“It’s going really, really well,” said Bud’s Bar owner Tom Brady, who purchased the Schoolcraft building and business and reopened the restaurant with his wife, Shannon. “We are doing double the volume from what we expected.”
Although they opened in August with a limited menu, the owners are adding items as their capacity grows. “We were overwhelmed with orders for nachos” when they were added to the menu, said Brady.
The best sellers so far are the smash burger and the chicken sandwich. “We use good meat for the burgers, and we hand bread the chicken at the restaurant,” said Brady. And they’re proud of the ribs. “Shannon’s baby back ribs are cooked for four hours with our own dry rub, then we cook them on the char broiler and serve them with a sweet and tangy BBQ sauce.”
Over the next month or so, they plan to add a Denver cut steak to the menu. They plan a fish fry on Fridays and prime rib on Saturdays.
Don’t expect them to be open for lunch yet, though; they are still struggling to find kitchen staff. To get the space ready, the owners installed new floors and repainted inside. They fixed the plumbing and the air conditioning, and remodeled the kitchen. “We wanted the place to be familiar but fresh.”
They are keeping the iconic Bud’s Bar sign, but it will cost $21,000 to get it to light up again. To help raise the money for that project, they’re planning to hold special events. Keep an eye on their social media for announcements.
“We’ve been taken back by the support we’ve received,” said Brady. “It’s really humbling to have people thank us just for opening.”
How did your collection begin? “It was the 1980s and I saw what ended up being my first piece when I was in Frankenmuth. There was just something simple and beautiful about it that just struck me. It was cute; I liked the face. Snowbabies were pretty new back then and I had never seen a piece or even knew about Snowbabies until then. But I enjoy looking at them. Their little faces are so cute.”
The piece Wolf described is called “I’m Making Snowballs” and was manufactured in 1988.
Did you intend to become a collector of Snowbabies? “No. I may have bought a couple more since that first piece, but most of them my kids have bought for me. One year, it was Christmas morning, all the kids were home and I made the comment that I hoped I wouldn’t get any more Snowbabies because I’ve got enough. Wouldn’t you know it? Each of my three kids at the time had bought me one … they all looked at each other and burst out laughing. My one son would usually buy larger pieces, the other son was into sports and would almost always buy something depicting a sports scene. My daughter would always buy the cute pieces, so I can tell just by looking at each one who most likely gave it to me.”
How many pieces do you own? Thirty-three. Most are from between 2003 to 2006. There is one from 2013 and that is probably the last piece … I finally had to tell the kids ‘No more!’ I was running out of room and it just kind of takes the fun out of it when you start having to keep them in boxes and there’s no room left to set them out. So, I have them all out on display throughout the house.”
Do you know anything about the value of your collection? “Well, I didn’t save the boxes they originally came in because I didn’t see any of these as being collectibles. So, not having those original boxes really lowers the value in the eyes of an avid collector. The most expensive one I own that I’ve found on eBay was for sale for about $50. It’s a two-piece horse and carriage.”
What will eventually happen to the collection? “I’ll tell the kids – I only have two now – to pick what they want. I’ll probably ask the grandkids if they have any interest and let them choose. Any that are left? I don’t know, maybe I will sell them. We’re contemplating selling our house and trailering it for a few years, so we’re going to have to start getting rid of things if that’s what we end up doing.”
Aside from that first piece, do you have other favorites? “There are three pieces, they’re bunnies, given separately quite a while ago by my favorite boss. Peggy was my boss when I worked at Upjohn. She’s gone now, so I always think of her when I look at that those pieces.”
Wolf said she is also fond of a piece called “When the Bough Breaks.” The sports-theme pieces are special, too, she said, because they were given by her son, who passed away in December.
Do you wish you still collected Snowbabies? “No. We were in the U.P. a few weeks ago, in Sault Ste. Marie, and I saw a little gift shop advertising Snowbabies. Out of curiosity but with no intention of buying, I went in to have a look and they now look completely different. I was not impressed at all. They look cheap and they have too much color. I realized then how glad I am I stopped getting pieces when I did.
Are you involved with groups or clubs whose members are collectors of Snowbabies? “No. In fact, I don’t of anybody else who collects them.”
Footnotes: Wolf, whose maiden name was Kershner, is a lifelong Vicksburg-area resident and a Vicksburg High School alumna. She is 75 years old.
Two longtime friends have an unlikely source to thank for their recent business partnership: COVID-19.
Kimm Mayer and Cathie Magill met when they were in seventh grade at White Pigeon Junior High. The thought then that a thing called COVID would bring the world to a standstill was improbable. Had they known then they’d one day go into business together? Impossible.
Now 55 years old, Mayer and Magill have been running Gilbert and Ivy, an independent bookstore, since its opening in May.
It was during daily walks in 2020 that the two sometimes joked about owning a bookstore together. They would always dismiss such an idea with laughter and a sarcastic, “Yeah, right.” But Mayer had always wanted to own a business and Magill was born with a passion for reading.
They continued to dismiss the idea. Again, laughing off such a far-flung idea. It was subtle how the skepticism morphed to reality, but the walks eventually turned into business meetings. The more they talked, the more momentum the once-dismissed concept gained. Before either fully recognized it, they were moving forward on opening a book store.
The next question: location? Mayer said she never tires of explaining why Vicksburg.
“Once we decided that we wanted to go in business, there were certain things that we were looking for,” she said. “We’re both from a small town and we wanted certain demographics from a population standpoint to tell us it has potential.”
She explained Vicksburg fell almost dead center of a 30-mile radius they established with I-94 to the north and Three Rivers to the south. With Vicksburg now on their radar, they did some homework and were impressed with the results.
“What really appealed to us was the investment that they were making, making to its infrastructure, making it so it’s a walkable community, making it a social district,” Mayer said. “Then, to see so many small businesses was encouraging, rent was favorable, we just felt like based on all we saw and all we knew, there was clearly momentum being established in Vicksburg.”
Magill said she and Mayer were uniform in their attraction to Vicksburg. She returned to Mayer’s reference to White Pigeon.
“This brings up back to that small-town feel that we grew up with, that we haven’t been a part of,” she said. “They’re our kind of people; it’s comfortable.”
Their first contact with the village was in January. Magill and Mayer said they were welcomed from the start and their search for a location eventually led them to 111 W. Prairie St. They agree the location is snug, but they also recognize business will dictate whether to secure a larger property.
Mayer and Magill have a stable of strong ideas to maintain visibility. Last month, for example, they hosted a Book Lovers Day. A few weeks later they hosted a celebration of romance, both novels and as a genre. Other innovative ideas? A yoga-themed reading group, a “Books and Beer” event in partnership with Distant Whistle and a tailgate event at Vicksburg High School’s home-opening varsity football game.
“I think sometimes there’s this notion that bookworms don’t do anything and they’re not social. That’s not the case,” Mayer said. “It’s about experiencing life through story, either being introduced to something you didn’t know or had never thought about, or traveling places that you could never go otherwise.”
Magill shared the backstory to the store’s name, Gilbert and Ivy.
“We had looked at all the play-on-words names, we looked pretty extensively on the internet to see what domains had already been taken, and we were not really able to find what was speaking to us,” she said. “So, I was in the car one day with my sister and she asked if Kimm had any pets.”
Mayer, of course, owns a cat named Gilbert. Magill owns a golden retriever named Ivy. Magill said Mayer bought into the name immediately. With that, a business and its logo were born.
Mayer, a former business professional, and Magill, a retired teacher from Hastings High School, said they consciously agreed to not start off too ambitiously and at the same time carefully monitor growth.
“We put a lot of thought into what we’re doing to be able to bring high-quality, new books to the area,” Mayer said. “We want it to be fresh, crisp, welcoming and comfortable here, and we want people to feel like they’re getting a great value for what they buy.”