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Farm Couple Turns Old Schoolhouse Into Country Store
An old country school has a new life as a store and deli on the outskirts of Charlotte, Mich. “Besides selling cheeses, meats and other foods grown by the owners and area farmers, people who live in the city simply enjoy making the trip out to the store,” says Ben Tirrell.
  He and his wife, Jessy, first opened a tiny store on their 300-acre farm across the highway from the school. When the building came up for sale, the couple purchased it and added $70,000 of renovations to restore the original wooden floor and ceilings and add a certified kitchen to serve sandwiches and wraps.
  Old school photos on the walls are a hit with curious customers and former students who come to see their old school. But the local food and competitive prices bring them back to shop weekly for basics like meat and milk.
  “People who come here are interested in where their food comes from,” Tirrell says. Most are neighbors or from the local community, and the Tirrells are committed to keep their prices reasonable. They raise beef and have a 300-ewe flock of sheep, 100 of which they milk for the 15 types of cheeses they make. Poultry, pork, honey, syrup, wool items and other products are supplied by local farmers.
  The couple does very little advertising, but holds a Spring Fling annually with free food, kids games, sheep shearing and educational activities about farming. They also support local charities, which gives them visibility and a way to give back to their community.
  Tirrell is the seventh generation on the family farm, and his father, grandfather and great-grandfather attended the school that he transformed into Tirrell Farmstead Specialties store. He notes that farming and running the business keeps his family very busy. His wife, Jessy, offers daily lunch specials. Tirrell’s mother, Pat, is also part of the business.
  “I think it’s helped us to be diversified,” he says. “It’s a lot of hats to wear, which is a challenge for us. And the regulations and red tape are challenging, but there’s a lot of interest in what we’re doing. There is a necessity to change with the times. This is a niche that allows the community to support us.”
  Store hours, prices and daily menu items are posted on the store’s website.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Tirrell Farmstead Specialties, 1959 W. Kalamo Hwy., Charlotte, Mich. 48813 (ph 517 543-7395; www.micheese.com; sales@micheese.com).

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2014 - Volume #38, Issue #6