As the air grows crisp, the days grow shorter, and Michiana trades in fiery temperatures for flame-colored leaves, it’s time to gear up for one last Pure Michigan hoorah.
Whatever your destination, bypass I-94 and enjoy a rambling drive down Red Arrow Highway through Harbor Country—a group of eight small, lake-hugging towns that roll out beaches, wineries, cool shops, and high-octane charm.
For a real taste of the local vibe and distinct backcountry flavor, no trip to Harbor Country is complete without a stop at Union Pier’s Whistle Stop Grocery.
Whistle Stop Grocery has been in operation since 1995 and was recently purchased by its third owner, Cynthia Berkshire.
“My family and I have been shopping at the store regularly since it first opened,” says Cynthia. “So when a ‘for sale’ sign appeared on the side of the building, we knew we wanted it to continue.”
After purchasing the business in late 2014, Cynthia closed for renovations and reopened Whistle Stop Grocery in May 2015.
“I didn’t want to change the name of the business, but I wanted to move away from ‘grocery’ and more towards specialty market,” says Cynthia.
With limited space, Cynthia says they are incredibly thoughtful about what goes on the shelves at Whistle Stop. “We stock some pantry basics to save our customers a trip to town, but we are really passionate about showcasing and sharing the best of what the area has to offer and our favorite finds discovered on our travels,” says Cynthia.
In addition to modernizing the store to create a vibe that mingles easygoing rusticity with the cosmopolitan influence of big-city visitors, Cynthia brought in an experienced culinary team so Whistle Stop could offer a seasonally-changing menu of from-scratch fare all made by hand using fresh and local ingredients.
Whistle Stop’s chicken salad and sandwiches are the stuff gourmet picnic dreams are made of. Then there’s the daily display of Instagrammable pastries, including brioche tarts you’ll be telling anyone who will listen in almost graphic detail about, flaky kolachkes oozing with in-season fruits, and cake by the slice (particularly chocolate, which is moist beyond imagination and chocolaty like no tomorrow).
Whistle Stop Grocery also quenches all your beverage needs from a handpicked selection of wine and craft beer to rotating flavors of kombucha on tap and really, really good coffee.
“When we first opened, we knew the store needed to be a place for great coffee and we wanted to offer custom roasts to have more creative control and to ensure exceptional quality,” says Cynthia. “We now partner with Red Arrow Roasters who roasts all of our Whistle Stop labeled offerings.”
Whether picking up provisions on your way to a tailgate, vineyard tour, u-pick apple orchard, hike in the sand dunes, or what have you, Whistle Stop’s phone and online ordering as well as their Grab & Go cooler make it easy to fuel any autumnal adventure. Or, opt to stay a while and relax on Whistle Stop’s sun-kissed gravel patio that feels more Martha’s Vineyard than Michiana.
No matter what kind of vacationer you are, Whistle Stop Grocery somehow seems to stock everything you need—even an assortment of locally-made artisan goods that make the perfect thank you gift for all the pet sitters and plant waterers that made your last-minute Michiana getaway possible.