“Northern Initiatives took a chance on us. I think they recognized that no matter what,
we’d make it happen.” – Chris Bair, owner of Roz’s Diner
Roz’s Diner, owned by Chris Bair in Rosebush, Michigan is small in stature, but large in popularity. At just 850 square feet, this diner has only been open since mid-December 2015, but has already captured the hearts of locals and travelers on nearby U.S. Route 127.
The roots for the Diner run deep. In 2007, Chris lost his mother, Roz, to cancer. He wanted to honor her substantial role in the Rosebush community and knew the perfect tribute: a family-style diner. It would be a community gathering place serving locally sourced food and it would feel like home. It was a good fit; between them, Chris and wife, Megan, had 20 years of food service experience. Chris had been a chef for large corporate clients and was accustomed to planning menus and serving 5000 meals a week.
In 2008, Chris shared his idea of a diner with townspeople and received resounding positive feedback. In 2009, he realized a vacant building downtown would be the perfect location. He initiated a Kickstarter campaign and again, the community rallied. Over $10,000 was raised on this platform. Chris added his own capital, purchased the building (Rosebush’s first commercial bank), and began to transform it.
Defining ‘sweat equity’, Chris either did or organized most of the general labor. For four years, he gutted, jackhammered, and demolished – many times working alongside community volunteers. In fact, the volunteer fire crew trained on power tools as they tore out floors. He jokes, “People kept stopping by and saying, ‘Chris, what’s taking so long?’ I’d be covered in cement dust and answer, ‘What do you think?’
Once the structure was ready, it was finally time to outfit the restaurant and launch the business. Although he had built equity in the building, his financing needs did not meet traditional lending criteria. A local lender suggested Chris contact Northern Initiatives and shortly thereafter, financing for equipment and working capital was secured. Chris says, “Northern Initiatives took a chance on us. I think they recognized that no matter what, we’d make it happen.”
And they did. They turned a vacant downtown building into a welcoming, community-centered restaurant – a place that honors Roz and feels like home. It offers delicious food sourced locally whenever possible. They serve on average 180 people on a given Sunday with 10-15 people waiting for their turns at a table. Open for breakfast through late lunch six days a week, they can’t keep up with demand. Now the question has become, “When are you going to serve dinner?”
Roz’s Diner Impacts
- Jobs Created: 4 Full Time 2 Part Time
- Revitalized a downtown building
- Launched a new business