| 4 min read | by Doug Marrin |

Randy Seitz announced the sale of his beloved tavern late last Thursday and it has sent shock waves through the Chelsea community and surrounding area. We have never known life without Seitz’s. It has always been there for us and it is with a huge collect sigh, or groan, that we realize we must say goodbye.

If these walls could talk … or deer heads, which if they do, Randy has probably already taken your car keys.

Randy can trace the history of his tavern back to at least 1874 when it served libations to the agricultural settlers and tradesman in the young State of Michigan. The establishment entered the Seitz family when Randy’s grandfather purchased it in 1916.

Before there was a Statue of Liberty, before Little Bighorn, Jack-the-Ripper, and Eiffel Tower, Randy’s humble tavern was serving customers who through the years would discuss the latest news on prohibition, The Great Depression, two World Wars, the invention of cars, planes, radio, television, deadly polio outbreaks and discovery of the vaccine, John Denver, and eventually get around to asking what the Wifi password is.

If these walls could talk … or deer heads, which if they do, Randy has probably already taken your car keys.

Randy is getting a well-earned break – he’s been behind the bar since 1974. We wish him the absolute best but that doesn’t keep us from lamenting the changing faces of our small towns.

Comments on the OnMain.today Facebook page reflected that feeling:

What the hell is this? I’m happy for Randy and Dawn….but whatever will become of the sweet town of Chelsea without its little watering hole? First the Wolverine, now this….

Ouch!!!… that saddens me. Everyone wants to move here because of how quaint Chelsea is. there goes the last of it. the only old school pub like that can be found in Ireland. What’s left? Merkels? they stopped selling hardware years ago. hats off to Norberton Merkel. I knew him well back in the early 80’s. miss the kusters. grocery that’s now a jewlery store. ugh. the flower shop just past where the police station used to be. is still there… thank you.. I keep expecting the newbies wanting to get rid of the big clock. Cuz it wakes the baby’s. or some self obsorbed bullshit.

One of the last original Chelsea business owners closing doors. Happy retirement. But it’s so sad that most of the businesses in Chelsea are owned by people that were never born and raised here. End of a milestone.

I hope new owners keep the authenticity of the original.

I tend to imagine that if our towns were left alone they could continue on as life does on Mackinac Island, frozen in time, quaint, nostalgic, except we would allow cars.

Happy for Randy, but NO!!!!!!!!!!!!! For our town. Heard it’s going to be a sandwich shop.

Downtown Chelsea won’t be the same after June 19th.

I’m going to miss the place… A lot of memories, not just historic value, but sentimental value as well. The people of this community that are true to the town of Chelsea needs to put their foot down as a whole, and put a stop to this bullshit. It’s getting to the point where I hate living here. It’s not like it used to be where you knew everyone, people were friendly, said hi to the other, and a place where you could trust your own neighbors… The Village of Chelsea, sadly is no more than a memory of what it used to be.

It is a similar sentiment being expressed in Chelsea’s neighbor to the east, Dexter. The small village officially became a city a few years ago. Development efforts have been resoundingly successful and now Dexter is a destination for businesses and families. There are two luxury condominium complexes under construction with at least two more in the hopper.

Artist rendering of Jeffords St. condos, Dexter

Dexter is pursuing Redevelopment Ready Communities (RRC) certification through MEDC, a program that supports communities in their efforts to improve ways to attract and maintain economic development. Not everyone is a fan thinking the development is going too far.

Does this report only include the potential that Dexter has to grow as a community? Does it include restoration and development of current historical buildings? Do community members want these kinds of changes–the condo developments near Mill Creek are definitely not within the historic charm of our village space, commented one follower on Facebook regarding the RRC certification study.

The Village of Pinckney achieved RCC certification a year ago. Change is coming to the quiet little town and it will never be the same. And that’s kind of a thing to consider too – what is the alternative to economic growth and development? If we could keep our little towns frozen in time, what would that look like?

I tend to imagine that if our towns were left alone they could continue on as life does on Mackinac Island, frozen in time, quaint, nostalgic, except we would allow cars. Things would remain untouched, life would go on as it always has, and everybody is happy. But that’s not how it works for places that are not a tourist attraction.

Back in the day, Dexter was an agricultural hub for family-owned farms in the area. By 1960, improvements in transportation allowed farmers to begin transporting their crops further away to larger mills and companies for a better price. A lot of money stopped circulating through the village. From 1960-1970 Dexter’s population stagnated at around 1,700 residents.

The world was changing, but Dexter did not.

Downtown Dexter in the 1970s

The auto industry began booming in the late 60s and people were easily pushed away by any lack of prospects and the siren call of better and steady wages. By 1980, Dexter’s population had dropped to 1,500. Downtown shops were boarded up. Infrastructure and buildings were crumbling with no money for repairs. Dexter was a place that slowed you down on your way to somewhere else.

A group of village leaders and business men got fed up with how things were and began working to turn things around. They did and it gained momentum into what it is today. Dexter went from an unchanging place left behind, where people were trying to get away from, to a place where people are coming to. Population of the city today is 4,700.

There are towns all over Michigan who have not changed much over the years and it shows.

None of this makes us feel any better about the closing of Seitz’s Tavern. Science tells us that memories are inextricably tied to place. When we lose a place tied to memories, it feels as though we are literally losing part of our self. It hurts. We need our touchstones.

The harsh reality however is that appreciation and emotional attachment don’t always equate into black ink or quality of life for the owner, things Randy was finding harder and harder to achieve.

If you have not read it yet, Chelsea Update has a great article where Randy shares his thoughts about the sale of his tavern and life beyond.

The only constant is change as they say. And as this chapter closes, perhaps it is here we find a benediction of sorts beautifully expressed by one Facebook commenter,

“after some thought. and consideration. the only thing that doesn’t change is that everything changes… and there is a certain amount beauty in acceptance. we just hope things change for the better.”