Wood Fire heating up Dowagiac

Published 10:28 am Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Wood Fire Italian Trittoria in Dowagiac, Mich. (Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN)

The Wood Fire Italian Trittoria in Dowagiac, Mich. (Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN)

Just about six months ago, Jim Kramer took the helm at Wood Fire, the Italian trattoria located at 134 S. Front St. in Dowagiac, Mich.

“Things are going really well — better than I had imagined,” Kramer said. “The local response has been great. We’re a destination restaurant, and so when that’s the case, it’s always hardest to reach the people closest to you.”

Kramer has implemented a number of ideas designed to bring in more local traffic, including offering some weekday specials.

Those specials, available from 4 to 8:30 p.m., are generally priced at $9.99. They include smoky baby back ribs on Sundays, Italian pot roast on Mondays, and chicken florentine on Wednesdays. On Tuesdays, pizzas are two for the price of one. More specials can be found by checking Wood Fire’s Facebook page.

In response to popular demand, Kramer has also introduced a bar menu that is available from 4 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays, 4 to 9:30 p.m. on Fridays and 2 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturdays. It includes various types of sliders, brats, buffalo wings, nachos and chili. That menu and other information can be found at www.woodfiredining.com.

Kramer has also worked to accommodate guests whose schedules are not always considered on special occasions such as New Year’s Eve.

By offering patrons the opportunity to toast the new year as it began in various locations around the globe, Kramer was able to provide a special evening for guests who preferred to call it an early night. This schedule also allowed families with children to go out for a special evening and celebrate the new year without staying out past midnight.

“Little things like that help people connect. That allows them to come out earlier,” Kramer said. “New Year’s Eve was wonderful. We had a record evening.”

Plans for upcoming holidays at Wood Fire will also take into consideration those diners who prefer to come in earlier.

“We’ll do a big Valentine’s Day celebration all day long,” Kramer said. “Our Easter brunch is also coming up.”

While Kramer has made some changes at Wood Fire, he has also kept some traditions alive, including offering live music on Friday nights throughout the winter.

“On Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, we’ll have live music during the summer,” Kramer said.

Another feature that hasn’t changed much is the staff at Wood Fire. Although Kramer’s daughter, Candice, now works at the restaurant, he did not add many close friends or family members to the managerial staff, as he has done upon acquiring other restaurants.

“It’s funny because, up until Wood Fire, a lot of my family and friends have been involved in running each restaurant,” Kramer said. “We have great people at Wood Fire. They’re doing a great job!”

One last change that has taken place in the last six months is that Kramer has retired from his post as the minister of the Evangelical Covenant Church in Hinsdale, Ill. He can now focus full-time on his “hobby” of making sure that his five restaurants are running smoothly.

“I have four other restaurants: Tim’s Too in St. Joseph, Roma’s Pizza in New Buffalo, Nancy’s at the Lake in New Buffalo, and Jake’s at the Beach in New Buffalo,” Kramer said.

When it comes to Wood Fire, Kramer clearly feels that things are going just fine.

“We have a really great staff, good people at Wood Fire,” Kramer said. “I couldn’t ask for better.”