Leelanau man puts curling dreams on ice

Aug 29, 2019

The temperature in Maple City on a recent August afternoon was over 80 degrees, but inside the Leelanau Curling Club it was just above 40 degrees. A big sheet of ice is spread out in the building — 147 feet by 32 feet — which is enough for two curling lanes. It’s a dream come true for David Gersenson.

“I’ve accomplished some things in my life, and this is by far and away what makes me the most proud,” he says.

Gersenson is the founder  of the newly opened Leelanau Curling Club, but he really prefers the title “commissioner.”

“The commissioners of baseball, and football, basketball — they have so much power within the league. And I always thought it’d be so much fun to be able to run a sports franchise, or a sports league,” he says. “And well, I’ve succumbed to saying this is as close as I’m ever going to get.”

Curling is an Olympic sport played on ice. Players push heavy granite stones down the ice and try to land them closest to a target painted in the ice. Teammates use a curling broom to sweep the ice in front of the stone to make the stone glide a little bit farther.

Mary Buschell lives in Maple City. Before the club opened in May, she never curled before, but now she’s hooked.

Mary Buschell (center) gets ready for a practice shot at the Leelanau Curling Club.
Credit Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

“We’re located in an area where winters are long, and I think this is just an absolutely great addition to our community,” she says.

Up until just a few years ago, Gersenson had never curled before either. Then, the day after the 2016 election results rolled in, he fell asleep on his couch and woke up sore. 

“A pain in my neck if you will,” he says.

Gersenson visited a new chiropractor, a guy who happened to be the founder of the Traverse City Curling Club.

“He told me to come try curling, so I did,” he says. 

Gersenson got his neck fixed and a new passion. He quickly realized that curling was the only thing in his life, that when he did it, he was completely immersed in it.

“It’s so much fun just throwing a stone down a sheet of ice that weighs 40 pounds, trying to land it in the middle of a target there,” he says.

David Gersenson thinks curling will be a popular activity in Leelanau County come winter.
Credit Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

Soon after, he began dreaming of building his own curling club. He bought an old schoolhouse in Maple City and began building the curling rink as an addition to the building. Gersenson doesn’t like talking about specific costs, but says much of his life savings has been poured into the project. 

“You could buy a nice house on Lake Leelanau, you could buy a nice house on Lake Michigan, but it’s a number I’ve kept under wraps up until this point,” he explains. 

Gersenson is familiar with business ventures. He’s an entrepreneur who owns a few hotels in Leelanau County. In January, he and his wife bought their fourth hotel — Maple Lane Resort in Empire — to help fund the curling club until it becomes financially stable. 

“And we call it the ‘Plan B Hotel,’” he says. “In curling you have a shot, but often times that shot doesn’t go according to plan, so you call in Plan B.”

His accountant and lawyers thought he was crazy for investing so much of his money into something so unproven, but that didn’t deter him. 

“It just came down to, what else am I going to do with the money? Right?” he says. “Enjoy it while I’m still here.”

The Leelanau Curling Club is located in an old schoolhouse in Maple City, along with Broomstack Kitchen and Taphouse.
Credit Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

Besides the curling club, the schoolhouse also is home to a new restaurant called Broomstack. Gersenson says they haven’t really hit their stride yet, but he’s confident people will come. 

“I know they’re going to show up, because it’s something that’s incredibly fun to do in this area where there’s not a lot to do in the winter time,” he says.

Curling lessons are available at the Leelanau Curling Club and Gersenson says leagues will start after Labor Day.