One family's devotion to Michigan and their appreciation of the state's food, history, and style has led to the opening of The Mitt in downtown Mount Clemens.
Ken and Tracy Leonard decided to open the restaurant at 143 N. Main Street to pay homage "to all the great things about this beautiful state," he says.
For about four weeks now the restaurant has been in soft opening mode, preparing for a full-scale operations. The Mitt got an unexpected publicity boost when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney stopped in while on the campaign trail.
The Leonards, who have a history of running restaurants, lived in California until 14 years ago after deciding to come back to Michigan raise kids and contribute to the state's economy.
"I was born in raised in Michigan. I really thought that Michigan gets a bad rap. I think it's a great state and we need to get that out there. This is about a sense of pride in our home state," Leonard says.
, a bar, restaurant and pizzeria serving under the "From Michigan For Michigan" motto, is decorated in a Michigan motif - think Up North rustic cabin - and serves Michigan comfort food that's 100 percent homemade and 95 percent all Michigan products," Leonard says. He or someone from the staff shop at Eastern Market weekly and work with companies that provide Michigan products.
Besides comfort food that Leonard says is made fresh "the freezer is seldom used," the interior is something to take in: Michigan artists' artwork line the walls and a mural of the Mackinac Bridge spans the length of the restaurant.
The opening has created 35 full-time jobs and Leonard is in the process of hiring more as crowd demands have some employees working overtime, he says.
Opening The Mitt is both a shout out to his birthplace and a call to families who want affordable, good, fresh food," he says.
"A lot of of people chose to pack their bags and leave when times got tough for Michigan," he says. "We stuck it out. We stayed here for the hard times… We think the people that have stayed here did it for the same reason. They believe in Michigan."
Source: Ken Leonard, owner/operator, The Mitt Restaurant and Bar
Writer: Kim North Shine