Coffee, a Café, and More at Island Bean
Seasonal businesses are a well-known component of life in Northern Michigan. Sometimes, they work perfectly, blending life and work into a successful effort.
But for the two “unnamed gentlemen” who opened Island Bean Coffee Company in Harbor Springs, that effort became too much to handle - which was fine for Pam Pfeifle, who stepped in and purchased the little café from them back in March of 1997.
“The timing was perfect, because I had just moved back to Northern Michigan,” Pfeifle explains. “And the Main Street address made it a great location.”
At first, Island Bean was “just an addition” to the combo convenience store and gas station, Hollywood Market, that took up the other twothirds of the building. But when the gas station portion closed in 2005, Island Bean took over the whole building, decorated the cafe section with paintings by Pfeifle’s father, Henry Pfeifle, and streamlined the grocery section.
Eliminating the gas pumps and paving over the small lot in front of the café/market, Pfeifle created a welcoming seating area underneath the old Hollywood Market archway (she kept the “Hollywood Market” name, having decided that she loved the movie-marquee lights and the arch itself). She surrounded the patio with a small well-kept lawn and flower planters, and a new coffee-and-lunch spot was born in Harbor Springs.
Today, Hollywood Market resides on the right-hand side of the building and Island Bean on the left, the perfect coexistence for both local and tourist needs.
“The combination is a great fit for downtown Harbor,” Pfeifle says. “I saw a market for things like milk, bread, snacks, and newspapers. You can get everything from batteries to eggs.”
The market definitely offers a wide range of convenience items - from sodas, a wide range of popular sweet and salty packaged snacks, specialty cheeses and crackers, staples like eggs, bread, and high-quality bacon, and plenty of gourmet offerings from local food suppliers and “Michigan-made” businesses.
“Things like Wee Bee Jammin’ jams and spreads, Farmer White’s relish, products from Crooked Tree Breadworks, and even local honey,” Pfeifle says.
Beyond the market side, Island Bean offers options crafted for the customer by Pfeifle and her team.
“We make everything from scratch,” Pfeifle explains. “We make our homemade soups, muffins, scones, sandwiches, and smoothies. Having quality products helps Island Bean stand out.”
The namesake Island Bean Mocha and the cafe’s drip coffees are two of their best sellers, along with their smoothies; the sandwiches add another layer to the menu.
“Our top three sandwiches are The Corleone, which is roasted chicken marinated in Italian dressing with roasted red bell peppers, artichoke hearts, and provolone cheese; our Chicken Salad with pecans and dried cherries; and The Godfather sandwich, which is fresh-roasted turkey, cheddar, and pepperocini,” Pfeifle says. “It is a quality menu, but a simple menu that is easily worked by one person during the slow times of the year.”
During the busy summer and ski seasons, Island Bean amps things up even more by carefully expanding their operations.
“A lot of things change seasonally for Island Bean,” Pfeifle says. “In the summer time, we offer an outside grill attached to our outdoor seating area, with burgers, hot dogs, brats, and more. We also operate the Beachside Grill at the Zorn Beach (in Harbor Springs), offering burgers, fries, and other fun beach food. New this past summer was Harbor Dogz, our hot dog cart that we had operating near the city marina, at which we offered hot dogs, cold drinks, and gelato.”
In ski season, Island Bean can also be found at their coffee cart at Boyne Highlands’ Day Lodge, offering specialty coffees, teas, and popcorn; two of their most popular winter coffee drinks are the Pumpkin Spice Latte and Peppermint Mocha.
It’s pretty clear Pfeifle has conquered the “seasonal slump” experienced by the previous owners, and knows how to negotiate the slower times by focusing on what the locals and tourists need during different parts of the year.
“These operations help boost sales during the peak and off-peak seasons, which helps bolster the business,” she says.
She’s also a part of Harbor Springs’ Downtown Development Authority, which is working to promote and improve the town’s downtown shopping, marina, park, and beach areas.
And soon, Island Bean itself will be embarking on yet another new venture.
“Something Island Bean is working on for the future is very exciting,” Pfeifle says. “We are planning to work with the Good Samaritan Foundation through Great Britain and the British Virgin Islands. The foundation helps people sustain their livelihood and continue their education. In our own small way, through the foundation, we will help the people of Haiti grow and harvest coffee beans, creating jobs for the local population and securing a supply of beans for our café.”
Since Island Bean’s future plans include starting a coffee roasting operation, this charitable project is a perfect fit that also allows Pfeifle and her husband, Wally Wertman, to “give back,” something that she says is top on their list of things to do.
“Coffee roasting has been a dream of ours for a while,” Pfeifle says, “and we are very excited to be taking the first steps of this endeavor.”
It’s even more remarkable that Pfeifle has been accomplishing much of this throughout a serious health issue.
“Back in 2000, I had a health problem that resulted in blindness in my left eye. A recurrence in 2012 resulted in partial blindness in my right eye,” she explains. “But I feel comfortable to work because of the environment of Island Bean. I have a great staff - and I love the customers; they make my day.”
She couldn’t do any of it, she says, without her husband, who works for Evening Star Joinery and helps at Island Bean as well.
“Wally has an amazing, compassionate boss who is instrumental in allowing him to take time off to help with the morning rush and other Island Bean operations,” Pfeifel says appreciatively. “And my husband supports and loves me, which makes working at Island Bean a joy.”
“We love seeing this town grow, and we are both proud to be part of its future.”
Island Bean Coffee Company and Hollywood Market are located at 110 W. Main Street in downtown Harbor Springs, telephone 231-526-9998.