BELDING — In the spring of 1972, the final touches of construction were finished on a restaurant-cocktail lounge with 25 adjoining hotel units on M-91 in the far northwest corner of the Belding city limits.
Now, more than 40 years later, that restaurant and adjoining hotel has flourished into an 18-hole golf course and resort on 255-acres of wooded land.
On Friday, the Belding Area Chamber of Commerce officially recognized Candlestone Golf and Resort, located at 8100 Storey Road (M-91), for 40 years of service by presenting co-owner Catherine Farr with a framed certificate.
“This is a great example of long-term business success and we want to help Candlestone celebrate that success,” said Belding Area Chamber President Mike Verdun. “In the face of hard economic times, during 2007-09, these people have put a lot of time, effort and money into this establishment to make it successful for the next 40 years.”
Farr purchased the business along with co-owner Steve Leach in April 2008 and the location has since undergone a complete remodeling of the existing facilities. The banquet venue was expanded with the addition of a multi-purpose building that can accommodate groups as large as 350 people.
A green-side patio deck was then installed and every hotel room was remodeled along with the hotel lobby.
“One of the wonderful surprises we’ve had with this project was realizing just how imbedded Candlestone is in the lives and hearts of its many loyal customers,” Farr said. “It is such an added bonus when someone comes to you, shakes your hand and from the heart, thanks you for the work we are doing in keeping Candlestone alive and well. We have such a great respect for this community and it has been their support and patronage that has kept Candlestone going for 40 years.”
When the original dining room was constructed in 1972, it featured a cascading water fountain and sunken bar.
Just a few weeks after the business opened, the 25-room hotel opened, as well.
In 1978, the golf course designed by Jerry Matthews, was completed. Over time, the course has become known as the second-most challenging pro-amateur course in Michigan.
In the early 1990s, Joe Duthler purchased Candlestone and ran the facility until 2008, when he sold the resort to Farr and Leach.
Though golf is a seasonal sport, at least in Michigan, Candlestone is open seven days a week throughout the year and offers entertainment, hotel accommodations, event venues and more.
“Our immediate future goals are to reach the many people, even locally, who are still unaware that we are here, open year round and open to the public,” Farr said. “There are many folks out there who still don’t know all we have to offer.”
Candlestone employs 85 workers during its busiest months, and among them, Maintenance Manager Jerry Edwards has held the longest tenure at 14 years.
“The place has gone from a stand-still location to a business that is up and going,” Edwards said. “When I first started this place was like a ghost town. The business has picked up, the course has been improved and the golf course has been remodeled. Everything is getting better.”
Edwards said he can remember taking care of a dining room that had just two TVs, changing the channels by hand with turn-style knobs.
Today, the dining area features several high-definition flat-screen TVs to accommodate a sports bar in a family-friendly atmosphere.
Belding Mayor Ron Gunderson said he is thankful for everything Farr and Leach have done in their brief ownership and hopes they continue the wonderful experience Candlestone has provided for patrons over the past 40 years.
“I just want to thank them for being here during the highs and lows, bringing people together as a community through their restaurant and golf course,” Gunderson said. “Their restoration projects have tied in very well with the community and I believe they will continue to move forward and be in a positive position.”