10 things I love about Pinckney, and 5 things I don’t

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Pinckney’s charming downtown features a little of everything.

True story. In the mid-1980s, I lived in the Village of Pinckney. One night, I got hungry for a pizza, so I called the downtown pizza place and ordered a medium with pepperoni.

PIZZA GUY: “OK, it’ll be ready in 20 minutes.”

ME: “Don’t you want my address?”

PIZZA GUY: “Why would I want your address?”

ME: “So you’ll know where to deliver it.”

PIZZA GUY: “Oh, you think we DELIVER? Ha ha ha ha! Nobody in Pinckney delivers pizza! Ha ha ha ha! Where do you think you are?”

Yes, that was the state of things in Pinckney some 30 years ago. The town was so small that you couldn’t even get a pizza delivered. Fast-forward to 2016, and we not only have SEVERAL pizza places that deliver, but we ALSO have a McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Taco Bell!

Which means there’s a whole lot more to love about Pinckney these days. So, in that spirit, here’s my list of 10 things I love about Pinckney, and 5 things I don’t. (As a disclaimer, some of the things I love and don’t love are technically in Hamburg, but for the purposes of this piece, we’re lumping Pinckney and Hamburg in together.)


1. Biking on the Lakelands Trail
My family and I have biked all over Michigan, and the Lakelands Trail is still one of my favorite places. Why do I love thee? Let me count the ways: 1. It’s flat, so it’s easy to bike; 2. You can stop for ice cream at Cap’n Frosty and food at Zukey Lake Tavern along the way; 3. They paved it all the way to Pinckney; 4. It’s flat, so it’s easy to bike; 5. It’s flat, so it’s easy to bike.

2. The dining room at the Pinckney McDonald’s
With all the posters and memorabilia, it’s like a movie museum in there. Find me a fast-food place anywhere in Michigan that has a cooler dining room.

3. The Chain of Lakes
Summertime in the Pinckney area is heavenly if you live on the Chain of Lakes – or if you have a friend with a boat on the Chain of Lakes. Floating parties on the sandbars, skiing and tubing, eating at Zukey Lake Tavern. Heavenly.

4. Light of the World Academy
I have some personal bias, since my wife is the school director and my daughter goes to school here. But this school is cool nonetheless. The K-6 charter school is the only school anywhere in the area that offers a FREE Montessori education, and it’s located in the old St. Mary’s School building in the village. The Light of the World Academy preschool, meanwhile, is located at Shalom Lutheran Church, which is a highly cool place itself.

5. Summer nights at Zukey Lake Tavern
If it’s not too hot, and if the mosquitoes aren’t too bad, there’s nothing better than a summer night eating outside at Zukey’s. Their outdoor dining spot is on the roof, which gives you a beautiful view of the lake.

6. The Dio
How many small towns in Michigan have a professional dinner-theater place like THIS? Credit Steve DeBruyne, Matthew Tomich and the Dio people for bringing culture and dollars to the community.

7. St. Patrick’s Day
In terms of parades and celebrations, all the good holidays had been taken by the other communities in Livingston County. Howell owned Thanksgiving weekend with the Fantasy of Lights. Fourth of July belonged to Brighton, Fowlerville, Cohoctah and Gregory. Hartland owned Memorial Day. So Pinckney saw an opening a few years back and snapped up St. Patrick’s Day. It’s now the biggest day of the year in Pinckney, with a 5K run in the morning and the parade in the afternoon.

8. La Vita Bistro
People who visit Pinckney can’t believe we have such a high-class Italian restaurant in town. If you haven’t been there yet, it’s worth a trip to Pinckney just for this. The food and wine are outstanding, and I especially love sitting by the outdoor fireplace on a cool fall night.

9. A downtown hardware store
There’s just something that’s small-towny cool about having a hardware store you can walk to. Pinckney Hardware is the best, and they’ve got everything you’ll ever need. Love this place.

10. No department stores
Of the five major communities in Livingston County, Pinckney is still the only one that doesn’t have a big department store. And I like that. There was a rumor a few years back that Meijer wanted to build a store on M-36, but nothing ever came of it. Since Pinckney is also the only Livingston County community that doesn’t sit along a major highway, I doubt we’ll ever see a big department store here.


1. The drug paraphernalia at the BP gas station
This is shameful. Pinckney has been wrestling with a well-known drug problem and drug reputation at its high school, so what do we have less than a mile from the school? A gas station with the biggest selection of drug paraphernalia you’ve ever seen. Great. Just great. It’s the BP gas station at the corner of M-36 and Dexter-Pinckney Road, and the minute you walk in the door, you see a display case filled with pipes and bongs and God knows what else. Shame on the owners of this place. I never stop there anymore, and I urge you to do the same.

2. Empty schools
I know they’ll be filled with something eventually, but it’s still depressing to see Pinckney Elementary and Hamburg Elementary sitting vacant and desolate after all these years.

3. Making a left turn from Farley Road onto M-36
Traffic is always bad on M-36, but for some reason, it’s especially bad when you’re trying to make a left turn from Farley Road. I wouldn’t mind seeing a light there.

4. No downtown grocery store
Pinckney’s two-block downtown has almost everything a small-town downtown should have: restaurants, a bakery, barber shops, a hardware store, a library. The only thing missing is a grocery store. How cool would that be?

5. Too many names for the main roads
In Pinckney itself, there are really only two main roads: M-36 and D-19. The only problem is that each of those roads has a zillion other names. M-36 is also East Main Street and West Main Street, while D-19 is also known as Pearl Street, Pinckney Road, Howell-Pinckney Road and anything else you can think of. Too confusing! Pick a name and stick with it!

So, what do YOU love and not love about Pinckney?

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About Buddy Moorehouse 240 Articles
Longtime Livingston County journalist Buddy Moorehouse is director of communications at the Michigan Association of Public School Academies.


  1. I hope your list was not in order..because putting something as unique and valuable as the Chain of Lakes behind a McDonalds is..well..not good advertisement for Pinckney. The Chain of Lake is a precious resource..and one of the few things that actually attracts outside people to live in Pinckney. Every town on Earth, unfortunately, has a McDonalds. Another huge attraction for Pinckney are the parks and recreation areas nearby, Merril fields, Pinckney recreation area, Bishop Lake hiking/mountain biking trails. These are huge and many many communities throughout this country would kill for resources like these. The one issue I have..is that with all of our recreational land resource we are still facing a youth crisis that is exacerbated by a lack of places for kids to “recreate”. How is it that with resources like metro parks, Merril fields, the Lakeland Trail.. that we do not have an open access park with things like basketball courts????

  2. I don’t know which pizza place you called 30 years ago but I can guarantee you that Towne Square Pizza was delivering back then. The place has been around since Reagan was in office. Probably the best pizza in town. Granted I am slightly biased since I work there though.

  3. I used to live 3 houses west of Farley Rd. on M-36, and it could take up to 20 minutes to turn RIGHT out of my driveway in the morning. A light would only be a nightmare.

  4. Living here in Pinckney since 1982 has been an awesome experience, we use to only dial the last four digits to the phone,had the bowling alley for fun, wished for a McDonald’s that was a pig farm back then and a drive down M36 was nothing but land. As all of this now is Taco Bell, Bushes, McDonald’s Ect.. A little crowded for me things could have been spaced apart better and PHS needed two entrances not one. I am a graduate of Pinckney and so are my kids, overall it’s a great school(besides the drugs)but every place has it.
    I love the lakes and I love that out of all the things that have gone a few still remain(like Ed Bocks and the Chicken).
    Things I do not like: Traffic on M36 Trying to get out of certain shops and left turns. It’s congested
    Overall Pinckney is a great place to live with wonderful opportunitys and I will be sad to leave as I’ve been here 34 years, but change is good sometimes.

  5. I also love Busch’s, Ed Bock, Pinckney hardware, Lakeland trail, all the wonderful options for outdoor activities. I would like to see more options for healthy locally grown or raised (organic would be nice) foods.

  6. Loved the article and brought many warm memories. I lived there for 10 years throughout the 90’s before moving to Las Vegas. I enjoyed many of the things on your list and discovered they have opened a number of new ones as well. I’m not sure if it’s still an option, but Whispering Pines used to have a restaurant you could go to for Happy Hour and it offered a warm, friendly, cozy atmosphere year round but especially in the winter. The one thing I loved most back then, the community spirit. You knew all your neighbors, enjoyed all your neighbors and everyone always had your back and vice versa. Thanks again for the warm memories!

  7. I love your post Jennifer! Thank you for bringing up Ed Bock & Busch’s! Busch’s is a Michigan based grocery store, not a big chain & has been a staple in Pinckney like Ed Bock has.

  8. Ed Bock’s is the BEST! It certainly could and should have been on the list of things in Pinckney I love. Great service, and they sell a little of everything you’d ever need. Pinckney is lucky to have this store.

  9. Most of the things you don’t like, we can do something to change. You mentioned not doing business with the BP station. I’ve been here 7 years and I have not been to BP in 6 1/2 years. It didn’t take me long to come to the same conclusion. I wish others would. The school district has had a couple of offers on the old Pinckney Elementary School. Politics keeps getting in the way of making a deal. Put pressure of the district to turn over the sale of these schools to private parties and take politics out of the equation. I would be in favor of a light at M36 and Farley if it operated only during those hours it is needed (7:00 to 9:00 AM and 4:30 to 6:30 PM). Other times, a light there would just be a nuisance. Nothing you can do about the lack of a grocery store in the downtown area. No entrepreneur is going to open a business guaranteed to lose money trying to compete with Busch’s and convenience stores. I’m not sure what we can do about road names but you forgot a couple like Darwin suddenly turning into Patterson Lake and Patterson Lake suddenly turing into South Howell. How about some intergovernmental cooperation to … never mind … it’s easier to navigate the crazy roads of Pinckney!

  10. peach mountain is a lil known secret….. they took that old iron bridge out on bell rd. they least could of turned it in a lil park with benches n tables that spans over the huron river. block traffic. the paved
    trail along the huron river…. bull doze the damn site in,, but keep it the same size and rustic look… nick named the dump site… potowami trails….. also they need to have a full time motor cop on Darwin…. its part of Pinckney drivers ed dirt track for the kids learning how to drive… ive seen cars upside down in the creek … there is no posted speed limit.. id like to see a speed limit of about 15mph Lon Danner 1157 Darwin. one more the amont of busses in morning and evening. on same said road.

  11. I love Ed Bock’s! We live in Grand Rapids, and when we are in the area (which is pretty often, as our best friends live in Gregory), we try to get to the store to see what’s new in their furniture line. I always end up buying something from the store, as it is such a fun place to shop for a variety of things. Ed Bock’s is an important part of Pinckney’s history, as well.

  12. I am a transplant from the suburbs of Detroit… but that was a LONG time ago… uh, late 1980s. Anyway, I quickly fell in love with Livingston County and especially Pinckney. I live here (my mailing address technically exclaims “Howell”, but I try to ignore that; besides, my house is physically closer to 48169); although not raised here, I still call Pinckney my home town; I consider myself a local business person; and I also work part-time in town.
    In fact, I am proud to say I am a server (and former hostess) at La Vita Bistro and am so happy to see us listed in your top 10 “likes”. Executive Chef, Eirik Kausarud, supports the Pinckney community 100 percent, tries to hire Pinckney residents when possible, and is in the process of opening “Go Taco” across the street from our beloved little Bistro (he has turned down offers to open restaurants in other areas). Go Eirik!
    What I love about Pinckney is the small-town atmosphere, for sure! It is common to share the road with horses and riders when the weather is good (I am a rider, myself) and last summer I had to stop on Dexter-Pinckney Road to let chickens cross… to get to the other side. Yep… really!
    Along with the rural atmosphere you can also enjoy the Pinckney Recreation Area adjacent to the Lakeland Trail. And while you can shop and dine locally, when a bigger-city need arises, we are still within 45 driving minutes of Ann Arbor to our southeast and Lansing to our northwest.
    Speaking of shopping, have you been to Ed Bock Feed and Stuff? Food for your critters from puppies to ponies, plants and gardening supplies, trees for your Christmas, classy country furniture… good grief! What DON’T they have??
    In conclusion, I just have a question, Buddy… you say Pinckney needs a downtown grocery store. Busch’s might be a little surprised to hear that (since they are right next door to the Chrysler dealership), and just a few miles further, and within the Pinckney zip code, we also have Kroger.
    What’s NOT to LOVE about Pinckney??? well… except for the few details you mentioned.

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