The original Painted Lady: Former owner returns for 102nd birthday celebration

Elva Palazzolo, pictured third from the left, celebrated her birthday surrounded by friends at the Painted Lady Saloon where she was the former owner. (Jane Bond/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — A birthday celebration for 102 years of life is always a special occasion.

It’s even more special if you used to own the restaurant where the celebration is taking place.

For Elva Palazzolo, this is what made her 102nd birthday celebration an even sweeter occasion as she gathered with friends at the Painted Lady Saloon in Manistee.

“Her birthday is next month, but we of course didn’t know about weather so we thought this was the best time to do it,” said Anne Rowe, her friend and caretaker. “She hasn’t been here in a while, so we wanted to get her here to have some lunch.”

“And a beer,” Elva was quick to add, with a laugh.

Elva and her late husband Vito Palazzolo bought the saloon in the early 1960s.

The sign found in the restaurant section of the Painted Lady Saloon is said to feature Elva Palazzolo, who celebrated her 102nd birthday on Friday. (Jane Bond/News Advocate)

“They called it Rose’s Tavern when Elva bought it, she bought it from Ed and Peg Rose,” said Bob Venne, who took over the business in 1994 and owned the building until 2017. “They called it Rose’s Tavern until the Palazzolos sold it in the 1980s, and we bought it in 1994.”

The bar and tin ceiling are original from when it was built back in the late 1880s. There are plenty of memories to be found covering the walls of the saloon, but perhaps most notably is the old sign in the restaurant section, which is said to feature Elva herself.

“I owned different bars in Michigan, including this one,” said Palazzolo. “I had it quite a while, and we lived upstairs.”

She added that the saloon was solely a bar at the time, and did not yet sell food up until shortly before the building changed hands again.

“It was always busy, people in and out all the time,” she remembers. “The guys would come in for lunch when they were working at the factories, and they asked us to start having sandwiches. So we started serving those too, and that made a difference.”

Although it was strictly a bar, Palazzolo ran a tight ship. According to her friends in attendance at the celebration, she wasn’t afraid to kick anyone out if they were getting too rowdy.

“I didn’t want to make a scene, but I kicked people out all the time,” she said. “I wouldn’t get mad, I wouldn’t yell. And I didn’t allow any swearing.”

Palazzolo has also been an avid pool player throughout her life.

In February of 2010, Palazzolo — then 93 years old — finished third place in a pool tournament at the Jailhouse Bar.

“I played pool all the time,” she said. “All the young guys wanted to beat me at it, but they never did.”

Palazzolo was surrounded by friends at her celebration, including staff members from Manistee County Medical Center, where she resides.

“Everybody knew her the moment she walked in today,” said Rowe. “She’s an amazing lady, we all love her.”

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