Doug Garrison here from Word on the Street. Remember me? I met you about ten years ago during the time I was doing my TV show, The Doug Garrison Show, at your restaurant… Upfront & Company. Those were the days, huh?
My memories of Upfront & Company are of a place that you could honestly say had it all. The physical layout was such that it combined all the best of a bar, a restaurant, an entertainment venue, and a banquet hall. With all that, it was undeniably a must-go-to destination in downtown Marquette.
I remember when the place was being built. It seemed like it took forever, but when we saw the final product, we understood why it may have taken so long. It seemed that very few details were overlooked. Whether you were out alone and just looking for a cold one, or with a group of friends for a night of dining, drinking, and dancing… Upfront provided an ideal setting.
And then, quite suddenly, 10 years ago this month, the party ended. The folks who had patronized your business, the employees who counted on Upfront for income, the local bands who cherished their time on the Upfront stage… all looked at your locked doors and wondered… why?
You know what Rhys? I no longer even care why. That’s your business and I’m sure you had your reasons. But that’s not why I’m reaching out to you today. This is all about turning that page and looking forward. This is me, appealing to you, to somehow get that place up and running again.
In the past decade, every conversation I’ve had with people about Upfront & Company ends the same way. We shake our heads and lament the fact that one of the coolest places in the Upper Peninsula is closed, while people walk by with money in their pockets, headed somewhere else.
If there’s some specific reason why you don’t mind seeing all your blood, sweat and tears drying up as a thirsty public goes a-wanting, I can’t imagine what it is. As a businessman, you can surely see the profit potential in running an establishment that caters to the masses that crowd our downtown these days.
Okay, I understand that owning and running a bar/restaurant presents challenges unseen by the general public. But I see others in this town doing it and making it work… for themselves and their patrons. You can too!
And here’s where I’m going to suggest something that should make re-opening the place much easier for you. Let somebody else do it! You own the building, but you don’t run every business that rents from you. Do the same with the Upfront space. It’s been built, it has a solid reputation, and now it’s just sitting there, waiting for someone to turn on the lights and open the doors. And from what I understand, there are more than a few people in this town willing to take it on.
I don’t know a lot about business, but I’m pretty sure you don’t make much money with the doors closed. If you were to lease the space to one of our energetic entrepreneurs, you could sit back, take your cut, and enjoy the fruits of the labor you’ve already put into this.
Here’s the thing Rhys. You hold the keys to a facility that, if resurrected, would be a great addition to the food and drink scene in a city that already has it going on. Announce a re-opening and Day One would be Standing Room Only.
With Marquette’s current popularity, and all the events that take place downtown and at Mattson Park, and all the new hotels and condos in walking distance, Upfront would be a “can’t miss.” How do you say no to that?
So c’mon man. Let’s make it happen. I know the place would need some TLC after being dormant for ten years, and I know finding staff is a challenge these days, but as I suggested… let those be someone else’s problems. Identify the right person to run the business and make the deal. You don’t have to sell the entire building, like you’ve apparently tried. Just let someone bring Upfront back to life.
My name will be at the bottom of this letter Rhys, but I guarantee you that almost everyone reading it will be nodding their heads in agreement. And their mouths will be watering as they remember the good old days, savoring your wood-fired pizzas while one of our local bands performed on that bigger-city stage.
You want help with it? Talk to the DDA, or walk across the street to Invent@NMU and tell them you want to re-invent Upfront & Company. I’m sure they’ll have some ideas.
Now is the perfect time to get the ball rolling and have everything ready for next spring, or sooner. All you have to do is say “yes.” That’s all.
Hope you’ve had a nice summer. I look forward to meeting you again sometime, hopefully at the new Upfront.
p.s. I might have left a brand new jacket down there, maybe somewhere in the lobby area. I think it might still fit, so if you see it, could you set it aside for me? Thanks!