If you to traveled up to Marquette and met Phil Pearce, owner of Phil’s 550 party store, consider yourself lucky. He was a big personality, a character, a person worth knowing. Perhaps not one of a kind, but the last of a kind.
He died Wednesday after a short and sudden battle with brain cancer. He was 64.
John Carlisle of the Detroit Free Press does him justice with a touching tribute:
Few people might’ve ever heard of the owner of a tiny store on the edge of the northern Upper Peninsula, but Phil became world famous for no reason other than his personality, and the fact that someone put his face on a T-shirt that spread around the world.
His shack of a store offered little more than beer, wine, fishing bait, hunting licenses and some canned food, but the real draw was Phil and his personality, exemplified on the store’s roadside marquee where, instead of advertising what he sold, he’d put funny, silly, sometimes suggestive messages for no other reason than to give drivers on this rural road something to chuckle at.
Friends often stopped at the store to buy something just as an excuse to see Phil, because despite his seemingly cantankerous personality, he was able to make people laugh and cheer them up. Strangers came to meet the world-famous face from the T-shirt. Customers mailed him photos of themselves wearing the famous T-shirt in places all over the globe. And passersby could get a dose of Phil from the ever-changing message on the sign out front.
Sample Marquee Post : “Beauty Lies in Da Hands of Da Beer Holder”
Another: “Alcohol and calculus don’t mix, so don’t drink and derive.”
Video: U.P. Loses a World-Class Character — Phil Pearce Dies at 64, Detroit Deadline, January 5, 2017.
John Carlisle, “Phil Pearce, legendary Upper Peninsula party store owner, dies at 64“, Detroit Free Press, January 4, 2017.
Jessica Shepard, “Iconic U.P. store owner behind Phil’s 550 Store dies at 64“, MLive, January 4, 2017.
Christie Bleck, “Phil Pearce dies after cancer battle“, Marquette Mining Journal, January 4, 2017.