Restaurateurs’ Sante eatery to anchor $12M development

BOYNE CITY/TC – The Traverse City company that brought Pearl's New Orleans Kitchen and Red Mesa Grill to the region is embarking on a new adventure: a European-style bistro on Lake Charlevoix in Boyne City.

Magnum Hospitality's Santé will anchor Catt Development's $12 million One Water USA project.

"Magnum was my first choice because I love their Red Mesa and Pearl's restaurant concepts," says Glen Catt, whose grandfather founded the Glen's Market chain. "I was sold after my first meeting with [Magnum owners Mary Palmer, Fred Moore and Jim Cartwright] and made the decision right then that I wasn't going to pursue anyone else, and do whatever it took to make them part of our project."

Construction on the commercial building is well underway, with the opening planned for June.

"I hope we're going to draw people in; I think we've shown our ability to do that," Moore says. "Boyne City is a growing community; it's very progressive and a great community to do business in. They've been helpful and supportive."

The building will also house the administration offices of Michigan Community Dental Clinics and the office of Kidd & Leavy Real Estate. Catt is currently negotiating with a retailer for the remaining 1,500 square feet of space.

A 24-slip marina – slated to be operational by Memorial Day – will round out phase one. Catt hopes to start on a 37-room hotel and 17 condominium suites overlooking Lake Charlevoix this fall, depending on interest in the hotel suites. "We're gearing up to be ready to market and presale the hotel suites this summer."

Thanks to a Brownfield grant, Catt Development can be reimbursed up to $1 million in cleanup costs. The site is reportedly contaminated with debris from former uses as a commercial boat dock and railroad roundhouse.

A Little R & D…

So, how do you design a restaurant that is totally European? You go to Europe, of course. Moore and Palmer (whose list of accomplishments includes first female chef at Chicago's famous Drake Hotel) recently took a "dining tour" of Paris and Rome, and hope to incorporate many of their findings.

"As with all of our concepts, we try to transport our guests," Moore says. "Hopefully, people who've traveled there will see some of these elements and say, 'I saw these in Barcelona or Paris,' for example."

They plan to offer cuisine from all over Europe – at affordable prices, Palmer stresses. Some of the offerings, such as pizza, fish and veggies, will be cooked in a wood-fired oven. They'll carry lighter items for breakfast, like quiches and tortes, and then ramp it up with entrees for lunch and dinner.

All of the wines will be European, and Ed Brehm, owner of Boyne Country Provisions, will work with Magnum on an ongoing basis to deliver some of what Palmer calls "fun wines."

Moore admits coming up with the right concept and name has been tougher than when they opened the original Red Mesa in Boyne in 1997, or when they opened Pearl's six months later.

"We're trying not to be too French or too Italian, so that's created some challenges," he says.

But one thing that hasn't been challenging – despite the nature of the biz – is the relationship between the partners. They appear to run their eateries without harming other's toes or egos.

Moore is the "operations guy." Palmer oversees all things edible. And Cartwright handles most of the banking and insurance paperwork. But all three are just as likely to be bussing tables, washing dishes and cooking on a busy evening, says Moore, who started with Schelde Enterprises as a bartender and eventually became director of operations.

"We wear many hats, and we've all done it all," he says.

This tri-fold seamlessness could help explain how sales company-wide have increased five percent this past year.

"It's certainly better than last year when we were down about seven percent," Moore says. "So, we're not back to 2007 levels, but we like where we are and have an optimistic viewpoint. We've worked on our business, our efficiency and – from a profit standpoint – we're doing better than we've ever done."

Magnum's opus

Between the three restaurants, Magnum employs 150 and Moore expects the Boyne restaurant to add another 50 jobs to the market. "I estimate we'll have $500,000 up there in annual payroll."

"Hopefully, we're providing meaningful jobs and teaching young people how to work and giving them a good working environment," he adds. "We always put our employees first and that's been the cornerstone. If we have the best employees, then we'll, in turn, have the best food."

Another cornerstone of the business is philanthropy. The first Thursday of every month, Magnum Hospitality donates five percent of company sales to food pantries in northern Michigan via its "Help Everyone Eat" program.

Since 2007, the program has provided more than $40,000 to support the efforts of The Father Fred Foundation, the Elk Rapids Community Cupboard and Boyne area pantries via The Manna Food Project. BN