If you were to ask Rob and Michele Cannaert to describe the small town of Elberta, they would agree that like many of Northern Michigan’s beautiful communities, it is a place time has forgotten.
Elberta was a summer and color tour destination for the Cannaert family before a series of fortunate events gave way to their seasonal livelihood, the quaint and wonderful Conundrum Café.
The building, which now houses a store, cafe, bike and kayak rental/repair center and a staggering selection of Michigan wines and beers, was built in 1880 and has since been a barber shop, restaurant, dance hall and summer home. Michele says that “the challenge of fixing up an old building just…got to us”.
Conundrum is in its seventh season of bike and kayak rentals, a business inspired by the building’s convenient location, just across the street from the Betsie Valley Trail. This trail is an easy way to see the beauty of Benzie County. It follows the original Ann Arbor Railway, which appears in more than one of Conundrum’s historic photos. After the recreational portion of the business took off and as renovations progressed, the cafe became an integral part of the business in Conundrum’s third season. They now serve sandwiches, espresso, smoothies, lattes, cappuccinos, Hawaiin shaved ice and local Hill Top Ice Creamwith three flavors designed to be sold only at the café. Anything on the menu with the word “conundrum” in it comes highly recommended by the staff.
Besides the food and drinks counter, one can find a delightful selection of all things local. The mix and match six pack philosophy is a challenge for every customer as they must decide between over 100 Michigan brewed bottles. The wine racks line an entire wall, as the Cannaert family has strived to offer a tasty and affordable selection of atypical Michigan grapes.
Kids can bring in a dollar and leave with a pocket full of old fashioned candy, or even talk their parents into letting them fill their own six pack with assorted local root beers.
For the souvenir savant, there is plenty of variety in the apparel, handmade soaps, bug spray, jewelry, greeting cards, jellies and bumper stickers! So whether you decide to kayak before lunch, or test some local beers with your summer afternoon ice cream, Conundrum Café has certainly lived up to its name with a myriad of options for families, tourists, locals and recreation enthusiasts. The friendly atmosphere and competitive selection contribute significantly to making the beautiful Elberta a Northern Michigan must. For more information or to follow Conundrum Café’s seasonal schedule, visit their Facebook page. ~Lyndsay Israel, Feature Writer