Anyone who’s dined at Vango’s at any time over the last couple of decades has likely enjoyed the work of one Chris Gale. You’ve only seen him when he comes out from the kitchen to hydrate and re-hydrate, but that may be changing soon, as he’s hoping to move from grilling to distilling.
The former Northwest Store (seen above) on the corner of Presque Isle and Wright Street is where Gale plans on opening the Marquette Distilling Company, a kind of to-go outlet for your favorite spirits. “Everything will be brewed, fermented, distilled, and bottled in-house… no bulk or pre-aged spirits from elsewhere. Customers will be able to come in, see the process, sample a couple of products before ultimately (perhaps) buying a bottle to take home.”
Though the plan has been simmering for a while, it’s finally gotten to the point where he can almost taste it. He just got the go-ahead from the Marquette Planning Commission, but there’s a lot more to be done before opening day, which will be… when?
“Had you asked me in 2015, my answer would’ve been ‘a year or two.’ After that came and went I would’ve said ‘yeah probably another year or two.’ So now I just say ‘as soon as possible’. I am hoping what renovations are necessary can get started early this fall, after financing is set in stone. Other than that it will depend on state/federal approvals. I’d be ecstatic to be open by next spring/summer.”
Gale thinks he’ll be able to come up with a line of elixirs, locally, that folks will find pleasing to the palate. “I know there are people who can appreciate a quality spirit, and I have full confidence in being able to craft something for everyone by way of working with some unexpected flavors/ingredient combinations. Not re-inventing the wheel here, but, when you taste some of the bigger name brands out there that get all of the shelf space, it’s clear they went with a square wheel because they didn’t have to pay Grog extra to chisel off the corners for a smoother ride.”
I don’t know what all that means, but it sounds like Chris has the essence necessary to satisfy the most discerning enthusiasts.
Just so you know, Gale says it’s not going to be a traditional bar. “Being a retail space, and as small of a space that it is, we won’t be able to offer tables or a bar to accommodate prolonged visits. That being said – yes – you will absolutely be able to come and have a taste without having to commit to buying the bottle first. Eventually I would like to find a larger space for that reason, but for now I’ll have to focus on distribution.”
I like everything about this. Repurposing an empty building… bringing new life to a busy corner… and maybe inspiring others in that area to step up their game. It’s all good, including Gale’s unofficial mission statement… “The intention is not to promote an unhealthy lifestyle, or over-indulgence of any form of alcohol, but to provide a quality product for those who can appreciate it responsibly.”
To that I say… “Cheers!”
Just as Negaunee tears up their downtown main street, we get confirmation that money from the state will mean the Vista Theater will not have to be torn down. After the building suffered catastrophic weather-related damage a couple years ago, razing the roofless theater was not out of the question. Without that piece on top, it looked like it wouldn’t have taken too much to send those walls a tumblin’ down.
As it turns out, there’s a lot more to a theater than just the building. In this case, it’s the Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council and all the people who have supported activities at the Vista over the years.
While the decision to go ahead with demolition was always a possibility, Vista boosters were busy doing everything they could to stave it off. Grants were applied for, donations were solicited, and, yes… cans and bottles were returned as the passionate practitioners did everything they could to save the Vista.
Now it seems their determination has paid off. In order to take advantage of state funds, the City of Negaunee will be taking over ownership of the building with plans in place to begin renovation.
According to Rusty Bowers, President of PAAC, they were already working on ideas for some much needed improvements. “I had sent Jenn Hill our 228 page restoration plan that we intended to use over the next few years, but then the roof fell in.” Literally.
Without the dedicated work of everyone who wanted to save the Vista, it likely wouldn’t have survived long enough to take advantage of the dollars now coming their way. As Negaunee’s turnaround is picking up steam, it would have been a shame to lose such a landmark, and focal point for any number of downtown events.
To them I say… “Way to break a leg!”
Spaceport… on hold
The Powell Township Planning Commission met earlier this week to discuss, roundtable style, the merits of rezoning the Granot Loma property targeted by the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association (MAMA) for a Low Earth Orbit satellite launch site.
To the dismay of the few in attendance, the discussion was tabled as the board waits for input from their attorney regarding how to go forward. So, what was promising to be an important, and revelatory meeting regarding the future of the project, turned out to be another step not taken towards a final decision.
At this point it seems Powell Township officials have the opportunity, through the power of zoning, to put the kibosh on the whole thing. And though opponents of the Spaceport think local officials are leaning towards keeping the area rocket-launch free, nothing is being taken for granted.
In addition to their ongoing grass-roots efforts to influence public opinion against the project, the advocacy group Citizens for a Safe and Clean Lake Superior has circulated a petition thus far gathering close to 200 signatures in opposition. That might not seem like a big number, but it is when compared to the total population of Powell Township.
We haven’t heard much from MAMA, so they’re either running into roadblocks or they’re quietly working behind the scenes and keeping a low profile while advancing the project. Regardless of their strategy, it appears the folks who want to maintain the pristine wilderness they’ve grown to love will be ready for battle… if it ever comes to that.
To that I say… “Watch this space.”