Sam and Taylor Simpson’s parents have been farming cherries and wine grapes since before either one of them can remember. Started in the 1950s, the Simpson family farm has become quite the legacy. It has expanded into its own winery – Good Harbors Winery – in the 1980s and has been thriving ever since. It wasn’t until their father passed away that Sam and Taylor became directly involved in the family business. Upon Mr. Simpson’s passing, the sibling duo quit their corporate jobs, moved back to the Leelanau Peninsula in Northern Michigan, and began taking over the operation with one vision in mind: to see the 65+ year old family legacy live on. What they didn’t realize, however, is that they would end up growing the family farm into a destination for travelers and wine lovers throughout the region. And thus, the story of Aurora Cellars began…
It all started in 2013 when the opportunity to purchase the property, now known as Aurora Cellars, presented itself. With the existing vineyard and farm business busting at the seams, the Simpson siblings knew that this purchase was the next necessary step towards growing the business. Because this would be a large transaction, Sam and his sister had no idea where to start.
Sam and Taylor reached out to Huntington Bank, a bank that the Simpson family has a long history of working with, who advised the siblings to use the SBA 504 loan program through the
Economic Development Foundation
. Doug Morgenstern, VP of Huntington Bank, recommended this program because it would lower potential risks for the bank, making the purchase more achievable. Through the SBA 504 loan program, Sam and Taylor were able to purchase Aurora Cellars at a fixed, below-market interest rate with a lower down payment and longer loan terms, allowing them to continue to grow the business through the process.
“We have a really good track record of being able to operate these facilities, but banks are still worried about the risks of our industry. The SBA was able to provide that security so there was basically no risk at all…I don’t think we would have been able to get this deal done without them.”
Since the expansion, Aurora Cellars has been able to produce more wine in-house for other facilities and wineries throughout the region, expanding their capacity throughout the Michigan wine industry and increasing their overall brand. In addition, they have also hosted a variety of charity events to raise money for different causes throughout the community.
We’ve created a destination in the heart of Leelanau county where people come to enjoy the property, have special events such as weddings or conferences, or simply relax,”