Big things in little Ishpeming

by Pam Christensen

Stacey Willey is throwing open the doors to Ishpeming’s Roosevelt Supper Club on July 1. The Supper Club, located at 200 West Division Street in Ishpeming, has been closed for many years. Willey is inviting anyone connected with John D. Voelker or the filming of Anatomy of Murder in 1959 to join her at 2:00 p.m. for Personal Recollections of Anatomy. She hopes this gathering will be a way for people to share memories of Voelker and the excitement that filled the air when Director Otto Preminger took Marquette by storm to film his courtroom drama.
The Roosevelt Supper Club was a popular hangout for the “film people.” The basement of the club was considered by many to be a spot where they could gather to be away from adoring fans and the pressures of filming Anatomy of a Murder. As a farewell gesture to the popular proprietor Gigs Gagliardi, the cast and crew placed their autographs on the wall. The wall now is located in the Globe Printing-Screen Printing Specialties expansion and will be open for viewing during the Recollection event.
David Aeh, owner of Main Street Antiques Mall and active member of the Ishpeming Historical Society, has helped to plan other events that will reinforce the important role Ishpeming played in the life of John D. Voelker as well as reacquaint people with scenes from the movie. On July 1, Walk the Steps of the Stars, a guided walking tour of Ishpeming, will be held at 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Tours start from the Roosevelt Supper Club.
The Ishpeming Carnegie Public Library will host an open house from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. on July 2. The library was the setting for the scene where Jimmy Stewart and Arthur O’Connell are perusing law books to find a precedent for their novel defense. Also featured during the open house will be collections of Voelker and Anatomy memorabilia loaned by local collectors.
“Ishpeming is the epicenter of the Anatomy of a Murder story and history,” Aeh said. “Judge Voelker was a son of Ishpeming and despite his success with his career and writing, he always stayed rooted in Ishpeming.”
Visitors to the Ishpeming Historical Society Museum, located at the Cliff Shaft Museum, will be able to view this year’s special exhibit themed around Anatomy of a Murder. The exhibit includes the history of John D. Voelker, the murder and trial as well as a collection of memorabilia and items related to Anatomy.
On July 3, Ishpeming will host the Festival of Treasures. This street fair will begin at 10:00 a.m. and feature a variety of arts, crafts and food items. Other events include window displays related to Anatomy of a Murder, games for kids, a collectibles sale on Church Lane, face painting, pony rides, live music, moon jump, giant slide and Shriner clowns. The Blue Notes will perform at 7:30 p.m.
A visit to Ishpeming is not complete without a stop at Congress Pizza at 106 Main Street. Owner of this family business, Paul Bonetti, is a John D. Voelker and Anatomy of a Murder afficianado. His father Louis, also known as Guido, and Voelker were longtime friends and Paul has amassed a comprehensive collection of Voelker memorabilia. He can share personal memories and stories of Ishpeming all while serving up the “Best Pizza in the U.P.”
Willey is no newcomer to Anatomy of a Murder celebrations. She fondly remembers the fortieth anniversary celebration held in 1999. In fact, that celebration coincides with the date she and her brother Kurt Gronvall purchased Globe Printing from Ray Gauthier and Norm Potila. At that time, Willey had worked for the business for ten years. She knew she wanted to stay in Ishpeming to raise her family and persuaded Gronvall to leave a music career in Seattle to be her business partner.
Willey is proud she is a Bell Baby who lived in Ishpeming until her father, a designer for Ford Motor Company, moved the family to lower Michigan. Willey lived in the Detroit area until 1985 when she returned to Ishpeming as a mother with two young sons, Randy and James, to complete her graphic design degree at Northern Michigan University. She has been married to Daniel Willey, a detective with the Ishpeming Police Department, for fifteen years. Together they have a daughter Sarah. Dan’s children Addey, Dan, Mathew and Ana round out the family.
Willey and Aeh are a new generation of Ishpeming residents working to preserve the history of Ishpeming and make certain John D. Voelker and Anatomy of a Murder are not forgotten. Since purchasing the Byrns house twelve years ago, Aeh has been active in the Ishpeming Historical Society. His involvement was a result of his need to research the history of the home he purchased. He wanted to know more about the home and its quirks—the house had no heating system. He found out the owner built the home as a summerhouse. It was never occupied during the winter months—thus no need for heat. His passion for his and other historic homes in Ishpeming lead to the establishment of historic home tours offered each summer for the past eight years. For the last two years, the Ishpeming and Negaunee Historical Societies have scheduled their home tours on the same day. One ticket price allows entry to homes in both communities.
Born in suburban Columbus (Ohio), Aeh attended Northwestern and stayed in the Chicago area after receiving his degree. He worked in commercial real estate management and in his spare time collected antiques. He was fascinated with antiques from childhood, probably due to the collections of his grandparents and an aunt and uncle.
“My mother liked new things, but when I went to visit relatives their homes were filled with antiques they had collected or that had been passed down through the family,” Aeh said. “I was interested in the history of each item.”
As a boy, the Aeh family vacationed in the U.P., and he enjoyed his trips north, probably never realizing one day he would become an integral part of a U.P. community. It was natural when it came time to establish a business, he selected antiques. Initially, he purchased the historic Butler Theater on Main Street and established a consignment business. Later, needing more space, he purchased the building next door and expanded the business, Main Street Antiques Mall, to include three floors of sales space and forty dealers and consignors. Aeh has a loyal customer base from all over the U.S.
“I have customers who spend their summers antique hunting,” he said. “They plan their vacations around events and shops in the U.P. I have customers from the Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo areas who return every year.”
While visiting the shop to interview Aeh, one of these loyal customers called to thank Aeh for steering him to a shop where he was able to purchase the Parisian street scenes he was looking for. He wanted Aeh to know he had located what he wanted, and to thank Aeh for referring him to another dealer. The customer was somewhat surprised Aeh would do such a thing.
“I believe in the golden rule in life and in business,” Aeh said. “If I can help out a customer or another dealer, they will return the favor.”
Aeh said the reputation his shop and other local antiques shops in Negaunee and Marquette have developed benefits the area. Instead of being discouraged about competition, Aeh said the fact other shops exist keeps collectors in the area longer; many times they stay several days to shop and enjoy restaurants, shops and other activities the area has to offer.
“The quantity and quality of shops in our area only helps us stay in business,” Aeh said. “Marquette County shops have a reputation among collectors for offering a wide variety of merchandise as well as good prices and helpful dealers.”
Both entrepreneurs credit the economic aspects of doing business in Ishpeming as benefiting their business.
“I could not afford to rent or own this amount of space for an antiques mall in Marquette or Chicago,” Aeh said. “Ishpeming still has lots of affordable space available for rent or purchase. That can only help our community grow.”
Willey feels the same way about living and working in Marquette County.
“Many people think of Globe Printing as a small business,” he said. “They don’t realize that we have customers in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Technology has made the printing business much more flexible. I can be competitive almost anywhere.”
Willey said in her twenty years of working in Ishpeming, she has been impressed with the work ethic and pride employees demonstrate on a daily basis.
“If you look at Ishpeming, we have created a lot of talented people,” she said. “Just look at John Voelker or Glen Seaborg. Their stories should inspire all of us.”
That creative spirit has led Willey into a new niche business—helping local authors publish their books. She has become known as an author-friendly publisher.
“Jerry Harju started me on one of his projects and it has just taken off,” she said.
Willey has been asked to present programs for local authors and publishers in Michigan and Minnesota. She said she works with local authors and has published works for authors living out of state.
“Technology has gotten to the point where we can publish a smaller run of books at an economical price,” she said. “In the past, publishers expected an author to print 1,000 or more books on the first run. We can do a print run of 100 books and still be competitive. I also make sure to work with the authors to make sure that the finished product looks professional and is something they can be proud of.”
By virtue of her location, Willey has become the collector of all things related to Anatomy of a Murder.
“I just collect things,” she said. “People come in with photos, memorabilia and their stories and I collect them.”
The wall of the Globe Printing office has a section of bars from the Marquette County Jail on display. Behind the bars, a poster of Ben Gazarra as Lieutenant Manion stares right at Willey’s desk. The posters are another one of Willey’s creative ventures; they can be seen around Ishpeming in various storefronts and businesses. A collection of posters also will be shown at Peter White Public Library. Posters are available in different sizes, and Willey has many photos from which posters can be made.
It may have been fifty years ago when Ishpeming was basking in the glamour of Hollywood, but if Willey and Aeh have their say, those days will be long remembered.

— Pam Christensen

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