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Port City Smokehouse

Danielle Horvath - August 9th, 2007
Mike Elwell is a happy man. He has managed to combine two of his loves - fishing and smoked fish - into a business. Elwell and his brothers took an old car wash/gas station in Frankfort and after extensive renovations turned it into the Port City Smokehouse, which they opened on the main drag heading into town in June.
”Smoked fish and Frankfort are like fudge and Mackinaw City -- they go hand in hand. It’s part of the Up North experience,” Elwell says.
Just a stone’s throw from Betsie Bay and the fleet of charter boats that make the Lake Michigan town home, Port City Smokehouse hopes to fill a niche that’s missing in the area. Elwell and his staff are working with charter boat captains and their clients to preserve the fresh fish being caught, and then packaging and ship it anywhere in the U.S. within three days.
If their grand opening was any indication, they are onto something.
”We smoked 350 pounds for our opening and had just two fish left. We were jamming for seven hours straight, it was a great opening,” Elwell saus.
”The community has been very receptive, and many are glad to see an old building brought back to life and that we are helping to extend the business district farther east from the downtown strip.”

Attention to cleanliness and detail is obvious when you enter their store, with it’s washed white walls, scrubbed cement floors and open and airy feeling. “There are a lot of state regulations for smoking
fish. It’s all monitored closely and fed into a computer so we know we are in line with health department and state laws.”
Their smokers out back hold up to 1,000 lbs. of fish and they have a specially constructed 190-gallon brine tank that holds the fresh fish for 15 hours before smoking. This process preserves the product to give it about a two-week shelf life.
They use sugar maple wood in their smokers to give fish a sweet flavor. Along with locally-caught fish that the business smokes on site, they also carry smoked whitefish from the U.P., lake trout from Canada, salmon and walleye. There are also grill meat favorites like pork ribs, steaks, brats, and other specialty foods for a picnic or BBQ.
“We are working on carrying a full line of cheeses, olives, sauces, dips and spreads, and other picnic favorites like potato salad, cole slaw, crackers and snacks,” Elwell says. Deli sandwiches will also be available for lunch through the summer.
When asked about the seasonal nature of the business, Elwell explained that he and his brothers own two motels in the area and have gotten a feel for the peaks and valleys of the local economy.
“We have a longterm plan to increase the mail order business, expand in to other types of smoked meats, sell wholesale to other retailers, and develop a line of brand-name products like our popular whitefish pate. We will adjust hours to maybe weekends through the fall and winter, but we are here for the long haul.”
Contact the Port City Smokehouse for more information at 231-352-9192.
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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