From Loreen's to Dexter Coney
The five-second deal
by Sally Mitani
Jim Cacini, the owner of Dexter's Coney Island, says he stumbled on his latest business by accident.
The sixty-year-old Albanian (whose name is pronounced cuh-SEE-nee) has owned restaurants in Livonia, Dearborn, and Howell. Last summer, he got lost driving with his son Brian, and they found themselves in Dexter. "I said to him: 'You know, I like this town.'"
When they drove past Loreen's Village Cafe, his antenna went up. "When you see an old place, they'll always sell. They don't make no money."
He told Brian to pull over, predicting that the owner was an older woman, ripe for retirement. Ordering a cup of coffee, he quickly spotted owner Loreen McCalla. "We sat at that table right there. I said, 'You want to sell, don't you?' She said, 'Yeah, I want to go to Florida.' We made a deal"--in, he jokes, five seconds. (He was wrong, however, in thinking she wanted to retire--she owns another diner in Palm Bay, Florida, and was tired of dividing her time between the two.)
Cacini was a little taken aback by the welcome he received in town--a fifty-dollar fine and an order from the Dexter Village Council to turn off his neon lights. "I spent two thousand dollars on these lights"--he points to the thin orange neon tubes outlining his windows. "They don't flash or anything. And they're inside the window. I'm not new in this business. I didn't think I had to get a permit for lights inside a building."
It was his own esthetic decision to take down the American flags on the walls, many of them quite large, put up by McCalla, a fervently patriotic woman. "I've got nothing against a flag, but she had them all around," he says. "How many times do you need to see a flag? I still have two." A small one flies by the cash register, and a large one hangs outside the building. Other than adding the
standard signatures of a Coney Island--"the Coneys, the gyros, the Greek salads"--he says he hasn't changed the menu much. "What could we change? It's breakfast! OK, we give four slices [of bacon and sausage] instead of three."
Dexter's Coney Island, 8124 Main St., 426-2255. Daily 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m. (No website.)
Dexter's third Subway opened recently in the Dexter Plaza, but it's the town's first not inside a gas station. Manager Megan Fix says the franchise is owned by Shashi Patel, who also owns the downtown Subway inside the BP station. (The third is in the Pilot station at Baker Road and I-94.)
Subway, 7050 Dexter-Ann Arbor Rd., Ste. 600, 253-2525. Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.-8 p.m. www.subway.com
The tiny Jake's BBQ Shack, which opened in June, closed in late July: "We tried to hang on till at least Dexter Daze, but I think the whole town went out on vacation this year," wrote owner Bart Aniolczyk on Jake's Facebook page. Aniolczyk's first restaurant on the spot, Jake's Place, also failed to attract many customers and closed about six months after opening. Aniolczyk didn't return phone calls.
When Jim Cacini, new to the Dexter restaurant scene, was asked for his take on Jake's closing, he said: "But that wasn't a restaurant. It was just like a little backyard business." After learning of Aniolczyk's impressive restaurant heritage--he literally grew up in the kitchen of Amadeus, Ann Arbor's Polish-Hungarian restaurant founded by his mother--Cacini quipped, "Tell him to come here. I need the help."
[Originally published in January, 2013.]