Personalities Of The Peninsula: Meet Northport’s Daniel Caudill
By Emily Tyra | Oct. 19, 2020
As the Creative Director of Shinola for the last decade, Daniel Caudill helped shape the iconic Detroit-based brand of handcrafted watches, bicycles and leather goods. Now, he and his partner Tyler Rink, an interior designer, find themselves as year-round Northport residents and new stewards of a 1915-era log estate called Wood How (more on the log home’s storied past in a moment). The Leelanau Ticker recently spoke with Caudill and got a sense for his enthusiasm for small-town life, and what keeps him inspired.
Leelanau Ticker: A quick version of your career in design?
Caudill: I started right out of school at L.A. Gear, then was a designer at Adidas. I started styling in L.A., doing wardrobe for over 15 years for celebrity clients, and music video and commercial clients. I have been lucky to work in design and fashion my entire life, and to see so many aspects of the customer experience from all sides.
Leelanau Ticker: When did you first come to Northport?
Caudill: Seven years ago this Christmas — we came up and stayed with our really close friends, and we were five days in the house in a snowstorm. We played games, went on hikes, and it was so magical.
Leelanau Ticker: So it was love at first sight?
Caudill: I’m from Montana and spent a lot of my life in California. This was a place that had both the Big Sur ideal that I always wanted, and that small-town community that I grew up in. With the farming and culinary groups here, you get really great food and culture and really interesting people, with the rural roots that I’m really attached to.
Leelanau Ticker: Funny, the 45th Parallel also runs right through Montana.
Caudill: From the first time coming up here, it just felt so much like home.
Leelanau Ticker: And now home is a log house called “Wood How.” Tell us the history.
Caudill: It was built by Francis Haserot in the early teens — he had fruit companies and was in finance in Cleveland. After they forested all of Leelanau and shipped the wood to Chicago, he figured he could grow cherries here, so he came up and met another settler named Dame and started the first cherry orchards on the Leelanau Peninsula, called Cherry Home. Haserot had 1,000 acres of cherry trees, a canning facility across the road, and this house. His wife Sarah McKinney Haserot passed away, and the family tomb is a famous sculpture in Cleveland called the Haserot Angel. She’s bronze — the angel of death — and the way it aged, she is all green except for her tears, which are black. It’s become its own destination…
Leelanau Ticker: Wow.
Caudill: Yes, I don’t know if you have enough tape for all of this! Margaret Haserot, their daughter, then started a summer camp for girls on the Cherry Home property. She was Camp Director. There were 10 cabins, with four girls per cabin, and it was almost $500 per girl to come here — quite a bit of money in the 1920s.
Leelanau Ticker: You have been diving into the history of the camp?
Caudill: Yes, in the archives with the Leelanau Historical Society. It was called Camp Caho, short for canoe and horse. They would teach the girls how to fix a car, to ride a horse — it was in the 20s and they wanted women to be strong. They would set out on overnight canoeing trips. Every year the girls would do a journal. I put gloves on and flipped through them. They would write, ‘it was so-and-so’s birthday, so we went up to Wood How.’ The campers called this house Wood How, and we do too.
Leelanau Ticker: What’s it like so far being its steward?
Caudill: It’s gone through many owners — it’s been a bed and breakfast, it’s been a fishing camp, the woman who lived here before us took care of it just because she loved it. How often do you get an opportunity to be part of a history of a house like this? Our plan is to be here fulltime for the rest of our lives, and hopefully restore and bring it back to what it was originally.
Leelanau Ticker: As new-ish settlers in Northport, what people and places have inspired you?
Caudill: The Garage because of the camaraderie, the family and the people. Shawn [Santo] at Porcupine is curating a really great mix, as with Pier [Wright] at Wright Gallery. Eric [Allchin] at The Tribune created in a little diner, with a great aesthetic, great customer service, and really good product — someplace that everyone is proud of.
Leelanau Ticker: How has being in Northern Michigan stoked your creativity?
Caudill: Being up here allowed a place to escape and completely unplug and unwind. At the very beginning of the [Shinola] brand, it was so much work with a very small group of people — just a small handful of us. It started with watches. I was lucky enough to be in the right place in the right time and start working on the look and feel. The founder’s goal was to build a watch factory in the United States and bring jobs to the United States. He had to build it to know if he could actually do it. So, there was a point from a quality and a price-point standpoint that it proved itself as a viable business. And that’s when the company started to build, and it started to build around Detroit. Northport was the place where, even if I came up for a day, I felt like I had been on vacation for a week.
Leelanau Ticker: Some of your design inspirations at large?
Caudill: I’m very drawn to simplicity. Marfa, Texas, has been a big inspiration, and Donald Judd has been an inspiration. In paring away everything…the quality is what makes it beautiful.
Leelanau Ticker: You are the creative vision behind the proposed marijuana dispensary on Mill Street. [Quick backstory: its special land use permit has been approved by the Northport Planning Commission after a public hearing, but its fate is now on the ballot this November election with a citizens’ referendum to repeal the village’s current Recreational Marijuana Establishments Ordinance.] Where are your thoughts right now with this project?
Caudill: A single dispensary isn’t a big booming business, but it is one that will sustain itself. The goal is to create something that feels like you are walking into a pharmacy that’s been in Northport since the 50s, that just feels really nostalgic. I know I can do something amazing for Northport, and, yes, I want to do that for myself, because these businesses are coming here, and I want to be a part of it, and I get excited about creating new things. The vote that’s happening…Northport is a very special place, and regardless of what happens, what’s important is the feeling of really being a part of a community, and that’s what Northport is to me. That’s what I feel like every day here, going to the grocery store, seeing people at the New Bohemian or The Tribune. Regardless of what your views are, people still care.
Leelanau Ticker: Does that bring it full circle to why you love being up here?
Caudill: Obviously, communities exist everywhere, but when you are able to find one that really speaks to you and you feel a part of it’s a very calming, peaceful place. I feel more connected here than in a big city.
Leelanau Ticker: Your dream for Northport, in a nutshell:
Caudill: There’s a sense that you just want to keep it the way it is, but you don’t want to strangle or stifle a town, you want to let it blossom. You are not protecting the established by putting the new at bay. Eventually neither will exist. The ship rises for everybody and I hope we continue with the goal of creating year-round jobs and a beautiful year-round destination. I think Northport can keep its small-town values and feel but still be a booming small town for business.
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