WET BAR: A decked-out office

If Mike Litt didnt have A.D.D., he might be perfectly happy to stay put in his office overlooking Keans Marina in Detroit.

The room, after all, pays homage to his love for all things nautical. Its filled with family antiques, diplomas and honors, and pictures of his two boys, who crafted the colorful lineup of LEGO boats on the windowsill.

And lets not forget That View.

But the gregarious Litt cant stay seated longer than 30 minutes. So hes just as likely to be found pounding on his laptop on a balcony overlooking the docked
boats, or sitting in the sun near the rose bushes.

I cant work in one space, says Litt, 57. Im creative in bursts, and I have to get up and walk around. Wow, do I finally have the place to walk around.

Three years ago, Litt sold his property under the Ambassador Bridge to Matty Maroun. To avoid a huge tax hit, he had to buy another business.

A boater from way back, Litt was intrigued with the idea of buying the marina, which had been owned by a Grosse Pointe family for 80 years.

He and CPA Jim Cummins had been best friends for 44 years when they bought the 60-acre Keans Marina in 2008. The plan was to turn the complex which sits across the river from the Detroit Yacht Club into a destination point for families to kick back and have fun.

At the time he bought the marina, Litt also picked up a 6,000-square-foot house in Grosse Pointe Park and some college funds for his boys.

In the process, he also bought himself something no one else would give him: a job.

Im a retired executive vice president of a billion-dollar trucking company, says Litt, a graduate of Wayne State University Law School who ran a trucking business
and served as its in-house counsel for several years. Im old, male, and over-qualified. I mean thats nice, but it just is. I couldnt get a job at Home Depot. I tried.

He also hadnt practiced law in the public sector for 20 years.

In addition to co-owner, Litt is now a facilities manager/entrepreneur/in-house counsel for the three companies operating under the Keans umbrella.

The shingles out for friends and relatives, but Litt mostly prefers to hire the best lawyers specializing in particular fields.

(Eight-year-old Mason Litt asked his older brother why their father had so many lawyers when, after all, he IS a lawyer. Michael, 11, responded that Dad needs a lawyer in case he gets into trouble and accidentally tells the truth.)

From a financial standpoint, the timing of the investment couldnt have been worse. Since 2008, the property has decreased in value $1.5 million, according to Litt.

Its not an airplane crash til it hits the ground, he says. Its all going to come back. And its waterfront property. As Will Rogers said, they dont make that any more.

Still, the restoration went on. The entire facility was rejuvenated last year, and reopened in May.

Litt didnt want nice. He wanted wow. He wanted people to walk through the gates and feel that they had gotten away.

No expense was spared; no detail, overlooked. Litt closely watched the renovation every step of the way, stopping reconstruction now and then to change, add, or subtract this or that.

Thanks largely to the work of designer Nicholas Avouris, every turn brings a treat for the senses.

The floor is 3/4-inch Brazilian cherry; the carpet up the steps is $100-a-yard casino-grade durable; the bathroom doors are 100-year-old mahogany.

Litt jokes that even the urinal cakes which are scented and biodegradable are high-end.

Again, its the wow factor.

Its in my home, its in my car (a Lincoln Navigator he takes through the car wash every day on his monthly pass), he says. Its not an ego thing. It makes me feel good. I live here. My kids live here off and on. And my guests love it.

An elegant banquet room specializes in morning and lunch meetings, and features a huge fireplace as well as a balcony with waterfront views. He offers a special rate to the legal community.

Down the hall, Club Kean is the former St. Clair Yacht Club. Complete with an Internet jukebox and a pool table, the bar is open from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. to anyone who pays a $100-a-year membership.

The draft beer at Club Kean is 80 cents.

When I get to be 300 years old, itll finally pay for itself, he says.

More than 100 people recently filled the building for a political fund-raiser and were wowed.

Litt is on the board of the Jefferson East Business Association, which is attempting to make the lower eastside a destination. Its now the Marina District, because there are four marinas in a row across from the Detroit Yacht Club.

It was always competitive (among marina owners), now were trying to say, `Lets get people to drive here, he says. The Riverwalk will someday come here, too. Maybe water taxis from the new Port Authority building I would love to have that business!

In the meantime, he says its not a bad life. Not by a long shot.

Nearly every summer day, he wears shorts, flip-flops, and a Polo shirt embroidered with Keans to work.

Its a uniform he can live in.

If he gets hungry, Sinbads, the Detroit Yacht Club, and the Roostertail are right there.

The marina houses 360 summer boat wells, and stores about 700 boats during the winter.

People ask if I have a boat. I say, `No, I make money off boats now instead of paying for them.

(He and his sons own three boats and two jet skis.)

When I was in law school, I wanted to be a trial lawyer, he says. And I did a little bit of that. And I loved that. I still want to be a trial lawyer, but Im not going to do it. Instead, Im a facilities manager, a construction expert. I read lots and lots of contracts. And every day, I plead the case for my own business to anyone who will listen.

Litt jokes that he finally has an honest job.

I clean bathrooms at a marina!

By Jo Mathis

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