Finishing touches under way
By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The opening of Riverfront Cafe on Front Street in downtown Niles may only be a few weeks away.
Tammy Watson and Gerri Klinck are the owners of what will be Niles' new coffee house and gift shop.
Watson said they hope to open for business by the second week of August.
Watson said Riverfront Cafe will contain a restaurant with focus on healthy foods, a community gathering room with internet hook-up and other standard conference room features that makes it ideal for businesses and community groups to have their meetings there.
It will also have an outdoor patio that seats at least 80 people, and a gift shop, she said.
Watson said from what she has heard people are excited to make use of the outdoor patio.
Watson said the cafe will regularly feature local artists, musicians and will have a baby grand piano people can use at will.
Well-known local artist Nancy Drew and members of her family have already agreed to be Riverfront Cafe's first featured artists, she said.
Watson said the tail end of all projects are currently going on within the building, and construction workers are working on the cafe's outdoor patio that will be located on the corner of Front and Sycamore streets.
The kitchen, however, is already completed and Watson said they will start experimenting to come up with a menu for the restaurant sometime next week.
Watson said things have gone rather smoothly considering the amount of work that needed to be done in the building, most commonly referred to as H.I.'s.
H.I.'s was a popular restaurant and gathering point, especially known for its elaborate holiday decorations. It closed in the early 1990s.
Gerri Klinck said the renovation project has gone well and she is glad to see the building turn out the way she and Watson envisioned it.
The two have tried to hire local contractors for the renovation project to keep as much business in the community as possible, but have had to rely on some businesses located outside the community for special projects.
She said they have had to make a few changes from their original plan, not uncommon when restoring older buildings.
Tony Short, who works for Poppies, a local carpenter company, has worked on restoration projects for the last 12 years.
Short said like always, a restoration project is a challenge.
From what he has seen so far, Short thinks Riverfront Cafe will be a unique place in the area.
His son, who also works for Poppie's, agrees.
Watson said they are currently taking applications for cooks, wait staff and counter help, as well as an experienced barista, which is an espresso coffee maker.
A unique feature that may attract people to the new cafe are 30 pictures that will be hanging in "The Gathering Room."
Watson has collected 30 portraits of people from within the community spanning from 1920 to the 1990s.
Juan Ganum, community development director for the City of Niles, said the City of Niles received a $225,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. because of Klinck and Watson's investment in the project.
The $225,000 will be used to improve the street scape on Front Street in Niles, as well as the construction of an ornamental fence around the patio that is currently being constructed at the cafe, he said.