Monday, August 4, 2014

Emerald Valley Country Club Article – August 3, 1969


Here's an interesting article that ran in the Journal on August 3, 1969. It's the story of the well-known Emerald Valley Country Club and the people that built it and ran it – Emil and Emily Kucirek.

The story was written by Staff Writer Bob Cotleur and includes a nice history of the iconic Lorain golf course.

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Emerald Valley: A Golf Course and Nightclub
The Country Club Emil and Emily Kucirek Built
By BOB COTLEUR
Staff Writer

EMILY KUCIREK'S formula for success is work
EMERALD VALLEY is a golf course built around a night club at 4397 Leavitt Rd., Lorain.

In its nine year history thousands of area people have played at one, the other, or both. It is owned by first generation Americans whose families came from Czechoslovakia – Emil and Emily Kucirek.

The Kucireks have battled the city, the elements, time and their own inexperience at the beginning. They've suffered many setbacks, which were serious, but the answers to a few of them were as hilarious as they were practical.

For example: "We started right in with banquets and parties, back in those early 60's," Emily said, "even though we didn't have city water. We trucked water in and it was expensive. People complained there wasn't enough water to flush the toilets. But we didn't tell them anything except there must be something wrong with the plumbing, some trouble.

"And they never did know, for a long time, that we didn't have city water."

EMERALD VALLEY IS the indirect result of a meager $235 Emily saved before she and Emil were married, "on September 4, 1939, Labor Day. And I've labored ever since," she laughed. But it wasn't a joke.

Shortly after marriage, Emil was laid off at the (then) National Tube Company. Emily read an ad for construction help with the Rahl (homes) Construction Company "and I told Emil to answer it."

Emil did. "He got 50 cents an hour to start then worked himself up to the boss," she said. "Then after a couple of years he started into business with the $235 I'd saved."

The money merely bought the license for the Kucirek Construction Co. Emil had a partner, Steve Balacz, now of California, and even Emily helped "by pounding nails and painting."

Emil said, "The turning point in our lives came a few months later when my partner said the concrete made his feet swell. He said he'd handle the books if I handled the outside work. I mentioned it that night to Emily.

"She said, 'you handle the outside work and I'll handle the books.'"

"That ended the partnership with Steve."

Emily said, "We started with one house, sold it and built another. We worked up to ten a year, then 20, then a subdivision on W. 27th Street. After that came another subdivision on W. 37th Street where we built some 90 homes.

THEN THERY BOUGHT the farmland that was to become Emerald Valley. They wanted to build more homes, but it had been zoned for a golf course and recently annexed from Black River Township to Lorain.

The city wouldn't give us water or sewer lines, so Emil said, 'well, let's build a golf course.'"

Emil had caddied from 1930 to 1935 at Cherry Ridge. He loved the game "but I gave it up for 14 years after marriage. I had a family to raise."

"At the time, I was against it," Emily said. "I was managing Kucirek Construction Company and E-K Development Co. (excavation work) and then I had to learn the golf business."

Rumors flew around that they were broke. "I didn't pay any attention to them," she said. "I was too busy raising money. We never went broke."

But she admits they bent a good bit, and in a couple of ways. Everything about golf, the golf business, the clubhouse and the bar were new to her. Work had begun on the course but switched quickly to the clubhouse when a low-powered liquor license became available.

SHE DIRECTED construction of the bar and bar furniture, which were custom made, while the walls were going up and the roof didn't yet exist. They had "an August 15th deadline to meet, or lose the chance for the license. We made it."

Then she had to learn "how to mix drinks. I had to learn all of that at the age of 40."

Did she have trouble mixing drinks?

EMIL KUCIREK
"Well, I was afraid. But I usually know what I am doing. At first, when we had this low-powered liquor, the drinks weren't as strong. People would complain they didn't know what it was about the liquor, but it was something. But they thought because I had a nice club I had the right liquor. You know, regulation liquor."

How did she explain the problem?

"I wouldn't tell 'em the answer because I wanted the business."

She's candid. She picked the right time, too. The license for the past several years has been a full night club type and you can order any kind of drink.

EMILY INSISTS her biggest love is people. "Before we got into Emerald Valley I belonged to 25 different organizations and I've been president of all of them. This helped a lot when we started…"

The facts are: "I organized the Squirettes and later the Squires, the teenage organizations of the Knights of Columbus. I organized the Candy Stripers of St. Joseph Hospital and the Danny Thomas ALSAC (Leukemia) group and the Retarded Children's organization which I became the first president of. I was Lorain Woman of the Year in the 50's, so honored by the Quota Club, and last year was named one of 30 outstanding Women of the Year by the Danny Thomas group."

Emil only built homes, in those years. "He's a sportsman. He only likes those that play various sporting things with him," she said.

How does Emerald Valley work?

"I handle the clubhouse and the inside stuff," Emily said, "and Emil handles the outside work. My son Joe, 28, is the club pro and Albert, 26, my other son, is assistant greenskeeper. My daughter Marilyn, 25, is expecting her first child in January but her husband, Dan Makuski of South Amherst, repairs the big machinery. He's mechanical-minded."

But Emerald Valley is incorporated. Emil is president, Emily is vice president and treasurer, Attorney Leslie Burge is secretary.

"Who's the boss?"

"Emily. She's it. She handles the business, the contracts and the money," said Emil as he studied a difficult shot on the fourth hole.

"I WORK HARD though. In fact, harder than when I ran the construction company. Then I gave orders. Out here I do all the work myself. Run all my own equipment."

Emily agreed. "He gets up early and gets in his four or eight hours, then plays golf the rest of the time. He gets his eight hours sleep and sometimes a little nap as well.

Emil agreed. "Yes, I average about 18 holes a day."

Emily starts working early, at 6 a.m., then quits about 3 a.m. the next day. How does she operate day in day out on three hours sleep?

"I don't really know," she says. "I can't explain that really."

Emil offers a hint. "She wants to run it all herself. So she does."

But Emily has motive, too. "If you want to succeed, you've got to work. And I don't mind working as long as I succeed. But it's too slow, this success.

Ever since we started in this business we've had setbacks. I mean, first we couldn't get water so we booked parties without water. Then after we got on our feet a bit, the new road (SR 58) went by in front and knocked us for a loop. Not a loop, a setback, where you couldn't get to the top as fast.

"Then two years ago Emil put the weedkiller on the greens and that really did a lot of bad to the greens. But in a month's time, he had it controlled. But there's always something. Now the lake. If we don't get that mud out of there we'll worry about watering the greens and fairway."

SHE WAS TALKING about mud caused by enlarging the drainage ditch for Williamsburg Heights in conjunction with seasonal and recent heavy rains. But she also fights a running battle with the kids of Williamsburg Heights.

"They come on the course and do damage to the ball washer, greens and steal golf balls from players. We have an old timer's league, one day a week, and they can't afford it. The kids come and steal their golf balls after these fellows have hit their drives."

She hollers at them from the course loudspeaker. She's never been further out on the course, since it has been built, than the bridge by the last home. And she never swung a golf club once.

June 1972 Journal ad
"When my Al was working at the bar and Joe was working at the shop I was here all the time starting at six a.m. I couldn't keep those two inside to do the work. One day both were on the putting green so I grabbed the first putter I could find. They saw me coming and asked, "What are you doing?"

"I said 'I'm going to learn to play golf.' They said, "Aw, you don't want to learn golf.'"

"Joe, the club pro then, was having trouble with his putting. My luck was every putt I made went right in the hole. So the first thing you see is Al getting his putter and he goes, then Joe gets his putter and goes.

"But I stood there and kept putting. I'd put the point across."

EMILY WAS a Zahorec. Her brother Joe, "Big 'Z'" ran for mayor of Lorain in the last election. Her father was a car inspector for the B & O Railroad. The lack of money as a child, she says, gave her the drive she has today.

"From the time I was four or five, I didn't like to live poorly, not having the things I like. So I made up my mind I was either going to be a teacher or be in business. My folks didn't have the money to send me to be a teacher, so I'm in business.

"It's just nice to get somewhere to enjoy a little bit of nice things in your lifetime. I learned it's a lot of work."

Her pet peeve at the moment, she says, is mud. Her like, is people.

"But the only thing Emil gets provoked with, is when he's expecting rain and it doesn't rain. And he's expecting sunshine and it doesn't shine. He gets mad at those things. When he's fertilizing he's got to have rain."

DOES HE STOMP around and raise cain with the rainmaker?

"He pouts. He's a pouter. And he takes it out on me. But I have my own problems," she laughed. But again, it wasn't a joke.

How's your golf game, Emil?

"I'm known as one of the shortest shots in town. But I get in as well as the next guy," he said while heading toward the tee on number 5.

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Emily Kucirek passed away in 1985, and Emil in February 1990. According to his obituary, his involvement with Emerald Valley Country Club ended in 1985.

(I've mentioned the Kucireks and their construction company on this blog before, here and here.)

Today, Emerald Valley Driving Range and the lounge are still open (below) but are currently for sale.

The view on Sunday morning
The golf course was sold and became the location the Brad Friedel Premier Soccer Academy in 2007. Today the facility is the Rival Sports Indoor Facility.

2 comments:

Wireless.Phil said...

Toward the end, his and her got mixed up.

Anyway, is Joe still there?
I've not seen him since the mid 70s.

I used to stop in therefor a drink back then, but not been in the place for years.

Anonymous said...

i used to golf junior league golf growing up as a kid, played their till left for navy in 92. even went back when came home for leave to play. i think last time was 96 i played on the course with my granddad. memories, to bad all memories are boarded up or torn down. glad to see some are hanging on like Oharas beverage, riteneaur (-5 spelling) drive thru. love the blog thanks mr. brady