Bahaa Saad, left, CEO and founder of Starter’s Bar & Grill, welcomes Harper Woods Mayor Kenneth Poynter to the new Starter’s location on Vernier Road outside Eastland Center in Harper Woods April 26.

Bahaa Saad, left, CEO and founder of Starter’s Bar & Grill, welcomes Harper Woods Mayor Kenneth Poynter to the new Starter’s location on Vernier Road outside Eastland Center in Harper Woods April 26.

Photo by Brendan Losinski


Optimism for Eastland Center accompanies opening of restaurant

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published May 15, 2018

 Starter’s Bar & Grill hosts a ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening of the Detroit-area restaurant’s fourth location. Local officials said this is a positive step for the area around Eastland Center, which has seen numerous setbacks in previous years.

Starter’s Bar & Grill hosts a ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening of the Detroit-area restaurant’s fourth location. Local officials said this is a positive step for the area around Eastland Center, which has seen numerous setbacks in previous years.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

HARPER WOODS — Since the departure of big-name retailers such as Target, Macy’s and Sears, residents have had a pessimistic outlook on Eastland Center. However, the recent opening of a new restaurant on the premises is being seen as an optimistic sign for the local business community.

Occupying the former location of a Chili’s restaurant, Starter’s Bar & Grill will be opening its fourth location at the site off Vernier Road.

“I think this is a great catalyst for the new Harper Woods,” Mayor Kenneth Poynter said. “I think it will help the efforts we’ve all been making to revitalize Kelly Road.”

The restaurant’s CEO and founder is Bahaa Saad. He opened the first restaurant 41 years ago on Plymouth Road in Detroit. He and his family have since opened a second location at Fairlane Mall in Dearborn and a third in midtown Detroit at Woodward Avenue and Forest Avenue.

“A friend of mine was going to open up a jewelry store in the mall, and after Chili’s closed down, he called and said, ‘You’re the only one who can make a business there work,’” Saad said.

Saad said he understands the doubts that people have about the Harper Woods location, but he said this particular business will work because of local demand and because the business forecast for the community has been improving.

“Everyone is asking me why I’m opening a location near a mall that a lot of people say is dying, and I tell them we are a destination more than a location,” he explained. “People have been asking me to come to the east side for a while now, so we have a customer base already here.”

Saad said the location offered the additional incentive of having many of the necessary facilities to run a family restaurant already in place.

“I like the location, and I like, that it’s a free-standing building, said Saad. “It already had a lot of what we needed here, like the kitchen and freezers, so it didn’t require as big of an investment.”

Local business owners seem pleased to see a new business opening up in the area, even those who may have to compete with Starter’s.

“A lot of people say this would be competition for me, but I look at it as an opportunity, because it brings more people to the area,” said Rex Zink, who owns Rex’s Deli on the other side of Vernier Road. “If they drive here, they’ll see my business too. Next time they drive by, they may choose to come to the deli instead.”

Starter’s opened its doors for the first time Feb. 28, but Saad said they had to hold back on the ribbon cutting until April 26 after some initial issues were worked out.

“We had a rough first couple of weeks because we were still training our people,” he said. “We were a little overwhelmed, so we had to close for lunch. Now we have everything up and running, and both our food and our service is up to our standards.”

Starter’s has a sports bar aesthetic, with a well-stocked bar and sports on its numerous televisions, but Saad said it will always be designed to cater to families.

“A grandchild and grandmother can both have a good meal here,” he added. “We’ll have everything from grilled cheese to lobster on the menu.”

Saad stressed the family-friendly nature of Starter’s and said it is based on his family’s own close relationship in running the business. He son, Ali, will be the operator of the new location around Eastland Center.

“It’s great to have an established family business coming here with a strong track record,” Poynter said. “How can this not be a plus? Every time I’ve driven by, the parking lot is full, and every time I’ve been in here, I’ve gotten great service.”

Poynter and Harper Woods Community Development Director Tyrone Hinton agreed that this is a solid step forward for the community around the mall.

“The whole scenario we’re hoping for is to create excitement around the perimeter of the mall … and take that momentum and move it outward,” said Hinton. “Bringing in a business like this is good news for Harper Woods.”