After nearly half a century, the familiar smell of fresh fish and hot oil in Lansing’s Eastside Neighborhood is about to dissipate into the air above Michigan Avenue forever. Dave Miller, owner/operator of Fish & Chips, 2418 E. Michigan Ave., announced last week that he will close his 48-year-old restaurant Monday, April 30.
“I’m definitely going to miss it,” Miller said. “It’s fun for me, and I enjoy seeing all the good, regular people who come in. I know most people’s orders when they walk in the door. I’m like a bartender who knows what you drink.”
Miller started working there in 1970 when it was called Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips. He was 16, and just about to enter his junior year at Eastern High School. Through the second half of high school and a couple of years at Lansing Community College, he worked his way up from fry cook to manager, and eventually bought out the previous owner, Harold Bender, in 1988.
“Harold is a great guy and he’s been a great friend to me all these years,” Miller said. “We still have coffee together every morning here at the restaurant. I’m sure we’ll continue to do that, but probably at his house now. The coffee won’t be as good, but it’s the company that counts.”
Miller, 63, said he developed a fondness for fish as a kid when he used to eat out with his father between his two jobs. Fish was always the cheapest thing on the menu, Miller said and money was tight, so he always ordered that so as not to put a strain on his dad’s wallet.
“I just got accustomed to it, and it’s part of the reason I applied here in the first place,” Miller said. “I love fish and I still eat it every day. My wife kids me when we go out because I always get fish and chips to see how other places do it.”
Miller said business has slowed over the last 10 years as a downturned economy, a proliferation of other local dining options and a focus on healthier eating has lured his customer base away. But after news broke last week that he was closing the restaurant, Miller said business has been “off the charts.”
“It’s unbelievable how many people have come in within the last week telling me how much they love this place and how much they’ll miss us,” Miller said. “Some folks I hadn’t seen in a few years, and it was great to see them again. I understand that tastes change and that fish and fried food in general isn’t as popular as it used to be, but I think our food struck a chord with Lansing diners. It had its place.”
Miller said he’s not sure what will happen to the space. The building’s owner, Janet Carr, did not return a call for comment, but there’s an online listing for the building for a long-term, $1,658.25-per-month lease. Miller said he had no particular qualms with his work, but he just didn’t want to commit to another five to 15 years under the grease hoods.
“After 48 years, with the last 10 or so working seven days a week, I just want to relax for a bit,” Miller said. “My wife and I have some trips planned, including one to Jamaica, but I think I want to be bored for a minute.”
Fish & Chips (closes April 30) 2418 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily (517) 487-5774
CORRECTION: "Due to a typographical error, Dave Miller was incorrectly quoted as saying he had worked seven days a week for the last 20 years. He was actually quoted as saying he had worked that way for the last 10 years."