Updated: Apr 13, 2021
9:30 am: Leave Houghton, riding the high of Interview Day.
10:00 am: Get breakfast at Keweenaw Coffee Works. A cold brew shamrock latte, and an iced miel. Two breakfast sandwiches. Say hi to the great people working at our favorite coffee shop.
10:30: Departure from KCW and drive to the Fitz.
10:55: Arrive at the Fitz. Open car doors to exit. Forget how strong the wind in Eagle River is. Have the car door slammed back in your face. Try again. Fight to exit the car. Grab all our equipment and struggle against the headwind to get inside. #JustEagleRiverThings.
It’s been a couple of months since either of us have been to the Fitz, or by it’s official name, Fitzgerald’s Hotel and Restaurant. The restaurant has traditionally been a summer stop. In recent years they’ve extended their season to include winter, but amidst the chaos of 2020, this winter they choose to stay closed for the season. This was a testy year for all restaurants. Like most other law abiding businesses, they’ve been closed for dine in since the wee early months of 2020 and through determination found a way to make it work. Being the resilient people they are, they adapted with a limited take-out menu and kept slinging their oh-so-good cocktails. As it turns out, you can serve high-class in a plastic cup. All things considered, being at the Fitz on a sunny spring day feels like a little taste of summer and normalcy.
We meet with Mike LaMotte, owner and bartending wizard, and Laura Rajala, who does a little bit of everything from waitressing to managing the hotel to making a wicked Manhattan. Both are locals born and raised and thriving in the Keweenaw. Although the Fitz has been closed to patrons, the staff is still there everyday, hard at work. This winter they’ve taken advantage of the off season to make renovations to their hotel (read more about that big project here. We get the full tour and the verdict is- it’s looking top notch. It’s everything you expect from The Fitz with a little extra modern glamour. I’m talking in particular about one snazzy velvet couch. That kind of glamour. “It’s like Christmas every single day”, Laura says of the 30+ packages getting delivered daily to The Fitz. Indeed, all through the hotel are packages, brand new lamps, side tables, and all of the other beautiful decor pieces you and I wish we had in our homes. On the way to this interview both Haley and I did a double take at free furniture sitting on the side of the road in Mohawk, so you could say our bar for being impressed is low...but trust me, this is the real deal. The main dining room now resembles a luxurious living room. The wood beams and softest leather couches ever (residing here for the time being) create a cozy spot to set up for our podcast.
In honor of Women’s History Month, for this podcast we turn the tables. Instead of interviewing Mike and Laura, we each tell them a story of a badass woman in Keweenaw history (after a no-nonsense, no-regrets talk about pasty's, affectionately dubbed....Pasty Pod). We provide the story, and they provide their commentary. Neither has heard the stories we told, so we get to capture the real-time reactions. Luckily for you (and us), Mike and Laura are funny people. We had a good time with this one.
I want to take this time to say that the people at the Fitz are great friends, but more so, have some damn tasty food and drinks. We don’t get into the business much in the podcast (in an effort to focus more on stories and less on business agendas) but we’ll never skip the opportunity to share how great The Fitz is. In addition to being a gem of the Keweenaw in regards to food and views, The Fitz has provided a lot of support to the project which we are endlessly grateful for. Thank you Mike and Laura for the great conversation and sharing your time with us. If you’re interested in staying in one of their lovely new suites, head here before they book up for the summer.
We hope episode 3 leaves our listeners with a little more appreciation for the rich history of strong women in the Keweenaw, and the resilience of women everywhere.
Podcast Notes //
Sources for Angelique Mott’s Story:
Native Americans in Michigan: http://www.mfhn.com/Native/Default.aspx?Page=AngeliqueMottNarrative&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1
Wiki Wand on Isle Royale: https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Isle_Royale
If you want to dive deeper into this story, here are additional materials to check out:
Book: “Angelique Abandoned”, James R. Stevens