Community Partner: Buckley’s Mountainside Canoes

By Bob Busch, Co-owner of Buckley’s Mountainside Canoes, Co-op Owner


The Definitive Story of Buckley’s and the TeeVee Show

You may have heard that Buckley’s Mountainside Canoes was on Animal Planet. If you thought that sounded funny, you’re right, it was, but we really were on Animal Planet. A television construction crew came in and changed everything. The entire place got a facelift, and it’s amazing. This is the definitive story of how it went down.

It all started on July 12th, last summer, with an email.

Hello –

My name is Rachel. I’m a producer at Loud Television in New York City. We’re a full scale television production company that creates a number of programs for various cable networks such as FYI, HGTV, The Cooking Channel, and National Geographic Channel – including the hits “Tiny House Hunting” and Tiny House Nation.”

We are currently casting a new series. The show is for a major cable TV network and we are searching in rural towns and areas for people who are planning on building a unique living space out of something re-purposed. These could be historical, vintage or old structures that are ideally privately owned. A few examples include, an airstream trailer, an old railroad car, shed, silo, bus, boat, anything that you have always wanted to convert into something else. We’re looking for all types of projects like this for the series. I’m specifically looking for structures that are on the water, near the water or have water based theme (i.e. an old boat, or a house boat, etc).

The email went on. I thought the same thing you are probably thinking, wha the wha?  I read through the email. It all seemed fairly legitimate, so I decided I could give a five minute response on a busy July afternoon.

I have an old pole building at a canoe livery that I would like to build into a nano-brewery operation. Buckley’s Mountainside Canoes was started by 1972 Canoe Marathon World Champion John Buckley and his wife Donna, the first woman to complete the famed Au Sable Canoe Marathon the same year. Since 1974 John and Donna Buckley have put the best canoes, kayaks, and SUPS on the Chippewa River, a beautifully clear river in Central Michigan. In 2010 Liz and I took over for John and Donna, we have a dream to turn this into the only Canoe and Brew in the world.

I remember trying to pack as many angles as I could into the one paragraph. Let them find the story. I was on the phone with Rachel from New York City the next afternoon. The rest was kind of a whirlwind.

The new deck.

Having a very small brewing operation, a nano-brewery, has been a long term goal of ours since I went to Germany and visited a livery there. They had fine German lager on tap. After tasting that brew, it became a dream of ours to put a couple house made brews on tap at Buckley’s. After that phone call, the five year plan became a five week plan. A whole motley crew of TV people, stars, cameramen, and producers descended on Buckley’s. The construction crew pulled their trailers in and set up for the long haul. Liz and I were shepherded into a canoe, to land at our dock as the stars, Jay and Mark, “arrive” for the first time. At least in TV land.

What one sees on the TV takes at least three times for the camera, including the long shot (where the camera is pulled way back) where we literally pantomimed the previous conversation. It was really amusing. After the initial tour, the stars take Liz and I over to the woods for some on camera interviews. Meanwhile, the cord was cut on the old building and everything on the inside was ripped out. Twelve days later we were introduced to our new building, the Canoe and Brew.

The guys did a great job, the place is beautiful. It took a massive under taking, and it was all due to the overwhelming support from locals. Morbark and Bandit helped with chips and chipping. Mt. Pleasant High School and Gratiot Isabella Technical Center design, art, and construction students got school credit and real world experience. Wolf Run Wildlife and Spiritual Center donated a wood stove and other antique decorating materials. Affordable Cleaning Solutions donated their time to put the finishing sparkle on the new barn wood and brass interior. Local plumbers, masons, construction workers, electricians, and so many local folks worked long hours and got the job done in 12 quick and intense days! It was amazing.

Inside the revamped pole building.

Inside the revamped pole building.

The series flopped like a fish in a canoe. Several scheduling issues, and the fact that it was a building show on an Animal network, all caused problems. Our episode is great, though, and it showed once on Animal Planet. As far as I know it won’t be shown again. Maybe on another network. We’ll be showing the super cut of the show at the Reel Paddling Film Festival this year at Mountain Town Brewing, April 23rd. (Call 989-772-5437 for tickets!)

What does this mean for the future of Buckley’s? First and foremost Buckley’s Mountainside Canoes mission is to provide the best experience available on the Chippewa River. We still offer the best boats, the best staff, and the best part of the river, and always will. Like the river changes the banks, yet still flows as a river, so does Buckley’s.

The brewing beer part is trickier. We kind of put the cart before the horse here because of the television opportunity, all the licensing still needs to be put in place. To be honest, the TV show didn’t make Colorado Brewing’s double barrel brewing kit and the brew room fully ready to run. I still have to add a floor drain and create a place to hook the brewer to the water supply. So I have this season to begin the experimentation, to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

What this does offer is a chance for Buckley’s to expand our event hosting capabilities. We now have a beautiful year-round space for fundraising events and parties. The new deck is a perfect spot to watch the Paddle and Pick concerts that start on June 17th, and run every other Friday evening all summer. The space is available to rent for small groups year-round, just call for more information.

So we are very excited to invite all of our fans, and our fellow Owners of GreenTree Cooperative, to join us as we navigate the coming changes. Come out and rent a kayak – Co-op Owners receive a weekday discount! Watch for a chance to sign up for paddle board yoga. Come out and enjoy music and a relaxing evening beside the Chippewa River. Liz and I, and our staff, will be there to greet you with a smile.


Co-op Owner receive $5 off any weekday canoe rental or $3 off any weekday kayak rental. To find out more about all of our Community Partners, click here.

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