Traverse City News and Events

Make Believe Pizza Opening Brick-and-Mortar Shop, Indoor Go-Kart Center Targeting Summer Opening in Cherryland Center

By Beth Milligan | Feb. 1, 2024

Make Believe Pizza – a Traverse City pop-up with a cult following that has sometimes experienced sell-outs in minutes – is opening a brick-and-mortar location in Slabtown next month. The Ticker has the details on that and other local restaurant and retail news, including an update on a planned indoor K1 Speed go-kart racing center at the Cherryland Center now targeting a summer 2024 opening.

Make Believe Pizza
Like most people during the pandemic, Traverse City artists and partners Jack Senff and Em Randall found themselves with extra time on their hands in 2020. They used that time to study “the wild art of dough making,” Senff says, perfecting their take on handcrafted pies (pictured, left) they began selling through donation-based pickup parties at their house. The following they built for their East Coast-inspired whole pizzas, bread bites (“nuggies”), and from-scratch desserts helped land them a five-month pop-up last year at Bubbie’s Bagels – with weekly ordering slots for Make Believe Pizza sometimes selling out in minutes.

Now, Senff and Randall are ready to take the next step and expand into a full-time brick-and-mortar location. “Our version of full time probably doesn’t align with most people’s idea of what or how a food business should operate,” notes Senff. “We’re planning on three nights a week most of the year, and then four during the summer when our town balloons for the season. We’re both full-time artists, and we love to travel, and keeping things manageable for Make Believe means we don’t have to sacrifice our life or art while still being able to make the pizza dream come true.”

Senff and Randall found the right partner in Tom Gretzmacher of West Side Beverage in Slabtown. The duo will take over the deli space in the back of the West Front Street store, targeting an early March opening with plans to operate Thursday-Saturday (adding Wednesday in the summer) from 4pm-8pm. Customers will use an online ordering system to place preorders each day from 10am to 2pm. “It sounds a little crazy if you aren’t familiar with the concept, but it’s gone over fine the last two years and is something you find a lot in bigger cities,” says Senff. “Think of it like making a day-of dinner reservation.” 

The menu will be small and change every few weeks, with toppings ranging from the traditional to the unconventional (a special last summer, the “Panzanella,” had olive oil, mozzarella, pockets of ramp cream cheese, artichokes, slow-roasted tomatoes, croutons, and parsley). As vegetarians, Senff and Randall use all plant-based proteins. “We make our own sausage out of beans, utilize tempeh instead of bacon, and there’s a pepperoni from the company Beyond that is truly mind-blowing in how close it is to the so-called real thing,” says Senff. “We also make our own cashew-based mozzarella for a dairy-free cheese alternative and do our best to make everything a pretty simple one-to-one swap for the vegans.” 

K1 Speed
After navigating construction and funding delays, Dr. Ulysses Walls – a northern Michigan cardiologist who has purchased the formers Sears building and is planning to bring a K1 Speed indoor go-kart racing center (pictured, right) to Traverse City – has started renovations with the goal of opening the business by August 1.

Walls has a team of local contractors – including RCI and Keen Technical Solutions – working on the buildout, which will soon be home to “high-performance all-electric go-karts for junior, teen, and adult drivers, a professionally designed indoor track, an exhilarating arcade, two meeting rooms for parties and events, and a Paddock Lounge café offering an array of food and drink choices,” according to a press release. K1 Speed is known for go-karts that can reach 25 miles per hour for younger drivers and up to 45 miles per hour for older drivers, which the company claims make them “the fastest carts in the industry.”

Walls originally hoped to open last summer but acknowledges 2023 “was a difficult year for development,” adding that “many businesses canceled projects because of rising construction costs and high interest rates.” But, he says, “this project is too important to my children – and all my friends and family – for me to cancel. The people of Traverse City really want a K1 Speed. The public enthusiasm for high-speed indoor kart racing is incredible.”

The arcade will include the “latest high-tech player motion VR games,” Walls says. He hopes to bring more family-oriented projects to Traverse City in the future – mentioning the possibility of a roller-skating rink or indoor trampoline park – though those projects would occur in other locations.

Other local updates...
> Bicycle shop Wild Card Cycle Works is on the move. The business has closed its doors on West Front Street and is reopening today (Thursday) in its new home at 1029 Hannah Avenue. The company offers a wide range of bikes, parts, accessories, merch, and nutrition products, in addition to service and repairs.

> Legacy Aviation Learning Center is hosting a public ribbon cutting Friday from 10am to 11am at 2640 Aero Park Drive. The center describes itself as the “premier aviation education facility working to grow a community of aviation enthusiasts through accessible opportunities that attract and educate the next generation of aviation professionals.” Legacy Aviation has a partnership with Northwest Education Services (North Ed) Career Tech in the Aviation Maintenance Program to provide “approximately 50 students in grades 11 and 12 with the general prerequisite modules of the airframe and powerplant (A&P) certification as AMTs,” according to the center’s website.

> Two Traverse City businesses are expanding or relocating to Leelanau County. Jaffe Wade, owner of Evergreen Consignment on Eighth Street, is purchasing the store she originally started in 2003: Jaffe’s Resale and Consignment in Lake Leelanau. Current owners Phil and Pat Thies are retiring after almost 19 years operating Jaffe’s. Wade will rebrand the store as Evergreen Consignment effective April 1, mirroring her Traverse City store. Meanwhile, owner Kelly Kehl of Little Beauty Kitchen will be closing her space above What to Wear at the end of February as she moves to Northport. Kehl has said she plans to reopen the practice in Leelanau County.

> Finally, two new food options are coming online today (Thursday) in Traverse City. NoBo Market in the Commongrounds Cooperative building at the intersection of Eighth Street and Boardman Avenue is soft launching its dinner menu this weekend, offering customers a chance to “be the first to taste test our menu and give us feedback.” Dinner will run Thursday-Monday from 5pm-9pm. At The Little Fleet, new pop-up Corn Crib by Farm Club will start a month-long residency tonight. The corn-themed pop-up features menu items like pozole rojo, corn dog, tostada, grits and greens, grilled cheese, and corn short bread.

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