BY BRIAN RZEPPA
After a fire wiped away the building that was home to Herb Garden and Violeta’s Tailoring, the building’s owners are looking to bring it back better than ever at some point next year.
Purchasing the building in the late 1990s, the Callis family was struck with a few heavy blows during the later portion of last year. Serafim Callis, the patriarch of the family, died in July and just a few months later the building went up in flames.
Kostas Callis, who will be operating the new Trenton site and also runs the Auburn Cafe in Ecorse, noted that the fire, while very damaging, could have been much worse.
“After my father passed away my mother sold their house and she stored a lot of stuff in the building because her new place wasn’t ready to move in yet, Callis said. “When the fire happened we were devastated thinking that all of these heirlooms would be completely destroyed.”
“We later found out that the spot that had all of my mom’s things wasn’t all that affected by the fire. My mom was heartbroken though and I was heartbroken for her, but thankful that no one was hurt.”
Working through the grief of the losses that they had suffered over the year, the Callis family made the decision to begin plans to rebuild on the site and to open a to-go version of the Auburn Cafe right on King Road.
“We had reached out to the previous tenants and they had gone in different directions, so we had no tenants and had to think of what to do. I talked with my wife and my mom and we came to the idea of trying to put the restaurant there. We tried a long time ago in the late 90s, but with the success we’ve had in Ecorse I think people will really enjoy this one.”
Residents of the Downriver area have been patrons of the Auburn Cafe for years and have been excited to hear the news that a location would be moving closer to home next year. The menu has something for everyone, but Callis feels it should appeal to the lunch crowd the most.
“The spot in Ecorse is a very big lunch destination Monday-Thursday in the area,” he said. “It gets very busy with the industrial employees in the vicinity, I suspect with the businesses around here that the lunch items will be popular here, too. Our salads, chicken salad, gyro salad and shrimp salad, as well as our sandwiches should be popular.”
After announcing their plans for a Trenton expansion, Callis noted that the feedback has been overwhelming and has confirmed that he made the right decision.
“Almost all of the feedback we have received has been excitement about having access to our food closer to home.”
While some have objected to the fact that it will not be a full-service sit-down restaurant, Callis says that it was a calculated decision in regards to the dining and lifestyles of people in recent years.
“The move toward a more to-go restaurant was intentional,” he said. “With people staying home more frequently throughout the week, we can give them access to food through delivery or them stopping in. Now they don’t have to go out to enjoy shish-kabob or lamb chops. A lot of the people that go into the restaurant now say that if we were a little closer they would have gotten carry out, so now we’re giving them that opportunity.”
The various planning, construction and approval processes will likely delay the opening of the Auburn Cafe until around Easter of next year, but people within the city are already showing excitement for it.
“The building we’ll construct will be approximately 6,500 to 7,000 square feet with Auburn counting for around 2,000 square feet. We’re talking to businesses already to rent the other three units of the building and we think they’ll complement the restaurant. People are anxious to see this property become an appealing building; it’s going to stand out.”
Being able to rebuild and provide Trenton with another exceptional restaurant option is something that appeals to Callis, but his goals for the building as a whole and the business it can generate go beyond revenue.
“My dad purchased the building to supplement his retirement, but it was also to expand on his legacy as something he could leave to me and that I could leave to my children. We could have just taken the insurance money, but I wanted to rebuild and make this a really prime area so I could leave it to my children and create a legacy for the heirs.”