“The simpler the food, the harder it is to prepare well.
- Joel Robuchon • Restauranteur with the most Michelin stars in history
As the proud owner of Saginaw’s historic Old Town Junction, builder & proprietor Tony Krasinski believes that community involvement is essential for success. And now one year after first opening the doors of one of Old Town Saginaw’s most iconic and immaculately restored establishments, he has offered a blueprint for success that includes the essential ingredients of planning, preparation, consistency, and plenty of elbow grease - proving over the past year if you pay attention to the details, people will indeed come.
Located at 410 Mackinaw at the corner of South Hamilton, 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. After closing in 2014 the iconic train caboose that the Keene’s transported and retro-fitted as a dining car when they first opened rapidly deteriorated into gross disrepair over the next 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, fully renovating and repurposing the entire structure from top to bottom. Considering that the newly refurbished Old Town Junction re-opened in November, 2020, 9-months into the Pandemic, Krasinski didn’t know what to expect. But now as the Junction marks its inaugural anniversary, he is thankful that the first year of business exceeded his expectations.
“Honestly, I thought things might be slow, but the community and all our customers have been wonderful and understand all the precautions we constantly take to keep things safe, so everything came together much better than we anticipated.”
The months following their opening, Tony and the staff were able to tweak and adjust any rough spots to the point that within weeks of first opening vehicles consistently could be found filling their spacious parking lot and spilling into the street, even during traditionally slower evenings that fall mid-week.
In terms of goals that he’s striving to achieve as The Junction moves into its second year of business, at the top of the list is expanding the kitchen. “We are looking at different systems to expand our kitchen services outside by offering different types of Barbecue,” explains Tony.
“General Top & Trim is doing new curtains for outdoors that will be on rollers so that we can add service for 75 people in our outdoor pavilion. I would like to showcase a Movie Night where we can show a film inside and serve dinner with something special on the menu in the Summer. Plus, I’m working on an event coming up June 11th where we’ll close off the parking lot and feature bands and local vendors. We buy as much locally as we can.”
For the immediate future, one of the key features that The Junction is unveiling is a new Saturday Brunch that will be served from 8 AM until 2 PM. “We’ll be offering create-your-own Skillet Scrambles, where people can select their choice of proteins, veggies, and eggs prepared seven different ways, along with other savory and sweet brunch items such as pancakes with fruit toppings; plus, well feature a Bloody Mary and Mimosa Bar. All this will be served with Southern Style Hash Browns and Toast,” reveals Tony.
“I believe in taking baby steps when approaching something new, so once we get going with the Brunch we may expand it to Friday or maybe Sunday,” he notes. “Additionally, each time people order brunch and have their Brunch Card punched, they will get 5% off their next meal, similar to the way certain hotels and cruise ships operate. I like to get customers involved and so far the Saturday Brunch has gone over very well.”
“We are also changing our menu and adding more Daily Specials, along with more Soup selections,” he continues. “We’ve been offering Soups served with Bead Bowls that have proven popular, and gotten rid of a few things while adding many more to the menu, just to keep it fresh. I would like to try staring up Fish Fridays during the Lenten season, but haven’t decided yet what kind of fish I want to serve. I don’t like cheap products and want to make sure what we serve is consistent. I’m leaning towards offering two different kind of fish served on a gluten free bun. We went through 30 different kinds of gluten free buns to find the one we love that tastes right. Gluten free products are hard to make because they only stay fresh on the shelf so long.”
Two big events coming up at The Junction on Friday & Saturday, February 11th & 12th, is the Jack Frost Festival, followed by Superbowl Sunday on Feb. 13th, and Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14th. For the Jack Frost Festival snowmobilers and ice fishermen are welcome to get warm inside or outdoors on the Junction’s large heated deck and patrons can enjoy grilled bratwurst courtesy of WKQZ-93, along with barbecue chicken and burgers, drink specials, Music inside and out, along with Karaoke an DJ Music at 9 PM.
“I want people to notice new activities going on back down here in Old Town and am trying to get more business owners to grab on this and open their businesses back up during the day, especially on the weekends,” notes Tony. “Back in the day when the Pioneer Club was going everybody came down to Old Town, so I’m trying to act as a ringleader and get that momentum back.”
“With our Sueperbowl Sunday party people can come with family & friends to watch the big game on our big screens, and we’ll be running lots of food & drink specials,” continues Tony. “Pit & Balcony Theatre will be presenting the regional premier of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner that weekend, so if people bring in their ticket stub they can get a special discount. Then on Valentine’s Day Feb. 14th we’ll be offering a couples night, so we have a lot of different, exciting, and fun things to do in the line-up.”
“We are also featuring more live acoustical musical acts on the weekend in addition to Karaoke on Thursdays and I want to bring bigger bands to perform outdoors once the summer months roll around,” adds Tony. “I want to get more going on outside and also open it to private parties so people can hang outdoors and do their thing while we still do our own thing indoors. This summer I’d like to get a Caribbean and Reggae band outdoors where people can buy an all-you-can-eat-and-drink ticket and enjoy the music and eat some crawfish.”
“Right now I’m in contact with Covenant Healthcare about using their parking lot right now, because we don’t have enough parking down here right now, which limits our business,” states Tony. “People don’t want to walk three blocks to get to a restaurant and we need get the street lighting back down here. Ten years ago when the city redid the streets, sidewalks, and lighting down here on Old Town they didn’t include any lighting this far down on South Hamilton, so now that more activity is happening down here people need to see it. I am also working with the city on this”
“Essentially, I want to get the community at large more involved down here in Old Town and planning these types of events and proving they consistently work is important,” concludes Tony. “We’ve got a good group of staff and wonderful customers from Garber’s to Covenant that support us, so I’m very proud of the hometown niche that we’ve build down here.”
“It’s all about having fun and enjoying your life.”
9th February, 2024