Downtown Escanaba along Ludington Street
|Escanaba’s long downtown has many scattered highlights (Saykylly’s Candies, The Record Rack, Canterbury Books), many restaurants, the Infinity Coffeehouse, and architecture like the quirky-looking Delft Theater, now a teen club.|
What strikes a first-time visitor to Escanaba is just how long the downtown is for a city of 14,000 people. Ludington Street leads east to Lake Michigan from the highway junction of M-35 and U.S. 2 /U.S. 41. Its business district is all of 15 blocks long. A sprinkling of vintage neon signs across old storefronts and taverns makes Ludington Street especially impressive at night. Ludington Street ends at a small point of land past the lighthouse that separates Green Bay to the south from the walleye fishing mecca of Little Bay de Noc. The look is of the 1940s and 1950s, though some beautiful brownstone storefronts are much older. The architecture of grand public buildings and churches on First Avenue South, a block to the south, was often paid for by lumber fortunes. (These downtown highlights are arranged from west to east.)
- SAYKYLLY'S CANDIES & GIFTS. Celebrated hand-dipped chocolates, made in Escanaba and shipped all over, are available at this gift shop. It also carries gifts like Waterford crystal, Hummel, and Dept. 56 collectibles, Swarvoski crystal, plush animals, and religious goods. It all started in 1906 when Lebanese immigrants Joseph and Mary Sayklly (pronounced "SAKE-ly') opened a grocery store. They had nine children; a son and his family started making candies, and two daughters ran the shop. Another daughter got into religious goods, which evolved into this gift shop. Sayklly's production facility at 910 Second Ave. North near the downtown waterfront now ships 400,000 pounds of chocolate candy a year.
Along sprawling Ludington Street., shops range from moribund to funky.
Walk in and the candies are on your right - not only chocolates but Jelly Bellies, Juju coins, and such. Saykylly's most popular candy is called the "Snappy," its version of the caramel- and chocolate-covered pecan "Turtle." Favorite souvenir gift: the Yooper bar ($1), a solid chocolate outline map of the U.P. Mail order is available. The freestanding store with the bright red roof in front of the Delta Plaza mall is open longer hours: 9:30 to 8 p.m. weekdays, 10-6 Saturdays, noon-5 Sundays. But this 75-foot downtown storefront is the visitor favorite. 1304 Ludington, north side of street. (906) 786-1524. Email is upcandy.com. Mon-Fri 9:30-5, Sat to 3 Eastern Time. Handicap accessible. upcandy.com
- THE RECORD RACK. Highly diverse, this friendly, funky shop carries used and new CDs, cassettes, and even vinyl, plus used VHS and DVD videos and video games. If there's any concentration, it's rock classics: the Beatles, Elvis, the Grateful Dead. Intermixed with merchandise are the displays of a rock 'n' roll museum, including a Buddy Holly high school yearbook, one of Ted Nugent's arrows, Beatle dolls, and a Robert Cray guitar. 1212 Ludington, north side of street. 474-6460. Open Mon-Sat 10-6.Eastern Time. Handicap accessible.
- CANTERBURY BOOKSTORE. This personal, general bookstore (new books only, for adults and children) has especially good sections of Great Lakes and regional books and nature guides. The small section of Scandinavian imports also stands out. 908 Ludington. (906) 786-0751. Mon-sat 9-5. Eastern Time. Handicap accessible: tight spaces.
- THE 8th STREET COFFEE HOUSE isn't just an ordinary storefront. It's an extremely eclectic space that occupies 10,000 square feet of the former Lauerman's Department Store, which makes for plenty of little nooks and crannies for meeting places and quiet study spaces. Groups that meet include writers, artists, Vietnam Vets, a camera club, and many more. There's a limited menu of the usual coffee drinks, bagels, and muffins, hot dogs, Polish sausage, pasties, plus soups. The web site details the rich and shifting schedule of performers who hold forth in the separate performing space. From February through May, FRIDAY at 8 you'll find free music scheduled by The Delta Folks Tradition folk music association, maybe hometown or regional performers. SATURDAY at 8 there's improvisational comedy by the Eighth Street Irregulars. (The second Saturday is always open mic night.) Other nights have more impromptu performances that may not always take place: MONDAY (bluegrass with the Pickers & Grinners at 6, followed by the Bay Area Christian Ministry, with free pizza and movies or Monday-night football); TUESDAY (euchre); and WEDNESDAY (sort of Dixieland-style brass). And there's now a Victorian tea room which offers fancy teas, with dresses and hats visiting little girls can wear.
Kay Forgette and Rob Romero now own and run the coffeehouse. Original proprietor Dave Van DeWyngearde drew on his coffeehouse memories from Ann Arbor to start the coffee house and seized the opportunity when this space became vacant. His model wasn't 1990s coffeehouse chic, but something much looser. Customers have followed suit and been inspired to donate furniture, pianos, art they have made, and even a 50" TV. NOTE: the entertainment's free, but if you come to the coffee house, you are expected to BUY something. It's not a cinch to pay the overhead on 10,000 square feet! 720 Ludington. (906) 789-9174; www.geocities.com/eighthstreetcoffeehouse.com
Open daily at least til 10 p.m. Eastern Time. Mon-Fri from 8 a.m. Sat 8-11 a.m., & Sun from 8 to 9 a.m. Handicap accessible. Family-friendly.
- DELTA HOTEL Breathing life into a large old hotel goes against the odds, but two local couples have done it. On weekends their Hereford and Hops brew pub/grill-your-own-steak restaurant often packs the front lounge and large rear dining rooms of this 1914 hotel. The massive project also converted the upper floors to apartments. 624 Ludington at 7th St.
- JUST ASK GUS ASP BUTCHER SHOP. The mysterious vintage neon sign alternates between the founding owner's name "Gus Asp" and "Just Ask." This local landmark is next to Hereford & Hops restaurant in the old Delta Hotel. Could "Just Ask" allude to the tobacco and newsstand's Prohibition-era reputation as a place to buy booze? Today, owned by the Moodys, half of the Hereford & Hops team, Gus Asp sells fresh meat and cheese in addition to the expected newspapers, candy, cigars, and party store items. 616 Ludington. (906). 786-1881. Open daily 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Eastern Time. Handicap accessible.
- EAST LUDINGTON GALLERY. Participating artists own and operate this most attractive cooperative gallery, where you can expect to find a wide variety of interesting gifts and art from $2 to $2,000. Current offerings include oil and watercolor paintings, baskets, woven artwork, hand-blown glass, wreaths, jewelry, candles, scrimshaw, quilts, pottery, hand-forged iron accessories, stained glass, home accessories, greeting cards, and photographs, prints, and paintings. Some Christmas items are on hand all year round. Free gift wrap. The handsome red brick and sandstone building from the turn of the century was built to house the Masons' upper-story meeting rooms, with rental storefronts below. 619 Ludington near 7th St., across from Hereford & Hops. (906) 786-0300. www.deltamich.org/gallery
Mon-Sat 11-5. Handicap accessible.
- DELTA COUNTY CHAMBER of COMMERCE. Handy source of area info, next to Ludington Park. 230 Ludington Ave., across from House of Ludington. Mon-Fri 9-5:30, in summer also Sat 10-2. (888-DELTAMI, (906) 786-2196.
- HOUSE OF LUDINGTON. First-time visitors to Escanaba often remember this imposing old hotel at the foot of Ludington Street. Ludington Park and the waterfront are so dominated by the House of Ludington that they seem to be its front yard. The hotel is a striking image, an authentic period piece, and a characteristic example of the 19th-century Queen Anne resort hotels that have mostly vanished. It goes back to the days when rather grand Great Lakes steamships disembarked here and Escanaba's waterfront park was a promenade and major visitor destination.
The hotel has been here since Escanaba's first years as a significant port. The current building dates from 1883, though it has been expanded and altered many times. Its days of greatest glory came after 1939, when the energetic and ebullient Pat Hayes, a Chicago Irishman, turned it into a legend with his good food and memorable personality. Later the hotel went bankrupt, and Escanaba ran the risk of losing its defining historic building. Then Edward and Suzell Eichelberger from Mount Pleasant, scouting the Upper Peninsula for a somewhat smaller inn, came upon the abandoned landmark and decided to take on the job of bringing it back to life. They repainted the exterior in lively Victorian colors, redecorated, and reopened the grand old lady for dining and overnight lodging. 223 Ludington Ave. Handicap accessible.
|Ludington Avenue ends at bayside Ludington Park, overlooked by the House of Ludington, a Victorian hotel still in use today.|
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