BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
After a quarter century as Millpond Bed and Breakfast innkeepers, Joan and Buck Kopietz have received lots of offers from guests around the world to repay their hospitality. With plans to sell the inn and retire, they’re ready to take them up on it.
“We have invitations to visit people all around the world. What we want to do is go visit them,” Joan said. “People who were just here from Australia, they said, don’t forget to come see us. We have gobs of people from Germany because Germans are the ones we see the most as international travelers. We have a Clarkston lady who retired to Costa Rica with her husband and we have an invitation to go there. In Italy, there are guests with a horse ranch just outside of Rome, and there’s a summer cottage on the coast of Denmark that’s calling us.”
The couple has lived in Clarkston for almost 45 years, opening their first downtown business in 1974.
“It was just a fluke,” said Joan, 73, who grew up in California. “Back in 1974, the Jaycees sponsored an event called Village Days.”
“It was over Labor Day weekend,” said Buck, 71, who was born in the Upper Peninsula and moved to the Detroit area with his family when he was about 2 years old.
“It was on the corner of Main and Washington. They had rides and all kinds of stuff,” Joan said. “We bumped into Kathy’s bookshop, who was at Three East Washington, and we talked to her for quite a while. And she said, ‘why don’t you open a door across the hall from me?’ There was another little office, 10 by 14 feet, across from the bookstore.”
Thirty days later, they opened Tierra Arts and Design, offering jewelry they made, candles, and Native American items from Canada, as well as consignment items.
They later opened Tierra Fine Jewelry and moved to 20 South Main in the mid ’70s, then to 64 N. Main in 1982.
“We hopped around town like many retail stores did back then,” Joan said.
Involvement in the Clarkston community started almost immediately, they remembered.
“”Jean Saile, who was the editor of the Clarkston News back when we first opened, interviewed us for the Progress edition,” Joan said. “She looked at me and said, ‘what are you going to do for this town?’ And I said, ‘What?’ She said, ‘you have to pay your dues.’ And I said, ‘well, I’m in the arts.’ She said, ‘you’re going to start the Community Arts Council,’ which was the first one at that point.”
That’s what they did, working with local municipalities and other groups to set it up.
Buck and Joan worked on community projects separately and together over the next several decades, including the creation of Concerts in the Park with the Business Association of Independence Township.
“We had a resident come to us and said, ‘you know, we can do concerts. There are funds and there was a grant that was through the musicians union that paid for us to have live music,’” Joan said. “We took it and ran, and I ran that for 10 years. And then it went to the Chamber of Commerce. Then we got rolled into this.”
They opened the Millpond Bed & Breakfast in 1995 at 155 N. Main Street, in a colonial house built in 1872.
“We are the spare bedroom for this community. If you’re having an event in Clarkston area, you stay here,” Joan said. “This is actually the closest thing to our personalities – we’ve always done people things.”
They estimate more than 30,000 people have stayed at their inn over the years, many as regulars.
“When they call me up, I just put their first names in the book,” Joan said.
The Bob Seger concerts last month at DTE Energy Music Theatre brought people from around the world.
“We had a couple from Australia,” Buck said.
“For one day, to go to Bob Seger,” Joan said. “They bought an around-the-world trip and I took care of them, arranged all the transportation for them. That’s what we do. That’s why we have a five-star rating.”
Famous guests included actor Chad Everett; Betty Mahmoody, who wrote “Not Without my Daughter”; Cesar Millan, the dog whisperer; author Steven Kroll; Herman S. Parish, author of the Amelia Bedelia children’s series; racecar driver Kraig Kinser; and Australian racer Allan Moffat.
“When Waterford Hills Raceway celebrated their 50th anniversary a few years ago, they brought Allan Moffat in from Australia because he started his career at Waterford Hill Raceway,” Joan said. “They brought him in to be the Grand Marshal for that event. And Waterford Hill Raceway brought not only Allan Moffat but his entire racing group, and the Australians took over the house. It was really cool.”
With a focus on bringing their guests together, especially around the breakfast table every morning, the inn has always been a pleasantly social place, Joan said.
“In all these years, the number of people I wouldn’t have back in the house would fit on one hand,” she said. “People are very respectful.”
After retirement, they plan to stay in the area to be with the grandkids until they’re in college, then they might head west, Joan said.
“It’s going to be really difficult for me to leave this, but it’s time for us to pass this on to someone else,” she said. “We’ve done it for almost 25 years, and at my age, it’s getting to the point that I need to take a break.”
They also plan to mentor and train the new owners.
“I want to have the next ownership to be successful,” Joan said. “It’s not a job. It’s a way of life. A cool thing to do. This is a people place, a lot of work but with a lot of benefits.”
For more information on the bed and breakfast, contact listing agent D’Anna Dettore of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services at 310-667-1838, or check www.bhhsmi.com.
BY PHIL CUSTODIO