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Local realtor purchases former Amherst Hotel

Dan Gemus of Dan Gemus Real Estate Team Ltd. has purchased the former Amherst Hotel on Richmond St. He will be moving his team in there later this year. Gemus said Rosa's is also moving there with 5-6 apartments going upstairs.

Dan Gemus of Dan Gemus Real Estate Team Ltd. has purchased the former Amherst Hotel on Richmond St. He will be moving his team in there later this year. Gemus said Rosa’s is also moving there with 5-6 apartments going upstairs.

By Ron Giofu

 

A local realtor has purchased the former Amherst Hotel and plans to relocate his staff as well as a local restaurant there.

Dan Gemus told the RTT that he purchased the property, located at 61 Richmond St., and will move his real estate team into the space currently occupied by Audrey Festeryga’s Liberal campaign office. He said he has also made a deal with Rosa’s to bring that restaurant into the space formerly occupied by Kinfolks.

The real estate office and Rosa’s are both currently located on Murray St.

Gemus described the two upper floors as “a big, unfinished space” and plans to convert those into apartments. He said there will be at least five apartments put in, with four of them one-bedroom apartments and the other a bachelor apartment.

A sixth apartment could be added, as Gemus said a former banquet hall space could either be converted into a two-bedroom apartment or be used as more space for Gemus’ real estate team.

Gemus hopes to have the restaurant space open within a month or two and plans to start renovations on the space his real estate office will be moving into sometime after the Oct. 19 federal election. He estimates renovations will last roughly two months.

“Then we’ll get to work on getting quotes for the apartments upstairs,” he said. “I would like to say it would take one year (to complete) but it depends on the quotes we get.”

There will also be brickwork done to the sides and rear of the building.

“Our goal is to improve the exterior look of the building and get it looking its best again,” said Gemus.

Gemus takes possession of the building in roughly one month but he admitted it was a site he wasn’t considering when he started to look for a larger office space. He warmed to the idea of moving to the downtown core of Amherstburg after considering the recent activity, which includes the opening of several new restaurants and two new residential developments planned along nearby Dalhousie St.

“We’re excited to be part of it,” he said.

Purchasing the building is also attractive from the standpoint that it comes with revenue opportunities, as it will have the commercial and residential renters.

The parking lot behind the building will likely remain private, as Gemus said there has to be enough parking for restaurant patrons, real estate staff and apartment renters.

Dan Gemus Real Estate Team Ltd.’s current home at 114 Murray St. will likely be sold, he stated. The team moved there in Dec. 2013.

“We didn’t anticipate outgrowing this space as fast as we did,” said Gemus. “The plan is to sell it as a commercial property.”

2015 Run for Heroes event to be final one in Amherstburg

 

Competitors in the 2014 Run for Heroes Marathon run through the starting line at the Libro Credit Union Centre. Photo by: Adam D’Andrea.

Competitors in the 2014 Run for Heroes Marathon run through the starting line at the Libro Credit Union Centre. Photo by: Adam D’Andrea.

By Ron Giofu

 

The Run for Heroes race event will be held in Amherstburg next month but don’t look for the event to return to Amherstburg in 2016.

The event – presented by Running Flat – will see a 5K run, a 5K walk, a 10K run and 10K walk, a kids marathon, and the half-marathon start and finish at the Libro Centre Sept. 20 but race director Chris Uszynski noted it will be the last one staged in Amherstburg.

The decision was a difficult one for Uszynski and his family, given the race has been a fundraiser for the Alzheimer Society of Windsor-Essex County. Uzsynski’s father had Alzheimer’s Disease and his mother was the primary caregiver for many years.

“We created this event, we nurtured it, we babied it and we developed it from its infancy,” said Uszynski.

While the decision was announced last week, Uszynski said he and his Running Flat team have been debating it for a good portion of this year.

“It’s been tearing me up for weeks,” he said. “It’s deeply personal. This race is named after my mom. We put everything we have into this.”

The event started as the World Alzheimer’s Day Ultra-Marathon with a 69K run in 2007, an 88K run in 2008 and 100K runs in 2009 and 2010, all ending in Amherstburg. It was turned into the Run for Heroes Marathon in 2011 but high costs of staging a full 42K marathon caused that particular race to be shelved after the 2014 event, though the smaller races will be run one more time this year.

“This event wasn’t for the runners in Amherstburg, it was for the citizens of Amherstburg to show off the town,” said Uszynski.

Uszynski estimates that over 6,000 participants have come to Amherstburg along with friends and family, many of whom come from places at least 90 minutes away. He said the region gained $2.8 million in economic activity over the past four years with runners coming from all over Canada and 30 U.S. states.

A lack of sponsorship dollars has been one of the factors causing the race to shut down locally. Unsure whether it is the local economy causing sponsorship dollars to be tight or whether it is people and companies not seeing a value in the race, Uszynski said it is tough to get sponsorship dollars in the region for this race.

“It’s not for a lack of trying,” he said. “We’ve met with some corporate offices in Toronto trying to get them to sponsor events down here and they won’t do it.”

Local businesses have been giving their sponsorship dollars to other organizations or causes, he added, with five water station sponsors being lost for this year’s event.

In a smaller market like Amherstburg, Uszynski said they need roughly $30-35,000 in sponsorships.

“We don’t get government funding,” he said. “We are a private corporation because of the liability of what we do.”

Another challenge of staging the race in Amherstburg is accommodations. With five bed and breakfasts and a campground listed in the town’s tourist guide, Uszynski said that leads participants to Windsor where they are 30 minutes away from the race and question whether it is worth coming.

“For most, not really,” he said.

Uszynski has long been a proponent of the town developing a billeting program and has appeared before council in the past asking for help developing such a program. He believes it is a great experience to come into a community and be welcomed and it would be a great experience for Amherstburg residents to meet new people.

“The biggest issue for runners is ‘where do we stay?’” he said. “For four years we’ve been talking to council. “It’s the same issue over and over and over again.”

According to Uszynski, billeting is “very common” at large events like the Olympics, Ironman or Commonwealth Games as hotels can’t handle the volume of people coming in. He believes a smaller scale program could work in Amherstburg.

“The issue is do you want the senior games, do you want the large hockey tournaments and do you want the large soccer tournaments?” he said. “We have to develop a system to billet.”

The race has been promoted in Runner’s World magazine, on Good Morning America and the Today Show, he said. It was marketed as “Canada’s Most Southern Boston Marathon qualifier” and as the fastest and flattest course in the world.

“This was always a world class even people showed up to in a small town,” he said. “This is going to be a huge missed opportunity for the community going forward. It’s a great event for this town but we just can’t make it work.”

Uszynski said he is “always willing to talk to anyone” but they can’t keep presenting the race in town under the current circumstances.

“We live here, we love the town and we’d like to see everything continue but this is the last year for it,” he said. “It is what it is. I can’t sit here and make excuses.”

There are no current plans to take the Run for Heroes event anywhere else, but Uszynski is leaving the door open for just such a possibility. He said Running Flat owns the trademark and the race itself and believes they could field phone calls from other areas requesting the race come to their region.

“Once the word gets out there this is the last year, we’ll get lots of phone calls,” he predicted.

People can still sign up for this year’s Run for Heroes event or any of Running Flat’s other runs by visiting www.runningflat.com. Uszynski said Running Flat isn’t leaving Amherstburg entirely, as the Canada D’Eh 5K run/walk will still be staged locally.

“We’ll continue to do Canada Day in the town,” he said.

Uszynski said this year’s race was the largest Canada Day race in the nation, and estimated 2,500 people came to town including participants and their friends and family.

“They were from everywhere,” he said.

ACS’ Fill-A-Backpack and Family Fun Day draws over 200 people

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale was on hand to help distribute school supplies at Saturday’s Fill-A-Backpack and Family Fun Day. The event was presented by Amherstburg Community Services. Seven-year-old Erik Petley was one of the children that received some supplies.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale was on hand to help distribute school supplies at Saturday’s Fill-A-Backpack and Family Fun Day. The event was presented by Amherstburg Community Services. Seven-year-old Erik Petley was one of the children that received some supplies.

By Ron Giofu

 

The fourth annual Fill-A-Backpack and Family Fun Day at Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) saw over 200 people come out and enjoy the day’s proceedings.

While people had to register for the backpacks and school supplies, the rest of the activities were open to the public. Those included sparring demonstrations by Amherstburg’s Fighting Island Boxing Club, dancing exhibitions from the Catz Meow Dance Education Centre, martial arts demonstrations from YunHap martial arts, an obstacle course, face painting, pony rides courtesy of Sarah Parks Horsemanship, free hair cuts, free dental hygiene supplies and a chance to look at an Amherstburg fire truck.

Ryan Ure gets his hair cut by Cyndy Fischer-Anhorn as part of Amherstburg Community Services' fourth annual Fill-A-Backpack and Family Fun Day. It occurred at ACS' office at 179 Victoria St. S.

Ryan Ure gets his hair cut by Cyndy Fischer-Anhorn as part of Amherstburg Community Services’ fourth annual Fill-A-Backpack and Family Fun Day. It occurred at ACS’ office at 179 Victoria St. S.

ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo said ACS expanded the amount of activities this year.

DiBartolomeo noted the idea was to not only get local children prepared for the upcoming school year, but to keep them active and give them increased self-esteem as well.

“The whole purpose of the day is just to have a day where kids have a chance to be active,” she said. “We want to prepare them and send them back to school full of confidence.”

“We are really pleased with the support we’ve gathered from local agencies and groups,” said DiBartolomeo. “We are grateful to the Rotary Club for their large donation.”

DiBartolomeo said it was a $1,500 donation and that helped purchase the school supplies.

“That really, really helped,” she stated.

The agency also thanked the other donors and sponsors that helped present the day.

Amherstburg Community Services is located at 179 Victoria St. S. and can be contacted by phone at 519-736-5471 or e-mail acs@bellnet.ca. A full list of services can be found at www.amherstburg-cs.com.

 

McGregor Mug Run & International Beer Festival hits Co-An Park

 

Participants in the McGregor Mug Run leave from the starting line Aug. 22.

Participants in the McGregor Mug Run leave from the starting line Aug. 22.

By Ron Giofu

 

The McGregor Mug Run & International Beer Festival returned Saturday and saw and increased number of participants in both components of the fundraiser.

Organizers report more runners took part this year with more breweries also part of the beer festival that followed it. There was a committee of seven people planning the event this year with member Ryan Raymond stating about 350 people participated in the run.

“It’s about 100 more than last year,” said Raymond.

Much of the growth has come through word-of-mouth advertising, he said, with three more breweries taking part in the beer festival. Raymond noted that there were 16 brands this year and it wasn’t just craft breweries. Most of the local breweries were in attendance but others came in from outside the area.

“We’re trying to represent as many countries as possible,” he said.

The event raised money for three causes this year – the Epilepsy Support Centre, the Essex Region Conservation Foundation’s “Trail On!” campaign and Co-An Park. The “Trail On!” campaign is raising money for the Essex-Amherstburg greenway spur.

Nicko Mammonas pours a beer at the McGregor Mug Run & International Beer Festival last Saturday at Co-An Park.

Nicko Mammonas pours a beer at the McGregor Mug Run & International Beer Festival last Saturday at Co-An Park.

Raymond was thankful to all the sponsors, and noted McGregor businesses such as the Knights of Columbus Hall and LaRocca tavern stepped in to provide assistance.

“Co-An Park has been fabulous to work with,” he added.

Stating the McGregor Mug Run & International Beer Festival is a “fun community event,” Raymond added it was started not only to have fun but to help out the community where they can.

“This is what it has grown into,” he said. “It’s getting bigger and bigger every year.”

Nicko Mammonas of Walkerville Brewery said he was happy to be part of the event this year.

“I love to see the amount of craft breweries and craft beer,” he said. “It’s a friendly community.”

The festival had good beer and good music, so he believed it to be a good time too.

“What else do you need?” he asked. “It’s a good combination.”

American film crew working on Boblo boat movie

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A new feature length film is in production focusing on the life and times of the former Boblo boats.

Director Aaron Schillinger and director of photography Joe Flinders of Baby Volcano Films are producing a feature film about the Boblo boats entitled “Boblo Boats: A Tale of Two Sisters.”

The film is being described as “a Detroit fairytale about island amusement park, Boblo, and the iconic steamboats that delivered countless patrons to its shores for nearly a century before it was tragically shut down in the early ‘90s.”

SS Columbia

SS Columbia (Photo courtesy of Marsh Historical Collection)

Matt Stinson, public relations director on the film, said it is “a part documentary, part narrative film.” He said the director and director of photography both are from New York and became interested in doing a film after learning more about the SS Columbia, with that ship being restored for its future life in New York.

The release date of the film is scheduled for the first quarter of 2017, Stinson said.

“The business plan is to have the film released when Columbia is fully restored and employed into service on the Hudson River,” he added.

Production has been focused in metro Detroit and Toledo over the summer, aided by a mainly Detroit-based crew, though Stinson noted they already have completed some work on Boblo.

While a lot of the film is a documentary, Stinson added they are looking to use special effects to “recreate the magic that was Boblo.” The filmmakers are also aiming to film reenactment scenes.

Schillinger and Flinders have become associated with the SS Ste. Claire restoration project. Alongside the Ste. Claire project, the filmmakers are actively seeking a new home for the vessel “while at the same time capturing the struggle to restore one of Detroit’s last remaining testaments to a bygone prosperous era.”

“She is currently being threatened with the scrapyard,” added Stinson.

The Ste. Clair could be used as a dockside attraction, he continued, with revenue earned during its time as a dockside attraction being used to one day fully restore the vessel to where it could sail again. Getting the Ste. Clair seaworthy again is unfeasible at this point, he added, noting the $15-20 million cost to restore the Columbia to sailing condition.

The filmmakers have launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.com, with Stinson noting they are trying to obtain $300,000 U.S. A barbecue party with Motown legend Martha Reeves has also helped to raise funds for the film.

“The first time I set eyes on the Boblo boats, I knew they had the same symbolic power as any fairytale,” said Schillinger added in a press release. “The Ste. Claire is Detroit’s last vestige of Boblo Island. She is a living fairy tale.”

Stinson noted the filmmakers are confident enough in the film to where they have put up their own finances and taken time away from their jobs to work on it.

More information can be found at Bobloboatsfilm.com.