Sister Lake’s Ramona Roller Rink receives national attention

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sunday’s regular open skate brought out more than 50 visitors last week, including 85-year old Ed Corwin, Ramona’s oldest regular. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Sunday’s regular open skate brought out more than 50 visitors last week, including 85-year old Ed Corwin, Ramona’s oldest regular. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

With its vintage wood floor, disco ball hanging from the rafters and speakers playing old jukebox favorites in the background, walking inside the doors of Ramona’s Roller Rink will likely make one feel as though they’ve stepped into a time warp.

However, looking at the healthy mix of adults, teenagers and children whirling around the floors Sunday afternoon, it appears that the Sister Lakes institution has plenty of laps left in it.

The business was featured in last month’s issue of “History Magazine,” which covered the rink’s 86-year
history. It is the third time that Ramona Roller Rink has been featured in a national publication since July, with appearances also in “Rinksider” and “Trailer Life” magazines.

This recent attention is due in part to the work that owner Harold Schaus has poured into the business since he purchased it in 2004. Since taking the reigns, Schaus has helped bring in a more diverse customer base, beyond the usual group of teenagers that used to frequent the rink in years past, he said.

“We’ve put a lot of work into the place,” Schaus said. “It’s very family-oriented now. It’s taken a while for us to get that strong reputation back.”

More than 50 people visited the rink during one of its public skate session Sunday afternoon, ranging in age from elementary students to seniors. Customers come from all over the region to skate every week, from cities like Dowagiac, Cassopolis, Eau Claire, Coloma and Decatur, Schaus said.

First opening its doors in 1928, Ramona originally served as big dance hall. The business began hosting regular skate nights around 1957, ceasing to hold regular dances ten years later.

For Schaus, owning the nearly 90-year-old rink is the latest chapter in his lifelong relationship with Ramona. Some of his earliest childhood memories are of skating inside the building, he said.

When he was 14 years old, Schaus began working at the rink, where he was an employee for 13 years. He even held his wedding reception at the rink, he said.

“We had our first dance on skates,” he recalled.

When the place became available for sale, Schaus worked tirelessly to purchase it, eventually negotiating the price down to a manageable amount, though he needed loan money to cover the cost.

“I went to three people asking if they could lend me some money,” Schaus said. “They didn’t even blink, they just loaned me the money for the purchase.”

Since then, Schaus and his family, who works with him at the rink, have cultivated a strong following of loyal customers, many of whom have been coming to the lakeside destination for decades.

“I still see the same people who were here when I started working here as a teenager,” Schaus said. “Now they’re bringing their grandkids here.”

One of the appeals that the rink still provides to locals is a year-round venue to get out of the house and enjoy a fun, clean place to work off some energy, Schaus said.

“Once I get customers through the door, they’re hooked,” he said. “Once they come, I know I won’t have to fight to get them to come back.”