Investing in Burton isn’t an obligation for the Cokley family, it’s an honor.

“We’re very proud of the Burton community and the way everyone respects and appreciates each other here,” said Linda Leach, whose family owns Genesee Ceramic Tile, headquartered at 1307 N. Belsay Road in Burton. “It’s been a great place to live and grow our business.”

That commitment to community is what prompted Leach’s father, J.C. Cokley, to resurrect an abandoned ice skating complex a decade ago and transform it into the vibrant hub that Crystal Fieldhouse Ice Arena is today.

The 70,000-square-foot facility on Daly Farms Drive is now home to a legion of ice-centric activity including University of Michigan-Flint men’s hockey, Greater Flint Hockey Association youth hockey, a figure skating club, CANUSA hockey, adult and high school hockey leagues, learn-to-skate, birthday parties, and public skating. The arena is open year-round.

The Cokleys invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore the former Ice Mountain Arena, which closed in 2012.

The new Crystal Fieldhouse Ice Arena reopened in 2014 and includes two 200-by-85-foot NHL-sized rinks, locker rooms, a concessions area, bar, and pro shop.

Renovated concession stand at Crystal Fieldhouse
Renovated concession stand at Crystal Fieldhouse. Photo by Ryan VanSlyke.

But it almost never happened.

Leach’s father and family considered buying the foreclosed building as a warehouse for their growing ceramic tile company, located kitty-corner to it. It was in rough shape.

“We all went through the building to see what it was like and had to use our cell phones as lights; it had been vandalized and all the electrical had been cut out,” Leach said.

But after meeting with local business and government leaders, her father decided that rebuilding the ice arena was best for the people of Burton.

“Everyone very much wanted us to keep it as an ice arena,” Leach said. “We knew it would be a nice thing for the community, so we worked very hard to make that happen even though we knew nothing about running an ice arena.

“My dad and my brother Bill, who has since passed, were very involved in making it all come together. They kind of became partners in crime; I have to give them a lot of the credit.”

The Cokleys are no strangers to building a thriving business enterprise.

Staff and chamber members line up in back of a large ribbon for a ribbon cutting of the renovated ice arena, Crystal Fieldhouse
Crystal Fieldhouse held a ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony in September 2014.

The family founded Genesee Ceramic Tile in 1973. Beginning with a staff of three and one location in Burton, the company has become a leading tile distributor in Michigan. Along with the Burton location, they offer three additional full-service showrooms and sales centers in Sterling Heights, Farmington Hills, and Grand Rapids. They have 70 employees.

J.C. Cokley and his children have always played a major role in the family business. With their parents now retired, Leach, her sister Lisa Haas, and her brother Jim Cokley, are actively involved in running the tile company.

“My dad started the business when I was in high school and I came to work here,” said Leach, who worked while earning a business degree at UM-Flint. She now works as company controller and serves on the UM-Flint School of Management Advisory Board.

Her son Mark Leach and nephew Bill “B.J.” Cokley Jr. are actively involved at Crystal Fieldhouse, along with co-manager Michelle Wisenbaugh.

The Cokleys are thrilled to have so many people utilizing the ice arena – especially UM-Flint’s hockey team and the Greater Flint Hockey Association, which have been with them since the beginning.

Hockey players from the University of Michigan-Flint try to move the hockey puck into the opposing team's goal.
The University of Michigan-Flint’ Men’s Hockey Club hosts their home games at Crystal Fieldhouse. Photo by Ryan VanSlyke.

In 2023, the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association recognized the Greater Flint Hockey Association with the John Stansik Award for Association of the Year. The award honors local groups that make outstanding contributions to the growth of hockey.

“The Greater Flint association has really expanded their youth program and done a lot of really good things for the community to help get young skaters into hockey,” Leach said. “They’ve done an amazing job and we’re proud to be a small part of their success.”

Leach credits local organizations and chambers of commerce with fostering community spirit among businesses and residents alike.

It makes a difference, she said.

“We’re really like one big family in Burton,” Leach said. “There’s a lot of great businesses here and everyone supports Burton by supporting one another.

“That’s really what it’s all about.”