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Life & Work with Jessica Nagel

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Nagel. 

Hi Jessica, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I’ve grown up around wonderful food and great cooks and chefs. My dad worked at Tapawingo (formerly a fine dining restaurant in Northern Michigan) for 20+ years, so my brother and I were able to experience high-end farm-to-table cooking at a young age, and we always loved experimenting in the kitchen. 

I worked in restaurants during and after college, and then after college moved to Chicago to work in marketing for a flavor and fragrance company and then on to manage the marketing division of a custom seasoning company. In this position, I would travel around to large CPG companies and present food trends and consumer insights. I worked with innovation team, R&D and chefs to ideate the products that they should launch next. I did a ton a traveling to various food trade shows and found so many great products. 

During Covid, I left Chicago for months at a time to come home to Northern Michigan. It’s so beautiful here, and I loved being home, but I missed the food diversity and the interesting products that I was used to buying in Chicago. I didn’t see much of the high-end grab-n-go food that was popping up all over Chicago and other cities I visited, so I developed a business plan to bring the fun and tasty grab-n-go food and the interesting new products I was seeing at trade shows to downtown Charlevoix. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back, would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has not exactly been a smooth road, but I’ve had a lot of support from my family, friends, and the community. I would say the buildout of my space was probably the most challenging part. I took an empty large concrete room and created a warm and funky space as well as an indoor kitchen and a grilling and smoking (food) patio outside. Navigating permits/codes/regulations/commercial architectural drawing, etc., and trying to get everything done before I missed the Northern Michigan summer season was extremely stressful. 

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I have a degree in graphic design and marketing, so visual appeal is super important to me. It’s important that everything about the space is inviting, the packaging of all of the food that I bring in is beautiful, and the food I create is appealing. 

What do you like and dislike about the city?
I’ve met so many wonderful people, the community has been very supportive, and I’ve so appreciative. What I like least is the seasonality. Northern Michigan is beautiful year-round but tourism seems to only be busy in the summer months. 

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