If you have ever traveled around Michigan you may have noticed its rich agricultural heritage, abundance of unique eateries, and its geographical diversity. Michigan is a four season state and one that has a long and storied food history. I can’t count how many times I have pulled over the car to a roadside stand to share my discovery of cherry preserves with a friend or talk them into a wine tasting. Our state is home to some wonderful products and it would be great to be able to sample these products on a more regular basis. I caught up with Andrew Chmielewski and Cory Wright of Mitten Crate recently and they convinced me that with a little bit of elbow grease, ingenuity and a willingness to travel all of Michigan’s gastronomic treasures are not so far away.
“While sharing a few beers one evening, my long time friend Cory and I were discussing the rise of the Michigan food scene and how great it is for the state’s economy,” Chmielewski said.
Both Metro Detroit natives, proponents of the local food scene, and also big fans of all things Michigan, the pair of food entrepreneurs started Mitten Crate this year to share all the wonderful food options Michigan has to offer.
The concept is simple. Mitten Crate is a subscription box service that allows Michigan made foods to land on your doorstep. There is a box service for lot of things: your pet, makeup, even craft beer, so why not local, artisan, amazing Michigan food items. Their promise is to comb the state over looking for interesting, unique and fun options. Every month the boys will mix together an eclectic box of Michigan made items and send it right to your home.
“We take all the guesswork out of finding new products for the consumer. We point them in the direction of producers for future purchases. The small companies whose products we feature in the boxes get the benefit of directly connecting with their target market by doing what they do best: making delicious and unique small batch products,” Chmielewski added. Chmielewski is no stranger to the food scene. He also owns and operates Dave’s Sweet Tooth, a local toffee business that is gaining traction nation wide. Wright has recently moved back to the Detroit area from New York where he had been managing a farm to table restaurant and artisan market. They realized that Michigan is an ideal place to start a food business. The only hurdle is conquering the regionalism. Most food products in Michigan are very regional, from Detroit to Grand Rapids to Traverse City each market is comfortable with its own products. Time to bridge that gap.
“Unless you travel to and spend time in all these different Michigan areas, there is no simple way to discover their hidden gems. If all of this wasn’t exciting enough, we thought of a way to give back to the community. For each box sold, we will be able to donate three meals to people in need, through a partnership with Gleaner’s Community Food Bank,” Chmielewski continued.
Every endeavor comes with a few roadblocks. Which provides opportunities for solutions and a cause for clever answers. Chmielewski and Wright will be working with primarily small producers, and those people can only come up with so much product. Every month the boys from Mitten Crate will cap the number of Mitten Crates shipped at 1,837. That number holds some historic significance, as 1837 was the year Michigan became a state.
“If our first two weeks are any indication, we will meet this goal in a very timely fashion,” Wright continued. “We will not announce what is in the box until they are all shipped so the recipients will be surprised when they open it,” Wright added. Unless you have been asleep or extremely busy, you have probably noticed the spirit of entrepreneurship going on here in Southeast Michigan. It is easy to find new and exciting businesses on a daily basis. The sky is truly the limit right now in Metro Detroit.
“The culture of creativity and entrepreneurship being cultivated in Metro Detroit is unparalleled anywhere else in the country. If you are a young creative type, this is the place to be. There is limitless potential,” Chmielewski said.
These guys are not trying to reinvent the wheel, but simply trying to put people in touch with the amazingly interesting and diverse products that Michigan has to offer. Mitten Crate serves as a conduit to put people in touch with these products, and not to take away from their business. Their goal is to provide a service. A tasty, fun and exciting service, but a service nonetheless. A Mitten Crate subscription is $35 dollars a month, or you can send it as a gift or get a box one time, but you’ll have to pay shipping and handling if you go the one-time route. With the mantra “Eat. Love. Michigan” we can’t help but be pumped for what these guys put together. They just want to put good, Michigan-made stuff in your refrigerator. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.