Swede's turkey melt sandwich.
If you want to take a bite out of a piece of history, grab a seat at the bar of this miniature diner past Grand Ledge on M43 in the Village of Mulliken, Michigan. The somewhat lumpy yet supportive diner stool was installed in 1946 and hasn’t been reupholstered once.
Swede’s Restaurant is a remarkably preserved slice of Americana owned by the same family for generations. The handmade wooden booths were also installed in the 1940s. An old timestamp machine is still in use by the staff to clock hours. Perhaps the only thing pulling the place out of the mid-century aesthetic is a credit card machine.
The original stools are still in use by Swede's.
Lois Godreau has been a waitress at Swede’s for 36 years and wouldn’t trade the job for the world, she said.
“This is a treasure. You don’t see diners like this open anymore. It is all big chains and fast food.”
This tenacity for keeping things original carries down to the food with hearty pot roasts, homemade soups and classic diner sandwiches from scratch.
“As far as I’m concerned, you can have a great waitress or waiter, but the food is number one,” Godreau said. “We care about our food, our place and try to keep it the way it is supposed to be. We all care and want this place to stay like this.”
Swede’s has been owned by the Piercefield family since 1978. Eaton county commissioner and current owner Rob Piercefield has worked there for 40 years.
“About 99 percent of our food is made from scratch. We don’t use any mixes whatsoever,” he said.
Swede’s founder Erik ‘Swede’ Hultberg moved out in this area to work on the construction of M43 when it was paved from a dirt road, Piercefield said. “Eventually, he decided it was easier to flip burgers than to pour cement.”
Piercefield has vivid memories eating there as a child in the ‘60s and working there as a dishwasher throughout high school.
“Not only is it part of the community but it’s a philosophy,” Piercefield said. “Everyone knows what we do in the community and it’s a vehicle to do these things.”
Swede’s does a free Monday night supper service to four area churches throughout Sunfield, Mulliken and Grand Ledge. Piercefield estimates he’s served 200,000 meals with the program in the last ten years.
“I need to do that to make the community a better place to live. You have to participate,” Piercefield said.
But for Piercefield, there is comfort in knowing things won’t change at Swede’s.
“If you talk to people in our area, a lot of them might’ve had a date at Swede’s in the ‘50s and ‘60s. People who come can remember that.”
Monday to Friday, 5:30 a.m. to 7:15 p.m.
Saturday, 6 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.
Sunday, 7 a.m. to noon
89 W. Grand Ledge Hwy., Mulliken