New Crop of TC Delivery Businesses Will Bring Everything From Shampoo to Cocktail Mixers to Pepperoni Rolls to Your Doorstep
By Beth Milligan | March 30, 2021
Forget brick-and-mortar locations: The newest crop of Traverse City businesses are bucking tradition and launching with delivery-only models, bringing goods as diverse as cleaning supplies and personal care items to cocktail mixers to baked goods directly to customers’ doorsteps.
Owner Sarah Lange of The Refillery Traverse City is one of the newest entrepreneurs on the scene centered on a delivery and shipping-only model. Her company, which launched March 1, focuses on sustainable, all-natural products ranging from bamboo toothbrushes and plastic-free hair ties to biodegradable kids bandages and eco-friendly pet toys. While those products can be shipped anywhere, the centerpiece of Lange’s business is a local delivery-only category called Refillables.
Customers within a 12-mile delivery range of Lange’s base of operations on Grandview Road in Traverse City can purchase products like all-purpose cleaner spray, shampoo and conditioner, laundry soap, and body lotion in a choice of different-sized glass and aluminum bottles. Initial orders require a flat $2 deposit for bottles; when customers run out of product, they order a refill online and set out their rinsed empty bottles on their doorstep, which are swapped out with new filled bottles of product.
“It’s basically the milk man but just with soap instead of milk,” explains Lange. “These refill shops are popping up all over the place, especially in California. This is something I thought would go over really well in Traverse City, and I just decided to go for it.” Lange says the goal is to eliminate single-use plastics – she herself receives product from suppliers in reusable five-gallon buckets and carboys in what she calls a “closed-loop system” – and to provide all-natural alternatives to chemical-filled cleaning and personal care products. An overwhelming response to her launch has prompted Lange to consider additional pick-up locations; she will be a vendor at an April 24 Earth Day event at Jacob’s Farm TC and is working to secure a storefront that would allow customers to bring in their own containers for product refills.
Lange attributes an increased demand for cleaning supplies and customer preference for contactless delivery during the pandemic as some of the factors likely contributing to her early success. Those comments are echoed by other Traverse City entrepreneurs with delivery-only models who are seeing similar success with quarantine-friendly products like cocktail mixers and comfort food. Adrian Juarez, a long-time veteran of the Los Angeles hospitality industry before relocating to Traverse City last year with his partner, helped run a pasta and pantry delivery service during the early months of the pandemic in L.A. The experience inspired him to launch Iris Cocktail Co. in Traverse City in October.
Drawing on his bartending background, Juarez uses local ingredients and handmade bitters to create a variety of cocktail mixers – or cordials – that include a seasonal margarita, old-fashioned, cherry cosmo, apple sour, and a handful of other varietals, including rotating seasonal specials. The alcohol-free cordials can be enjoyed on their own, or customers can add their own spirits at home to make craft cocktails. Iris Cocktail Co. delivers the cordials in neatly packaged glass bottles within a 20+-mile range of Traverse City every Sunday; a selection of product is also for sale at EB2 Vintage on Eighth Street.
“Cocktail bars were something a lot of us couldn’t experience for quite some time, so we wanted to make a similar-tasting beverage accessible to everybody while having convenience and safety,” Juarez says. Sales have been strong enough that Juarez is switching production facilities – orders are paused this week during the transition, but will reopen Monday – and is in talks with local distilleries about including the cordials in to-go cocktail kits. He hopes to expand his range of cordials and also introduce cocktails with alcohol included in the future.
Food products have also been a hit with at-home customers. For a school project, local high school senior Brooklyn Hall partnered with her mother Megan Hall to launch a delivery service for home-baked pepperoni rolls, a snack staple in West Virginia where Megan Hall grew up. The soft, fluffy dough rolls with pepperoni baked in the middle “are in all the bakeries, the grocery stores, the gas stations in West Virginia,” says Megan. “It’s a literal staple, but it’s extremely difficult to find them (outside of West Virginia).”
With Megan helping Brooklyn learn all aspects of running a business – from marketing to inventory to customer service – the Halls launched Brooklyns Pepperoni Rolls at the end of February. The company sells six-packs of pepperoni rolls for $10 and delivers once a week in a wide radius around Traverse City. Initial runs of 75 rolls sold out quickly, prompting the Halls to double weekly production to more than 150. The popularity of the rolls have prompted the duo to begin negotiations for a shared commercial kitchen space on the east side of Traverse City – which will have a retail component – and to plan a presence at the Red Dresser Barn Market on May 28 and The Village at Grand Traverse Commons Farmers Market this summer. “These rolls have always been a part of our lives, but sharing it with the community has been really amazing,” says Megan.
Ponyboy Bake Drop and Lost Village Pierogi have also cultivated cult followings in Traverse City without the benefit of a local brick-and-mortar storefront. After closing their Suttons Bay restaurant Gold Baby Biscuits last spring, Alicia Manson and Lyndsey Egli launched “super small-time baked goods delivery service” Ponyboy Bake Drop. The pair post tantalizing photos of weekly rotating goods like chocolate cakes, cinnamon rolls, and sticky buns on Instagram; customers text in their orders, pay via Venmo, and lock in their free delivery (Ponyboy occasionally offers meet-up locations as well). Meanwhile, Lost Village Pierogi – which has a brick-and-mortar location in Petoskey – has offered several special drive-up events in other communities including Traverse City and Cheboygan. Customers order a range of homemade Polish staples in advance – including 20 different varieties of pierogi, potato pancakes, Kapusta (fried cabbage and sweet onion), sauerkraut, and kielbasa dogs – and select a time on the event date for pickup. Upcoming pop-up events are promoted on the company’s Facebook page.Comment