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Fenton Fire Hall Developers Have Proposal for City's Old Pump House

Union Joints LLC proposes buying the former pump house from the city, to open a custard business near the old fire hall restaurant.

Salted caramel custard, Faygo Rock ‘N’ Rye ice cream and more — on the banks of the Shiawassee River in Fenton. As the Fenton Fire Hall restaurant makes its way through the site plan review process, Curt Catallo from Union Joints has an additional proposal — restoring the city’s old pump house into a frozen custard building. He presented his ideas for The Pump House at Monday’s city council worksession.

The proposal resembles Union Joints’ restaurant and ice cream store in Clarkston, where there is the Clarkston Union and his wife, Ann Stevenson’s, Union General for ice cream, Catallo said. The Pump House in Fenton would feature handcrafted all natural custards, by the owners of the Fenton Fire Hall.

Fenton’s pump house is a gem by the he said. It’s in great shape, with beautiful brick, a new roof and the construction design of the old fire hall. There’s potential for Union Joints LLC to use the building as a satellite location to the Fenton Fire Hall restaurant, he said.

The pump house belongs to the city, said Assistant City Manager Michael Burns, also Downtown Development Authority (DDA) director.

Union Joints LLC proposed buying the pump house from the city. As a custard location, it would increase foot traffic along the river walk, as the Fenton Fire Hall opens in the spring, Catallo said. People could stop in during events in the park, shopping trips, picnics, fishing, and Fenton Fire Hall overflow.

The roof on the pump house is four years old, said Councilman Les Bland, retired Fenton Department of Public Works director. In addition, the building is the site of a former well that’s been concreted and capped. The capped well stands above the ground. In addition, he doesn’t believe sewer service could be extended to the pump house, Bland said.

For restrooms, The Pump House would have to have a relationship with an adjacent business so its patrons could use the restrooms at the adjacent business, said Zoning Administrator Brad Hissong. Otherwise, the project wouldn’t get approval. And once the use of the building changes, it must be brought into full compliance with the new building code.

He believes Union Joint’s proposal would be a great use of the building, Bland said. It’s been empty for four years. Someone had an idea to open it for concessions, but this fell through.

Councilman Michael Piacentini said there might be a different entity looking to open an ice cream business downtown, but not in the pump house. In addition, Piacentini would be opposed to selling or giving away the pump house to Union Joints, if another business with a concrete plan wants to open an ice cream store.

Catallo said Union Joints is interested in buying the pump house, because of the sizeable investment needed.

Councilwoman Pat Lockwood said she likes the idea for The Pump House, which could be a great enhancement on the river. She favors Fenton considering a five-year lease agreement with Union Joints for the building like the DDA has for the old fire hall, instead of the city selling the pump house outright.

Osborn said Fenton should discuss it with the city attorney. She would support the sale of the pump house.

Bland agreed, saying if someone makes a $200,000 to $250,000 investment into the pump house, for example, they wouldn’t want to lease it.

An option would be selling the pump house to Union Joints, keeping the right of first refusal if Union Joints doesn’t keep the building, City Manager Lynn Markland said.

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Jason Alexander (Editor) December 04, 2012 at 01:51 PM
What do you think? Would a frozen custard business be a good fit in the park?
Pete Toriello December 04, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Good use of the building but before decisions are made check out his existing store adjacent to the Union. Besides carrying a lot of "stuff" the ice cream and coffee operation is somewhat inferior to other similar operations. Too bad Uncle Ray's has not made a similar proposal. I agree that leasing is not a viable alternative if a business makes a substantial investment in improvements but if we sell outright can we restrict the uses of the location so it does not turn into a nightmare?
Foodie December 04, 2012 at 02:56 PM
That would be the Union General Store, which recently was recognized by Food & Wine magazine as one of America's Best New Cupcake businesses, as well as placed 9th by the Daily Meal for America's Top 50 Cupcakes. Check out the articles here. http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/americas-best-cupcakes/5 http://www.thedailymeal.com/top-50-cupcakes-america-slideshow
Laurie Isenberg December 04, 2012 at 03:13 PM
The cupcakes in that place are amazing!! My bible study group went there and had them - sinfully delicious! :) The more reasons people have to come downtown, the more business there is for everyone!
C.C. December 04, 2012 at 09:02 PM
The Union Joints have a great business acumen and if they have a vision for the pump house, I say "Co for it!" Curt and Anna have a proven track record and are an asset to every city where they set up shop. As to Councilman Piacentini's remarks regarding someone else who is interested in opening an ice cream shop..they too should go for it. Free enterprise is what drives America. Very narrow minded comments by Councilman Mike.
Joe Nagy December 05, 2012 at 01:57 PM
I grew up in Fenton and love the way the Dibbleville area has become a foot traffic area for residents and visitors alike. The Laundry is now a destination location for out of towners. My wife, 3 children and I just went to the Clarkston Union on Saturday and and then next door for cupcakes, which my 10 year old described as the best she'd ever had! Comments like another company "might" want to open an ice cream store while Fenton sits on the Pump House not only stifles local economic growth, but reminds me of Pawnee on the comedy "Parks and Recreation".
unknownauthor December 11, 2012 at 04:00 PM
What else does the Fenton DDA have on their dollar menu? Why not give other people a chance to buy the pump house?

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