By Al Zehnder, CEO of Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth
It started in 1954. My Uncle Leonard was manager of Zehnder’s and apparently felt that the Tap Room needed something. He contacted Flint artist Steve Davidek and asked him if he could paint a series of murals in the bar that would depict early American craftsmen. Which Steve did. Steve’s five original murals depict the printer, instrument maker, blacksmith, carriage maker and gunsmith.
Apparently pleased with the result, Steve was commissioned in 1956 to do a mural in the main lobby of Zehnder’s recognizing the early lumbering industry of the Saginaw Valley. Unfortunately, in about 1960, a fire sprinkler malfunctioned near the mural washing away about half of the completed work. Steve recreated the entire piece on canvas, in even more vivid color and detail, and proudly hung the finished work later that year. Half of that image is now the masthead of our dinner menu and the other half is the masthead of our luncheon menu.
By the early 1970’s, preparing for the opening of the newly remodeled Heritage Room, Steve was again commissioned to paint a mural this time depicting early Frankenmuth. That mural can be seen on the east wall of the upper Heritage Room.
After the lower level was completed in the 1980’s, Steve was asked to paint a mural recognizing the agricultural heritage of the region. That beautiful piece graces the wall of the south entrance to Zehnder’s Marketplace. In addition to the gorgeous murals, Steve and his family’s artistry can be seen in our Keeping Room, Town Hall Room, Garden Room lobby areas and public restrooms. Any stenciling you see is original and hand cut. In the past few weeks, we asked Steve, now in his mid 80’s to come back to clean, repair and restore those original works he had done for us in 1954. Which he and his two sons Mark and Dennis did. They are beautiful. We have enjoyed a nearly 60 year relationship with the Davidek family. A wonderful relationship filled with wonderful memories with a wonderfully creative Michigan family.
As you wander around our restaurant please enjoy, as we do everyday, the work of Michigan originals, Steve Davidek and the entire Davidek family. If you have a favorite, please let us know.
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