Beau Webb has always had more than one job.
“For most of my life, I’ve always had three jobs at once”, shares Beau from behind the counter of his latest job, running MI Market in Downtown Suttons Bay full time as the owner and sole operator.
His market is a reflection of two of his greatest passions; local food and supporting his friends who make and produce that food. Having opened MI Market almost a year ago, Beau has been able to pair those passions while also focusing on growing his small market into a mainstay of the social and community fabric of Suttons Bay. “I want it to feel like a year round farmer’s market you can go to, with a little bit of everything from people who really care about their products.”
Working in the hospitality and service industry, including many years with us at the Riverside Inn, has been a way of life for Beau since he turned eighteen and determined to join his cousins in the place that held so many memories for him as a child, Leelanau County - or more generally- Up North.
“Growing up, we came up north for our vacations. Some people went to Florida or somewhere really warm for their vacations, and we came up here because that’s what we could afford”, describes Webb, talking about his childhood summers spent fishing, exploring the woods, and just being somewhere other than his hometown near Saginaw in Southeast Michigan.
While working his way across some of the most well-known and well regarded restaurants in Leelanau County, Beau developed a deep appreciation for the way food and goods were produced and distributed throughout the region.
“People talk about the ‘local food’ movement and how it’s relatively new, but it’s always been that way up here. It’s the only way most people know”. Beau now gets to spend his time representing local farmers and entrepreneurs, many of whom he has worked for over the years.
Noting that he hasn’t had a day off in quite awhile, Beau muses “You know, I could have hired someone to work for me this summer, but I wanted to be the one to greet people when they came in, and I want to be the one representing my friends and their products when people come through the door”.
Beau’s work ethic isn’t just about ensuring an excellent customer experience, it also comes from a deep appreciation of being able to realize his dream of opening his own place for years. For him, opening a shop meant that he could have limitless opportunity to create a place where people could shop and eat locally sourced foods, and he hopes to expand his business in the coming year to offer cooked and prepared foods that he makes on site including soups, jams, and quick grab and go items.
Living in the same place for so long has helped Beau to maintain and keep growing his relationships with neighbors, friends, coworkers, and fellow business owners. Though he has left Leelanau County for periods of time, he always felt the pull to come back, drawn in by familiar people and familiar traditions.
One of those traditions is one that we hold dearly. Each year for the past six years, Beau has returned to us at the Riverside Inn to play a front of the house role as Santa Claus during our annual Santa Brunch the third weekend in December.
While he claims that most people still don’t know who plays Santa at this popular event, people are starting to recognize him throughout town.
Being ‘the Santa’ is magical for Beau because he always approaches the weekend with a bit of hesitation. “Some years I am not sure I can do it, and I get nervous, but sitting down and seeing that first kid run through the door screaming ‘Santa’ always changes it for me”, Beau says of his experience. Beau hands out gifts to the kids from the Riverside each year, and it being Leelanau County, gets a lot of adults who have had a few cocktails sit on his lap and tell them their wishes too.
This year, Beau is looking forward to being back at the Riverside on Sunday, December 17th and playing the part of the jolly guy in red. While not too big on milk and cookies, this Santa’s preferred way to fuel up for a day of wish granting to Leelanau’s little and big people is by diving into his favorite house special, the Tender Bender.
Young or old, we hope you'll all join Beau and our staff for one of our favorite days of the year, and stop by to see him at MI Market the next time you're in Suttons Bay.