Rise, roast and reuse: Couple kicks off a business trifecta in Midland

Tony Sutorik has been baking for decades and brewing beer for years, but once the retired chemist had a little extra time on his hands, the idea of making his hobby something more crept in. After recently retiring in 2019, Sutorik and his wife Suzanne set out in search of their next chapter, one inspired by their travels, love of beer and passion for reuse.

The duo recently opened Mi Element Grains and Grounds this summer, just off the Circle and Center City in Midland. After taking possession of the building in January, they spent much of their free time during the winter and spring seasons renovating and putting the final touches on the space.

Suzanne and Tony Sutorik.

“We had been looking for a space for a few months and this was the first place that was both kitchen-ready and it had plenty of space, which in hindsight, has worked out quite well with the need for social distancing,” says Suzanne.

“We had the time, a bit of savings, the opportunity and found a space that worked for us,” says she says. “So, it was a now or never situation, and we chose to jump in.”

The couple has made their initial focus about putting out a handful of really great beers in the first few months, but are working on lots of other possibilities including working with other local businesses, collaborations and hosting art and yoga classes in the future.

Tony uses spent grain from beer to make baked goods.

The Mi Element Grains and Grounds name is inspired by Tony’s chemistry background and the dog you’ll find in their logo is their beloved Standard Poodle named Courage.

“I’m still into chemistry, it just tastes better now,” says Tony, with a chuckle.

Suzanne is an artist with a background in various mediums including oil painting, screen printing, glasswork and jewelry. She has painted all the art currently on the walls, but the couple plans to welcome and host other artists in the years to come.

Some of Tony's bread, fresh baked and ready for slicing.

The couple’s brews give nod to the community, some of their favorite local businesses and the intentions they have set for the business. In that aspect, the Sutoriks use as many local ingredients as they can find and currently use all Michigan hops, malt from Traverse City and some of their flour is from Frankenmuth, which happens to be Tony’s hometown. They use some of their extra space for retail of locally-made and Michigan-made products, like Creation Coffee and goat cheese from Northport.

The rye beer, which is Suzanne’s favorite is coincidently named Jack Pine Thick Thigh Rye, inspired by Suzanne’s local gym, CrossFit Jack Pine. They also have the Pint of Gratitude IPA, Floodplain Porter, Groovy Poodle Stout and Off Suite Ace Spelt Ale – all of which are locally-named inspirations.

A record player is ready for your next favorite request.

The couple is very mindful of their impact, with spent grains going into breads, other treats and even dog biscuits. They mill their own grain, all of their furniture is reclaimed, all the to-go boxes are recyclable and biodegradable, and a vintage record player sits at the back wall, with tons of options on deck to choose from.

“We try to be as waste-free as possible and reduce our impact locally and globally,” says Suzanne. “It happens to works naturally with our bread and baked goods, but we’ve made sure to design in conservation into the whole business.”

The space has enough room to accommodate groups and social distancing at the moment.

That plays out in everything you’ll see at Mi Element Grains and Grounds, right down to the bar you’ll imbibe at, which came from the old Holiday Inn in Midland. The couple scored it at auction after searching for a while for something large enough that would accommodate their space.

The process is a labor of love and baking with spent grain results in heartier breads and baked goods, Tony explains.

“Bread is a natural companion to beer, and they both use many of the same elements. Using your own grains from the brewing process makes for a bit heavier dough, so a nice heavy wheat is about as light of bread as you’ll get with spent grain,” he says. “We also have bread pudding, sweet rolls, croissants, sourdough and more.”

Suzanne pours a beer for customers.

“Using that spent grain has always been gratifying. As a home brewer first, I didn’t like just throwing out the grains after we were done,” he says. “So, a few years ago I began experimenting more, creating different tastes and textures with bread. It’s fun to be able to share that love and process with customers now.”

For their new chapter in life, they received a positive response from both the community and customers.

Art by Suzanne Sutorik.

“You see the best and worst of people in hard times, we’ve been quite fortunate to see and experience the best in people over the last few months,” says Tony. “The process of working with the city and county was really exceptional too. They made everything relatively easy for us, and getting approval for things like our liquor license was smooth. So, this process, despite taking place during a pandemic, was straightforward and we always felt like we had support and someone to help if we needed it.”

The Sutoriks bake dog treats as well.

The couple has a lightheartedness and resilience about them, and the Floodplain Porter has a bit of a different meaning, when you consider the Sutoriks are also flood victims. Opening a business during a pandemic and after a catastrophic flood seems like it might be difficult, especially because their home was impacted and took on water in both the basement and the main floor, but the Sutoriks don’t seem phased.

“We were just happy it wasn’t the business and it was really convenient to have the extra kitchen space here to utilize during the first few weeks,” says Suzanne. “It was helpful to have a functional space that we could make dinner during the recovery process.”

Local dogs say the dog treats pass the test for 'most drooled over' treat in town.

“The flood and the business have certainly kept us busy and it’s been an interesting process,” says Tony. “It helps that my wife that is talented and artistic. I couldn’t do it without her and it’s brought out the best in us.”

As for hard times and new beginnings, Tony notes that getting through and getting on is really quite easy.

“You pick a direction to go in, and you just keep going,” he says.

You can find more about Mi Element Grains and Grounds on their website, Facebook page or Instagram.

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Read more articles by Courtney Soule.

Courtney is a longtime Midland resident and enjoys telling the story of the community's evolution. She ran Catalyst Midland as the publication's managing editor from October 2017 through September 2020. Her favorite topics are interesting people, change makers, outdoor recreation and design. Aside from Catalyst, her published work can be found various places including Elephant Journal, Thought Catalog and a number of other websites, papers, menus and the occasional one-liner.