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Ortonville’s Business Throughout the Years

By Isaiah Ricard

What is your favorite place to shop in downtown Ortonville? Could it be the South Street Exchange, a newer store offering a plethora of unique items. Or maybe even Hamilton’s which has been serving the community an entire century. Many local businesses have come and gone throughout the years following the tides of change within the community. With Ortonville’s 175th year anniversary approaching, it’s important that we acknowledge the continuities and changes of the many local businesses that have come and gone since the year 1848, and how the desires of the community have affected these changes.

It wouldn’t make sense not to begin with what was the first business and ultimately would become a trademark symbol of Ortonville and its history – The Old Mill. The Old Mill was built by Amos Orton the founder of Ortonville, and began operation in the year of 1856. Mr. Orton built the Old Mill with the intent of the local farmers using it to grind the produce. Originally named the Ortonville Grist Mill it remained in operation until 1960. Its closure was a result of the agricultural revolutions of the late 1800’s and the mid 1900’s as many local farmers had already gained access to post-industrial revolution technologies, rendering the services of the mill no longer necessary. Today, the Old Mill stands as a historical museum, housing relics of the past of Ortonville. It serves its community as a place of education for anyone intrigued on learning about the life of those who have forged the local communities of Ortonville, Atlas, Hadley, and Groveland. Ultimately, the Old Mill is a symbol of local pride and commerce, enabling the economic scene of Ortonville standing in this town from its fletchling years to this day.

Who doesn’t love food? Ortonville has seen many restaurants fade in and out of its downtown scene. Today we might be in the mood for a burger from the Village Pub. Maybe something a little bit healthier, like a smoothie from Impact North. These are all things we might consider today, but what about 100 years ago? Well, 100 years ago might be a bit too far back, as restaurants were only beginning to gain traction in the United States during the 1920’s. Not only that, but the village of Ortonville avoided all commercialization (opening businesses only for financial gain) for a long time. This really ended when Ortonville’s A & W drive-in restaurant opened in the early 1950’s. A & W gained immense support over the years, but inevitably changed with developments in health consciousness in the U.S. A & W has a place in many people’s hearts, maintaining the retro vibe it had decades ago. Although many regard A & W, McDonald’s, Jet’s Pizza and other fast food establishments as staples of the village’s food scene, local residents weren’t always limited by fast food. In 1915 a bakery stood where Moon Bodyworks now stands today. While on the topic of downtown restaurants, it’d be impossible not to mention Papa Bella’s and the Village Pub. At this moment in time, they are the longest standing restaurants in the downtown area. With Papa Bella’s serving pizzas and more since their opening on October 1st, 1991 and the Village Pub operating since sometime during or before the 90’s, both have been feeding local residents for decades.

While it’d be difficult to cover every business that has transitioned in and out and around downtown Ortonville, I’m going to cover some of the main ones. Where the MSU Credit Union is located today the Clarkston-Brandon Credit Union occupied the building in 1994. The Citizen Newspaper has covered local affairs since 1994 in the building of 331 Mill Street, now located at 12 South Street. The lone-standing brick building that houses the Hudson Insurance Group originally held the Bank of Ortonville in 1905. As I had mentioned earlier, 391 Mill St. which is now Moon Bodyworks housed a bakery in 1915 but in later years was a gas station, insurance office, a beauty salon, a deli and even more! Where Lynn’s Dance Studio is today used to be a dry goods store, a post office and even a fabric store. As I’ve said before, it’d be tough to name off every business that has been a part of this town, but they all share one thing in common; they have contributed to the success of our small town.

While looking retrospectively upon the history of businesses in the Village of Ortonville, one thing is for certain – that is that each and every one business that has made its way into Ortonville has contributed to the town’s success. Even the companies that don’t exist today have played a crucial role in the local economy. The businesses of the past and the present are what uphold the community and without them we might not be here to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Ortonville.

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