The U.P. has innovators in both science and business

New small businesses are the heart of the Upper Peninsula economy, and help keep our small towns thriving. But equally important are the innovations that drive new investments and new development. Luckily, we've got both.


New consignment store in Iron Mountain


A new option for thrift shopping is open in Iron Mountain. The locally-owned Consignment Mamas is located in downtown iron Mountain and is owned by three friends who want to fill a need in their community.


"Consignment Mamas' main goal is to keep money in the community," say the owners, Cassondra and Patrick Hendricks and Ashley Maenpaa. "We hope that by opening this shop we can keep circulating local income. We understand the demand on clothing for children as they grow so fast."


The shop has a large variety of items and focuses on reasonable prices and daily sales to help families keep in clothing without too much of a struggle, they say. Customers are welcome to both shop and consign their clothing at the store, 224 East Hughitt Street downtown.


Consignment Mamas accepts gently used clothing for adults and children, and offers a 50-50 split on consignment sales.


Easy Ice acquires competitor, announces investment


Marquette-headquartered commercial ice company Easy Ice has had a lot of good business news lately. A New York-based business development firm, Saratoga Investment Corp., provided recapitalization investment to the tune of $26.7 million to help Easy Ice go through an acquisition of a Chicago-based competitor.


Saratoga announced they would increase their investment in Easy Ice to facilitate the transaction and structural changes needed in relation to it.


"We are thrilled to have Saratoga continue as our strategic partner with an increased investment," says Mark Hangen, CEO of Easy Ice. "For the past four years, they have been flexible and their investment structure and amount has evolved with the growth of our business, which is now almost 50 percent larger than it was at the beginning of the year. Thanks to Saratoga's understanding of our business, we were able to execute on this important acquisition in a speedy fashion while broadening our capital base to support continued growth."


Located at 925 W. Washington Street in Marquette, Easy Ice offers an ice machine subscription service to business owners, and has become one of the country's largest such ice delivery companies. They serve over 8,000 businesses in 46 states.


Michigan Tech innovation hub announces materials tech investments


If you haven't heard of the new Michigan Translational Research & Commercialization (MTRAC) Advanced Applied Materials Innovation Hub at Michigan Technological University, now's the time to get familiar with it.


The statewide hub helps researchers at Michigan universities commercialize their research in materials technologies, and it recently announced its first two successful investments.


One is a solid state ceramic battery technology from Dr. Travis Thompson at the University of Michigan, which is designed to improve on shortcomings of current lithium-ion batteries, such as better energy density and lower risk of fire.


The other is a nanowire organic sensor platform from Dr. Guangzhao Mao at Wayne State University. It will develop an ammonia sensor made from organic nanowire that can detect parts per million of ammonia, a common but dangerous gas used in industrial settings.


Together, the materials research projects got $200,000 in funding. The innovation hub is a statewide resource that partners with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's Entrepreneurship and Innovation initiative to translate academic research into new technologies.


Iron Bay Taproom open


The Iron Bay Restaurant and Drinkery is a recent addition to the downtown Marquette restaurant scene, located in the space that was formerly L'Attitude, at 105 E. Washington Street across from the Lower Harbor.


Now, the newcomer has also opened the Iron Bay Taproom, in the same building but just across the hallway. The taproom focuses on craft beer (on tap, of course) and leans toward Michigan beers. Formerly a wine room, the space now boasts four big-screen TVs, pub snacks, and decor reminiscent of northern Michigan history (like the Iron Bay Restaurant and Drinkery). A new bar and tables are made from old Mackinac Bridge grating pieces, in fact.


Open every day, the Iron Bay Taproom serves 24 beers on tap and will rotate in new craft beers regularly. It has yet to announce its grand opening, but for right now, a soft opening is letting the two locales work out the details and welcome customers.

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