Young men pool funds to save the corner store
Posted September 5, 2012
ROSEVILLE — In a way, it was a sentimental purchase — Michael Kowalski’s mom had been taking him there since before he could even walk; she’d been going there since she was a kid; it was a neighborhood staple — and he just couldn’t stand to see it close for good.
“We grew up eating here,” Kowalski said. “My mom has been coming here since she was this tall. This was the spot back in the day. They used to have a lot more candy. You would come down and get a gallon of milk and a newspaper.”
So in May when the longtime owner of 3D’s Pizza Party Store set his sights on retirement, Kowalski and his friends Mike McCrimmon and Rob Kollar pooled their resources and purchased the little sub shop and party store on 10 Mile in Roseville.
Each of the 23-year-old men had some cash to put down, but they knew it would take more than what they had to keep the doors of their favorite party store open. Financing the little store didn’t seem like much of a risk though.
“With him being here for 40 years, he had such a clientele already built that it wasn’t a huge risk,” Kowalski said. “I mean it was a gamble. We all put money out there, but with what he was asking for, it was like, how could we not throw that amount of money out there for it?”
They were willing to buy the place, in fact they wanted to, but they had one condition — before leaving for a retirement in Italy, then-owner Tony Frabotta would have to teach them how to make the signature bread and Italian dressing that made the sandwiches there so popular.
“We wanted to keep it alive and keep the tradition going,” Kowalski said. “He taught us everything.”
They held on to the recipes for three months while the storefront underwent serious renovations in style and function.
“Nothing had been done in here in almost 30 years. Walking in here was like a time warp,” Kowalski said.
The trio replaced the floors and ceiling, heating and air conditioning, built new countertops and painted the walls. The end result was a crisp, clean layout with a mix of modern and old-world touches.
The renovation process was trying. Not only did they have to contend with five pages of city-mandated improvements discovered during inspection, but with each week that passed, they had to worry about possibly upsetting customers, angry that the storefront had been closed during renovations.
Kowalski’s mom was excited when she heard the boys were buying the beloved corner store. She immediately offered to help. It wasn’t until the store closed for renovations, though, that she realized just how beloved it was.
“People would call saying, ‘Open up, we want our special,’” she said. “We were getting all sorts of weird messages. This one guy was talking about calling the Better Business Bureau on us because we told him we would be open, and we weren’t. He kept calling saying, ‘I want my sandwich.’”
Customers even showed up at the store, pleading with the new owners for the 3D’s special — a sandwich on house-made bread with ham, salami, provolone, mustard, mayo, banana peppers and pickles.
“We had the windows covered up, and people were still coming by,” Kowalski said. “A person a day at least would walk in here and ask for a 3D’s special.”
It served as a nice preview for the new owners. Since they re-opened on July 27, it’s been busy every day. They split the shifts to make it easier. All of them have other full-time jobs requiring their time. Kowalski works the evening shift after spending the day at his landscaping company. Kollar works in the afternoon. When he leaves the store, he goes straight to his other job working the midnight shift for an automotive supplier.
McCrimmon works the morning shift — managing the lunch rush on a daily basis.
“It starts before we even open at 11 a.m. and lasts until 1 p.m., where I can’t even sit down,” he said, adding that it’s not so bad because “between 2-4 p.m. it’s quiet — so quiet I could probably play scrabble back here some days if I wanted to.”
They usually get another rush right around the time McCrimmon leaves to take on the afternoon and evening jobs at Kowalski’s landscaping company.
“We get a lot of businesses for lunch and neighborhood regulars in the afternoon and evening,” Kowalski says.
The three have plans for the little shop — they have aspirations to increase in service and variety — but for now they remain focused on just one thing.
“We are trying to just do everything the best we can, consistently, for right now; then, later on we’ll do more,” Kowalski said, mentioning they make the bread fresh daily, order their produce three times a week and follow the original bread recipe to the tee. “We just want to keep it going and keep the sandwich the same.”
3D’s Pizza Party Store is located at 19371 10 Mile Road, just west of I-94, in Roseville, and can be reached by calling (586) 771-2339. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
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