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'Bird's Eye' sees future garden eatery in outdoor solar pergolas

'I am going to use electric generators powered by solar panels in the winter,' Owner Ken Hopper said, recipient of the latest $25K MEDC Match on Main reimbursement grant.

Imagine a garden floor covered by lush green vegetation and sprinkled with bright flowers, where vines wrap freely around individual solar powered pergolas, designed specifically for you and your party year-round.

Ken and Wilda Hopper of Bird’s Eye Outfitters will be turning such visions into reality this summer.

It is all thanks to Sault Ste. Marie Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Director Stephanie Sprecker and board members, who proposed the individually enclosed outdoor garden eatery idea to Michigan Economic Development Commission’s (MEDC) Match on Main $25,000 reimbursement program. 

“We became a Main Street Community in 2017,” Sprecker said. “We are now a master Main Street Community. Match on Main provides funding for communities that participate at the master level after showing commitment to the program as a select level for five years.”

Ken Hopper expects to begin work at the east end of Bird’s Eye Outfitters relatively soon with a hopeful finish date sometime around June. Modifications for winter use are expected by the 2023/24 snowfall.

“We are going to have a service window for the outside area,” he said. “We will be running beer taps through the wall to the outside area. It will make it an area that’s more like a destination. People can have their dogs out there. It will be outdoor dining all year-round.”

The pergolas of the Bird’s Eye garden will be encapsulated with transparent walls and heating through the winter months.  

“I am going to use electric generators powered by solar panels in the winter,” Hopper said. “They will power a heated carpet for your feet when you're sitting out there. When it's enclosed, heat will stay within the pergola. We will use a solar powered irrigation system and rainwater capture to irrigate all the greenery that's going to be out there.”

The $25,000 MEDC Match on Main reimbursement grant will not cover the entirety of anticipated project expenses. The Hoppers will pay for any exceeding costs because it is all about “being a unique venue that follows through on our drive to becoming a destination. If you are talking about Sault Ste. Marie, we want to be part of that conversation.”

Sprecker said she was excited to announce the MEDC’s approval of the Bird’s Eye Outfitters proposal on Friday, April 7: “It will give our citizens something to do all year.”

Bird’s Eye Outfitters offers guided tours and hosts events designed to promote general awareness and interest in the wealth of outdoor opportunities the area has to give. Together, the Hoppers lead cross country skiing, snowshoeing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, canoeing, backpacking, and hiking groups.