PARK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A Lake Michigan shoreline icon is set to be rebuilt starting this fall.

The Ottawa Beach General Store, located at 2256 Ottawa Beach Road near Holland State Park in Park Township, will be torn down after this summer.

Those involved in the project assured the community the General Store will remain the same.

“As an architect, as a design firm, you’re usually brought in for your creativity for new buildings, something that could be original and unique,” said Ken Dixon, the owner of Dixon Architecture, which was contracted to work on the project. “This one’s different in that we’re being brought in to really replicate exactly what’s there as closely as we can with today’s construction methods and techniques.”

The General Store, built in the late 1930s, sits on .2 acres of land and offers ice cream, candy, camping supplies and more. Each summer, people from around the world and in the Holland community stop by, Linda Dykert, the General Store’s operator, said.

The Ottawa Beach General Store in Park Township.
The Ottawa Beach General Store in Park Township.

Many in the Holland community have created summer memories there.

“People love it. … There’s history here,” Dykert said. “There’s grandmas that come in and they came with their grandma when they were a small child.”

Her kids saw being allowed to bike alone to the General Store as a rite of passage,. The mostly high school and college students who work at the seasonal store have grown in their leadership skills.

“I love it. It’s of course a seasonal business, so it’s not year-round,” Dykert said. “I love the kids and the adults that work for me. … Taking a 14-year-old who’s learning and training and then watching that 14-year-old grow up and become a leader of his or her peers, it’s a lot of fun.”

Dykert said the store was originally built as a grocery store. She said it later became a meat market and then a “retro hippie place.” The ice cream porch was built sometime around the 1960s, she said.

But years and generations have worn down on the little building, which now has sinking floors and a foundation at the end of its life. A structural engineer said it was time to tear it down.

“It’s lived its lifetime, basically. It’s served the Holland community very well over the decades,” Dixon, the architect, said.

The Ottawa Beach General Store in Park Township.
The Ottawa Beach General Store in Park Township.

“After several decades serving the Lakeshore community, the Ottawa Beach General Store has reached an age where the building’s foundation is at the end of its lifespan,” owners Cheri DeVos Ehmann and Steve Ehmann said in a release. “At the end of this season, the store will be rebuilt in a way that mimics the current structure in almost every way, opening its doors again for the 2024 season.”

Tearing it down and rebuilding it will allow the General Store to serve the community for years to come, Dixon said.

“It’s really taking what’s there, being respectful of the history, but modernizing it in a way that it’ll last decades and decades more for the future generations,” he said.

The rebuild will include some upgrades, like better insulation, air conditioning and new, more efficient equipment. Employees will be able to serve ice cream faster and there may be room for more products, Dixon said. She said the layout may also be tweaked for practical purposes like deliveries.

The spirit of the General Store will live on. Dixon is working on construction plans that will include the same paint color, roofline and ice cream ordering windows.

  • A rendering of the Ottawa Beach General Store rebuild. (Courtesy Ottawa Beach General Store)
  • A rendering of the Ottawa Beach General Store rebuild. (Courtesy Ottawa Beach General Store)

“We hope to create the same interior with the same long cash register counter that’s a historical piece from (rural Ottawa County community) Burnips,” Dykert said. “We’re going to build the beams and put the nails in so we can hang some of our items up there, because that’s been going on for a long time.”

Dixon Architecture, based in Ada, has experience with similar projects.

“Through the last 10 years or so, we’ve been really hanging our hat on historical-influenced, historical-respectful architecture,” Dixon said.

Dixon spoke with Dykert, who has worked at the General Store since 2010, and other community members to understand the significance of the building. He said he considered the “importance of bringing back exactly what’s there and not deviating from the memories, the stories …. the good intentions that building had for the community.”

The Ottawa Beach General Store in Park Township.
The Ottawa Beach General Store in Park Township.

The project will still need to get some approvals from the township, though Dixon said planners have “received nothing but positive from Park Township and the neighbors that we’ve talked with.”

Construction documents are expected to be ready by late April or early May, after which the construction crew will start ordering items. Work will start after Labor Day and will go through the winter. It is expected to be done by Memorial Day of 2024, in time for the 2024 summer season.

“I’ve received a lot of questions saying, ‘Why?” Dykert said. “When we talk about it, it becomes very positive. I think people are excited because it’s going to be as close as it can be to the old General Store.”

Dykert thanked the community for its support.

“I just would like to say thank you to the community for being here and being a part of the General Store,” she said. “It makes it fun for all our employees and we appreciate the community’s love of the General Store.”