2013-08-02 / News

Trader Nick’s Offers Healthful Snack Options, Learning Opportunities

College Students Get Hands-on Business Experience
By Stephanie Fortino


Dominika Masna of Slovakia is spending her first summer on Mackinac Island offering tasty treats like cinnamon roasted almonds at the new Trader Nick’s snack shop on Main Street. Ms. Masna showcases some of the almonds Tuesday, July 16, just four days after the shop opened for business. Dominika Masna of Slovakia is spending her first summer on Mackinac Island offering tasty treats like cinnamon roasted almonds at the new Trader Nick’s snack shop on Main Street. Ms. Masna showcases some of the almonds Tuesday, July 16, just four days after the shop opened for business. A new snack shop on Mackinac Island offers more than just healthful snacks, according its proprietors, by serving as a hands-on learning experience for college students who want to understand more about running businesses in the real world.

“All of the kids are really part owners because they work through the entire process,” said Melanie Libby Tuesday, July 16. She co-owns the establishment with Ira Green.

The shop is called “Trader Nick’s” and is now open on Main Street next to the Seabiscuit Café.

“It started as an incubator for our staff,” Ms. Libby continued, “so the college kids could come in and see what it really takes to make a business run on Mackinac Island.”


Trader Nick’s is now open and offering an array of snacks to customers on Mackinac Island. Some options include a one-pound pretzel, like the one pictured here, as cook Luke Mercier (from left) and owners Melanie Libby and Ira Green present such a baked good to Tom Bushmen of Star Line Ferry Tuesday, July 16. Trader Nick’s is now open and offering an array of snacks to customers on Mackinac Island. Some options include a one-pound pretzel, like the one pictured here, as cook Luke Mercier (from left) and owners Melanie Libby and Ira Green present such a baked good to Tom Bushmen of Star Line Ferry Tuesday, July 16. An important lesson came when purchasing necessary supplies.

“When you have cabinets that cost $600 and a cooler that costs $400, there goes $1,000 before you even turn on the lights. The kids work from the ground up,” she said, and they understand every step of the process by the end.

For the past four years, Mr. Green and Ms. Libby have offered business classes for their bicycle shop staff members. Ms. Libby teaches the first four weeks of the annual course, that includes sessions about the financial side of business, while the last six weeks are devoted to marketing strategies. Once they complete the courses, Mr. Green said the students are virtually unstoppable, becoming savvy businesspeople. Now, Trader Nick’s is taking that experience one step further.

The store’s namesake comes from Nick Whyatt, who has worked for Mr. Green at Mackinac Island Bike Shop for four and a half years. The Trader Nick’s logo, that includes a bespectacled man wearing a fedora hat, was even modeled after Mr. Whyatt’s visage, according to Ms. Libby.

In addition to Mr. Whyatt, Dave Fuller, Luke Mercier, and Andrew McNeil are the snack shop’s other founding members. All four have been heavily involved with the business and also currently work for Mr. Green at Mackinac Island Bike Shop.

Ms. Libby commented that the group’s first business meeting was held July 16, and she expects more young workers to become involved with the shop in the weeks to come.

Dried fruits, roasted nuts, and seeds are among some of the snacks offered. The store also sells cinnamon roasted almonds that workers make fresh daily, which include simple ingredients and no preservatives. Several trail mixes combined in-house are also available, but customers can mix and match individual ingredients to make their own concoctions, too.

The store’s bestseller in its first few days of operation was the “Healthy Energy Mix,” which incorporates almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, mixed raisins, and cranberries. Healthful options like this mix are preferred to other, sweeter options that include chocolate, said Ms. Libby.

“People have loved it,” she said. “People look for something different.”

Ms. Libby noted that one recent customer commented that the store used to sell snack nuts in the past.

“Years and years ago it was Marrow’s,” she said, adding it was a delight to know the shop was coming back to its roots.

While the shop incorporates the newest technology, such as a tablet computer that doubles as a cash register, Trader Nick’s is about “integrating the new with the historic,” Ms. Libby continued. “Now things are going all the way around back to a nut shop with an experience.”

That experience at Trader Nick’s includes the boast that the shop sells “the best pretzels in the world,” including a large, one-pound soft pretzel available with multiple dipping sauces. The soft pretzels are freshly baked at the store, while smaller, gourmet-flavored varieties from a Michigan company offer a crunchy option.

Whether dealing with snacks, bicycles, or hotels, “we try to create an experience,” Ms. Libby said of their business ventures, “because that’s what Mackinac Island is all about.”

Interacting with people on a daily basis and watching people positively react to the shop is what Dominika Masna likes best about working behind the nut counter at Trader Nick’s. This is her first summer working on Mackinac Island and she is enjoying it, she told the Mackinac Island Town Crier.

“It’s great,” she said. “I love it here.”

As the bicycle shops enter their busy season, Ms. Libby noted that “good hands” like Ms. Masna have been hired to keep the new snack shop staffed throughout the summer. So far, business is going well for the snack shop, too, according to Ms. Libby, who added that the shop could expand in the future to offer more products.

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