The Upper Peninsula is made up almost entirely of small cities, many of which depend on big businesses for employment opportunities.
But small towns are also some of the best places to find small businesses that often times offer more to the community.
The Falling Rock Cafe & Bookstore in Munising opened in 2003 in a space that previously housed a bar. The owners, Jeff and Nancy Dwyer, were interested in the idea of a bookstore, but with the changing economy of book sales, they knew they would need an additional element.
“Originally, we rented out space to someone else who provided food, and then after a while they chose not to do that, and we decided to make that a part of our operation,” Jeff said. “And really now the concept is, the food, the ice cream, the coffee, is what brings people in the door, and then the books and the local art and the other things we have available are something they can enjoy while they’re here.”
With live music, local art, and a mug club for regulars and enthusiasts alike, the cafe and bookstore has grown into a bustling community gathering place.
“The people that come in regularly are like family,” Nancy said.
“We’ve had people refer to it as Munising’s living room,” Jeff said. “We had a young man tell his grandmother he wanted to go for ice cream at the place where the chairs don’t match, and so we really feel like this has become the kind of place and really fulfilling Nancy’s vision that people are comfortable here, people are family here, and once they come in and become a part of it then they’re friends for life.”
Even visitors from out of the area stop in each summer while on vacation, including a former Munising native who now lives in Detroit.
“The bookstore is very unique, very friendly,” Michael Dausey said. “It seems like every time you walk in here there’s a new book on the history of Munising and the Pictured Rocks area, so I think that’s very intriguing for my kids along with my wife, but we enjoy the people up here very much.”
“A few years in a row they’re known as the people that get the triple tall, double caramel latte, and then we get to know the name, and then we get to know where their cabin is, so we sort of remember them by what books they like and what food they like and what ice cream they like, then we get to know them in a deeper way,” Nancy said.
Because of the cafe’s communal nature, it’s no surprise that it has attracted giving and good-natured people.
“The Dwyer’s are very giving. They’re always there to help out anybody in any way they can, so you respond to that,” Norma Harger said. “They were exceptionally kind to me when my husband passed away.”
“You’re just drawn into it after you recognize all the good things they can do for the community. It’s exciting, you want to be a part of it.”
And it’s not just the cafe’s community that excels.
“I had a lady come up to me just two days ago here when I was doing the flowers, and she said it’s the best coffee in the U.P. She had been around to three other places–not here in Munising, but en route going through here and she said she had come back that day to get a good cup of coffee,” Harger said.
The Falling Rock Cafe & Bookstore has been going strong for 11 years and the Dwyer’s are glad to be a part of the Munising community.
“As Nancy said, we wouldn’t trade a minute of it–the good, the bad, and the ugly. And we’ve met amazing people, and this is obviously a wonderful, beautiful place to live, so we’re glad to be a part of it,” Jeff said.
“And a really wonderful community of people,” Nancy said. “I think even despite any hardships we wouldn’t trade it for anything and we’ve loved every minute of it. Its been rewarding and its been a blessing, and so its been a lot of fun.”
More information can be found on Falling Rock Cafe’s website.