Hometown Tourist: The Original Cherry Republic

The original Glen Arbor Cherry Republic is a small village in itself, epitomizing Up North living and pledging to “Life, Liberty, Beaches and Pie.”

“How many do I eat myself?” Owner Bob Sutherland asks. “Well a hundred slices over a summer divided by 6… that’s a lot of pies.”

Growing up in Glen Arbor, Bob infuses Up North nostalgia into every bit of the Republic.

“We’ve tried to capture everything about Northern Michigan. From the planks here, our white pine planks to the cherry wood and the oak.”

And when you walk around, you’ll notice one very generous detail—lots of samples. 

“Bob is one of the most generous people I’ve ever met,” explains Cherry Republic Winery Manager, Phyllis Taylor. “And he believes in being generous with people whether it be with donations or making sure they taste everything they’d like to taste while they’re here.”

And it all started out of the trunk of Bob’s car.

“Our first product was a t-shirt. I sold thousands out of my trunk in college. I felt, I have something here. I would get frustrated because every winter nobody would buy t-shirts anymore. So I said they buy food all the time, so our first product was a Boom Chunka Cookie.”

Since the cookie they’ve grown to almost 200 products. Including trail mix, salsas, and even cherry peanut butter.

“Some teenagers were camping and they brought in a loaf of bread.” Bob laughs. “And they started making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches here.”

These days the village has three buildings: The Great Hall, The Winery and The Grand Bakery/Cafe. And that’s where you can get Cherry Republic homemade ice cream and cherry pie, Bob’s favorite.

“Probably my favorite product of all. A classic cherry pie. But whoever came up with the term ‘easy as pie,’ this is one of the most difficult things that we make!”

And to wash it all down, get over to the winery and soda shop.

Phyllis pours me one of her favorites, the Balaton Cherry Wine.

“You can taste that nice natural spiciness to the wine and it comes from the balaton cherries. This is a really full-bodied cherry wine. It’s super smooth. It’s our smoothest wine that we have.”

And fresh off the tap, there’s a cherry soda flavor for every age of sipper. 

“I think everybody, all of us locals in Northern Michigan have guests that are coming this summer.” 

Bob makes a valid point. 

“And what are we all going to do with them? One great spot is Cherry Republic, which is fun for the local too.”

Visit the original Cherry Republic at 6026 South Lake Street, Glen Arbor, MI.