengthening the new small farm economy in northern Michigan. Recipients in the past have included:
- Leelanau Conservancy
- Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy
- Institute for Sustainable Living, Art and Design (ISLAND)
- Michigan State Horticultural Research Station
- MLUI's Get Farming program
ISLAND is a non-profit arts and ecology center dedicated to connecting people with nature, art and community. As part of that work, ISLAND is developing a slate of programs designed to double the value and increase the resilience of local agriculture by 2019. Cherry Republic's support has been essential in making that happen. Here are some specifics on three programs Cherry Republic has supported:
- The CRAFT Program (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) offers farm interns and beginning farmers a chance to tour area farms, learn a wide variety of management styles and farming techniques, and build the relationships that will support them as they embark on a farming career.
- The Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference -- ISLAND is a planning partner for this annual conference held in Grayling. We are specifically responsible for the new Homesteading Track designed to teach new skills to backyard growers and micro-farmers.
- Skill Swaps - ISLAND hosts a series of skill building workshops for farmers, homesteaders and other folks throughout the year, with topics like cheese making, permaculture, green building, beekeeping and hand tool use.
Together, these programs represent a widespread effort to restore our rural communities. We're not just protecting farmland; we're connecting our community to the skills and culture of sustainable agriculture. We're proud of Cherry Republic's vision - you see the big picture of agricultural preservation, and we're grateful for your support!
Our Core Values
From the moment people leave their cars and walk toward our store or begin surfing our website, we want people to feel our generosity. With the abundant gardens, the overflowing sample bowls, the free gift cards and gift boxes we want you to feel how important it is to us to give to our customers without hesitation. It is our nature. We want our staff to be generous with their smiles and time with the customer. We want our cookies to be generously sized. And on the web, we want you to be able to read about it and feel it with programs like Cherry Cheer that are geared for our website. We have found at its most basic that if we are generous, our customers will reciprocate in kind.
Touch every customer
Lift the spirits of each person who walks in our door with our joyful products, with our smiles and good conversation, with our generosity, with the meaningful business we've created and with our positive success story. It is our goal to make our customers have a better day just by taking the time to visit us.
Fun with Cherries
If it isn't fun, why do it? Our goal is to make ourselves and our customers laugh. From the dozens of signs around the stores and grounds, to the jesting we do in our catalog, to the humorous 80 year old store clerk in the store on weekend, we hope to give you a chuckle each time you visit.
Cherries are the greatest of all the fruits
Cherries are really truly gems of flavor and joy. There is nothing like biting into a slice of warm fresh pie, where the cherry is sour and the jell the cherry is floating in is sweet. A cherry can go sweet, sour, savory or spicy. And it goes with so many other flavors - chocolate, almonds, oats, tomatoes, vanilla... There was a longtime food consultant that believed that cherries were actually a terrific and healthier flavor enhancer. Certainly, we believe this to be true. Eat anything with cherries and our little ruby red gems will make it taste even better.
We are of the north
We try our best to exemplify the essence of northern Michigan in our products, storefronts, writings and branding. A little piece of the woods, farms, lakes and communities are in each product that we sell. We are proud to live, work and play in our favorite spot in all the world.