Wine trail effort underway to boost local economy
ARENAC COUNTY — Efforts by wineries and breweries throughout Northeast Michigan are underway to promote the Sunrise Side Wine and Hops Trail, a wine trail that would run from Arenac County all the way north to Mackinaw City.
According to Jeff Czymbor, co-founder of Modern Craft Winery in Au Gres, the goal of the trail is to draw more visitors to this region of the state, and ideally, bring more dollars to the businesses here and possibly draw people to retire here.
“The object is to draw people to Northeast Michigan, and then everyone benefits,” he said. “If we can increase the traffic coming up to Northeast Michigan, a certain percentage will come up, realize it’s a nice place, and maybe decide to get a retirement home up here, which helps out our real estate.”
“It’s basically for all the businesses in Northeast Michigan,” Czymbor added. “What they make and how they keep in business is related to how many people come up, so if we can improve that number the more they can improve and the more new businesses can open.”
The Au Gres City Council agreed that it could be a boost to the local economy, and passed a resolution on Feb. 5 throwing their support behind the trail. Mayor LaVern Dittenber said he supported additional collaborating with the trail going forward, as well.
The trail highlights locations in the region, from wineries like Modern Craft Winery, Rose Valley Winery in Rose City, and Nicholas’s Black river Vineyard & Winery in Cheboygan, to breweries in Alpena, Oscoda and Cheboygan. Czymbor said it also highlights attractions in the area, such as the AuSable River Queen in Oscoda, Charity Island excursions from Au Gres and the Saganing Eagles Landing Casino near Standish.
In all, it currently features seven wineries and three breweries, according to Czymbor.
He said the trail is advertising itself through Pure Michigan’s Hotspots of Michigan campaign, allowing it to advertise in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and the cities of Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Grand Rapids.
Advertising the trail has been attempted in years past, but Czymbor said there was little deeper involvement by the wineries and breweries at the time, and so it eventually faded away. This time he said they have formed it into a legal entity and have a very busy group of people involved who work on it.
Czymbor said this has meant everybody has been working through the winter on the campaign, but he believes it will pay off.
“We’re spending a lot of hours on it,” he said. “Everyone is excited about (the trail), and will use this for our campaigns year-round.”
The group has built a website, www.sunrisesidewineandhopstrail.com, and has been leaving flyers and cards at a variety of tourism offices promoting the trail.