Buzzing with activity: New generations carry on traditions at Brownwood Acres

Linda Gallagher, Contributing Writer

Courtesy photo

Four generations of DeTar's involved with Brownwood over the years with family matriarch Mar DeTar (center). From left, Mar's grandson Jordan DeTar, great-granddaughter Leela DeTar, son Steve DeTar, grandson Weston DeTar, granddaughter-in-law Sally DeTar, great-grandson Orion DeTar, and grandson Hilton DeTar. 


Courtesy photo

One of the members of the sixth generation of the family, 10-year-old Leela DeTar holds a bag of penny candy she just selected from the candy counter in the Brownwood Country Store.


CENTRAL LAKE – For many years, it's been a tradition for those visiting the Torch Lake area to stop by the shops at Brownwood Acres at least once, but preferably, several times a season during the warmer months.

Visitors and locals alike can stock up on their supplies of Brownwood's homemade jams, butters and mustards, not to mention an array of Torch Lake logo wear, vintage candy counter, knick-knacks and household accessories, and, of course, what some call “the best homemade donuts on the planet,” sold in an enclave of 1800s-era buildings, including a general store that survived a dip in the cold waters of Torch Lake.

Thanks to a group of dedicated and inspired young people comprising the fifth generation of the Brown/Morse/DeTar family, those traditions are continuing in the collection of shops on East Torch Lake Drive west of Central Lake.

"I made 1,100 donuts today," said a grinning Jordan DeTar, one of Mar DeTar's grandchildren, last Sunday afternoon. DeTar and his brother Weston, along with help from other members of the family, took over operations of the shop last year when Mar retired after more than 70 years of dedication to the family business.

The business began in 1945 when Mary Lou "Mar" Morse, later DeTar, and her brother Gary –who eventually made his mark as the developer of The Villages complex near Orlando, Florida – opened a roadside stand in front of their grandfather Brown's family farm where they sold the family's vegetables, eggs and honey.

Over the years, Mar DeTar expanded the business to include native Michigan Petoskey Stone jewelry, Minnetonka moccasins, collectibles and northern Michigan souvenirs, all of which are still sold in the shops today and in buildings around Antrim County. Those include the county's oldest schoolhouse (formerly located in Bellaire), and Eastport's former general store and stage coach stop, which fell through the ice in 1957 while being transported across frozen Torch Lake to Brownwood.

The building was successfully retrieved in a community effort that gained national publicity. It is now the home of an iconic, and very popular candy counter, and an antique "cigar store" Indian statue, as well as all of Brownwood's famous jams, sauces and mustards.

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