A revolving door for restaurants: Cafe Mosaic looks to bring stability to Main Street

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Harbor Dog and Sliders, previously located at 325 W. Main St. in Benton Harbor, was open for nearly a year before it closed in 2015. The site will be soon be occupied by Cafe Mosaic. (HP file photo)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON HARBOR — The bright red building in the heart of Benton Harbor is hard to miss.

With the roof meeting at a point, almost steeple-like, there’s also a towering sign adjacent to the structure with the letters F-O-O-D running vertically down either side for anyone traveling the speed limit to know what is sold there.

The building has had several incarnations since it was erected in the 1930s, but lately not many have found success at the location for more than a couple years.

Cafe Mosaic hopes to break that trend as it plans the move to its new home at 325 W. Main St.

Ric Pawloski, executive director of the nonprofit Mosaic Christian Community Development Association, said Mosaic Resale Store opened in Benton Township in 2010. When the resale store relocated to 510 W. Main Street in 2012, Cafe Mosaic debuted.

He predicts the cafe will be just fine at the new location.

Mosaic has until the end of July 2017 to move out of the building it is renting. Whirlpool Corp. bought the building a couple years ago to make way for more parking for its Riverview Campus.

“The cafe will be more stable here because we own the building,” Pawloski said.

The building at 325 Main St. has been home to several diners over the years, from King Kong Xpress – the most recent eatery – to Bonnie’s Breakfast Nook, the All American Diner and Harbor Dogs & Sliders.

For a number of years dating back to the 1950s and into the early 1970s, Bob’s Snappy Service was a mainstay.

Greg Vaughn, chief operating officer and vice president of business development at Cornerstone Alliance, recalls that business having a loyal following.

Vaughn said they were known by many of their customers as the place to go for a hearty breakfast and easily recognized by the iconic neon sign in front of the building.

Harbortown Cafe was in the location for about three years in the mid 2000s, with Cornerstone Alliance assisting the owners to figure out financing.

Willy Lark, owner of Lark’s Bar-B-Que, began his business out of 440 W. Main St. – a block down from the location that’s served as a revolving door for restaurants and diners.

While they moved further away in 2013, Lark said he’s seen several businesses go through the building over the past 20 years.

“I’ve seen a lot of them come through there, but the only one I really remember was Bonnie’s,” Lark said. “Bonnie’s was mostly a breakfast stop. I liked them.”

King Kong Xpress opened in mid-December 2015, but closed after only about a year.

Harbor Dogs and Sliders opened July 2014, after getting word the previous June that the location was available. Three business partners came up with a business plan in six weeks before closing on the sale.

But it also closed after about a year.

Harbor Dogs wasn’t the first purveyor of hot dogs to land in the building. According to Herald-Palladium archives, the All American Diner opened in October 2003. The restaurant offered 99-cent hot dogs, Chicago-style on Mondays and Detroit-style dogs on Wednesdays.

Vaughn predicts Mosaic will buck the trend because it has proven its ability to operate successfully in the downtown.

“They know the market, and like most of the existing eateries in downtown Benton Harbor, they have a following that will likely increase at their new location,” Vaughn wrote in an email. “They should continue this success in this landmark building, especially now that Whirlpool has added over 1,000 employees with the completion of their third building at the Riverview Campus just down the street.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 20, 2016)

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