The Sanford Lake Bar and Grill celebrates its 50th anniversary

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The Sanford Lake Bar and Grill has been a community staple for decades, offering food and a friendly atmosphere.

On Saturday, the restaurant celebrated two milestones: the company’s 50th anniversarye anniversary and 35 years of Dick and Sharlyn Corbate year of ownership.

The bar has had many names over the years, ranging from Francis Grove Tavern to Safari House, Schoenherr’s Grove and Putter’s Landing before being named Sanford Lake Bar.

The bar and grill, located at 3770 N. Bailey Road, is adjacent to what was once known as Francis Grove Beach, a popular swimming spot in the 1930s and 1940s. The business was originally a drinking establishment called Francis Grove Tavern. It was closed from 1968 to 1972 due to financial problems until Sharlyn’s parents, Howard and Barbara Schoenherr, purchased it. Sharlyn was 13 at the time.

“There’s so much history here,” Sharlyn said.


Fifteen years later, Sharlyn and Dick were living in Merrill. Sharlyn worked as a hairstylist and owned her own salon while Dick was a service manager at a Chevy dealership. One evening Dick came home and announced that he wanted to buy the bar from Sharlyn’s parents.

“I had a job where you worked as hard as the boss,” Dick said. “I thought if I had to work as hard as the boss, I guess I could be a boss.”

Dick and Sharlyn took over the bar on July 1, 1987. At the time, the bar was a “band bar”, according to Sharlyn, serving burgers and drinks and hosting local bands. The

The Corbats have expanded the food menu, incorporating daily specials with well-known staples and new items to keep the menu fresh. The recipes have not changed since the restaurant opened. Today they serve appetizers, burgers, sandwiches and soups. They are best known for their moist pizzas, nachos and burritos.

The biggest change came in 1989 when the Sanford Lake Bar and Grill started serving perch.

“We have multiple awards for a lot of different things,” Sharlyn said. “When we started selling fresh lake perch in 1989, we realized it was becoming a restaurant in its own right.”

Dick and Sharlyn have dedicated their lives to running the restaurant. Since the Sanford Lake Bar and Grill is off the beaten path and location isn’t one of its strong suits, the Corbats have worked to ensure the restaurant has “a great atmosphere, friendly waiters friendly and good food” according to Sharlyn.

Sharlyn explained that her favorite part of running the bar is the people – from patrons to staff. She and Dick both praised the dedication of their staff as they worked through the pandemic and after the May 2020 dam breaks and floods.

“Our customers are great to us,” Sharlyn said. “Our customers have supported us. Even during the pandemic they had takeout.

After the 2020 floods caused significant damage in Sanford and Midland, the Sanford Lake Bar and Grill was allowed to reopen as it was located in a disaster area.

“We served and fed thousands and thousands of people out of this place,” Sharlyn said. “My staff have been by my side through it all. Most of the staff are still there today. They deserve a lot of praise because they made this place such a hit.

Now the restaurant is open Thursday through Sunday to maintain its staff and the quality of its food, but the Corbats come to work every day. Sharlyn works with three other women to prepare food for the upcoming week while Dick works on maintenance.

In honor of their 35e anniversary of owning the Sanford Lake Bar and Grill, the Corbats held a customer appreciation event on Saturday at the restaurant. Customers enjoyed free burgers, hot dogs and brats.

Among the restaurant’s longtime patrons on Saturday was former Sanford resident Lori Raymond, who now resides in Wixom. She has frequented the Sanford Lake Bar and Grill since 1993. She appreciates the impact the restaurant has on the community.

“They did a lot for Sanford, especially after the floods,” Raymond said. “They’re just good people. They are always involved in the community, they treat their employees very well, their customers are like family.

Sue Ault from Midland has been dining at the Sanford Lake Bar and Grill for 50 years. Her grandparents lived on Lake Sanford and she used to come to the restaurant when she was younger.

“It’s a family atmosphere,” Ault said.

Midland’s Becky and David Schmelzer have been dining at the restaurant for 35 years. They explained that the great food and friendly atmosphere keep them coming back. Good food and reasonable prices made it the perfect place for their son’s bachelor party and other special events.

“It’s not like other restaurants,” David said. “Other restaurants come and go. Fast food is mediocre at best. But it’s always good and the owners are always there to keep an eye on things.

The Corbats continue to navigate the ups and downs of the restoration. They admitted that they are still learning new ways, and nothing shocks them.

“We are grateful to the employees and the customers,” said Dick. “We are grateful that things turned out the way they did.”

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