When the Northwestern Michigan Fair took hold at the corner of U.S.-31 and M-37 in 1975, it was the only form of family fun near the Grawn location known as Chums Corner. Gradually, over the next few years, decades and continuing today, that would drastically change.
A teen night club made a brief appearance in the '80s to go along with an area that mostly had been home to used car dealerships, a few fast food restaurants, open fields and a farm equipment business. But the area began to grow to include family fun and now has become a destination for children and families.
Over the next decades, new development began to happen at the corner. Chums Corner Shell Mini Mart, Chase Bank Chum's Corner, Rite Aid, Verizon, and a long-standing bar originally named Club 31, then formerly the Gin Mill, then formerly Spikes Peak--which now is a newly redone restaurant and pub named Northern Lights. Many of the businesses are proud enough of their location that they include Chums Corner right in the name.
An Econolodge is at Chums Corner, and within four miles are a Baymont Inn & Suites, a Courtyard by Marriott, a Fairfield Inn and the Great Wolf Motor Lodge, making the crossroads a home base for vacationers to the area.
Among other businesses, Mancino's Pizza & Grinders Chums Corner opened its doors in August 2011, a perfect place to take the family.
Soon there will be Beggars Brewery at the site and Preston Feather Building Centers, rounding out the complement of businesses making their homes at the crossroads.
Wilderness Crossing, an indoor family entertainment venue, opened about a quarter mile from Chums Corner in 2008, and offered bowling, miniature golf and an arcade. There also was Zeroed In Gun and Archery Range nearby, and the Traverse City Beach Bums baseball team played at Wuerfel Park.
These family-oriented fun spots lasted varying degrees of time before closing up shop, but that doesn't mean there is nothing more to do. Far from it--they've been replaced, in fact, by new businesses offering new things to do.
The most notable of new family entertainment options is the opening in February of Incredible Mo's at the site of the former Wilderness Crossing. It offers many of the same activities, but in updated and expanded versions.
"We're really excited about doing business at Chums Corner," says Sandra Mohrhardt, co-owner of Incredible Mo's. "There is so much activity at that location, and we have a big sign on 31 that brings in lots of business because there is so much traffic that goes by."
There also is a restaurant at Incredible Mo's called Sauce that serves salad, pasta, sandwiches and appetizers. There is a full bar adults can enjoy while the kids are having their fun.
"Owners and employees from businesses at Chums Corner come in all the time to have lunch and that helps us a lot," Mohrhardt says. "We just had a big group from Cherry Growers distribution center come in today."
"Not only that, but customers who visit the businesses at Chums Corner sometimes come in to play and eat. It's a great situation for us."
There is live music at Incredible Mo's, a banquet room that seats more than 80, a large-screen television that is perfect for the biggest sporting events of the day, 10 bowling lanes, and an expanded arcade with all the games you can imagine, a large laser tag zone, and a special spot designated just for toddlers.
Zeroed In Gun and Archery Range came and went a few years back, but the spot about a mile west of Chums Corner didn't go vacant. Shooters Indoor Gun & Archery Range moved into the building in 2011, and still offers family fun. The facility is open year round and offers a 3D video archery and video simulator, plus indoor shooting locations for rifles, bows and pistols.
Another exciting family development was the move in November of TC Paintball to a new location, three-quarters of a mile south of Chums Corner. The business was launched in 1999 and has been a popular spot for more than a decade.
There are countless events held at TC Paintball, including a recent Easter Egg Paintball Battle, Bog Day, Annual Pump and Pistol Event with free camping and more.
"I come into work every day and there's a huge amount of traffic on 37 and 31," says TC Paintball owner Wayne Berry. "I have a huge sign on 37 and my exposure has increased, for sure."
"Chums Corner is a place where there is a lot of activity, a lot of businesses. It has grown a lot over the years, and it's a fantastic place to do business."
Jeff Barr is a freelance writer who has lived in Michigan for 46 years. You can reach Jeff at email@example.com