Posted by: Kath Usitalo | August 18, 2009

A Sunday Afternoon in Suttons Bay

Suttons Bay car phone

Suttons Bay car phone

In yesterday’s post about The Happy Woman and Suttons Bay I mentioned that I thought someday we’d live in that “Little Finger” Leelanau Peninsula town on Lake Michigan.

Here’s a bit of Too Much Information: When we bought our current residence in the Detroit area, the plan was to move to the vicinity of Traverse City within 5 years. We wore out the welcome mat at every realtor in town looking at potential home/workspaces; I was especially enamored of the old stone schoolhouse that was for sale in Suttons Bay. I thought it would be a great combination residence and studio for our creative pursuits.

Sigh. After 25 years we’re still here in the same house here in the 313.


Suttons Bay Fish art_0153

Flash forward: When I first met Kim Schneider I screamed (not without major envy), “You’re living my life!”

That she did not abandon me after such a random outburst is a tribute to the kind of person she is.

Kim is a travel writer living in Suttons Bay with a husband who is around the house all day (he works from a home office), and their two kids are close in age to ours: son just graduated high school, daughter is entering her senior year of high school. (One big difference besides the geography: Kim is on staff at a newspaper—check out her blog at—and I’m a freelancer.)

Brilliant Books, "Quality Fact & Literary Fiction for Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness"

Brilliant Books, "Quality Fact & Literary Fiction for Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness"

We met for brunch in her town earlier this summer, and afterwards took a short walk along main street where Kim knew all the locals at the bookstore, on the sidewalk…it was like an episode of the cable TV chick-series the Gilmore Girls: Kim was Lorelai, her daughter Kayleigh was Rory, and I was the outsider visiting their town of Stars Hollow (aka Suttons Bay), which is populated by quirky characters.

Suffice it to say, when I win the Lotto I will buy the 7-season collection of Gilmore Girls on DVD (or Blue Ray or whatever technology is in vogue then) and make the current owners of that Suttons Bay stone schoolhouse an offer they can’t refuse.

In the meantime, I enjoyed my summer Sunday afternoon in Suttons Bay. We ate at Martha’s Leelanau Table Cafe, which noted Chef Mario Batali has called out in Esquire Magazine’s Spring Big Black Book.

Martha and her cafe

Martha and her cafe

The restaurateur and TV personality Batali, who has a home in the Grand Traverse region, cited Martha’s “simple Alice Waters sensibility” in his praise for the casual spot.

While Kim and I enjoyed  the sunny patio, the aproned Martha Herself bussed tables and stopped to chat about her first such venture. Cool lady and, as Batali says, hers is a “great restaurant to chill at.”

There are plenty of beautiful boats in the Suttons Bay Marina, but I want to know about the Basil John (foreground)

There are plenty of beautiful boats in the Suttons Bay Marina, but I want to know about the Basil John (foreground)

Suttons Bay Artists_0159

One of Rapid River artist Ritch Branstrom‘s found object sculptures in front  of the Michigan Artists Gallery, dedicated to the creations of local photographers, painters, and folk, mixed media and ceramic artists.

Did I mention that Suttons Bay is located in wine country?




  1. My in-laws used to live near Traverse City and we traveled up to Suttons Bay at least once or twice. It looked like a wonderful place to live!

    • No chain businesses and they even have a movie theater (very important)!

  2. The Suttons Bay car phone pic is a winner — you should enter it in a contest!

  3. When I win the lotto I’m buying that car!

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