As seen in Crain’s Detroit Business
“What to do when you own a business buying and selling commodities in Chicago and you decide you want to do something else for a living?,” asks Crain’s Detroit Business. “Well, in Tom Vear’s, DePauw ’80 case, you and your wife, Jen Ray, buy an old candy, ice cream and soda shop in downtown Marquette named Donckers, complete with a well-worn hardwood floor, a tin ceiling and swivel seats at the counter. And then you buy the historic shuttered movie theater next door and convert it to a lively restaurant, The Delft Bistro.”
Tom Henderson reports, “Vear says he got a taste for the food business when he was the head waiter at his Phi Delta Theta Fraternity at DePauw University in Indiana, serving 60 fraternity brothers and the house mother three meals a day. But he put off getting involved in an actual food business. After college, he became a runner at the Chicago Board of Trade in 1980. In 1991, he co-founded Rock Trading in Chicago.”
A 1980 graduate of DePauw, Vear sold his business and moved to Marquette, Michigan, where he rehabbed buildings.
“In the 1970s, Marquette had collapsed,” Vear tells the publication. “I thought the downtown was worth saving, but it was pretty empty. The Ben Franklin had moved out; the sporting good store had been closed for years. Downtown was maybe 80 percent empty.”
In 2008, he and and his wife bought Donckers, which received national publicity when President Barack Obama visited the store in 2011. In February 2017, they opened in a restaurant in what was formerly the Delft Theater. Future plans revitalizing an existing building by converting it into a mixed-use project with condos, offices and retail.
Jeff Mason, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. says of the couple, “They’re the types of individuals who punch above their weight and make something happen.”