Manitou Beach-devils Lake, MI

Revitalized Manitou Beach, Michigan is Where Summer Memories are Made

Tracy Stengel

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Photo via Facebook.

If you haven’t visited Manitou Beach, Michigan in over a decade or so, you wouldn’t recognize it now. Slowly, the village has grown and transformed into a quaint destination for couples seeking a waterfront wedding, boutique shoppers, art lovers, and folks seeking a lakeside vacation. Manitou Beach has all the charm of popular beach towns like Harbor Springs, Charlevoix and Petoskey. Think of it as the Saugatuck of Irish Hills.

Two businessmen, David Gajda and Jose Malagon, began Manitou Beach’s revitalization when Manitou Inn burned down in 2010. David’s sister, Marie Parker, was the owner. “She lived above the bar and barely made it out,” David said.

When David and his partner, Jose, came from Los Angeles to comfort Marie and access the damage, David realized more than the Inn needed to be rebuilt. Manitou Beach looked nothing like it did when his family spent their summers on Devils Lake when he was a kid. Back then, there were plenty of businesses and things to do. Now … there was nothing.

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Two Lakes Tavern. Photo via Facebook.

David and Jose got to work. They rebuilt the bar for Marie, and it reopened in 2011 under the name Manitou Bar & Grill. (Currently, it operates under the name Two Lakes Tavern.) Jose designed the new space with eclectic touches, like the ceiling made out of doors. “They came from different places in the area, but all of them are over 100 years old. Some came from churches, some from barns,” Jose said.

Next, David and Jose added a commercial district to the village. “We asked people in the community what businesses they wanted to have. Everyone wanted a coffee shop and most of the ladies wanted a hair salon,” David said.

David and Jose worked on one or two buildings a year, each with their own personality. For instance, Devil’s Lake View Living, a boutique and gift shop, has a 25-foot lighthouse atop its roof. The unique architecture and designs of Jose Malagon add to the fun, laidback, resort environment.

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Devils Lake View Living. Photo via Facebook

There are some amazing events happening in Manitou Beach this summer including a Summer Art Camp for kids 6 -16 years old. There are two camps per month in June, July, and August. The slots are limited and fill up quickly. David and Jose hope to expand the camp next summer and offer more opportunities for kids in the area to get excited about art.

The camp is held at the Manitou Beach Boathouse Art Gallery, which is one of my favorite places to go in Manitou Beach. It is Lenawee County’s only non-profit art gallery and showcases over 25 local artists. The inventory is always changing and continues to delight and surprise me. It is located on N. Lakeview Boulevard. You can’t miss it. There is a boat sitting on the roof and to enter, you must pass through an upright boat — just one of the many photo ops in the village!

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Manitou Beach Boathouse Art Gallery. Photo via Facebook.

The Second Saturday Manitou Beach Art Walk continues on the second Saturdays of July, August and September from 10 AM — 1 PM. Local artisans will be demonstrating their favorite artistic media at various businesses and will have finished pieces for sale.

Mark your calendars — The Devils Lake Festival of the Arts is July 31st, 2021. Each year, this festival attracts thousands of art enthusiasts. There will be over 60 artists giving demonstrations and showcasing their work, live entertainment, food vendors, and children’s art tent. Don’t miss it!

Whether you are staying at a bed and breakfast, dining, shopping, or appreciating art, Manitou Beach is a place where memories are made. David and Jose commissioned Greg Earle to create a metal archway for people to attach padlocks, essentially, locking in memories of their visit to the lake. Some people personalize their padlocks by painting designs or messages on them. Visitors can buy padlocks at shops throughout the village or bring their own.

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Manitou Beach Lock Arch. Photo via manitoubeachmichigan.com

In the last 10 years, through the vision of David and Jose and the support of the community, more than twenty businesses have been added to Manitou Beach. “I believe,” David said, “that most, if not all, of those businesses are owned by women.”

That got me to thinking … shouldn’t it be renamed Womanitou Beach?

David and Jose laughed good-naturedly at my suggestion, but while there have been a lot of changes in the village, I suspect the name will remain the same.

If you’ve visited the revitalized Manitou Beach, please tell me what you love most about the improvements in the comments!

#HiddenGems

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Tracy explores the world with a positive eye, an open heart, and a sprinkling of humor. Without laughter, she would be lost.

Onsted, MI
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