A century ago, the village of Walloon Lake in northern Michigan was a popular summer destination for families from Chicago, St. Louis and the Midwest.
Families like the Hemingways came to escape the heat of the city and enjoy the calm, cooling waters of Walloon Lake, swimming, boating and fishing. A dozen hotels and other amenities sprung up around the lake and in the village.
By the turn of the last century, however, the village was a ghost town, left with little more than a gas pump at the end of a dock attached to a barebones shell of a building, and a general store on the main road passing through.
In stepped Jonathan Borisch, a village native who went on to become a formidable businessman and commercial real estate developer. He wanted to return the village he loves so much to some of its former grandeur, dusting off the sleepy town and working with the community to recreate the gem Walloon Lake once was.
The Hotel Walloon, a 32-room boutique hotel, opened shortly after other improvements in the village.
His initial priorities included building a new marina and a year-round restaurant. Tommy’s Walloon Lake operates on the main level of a renovation structure, and Barrel Back Restaurant, on the second level. They opened in 2013. Borisch then acquired the historic 1891 Walloon Lake Inn, one of the village’s earliest restaurants and hotels. In 2015, the developer unveiled the new Hotel Walloon, a three-story, 32-room boutique hotel. In 2022, the hotel was named Travel + Leisure’s No. 1 Resort in Michigan.
The Varnish Room is a private dining space.
And last year Borisch introduced a private dining space called The Varnish Room. His latest project is The Renwick, a condominium and retail complex, scheduled to open in early 2024.
“It’s one of the last pieces of the puzzle of Walloon Lake. We have little shops, restaurants and Hotel Walloon, a draw unto itself,” says Wally Kidd, owner of Kidd & Leavy Real Estate Co., which represents the property, noting the same architect and interior designer are working on The Renwick. “That same level of quality is going into The Renwick.”
Ground was broken last month on The Renwick, which will include condos and a grocery store.What’s happening:
Ground has been broken for The Renwick, a multi-use project that will include 16 luxury condominiums with private dock slips and private parking. The main level will include an expanded and updated market and retail space. The first floor will offer 8,000 square feet of space. The complex will be built on the site of a former market. That market has been in operation since the 1970s; the owners retired recently and Borisch bought the property.
Why it’s important:
The complex replaces the Walloon Village General Store, which was the only grocer for years and held the community together as businesses closed or left. The new location will expand and update the store’s offerings. “While honoring Walloon’s small-town history, Walloon Village General Store will keep many of the items and traditions the community has grown to love,” Borisch says. “Additionally, we hope to offer some unique, fresh and local products, along with essentials for a friendly, and convenient shopping experience. We will provide an extensive offering of Michigan-made projects along with a selection of beer, wine and liquor.”
“The new store is really bringing everything into the year 2023,” Kidd says. “It was really stuck in the 1970s. Borisch is making sure everything is new and fresh -- new facilities. The store will continue to serve the local community and resort community.”
The development will also help alleviate demand for condominiums on the 4,280-acre lake. Straddling Charlevoix and Emmet counties, the lake is home to some 950 properties but there are just 10 condominiums on the entire lake, Kidd says.
Ross Renwick operated a grocery store in Walloon Lake from the mid-1940s through the mid-1960s.
: The complex is named after Ross Renwick, who operated a general store in Walloon from the mid-1940s through the mid-1960s. The name pays tribute to Walloon Lake’s early history, just like the Talcott (one of the village’s early names), Barrel Back (a style of wooden boat that graces the lake each summer) and The Varnish Room (a businesses and gathering spot that operated in the village during the early 1900s).
The first homesteaders arrived in 1872. Initially, the site was called Bear Lake, and then briefly Tolcott and Talcott before Walloon Lake was chosen. The village has a long history as a resort destination. Throughout the early part of the 20th century, Walloon Lake was a summer destination for vacationers. Along with hotels, restaurants, delis, markets and even a bowling alley sprung up. The Hemingway family began summering on Walloon Lake around the turn of the last century. Ernest Hemingway spent every summer of his youth on the lake, with many of his experiences inspiring “The Nick Adams Stories.”