Well, today’s the day: Oct. 21st, 2015, the date Marty McFly got a peek at his density (er, destiny) in “Back to the Future Part II.” And while some of the movie’s predictions came true — touch screens, hands-free gaming, ubiquitous flat screen TVs — the real 2015 suffers from a lamentable lack of flying cars and (sigh) hoverboards. Interestingly, the last month has been a blend of good news and bad about local longstanding businesses, as well as a recent addition that you might not be ready for yet, but your kids are going to love.
A time traveler from the late 1800s might recognize Kositchek’s, which commemorates a century and a half of business this week with a sesquicentennial anniversary bash (see page 11). Another familiar sight would be the Lansing Brewing Co. and its flagship brew, Amber Cream Ale, which reappears on the local landscape after 101 years with a grand re-opening Thursday (see page 12).
Skip ahead a little bit on the timeline and we come to Emil’s Restaurant, which started as a sidewalk produce stand on Michigan Avenue in 1921. Owner Paul Grescowle, grandson of founder Emil DeMarco, announced last week that he’ll relinquish the title of Lansing’s oldest restaurant on Oct. 30 when he closes for good.
“It’s bittersweet, for sure, but it’s time,” Grescowle said.
“I’m not old, but I’m not getting younger.”
In June, developer Scott Gillespie completed his purchase of all the buildings on the south side of the 2000 Block of Michigan Avenue, of which Emil’s sits smack in the middle. At the time, Grescowle, 58, welcomed his new landlord with open arms, and said he had no plans to close. But he says the combination of long hours and the prospect of having to commit to a three-year lease led him to make his decision.
“It’s just not as fun as it used to be,” he said. “Every time I turn around there’s a new restaurant. It’s getting harder (to compete).”
Grescowle will bring the family business full circle (sort of) this fall when he debuts Emil’s Too, a specialty food stand at the Allen Market Place. Items will include packaged versions of Grescowle’s family recipes of Alfredo, marinara and diablo sauces, as well as the minestrone, chicken tortellini and bean soups. He’ll also sell frozen versions of some of Emil’s signature dishes, including lasagna and cannelloni.
*** In 1934, Milton Pierce created a rudimentary burglar alarm out of an old brake drum he found at a dump in Detroit and Guardian Alarm was born. Ten years later, two brothers moved their blacksmith shop to 222 S. Grand Ave. in downtown Lansing and became Hack’s Key Shop. Today, Guardian Alarm is the largest security company in North America, while Hack’s will soon undergo its first bit of growth since the Roosevelt administration under its third owner, Diana Engman. Engman recently partnered with Guardian to begin selling and installing its home security systems, and this winter she’ll move her locksmith shop to 1009 S. Washington Ave. in the blossoming REO Town district.
The 8,000-square-foot space will allow Engman to expand her digital security device offerings and display her latest product, commercial doors, on a new showroom floor. She may sell or lease the old building but will maintain a presence in it for now to make sure she doesn’t lose Hack’s regular customer base.
We Love Kids N Dogs inside Meridian Mall may sound like a quaint knickknack shop, but it’s becoming a de facto incubator for budding inventors and engineers. In addition to selling balance bikes, locally made pet toys and educational children’s games and activities, it also puts screwdrivers and wrenches in the hands of kids between the ages of 2 and 15 and lets them take apart mechanical objects to see how they work.
Joe Rabideau is a lifelong tinkerer who opened the store last year with his daughter, Melissa Allen, and son-in-law, Chris Allen. Last month, the three moved across the mall into a space more than quadruple its starting size, kittycorner from Schuler Books & Music. Rabideau built a two-story tree house inside, parked an antique truck front and center, and Melissa started holding workshops geared for kids growing up in an insular world of touch screens, hands-free gaming and ubiquitous flat screen TVs.
“Kids just don’t have the kind of exposure to tools and hands-on learning like I had when I was growing up,” Rabideau said. “That kind of learning is going away. But when you’re working with things with your hands, it creates inquisitiveness.”
From 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, We Love Kids N Dogs will host a Halloween party with a pet costume contest, treats, games and in-store specials. And yes, grown-ups are welcome, too.
We Love Kids N Dogs (inside Meridian Mall) 1982 W. Grand River Ave., Suite 321, Okemos 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon-6 p.m. Sunday (517) 233-1524, welovekidsndogs.com