Editor’s note: The Grand Haven Tribune takes a look at three businesses that are among the longest-serving establishments still operating in Spring Lake (or nearby) in connection with the village’s sesquicentennial celebration.
Stan’s Bar (1948)
While not the oldest Spring Lake business still in operation, Stan’s Bar is one of the longest still serving customers that started and remained within the village.
Known as the village’s “Community Center” by some, Stan’s Bar was The Home Café in the 1920s to the 1930s, and then Walt’s (Aames) Tavern in the middle to late 1940s.
Before it was a restaurant or bar, the building at 208 W. Savidge St. housed a drug and stationary business opened by Ormond W. Messinger and Henry W. Cleveland in 1868. It was later operated by William B. Hummer until Messinger bought it back in 1877.
Fire destroyed this and several nearby buildings in 1889, but Messinger rebuilt. When he died in 1898, the store was operated by his two sons, Garry and Clifford, and the name was changed to Messinger & Messinger. Felix Perl took over ownership in 1905, then hired Leon Campbell in 1906. Campbell purchased the bankrupt business two years later and, in 1923, moved it next door and operated it as Campbell’s Pharmacy. That site eventually became Eschleman’s Pharmacy.
Albena (Alvina) Nelson purchased the Stan’s Bar location and started The Home Café. It was around 1948 or 1949 when Stan Kulik, great-uncle of current owner Joe Stalec (his mother’s side), took over the business. When Kulik died in 1958, his sister Ann took over until 1976. That’s when Joe’s parents, Joe and Sue Stalec, purchased the business.
Joe started working at Stan’s in 1991 while still in high school. He took over when his parents died less than a year apart in 2006 and 2007.
Now 47, Stalec says he expects to stay with the business “until I turn 100 or the Lions win the Super Bowl.”
He said he is sticking with the family plan. While he keeps the place maintained, he hasn’t made any major changes since his great-uncle expanded the bar in the 1960s.
“They had to walk (the bar) out on Savidge, turn it around and walk it back in” to accommodate the renovations, Stalec said.
The pine walls, bar and cabinetry behind the bar are all original, the current owner said. The bar has been resurfaced a few times and Stalec regularly replaces the chairs.
The current sign went up in the late 1950s or early ’60s, Stalec said. The large windows were bricked up sometime after that.
Stalec has had the sign refurbished, as well as the Budweiser globe that hangs over the bar and the Budweiser sailing sign on the north wall.
The biggest changes since the current owner has been around include the smoking ban and the addition of craft beers and spirits. Stalec said the smoking ban was a major boost to the business, as more people came in, they stay longer and it helps with maintenance.
When Stalec started working at the bar, the only beer on tap was Budweiser. In 1994-95, there were two beers on tap. Now they have 17.
Stalec said he hopes the business stays in the family, although he admits it is a lot of work. Still, two of his three children want to be involved with the bar, he said.
Stalec said that Stan’s Bar is like comfort food: You come in and there’s always someone you can talk to.
“It amazes me some of the people who meet each other here,” he said.
Kieft Agency (1937)
Ruth Ann Kelly and her brother, Garry Kieft, can still be found working at the downtown insurance agency founded by their father, Clyde, at his Krueger Street home in 1937.
Kelly joined her father’s business in 1975. Garry joined in 1964. Kelly said that one of their secretaries, Vicki Steiner, has been there on and off for 35 years.
Clyde moved the business to a different house at 15820 Cleveland St. in 1945 and expanded it to include three employees. In 1964, he moved into a storefront at 226 W. Savidge St., a building that formerly housed Sheffield’s Meat Market. The insurance business has been there ever since.
Kelly said that her father later bought the Pettis Dress Shop next door, had the building demolished and then expanded the insurance agency, moving into that portion of the building in 1978. Not much has changed since then, she said, beyond new carpeting and a little remodeling inside.
“We enjoy what we do, and we enjoy the village,” Kelly said.
Bilz Plumbing (1866)
Although Bilz Plumbing has been in Ferrysburg for the past 20 years, and its spinoff, Bilz Pools, recently relocated to Spring Lake Township, the business operated, at least in part, in the village for more than 150 years.
Aloys Bilz opened the Aloys Bilz Tin and Hardware Store in 1866 near 304 W. Savidge St., but lost everything in a fire in 1871. He then rebuilt with a $10,000 loan from Hunter Savidge.
The business passed to his son, William, and then to his grandson, Preston, who operated it for many years. Preston and his wife, Isabelle, lived in a Victorian mansion next to the business.
Retired plumber Paul Pellegrom, who worked for Bilz Plumbing for many years, said the Bilzes lost their only son when he was in college. That’s when Bob Cook from Grand Rapids became a partner. Bob’s son, Bob Cook Jr., started the pool business. Another son, Rich Cook, is still involved with that business, Pellegrom said.
Dan Downs, the current owner of Bilz Plumbing, said he was hired to sweep floors. He learned the plumbing trade with Pellegrom’s help, eventually purchased the plumbing side of the business and moved it to Ferrysburg.
“It’s a good community,” Downs said. “If you take care of your customers, they take care of you.”
Other notable longtime businesses
Plantenga’s Cleaners, 217 W. Savidge St., was started in 1962 by Henry Plantenga. The business, now with several locations, is being operated by second and third generations, LeAnn Plantenga Glasser and Al Plantenga.
Bill’s Sport Shop, 401 W. Savidge St., was started on Cleveland Street in Spring Lake Township by Bill and Lola Sanders in 1957. The business moved into the village and is now operated by second- and third-generation family members.