It is amazing to me that it was 19 years ago today that Christen and I were cutting potatoes to soak in water, making romescu sauce for hash burritos, and finishing the fine details of opening Kejara’s Bridge for the first time. In ways it seems like ages ago, and in moments like now when I write about these memories, they peel off my memory like they happened yesterday. I marvel at the transformation that has occurred in Lake Leelanau, or what we in LL fondly refer to as “the hood.”
Here is my clever way of getting all my minds rants in one blog…and hope to have you engaged for the majority of it. Here goes:
*1996 Dad in CA. Talking about moving back. Wants to start an angel store. (Yes, as in selling all things angel.) The Hot Spot is up for auction. He offers a land contract for building.
*Christen is helping him sort details of buying Hot Spot as he is far away. He asks if we want to help with the Angel store. I have no interest. At all.
*Ck and I start talking about what me and Corradini twins had dreamed about on our return from Ireland & Europe: hostel, bar, music, art, clean food.
*Kejara’s conception. We didn’t know that was the moment. But we do now.
*October 1996 sign on building. Dad’s angel store 0. Our community based coffee house art gallery music venue 1. Major renovations begin. Dad. Kerry. Christen. Molly. Simon. School Lake Road. Worked full time for TV7&4 as a photographer from 4pm to midnight and worked on Hot Spot all other hours. Christen (Ck….Christen Kelly) worked at Leelanau Country Inn full time and all other hours at Kejara’s. Constant help from Molly, Simon, Kerry, Mom, Dad, sisters, Jon Pace, Andy Shudlich, Jeremy Anderson, Arden, Colby and a billion others.
*Quit day jobs. Open Mother’s Day, 1997. Work 75 plus hours a week. Take turns sleeping in office chair…even lost time as we both fell asleep one slow afternoon doing paperwork on the half moon couch on stage. Awoke with drool on cheek. Unaware of how long we slipped from reality. Long hours. Living the dream. Young and beautifully naive.
*Jacqueline Landry. Our first employee. Three redheaded sisters working together in a 500 sq foot kitchen. Tons of laughs maybe a few tears.
*Meet Aaron one month after we open. Walks in with Laurent and Colby. I whisper to Jackie while he looks at menu boards up front while leaning on mosaic pole, “Now that is the kind of good looking I like”. :)
*Amazing support. Friends, family…community. Local art on walls. Drums circles. A little night music was born. A few food items. Find out fast that we need more food to sell. Mom is worried we won’t offer a burger and fries. Wants us to succeed. Not sure Leelanau is ready for the farm to table concept. She is right, but with a bit of hanging in there….happens.
*Four years later. Really starting to get busy in the summer. Our peeps keep us going in the winter. Lots of nights on the beach, late nights at the bluebird, songsinging and saxophone playing, coaching volleyball, travelled the east coast, travelled the west coast, went back to Ireland, added breakfast to menu. Worked 70/80 hour work weeks….still:)
*2003 beginnings of marketing “The Redheads” hummus at the Leland Merc and Hansen Foods. Thanks Joanie and Joe & Dave and Leslie for helping us launch this product line! Cathy, who is our aunt, helped us develop brand and marketing strategies. Christen led one while I ran the other….flipped flopped a few times over the next few years on who would run what. Production at night….late. Deliveries to Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids weekly. Kejara’s at full tilt.
*2004 Aaron and I get hitched. Awesome fun wedding. Amazing family and friends. Epic celebration.
*2006 Olive Louise Landry Ryder born. Sarah Felicity Landry Ryder is reborn. Motherhood is amazing, fantastic, challenging and awesome in it’s truest definition. 2007 Titus William is still born. 2008 Edwin James Landry Ryder is born healthy and at home. Kathi Mulder is an angel on earth. Helped us birth all three. Depth of life deepens.
*Next four years keep business going strong. Ck looking for a change. Wants to shift. I debate next move. Decide to take business over. Olive 4…Wyn 2. Busy days….sleepless nights!
*Kroger. Cherry Capital Foods. Big growth. Bring Kejara’s Bridge back…open for breakfast and lunch. Rebrand all to The Redheads.
*2016!!!!!!!!!!!!! New production facility at the Cherry Capital Foods building in Traverse City. Finishing floors as I type (or Aaron is…God love him). BIG move to Tc. Cafe stays open 7 days a week in summer. Chef Fig runs the kitchen. Jessica runs me…as she should. Craig and Matt run production. Kerry runs outreach. DREAM TEAM. Grateful. Blessed. Present.
Thank you for this journey. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to live a vital and authentic life. It has been beyond thrilling. Thanks to all our customers and vendors for “buying” what we are selling. And a special thanks to all the people (and I am sure after all these years I have missed-a-many so please forgive me) off the top of my head for their direct time in making Kejara’s and The Redheads what it is today as being a part of our staff:
Jacqueline, Elizabeth, Heather, Ramsey, Lindsey, Sara Schwartz, Michi, Emily Jablonski, Emily Jo, Matthew, Kerry, Jennifer, Diane, Cory, Rose, Jazzy, Matt-turbo, Sarah Wright, Esther, Nate, Paul, Vanessa, Sarah Lutz, Caitlin, Amelia, Addy, Hannah, Sam, Rachel, Bradley, Tom, Missy, Lee, Jessie Berg, Darrin, Jamie, Natasha, Whitney, Jenna Lee, Jessica, Ben, Sidney, Bethy, Andrea, Elizabeth Sutherland, Savannah, Kaitlyn, Kira, Lizzie, Murielle, Emma, Craig, Matt, Sherry, Lydia, Hannah Seamus, Jack, Eli, Katie, Julie, Andy, Brian, J.W, Kolene, Austin, Chef Fig, Nikki.
To my insanely incredible friends. For listening, supporting and making my life rich and full.
To my Dad and Mom for their endless support, my sisters for everything, my husband for his no questions asked believing in me as well as all his hours behind the scenes, my beautiful, amazing children, Olive and Edwin for the best of all life …for all the Ryder’s, Landry’s, Irwin’s, Bullington’s.
I am amazed that I am still here…with all of this. And the growth and the creative and the challenge and the ease and the unbelievable people….all the way around. I didn’t know the destination was going to get here and I am not certain where the next 19 will lead, but I am undoubtably grateful and extremely fulfilled with the life I have here in the hood , in Leelanau, with you. Blessed be. My eyes are overflowing with tears.
I am basking in this time of reflection right now and am deeply excited about the music Aaron, David and I are performing on Saturday, in the most fabulous room to play in, with folks who rejoice in the movement, with a Chef who loves food and life and connection, and with artwork my daughter and I have been creating the last few months, and with memories of an incredible dream taken to flight 19 years ago.
This is where the time has gone.
Nothing but love,