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Meet the Old Fenton Fire Hall Candidates: Clarkston Union Owners Curt Catallo and Ann Stevenson

Family still lives above Union General Store, eats nearly every meal at their restaurants and has fun doing it.

The owners of two highly successful restaurants, another that recently opened, a general store and an ad agency surely live in a big house on the lake, right?

Well in the case of Curt Catallo and Ann Stevenson, not exactly.

The married couple still lives in a loft above the Union General store in downtown Clarkston next door to their award-winning restaurant with their 8 and 9-year-old children.

“The kids sit down and order food,” Catallo said. “It’s something that’s very throwback, but it appeals to us. For us, it’s life. There’s something old school about living above store. It’s different to have that sense of pride and ownership in our restaurants.”

Catallo and Stevenson have been chosen as a finalist to renovate the old Fenton Fire Hall along with (who we introduced you to on Monday).

Catallo and Stevenson believe in the soul of old buildings, they like to travel, you won’t find anything in their refrigerator and and could be Fenton’s newest neighbor.

Meet Catallo and Stevenson

Catallo grew up on Big Lake in Davisburg and remembers visits to Fenton as “trips to the big city” and remembers the old Fenton Fire Hall “as a kid would as a cool place with fire trucks.” He never imagined having the chance to one day own the building.

Stevenson who heads up the Union General, a boutique and cupcakery, admits she is often in the building in pajamas and slippers early in the morning or late at night. She said a lot of the family’s activities are based around the children.

“We happily have them dictate what we do with our free time whether it’s going to a Tigers game or a carnival,” she said. “They are pretty outdoorsy kids.”

The couple is also a fan of backgammon and love to travel.

Since the family is just steps away from very famous food, they admit their refrigerator is usually empty.

“You might find some milk you have to check the date on,” Catallo said. “We live out of those restaurants.”

The couple has thought about moving to a bigger home, but enjoy being close to their businesses too much.

“We are growing out of it to say the least,” Stevenson said. “But I feel like it’s a luxury to live upstairs and next to union and down the street from our other restaurant.”

The soul of old buildings

While a newly constructed building might be actually be easier in many ways to open a business, Catallo and Stevenson believe old buildings have something that wouldn’t be captured with a new building.

That’s why an old church has been transformed into the Union General and the , Union Woodshop (the 2011 Detroit Free Press Restaurant of the year) was carved out of an old building on Clarkston’s Main Street, the newly opened was built from a historic structure and their newest creation could come out of Fenton’s old Fire Hall.

“It may sound corny, but there is a soul of the building with people that lived there or worked,” Stevenson said. “They are constructed well. There is something about newly dry-walled walls that don’t have same character.”

A second chance at Fenton

Catallo and Stevenson had always admired the old Fenton Fire Hall.

“From the exterior we knew it was an incredibly charming building,” Stevenson said. “Every view is incredible.”

When the first opportunity came around to have the chance to renovate it, they weren’t in a position to make a bid. The economic downturn and the re-transformation from turning the fine dining Clarkston Café into the Union Woodshop were factors in the decision not to expand.

However, after the turned sour, Catallo heard from customers the building might be available again.

“It found us instead of us finding it,” Catallo said. “It’s very rare to have a second chance at the building like that.  This time we weren’t going to let regrets get the best of us.

“It has a presence you just can’t replicate. To have building with garage doors open to a (designer Eliel) Saarinen building on one side and windows on the other side that look at a waterfall. It’s unthinkable.”

You can read more about or the history of the development of the old Fenton Fire Hall on Fenton Patch.

Fenton’s decision

The Fenton DDA is currently conducting a financial review of both Arbor Brewing Company and the Union joints and checking on their legal history.

The Old Fenton Fire Hall Selection Committee consisting of DDA member Tom Bertschy, DDA Vice Chairman Jim Saule and DDA member Doug James are expected to meet in a closed executive session for a final review of the proposals at 10 a.m. June 19 and then will make a recommendation to the DDA during its meeting at 6 p.m. later that night when the DDA is expected to vote for the finalist.

“They both have been great to work with. I wish the DDA had two buildings to give,” DDA Director Michael Burns said. “They are solid people with solid reputations and very good backgrounds. I think both would be successful.”

Meredith M June 12, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Good luck to Curt and Ann!
Foodie June 12, 2012 at 03:44 PM
So impressed with what you've done at Vinsetta Garage with the building and customized menu. Here's hoping for another Union hit in Fenton!
Dr. Ron June 12, 2012 at 04:24 PM
If the DDA is reading this: no disrespect to ABC, but the Union has a proven record in these projects and it is what we crave. With French Laundry & Crust, Union Firehall, the Cornerstone (Republic Bank) project, et al. I am very excited for the transformation of downtown Fenton.
Chris Chewin June 12, 2012 at 05:46 PM
I've lived in Clarkston for years and can tell you that Curt and Anne make our town better. Not just for the food, but their spirit in supporting the community. You can look at how much fun they make events like Oktoberfest, A Taste of Clarkston oir our parades, but it's more than that. On most summer nights the city shops are benefiting from all the out of towners that made the trip just for dinner at the Union and Woodshop. I'm sure you know that you'll be getting a well run business with great food if you pick them, but your community will be gaining so much more. Best of luck to them and the city of Fenton.
Local June 13, 2012 at 04:33 AM
There is a level of character in the Union joints not often found in other restaurants. None of them are novelty, all serve food with unexpected twists, and all are very approachable. I love beer, but in the case of ABC, the little league team won't care about housemade brew at the post-game lunch. Grandma visiting from Traverse City likely won't care either. And beer aficianados as well as casual enjoyers would likely prefer a vast selection over a handful of ABC craft offerings. Seems the choice is between a college town vibe that is beer-centric vs. a small town vibe that is food-centric. One of which brings folks of all walks back again and again.
David Davis June 18, 2012 at 02:19 AM
So you know I do not post this to celebrate anything but Curt & Ann.....I was sort of a soul mate to Curt despite our not knowing each other back in 1993 when I opened the Berkley Front Ltd. (which is now an unadulterated dump of extraordinary ill repute and bad reputation). I would have given anything to have a partner as bright, compassionate and intelligent as Curt and or Ann, instead I got a criminally bad man who I had sort of grown up with, he was funny and I thought he was smart....turned out he was actually neither. The level of professionalism and style that this great couple brought to Clarkston, and will now bring to Fenton, cannot be marginalized in any way shape or form.....the man had the genie in the bottle! I had the genie, but my partner drank her with his attorney pals after hours while I was trying to close up and go home to get some sleep. Ours was a grand bar that broke the beer world for Michigan wide open....but it was Curt and me doing the work and heavy lifting while my partner sat back and undermined everything to suit his fragile ego. I pray that Curt and Ann will have massive success and that their family will see the stability and happiness I never attained with mine as my partner caused my downfall in every way imaginable. I'm sorry if this comes off as a tacky testimonial, but I do so respect this couple and I miss my bar, I miss their bar and I miss the joy we had in common. GO GET 'EM YOU GUY'S!!!! Peace Always!

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