It was 1938 and the Brown family had extra honey. Mary Brown decided to let her grandchildren, Mary Lou and Gary, sell the excess at a roadside honey stand in front of their family farm, named Brownwood. They flew through honey that summer and the older generations got excited. One hive became two, then three, then four. Sugar rations came into action due to World War II. Normally a delicacy sent home with dinner guest, she began to sell Cherry Butter and Kream Mustard, which she was able to sweeten with her honey. In 1945 these products hit the shelves in the families newly built one-room roadside market they named the, “Honey House”. At this point, three generations of the Brown family were working at the shops.
The original Honey House circa 1960’s.
By 1951, the one-room market had expanded to three rooms and more space was needed. Mary Louise, in an effort to rescue an old building while bringing an unique new space, purchased the one room Grass Lake School House, Antrim Counties first school. Originally built in 1875, the historic buildings relocation would help set up what would become a small "village" of shops.
The “School House” circa 1960’s.
Business continued to boom. In 1957, in further efforts to expand on the grounds, Mary Louise purchased the run down Eastport Inn. Built in 1866, the Eastport Inn was originally a Stage Coach stop. During the logging era the Inn was known for being a one stop shop conventionally located half way between Traverse City and Petoskey. The building would need to be moved nearly 4 miles to reach the Brownwood grounds. When the cable companies denied Morse’s request to cut the line to move the structure, she was left with only one option.
Morse hired a team of local movers to bring the building across Torch Lake's ice and snow in the winter of 1957. Towing the Inn behind a truck on a set of I-beams, trouble "struck” just off shore. The I-beams being used to move the building caught a freeze-thaw crack in the ice. The ice splintered as a crowd watched the building begin to sink below the top layer of ice.
The "Eastport Inn" halfway through the ice on frozen Torch Lake!
After careful deliberations, an ice cutter and moving crew were able to cut a channel and winch the building to shore. Rebuilt as planned, the building turned into the staple of the Brownwood shops. A Tea Room was added to the side of the building for lunch, homemade Jarred goods stocked the shelves, and penny candies filled children’s eyes with glee.
Mary Brown, Gary Morse, Mary Lou Morse, circa 1970’s.
In 1962, as Mary Lou was in the process of taking over the reigns at the Shops, Gary and his wife, Sharon, turned the family “Farmhouse” into a dining destination. By the 1970’s the “small village” that is Brownwood Acres was figuratively and literally rocking. Gary brought in talented musicians and had live entertainment year round. Crowds poured in from all over to check out this unique restaurant venue. The family even put in cross country ski trails, which doubled in the summer as trails for their authentic Stage Coach which offered rides to Central Lake.
Cross country skiers in front of the Brownwood restaurant.
In 1980, Steve deTar, Mary Lou’s oldest son and the fourth generation of the family, took over production of the Jarred Goods. Already famous for our Cherry Butter and Kream Mustard, Steve wanted to grow the line of products. He quickly added new favorites such as Cherry BBQ and Cherry Salsa. Soon he needed more space for production and a fourth building was added to the campus.
Finally, where are we now? The original shops have now been turned over the the fifth generation of Brown family members, brothers Jordan and Weston deTar. The boys also help their brother, Hunter and father, Steve at the business headquarters in Eastport.