2017-01-19 / Front Page

Couples part of small business mix that drives county economy


SHEILA AND Gordie Wick share the same desk at Bayshore Oil and Propane. They are part of a legion of small business owners who help drive the Leelanau County economy. SHEILA AND Gordie Wick share the same desk at Bayshore Oil and Propane. They are part of a legion of small business owners who help drive the Leelanau County economy. Owning a business in Leelanau County can be rewarding and hard work.

So when married couples own and run a business, does that double the reward — and workload?

Sheila Wick, who with husband Gordie own Bayshore Oil and Propane in Leelanau Township, can’t imagine a life different than working side-by-side with her mate despite some long hours.

“That’s the one drawback,” said Wick, who took over the clerical work at Bayshore 13 years ago after working as a substitute teacher. “You don’t go home at 5 and assume you are done. You might be, and you might not be.”

Bayshore is listed as celebrating its 30th birthday in the Star Businesses of Leelanau County section included in this edition. The section lists sponsors of the section according to the age of their businesses.

Small businesses are the backbone of Leelanau County, which is famously proud of lacking a “big box” store. Instead, county residents and visitors are mostly served by privately owned businesses, with many run by families.

Included are business managers who divide responsibilities within husband-and-wife teams.

“Gordie schedules all the propane, and we have so few furnace oil customers that Chris (Stowe) handles all that by himself,” said Sheila. “I man the office by making sure invoices are put in correctly and process payments and handle the phone.”

Chris Stowe is the son of J.L. (Jim) Stowe, who started the business. Although he is deceased, Stowe’s wife, Iva, still resides in Northport.

Do the Wicks get along after spending day and night together?

“Nine-nine percent of the time we get along great,” recalls Sheila. “Every once in a while we won’t agree on something that needs to be done ... Generally we discuss things and the two of us come up with a plan. If it involves our employees, we talk to them and ask them what they think.”

Added Gordie Wick, “Actually, we do pretty well. We’re like husband and wife farmers. They work together and live together. It’s a family business.”

Jim and Madeline Houdek have worked together in their family business, Houdek’s Pumping Service since 1986.

“We have friends who say ‘I don’t know how you do it.’” Madeline said. “We have our days, but it’s like marriage… you have to work at it.”

Jim handles the pumping business and Madeline runs the portable restroom/ trailer operation, which includes cleaning and delivering restroom trailers all over the area.

Madeline also does the book work for the business which includes scheduling, taxes and payroll.

“Jim wants nothing to do with paperwork, so I take care of that,” she said.

Like so many county business owners, summer business is their bread and butter requiring long days on the job. Still Houdek said she and her husband make time for one another in their hectic schedule.

“It’s fun making deliveries and going to different areas if time allows,” she said. “If we can stop for a late dinner, we do and get caught up on what we did that day. Sometimes we talk about work — other times we choose not to.”

Aaron and Nikki Ackley were both working in the food industry — albeit at different restaurants — when they were introduced.

They’ve been married 15 years and for the past 11 years they’ve worked together in their restaurant, Big Cat Brewing Co., in Cedar.

Aaron, a professionally trained chef, runs the kitchen while Nikki manages the dining room.

“There are some things I insist on when it comes to the food, but when it comes to the front, she knows what she’s doing and I don’t mess with that,” Ackley said.

The couple’s family life also has them going in a lot of different directions. They have two active daughters, Annabelle, 12 and Adrienne, 8.

While they’re in school, the Ackleys work together and that’s a plus, according to Aaron.

“It’s nice to work together during the day,” he said. “Otherwise, the only time we get to see each other is at night when we’re flopped in front of the television.”

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