When M3’s Vision Engagement Officer Pete Ruffing invites you to lunch, you go.
- He usually pays
- It means something exciting is coming
Such was the case on May 17 when Pete invited Special PRops members Julie Becker and Emily Caswell to his favorite lunch spot, Moriarty’s on Michigan Avenue in Lansing. Pete sat down with Julie and Emily and said “We need to do something big!”
He’d come to the right place.
After bouncing around a few ideas the group knew exactly what had to happen. M3 needed to hit the road. After all, what better way for us to get the word out than to, well, you know … actually get out there? But this wasn’t going to be just any old road trip. Oh no. This road trip would have a special hook – one of Julie and Emily’s favorite subjects: social media.
Nearly two months, 83 counties, hundreds of tweets, dozens of Facebook updates and a few blogs later we’re finally looking back at #MeetMichigan with @m3_group. It’s been a lot of work, sweat, blood … and as Emily can attest a few tears. But all of it, including Julie’s aching bones from sitting in a van for up to 15 hours a day for 11 days, has been worth it.
In a relatively short amount of time, M3’s Special PRops teams has traveled the state (far and wide) to promote positivity and report on the great things happening in business across our state. We’ve interacted with thousands of people around the nation using social media, and in the process proved that there truly is such a thing as free lunch. Note: if you’re the one picking up the tab, the Special PRops team might just have a big idea for you, too. Give us a call, we’d love to chat and/or dine.
M3 thanks you for your continued #MeetMichigan support. Stay tuned for more #MeetMichigan blogging, including “The Unsung Heroes of #MeetMichigan” and “#MeetMichigan by the Numbers.” Also, join us on Tuesday, July 12 for our #MeetMichigan wrap-up in Detroit. For more information on this event, please see our media release.
As the Motion Mobile turned onto 9 Mile from 95th Avenue in Evart, Michigan we realized we weren’t in Ice Mountain country anymore. Truth is, we never were to begin with.
While fairly accurate and reliable, Google maps had taken us far away from our 11:15 a.m. appointment at Ice Mountain Water in Stanwood (35 miles south of our current location … not to mention the direction we’d just come from).
On our speedy, yet safe cruise back down US-131 we spent a great deal of time embracing the following positive aspects:
- We made it eight full days on the road with very little backtracking or mistakes in our route
- We were able to see the beautiful back roads of Evart, including the Spring Hill summer campgrounds
- Julie got to hear “Evacuate the Dancefloor” before noon on the Lady Gaga Pandora radio station
- We ended up arriving at 11:16 a.m. for our 11:15 a.m. appointment – not too bad for going 70 miles out of the way (yes, we would have a been very early had Ice Mountain been located in Evart)
Most importantly, our on-time arrival allowed us to meet several Ice Mountain employees who had gathered with a reporter and photographer from The Pioneer Group to celebrate a huge safety milestone. Today, Ice Mountain celebrated 4 million hours, over seven and half years of zero lost time for injuries – a pretty big deal for a business with 240 employees.
A lot like our wonky route to Ice Mountain, Michigan has had some unexpected detours on the road to economic recovery. #MeetMichigan has seen the effects of our hardships across the state – some areas have undoubtedly been hit worse than others, but it’s inspiring to see so many Michiganders staying positive.
So, when the road turns to gravel and you feel a little lost, just remember that a positive attitude and three lefts will get you back on the highway.
A big hope for #MeetMichigan was social media engagement from businesses we may not otherwise have connected with. So, when Rock River Café (@rockrivercafe) tweeted at us from Chatham, Michigan (population 231) we had work it into our route.
Around 11 a.m. on day six of our trip, we coasted into Chatham. What we found was more than just a café. We found the beauty of entrepreneurism and the essence of #MeetMichigan.
Lesson #1: You can come home again
Owners Pat Nesberg and John Filus shared their all-too-familiar story of struggling through the U.S.’s economic hardship over the last several years. After living in various southern states, Pat decided to bring her years of restauranting knowledge back to Michigan. She and John opened Rock River Café in May 2011, and never looked back.
Lesson #2: Invest in history
One might ask, “why Chatham,” (we certainly did). Situated at the corner of Rock River Road and Munising Street (not too far from Slapneck Road, seriously) Pat and John purchased an historic hotel building that had nearly fallen beyond repair. Previous owners had tried to restore the “money pit” but had not succeeded. You can sense a great deal of pride in the owners for giving life to an important piece of their community’s history.
Lesson #3: Believe in your product
Don’t let the presentation of their menu fool you – the four, stapled 8.5” x 11” pieces of paper are chocked full of locally sourced options, with an array of vegan and vegetarian meals – good for both the heart and the soul.
@RockRiverCafe had recommended (via Twitter) that we try Swamp Thing, their most popular vegan dish. I don’t think we’ll ever look at vegan the same way. The wonderfully seasoned grilled potatoes held together the spinach, quinoa, fresh garlic and vegetables perfectly. Served with a side of Lake Superior Wild Sourdough and homemade blackberry preserves, this breakfast blew our minds (and our tastebuds).
We spoke with the chef’s after our meal, and the pride everyone has in the food they prepare is outstanding. You can taste their passion and knowledge in every bite, and it leaves you begging for more.
Lesson #4: You can’t beat quality
As the #MeetMichigan team enjoyed their breakfast, questions began to form about the viability of Rock River Café in it’s current location. Do they have enough patrons in Chatham to support their business? Would local residents be willing to purchase items from the moderately priced menu? How would a town of increasingly older generations feel about this “new-age” food?
Luckily, we met Linda – who classifies herself in the 60+ age demographic. Linda had many positive things to say about Rock River Café. She explained that locals who have eaten at Rock River Café really appreciate the investment Pat and John have made, as well as the quality of their food. She said, she and her husband don’t mind paying a little more because the freshness of the food makes them feel better about eating it.
Linda also went on to tell us that even though the Rock River Café uses the same tables, plates and silverware as the previous establishment, everything feels cleaner and healthier because of the business Pat and John have built.
Lesson #5: You’re never too small for social media
Another essential element to Rock River’s sustainability is the investment Pat is making in social media. A large number of their customers are tourists visiting larger, nearby towns like Munising. Without her dedication to Rock River’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, Pat doesn’t believe the restaurant would be doing as well. Truth of the matter is, without Their twitter account, we wouldn’t have been eating there.
Lesson #6: Where everybody knows your handle
There a handful of places that we’ve hated saying goodbye to. Oddly enough, most of them involve food, and Rock River Café was one of them. There’s something about eating at a locally sourced, vegan-inspired café in a town of 231 people that makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger.
From the moment we walked through the door, we felt like a regular. Pat may not have known our names, but she knew our Twitter handles. It was like we’d eaten there every day since they opened just seven weeks ago. It’s the kind of warmth you wouldn’t expect from a relationship built through social media, but it’s one of the friendliest places we’ve visited to date.
What’s more, is that they greet everyone this way: regulars, tourists and social media friends alike. You never have to worry about eating alone – customers were engaged in conversation with one another and John visited nearly every table in the room.
There’s really nothing we didn’t love about Rock River Café. And honestly, these are the kind of places (and people) that we believe make Michigan a beautiful place to live, visit and dine. Thanks Pat and John for reminding us what #MeetMichigan is really all about. You truly rock.