TRAUNIK - A.J. Fischer grinds some fair trade coffee, uses filtered water to brew it, adds organic milk and pours everything into a ceramic coffee cup her customer brought to have filled at Fischer's store.
Fischer's organic foods store and coffee shop - Lily's of Traunik - is located in the middle of nowhere in Alger County's "downtown" Traunik that consists of a handful of houses at a four-way stop surrounded by rows of trees.
Why a natural foods store in the middle of the woods?
A.J. Fischer, left, talks to customers Lea Marks and Kathy Beaupied, both of Grand Marais, in Fischer’s natural foods store, Lily’s of Traunik. (Journal photo by Miriam Moeller)
Jeff and A.J. Fischer are seen at their coffee bar inside their natural foods store in Alger County’s town of Traunik. (Journal photo by Miriam Moeller)
"There is a new influx of organic farmers in Alger County," Fischer said, adding that she heard many people complain having to drive 40 miles to the nearest natural foods store in Marquette to get their needs filled. So, in the spring she decided to open Lily's of Traunik, which carries certified organic foods, sells local farmers' and artists' products and is a member of Co-op America - a not-for-profit organization that helps solve enviornmental problems by growing a "green" economy.
"It was blind faith that there were people out here like me," Fischer said. "(People) want chemical-free food. People that haven't made the switch to organic foods will eventually because it's becoming an issue."
Fischer was right. Since she has opened in the spring and created a Web site, her business has boomed with customers from as far as Oregon passing through and locals shopping regularly.
"There is an organic farmer and she feeds her chickens strictly out of Lily's," Fischer said.
The Traverse City native - along with her husband Jeff - not only serves many farmers and other people seeking natural foods, she also does everything she can to preserve the environment.
"Everything out of the cafe is 100 percent recyclable," she said. "Our coffee is composted and goes right into our garden."
Packaging, cans, paper - most everything is recycled and Fischer said she fills only about half a bag of trash a week. Recycling is required for stores to maintain their membership with Co-op America, Fischer said.
Cleaning is done with natural products and Fischer and her husband like to ride their bikes or drive their hybrid car to work.
"I love doing this," Fischer said. "Helping people get healthier - what could be better?"
Fischer also is a bulk distributor and buys from independent organic companies, paying attention to how much packaging companies use and how they market it.
The Fischers came across the abandoned 1926 Mikulich's General Store last November and bought it on a lark. Since then, they restored the store as well as the apartment above that the couple rents out as a "green" bed and breakfast.
"It's an allergy-free inn with organic cotton sheets," Fischer said.
For more information, go to www.lilysgoods.com.