Loreen McCalla opened Loreen’s Village Cafe in the former Lighthouse Cafe space on Main Street in June. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say she reopened her business for the second time. McCalla opened the first Loreen’s Village Cafe in 1986 across the street in the space now occupied by the Red Brick Kitchen and Bar. She says she first had to move because she was too successful. “I had them lined up out the door and down the street, so the landlord tripled the rent,” she says. So in 1993 she bought two buildings on the north side of the street, combined them, and moved there.
When McCalla sold the business in 1999 and retired to Florida, the new owners renamed it the Lighthouse Cafe. But it turns out retirement didn’t agree with McCalla, now sixty-six: “I opened three restaurants [in Florida] because I was bored.” She eventually sold two of them, and her daughter runs the third.
When the Lighthouse Cafe went out of business last winter, McCalla came back to Dexter and reopened Loreen’s Village Cafe. She says she doesn’t plan to stick around full time because she still wants to keep her hand in at her Florida restaurant. “I’m staying here until I get it going good. Then I’ll travel between them.”
McCalla, who was born and raised in Dexter, says the restaurant has “a very, very patriotic theme.” She used to decorate her Florida restaurants with American flags and posters honoring the armed forces on holidays–“but when 9/11 happened, I never took them back down.” She’s decorated Loreen’s in the same way to honor her three brothers, all of whom served in the military. She also has complimentary copies of the U.S. Constitution on every table so people can read them while they eat.
Loreen’s serves breakfast and lunch. “I do breakfast and lunch really well,” McCalla explains. “I’ll leave dinner to people who do it well.”
Loreen’s Village Cafe, 8124 Main. 426-2255. Daily 6 a.m.-2 p.m.
Amy Bulszewicz, (who likes to go by her nickname, Al) became the first official Aubree’s Pizzeria & Grill franchisee when she opened her new restaurant in the former North Point Seafood and Steakhouse space on Main Street in late July. It was supposed to be a soft opening, she says, but “Dexter was so apparently ready for a business like this that we’ve been doing gangbusters from day one.” Bill and Sandee French opened the original Aubree’s in Ypsilanti’s Depot Town thirty-six years ago and now have three other corporately owned locations as well, in Northville, Ypsi Township, and in remote Marquette, in the Upper Peninsula.
Amy Bulszewicz, fifty-two, got involved with Aubree’s by way of her previous business, a construction company. “We’ve worked with the French family doing renovations on a couple of locations,” she says. “We thought Dexter would be an awesome place for an Aubree’s.” The menu includes pizzas starting at $7.99, sandwiches starting at $8.99, and appetizers starting at $4.99. There’s also a full bar.
As busy as Aubree’s is, don’t expect to see Bulszewicz flurrying around the dining room. “I’m behind the scenes,” she says. Asked if she had any previous restaurant experience, she pauses, then laughs at the memory of her one brief encounter with the food service industry–one that didn’t pan out. “Half an hour at Chi-Chi’s. Does that count?”
Aubree’s Pizzeria & Grill, 8031 Main. 424-1400. Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m -11 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m.-midnight, Sun. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. aubrees.com
Carolyn Crawford is closing Dexter Card & Gift after a twelve-year run. She says she’s closing for “multiple reasons” and laughs–“the economy being one. I also have minor health issues.” Those issues have made it increasingly difficult to run the business alone–she’s never had any employees, and she can’t do the heavy lifting required to lug boxes around.
Before buying the shop from the previous owners in 1999, Crawford worked as a manager in the food service department at St. Joseph’s Hospital. She says she took a flyer on retail because “they were getting rid of all us middle managers.”
Crawford, fifty-nine, says she tried to sell the store but couldn’t find a buyer. “So I’m going to close it September thirtieth. Maybe it’s meant to be. I’m sad, I’m very sad, but I think it’s what has to happen.”
Dexter Card & Gift, 8106 Main. 426-4991. Hours through September: Mon.-Thurs. 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Sun.