By Meg Dedyne
Listen Up, Lansing staff reporter
Tucked behind the main drag of downtown Lansing is Weston’s Kewpee Sandwich Shoppe, home of the Oliveburger. According to locals, it is the cozy restaurant around the
corner where people come to be greeted by the same faces everyday. And according to those from out of town, their food is a must-have.
Resident of East Lansing Nicole Namy said that she used to be a page runner for the House of Representatives at the Michigan State Capitol.
“Kewpees has the best french fries, sandwiches and burgers,” Namy said. “It seems like they have a perfect location too where it kind of stands out next to the mainstream businesses.”
According to Namy, the majority of the time, the representatives chose Kewpees as the spot to send her for lunch. During session, the representatives from out of town always had a craving for their Oliveburger.
“I love that their restaurant isn’t a chain,” Namy said. “It has been there for forever so it seems like it is a family-owned restaurant.”
It is indeed a family restaurant, according to the owner, Autumn Weston. She is the fourth-generation owner of this family-style diner, which has been open since 1923. Kewpees is located just around the corner from the Capitol building, making it an easy lunch spot for business people.
“I love coming to work everyday because I get to see the same friendly faces and some new ones too,” Weston said. “We always strive for great customer service, because it’s relationships that make our business succeed.”
According to Weston, the customers that come in are mostly regulars that come in a few times a week. She also sees the same business people and those who work at the Capitol on a regular basis.
Although Kewpees thrives on its small family business status, Weston said she is concerned about there not being enough restaurants and stores downtown to draw people here.
“It would be nice if there were different attractions downtown,” Weston said. “It’s great when there are festivals and special events, but especially at night it can be kind of dead around here.”
Weston said that they are grateful to their regulars and those who keep coming back for their favorite burger or meal.
Skyin Yin is a resident of Lansing and said she has a great dining experience whenever she goes to eat somewhere downtown.
“I live very close to downtown Lansing and I feel as though I can always satisfy my craving
for something different,” Yin said. “I go to the Firefly Hot Yoga a lot and I always see people eating in Kewpees and other restaurants. It always seems busy to me.”
According to Yin, the residents of Lansing are attracted to family-owned businesses because the food tastes like it is a family meal and it is more natural for the owners to make friends with the community.
If a small business or restaurant is running an efficient operation, they won’t have trouble attracting a large customer base, according to Sugato Bhattacharyya, associate professor of finance at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
“It all depends on where the location is too. If the restaurant is located near a college campus or a smaller town or a bigger city; it all makes a difference in the specialization of clientele,” Bhattacharyya said. “It depends on how it is focused.”
According to Bhattacharyya, smaller restaurant financing is typical for a restaurant such as Kewpees. Banks will make forecasts that are dependable and loans are especially important to keep small businesses running.
“I think what attracts me most to Kewpees is the fact that you can get a burger all day long. Not many restaurants will serve their own, original menu like they do,” said Michael-Daly Martin, intern at the House of Representatives. “I think an area with so much diversity needs options like this.”
According to Daly-Martin restaurants like Kewpees are what keeps Lansing going.
“It’s those shops and restaurants that stand out and keep the revitalization efforts going that will keep Lansing such a vibrant place,” Daly-Martin said. “Kewpees offers that warm feeling with great food and a great atmosphere.”