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Hereford and Hops under new ownership

ESCANABA — A trio of businesses that have been staples of downtown Escanaba for decades, including the Upper Peninsula’s first brewpub, are now under new ownership.

On June 1, the three operations at the northeast corner of Ludington and 7th Street North — Hereford and Hops Steakhouse and Brewpub, the Delta Apartments above, and Gust Asp Party Store adjacent — transitioned from the hands of Becky Moody to Logan Rasner and Mary Ann Wedell of LMCC Properties. Rasner is originally from Wallace, Mich.; Wedell is from Escanaba.

The history of the site began over a century ago when the Delta Hotel, a five-story building in a simplified Neoclassical style was erected and opened in 1914 by a group of businessmen led by John J. Cleary to be one of the first premier hotels in Escanaba.

In the 1920s, Clyde “C.J.” Burns bought the hotel and opened a bar below.

Ownership transitioned another couple of times. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Marquette converted the structure from hotel into the Bishop Noa Home for Senior Citizens in 1962 and ran it as such until ’92.

Meanwhile, in the 1980s, Don and Becky Moody purchased and operated the Gust Asp Party Store at 616 Ludington St., next door to the then-assisted living home. The convenience store dates to 1933 when Gust C. Asp moved in as a cigar and news dealer, but the building, constructed between 1893 and 1899, had housed a number of businesses before that. It was under Asp himself — the son of Danish immigrants — that the iconic “Just Ask Gust Asp” neon sign that remains on the storefront today was raised.

When the former Delta Hotel was vacated by Bishop Noa and put for sale, the Moodys purchased the building.

According to the Hereford and Hops website, the Moodys had visited a grill-your-own steakhouse in Green Bay in 1992 and wanted to bring the idea to the U.P. They already raised cattle in Rock, so when the space neighboring their party store opened up, the circumstances were fortuitous.

In December of 1992, the State of Michigan passed a law legalizing brewpubs — full-service restaurants that may manufacture up to 18,000 barrels of beer annually.

The Moodys took advantage of both concepts and worked to convert 624 Ludington into Hereford and Hops Steakhouse and Brewpub, which opened in 1994. In 1995, the Delta Apartments opened above.

Many people collected fond memories of Hereford and Hops over the last 30 years, and some concern arose when it sold less than a month ago to LMCC Properties, which owns properties in Wisconsin, California, and Michigan.

But the owners are from the area and recognize the importance of the public’s nostalgia for the place. They, too, remember coming to Hereford and Hops, dining in the restaurant in the good old days — and in the case of one of the pair, even working there.

Wedell, a graduate of Holy Name Catholic School and Escanaba High School (class of 2004), worked at Hereford and Hops from 2008 to 2013.

Wedell said that she and Rasner do not intend to make any drastic changes; the intention is for slight infrastructure updates to be barely noticeable.

“We do plan to keep the branding the same. And the existing things — the grill for the steaks, the beer — will stay the same,” said Wedell.

However, there is still a lot of adjusting to be made, simply because of the magnitude of all that the three businesses comprise. The restaurant had been closed for a few days, and though it is open now, it’s still in a state of transition, and the new management asks for the community’s understanding as things settle.

“We definitely appreciate everyone’s continued support and patience as the transition continues,” said LMCC Office Manager Monica Bayerl, who has been helping get things in order, “and we’re very, very grateful for our staff.”

The employees who have stayed on have been helping show the new owners the ropes and train new employees. There has been staff turnover, but still a number of core familiar faces remain.

Of Brewmaster Mike Sattem, who had been running the show when the owners were out of town, Bayerl said he’d been doing a “phenomenal” job.

She continued, “The employees are doing a great job … keeping things moving. At the store they’ve been amazing, and the people here (at H and H) have been amazing.”

Bayerl added that she also remembers Hereford and Hops as being “fun, and busy, and communal” and is hoping it can continue to be “a pillar of the community.”

Sattem reminded people that the Mug Club, popular with regulars — whom he compared to the Cheers crew — is running again.

Begun in 2005, the Mug Club is a membership with perks that had been discontinued during COVID and just started back up again this year.

“And that’s something that we will absolutely continue and expand upon, if possible,” Wedell added.

All gift cards from before the sale will continue to be honored.

As Wedell put it: “The heart of the business will stay the same. It will just get facelifted on the front end and the back end.”

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