A landmark Midland bar is getting new life

UPDATE: A post on Fricks Facebook page on November 29 announced that the sports bar's grand opening will be on Friday, December 9. This story was published on September 1st.

On a recent weekday morning, Frick’s Sports Bar was a beehive of activity after sitting dormant for over two years. The watering hole located on North Saginaw Road in northwest Midland is being renovated under the watchful eye of one of the new owners, Kurt Busard. The long-time hospitality professional and Jeff Rekeweg, a long-time professional in athletics, teamed up to buy Frick’s from the Smith family on June 8.
Jeff Rekeweg and Kurt Busard are the new owners of Frick's Sports Bar.
Rekeweg says, “The first conversation was probably a little over a year ago when Ted & Paula (the owners) put it up for sale.” Rekeweg adds, “We want to have a great sports bar, with great food, a place families can come to hang out, watch games, and we want to create an atmosphere for college students and adults to have entertainment later in the evening, too. “ 

The bar has sat closed since early in the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Busard, the managing partner, says, “Our goal is to be open this fall. Let’s keep it broad (laughs)...there’s still a lot of work to do.” Frick’s first opened in 1955, when it was located just outside the city limits, when laws were in place that prohibited bars within the City of Midland. Alcohol could be served in private clubs.  Those laws were later lifted and the city limits expanded west beyond Frick’s. Over time, there were two additions to the original Frick’s with one taking place in the 1970’s and the latest, largest expansion in the 1990’s. It now covers approximately 6,000 square feet.

Frick's opened in 1955 and expanded twice in the 1970's and '90's.
Demolition work was done by Busard and Rekeweg with help from family members. They took down walls and tore out bathrooms, the kitchen, and flooring. The renovation and remodeling work is being done by Three Rivers Corporation and J.E. Johnson.  Busard says, “The existing kitchen was very residential. We’re commercializing it, adding new equipment (stainless steel), and new flooring. We’re updating and upgrading. It will increase the capacity.”  Regarding the new food menu, Busard says, “We are a sports bar. We’ll have burgers, nachos, wings, fries, sandwiches, and weekly specials.”
The back of the bar will also get a new look at Frick's.
The bar is getting new flooring and appliances and will have a new look. They’re adding taps to the six existing beer taps. The selection will include beers from area breweries. Busard adds, ”We’ll have an extensive mixed drink menu and a creative cocktails list.” The big reach-in cooler will stay.

For the dining area, Busard says, ”We’re working to create a sports bar feel. We’re going to keep billiards but we’ll reduce the number of tables and we’re adding more activities such as air hockey, a golf simulator, arcade machines, bubble hockey, shuffleboard, pop-a-shot basketball, darts, a huge outdoor patio, and a stage for live bands and dancing.” They also plan to have “tons of TV’s” and displays of local sports memorabilia. The fireplace will again be an active feature. They’ll have the capacity to serve up to 250 persons.

The two partners come from different backgrounds. Busard has almost 20 years in the hospitality industry. He started working at the Ashman Court Hotel (now The H) while attending H.H. Dow High School. He’s a 2003 graduate. He worked several jobs at Ashman Court over seven years until he decided to attend the Great Lakes Culinary Institute in Traverse City. While there, Busard worked at the Apache Trout and Grill. Busard returned to the Great Lakes Bay Region to join his girlfriend, now wife, Jacky. He was the director of food and beverage at the Bay City Country Club for a year and then moved to the Midland Country Club.

Contractors are renovating Frick's, located in northwest Midland.
After five years there, Busard became the chief operations officer for Downtown Restaurant Investments (DRI) owned by Dave Dittenber, headquartered in Bay City. DRI owns Old City Hall, Tavern 101, M2 Barbecue and the Drift Shoreside Beer Garden, all in Bay City, and Molasses in Midland.  Rekeweg says, “We met first when he was at the Midland Country Club, when I was there for different events.” When Busard was at DRI, Rekeweg says, “We became more and more familiar..it grew into a friendship.”
The outdoor patio will be located near the back parking lot.
Rekeweg’s resume is in athletics. He became the executive director of the Greater Midland Tennis Center in March after working in advancement for two years at Northwood University. Prior to that, Rekeweg was the head men’s basketball coach for nine years at Northwood. The Indiana native coached for 14 years at St. Francis in Fort Wayne. His 2010 team won the NAIA national title. He played college hoops at Nebraska.The pair has plans to sponsor local youth sports teams, and high school and Northwood athletics.

Regarding their new venture, Busard says, “Midland’s so attractive because it hasn’t reached that restaurant boom like other communities have including Bay City. We’re on the cusp of that developing here. You can feel the want and the need for that to develop here.”
The kitchen at Frick's will feature new appliances and flooring.
Frick’s will employ from 20 to 40 people. Frick’s will be open seven days a week, 11am-2am. The kitchen will stay open until 9 or 10pm. They’re not advertising for jobs just yet but if a person is interested in working there, send an email to: busardkurt@gmail.com. To find out when Frick’s will re-open, Busard says to keep an eye on the marquee out front and Frick’s social media pages for updates.

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Read more articles by Ron Beacom.

Ron Beacom has served as the managing editor of Catalyst Midland since October 2020. He's also a freelance writer for the Midland Daily News and the producer/host of "Second Act: Life at 50 Plus" for WDCQ-Delta College Public Media (PBS). He's the co-producer of two WDCQ documentaries about the Tittabawassee River Disaster in 2020, "Breached! and Breached!2-The Recovery."