Questions & Answers with community faces
Benzie County native Ethan Przekaza, 30, graduated from The Leelanau School in 2004. He met his wife Meg Doby, 28, at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. Ethan has always been an artist, sketching from a young age, so it made sense that he studied product design. Meanwhile, Meg studied anthropology. The pair left Marquette in May 2010, staying in Benzie for a couple of weeks before traveling to Washington, D.C. They hiked a few miles on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, then headed west along the Northern Route through Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wyoming, before ending up in Denver in late July 2010.
Earlier this year, the couple moved back from Colorado, bought a house in nearby Beulah, and landed work in March at Crystal River Outfitters in Glen Arbor. Ethan is a service supervisor at The Cyclery, and Meg manages the M22 store. They are thrilled to be back and enjoying their lives together in “one of the most beautiful places in the world.”
Continuing with our interview series on impactful Benzie County characters, The Betsie Current caught up with the couple at their jobs in Glen Arbor.
The Betsie Current: Why did you return “home” to Northern Michigan after leaving the area?
Ethan Przekaza: Meg and I returned to the area for numerous reasons; one of the biggest was, after living away for many years and exploring other states, we realized what a unique and special place Northern Michigan is, especially for our lifestyle. We wanted to be able to purchase a house in this area and call it home. Another big factor was that we both still have strong connections with family and close friends in the area that we wanted to be closer to. Also, for the last six years, we lived in Denver, which had no sense of community—we felt like we were just two people out of a million, which makes it hard to make connections and feel like you are more than just another face.
Meg Doby: After we got married, we really wanted to buy a house. No matter how good our jobs were in Denver, we were never going to be able to afford the house that we wanted. We could afford the ugliest, crumbling house is the worst neighborhood, but it was, literally, twice as much as we paid for our home here in Benzie. We weren’t willing to put that kind of money into a house that we didn’t even like, in an area we would rather avoid. Plus, whenever we would visit Michigan, we realized that we missed it so much! Then, every time we’d get back to Denver, we would still be dreaming about the lakes. We loved the mountains, too, but it’s just not the same. We came to realize that Northern Michigan suited our lifestyle so much more, and just because it’s where we came from, that didn’t make it any less interesting. We took it for granted, didn’t appreciate it, and decided to move home. And we haven’t looked back.
Current: What did you miss most about this area while you were away?
Przekaza: I think the thing we missed the most was the lifestyle that Northern Michigan offered for young people like us. We desired a better sense of community and a slightly slower pace of life than Denver could offer. Another thing we missed dearly was the abundance of water and the activities that it offers.
Current: Did you have any second thoughts about returning here? What did you have to give up to move here?
Przekaza: We did have some second thoughts, or at least strong concerns, about moving back—one of the biggest being employment. We were coming from a big city with many opportunities for employment and moving to an area with seemingly limited options. However, the skills that we [acquired] at our jobs in Denver made us confident that we would be able to do [right] for ourselves. And once we made the connection with our friend Gretchen Schuman and the company she works for [Crystal River Outfitters], we were pretty pleased.
Doby: I took a significant pay cut in order to move back, but money doesn’t make memories. People do, places do. I cared more about finding a place where we could surround ourselves with peace, natural beauty, and good friends and family.
Current: What are the biggest challenges and rewards of working and living in Benzie County and in Northern Michigan in general? What is the best or most rewarding part of your job?
Doby: We thought the biggest challenge facing us would be trying to find employment, but it turns out that towns like Beulah, Glen Arbor, and Frankfort actually have trouble finding good year-round employees. There are actually more employment opportunities than you’d guess! So our biggest challenge ended up being housing. As Michigan becomes a more popular place to visit, year-round homes are being bought up by the wealthy, to use themselves or to rent out as vacation homes. This makes it harder for the local residents to find an affordable place to purchase. Working at M22 is fun and challenging; so is working at The Cyclery. M22 is rewarding, because I can see first hand how people are coming to love this area and see what a unique and beautiful place it is; we are so close to the Sleeping Bear Dunes that dune grass is regularly tracked into the store. Plus the Crystal River Outfitters Recreational District is a fun and exciting business—the owners truly love the area and just want everyone else to love it, too.
Current: What kind of impact do you think you have been able to have, as young people, on the community?
Przekaza: It has been a busy few months since we arrived. I hope the impact we can have in the future will be to have a fresh perspective on the area and life in general and bring that into our community.
Current: What could Northern Michigan do to attract more talented young people back to this area?
Przekaza: I think one thing this area could do is continue to be open minded about change and growth, which would provide more jobs for young people. Also, I think it would be beneficial to continue to develop recreational options. This would provide sources of employment and draw in young, skilled people from all over.
Current: What are your favorite local events and activities? Any favorite dining, recreation, hiking spots?
Doby: We really enjoy Stormcloud Brewery in Frankfort; they have some interesting beers, a great atmosphere, and occasionally you can catch an awesome local band, like Blake Elliott and the Robinson Affair, who we just saw last week. Also, the Arcadia Bluffs restaurant on the golf course is amazing if you need an excuse to get all dressed up. But mostly we spend our time kayaking on the Platte River or on Platte Lake, drinking Oberon on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan, or biking along M22 or through the Arcadia Dunes bike trails. I also enjoy Pete’s Woods—it’s a great hike in the spring, with wild flowers as far as the eye can see, and it’s only a mile long.
Current: How have you seen Benzie County change since you moved away and came back? What are your hopes for the area in the future?
Doby: We used to think of Benzie County as somewhat boring and lifeless. While this may still hold true on the coldest winter days, the spring, summer, and fall months are all very lively and beautiful. We see a lot more people out and about, on their bikes, hiking, swimming, shopping. It’s been great for business owners and for the National Park. I’d like to see this trend continue to increase opportunity and protect the Park financially, but I still hope to keep this area of Michigan one of the country’s best-kept secrets. I would hate to see this beautiful National Lakeshore be destroyed by people who don’t appreciate it; littering our lakeshore not only with garbage but with sky-high condos and fast-food ‘restaurants.’
Current: What else does Northern Michigan/Benzie County need?
Przekaza: More small-business entrepreneurs who are willing to pay decent wages. That, and Uber. Ha. But really, I think the residents should try to be more welcoming to young people and to change. It’s scary, and we don’t want it to become over-developed, but we need the younger generations to come back here in order to keep the communities alive and the businesses running.
Current: What’s your perfect summer day look like in Benzie County? How would you spend it?
Doby: It would be prefect to wake up to the birds singing outside my window—I know it sounds like Cinderella, but when you live in Benzie County, it’s the birds that wake you, not sirens, horns honking, or people yelling, like in Denver. Get my caffeine fix on the back deck, in my case Earl Grey tea, in Ethan’s case, a strong cup of local coffee. Me: maybe spend a little time working on art projects, sewing or home improvement. Ethan would tinker with his bicycles or do some woodworking. We’d grab some lunch maybe at Roadhouse or East Shore Market, then take the kayaks out for a paddle. If we’re feeling ambitious, start in Platte Lake and finish in Lake Michigan. Then, if there’s time, have a beer and swim on the beach before calling up some friends to come over and grill. Maybe local fish or venison. Play with the pups in the yard. Then head to Frankfort to catch the always-epic sunset. Hopefully, then it’s a clear enough of a night to see the Milky Way from our backyard and sip some mulled local cider. Too perfect? Never.
Feature photo: Meg Doby and Ethan Przekaza moved back after five years in Colorado. They now live in Beulah with 8-year-old Apollo, an American Staffordshire, and Wicket, a 7-year-old Shih tzu.