In its January 2013 issue, The Traverse City Business News unveils the inaugural class of the "Traverse City Business Hall of Fame," a list of local giants, champions, philanthropists and game-changers. Among an initial list of dozens, the winners were selected by the editorial staff of the paper, along with a little help from the History Center of Traverse City. The paper will add new inductees in future years. The inaugural class includes many of the founders of our town -- and only one individual currently living.
J. Perry Hannah
The Father of Traverse City
“His leadership and vision during the first 50 years of Traverse City’s existence have left an indelible imprint on the modern community and its people.”
– Robert Wilson, author, Grand Traverse Legends
The Utilities Man
It’s hard to imagine Traverse City without the Park Place Hotel. Fortunately, Henry Campbell had the gumption to believe he could open the “largest and most elaborate hotel north of Grand Rapids.” His most significant contribution, however, was bringing a waterworks system and electricity to the downtown area.
A. Tracy Lay
Founder of the Village
He was Perry Hannah’s business partner, but Albert Tracy Lay did something perhaps even more significant: He laid out the 1852 plat map for the town of Traverse City, thus becoming the “founder” of the village.
Frank Hamilton could be described as a reluctant Traverse City visitor who ended up becoming one of its most successful merchants and greatest ambassadors.
R. Howard Whiting
The Poor Man’s Banker
He ended up a wealthy businessman who left his namesake on a beloved hotel in downtown Traverse City, but Howard Whiting will always be remembered for his generosity. Known as the “poor man’s banker,” he enabled many others to start their own farms and businesses.
The Butcher (Turned Entrepreneur)
Local meat cutter Tom Deering took a financial risk in the 1940s, opening a small market in Traverse City. His 11th Street store would become a seven-store enterprise employing hundreds of area residents.
Gerald Oleson Sr.
The mark Gerald Oleson left on Traverse City is likely unsurpassed. A humble grocer, land owner, buffalo farmer and millionaire, he established the Northwestern Michigan College barbecue fundraiser and continues to give back to the community posthumously through a foundation he started with his wife, Frances.
“Biederman was like nature, someone once observed, in that he sowed ideas like nature sows seeds. Many of these never took root, but many did.”
- Former Traverse City Record-Eagle City Editor Ken Parker, 1991
Peter Chris Dendrinos
The Born Leader
A former all-state football player, Dendrinos launched a pie business that became the city’s largest employer and the top provider of pies to the U.S. food service industry.
It seems fitting to end this section with Ray Minervini, whose vision is bringing back to life the very site Perry Hannah fought hard to establish in 1881. Minervini’s dream to resurrect the historic 63-acre core of the Grand Traverse Commons is paying off. Twelve years into the project, an estimated $60 million from private and public sources has been invested into its redevelopment, with some 300 jobs created in the process. It is the largest private development in the area and one of the largest mixed-use historic redevelopments in the country.
Want to read these fascinating individuals' complete stories? Follow this link.