By Pat Maurer
Maxwell’s in downtown Clare will be undergoing an exciting transformation in the coming weeks.
“We are not closing,” said owner Steve Barnes. Despite the signs that say “liquidation sale,” Maxwell’s Flowers and Gifts will still be there on the corner of Fifth and McEwan for years to come. “What we are planning is remodeling and repurposing the entire store to bring some new and exciting retail and dining experiences to Clare,” he said.
Steve has two business partners in the new venture – Travis Harrison of Clare and Melissa Wheeler of Bannister. They have teamed up to finance and develop a new concept in downtown Clare.
Barnes explained, “We will still have our flower and gift shop as Maxwell’s, and we will be adding a sweet shop featuring our own candy, all in the south side of the building.” He continued. “The northern half will become our new restaurant, pub and coffee shop, ‘Brewin’ on McEwan,’ with new and exciting menu options, many of which aren’t found in Clare.” The new restaurant and pub will seat between 50 and 70 people and Barnes said they will still carry ice cream as part of the offerings of the new sweet shop.
He continued, “We have applied for a special Michigan Redevelopment License (Economic Development Liquor License) so we can feature Michigan-made craft beer and Michigan-made wines, along with a full menu for a truly unique dining experience at ‘Brewin’ on McEwan’.”
Barnes said the venue will allow them to host a wide array of special events like wine tasting parties, live music and educational events. “The sky is the limit,” he said.
The “special development or redevelopment project area liquor license” that they are seeking was established in 2007 by the Michigan legislature and can only be issued for a business within a development or redevelopment district in a community; and “the business establishment must be located within the boundaries of DDA District to be eligible,” City Manager Ken Hibl said in his agenda report at the City’s April meeting. He added that the requirements for this type of license are very complicated. One of the requirements is $75,000 in building improvements.
“We will have no trouble meeting that requirement,” Barnes said. “We are planning more than $100,000 in improvements to the 104-year-old building. Our goal is to have it completed by the end of July.”
The building has an interesting history. The Dunwoodie building, as it was once called, was built in 1907 and housed (in the north half) the Princess Theatre before the Ideal Theatre was built. “Some of the old projection booth structure is still there in the attic,” Barnes said. Later that portion of the building became “Wild Bill’s Bar.” Barnes added. “Ironically we have gone full circle as it will be a restaurant/bar again.”
The flower shop, a fixture in downtown Clare, first opened at Louise’s in 1946. That business was purchased by Bill and Dorothy Maxwell and renamed Maxwell’s. It was purchased and operated by Barb and Ron Kunse, by Gus Murphy and then in 2012 by Steve Barnes.
And now, renovations to the historic building have begun. “We have already started some selective demolition in the building,” Steve said. “Our main focus is to restore the building and save its historical charm for future generations.” Most of the business interior features a beautiful tin ceiling. “We will be keeping that,” Barnes said.
Meantime, Maxwell’s Flowers and Gifts will remain open for business. “We are just liquidating part of the inventory to make room for the new enterprise,” Barnes said.
Maxwell’s Flowers and Gifts is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., on Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. They will also be open for the holiday weekend – this Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Monday, Memorial Day, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
You can call them at 989-386-7742.