LAMOTTE TWP. — There’s a reason Dave Grushka wears jogging shoes as an employee inside Scott’s Quick Stop at the corner of M-53 and M-46 in the heart of Michigan’s Thumb area.
He could be selling Superman ice cream one moment, then dashing to the other end of the store for a customer shopping for a rifle, before scurrying outside to drive a forklift to move pallets of wood pellets or deer feed sought by customers.
Welcome to a spot between Saginaw and Port Sanilac, between Imlay City and Port Austin, where farmers, hunters and retirees want ice cream hand-dipped – or a handgun. And where business is brisk before the opening day of firearms deer season on Tuesday. “We always joke that you can come in here and buy a handgun, a tank of gas and a case of beer,” said Pam Phillips, who with her husband, Scott, own the store at 5 N. VanDyke Road in Sanilac County’s Lamotte Township, one mile east of the Tuscola County line.
“We’re a high-labor store and it takes a lot of labor because we have so many things to offer,” said Scott Phillips, 56, whose wife is quick to explain to a reporter.
“Fresh-made subs daily, we scoop your ice cream and we serve fresh doughnuts daily,” said Pam Phillips, gesturing toward a display case where sub sandwiches and thick ham salad, egg salad, chicken salad and tuna salad sandwiches beckon the hungry.
Truckers or hunters seeking a Motel 6 or Waffle House are plenty far from either – the nearest interstate is about 30 miles away – but Scott’s Quick Stop offers three shower booths and is set on five acres of land with no shortage of parking space.
For $10 – though it’s free if one buys a minimum amount of fuel – “you get a towel, soap and lots of hot water,” Pam Phillips said.
Kylene Quandt, 25, of St. Clair, munched on an ice cream cone inside Scott’s Quick Stop on Wednesday, on her way to college classes at Saginaw Valley State University.
“This place has very clean restrooms, which is why I always stop here,” Quandt said.
The store’s location in the middle of nowhere has been a benefit since Scott and Pam Phillips – joined by employee Valerie Beckrow, who still works for them – opened their business 30 years ago.
“It’s been a plus – a big plus – we get (customers) from Detroit all the way up to Port Austin, or from Saginaw all the way (to Lake Huron),” Pam Phillips said.
“We come here because it’s the best place to buy guns,” said Ed Melville, 77, of Livonia in Wayne County, stopping at the store on Wednesday with his wife, Pat, 72, who inquired about trading her .380-caliber handgun for a pistol.
Grushka – wearing shorts and jogging shoes – counseled the couple, on their way to their cottage near Port Austin in Huron County.
“She was looking to trade in a gun for something that would be a little easier to operate,” Grushka explains. “You get that a lot – people who impulse-buy a gun based on its looks or based on bad advice from a relative – and I’ll go through a bunch of stuff with them, and get one that’s right for them.”
The Melvilles aren’t the only ones who seek out Grushka, the hunting department manager who has worked in firearms sales for 25 years. A sign on the front door of Scott’s Quick Stop states “Cash for Guns – Ask for Dave.”
“We buy used guns, and we buy and sell and trade,” Scott Phillips said. “(Pat Melville) doesn’t care for what she’s got, so we’ll give her a fair price on what she has and set her up with something she does like.”
One customer tells a reporter he made a 30-mile drive from near Reese, in Tuscola County, in search of ammunition.
“We work diligently to have ammo at all times,” Scott Phillips said. “A lot of places you walk into have it one day but they don’t have it the next.”
Come opening day on Tuesday, Scott’s Quick Stop workers begin giving successful hunters what they enjoy – attention and prizes – for bringing a white-tailed buck to the store’s “buck pole.”
“Anybody that hangs a legal buck on the pole here goes into a drawing for the grand prize, which is usually a $700 or $800 gun,” Phillips said. “Then we have prizes for the first hunter bringing in a buck, the first female with a buck, the youngest hunter, the oldest hunter, the biggest rack and then we do about 100 door prizes.”
This marks the 10th year the store has set up its buck pole, and successful hunters may arrive with their bucks from Nov. 15 through Nov. 30. Workers at Scott’s Quick Stop shoot a Polaroid photo of each hunter, and award the person a free cap.
The store saves the Polaroid photos and places them inside an album that the store saves for future reference.
“All the time we get people who will come in here and ask to see the old photos, and say ‘Look at this deer I shot in 2007,’” Grushka said.
Scott and Pam Phillips know many of their customers – he attended Marlette High School in Sanilac County and she grew up near Caro in Tuscola County. Their daughter, Wendy Phillips, the store’s manager, earned a degree from the Michigan State University School of Hospitality Business, and came home to run the family store.
“We started this from nothing,” Scott Phillips said. “When we bought the corner, it was an old closed-up service station.”
Regular store customer Krystaria Skakle, 27, of Tuscola County’s Kingston Township, said she attended Marlette High School with Wendy Phillips.
“I’ve always lived nearby and the store’s got a little bit of everything,” said Skakle, holding her baby, 1-year-old Attley Hampshire, as the child’s father, Brandon Hampshire, fed the child tiny spoonfuls of Superman ice cream Wednesday.
“We come here almost every day just to get little odds and ends here,” Skakle said. “It’s centrally located between our house and where (Hampshire) works.”
“I farm about three miles away from here and we live one mile away,” Brandon Hampshire said.
The couple aren’t the only ones visiting Scott’s Quick Stop regularly to get the scoop – of ice cream or current events. Outside the store – open every day except Christmas from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. – semitrailers rumble into the parking lot on a steady basis, headed to park or fill tanks.
“There’s always farmers in here – fueling up,” Hampshire said.
Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at email@example.com