ELK RAPIDS — Joe Yuchasz was teaching high school, running a music store and serving in the Navy Reserves when Howard Coddington offered to sell him the Elk Rapids Cinema.
“He knew I wasn’t afraid to work and he knew I was interested in fine film,” Yuchasz said.
Forty years later Elk Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce members recognized Yuchasz for his work when they awarded the Elk Rapids Cinema the Business of the Year award at the Community Stars Award Dinner on May 30.
Yuchasz, 73, took over the cinema in 1973 and saw the business through building renovations, economic swings and the industry’s switch to digital projection. He said the theater draws people to downtown Elk Rapids, especially to restaurants his customers visit before going to shows. He tries to keep prices low, with $5 matinees, $7 regular tickets and $1 popcorn, so families can visit.
Yuchasz thinks the award stems from his many years as a business owner and his commitment to running the theater after most of his peers settled into retirement.
“The chamber realized I’m old enough to quit, not do anything, close it up and forget it, but I didn’t,” he said.
The chamber awarded Brad Brown as its volunteer of the year. Brown volunteers in the chamber office on Monday mornings, changing the marquee, answering phones and cleaning the office.
Brown retired to Torch Lake Township after a career as a manufacturers agent in southern Michigan.
“I do really enjoy doing it,” Brown said. “It gets my week started on a happy note and it’s been a lot of fun.”
Other awards given at the dinner include:
Historic Elk Rapids Town Hall Outstanding Service Award, Catherine Allegrina; Firefighter of the Year, Chris White; Music House Museum Outstanding Volunteer of the Year, Sally Lewis; Elk Rapids Women’s Woman of Achievement, Misty Youngson; Lion of the Year, Ron Robinson; Elk Rapids EMS Founders Award, Jason Sopha and Larry Mueller; Elk Rapids School Award, Shelly and Jim Rybarsyk; Harbor Days Volunteer of the Year Award, Doug Hickman, Jim Eberly, Pete Jacobs, Gene Lalone, Scott Hendrickson, Steve Bagdon; Elk Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce President’s Award, Terry Larsen.