Buzz by the Bay

Tube F

Posted In: Culture, Community Profiles,   From Issue 887   By: Jason Dean

31st October, 2019     0

Venturing down the streets of Downtown Bay City this fall, you’ll find breadcrumbs of evidence that new life is stirring in previously vacant buildings. Signs are emerging that the city’s millennial identity is coming of age. For instance, there’s the new farm-to-table eatery MI Table, which opened in September on the ground floor of the Legacy Building at the corner of Center and Washington.

The former home of Rattlesnake Rick’s on Saginaw Street will be rocking once again when Retro Rocks Pub opens its Bay City location in late November, according to Manager Tim Vitu. And in late December, Tube Freak Amplification and Electronics will open next to Electric Kitsch on Washington Street, providing the region the only full-service amplifier and electronics repair shop north of the Grand Rapids or Detroit areas.  

What will Downtown Bay City look like in 2020? For starters, the iconic Caris’ Red Lion at the corner of Center Avenue and Saginaw Street could be going green.

In a vote that embraced the idea that business is business, the City Commission approved a permit for a medical marijuana provisional store to open at the corner of Center Avenue and Saginaw Street. However, Mayor Kathleen Newsham exercised her veto power to quash the measure a few days later. The motion will need six votes when it comes up at the November meeting to override the Mayor’s veto. (It received the requisite five votes to pass in October.)

With the incremental legitimization of what was until quite recently an illegal industry, there is concern that having a marijuana business at the location would tarnish the image of Downtown, not to mention the beloved landmark that originally opened in the 1930s as a cafeteria-style eatery.

I’m all for honoring history, but you also need to adapt if you want to survive. Bay City has 12 medical marijuana centers in its jurisdiction, half of its limit of 25 set by the County. Thus far, I have not seen indications that residents are degenerating into a mass of shiftless chaff. I say, the more paying tenants in the Downtown area, the better.

We’ve gone beyond debating the medicinal benefits, and there’s a responsible way to integrate cannabis into the local economy without worrying that we are contributing to the downfall of society. Besides, I’ll wager dollars to donuts that there just as many McDonald’s restaurants in the area.

You can make your own connections as to the impact on the local populace.

Tube Freak Steps Out

After operating for 6 years out of a small space in the back of Electric Kitsch, master technician Chris “Tube Freak” Balagna is opening his own electronics master repair center on Washington Street. Conveniently located next to the Kitsch, the 1,400-sq. ft. space will allow Balagna to expand on the services that he used to offer in the 150-square-foot workspace that he shared with the vintage record shop.

In addition to musical electronics and amplifiers, Tube Freak will service all electronics, including gaming consoles. Balagna also plans to hire a technician who will specialize in microtechnology. While he’s keeping up with the new, Balagna knows there is still a demand for servicing vintage equipment.

“It’s a dying art, what I do,” he admits with rugged pride. Besides himself, Balagna counts two other vintage amp techs in the entire state of his caliber.

Balagna aims to have Tube Freak open by late December.

City Market Flux

Over at City Market, Downtown House of Pizza (DHOP) filled the spot recently vacated by Brooklyn Boyz, helping to bring the Market up to full merchant capacity for the holidays. Shawn Grischke, who also operates Wrapin’ N Rollin’ at the Market, hopes DHOP keeps the pies flying through the winter.

Sadly, Market favorite The Devout Sprout Salad Bar and Eatery suddenly left the fold in late October. The space will be filled by a business that will offer similar fare and will be managed by Josh Sharrow, who also operates City Grind and Modern Craft at the Market.

Devout Sprout was one of the original businesses when City Market opened in June 2016. Owner Bob Younce did his part to contribute to the Market’s community hub concept. Earlier this year, Younce garnered local media attention when Devout Spout offered free lunch to school-age children during the summer break. So it’s unfortunate that the financial realities forced Younce’s decision.

“We had a good two-and-a-half-year run,” he says, adding that customer punch cards will still be honored when the salad bar and eatery reopens under a different name.

Whether it's a business district, establishment, event, or form of entertainment that is enriching Bay City, if you have some buzzworthy news, email me at


Please login to comment



Current Issue


Don't have an account?