DOUGLAS, Mich. — The Douglas Root Beer Barrel is a staple of the lakeshore area, but it was only brought to life recently after standing vacant and falling apart for almost 40 years.
The barrel was first built by a couple in Flint before they brought it to West Michigan in 1952. At that point, it stood 200 yards away from its current location today. Two years later, a man bought the barrel to support his wife and his family.
Bonnie Verwys, known as Bonnie McVoy back then, was that man's daughter.
“My father was sick in 1954," she said. "He bought the barrel so my mother would have a livelihood. He died a year later in 1955, and she operated it for 7 years."
Bonnie served as the car hop during their seven years of success. However, they sold the barrel in 1961 when it became too big of a responsibility.
It transferred families a few more times until 1978, when it seemed like it closed for good.
Michael White, the current lease holder, said, “Well, I’ve lived here since the 80s, so we passed it all the time, and it was just in disrepair. It looked like it was just about ready to fall down, which I heard it was about ready to fall down.”
The Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society bought it for $1 before eventually leasing the property to White.
In 2016, they served their first customer in almost 40 years.
“I enjoy it," said White. "Yeah, it’s a blast. It’s one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had, but it’s one of the most funnest jobs I’ve ever had.”
White does a lot more than just hold the lease. From mid-May to Halloween, you can find him slinging hot dogs and serving root beer seven days a week.
When it gets busy, he said they dish out up to 700 hot dogs, and serve more than 700 drinks, in a single day.
They serve one brand of root beer, made by Sprecher Brewery, the #1 brand in Wisconsin.
Bonnie said her dad would be very proud to see this barrel still standing and operating today.
“Oh I think his heart would be just overflowing," she said. "He bought it so my mother would have a livelihood. He knew he was very ill, so I think he would be really impressed.”