, an anchor of Ypsilanti's Depot Town since the 1980s, is opening a Northville location and possibly one in Wyandotte as the family owned eatery takes advantage of low real estate prices to acquire ready-to-occupy restaurant spaces.
Bob Roberts, director of operations and a part-owner of the Northville restaurant, said the plan is to open on Sept. 21 - and hiring starts today.
The Northville building, built in 2006, used to be an Uno's Chicago Grill, but it has been vacant for almost a year, Roberts said.
of our strategy, with the economy being what it is, is to find
full-service buildings in great locations where there was just a poor
operator or the wrong concept," he said.
He discovered the property by accident on his way back from a trade event in Novi, he said. He stopped to see what other restaurants were doing, noticed the eatery was closed, and started talking to nearby tenants.
"Before I left the parking lot, I was on the phone with the property owner," Roberts said.
Aubree's had attempted expansion in the past, opening a pizza delivery restaurant on Washtenaw Avenue in Pittsfield Township several years ago. That location closed, and Roberts said the company realized it didn't want to compete with national chain pizza delivery operations.
"What we found is that we liked the business that a full-service place generates, as opposed to a place that's pickup and delivery," Roberts said. "We have no intention of getting into the five-dollar, hot-and-ready environment."
In fact, appealing to a wide range of customers throughout the day is the model Aubree's plans to use to attract constant business in the down economy.
Roberts said the restaurant is a "chameleon," catering to the business and blue-collar crowd with a lunch buffet, switching to an early happy hour, then to a family-oriented dinner venue, and then finally to a late-night pub for a younger audience.
The Northville restaurant will have an employee ownership component, with Roberts and Andy French, longtime employees, having an ownership stake. The larger investors are Aubree's founder Bill French and Robert's brother Don Roberts.
Bob Roberts has been with Aubree's for 10 years, working his way up from bartender to director of operations.
Besides the Depot Town restaurant, Aubree's has a location in Marquette and one on Whittaker Road in Ypsilanti Township, and Roberts said it has an offer on a building in Wyandotte.
Andy French estimated the total investment in the new Northville restaurant will be between $600,000 and $700,000. He said the furniture, fixtures and equipment were under a bank lien, allowing for an affordable purchase price. The restaurant in Wyandotte, a former Damon's, is in the same situation.
"There are some opportunities in the economy, with great restaurants and great locations that we're able to buy into without risking millions of dollars," he said.
Meanwhile, to restaurant will be the site of a job fair is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at 20420 Haggerty, south of 8 Mile, and 125 employees -- a mix of full- and part-time -- will be hired. Roberts said the company plans to hire workers on the spot.
Photo by Robert Ramey | Aubree's chief operating officer Bob Roberts, left, and chief financial officer Andy French.
Freelance reporter Dan Meisler can be reached at email@example.com.