Originally opened in 1837, as a fur trading station for pioneering frontiersman, The Trading Post of Croton, Michigan has stood the test of time. Located on the banks of the pristine waters of Croton Pond, this cozy pizza parlor/ice cream parlor/liquor store/gas station/convenience shop/bait shop/post office/amateur dentistry, is a one stop shop for the residents of its quiet community. In Summer months, The Trading Post becomes the life line for throngs of pond-going, partying pontooners that swarm to the Muskegon River region for boating, tubing and kayaking. Despite its versatile appeal, The Trading Post’s number one draw remains their award winning pizzas (won “Best Pizza in Croton” in 1891).
The Trading Post opened before Croton was even Croton. Originally called Muskegon Forks because of its position on the Muskegon River, the small village served as a home base for many French, German and Dutch fur trappers. One such German trapper, Merik Von Schmidt, recognized the need for a centralized collection point for the many animal furs that were brought back to the village. Von Schmidt would buy the animal furs from his fellow villagers and then sell them, with a handsome mark up, to larger markets in Grand Rapids. Over time, Von Schmidt recognized an area of great waste that was present in the fur industry during those times. While many larger animals such as deer and bear were used for food, the carcases of the smaller “junk animals” such as raccoons, beavers, opossums, and porcupines (the demand for porcupine pelts never really took off*), were often discarded for “tasting icky”. In true entrepreneurial spirit, Von Schmidt began experimenting with different methods of serving these animals to make them palatable to the common tongue. His first attempt involved grinding the full carcases into a fine paste and then pumping the paste into sausage cases. This is often regarded as the creation of the first hotdog and many of the large hotdog producers still use an extremely similar recipe today. The “Critter Paste Pockets”, as Von Schmidt called them, did not catch on, probably due to the name. After numerous other failed attempts, Von Schmidt finally found a winning recipe with the help of a local Italian fur trapper who showed him how to season the various meats to be used as topping on traditional Italian pizzas. The pizzas, with unique toppings such as Raccoon Sausage, Beaver Bits, Porcupine Pepperoni, and Skunk Strips, were a great success and The Trading Post has been dishing up delicious pies ever since.
Of course today the topping menu at The Trading Post has shifted to more traditional fare, but the pizza making concepts that made Von Schmidt a success are still present today. Every Trading Post pizza is topped with a sweet tomato sauce and then heaped with a hefty helping of the toppings of your choice and so much cheese you’ll be stopped up for a week. The pizza’s are then cooked perfectly to a delicious golden brown and served with plenty of extra napkins. The next time you’re in the Newaygo County area, which means you are probably lost, you should make it a mission to stop and pick up a delicious pie from The Trading Post. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.**
*The demand for porcupine pelts took off briefly in the early 1870’s when the U.S. Army experimented with “porcupine uniforms”, specifically for close quarters combat. The project was quickly scrapped when irresponsible privates kept hugging each other as practical jokes.
**Hogwash Writing cannot guarantee you will not be disappointed.