member profile by Diana Popp
‘NEATH THE BIRCHES:
The best bus stop in Mackinaw city
It’s easy to be lulled into thinking
but can easily be changed to accom-
and 20% from alcohol beverage sales.
‘Neath the Birches is just another
modate large groups. The views out
“People are just drinking less than
humble restaurant located in Mich-
the windows show off the woodland
they used to,” Marvel said, adding to
igan’s north country. Surrounded
the chorus of what everyone in the
by birch trees and woodlands, the
Marvel Jones has owned the res-
hospitality industry already knows.
restaurant is a quiet oasis in the
taurant for 37 years. Jones, a native
Jones also allowed that running
hustle-bustle of tourist season in
of Allen Park, and her husband Bill
restaurants is now a family trait. Her
started vacationing in the area after
son, Glenn, is the food service leasee
However, once inside it is another
World War II. They bought the res-
for two very popular restaurants in
kind of place: the tables are freshly
taurant in 1970 and she continues to
downtown Mackinaw City: the Light-
set with deep red carnations, char-
work there even though Bill passed
house Restaurant and Anna’s Buffet.
coal-colored linen tablecloths, and
away quite some time ago.
“He used to work here but he got too
pleated red napkins. The tables are
“At 84, I’m the oldest cook in
big for his britches,” she laughed.
grouped for groups of two or four
Mackinaw City,” Marvel boasted
quietly. The menu features steaks,
Tourism and local trade
seafood, prime rib, and white fish and
includes daily specials. Desserts are
One of the more interesting things
about ‘Neath the Birches is how they
In fact, it’s the cooking and baking
have accessed the tourist trade.
that Jones likes the best about the
Mackinaw City is a prime tourist
restaurant business. The aroma of
attraction for several reasons: it is
fresh baked yeast rolls and prime rib
a launch point for Mackinac Island
cooked perfectly permeate the place.
and it has the historic Fort Mackinaw,
“Sometimes people come back to the
complete with re-enactments of his-
kitchen because they want to meet
toric battles during the summer. It’s
me,” Jones said with a smile.
also the location of one of the most
About 80 percent of the business
beautiful campgrounds in Michigan
Marvel Jones, owner of ‘Neath the Birches.
income is derived from food sales
on the western side of the Straits
10 Michigan Beverage Journal October 2007
of Mackinac. And don’t forget the
that rely on tourism.”
the menus and wine list.
Mackinac Bridge, which celebrated its
‘Neath the Birches advertises in
It is obvious that ‘Neath the Birches
50 th birthday in July, 2007.
local papers that are gobbled up by
is a place for people who like good
The local convention and tour-
tourists and locals alike. “We do a
food and who enjoy the wildlife and
ism bureau does an excellent job of
lot of local trade for dinner,” Jones
wilderness that is the attraction of
advertising the Mackinaw City area.
said, “as well as anniversary parties
Michigan’s north woods country. n
There are numerous bus tours to
and weddings.” The seating capacity
Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island.
is 112. If the special events include
‘Neath the Birches is located on
Festivals, historical reenactments and
more than 80 people, the restaurant
old US 131, one mile south of Macki-
activities, and fall color tours are de-
will close down for the parties.
naw City. Reservations are recom-
signed to appeal literally to busloads
Jones also has brochures for her
mended for dinner at (231) 436 – 5401.
business located in local hotels – a
You can also visit their website at:
This has proven to be an excellent
prime advertising spot for all local
way to promote ‘Neath the Birches
For more information on market-
and to keep it profitable over the
ing to tour buses, contact the Ameri-
years. On the day of our interview,
Wildlife and wilderness can Bus Association at: (800) 283-2877.
Jones had just finished feeding a bus
Their conference schedule is also
tour of over 100.
The squirrels and chipmunks scat-
available at http://marketplace.issi.
“We do a fair amount of bus
ter across the ground underneath
net/2008/market.html. Please note
tours in the summer,” acknowledged
the birches and the blooming flow-
that the next conference is scheduled
Marvel. “My son and a friend of his
ers. The rabbits hop to the nearest
for early February. If you would like
went to trade shows, sponsored by
brush. Occasionally deer find their
to attend or book exhibit space, email
the American Bus Association, held
way to charm the customers. A big
them at email@example.com.
in Texas and Tennessee last year to
bear (fake, thank goodness!) greets
If you’re thinking about making
promote our businesses at our own
customers at the front door. Near the
the bus tour connection, you can also
bar, Marvel has photos of bears that
contact your local convention and
However, in terms of non-bus traf-
are prone to helping themselves if the
visitors bureau. A list is located on the
fic she said “High gas prices are having
opportunity presents itself. Wildlife is
Internet at: http://www.michiganweb.
an impact on all of our businesses
visually promoted in the designs of