By Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
The end of an era for a local family and the City of Chelsea.
The bar itself can be dated back to 1874, although it might be older than that, and was originally located where the current In Chelsea Hair Design (that used to be the Chelsea Bakery) is located.
After 103 years of being owned by the Seitz family, Randy Seitz, the grandson of original owner George Seitz, has decided to sell the business.
George bought the tavern in 1895 from Tommy McNamara who operated it from the location where the current Merkel furniture store stands. George would rent the building and had a sandwich shop with two portable bowling alleys. He bought into the business in 1916, and by 1928 his rent was increasing too much.
“He bought this building (where Seitz’s Tavern is currently located) and he told the landlord, ‘I’m going to be gone one of these times,’” said Randy. “It took eight guys one day to move everything over here. That’s the bar and everything. The day the guy always came to collect rent, George went over, unlocked the door over there, and came back over. Here the guy comes and he said that he walked in there and he’s scratching his head. He turns around and there’s George waving at him across the street, in the window.”
Randy started working at Seitz’s Tavern when he was 18 years old but took on more responsibility for his father, Junior, during his junior year of college in 1975.
While attending school in the upper peninsula for business, halfway through his junior year his father’s health took a turn for the worse. Randy came down and never went back up.
Randy told The Sun Times he didn’t know what he wanted to do career wise. He wasn’t necessarily running Seitz’s Tavern when he came back, he was just working more to take the pressure off of his father.
Four years later, he bought half the business and bought the other half in 1998 after his father passed away in 1997.
Even before he was 18, however, he still has memories of working at the tavern.
“I couldn’t even tell you how old I was,” said Randy. “But, for many, many years, every weekend, I’d come up here and I’d come downstairs and sort all the pop bottles.”
After that, he’d go two doors down to where the current Mike’s Deli is (it used to be the laundromat). He would take all the towels and aprons before coming back to sort more pop bottles for a handsome wage of $5.00.
One of the memories that stands out to Randy was scanning the basement, that still wasn’t concrete in the 60’s, looking for rats while sorting bottles.
At the age of 65, Randy told The Sun Times he was now ready to retire. Five years ago, he had it for sale but wanted top dollar for it and wouldn’t compromise because he wasn’t ready to retire at that time.
Then, last October, Randy had a triple bypass, not a heart attack, but a triple bypass.
“My wife actually had to come in and start running the business and she does a great job,” said Randy. “But it’s nerve-racking and it’s hard.”
“It just developed to where we said, ‘Yeah, let’s just go,’” added Randy. “We dropped the priceto a reasonable price we knew we’d sell at and it went.”
After putting it up for sale about a month ago Randy said offers came in quickly. One of his tenants ended up being interested and the sale was made.
Although Randy said he wasn’t 100 percent sure of the details, he had heard it was going to be converted to a casual family restaurant. With the tenant being more of an investor, bringing someone in to run the business.
Randy joked that he’ll now do whatever his wife wants to do before saying he wouldn’t be inactive for long.
“No, I’m going to get another job,” added Randy. “It’s just one that’s not going to have stress. Like I tell everybody, ‘You give me a job that’s eight hours a day, five days a week, I say, ‘That’s a vacation for me.’”
Randy told The Sun Times that he’ll simply remember the tavern as a good place.
“We ran a good ship,” said Randy. “The people are the greatest asset; I’d say it used to be… I’d say 80% were regulars.”
Randy mentioned the old three bars in town, Seitz’s, Stivers, and the Wolverine, that provided many memories for the community.
“Really, the best part about it was the stories,” said Randy. Not the gossip, the stories. The people coming in and having some of the strangest stories told.”
One memory that stood out was when his dad owned the tavern. Two men went out frogging, “catching bullfrogs and fat frog legs” according to Randy and came back to the tavern late at night.
His father asked the men how they did and the men responded by one opening the door and the other tossing a burlap sack with frogs into the tavern.
“Everybody was going around picking up all these frogs and putting them back in the bag. They thought they were really funny,” said Randy. “They got all done and the next day my dad opens the tavern. He’s cleaning and getting ready for the day, all of a sudden, he hears this croaking. ‘God, there’s another one here,’ he said. These are the things that went on all the time.”