It started when Tim and Tracy Horvath parted ways with Chelsea-based Bearclaw Coffee Co. and changed the name of their downtown Dexter Bearclaw franchise to the Corner Cup Cafe in January. Tracy says it was “a mutual decision. We’re going to go in one direction, and they were heading in another.” Debi Scroggins, CEO and president of Bearclaw, agrees: “There was no drama.”
It’s all about the sandwiches. Tracy Horvath says they’ve served deli-style sandwiches like ham and cheese, roast beef, and chicken salad since they bought the Bearclaw franchise in 2007 from Nancy and Ryan Hansen. But Bearclaw “was really not on board with the sandwiches at all,” Tracy says. Things came to a head when Bearclaw entered into a co-branding agreement with Askar Brands, the company that owns Papa Romano’s, Mr. Pita, and Stucchi’s. When Bearclaw asked the Horvaths if they’d like to open a Mr. Pita in the same location, they declined. “That wasn’t what our sandwiches are or will ever be,” Tracy says.
The Horvaths reinvented their sandwiches, which now include smoked turkey, roast prime rib, and pastrami. Corner Cup Cafe is buying its meat from Terry B’s just up the street and its bread from Great Harvest Bread Company. The cafe also serves Great Harvest brownies, muffins, and cookies (and vegan muffins from Janie’s Cookies & Pastries in Grand Rapids)–plus four kinds of coffee brewed fresh each day, with beans from the Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company in Bloomfield Hills.
Enter Jim Seta, who owns the Stucchi’s franchise in Dexter Plaza. “I’ve been trying to get sandwiches into our location for quite some time,” he says. He contacted Mr. Pita, which put him in touch with Bearclaw, and Scroggins asked Seta if he wanted to host a Bearclaw as well.
Seta admits that initially he was apprehensive because he and his wife have two kids. “Neither one of us felt like getting up at five o’clock in the morning so someone can get their $2 cup of coffee at eight o’clock.” But then he realized they’d have to get up at 7 a.m. anyway to start prep for Mr. Pita, and thought, “What’s an additional two hours?”
Seta started serving Bearclaw Coffee at the beginning of February. “Because of the equipment it took to make sandwiches, opening Mr. Pita took longer,” Seta says. He was on schedule to open that part of the business in early March.
All three businesses fit comfortably in the same 1,400-square-foot space where Seta opened Stucchi’s in April 2007–and they fit together in the workday as well. Seta says 70 percent of Bearclaw’s sales are in the morning, and his Stucchi’s has always sold 70 percent of its ice cream after 4 p.m. He projects that most of Mr. Pita’s sales will come at lunchtime, making for a perfect synergy.
Scroggins notes: “You have the same fixed costs no matter what. Why not make the most out of it?” She’d like to see more combo stores just like Seta’s, adding: “This will be a test location. We can see what’s successful, what needs tweaking, what’s working, what’s not.”
Corner Cup Cafe, 8704 Main, Dexter. 253-2344. Mon.-Thurs. 6:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Fri. 6 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
Stucchi’s / Bearclaw Coffee / Mr. Pita, 7050 Dexter-Ann Arbor Rd., Dexter. 424-0525.Mon.-Sat. 6 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.-8 p.m. www.stucchisofdexter.com, www.bearclawcoffee.com, www.mrpita.com
John Nagel divides his day between doing people’s taxes and selling them summer sausage. Last fall, he opened Nagel’s Meat Processing Co. on Main Street. He runs his accounting practice out of the back of the store. So far the arrangement’s working out well. He works in the back until he hears the bell ring, indicating someone’s entered the front door, then he figuratively takes off his accountant’s visor and puts on his butcher’s apron.
The store carries eight kinds of beef jerky including hickory-smoked, mesquite-smoked, and teriyaki, along with other meats like bacon, bologna, and summer sausage–plus a variety of cheeses. But he says that his biggest seller is the smoked, cooked, and cured beef leg bone for dogs.
Nagel, fifty-three, got into the retail meat business with his three younger brothers, who own a meatpacking plant in Homer. They make a full line of cooked and smoked meats there, luring people from far and wide. “What I am is just a satellite store for them,” he says. It’s a trial run, and more stores may be in the works.
Nagel says he’s toying with the idea of running the store full time someday but doesn’t know if that’s realistic. “I think I’ll be a CPA until they put me in a home,” he laughs. For now, if he’s working in the back past the closing hour, he’ll be glad to answer the door and sell you some meat.
Nagel’s Meat Processing Co., 8071 Main, Dexter. 426-2629. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed Sun.
The Original Alpha Coney Island in Dexter Crossing is under new management. Owner Nick Stamatopoulos, who opened the restaurant in mid-2007, sold the business to Vangjel Shyti at the end of last year. Stamatopoulos’s family owns a small chain of Coney Island restaurants in the area, but Dexter’s was one too many. “It’s too much work,” he says. We have to concentrate on [our other places].” He’s currently managing the outlet in Jackson.
Shyti’s no stranger to Coney dogs. He’s owned Western Coney and Grill in the Detroit suburb of Eastpointe for more than ten years. He plans to leave the Alpha’s menu pretty much as is, with a few minor tweaks that include nightly dinner specials like baked chicken, ribs, and steak, and 99c Coney dogs all day Monday through Friday.
The Original Alpha Coney Island, 7049 Dexter-Ann Arbor Road (Dexter Crossing), Dexter. 424-0900. Mon.-Sat. 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.-3 p.m.