WHITEHALL, Mich. — Terry Simon used to drive by the old Masonic Temple on Colby Avenue and wonder the same thing a lot of people still wonder to this very day: What's up there?
"One day we just came in and overall our impression was not very favorable. But then when we came upstairs to the loft area, it was just like, oh my gosh, we could do this," Terry said.
He and his wife Shari purchased the building in 2000 and began a two year process of renovating it. That included a lot insulation, electrical, plumbing and drywall work.
"Pretty much everything here is original. We added the balcony above the kitchen, and we added the fireplace. But other than that she looks the same as she did back in 1922," Terry said.
The first piano ever delivered to the White Lake area was also added to the building.
Colby Place and the Whitehall Masonic Temple through the years
"I think the family appreciated the work that went into it, the thought and the decorating what we did to it," Shari said.
The Simons lived in the building for several years before moving out.
"We had owned it 20 years and the building had been good to us but not living here, I didn't keep my eye on it day to day and things happen. You know, the furnace went out, plumbing leaks. Things like that. Roof leaks with nobody here to watch it," Terry said.
The Simons knew they had to do something. So they put the building up for sale and their daughter Kristin Price was interested.
"I had been thinking about it since they put it on the market, and I never mentioned anything because it was it was so far fetched," Kristin said.
She never thought her husband would go for the idea.
"I said 'let's buy Colby Place.' And he didn't say no, which is the cool part. He said 'let's do it.' Immediately."
Kristin and her husband have since turned the upstairs into "The Loft On Colby," a vacation rental available on VRBO.
Kristin grew up in the White Lake area and is passionate about its success. She can't help but smile when thinking about being a part of something that contributes to that prosperity.
"It's bringing people into a community, a small knit community, and showing them how cool it is to be a part of something that is growing and developing and using our gifts and talents to share with others," she said.
Shari gets emotional thinking about the fact this building, which has now been in the family for 22 years, is in good position to stay in the family for years to come.
"It's just the kids, the grandkids and now we have a great grandbaby, and he'll be part of this too," she said, wiping tears from her eyes.
The family wants to share what they've done with the community. They're holding an open house on Wednesday, Aug. 10 from 2 to 5 p.m. Tours of the upstairs loft and the downstairs retail space will be available.
"We want everybody to come in and see how cool this place is," Kristin said.
"I don't think people know what is up here. They have no idea."
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