Cherry Republic owner Bob Sutherland this week closed on a $150,000 loan from Venture North’s Development Fund to be used for gap financing on a $1 million expansion and renovation of Cherry Republic’s retail store at 154 E. Front in downtown Traverse City.
The transaction pushes Venture North’s regional business lending past the $2 million mark, assisting 40 businesses in the Grand Traverse area with expansions, equipment and inventory purchases, working capital and related needs. Venture North was created through the recent merger of the Traverse City Area Chamber Foundation and the Traverse Bay Economic Development Corp.
“We’ve been working on this (expansion) for eight years, and financing was our number one road block,” Sutherland said. “With this loan, we’ve finally overcome that for the good of our company and the good of downtown.”
Sutherland founded Cherry Republic in 1989 in Leelanau County and the company now operates four stores in Michigan. The Traverse City location has evolved into one of downtown’s primary tourist destinations, featuring more than 170 cherry-related products ranging from wines to cookies and candy, salsas and sauces, dried cherries and more. Cherry Republic features Michigan-grown agricultural products, and it also operates a thriving mail order business across the U.S. and beyond. Its products have been featured throughout national broadcast and print media including the Food Network, the Wall Street Journal and Chicago Tribune.
Renovations to the downtown Traverse City location include an expansion to some 6,500 square feet of retail space, including a new Grand Café and a bakery. Other financing partners included the Bank of Northern Michigan and Northern Initiatives based in Marquette.
“We’re honored to work with such a widely-recognized and respected business as Cherry Republic and help continue its amazing growth,” said Venture North Executive Director Laura Galbraith. “It’s exciting to have such a successful and high-profile company utilize our business financing resources to push us past the $2 million mark in regional business lending.”
Sutherland said he was impressed by the professionalism of the Venture North staff and the other financing partners, allowing him to focus on the details of the expansion and renovations.
“Absolutely I would recommend other businesses using this fund and working with Venture North,” he said. “It’s a simple process that lets the financing people do a lot of the legwork and lets the business focus on the project.”