Sightseeing in Northern Michigan: Northern Evergreen

Sure tomorrow is Thanksgiving, but by the time Friday rolls around, Christmas will be on the minds of many.

Plenty of people take their decorating seriously.

Thankfully, there’s a man who had a dream decades ago.

He helps bring a little joy from the north to hundreds of thousand every year. 

Corey Adkins introduces us in today’s Sightseeing in Northern Michigan.

Tis’ the season for generosity, gratitude and of course, greens.

People all over are decking their halls courtesy of Northern Evergreen in Onaway.

"We’re making wreaths basically from 6 inches to 60 inches," says Mike Bruning.

Not just wreaths but ropes.

"We have five machines that put the wire around it and make the roping, we can make any length from 10 feet to 100 feet."

A seasonal business, for sure, built out of necessity for Mike Bruning.

"In 1981, I was living in the Detroit area, and I had two jobs, but neither was working more than four days a week. My dad had to work a few years ago in Rogers City. So I decided to try and sell some evergreen boughs, and I found I could," explains Mike. 

He took the idea and ran, first with a U-Haul, back and forth to the Detroit area.

"Me and two guys, we loaded a truck and drove it just about every day. I went from Detroit and back in one day, load it up again, it was pretty amazing. Then I think I hired my first driver the next year, and now I think we got seven drivers," explains Mike.

He says he has to import most of his help, because it’s hard to find seasonal work up here.

Some employees have been with him for 25 years.

"What’s the point of working if you’re not having fun? All these people are like my family, been here forever. Sometimes we have some disagreements, what size is the wreath supposed to be, but that’s pretty much human right?” says Monta Achtabowski, Northern Evergreen.

But as for the greens, he tries to make sure everyone has a bit of Northern Michigan in their homes for the holidays.

"You gotta get the green and have the sources. We buy as much as we can locally, but we sell a quantity that we can’t secure here, so we buy greens from Ossineke to Manistique," explains Mike.

And today he sells beyond Detroit, shipping these wreaths and ropes to Pennsylvania, Missouri, Minnesota and beyond.

A long way from where he started.

"I didn’t know anything about trucking then, or I didn’t know if I could secure greens, but I did. I think we moved 3,000 the first year, and now we do 100,000 bales," says Mike.

He’ll hit close to seven figures this year, or may even beat that.

A pretty fulfilling second career for Mike, who’s retirement date has come and gone.

"It wasn’t something we set out to do exactly, but opportunities presented themselves and we tried to take advantage of them."

Categories: Northern Michigan In Focus