1967 Bob and Lue Crane were at a crossroads in their lives and
with their family fruit farm. The farm had been in Bob's family
since 1917. It was a beautiful farm, 200 acres of gently rolling
hills just four miles inland from majestic Lake Michigan. It
had all the right qualities for growing fruit. However, the
problems the Cranes were having were the same ones small farmers
across the U.S. were having. There was no money in a small family
farm. Corporate farms and foreign imports were taking their
toll on the traditional family farm.
Bob and Lue discussed many things. They had 5 children to support. They loved their way of life, and they were first and foremost, a team. Talk always led them back to those facts. They finally decided that they needed to find a way to promote their own product, find some way to bring the fruit to the consumer. So, they bought a used cider press and a donut machine and went into the apple cider and donut business. The kids all helped out and they found lots of customers in the surrounding communities.
But by the early 70's they felt that they needed to do more. Lue had always been a good cook, but she also had a great imagination and enthusiasm. She wanted to open a small restaurant in the back of the barn. She wanted to specialize in Michigan fruit pies, made with Crane Orchards fruit. In the fall of 1972, Crane's Pie Pantry Restaurant opened. They had sloppy joes, chili, pies and dumplings. Gradually over the years the menu grew and so did her steady stream of customers.
By the early '80's their oldest daughter Becky was working in the restaurant. Their youngest son Rob was back farming full time. In 1987, daughter Laura joined the restaurant team. The youngest, Nancy doesn't work in the business full time, but she has worked every weekend in the busy fall season for the past twelve years. As of today, all fourteen of Bob and Lue's grandchildren have worked on the farm or in the restaurant. So far, it doesn't look like any of the older ones will be stepping into the business, but there are still the young ones coming up.