At the ripe old ages of 12 and 14, Hawthorn and Colebrook Sutherland spent the summer getting more involved in the family business.
“It is very gratifying bringing my sons into the business,” says Cherry Republic owner Bob Sutherland. “Also, I get to see my company through a totally different lens when they are working. They will help me understand Cherry Republic better, as I will get their perspective on products, customers, staff, etc.”
The boys began working in mid-June offering samples to interested customers.
“We are in the process of shifting to outdoor sampling due to COVID, and it will take some time for our customers to notice, so hopefully he will be hollering like a paper boy, ‘Extra! Extra! Come get your free Ruby Red samples of joy!’” Sutherland said during the summer.
The boys have been working a few hours here and there for the last eight years, so the transition to spending more time at the store and taking on more tasks wasn’t difficult. Among its extensive line of cherry products are several types of wine and hard cider.
“Selling cherry lemonade, fresh cherries and Petoskeys (stones) and some driftwood crafts, they are starting out simply right now,” Sutherland says. “I write about my sons every week or so to thousands of customers, so many of our customers already know them, and this has connected my boys to the business even better that they know that many customers already know them.”
Sutherland grew up in northern Michigan and says his parents were a big influence when it came to starting a business.
“My parents moved here permanently when I was seven because they wanted to raise their children up in the north, where they felt it was the ideal place to raise children,” he says. His dad was a school principal and his mom was a teacher and public speaker. “They were good at encouraging us to try little businesses.”
He’s also raising his own children in the same place he grew up and says they’re having a similar childhood to his.
“I have introduced them to the woods and waters of northern Michigan for a dozen years,” he says. “It is great to raise them in the same small town that I was raised in.
“We know our neighbors, and they are so contented, confident and proud of their little town.”
Both of his sons go to Glen Lake Community Schools. Hawthorn is in the sixth grade, Colebrook in eighth.
Sutherland says the boys are enjoying getting more involved in the family business.
“They have watched the kids working that are older than them and see how much they are enjoying it and how much money they are making,” he says. “Also, it is one big, happy family — lots of friends working together, like small communities have.”