As the proud new owner of Saginaw’s historic Old Town Junction, builder & proprietor Tony Krasinski has achieved what many thought to be impossible. With a remarkable degree of commitment, persistence, and faithful dedication towards his vision, the immaculate restoration of one of Old Town Saginaw’s iconic businesses offers a blueprint for the realization of possibilities.
When it was first developed by original owners Tom, Randy, and Becky Keene back in 1981, the Old Town Junction set the standard for uniquely designed eateries and taverns populating the Old Town business district of Saginaw’s West Side. Closed since 2014, the iconic ‘caboose’ the Keene’s transported and retro-fitted as a dining car when they first opened in the ‘80s sat in gross disrepair over the past six years, leading many to believe that the building would need to be leveled.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, Krasinski was fueled with a commitment and vision that most would shy away from. “Me and my brother, along with my father like to pick up old houses, restore, and flip them in order to help with disabled or low-income individuals,” explains Tony. “We like to take something that’s bad and make it good. I’ve wanted to own a tavern and restaurant since I was 19-years old, so when the former owners abandoned the building, I tried to obtain it through the courts.”
“Because I’m a licensed builder, my brother and I did 90 percent of the work, apart from the plumbing, electrical, and stuff like that,” he continues. “There was a lot of rotted wood so our top priority was to preserve the outside of the structure, because to replace that would be astronomical. We utilized a lot of metal to protect it for 30 years and all the wood flooring had to be replaced. The inside was littered with graffiti from someone who was apparently living inside while it was abandoned, so without doubt this is one of the biggest construction challenges I’ve ever faced.”
“I’m not one who likes to cut corners and believe in doing things right, so when approaching the restoration I was aiming for a more ‘industrial’ train-look, which I believe we managed to pull off,” he reflects. “Both the inside and outside pays homage to what the Junction was back when it first appeared in the 1980s, yet it also has a contemporary feel.”
When asked about his vision for the Junction, Tony says he’s trying to restore that old ‘Cheers’ type component of building a tavern where his staff knows the people coming to frequent it. “I think lot of bars and restaurants cater to people, but don’t really get to know their customers in a meaningful way. I want to bring that back. Hopefully, this summer the rest of the tavern proprietors in Old Town will start working with me to restore the Old Town District with that type of excitement that existed back when the old raft races were going on in the ‘80s. I was raised nine blocks from here and was inspired by this building back when I was ten years old doing my newspaper route.”
Keeping in line with his vision of blending the past with the present, for his entertainment Tony intends to bring Karaoke and Trivia night back, as well as featuring live musical solo and duo artists along with small bands. On Wednesdays he intends to feature Andy Coulouris & Tim Barocco; and Fridays will offer Karaoke and DJ’s. Saturday will be Trivia Night and also feature DJ’s. Tony says people can check out the Junction’s Facebook page for each week’s entertainment updates.
Most impressive is the state-of-the-art sound system Tony has spared no expense installing at the newly restored Old Town Junction. “I believe we have one of the best sound systems of any bar or club in the region,” he states. “We have a massive surround sound system in six or seven different zones so whatever floor and whatever level you are on, everywhere you go it sounds great, so you never lose any presence.”
“As for Thursday entertainment, that will be more Country oriented,” he notes “Nothing is set in stone yet, but we may also do different special events on Thursday one week each month. One of my personal friends is deaf, so we may set up one Thursday a month with special events or activities for them as well and do something different every Thursday, like Game Night. We do have a Sunday permit so if people want to book special events or Christmas parties they should definitely contact us.”
Indeed, one of the old colorful characters that used to populate the Junction back in its heyday was known as ‘Banana Dave’. “This past summer when we were in the heat of construction he would stop by every week asking when we were going to open,” smiles Tony. “Actually, I think I spent more time talking to curious people in the parking lot than I did working sometimes.”
As for their food and menu items, the Old Town Junction always sustained a reputation for offering some of the best prepared concoctions in the region, which Tony vows to maintain. “I’ve got all the recipes from the Junction’s original menu, so we intend to feature many of its historically most popular items such as the Cow Catcher and Chili Platter; plus we’ll be featuring real chicken wings instead of frozen wings, and we’ll put a little more flare into a few things, like offering Cabbage Rolls and genuine authentic meatballs and pasta. We’ve removed a few things from the menu that never sold that well before and adding a few new items to test them out. We’ll have the kitchen open from 11 am until 10 pm and then shift into more of the evening entertainment focus,” he notes.
Possessing one of the coolest patio decks in the region, which spans several levels, Tony invested considerable resources into not only restoring the patio but expanding it. “We extended the deck by 10 more feet and also connected it to the back, so now it wraps around the side,” he explains. “We also added a cement patio with a tent. The Fire Marshall says we can accommodate 110 people outside on our massive deck area.”
Right now Tony says he has about 20 employees all together, plus he is not a novice when it comes to the food business. “I used to manage several Pizza Huts back when I was 18 to 20 years old so have a familiarity with the food business,” he notes. “I know how to hire the right people and the right cooks because I’m more of a problem solver than anything. I know where to find the people I need to get things done. Every department knows that if they need something all they have to do is contact me. I’m the middle man in that sense - I make it happen.”
Tony says the Old Town Junction will operate from 11 am - 2 am Monday through Saturday and close on Sunday. “I’m in negotiations with SVRC Industries who work with helping disabled people find jobs to see if they can come in on Sundays to handle deep cleaning,” he explains. “We clean the tavern every day because I’m a clean freak, but for now Sunday will be our day of rest.”
Since his re-opening Tony says he’s been floored by the awesome following. “It’s amazing how many people walked in even before we opened,” he reflects. “The sheriff, police and Fire Marshall have all been wonderful, pointing out things we could do better even before our inspections. The city has been great and the building inspector has been awesome.”
“It’s incredibly gratifying to witness so much support and commitment coming from our community.”
The Old Town Junction is located at 410 Mackinaw Street on the corner of Mackinaw and Hamilton. You can reach them by phoning 989.401.4066.