This May marks Matt Wiesen’s 25th Anniversary with Crystal River Outfitters. Matt began working seasonally for Denise & Joel Drake at Crystal River Outfitters in 1995. “It is hard to believe what started as a summer job grew into a career”, said Matt while reflecting on his upcoming milestone . “To this day I still get to show up to work during summer in flip flops and surround myself with a young energetic staff year round.”
Crystal River Outfitters actually dates back to 1954. The original building, known as Riverside Trading Store offered high-end clothing to visitors. Eventually the store turned into a kayak and canoe livery for people to enjoy the Crystal River.
In 2004, Matt Wiesen purchased Crystal River Outfitters from Pat & Bob Graham who were the owners at the time. Matt somehow convinced a local bank to take a chance on him as a senior in college with nothing more than student debt to his name. “I was intrigued by the growth opportunity of the business”, shared Matt. “And the desire to share the natural beauty with others provides great joy for me and my family.”
His vision of growth has come to fruition. The District now includes four stores that embody a healthy lifestyle with multiple recreational and shopping offerings to enjoy year round! Crystal River Outfitters and The Cyclery provide kayak and bike rentals, clothing, new bike sales, bike repairs and beach rentals including umbrellas, chairs and stand-up paddle boards spring through fall. M22 Glen Arbor features the full line of popular M22 brand, plus wine tasting year-round. Coastal offers resort wear, footwear, clothing plus snowshoe and cross country ski rentals in the winter.
Matt said he also takes great pride in the fact that he, his wife Katy, and their key managers have turned what started as a small, seasonal kayak and canoe livery into the “Crystal River Outfitters Recreational District”. The Wiesen’s are happy to employ eight year-round employees who are also able to make a living in Leelanau County. In the peak of summer staff counts tally up to 55. The District expanded their staff in 2019 to include seasonal J1 visa students from around the world who were interested in a work experience and opportunity to explore a different country.
Below is a look back at the past 10 years. And, this isn’t where the story ends. Stay tuned for upcoming changes planned for The District this year. The new changes will be unveiled next month and ready in time for summer!
Crystal River Outfitters Over the Years
- 2010 Crystal River Outfitters is named the Paddle Directors of the first M22 Challenge.
- 2011 After establishing a friendship Matt & Keegan Myers through the M22 Challenge, Matt and Katy Wiesen open M22 Glen Arbor and begin working with Black Star Farms to expand the line of custom blended wines for M22 to add the tasting room.
- 2012 The Wiesens purchase land across from Crystal River Outfitters. The property is now home to The Cyclery with expanded bike rental and repair business. That same year, winter rentals are introduced including cross country skis and snowshoes to enjoy on the newly opened Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail.
- 2014 Matt and Katy’s daughter Yardley is born!
- 2017 Coastal, a top-of-the-line clothing outfitter opened to further expand the shopping experience and year-round offerings in Glen Arbor.
- 2018 M22 Wine Patio opens. Now guests enjoy M22 wines in a casual outdoor setting with large scale TV, fire pit and group seating. Special events include live entertainment, games and s’mores!
- 2018 Coastal moves to its new building, a location adjacent to the three other stores in the District.
- 2018 Matt and Katy’s son Drake is born!
- 2019 Summer events at the M22 Wine Patio expand including children’s crafts, painting workshops, and live entertainment. The bolstering business also required the addition of staff. Seasonal staff now includes students from around the world traveling and working on a J1 Visa. Online reservations for all rentals are available. And, online shopping is also a convenient way to purchase some of the company’s custom apparel and accessories. Gift cards are also available online for use throughout the District.