J.R.’s Roller Castle skates into history


By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 6:51 pm on Tuesday, October 04, 2011

An excavator tears into the middle of J.R.’s Roller Castle in Greenville on Wednesday. Demolition work began on Thursday. Owner Robert Olsen is uncertain what he will do with the property when the building is gone. (Daily News/Kelli Ameling)

GREENVILLE – J.R.’s Roller Castle is being demolished this week after being a part of Greenville in a variety of uses for about 85 years.
Current owner Robert Olsen, who bought the building at 1310 W. Washington St. under DBBO LLC, said the building is being torn down because of its age and condition.
“It’s an old, old building,” Olsen said. “I could spend a lot of money to (update the building), but I would still have an old building.”
Olsen originally bought the property in 1980, with his longtime partner JoAnn Hansen, and owned it through 2005. He then sold it to Mark Schoenfelder of Greenville, who worked with his business partners Rodd Middlebrook of Belding and Carl Schultz of Gowen to open a new bakery and restaurant.
Olsen received the property again after Schoenfelder defaulted around 2007.
At this point, Olsen isn’t sure what he’ll do with the property when the building is gone. He received a lease from Montcalm Community College in August for part of the former Montcalm County 4-H Fairgrounds adjacent to his property, which he told college officials he planned to use for part of a banquet or meeting center.
The building dates back to the late 1920s, when R.J. Tower built it as the Merchant Palace with the intent to give the building to the fairgrounds, according to Ray “Cap” Tower.
This project was one of the last projects for R.J. Tower, who died in 1927.
The Road Commission for Montcalm County purchased the building in 1935. It then was used for a 4-H exhibit building in 1936.
Elsie McNiel of the Flat River Historical Society said the property was sold in the 1970s to the Lafayette Building Corp., which lists Stanley Ash and Bill Buescher as principals. They used the property for storage, McNiel said.
After Olsen purchased the property in 1980, he completely remodeled the building and constructed an addition. It opened as a roller rink in June 1981.
Olsen said another addition was added in 1983 and the building began to host banquets and wedding receptions.
Since regaining ownership of the property, Olsen said the building has been sitting empty.
The building most recently made news in June 2008 after part of the attic on the west end was damaged by a fire. The Greenville Department of Public Safety said the fire started by careless use of a cutting torch.

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