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Life after Talal Chahine

And other Marketplace Changes

by Tony McReynolds & Sally Mitani

posted 4/25/2009

Palm Palace Restaurants Inc. bought out Charlie's Mediterranean Cuisine-formerly Charlie's La Shish, formerly La Shish-last fall. "La Shish had a pretty strong following," says Palm Palace spokesperson Ron Hingst. "Obviously it was a very popular chain. Unfortunately, with the management . . ."

Hingst doesn't spell it out-he doesn't have to. "The management" is a reference to Talal Chahine, founder of the La Shish restaurant chain, who fled to Lebanon three years ago amid charges of tax evasion and funneling money to terrorists. Now the Detroit-based Palm Palace chain wants to take the focus off Chahine and shine it on the food, which was always fabulous. Hingst says the quality of the food won't change, in large part because former La Shish executive chef Jamil Eid is the executive chef for Palm Palace. "He was the brains behind the food [at La Shish]. If you look around, he's trained just about every Mediterranean chef in the country. He's been doing this for fifty years." (For a review of the food, see Bix Engel's blog.)

This is the third Palm Palace, and so far they're all in former La Shish locations. Hingst says Palm Palace "negotiated with the state to buy the assets of the old La Shish when the State of Michigan took it over. But each site had to be negotiated separately with a variety of landlords. Some were franchised, some were corporately owned."

If you were a fan of La Shish and you visit a Palm Palace, odds are you'll see a familiar face or two. "Some personnel have been kept on," says Hingst. "They've Čtalked to some of the store managers and . . . gave everybody an opportunity to hire on."

As for décor, the Ann Arbor Palm Palace looks pretty much the same as La Shish did: comfortable and cozy, with lots of rich, wine reds and lush, deep greens, tiled tabletops and banquettes strewn with soft, plump pillows. And in March, the legacy of

...continued below...


La Shish lived on, literally, in a stained-glass window by the entrance: in the center of the window are two tiny initials, an L and an S. An employee says they're working on replacing it.

Palm Palace, 2370 Carpenter Road, 973-2737. Sun.-Thurs. 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 10 a.m.-11 p.m. www.palmpalace.com

***

"Are you familiar with the word 'foodie'?"

That's Frank Guglielmi's answer to the question "What's going on at the Jackson Road Meijer?"

Guglielmi is the director of public relations for all 185 Meijer stores, three of which are in the Ann Arbor area. While the Carpenter Road and Saline Road Meijers will stay the course as large, fairly indiscriminate emporiums of everything, with grocery departments specializing in utilitarian, mass-appeal brands, the Scio Township Meijer is undergoing a transformation. A large center section is swathed in plastic, and when the work is completed, it will be reborn as one of Meijer's "food-oriented stores," joining similarly targeted stores in Howell and Cascade Township (near Grand Rapids). Some departments-shoes and crafts, for starters-will be downsized or eliminated to make room for "more cheese, more wine, more bakery, a larger fresh area, a sushi bar," Guglielmi says. Beyond the sushi bar, he couldn't name any specific brands or products that will be added, nor was it certain yet how other departments would be affected.

Guglielmi says Meijer is putting these specialty food-oriented stores "where the foodies are." Foodies apparently gather at I-94 exits-the Jackson Meijer, at Exit 169, is just minutes from Plum Market at Exit 172 and the new Whole Foods at Exit 175.

Meijer, 5645 Jackson Rd., 222-0300. Daily 24 hours. www.meijer.com.

***

"People don't look up," says Zach Antworth, who knows firsthand. When his glass art store the Foggy Bottom Bayou opened a year ago on the second floor above Mr. Greek's Coney Island on State Street, hardly anyone knew it was there-until he found out he could put up banner signs in the windows. The banners, Antworth says, "really helped-that way too we could do it without going through expensive city [sign] ordinances."

Antworth, thirty-seven, co-owns the store with his brother Scott Antworth, thirty-eight, and longtime friend Kevin Davis, thirty-seven. They describe themselves as glass artists. While colorful glass pipes are their specialty, they make everything from pendants to pens to marbles to wineglasses, and they'll custom-make just about anything.

Zach got into glass blowing by chance. A musician by training, he was setting up a recording studio in the old Performance Network building on Washington with the inten-tion of making his living as a musician. "Right next door to me were about ten glass artists, and all were moving out except one," Zach says. "He would have been forced to move out because he couldn't pay the rent, so I offered to pay half the rent if he'd take me on as an apprentice." As it turned out, Zach loved the work, and even better, it was easier to make a living blowing glass than playing music. Eight years ago he taught his brother and Kevin Davis, and they've all been doing it professionally ever since.

The name of the store is a nod to New Orleans and its vibrant multicultural art scene. "What's really the most important thing about our store is we support local art," Zach says. They also sell clothing, tapestries, jewelry, paintings and even postcards, all made by local artists.

Foggy Bottom Bayou, 213 S. State, second floor, 913-1040. Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. noon-8 p.m.    (end of article)

[Originally published in April, 2009.]

 


On January 13, 2011, siba wrote:
i love talal chahine; no matter what

On September 9, 2011, wrote:
Talal is my daughter's uncle and we wish him the best, always.

 
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