TRANSFORMATION. IT’S HAPPENING before our very eyes in Munising.
In large part it’s due to a local businessman and developer, Tom Dolaskie, and his Dallas-based partner, Darrin Hubbard.
By the time they complete their projects later this year, they (and their banking partners) will have invested $7 million into downtown Munising.
Munising? Seriously? Isn’t that the little town (population: 2500) with the Pictured Rocks cruises for a few months a year, an armada of kayakers, a bunch of snowmobilers, and not much else? A sleepy downtown without much of a future?
“That’s what people have been saying since the Forties,” Dolaskie says. “That’s why Munising is where it is today. Look what’s happening in Marquette and Copper Harbor with the bike trails. It can happen here.”
Here’s what Dolaskie and Hubbard have in the works:
The Sam Marks Building on Elm Street. It’s 36,000 square feet. The second floor has already been converted into extensive offices for Deployed Technologies, Hubbard’s firm (with Dolaskie as COO) that specializes in installing technology into luxury hotels around the world. But now the first floor is being converted into a ROAM retail clothing store ( Yooper Shirts, Stormy Kromer, ROAM clothing, and others), an ice cream parlor using Jilbert’s products (“Scooped UP“), a huge restaurant, and a classy bar that Dolaskie is referring to as a speakeasy. The clothing store and ice cream parlor open this summer, the restaurant and bar (“Whisky Tom’s“) open this fall.
At least that’s the plan.
Then, there’s the old Cox Building on the highway. That’s been torn down, and will be converted to a free parking lot, and a new home for Dolaskie’s and Hubbard’s new taco truck.
And the Navigator Restaurant across the street? Yep, they’ve bought that, too. Closing on the deal in a couple of weeks. They’re converting that to “Eh! Burger.” A lively burger and fish restaurant located at the gateway to the harbor.
Oh, there’s also the old Fire Hall. They’ve got a contract on it but not a closing date yet. The plans here call for a kind of street market with dozens of vendors–crafts, foods, anything that might appeal to pedestrians and tourists. In the winter, Dolaskie sees it as a storage facility.
And Dolaskie foresees them setting up an Art Alley in the alley between their properties. Another attraction for tourists, and a moneymaking venue for local artists.
These investments come in addition to the exquisitely crafted ROAM Inn (2016), the highly acclaimed Tracey’s Restaurant (2017), the Hillside Party Store (2015), and ROAM (2007), the adventure brand featuring automotive accessories and apparel.
Seven million dollars in investments. That’s a lot of hope and faith in the future of one tiny town.
“Munising has incredible potential for adventure,” Dolaskie tells you. “Look at Pictured Rocks. Every year, attendance increases. Every year.”
It’s true. There’s only one Pictured Rocks on this planet and tourists love it. And to get there, you have to park downtown. Probably walk around, stop for something to eat and drink, maybe buy some stuff. Maybe stick around for more than a day. In winter there’s snowmobiling, cross country skiing, ice climbing, maybe trips across the frozen lake to Grand Island.
In the summer, there’s cruising to Picture Rocks, visiting the national lakeshore, boating, biking and kayaking. Tons of kayakers. Too many, according to some locals, but they keep coming.
But Dolaskie’s got a a point. Maybe Munising’s the new Marquette, just 20 years later. Other merchants around town are showing signs of life, and city officials are optimistic.
But still….$7 million???
“I’ve failed before,” Dolaskie says. He’s all of 38 years old, by the way. “But that’s not going to stop me. It’s a risk, but I understand risk to my core.”
SPEAKING OF WINTER sports, Marquette Mountain has closed down for the season.
Had to, even with the big snowstorm, because it’s a seasonal business with seasonal workers and a firm closing date.
How’d the winter go?
GM Jesie Melchiori says skier and snowboarder counts were up over last year–this, despite the slow start in December when, first, it was too warm to make snow, and then afterwards, when it was too darn cold for all but the most hardy of skiers to get out on the mountain.
But then conditions improved.
“The Winter Olympics provided a little nudge for us,” Melchiori explains, “and then the spring skiing was to die for.” That’s the word we heard repeatedly from avid skiers.
But now, covered in white, the Mountain’s closed down, and workers are waiting for the big melt so they can prepare for volleyball season.
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