Deb’s Cafe opens

Published 9:57 pm Thursday, April 28, 2011

Debbie Lefor of Sister Lakes has re-opened a restaurant at 106 E. Division St., with parking in back, off Depot Drive. (The Daily News/John Eby)

Debbie Lefor of Sister Lakes has re-opened a restaurant at 106 E. Division St., with parking in back, off Depot Drive. (The Daily News/John Eby)

After others’ attempts to re-open a restaurant at 106 E. Division St. in the former Southern Kettle, Debbie Lefor of Sister Lakes and her son, Mike Gettig, succeeded April 18 with Deb’s Cafe.

She got her start at a full-service restaurant in a huge Woolworth’s in Pennsylvania, where she lived for three years. Lefor previously operated two places locally, Deb’s Cafe on M-51 North, adjacent to Peck Motel, and Gettig’s Crossing, now Montgomery’s Restaurant.

Lefor, who is purchasing her lighthouse-themed building, opens at 6 a.m. for breakfast, serves lunch and dinner and offers a children’s menu.

Tonight is the all-you-can-eat Friday fish fry. Dinner specials include an all-you-can-eat salad bar.

It would take several meals to pore through an extensive color-coded guide to her home cooking that for breakfast offers 11 types of omelets and a “farmer’s skillet,” which is a prodigious portion of an omelet nestled on a bed of biscuits with all three morning meats, bacon, sausage and ham. Or, a lesser appetite could bypass country-fried steak and eggs, potatoes, toast and gravy or corned beef hash for lighter fare, such as oatmeal or a fruit bowl. Closed Thursdays, Lefor’s restaurant offers an extensive sandwich selection, including chicken teriyaki, for lunch and is open until 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and until 8 on Friday.

On Saturday and Sunday, Deb’s Cafe opens from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Five coats of white paint over the previous green give Deb’s Cafe a bright new interior which seems larger than it is thanks to mirrors on either side behind the counter.

When Debbie says she learned food service ropes by being “thrown out on the floor” at Woolworth’s, it’s not a figure of speech. The Dowagiac native literally “fell on my face.”

“We took it over in August,” she said Thursday afternoon. She might have called her place “Grandma’s.”

“I’ve got going on seven grandbabies,” she said. “They’re all excited about this after helping us haul things all winter long. They couldn’t wait for it to open up and see what it was going to be like ‘going to Grandma’s for breakfast.’ ”

She married Duane Lefor in 2007.

He works for Bridgman schools and helps on weekends, as do her other son, Robert, and a future daughter-in-law excited to learn how to make onion rings and mushrooms from scratch. Her lighthouse motif “is just something I wanted.” Pictures border the ceiling and shoreline beacons and sailboats decorate tablecloths. St. Joseph’s lighthouse appears on to-go menus.

“I can pile a lot of things in an omelet,” she said. “Whatever (customers) want me to. Just like burgers — whatever you want,” so Debbie didn’t blink when someone ordered a waffle a la mode, she just reached for the ice cream scoop.

Next door at Carolyn Moore’s Moore for Less building, Kim Haneberg plans to open a coffeehouse called Utopia.

She will network with local artists to exhibit their works. On weekends she wants to offer low-key entertainment such as acoustic music and poetry readings. Her initial menu will feature flavored coffee and teas, cappuccino and frozen hot chocolate.

While she plans to do some baking on site, such as specialty breads, other items will be brought in from another location. But ultimately, Haneberg envisions growing her business into a full-fledge, on-site bakery.