It’s been a favorite spot for breakfast gatherings, business lunches and family dinners, snagging countless “People’s Choice” awards throughout its 21 years in business, and Bill Malek plans to keep Mabel’s that way – even though the building housing the longtime restaurant is going into foreclosure.
“Mabel’s as a restaurant and business will continue to go forward – we had a great year last year,” says Malek, who has been helping manage the eatery since owner Carol Bright retired last year. “We’ve brought some new innovations, new menu items … We’re looking forward to a very bright future.”
Mabel’s the restaurant, which opened in 1990, is not for sale. But The Ticker has discovered that the 4,347-square-foot building it's housed in, which sits on .77 acres at the corner of Eighth Street and Munson Avenue, is listed for $525,000 following foreclosure.
Hang on; it gets complicated now: The listing agent is realtor Dan Stiebel of Coldwell Banker-Schmidt Realtors. Stiebel represents Fifth Third Bank, which took ownership of the property, which previously was owned by Bright Point, a company owned by the Bright family.
This particular company, however, didn’t ever own the business itself, says Malek: “Mabel’s restaurant has always been a separate entity and never owned the building.”
Malek says Bright hired Traverse City company Bewick Corporation, owned by Caroline Retenbach, to take over Mabel’s operations in April 2010. Malek, who also is a partner at Michigan Business Advisors in Traverse City, is working with Retenbach to manage the restaurant.
“When it went into foreclosure, Mabel’s attorney negotiated a lease that we’re about to sign,” Malek says of a one-year lease that could be extended further. “If [the bank] sells it, we look forward to continuing the lease with the new investor and keeping our location.”
Stiebel says the property has garnered several inquiries from parties who are interested in investing in the property and keeping Mabel’s as tenants, as well as possibly using the space for an entirely different business.
“It’s a great location because it has frontage on both Eighth and Munson,” he says. “It’s high visibility and easy access.”
Given that “Mabel’s has such a long history,” Stiebel acknowledged that finding an investor who would continue the restaurant’s lease would be nice.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to leave that door open and make that a possibility without limiting potential buyers,” he says. “I’d like to leave the possibility open that they’ll stay there.”
Fifth Third Bank's willingness to work with Mabel’s to maintain operations is part of win-win approach he seeing more banks take with commercial properties going through foreclosures, Stiebel says.
“I think it’s becoming more common because the banks are looking at it as, when they’re open and running, they’re worth more than when they close,” he says. “They have the potential for damage to occur with no one there. With their clients who have been good and easy to work with, this saves them trying to find a manager, and it gets them some kind of income.”
Despite the change in management, Malek says Mabel’s staff remains the same.
“No one lost their job in the process. In fact, I think we hired more employees last summer than they had in the previous summer,” he says.
Along with building up staff, Malek and Retenbach have beefed up marketing of the restaurant that was named after Carol Bright’s grandmother. This has included launching a website, engaging patrons via Facebook and partnering with local non-profits and other organizations; Mabel’s gives 15 percent of its proceeds from 4 p.m. to close on designated nights to these groups.
“We’re doing a lot of good things,” Malek says.
For more information on the Mabel’s property at 472 Munson Avenue, contact Stiebel at 231-633-0432.