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Houghton welcomes star attractions

Nicholas Insurance Agency, U.P. Financial relocate offices to Lode building

February 29, 2012
The Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON - Two neighboring businesses are moving operations across the bridge and settling in a familiar Houghton landmark.

Brothers Darrell and Steve Nicholas of Nicholas Insurance Agency and Chuck Bailey of U.P. Financial will open offices March 1 in the Lode Theater on Shelden Avenue.

"Since we closed the theater, there's not a day that goes by where I don't run into people on the street who are wondering what's going on with that building," Darrell said. "I'm really excited to have an opportunity to do something with the building after having it for so many years."

Article Photos

Nicholas Insurance Agency and U.P. Financial of Hancock is in the process of relocating operations to the Lode Theater building on Shelden Avenue in Houghton. Offices will be open March 1.

Moving over to the Lode has been a work in progress, but Darrell said when the remodeling is complete, residents will be surprised with what they have in store.

All theatrical elements have been stripped from the building and taken to the cinema in the Copper Country Mall; however, Chuck said they're planning to utilize the auditoriums for a variety of purposes.

The main theater has their individual offices with plenty of privacy and space. The concession has been transformed into the secretarial area and a brand new handicap accessible bathroom was added off of the main lobby.

"We redid everything ceilings, carpeting, light fixtures, paint," Darrell said. "It's a beautiful lobby area."

One of the basement bathrooms remains in the building and has been completely remodeled.

A portion of the downstairs will be made into retail space where Darrell and Chuck will sell music and movie collectibles. Having been involved in radio in the past, Darrell has quite the vinyl collection.

The Lode has long been a fixture in downtown Houghton. It was constructed in 1940 and opened as a movie theater in the fall of 1941. For years, Darrell and his brother have been associated with theaters in the area.

"I had the building with my partners for many years," Darrell said. "I've been with it since the early '70s."

On the business side of things, Chuck deals primarily with investments and savings.

Darrell and Steve consider themselves a "Ma and Pa" type of general insurance agency.

"Our level of service is what separates us from other agencies," Steve said.

Working together under one roof, yet maintaining their businesses separately, is a perfect fit for their new venture, Chuck said.

"A majority of the stuff I do, they don't do and the majority of the stuff they do, I don't," he said. "We've been sending each other customers for a long time."

Down the road, Darrell said they're looking to put in three more offices and a reception area to provide office space for people.

"A lot of people are looking for temporary space and places to start a business to grow it," he said.

The smaller of the two remaining auditoriums will stay as a theater room, featuring a state-of-the-art digital projector and comfortable seating.

Darrell said they plan to bring in tables and use the space as a multi-purpose room for conferences and presentations.

"We thought we could rent it out," he said. "Forty to 50 people can fit in there, so it would be nice for birthdays, and they could show their own movies."

So far, he said, they rented it out for a graduation party.

The small auditorium will be fitted with a podium, small platform and a high-quality sound system. The other auditorium, Darrell said, they're renting to George Williams and Bryan Matkin, of KCC Gym, for self defense and mixed martial arts classes.

Darrell estimated they have between 8,000 and 9,000 square feet of space within the three floors. Entrances are available on Shelden Avenue and from the back of the building.

Vintage memorabilia will decorate the interior of the building, including a small popcorn machine.

"You Belong To Me" was the first picture to play in the theater and Darrell was fortunate to get his hands on an original copy.

"I think once we get our little theater up and running, maybe we can show it, or at least have it playing when people come in," he said. "We're going to carry a theatrical theme throughout the business."

While Darrell and Steve's late father, George Nicholas, was in the insurance business locally since the 1950s, Darrell said he's looking forward to their move to Houghton to be exposed to new customers.

"We've always prided ourselves on service and everything that we've been able to give," he said. "We'd like to invite everyone in to come and look at what we're doing."

On a final note, he added, "We do have plans for the marquee."

"Starting in the spring, we're going to start getting it looking nice," he said. "We want to make it look like it did in 1941 when it first opened."

U.P. Financial and Nicholas Insurance Agency will be open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or by appointment.

For more information, call Chuck Bailey at 482-0266, or Steve and Darrell Nicholas at 482-3434.

Editor's note: This feature is part of a paid advertising package purchased by Nicholas Insurance Agency and U.P. Financial of Hancock. Businesses interested in being featured on the Business page may call Yvonne Robillard at 483-2220.



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