Thriving Petoskey: Through the eyes of Wineguys
As published in Petoskey News-Review, January 27, 2022 by Emily Boehm
An interview with thriving business owners Bob and Mary Keedy
At December’s Breakfast for Champions At Dark celebration, Bob and Mary Keedy were awarded the Thriving Petoskey Award. This was well deserved for the owners of Wineguys Restaurant Group who manage City Park Grill, Palette Bistro, and Roast & Toast, though at the time of the award they expressed humble astonishment.
As a member of the Thriving Petoskey Committee, I thought I’d catch up with the Keedys after the fact to get their perspective on what it means to be part of the thriving business movement.
To be honest, I didn’t know much about the Keedys, so I kept my first question vague and asked how they got to where they are today. I learned that moving to Petoskey had been a huge pivot for them. They left corporate jobs in big cities and transitioned to a small business, small town way of life. This came with a lot of challenges, even before the pandemic forced its hand.
“Roast & Toast has been open for 29 years now,” Mary explains. “The ability to keep up with new trends and new consumer needs and wants was something that took a lot of practice. Luckily, when COVID-19 hit we had already become adaptable, so it was easier to change our operations and accommodate the new normal.”
I was intrigued. What did it mean to be “adaptable,” exactly? I discovered that, for Wineguys, it meant putting their employees first.
“Staffing in a resort community has always been a challenge, not just now, and that meant we had to be intentional about how we treated every single employee,” Bob says. “We made sure to take care of each other and create safe environments. We made sure our staff felt appreciated, not just superficially but by actually providing health insurance and paid-time-off. Actions speak louder than words.”
By the way they lovingly talked about them, I could tell that their staff meant a lot to the Keedys.
“We might have gotten the award, but they make every bit of our success possible.”
Not only did the couple have their staff to thank, but they also held their community ties close to their hearts. Over the years, they cultivated wonderful cross-sector relationships that became mutually beneficial. The Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation, Brother Dan’s Food Pantry, Manna Food Project, Groundwork Center, Leadership Little Traverse, and Adopt-A-Highway are just some of the causes the Keedys have supported since starting their business.
“It goes without saying, but Petoskey is a great place,” Bob says. “It is such a tight-knit community, so when doing business or even living here it’s essential to become involved. You gain as much as you give.”
They said that their relationship with the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce also opened doors, especially by partnering with other businesses in the area. “We use local goods and services whenever we can. It’s important for us to see all of Petoskey thrive,” Mary says.
From there, our conversation veered toward the present and to the struggles the pandemic and economic challenges have brought to area families and businesses. We acknowledged how these difficult times have forced people to think outside the box and solve problems creatively, to look at their lives from a new perspective. It seems that now, more than ever, people are becoming entrepreneurs and starting their own businesses. Do the Keedys have any advice for those of us taking the leap?
“Do your homework,” Bob advises. “Make sure you have a good business plan.”
Mary adds: “Try to address the needs in the community. We focused on health and safety first, then the quality of goods and services. It’s important to adapt while keeping your goals in mind.”
Their responses reminded me just how vital the foundational concepts of Thriving Petoskey are to keeping a business strong — not just in theory, but in real-world practice. You have to keep the trust and loyalty of not just your customers but your employees, your business partners, and your community. You need to show each stakeholder group that you care about them.
“Exactly,” Mary says. “Each step is about taking care of each other, taking care of the environment. It’s about how we give back to the community which has given so much to us. Moving here and opening three businesses … it was an awakening to see how connected and interdependent we all are. You need to embrace it.”
For myself and so many others, it’s easy to say Petoskey would not be the same without Bob and Mary Keedy. On behalf of the Thriving Petoskey Committee, thank you for your years of hard work and dedication to improving our quality of life.
— Emily Boehm is the program services manager for Northwest Michigan Habitat for Humanity and a marketing specialist for Gabriel Farms.