Side Gig Series: Locals passionately crushing their side hustles through sailing and stories

Whatever you want to call them – side hustles, passion projects or something else – second gigs are on the rise and more people are turning what they do for fun into real profit, resulting in a second income or more. Here are two examples of Midland locals who are putting their passions to work after 5:00.

Anthony and Melissa DeGraw on the deck of Northern Light in Tawas Bay.

Anthony and Melissa DeGraw – Northern Light Charters
This Sanford-based duo has taken a love for sailing and their gorgeous, vintage Chris-Craft to new depths. Anthony and Melissa DeGraw started Northern Light Charters earlier this year and operate the only sailing charter in Tawas on the waters of Lake Huron.

Longtime powerboat enthusiasts, the DeGraws bought their first sailboat a little over six years ago and were immediately hooked.

“There’s something incredibly special about a sailboat and how it makes you focus on all the factors for navigation,” says Anthony. “Relying on wind power alone is both a powerful and calming feeling – there is nothing else like it.”

Northern Light was built in 1964 in Algonac, Michigan and is #70 of 80 vessels that were built.

Melissa works as a veterinary assistant by day and Anthony left a 20-year career in manufacturing to receive the final hours for his 100 Ton Master License while working aboard BaySail’s Appledore IV last year. The couple’s 16-year-old son Gage is certified as a deckhand and helps on charters as well.

Northern Light was built in Algonac, Michigan in 1964 and has only ever sailed the Great Lakes. Chris-Craft only made 80 boats of this kind, and Northern Light is #70. The DeGraws became her fourth owner when they purchased the vessel four years ago.

Gage DeGraw, deckhand on Northern Light.

Getting Northern Light charter-ready has been a labor of love with new paint, varnish, the removal of old wiring, a new prop shaft, relocation of the head (toilet), reconfiguring the electrical system to be more efficient and many more odds and ends that come with a 55-year-old vessel.

“It has been really rewarding to be able to put the work in to get her ready to sail charters this spring,” says Anthony. “Because it’s our job now, and not just some place to hang out on the weekend we look at her a bit different. She also shines a little brighter these days too.”

Northern Light Charters start sailing out of Tawas in July.

Tawas Bay is situated perfectly for sailing and Anthony notes that teaching others and meeting new people is something the couple enjoys. Charters allow them to do that while enjoying Michigan’s beautiful summer months and picture-perfect coastline.

Anthony DeGraw making final tie downs after a sail in Tawas Bay.

“Tawas Bay is perfect for sailing, and essentially makes its own wind naturally the way its positioned and protected on the lake,” says Anthony. “It’s also not a bad way to spend a Michigan summer while teaching others how to sail.”

Speaking about the impact sailing has had on her, Melissa notes that preparing the boat to sail commercially has been exciting because it has been learning something new. “I never want to stop learning, and getting Northern Light ready this year has been an exciting adventure,” says Melissa. “The best part is that I get to give people a fun adventure and experience while also spending that time with my family.”

Inside the main cabin of Northern Light.

The DeGraws have set tours on Northern Light to be flexible to whatever guests would like to do and see. The team is able to take guests out who want to enjoy sailing, fishing, viewing the nearby lighthouse, learn how to sail, swimming and more. Guests are welcome to bring their own food, drinks and more.

Gage DeGraw on deck during a sail in Tawas this spring.

“I’ve always wanted to be able to do what I love while working with my husband and now we are making that happen,” says Melissa. “My hope is that people will learn that by booking a sail on Northern Light they can get away for a few hours, enjoy time on the water, relax and enjoy time with their friends or family.”

Northern Light is set for sailing charters of up to six people at a time in Tawas starting this July. The standard charter is three hours long, sailing three times per day, but the DeGraws will take requests of longer charters as well.

"Tawas Bay is perfect for sailing, and essentially makes its own wind naturally the way its positioned and protected on the lake."

You can connect with Northern Light Charters on their website, Facebook page and Instagram.

Growing up, Fournier was an avid reader of Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes and Trixie Belden.
Pam Fournier – Reading Vintage

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” – Ernest Hemingway

With a knowledge of antiques and a love of old books, Pam Fournier started Reading Vintage in 2015 as an Etsy shop initially. Fournier and her husband would go to antique shows and auctions, and she picked up on industry knowledge along the way.

By day Fournier is a fitness instructor and teaches water fitness classes.

Pam Fournier with some of her vintage cookbooks.

Growing up, Fournier was an avid reader of Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes and Trixie Belden. Her favorite books to date are Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series, and are ones you won’t find for sale on her website or at antique events.

Fournier still maintains the Etsy shop, but has grown the business to include a booth at the Freeland Antique Mall, different antique shows around the state, Shed 5 Flea at Eastern Market in Detroit and her website. Part of what got the business moving was the network and creative help she received while working out of Energize Workspace, a coworking community in Midland.

Fournier thumbing through a vintage book in her collection.

“I’ve always had a love of reading and with a few different outlets and help from the team of creatives at Energize Workspace, the business has taken off.”

She says the most interesting part of the business is getting to hear all the different stories from her customers. “The best part is always the stories that people tell about how a book fits into their family or personal history,” says Fournier “It is neat to hear all the history of why certain books and stories are meaningful to people and I enjoy seeing people connect to something from their past through a book.”

Fournier says some of her most sought after items include vintage cookbooks.

Some of the most in demand and sought-after volumes include antique cookbooks, war-era content, material from William Shakespeare and old-world medical instruction books. Often people will use the material to research family ancestry and other history. For cookbooks especially, loved ones often are trying to find volumes of recipes that are generations old and keep the family traditions going strong.

Fournier keeps all the materials, notes and receipts she finds tucked in the pages of her book purchases, passing them on to the next owner. “I consider things like notes and receipts from within the pages as part of the book’s history,” says Fournier.

A 1917 copy of "A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband."

While a majority of her finds come from around Michigan, they find homes both near and far. Fourier’s shipped books as far as to Australia before. “When the shipping costs more than the item itself, you know that it is a book that really means something to someone, so it has been special to be able to have those meaningful finds to pass on to people,” she says.

Fournier also sells vintage postcards online and at her retail or antique locations.

Often, customers are looking to see if a copy may be part of a loved-one’s collection. She’s even had customers find family pictures inside books for sale, something that makes the story come full circle.

The most rewarding part of marrying her love of books with a side business is that it allows her the flexibility and freedom to set her own course.

Pam Fournier started Reading Vintage in 2015, initially as an Easy shop.

Her advice for others looking to start their own side gig? “Look at what interests you, watch what people do with their time and energy and move in that direction,” Fournier says. “But connecting with people along the way has been the biggest reward of all, so plan to learn from others you meet along the way.”

You can connect with Reading Vintage on the website, Facebook page and Etsy shop.

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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.