Owners of Ramona Roller Rink asking community to help fund restoration
SISTER LAKES, Mich. -- What does it take to preserve a staple piece of history in small-town Michigan?
Owners Harold and Michele Schaus of Ramona Roller Rink will tell you, it takes some new roofing, a little rebuilding, and generation after generation of skaters to back the project.
Ramona opened its doors and floor for dancing in 1928. In the early 1960s, roller skating was incorporated into the tunes and eventuallybecame the bread and butter of town.
Turning 90-years-old in 2018, the roller rink would stand as the oldest business in town and the only roller rink left in Van Buren County.
That step back in time is only one of the reasons skaters come back to this neighborhood rink.
“People come up here and look and say ‘Oh, I used to dance here when I was a kid.’ And people say, ‘I used to skate here,’” said Harold Schaus.
He wants those people to continue to come back. But after 90 years of business, the building itself needs repairs.
“Last winter, we had a lot of snow and we had a truss break in the roof. We have to replace that. While we’re replacing that, we might as well get that south side of the building all done – tear the roof off, redo it, then tear all the siding off that is in pretty bad shape and try to put it back to the way it looked in the dancehall days and put the windows back in it,” he said.
It’s not only the nostalgic atmosphere of the rink that has brought in crowds year after year, its also the historical value the business added to the area.
Iconic local bands like The Rivieras from South Bend and Don Jobe and The Ghosters from Benton Harbor would play nightly for skaters.
Schaus is in the process of applying for the building to become a historical landmark.
Now in the 21st century, Ramona is still a hot spot for the locals.
“You think of the amount of generations. There’s no place kids can go and have fun where their parents went and had fun, where their grandparents went and had fun or even great grandparents probably in this case,” said Schaus.
Schaus hopes those locals will help fund the repairs that need to be made to the building.
Those repairs would not only preserve the structure, but also the memories stored in numerous picture albums, articles, and magazines.
For Schaus, those memories are personal.
“Well as a kid, I skated here and loved it. When I was a teenager, I started working here. I worked here for a long time so my teenage years went way beyond,” he said. “In 2004, I was able to buy it.”
“I met my wife here. We even had our wedding reception here,” he added.
He says although the number shares of their GoFundMe page on social media has been high, donations have been slow to roll in.
The Schaus’ are still hopeful the community will help them raise the money.
“With all the people and all the years that have come through these doors that are alive, it doesn’t take very much to make a big difference,” he said.
They say around $150,000 needs to be raised in order to make the repairs.
A fundraiser will be held on Sept. 2 at Ramona Roller Rink to help speed up the process. Schaus says there will be mini golf and ice cream in addition to the skating.
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