Building demolished to make way for future use of property
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
A building that has been in Grayling for nearly nine decades was demolished last week to make way for the community’s revitalization efforts.
F&F Excavating of Gaylord made quick work last Wednesday and Thursday, taking down the building located a 117 East Michigan Avenue, which is owned by Dave Vargo. Vargo also owns Paddle Hard Brewing and the Paddle Hard Microbrewery in downtown Grayling.
The building housed the Hanson Cafe in the 1930s and 1940s and was the run by Ema and Frank Bennett. Bennett served as the Crawford County Sheriff from 1933 through 1938.
“Everybody went there to eat,” said Aubry Welch, the owner of Aubry’s Barbershop in downtown Grayling. “They had good breakfast and good meals.”
Later, the building space was split, with the Burt McWilliams Barber Shop in one half of the building and Al and Jessie’s Restaurant occupying the other half. The restaurant was operated by Jessie and Al Siewert from 1954 to 1979, said Diane Hatley, the Siewerts’ daughter.
Welch worked under Burt McWilliams, who was a mayor for the City of Grayling, before he was drafted for the Vietnam War.
“What a mentor,” Welch recalled. “He was the best there was.”
During the 1980s, an antique business was housed in the building. In the 1990s, DXR Computers, a computer repair business, operated in the building, before it went out of business.
Crawford County foreclosed on the building due to unpaid taxes. The county offered the property to the City of Grayling in hopes of having it transformed into an open area and green space. The city council, however, deemed that project was too costly.
A downstate man purchased the building through a foreclosure sale.
In 2011, James Jones, the owner of Trust Fall Records and Coffee, started his business, which featured records, coffee, skateboards, and live entertainment. Jones closed the business in 2016 because he could not afford to pay the heating bills when they spiked during the winter months.
During the next few months, Vargo said time will be spent cleaning up the site. The basement will be filled in and a cement layer will be placed on the surface.
Vargo said the site will be surveyed, and architectural renderings will be completed to determine possible uses for the property.
“I don’t want to make any promises, and then have it turn out where they’re not doable,” Vargo said.