A community gathering spot reopens in Beaverton

Once again, there’s a full-service restaurant -- serving lunch, dinner and drinks -- in Beaverton, a city of about 1,000 people in Gladwin County.

The Beaverton Tavern, long a staple in the community, reopened in late June after a more than two-year hiatus, closing as the pandemic took hold in Michigan and across the country. When the restaurant closed, the city of Beaverton purchased the property for future use, looking to preserve a downtown business. 

“It’s very important for the community to have a place like the Beaverton Tavern,” says Mayor Ray Nau, who notes the eatery has long been a local gathering spot. “This is a nice quiet city, it’s a modern-day Mayberry, everyone knows everyone.”

In stepped the members of the Martin family, who purchased the building from the city in the fall of 2020 with a stipulation the structure remain a restaurant. The family spent about 18 months renovating the structure.  “We pretty much gutted everything … the kitchen, electric, HVAC, plumbing,” says Taylor Eaton, who is among the family members running the restaurant. “It required a lot of work but we got there.”

They did manage to keep a few materials from the previous business, including some of the wood, which was used to make a new bar,  and the old tin ceiling. Some equipment and supplies were delayed during the renovation, causing some challenges. The family is still awaiting for a pizza oven to be delivered. 
The Beaverton Tavern officially reopened to the public in late June, a welcome return in a rural city with few other dining options. There is another restaurant -- The Family Diner -- serving breakfast and lunch but no dinner and no drinks. Otherwise, Beaverton residents and others nearby have to travel to Gladwin, about 10 minutes away, or farther.

“Everybody had to go outside of town for dinner,” says Eaton, whose family was considering purchasing the restaurant before it even closed during the pandemic.

Reopening the restaurant also is a win-win for Beaverton’s downtown, home to other small businesses and city services.

A functioning downtown breathes life into a city, town or municipality, Kevin LaDuke, communications officer for the Midland Area Community Foundation and a Beaverton native, shared in a Facebook post when the Beaverton Tavern reopened.

“I've heard downtowns described as a community's front porch. I've also heard them described as a love letter to a community. For me, downtown areas have always represented the heartbeat of a community," he says. 

“The tavern has long served as a meeting place, watering hole, and regional icon for dinner or lunch,” adds LaDuke, who has known the family for a long time. “With their complete remodel and renewed energy, the Tavern is ready to welcome visitors to the front porch of my hometown -- Beaverton.”

Eaton, an accountant with offices in Beaverton, is one of five family members with a stake in the restaurant. The others are her mother, Robin Smith-Martin, stepdad, Dennis Martin, her brother, Guy Smith, and stepbrother, Michael Martin. Smith is at the restaurant on a daily basis; the others jump in and help as they can, juggling other jobs.

Purchasing the restaurant seemed like the right thing for the family, who have been actively involved in the community. Smith-Martin has an accounting business in town, Smith & Associates CPA PC. Family members are involved in the Beaverton Area Business Association. Eaton coaches Little League; Smith-Martin runs the city’s annual Fourth of July parade, with help from family members and volunteers. 

“The restaurant has been a big part of the community,” Eaton says, adding she believes the Beaverton Tavern has been in business for at least several decades. “It wasn’t about getting into the restaurant business per se … it was more about supporting the community. We’re very community oriented.

The community response has been largely positive and supportive. The menu, featuring Tex-Mex favorites like wet burritos -- popular under the previous ownership -- nachos, tacos and other staples, has been well received. Pizza and grinders are popular as well. 

“The restaurant is iconic,” the mayor says. “It’s been around a long time and was really well known for Mexican cuisine. People even come from out of state to eat there.”

The family purchased the business outright, with no financial aid from government programs. They did meet with business consultants, including Jeff Punches, an emerging business consultant for the Small Business Development Center at Mid Michigan College in nearby Harrison.

Business has been brisk since the reopening, with many regulars returning.

“We’re thankful we’ve had such a good community response. We’re glad to open so people can enjoy the restaurant again,” Eaton says.