GTPulse Weekend Planner: A Village of Possibilities in Lake Ann
I’m wearing stretchy pants and tennis shoes, trying to remember the name of the road to access Ransom Lake Natural Area in Lake Ann.
Turns out, there are two access points—one is at the end of Bellows Lake Road, the other off Lake Ann Road.
My dog, JoJo Mario, is beyond excited as we exit the car, you can almost hear his heart buzzing. His stub of a tail moves rapidly back and forth like he’s shaking a tiny finger at me and I laugh at the sight.
I have to admit, I’m pretty excited myself. It’s been years since I hiked around Ransom Lake, but navigating the narrow and knotty trail, I remember it well.
My dog seems to remember it, too, even though this is his first time. He stops to sniff everything, which reminds me to breathe in the warm summer air.
The birds call out to us with every step and the toads jump in front of us, not realizing they’re catapulting toward a rat terrier. Luckily for them, this one has a healthy dose of attention deficit disorder.
The Ransom Lake Trail is just one of the many gems in Lake Ann. The village itself offers everything from beaches to live music, but the magic of this small town lies in the spirit of its residents.
More Than a Grocery Store
I have a deep and profound love for the general store. I think it might be a holdover from my days spent watching The Little House on the Prairie as a kid.
The television series, like the books, portrayed the life on the Ingalls family farm near Walnut Creek, Minnesota, in the 1870s and 1880s. The cast of characters included Charles “Pa” Ingalls and Laura “half-pint” Ingalls as they navigated through life in the American Midwest. But, the unsung hero of the town has to be Oleson’s Mercantile, the general store that was more like a community center. People would gather for necessary supplies and small luxuries, catching up with neighbors and the latest town gossip. That’s exactly the charm of John & Sandy’s Lake Ann Grocery.
“It was 1981. We bought the (empty) building, we wanted to have a store and John said, ‘You know, we might as well sell beer,’ so we applied for the liquor license.”
Sandy Nuske stands next to one of the many refrigerated cases in the store that seems smaller than it actually is. “The local sheriff at the time knew that we weren’t married and didn’t recommend we get the license (to sell liquor). But the liquor control said that it wouldn’t make a difference, but John must have kept thinking about it because we were coming home from bowling one night and John looked over at me and said, ‘You know, we might as well get married,’” Sandy laughs. “So we got a marriage license and then we got a liquor license.”
John Nuske was, for all intents and purposes, the unofficial mayor of Lake Ann.
He loved the town, and the town loved him, especially because of the reputation he built by being a direct and straightforward man.
That quality lent itself to the store’s motto, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.”
Sandy said that motto started early, “When we first started out, we kept an ongoing list of what people asked for, because we didn’t really know the town’s needs yet. So, we had people write things on the list and we would just buy everything they wrote down.”
Sandy isn’t kidding…shelves from floor to ceiling of canned goods, pregnancy tests, dry goods, plungers, rakes, vacuum bags and even gifts line the walls of Lake Ann Grocery. Spend a little time in the store and you will see that after 39 years of collecting the requests of the customers, they really do have everything you need. And if they don’t have it, you probably didn’t need that badly in the first place.
Birth of a Brewery
Down the street from John and Sandy’s, the sign from Lake Ann Brewing Company acts as an illuminated beacon of progress in the village.
In 2015, Matt Therrien officially took his home brewing hobby to the big leagues, opening the doors to the brewery.
The building was originally built in 1948 as a tea house that also sold fishing supplies.
Matt’s love of fishing and the outdoors is evident as the brewery’s interior feels more like a cabin than a bar. It’s the outdoor, space, however, that’s buzzing on this particular summertime Saturday night.
We scan the backyard for an open picnic table before being greeted by the hostess who shows us to a table near the back of the fenced in space. The band is warming up at the wooden stage in front of us, as people continue to walk in, carrying their own chairs and blankets. The regulars know the drill—always come to LABC with your own chair, just in case.
The ties in the village of Lake Ann are unbreakable, and John Nuske’s influence reaches into nearly every facet of this community. Upon hearing of John Nuske’s death in late July, Matt took to the brewery’s Facebook page to describe the influence John had on him:
“He was the first customer through the door on June 16th, 2015, $2 bill in hand when we opened to the public. He sat down at the bar, had a few beers and gave me a nod of approval. If you had John’s approval in Lake Ann, that’s all you needed,” Matt wrote.
Days later, Matt would immortalize John with his own beer, the appropriately named No Filter Nuske Rye IPA— the description, a snapshot of Nuske himself,
“He was honest. He didn’t know any other way … Naming a beer after John Nuske is the least we can do for a man that had such a lasting impact on the Village of Lake Ann.”
But, John also knew the impact Lake Ann Brewery would have on the village. Regulars often heard him say that the brewery was the best thing to happen to Lake Ann since cable and natural gas.
I feel the vibrations of the buzzer on the table, alerting me that our Stone Oven pizza is ready next door.
Walking just feet away to pick up our dinner, I see kids playing in the park across the street. A line of ice cream lovers is forming at the appropriately named Corner Cone.
As the band plays, and the sun goes down, we toast to John—a No Filter Nuske of course—and devour one of the most delicious pizzas I’ve ever had.
I think of something Sandy said, something that perfectly encapsulates the day I spent in lovely Lake Ann, “John always liked to tell people to slow down. That’s just the Lake Ann way. Slow down, take a minute…there’s no reason to hurry.”
Good advice, indeed, John. Good advice, indeed.
Your Village To-Do List:
Ransom Lake Trails includes 3,500 feet of Ransom Creek frontage and encompasses all of Ransom Lake. The Lake Ann Road parking area includes barrier free parking and restrooms, plus an accessible trail along Ransom Creek to a deck overlooking the lake. Another hiking trail circles the lake. In all, the park trails include a bridge, fishing dock and rest area and may be used from hiking, wildlife observation, fishing, hunting, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or snowmobiling.
Lake Ann Brewing Company is currently open Tuesday-Saturday from noon until 11 p.m., with outdoor service available rain or shine and limited indoor service. They offer beer, ciders, meads, wine, sodas and light snacks. ABC offers live music nightly, check their website for upcoming events at www.lakeannbrewing.com and don’t miss A Brighter Bloom, featuring Todd Aldrich, Lauren Onica and TJ Ranking, on Saturday, August 22, 7 p.m. – 10 p.m.
*Lake Ann Brewing Company recently changed their dog policy for outdoor seating to service animals only
The Stone Oven is located next to Lake Ann Brewing Company and is open Tuesday-Saturday from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Their menu includes pizzas, salads, burgers, sandwiches and soups. Pro Tip: Try the White Pizza—it does not disappoint!
Lake Ann Corner Cone, also next to Lake Ann Brewing Company, is open for extended summer hours Monday-Sunday, 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. They have hot dogs and sandwiches in addition to delicious ice cream creations.
John, Sandy & Sons Lake Ann Grocery is open 7 days a week from 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. The offer groceries, beer, coffee, donuts, lunch, tools, hardware, pet food, gardening supplies, snow supplies and everything else. If the don’t have it, you don’t need it. Smiles and conversations offered at no cost.
Almira Township Lakefront Park, located on Ann Lake just steps from Lake Ann Grocery, includes two pavilions, a flush toilet and a swimming area. It’s open year round for public enjoyment. Boaters can use the public access for Ann Lake located off N. Reynolds road outside the village limits.
Plus, Lake Ann is just 11 short miles away from downtown Traverse City!