Leelanau News and Events

Glen Arbor's Riverfront Pizza & Specialties To Reopen As Millie's Pizza And Ice Cream

By Craig Manning | Aug. 7, 2023

Nearly two years after a beloved pizza-and-ice-cream establishment in Glen Arbor closed its doors, the restaurant’s new owners and managers are set to open a similar concept in that space this week. According to Kelsey Duda, whose Fernhaus Studio hospitality group will be overseeing the branding and management of the restaurant, the former Riverfront Pizza & Specialties space at 6281 Western Avenue in Glen Arbor will reopen this Thursday, August 10 as Millie’s Pizza and Ice Cream. The Leelanau Ticker has the scoop (pun intended) on what patrons should expect from this new twist on an old tradition.

Riverfront Pizza & Specialties was once a staple of Glen Arbor. The restaurant, situated right on the banks of the Crystal River, was owned and operated for nearly four decades by husband-and-wife team Tim and Sue Nichols. But the Nichols announced in September 2021 that they would be retiring and selling their beloved eatery to Katy and Matt Wiesen, the owners of the neighboring Crystal River Outfitters Recreational District. “We have left our business in great hands and can’t wait to see the new and improved version,” the Nichols wrote on social media at the time.

Speaking to the Leelanau Ticker in the wake of that news, Katy Wiesen said that Matt had “been buying his lunch [at Riverfront Pizza] almost every day for 25 years,” and that the Nichols had “joked with us for years that we needed to be the ones to buy it.” The Wiesens were set to take possession of the restaurant in October of that year, after which the building would undergo a refresh during the winter months, including façade work, landscaping, and menu development. The Wiesens' plan was to reopen Riverfront Pizza as a new restaurant, called Riverfront Social All Day Provisions, by "late spring 2022." But the 2022 tourism season came and went and the business remained close, raising questions about what its future would be.

Now that future is here. Duda tells the Leelanau Ticker that Matt Wiesen approached Fernhaus “probably in January [of this year] about opening some sort of F&B out of that location.” A hospitality brand with a growing list of local assets, Fernhaus is best known in Leelanau County for its work restoring The Mill Glen Arbor into café, hotel, and hangout spot. Duda says she and her team leaped at the chance to add Riverfront Pizza to their portfolio, and that the business, now rebranded as Millie’s Pizza and Ice Cream, will exist as an extension of the Mill brand.

“We decided to stick with what was originally there and go with a pizza and ice cream route,” Duda says. “So we’re honoring the history of the location and what people loved about it. But the difference is that we will be making everything from scratch. The ice cream will be made in-house, and then with the pizza, all of the grains for the flour will be milled at The Mill, and we’ll also be sourcing other local ingredients to ensure the highest quality experience possible for our customers.”

At launch, Millie’s will have four pizza variations – cheese, pepperoni, sausage, and mushroom & roasted garlic – all available by the slice or in a box of six slices. Per chef Bobby Thoits, the style of pizza Millie’s will be making is called “Roman pizza al taglio,” which is known for its rectangular shape and for its “semi-thick, light and fluffy interior and crispy exterior.” Thoits promises “a wonderful style of pizza that will showcase our thoughtfully sourced ingredients.”

As for ice cream, Millie’s will have two flavors to start – cinnamon toast and dark cherry – available in single scoop (and eventually in pint containers to go). “The ice cream is made from a very rich custard base, using cream, whole milk, sugar, salt and egg yolks,” Thoits says. 

Duda says Millie’s has gotten good feedback on both the pizza and the ice cream at a few soft opening events held over the past few weeks. Now the restaurant is ready to open to the public, with service officially kicking off at noon this Thursday. After that, Duda says the business will operate noon-8pm Thursdays through Sundays.

The opening of Millie’s caps what has been a busy spring/summer season for Fernhaus in Glen Arbor. The Mill Glen Arbor officially opened for business on April 14 with the launch of The Mill Café, a coffee shop, scratch bakery, and hangout spot. At the time, the café was only open Thursdays through Sundays, and parts of the Mill property were still cordoned off as renovation work continued. But additional services have opened at The Mill since – including seven-days-a-week operations at the café and, most notably, the recent opening of The Mill House, the property’s lodging component. Sitting adjacent to The Mill itself, The Mill House is a three-unit hotel consisting of two king suites and a two-bedroom unit with a kitchenette.

Duda promises that The Mill will continue to grow and evolve as it settles into its groove this fall. “Once Millie’s is in a good, stable place, we will turn our attention to opening a restaurant at The Mill, which will a 30-seat dinner restaurant down on the river,” she says. Opening a full-service restaurant on the site, she adds, will also have benefits for the café. “With both the café staff and the kitchen team, we're looking forward to delivering an expanded experience in the offseason. So, there’s more to come as far as our café offerings go in the future.”

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