Clarkston woman’s granola enjoyed worldwide
Michaelene Hearn was just trying to provide healthy
breakfasts for her family. Today, 28 years later, she has a thriving business
selling granola that’s been enjoyed by enjoyed by the late Pope John Paul II.
Michaelene’s Gourmet Granola, based in Independence Township,
started solely as an effort to provide healthy food for her family of four
girls. “I found a recipe for Quaker Oats granola,” she recalled. “It was good but
then I started changing it, a little bit here and a little bit there.”
She always had a love of cooking but never really thought
about it as an occupation. In fact, she became a teacher of the Lamaze method
of natural childbirth. In addition to information about labor and delivery,
Hearn urged her students to take care of their own bodies and those of their
children by eating right. She mentioned her homemade granola and her students
urged her to bring some in. She did so and her students raved about it.
“I would give out my recipe but they’d come back and say, ‘I
made it, but it came out different,’” she said. “So I started making it for
She also shared her granola with members of the food co-op
she belonged to at the time. Their enjoyment of it made her consider going into
business for herself. That way, she could stay home with her daughters but still
add a little to the family budget.
“At the time we had a $250 house payment,” she said. “If I
could make the house payment, I’d have been happy.”
Michaelene’s sister was a sales rep who frequently visited health
food stores and helped spread the word about the granola. From there, the
business grew mainly by word of mouth. Michaelene wanted to keep her business
small and so did not approach big stores like Meijer or Wal-Mart.
In the early 1990’s then-Michigan Governor James Blanchard
had an incentive program for Michigan food producers to attend the
International Fancy Food Show in New York.
Michaelene and her husband Larry attended and they “got a lot of orders”
for their product. The company soon
outgrew their rented space in Clarkston’s Village Bake Shop, where Michaelene
made the granola after business hours.
Today Michaelene’s Gourmet Granola is available in 11 states
in stores such as Nino Salvaggio’s and Hiller’s Markets. They have also been
served by the now-defunct TWA Airlines; Dean & Deluca, Inc.; Berlin’s Hotel
Adlon/Eil Kempinski Hotel ; Marshall Fields; and The Target Corporation.
TWA is how Michaelene’s Gourmet Granola was served to the
late pontiff. The airline handled the pope’s flights to the U.S. on his 1995
trip to New York and Baltimore. A TWA representative had tasted the granola
previously and recommended that it be served to the Pope on the flight to Rome.
His favorite was the Apple-Raisin Granola with cream.
There are 21 flavors and two varieties of granola cookies.
There are two gluten-free varieties available and the products have been
endorsed by the American Diabetes Association. Hearn said her products have also been served
at spas as well as during mountain-climbing expeditions.
Michaelene said the food industry has become more aware of
natural foods since she first started, “when there wasn’t anyone else but
(natural foods pioneer) Euell Gibbons.”
More people are trying to stay away from processed food, refined sugars
etc. but they still want food that tastes good. The company uses honey as the
primary sweetener and ten of the products use no oils or added fats.
“We’ve always felt that you shouldn’t eat something because
it’s good for you,” Hearn said. “You should eat it because you want to.”
Michaelene’s products are also available on the company’s
which also has recipes and testimonials from many happy customers. Hearn
credits her success to granola’s versatility – it can be served warm or cold,
with or without milk. It is rich in protein and makes a tasty snack that is
easy to take with you.
People certainly seem to want to eat Michaelene’s products –
the company shipped between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds of product last year.
“People ask us, ‘Don’t you aspire to be something bigger,’”
Michaelene said. “No, I don’t. We just plan to continue loving what we do. We’ve
worked carefully to be the best granola available.”
For more information, contact Michaelene’s Gourmet Granola,
7415 Deer Forest Ct., Clarkston, MI
48348; 248-625-0156; www.gourmetgranola.com.