March is Women’s History Month, and we’re celebrating three of the women who are shaping the future of Traverse City and beyond. As leaders of a world-class resort, a pie emporium, and the largest running club in the state, these women are creating legacies that will carry on for generations. And along the way, they’ve made our region a more wonderful place to live and visit.
Chris MacInnes: President of Crystal Mountain
Chris MacInnes was born in northern Michigan, and though her early years took her to the East and West Coasts—as well as a stint in Austria—she returned home 37 years ago with her husband Jim to join the family business at Crystal Mountain. Under their leadership, the resort has grown to become one of the most beloved destinations in the state.
“When Jim and I arrived at Crystal Mountain in the fall of 1985, we thought we were building a resort defined primarily by skiing and golf,” Chris says. “By 2000, we realized we were building a community where people not only wanted to play, but also live and make memories with family and friends.”
Part of that community is Michigan Legacy Art Park, the stunning outdoor sculpture park that sits on Crystal Mountain’s grounds. Home to more than 30 acres and 50 sculptures, the Art Park is known for its quiet trails and nature-inspired artwork. Crystal Mountain generously leases the land to the Art Park for just $1 per year.
“It was serendipity that brought us together, but the value to both organizations cannot be underestimated and is a powerful example of partnership and collaboration creating value over time,” Chris explains.
Chris credits her love of the outdoors—whether for a walk in the Art Park or for a trip down the slopes—to her mother, Althea Petritz, who is 98 years old and still works out with her personal trainer twice a week.
“She insisted our family play outdoors,” Chris says. “She taught us to look for the goodness in people, and made having fun a priority—which is still a priority for her to this day!”
Hiking the trails in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Chris says of the experience, “As we walked through the forest canopy, we would drink in the fresh air, and the reward was reaching Lake Michigan and peering over the vast horizon.”
Denise Busley: Co-Owner of Grand Traverse Pie Company
Denise and her husband Mike have lived in Traverse City for over 25 years. In 1996, they opened the doors of the now-famous Grand Traverse Pie Company, though, at the time, the shop had just 12 seats and a handful of baked goods on the menu.
“We were actually pretty adamant that we would never make a cream pie,” Denise jokes. “Little did we know that as the winter winds blew and we watched our sales take a nail-biting drop, we would need to diversify. Yet, in our wildest dreams, Mike and I would not have been able to predict the phenomenal blessings and growth of Grand Traverse Pie Company.”
The company has now expanded to 14 locations around the state and in Indiana. As the business blossomed, the Busleys stayed dedicated to their community, both as employers and as active citizens looking to make TC a better place.
“It has been a gift to be able to give back,” Denise says. “‘The Power of Pie’ is how we attempt to affect positive change, not only through monetary donations but also using our voices to advance conversations about how to keep our children safe and part of a healthier community and society.”
For years, Denise has been supporting the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing justice, hope, and healing to children and families experiencing sexual abuse, physical abuse, and violence. Denise says that these days, more people in the community know her for her nonprofit work than for her pie.
“It is largely ‘because of pie’ that I had a voice,” she explains. “It was the ‘success of pie’ that allowed me access to individuals and audiences where I could share information and shine the light on the darkness of child sexual abuse and promote prevention efforts. It has been a heavenly match.”
Get involved in your community. She says, “I have had the opportunity to connect with many amazing nonprofits in this region and state. So many of them filling critical, and even basic needs, for our friends and neighbors.”
Lisa Taylor: Executive Director of the Traverse City Track Club
If you’ve heard of the Bayshore Marathon, you’ve heard of the amazing work the Traverse City Track Club (TCTC) does in northern Michigan. When Lisa Taylor, the club’s executive director, joined the organization in 1988, the Bayshore had only been around for five years. Today, is has become a top race in the Midwest and a top 10 qualifier for the prestigious Boston Marathon. Lisa has been instrumental in much of that momentum.
“For the past thirty years as a long-time volunteer of TCTC, I have given of my experience, time, and energy to make Traverse City a strong running community,” Lisa says. “With our abundant charitable contributions that support our mission, the TCTC can be instrumental to our growing, health-focused, active community.”
Over the years, the Bayshore Marathon has helped the TCTC provide over $2 million in financial support for grants, scholarships, and work group gifts that promote their mission of “health, fitness, fellowship, community service, family recreation and competition via running and walking.” Luckily, Lisa says she’s not alone in these efforts.
“Today, I am inspired by the strong leadership in our nonprofit community like Julie Clark of TART Trails, Marsha Smith and Becky Ewing of Rotary Charities (and now Sakura Takano), and Jean Derenzy of Downtown TC. I see all these women as people who use their experience and intelligence to make our community a better place.”
Lisa’s mentality of collaboration and community perfectly sums up the experience of so many people who call Traverse City home. And with the Bayshore Marathon scheduled to return in May 2022 after two years away (due to the pandemic), we can’t wait to see what she and the TCTC do next.
Going for a run along the single tracks off Supply Road, which are maintained by the Northern Michigan Mountain Bikes Association and TART Trails. “Miles and miles of dirt trails in the woods keep me running-occupied year-round,” she says.