June 15 2016 12:22 AM

Fresh Fish & Fry / Mr. Taco / Bloom Coffee Co.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign. At least that’s the way it seems along the 3100 block of South Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, where two signs — one new and one old — made a big splash earlier this month.

Two weeks ago, Fresh Fish and Fry, a you-buywe-fry seafood and chicken shop, erected a sign that could easily be misconstrued as a name change for the 13-year-old business. But manager Wayne Haddad said his family was simply hitching to popular sentiment when they decided to put up the new sign, which features a picture of a cartoon chick beneath the store’s nickname, Crack Chicken.

“People come in looking lost and ask that same question every day,” Haddad said. “They say, ‘Is this the crack chicken place?’ Now with the new sign, they won’t have to ask anymore.”

That sign advertises the store’s star menu item, which, interestingly enough, isn’t actually the chicken. It’s the seasoning, a secret family recipe of herbs, spices and oils — including black pepper, lemon peel, sunflower seed oil and cane sugar — that make the fried food as addictive as, well, crack.

“We started selling the seasoning separately about six months ago, but it hasn’t slowed down sales,” Haddad said. “It’s all there in the ingredients.”

If the Crack Chicken sign has gotten people to stop asking questions, the Mr. Taco sign two doors down has had the opposite effect. Last week, a vintage sign featuring the mustachioed, sombrero-clad, anthropomorphized taco was installed in front of 3122 S. Martin Luther King Jr., the site of the original Mr. Taco. Its reappearance marks a big step forward for owner Bill Bonofiglo, who vowed last year that the restaurant would reopen.

In an email to City Pulse, Bonofiglo said the decision to put up the signs, a part of the restaurant’s ongoing restoration, was hastened when he lost access to the warehouse he had been storing them in.

“They are expensive and somewhat fragile, and we did not want to transport them,” Bonofiglo said. “The best place to put them was where they belong.”

Mr. Taco was started in that location in 1967 by Bonofiglo’s father, Eugene Bonofiglo, and two business partners. Three additional stores opened over the years, but they eventually closed, one by one. The last one, on Lansing’s west side, shuttered 10 years ago, at which point Bill Bonofiglo, who had taken over the business, put the four signs in storage and moved to Grand Rapids.

In May 2015, Bonofiglo announced that he intended to reopen the original restaurant. He started a private Facebook group that, for the last 13 months, has generated outpours of both support and frustration from customers looking for solid answers. Bonofiglo said that funding has taken longer than anticipated, and he’s performed interior and exterior renovation work on the building himself.

“There are many moving parts to bringing back a Lansing icon that has been closed for over a decade,” Bonofiglo said. “However, reaching the milestone of handing lenders the right documents has been met.”

Bonofiglo said he hasn’t signed an agreement yet but has been working with the Small Business Development Center, the Lansing Economic Area Partnership and multiple lenders to reach a solution. For his part, Bonofiglo is perfectly happy being an object lesson for aspiring entrepreneurs.

“We sincerely hope the rebirth of Mr. Taco has contributed (to the) public awareness of how these entities work together to help a new business open in Lansing,” Bonofiglo said. “I think many people have gained insight by having a front row seat on just how expensive and what a huge undertaking a project like this is.”

With nothing concrete, and an opening date far from established, the timing of the sign erection seems to be a morale boost for the nearly 8,000 members of the Facebook group.

“(They) share kind things such as past memories, anticipation, things they like the most,” Bonofiglo said. “Past employees reunite. People help me find resources. They understand how hard we work and understand our commitment is real. I think what matters most is (the sign) makes a lot of people smile.”

In Bloom

Bloom Coffee Roasters Café will have a “sneak opening” on July 1, four days ahead of its July 5 grand opening. The new cafe, 1236 Turner St. in Lansing’s Old Town neighborhood, will feature its own brand of coffee, which is roasted on-site, as well as pastries from Groovy Donuts in Williamston and the Masonbased Glory Bee Sweet Treats.

The July 1 opening will have hours of 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and was planned to line up with the Arts Council of Greater Lansing’s next Arts Night Out event. When Bloom opens on July 5, regular hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Fresh Fish & Fry/Crack Chicken 3140 S. MLK Blvd. Lansing 10 a.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday; 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday (517) 882-7007, freshfishandfry.weebly.com

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