Cherry Republic—Not Found in Your Rand McNally Atlas!
Or at least all cherry products are considered. In the middle of the charming Michigan town of Glen Arbor, you’ll find a (semi) sovereign state: Cherry Republic. How can that be, you ask. It’s bounded all around by the state of Michigan. Why would there be a country in the middle of another one? Granted, there are historic precedents—look at a map of South Africa and you’ll see the independent state of Lesotho embedded within. But in the United States?
What Kind of a Country Is This, Anyway?
Okay, Cherry Republic isn’t exactly like other states.1 It has no government, no military, no treaties with other states. It lacks a currency, a foreign policy, a population, an anthem. But what it DOES have is every manner of cherry product. It has an ice cream parlor/café featuring various cheese-themed ice cream flavors. Seriously, every ice cream flavor features cherries! It has a Cherry Spitting Arena. And, if you can’t make it to Glen Arbor, it has a website.
The History (Not in a Nutshell, but in a Cherry Pit)
Bob Sunderland, the founder (emperor?) of Cherry Republic began in 1989 by selling tee shirts and, later, the Boomchunka cherry oatmeal cookie (very good!) from the trunk of his car. Eventually, he branched out into other cherry products. Admirably, the company engages in supporting local cherry farmers. And why just cherries? Well, read below (this has been taken directly from Cherry Republic’s website)
But Bob’s 83-year-old mother has another view of why he started a company that only sells cherries. It’s on a t-shirt that she wears when she works at Cherry Republic. It says, “The owner is a simpleton. Selling more than one fruit would be too complicated for him.”
Cherry Republic grew and now has not only the “headquarters” in Glen Arbor, but it is also located in Traverse City and Charlevoix (in Northern Michigan). An outpost is found in Ann Arbor as well. Given that the tart cherry capital of the United States is Michigan, it’s no wonder that Cherry Republic took off here!
So, what kinds of cherry things does Cherry Republic offer? There’s the expected: dried cherries (Montmorency and Balaton), canned organic cherries, cherry pie filling. There’s the delightful: cherry-based trail mix, cherry jams, chocolate-covered cherries. And then there’s the deliciously unusual: cherry peanut butter, cherry salsa (in different varieties), cherry salad dressing. Additionally, in a separate building you’ll find cherry libations of both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic sort—cherry wine, cherry cider, cherry sodas. It’s a Cherry Wonderland!
Cherry Republic is just a FUN place to browse and shop. Samples abound and you likely won’t leave empty-handed (though you could leave empty-walleted!) The wares showcase one of northern Michigan’s premier crops—the tart cherry—in ways that I’d never even considered! If you ever find yourself in Leelanau County, Michigan, make a stop at Cherry Republic!
1I am using a political geography term when I use “state”. By “state”, I refer to a sovereign body with actual boundaries, its own laws, and its own government.