Mason Co. is a better place because of these 3 pioneering businesswomen.

January 11, 2019

Mason Co. is a better place because of these 3 pioneering businesswomen.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

Three Mason County women recently passed away, each leaving a legacy as pioneering women in local business few can compare to: Mabel Polcin, 92, on Dec. 30; Marianne Gibbs Smith, 76, on Jan. 5; and Dorothy Benson Reed, 92, on Jan. 7. Polcin and Reed each came from a generation when it wasn’t necessarily common to see women take an active role in business leadership. Smith was born during World War II and came from a generation that saw a revolutionary transition in the role of women in society.

An interesting note about Reed and Smith is that they actually were each raised in family businesses where their parents worked as business partners. The impact of these families and their businesses in this community run deep into what Mason County has now become.

It’s also worth mentioning that each of these women were dedicated to their Christian faith.

Mable Polcin

Up until recently, Mabel Polcin of Ludington could be found working the floor at her store, Gunberg Appliances in Ludington, which she had owned for the past 39 years — as a retirement career. Prior to that, Mabel worked for Star Watch Case on North Rath Avenue in Ludington for 36 years. She was born in Ludington in 1926 and graduated from Ludington High School with the class of 1943. Through her business leadership, her store has been able to compete against large box stores that now dominate much of the local appliance market.

Marianne Gibbs Smith of Ludington grew up in the family business, the famous Gibbs restaurants and grocery store. After her father, Harold, died in 1982, Marianne took over as general manager of Gibbs Country House Restaurant, located just west of the current

Marianne Gibbs Smith

location of Applebee’s. She was a kind and caring soul, and a born-again Christian whose faith was exemplified by the life she lived and the way she treated others. Many of us worked for the Gibbs family “back in the day” and each of us were treated as part of the family. The Gibbs family was known for its strong support of rural Mason County by purchasing many animals at the Western Michigan Fair auction and then holding its famous lamb stew dinner, giving the proceeds back to 4-H.

Marianne was born and raised in Ludington. She raised three daughters who have each lived their lives and raised their families with the same values and faith instilled by their mother. In 1992, Marianne left the restaurant business and pursued her calling to become a missionary. She spent the next 13 years in Belize where she ministered to gang members. Her health caused her to return home to Ludington.

The Gibbs family started its grocery store in downtown Ludington. That store eventually included a restaurant. Later, it also included a commercial baking facility south of Ludington. Harold and Alice Gibbs had the foresight to know that the US 31 expressway would eventually exit and begin at US 10 and therefore they build Gibbs Country House Restaurant on the southeast corner of Brye Road and US 10-31 in Amber Township.

Dorothy Reed

Dorothy “Dottie” Benson Reed was born and raised in Tallman in Sheridan Township. Benson Road is actually named after her family. She never forgot her “eastern” roots and she and her husband, Bud, lived 40 years along the Pere Marquette River within the Manistee National Forest west of Walhalla.

Dorothy and Bud, owned and operated Ludington Beverage Company for 45 years making it one of the top performing Anheuser-Busch distributorships in the country. She was the vice president of the company and oversaw the finances and management of internal operations and retired in 1994. The family still owns and operates the business.

Bud and Dottie’s business ventures went much deeper than Ludington Beverage, however. They started the cable television franchise, Cablevision, in Ludington and Scottville. They also brought the Courts of Rath athletic club to the area, filling the need for a fitness center.

The list of philanthropic support of the Reeds in this county is too long to be specific.

Their support of the Community Foundation for Mason County and a wide variety of financial donations to many different community events and programs have benefited every community in this county.

In today’s society, we don’t think twice about women’s roles as equals. But, that was not always the case. These three women certainly were pioneers and role models that paved the way for future generations.

This story is copyrighted © 2019, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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