Mary Liz Curtin knows an opportunity when she sees one.
Business was booming at her successful retail store, Leon & Lulu, in Clawson, Michigan, just an hour north of Detroit. Selling everything from custom furniture to women’s clothing plus a wide selection of gifts and accessories, the 15,000-square-foot store is located in a vintage roller rink for a very unique shopping experience. The popular destination store, which opened in 2006, was drawing customers from a two-hour radius.
However, something was missing.
“There wasn’t a great place nearby to send ladies for lunch,” said Mary Liz, who owns and operates the store with her husband, Stephen Scannell. “Since we are always looking for ways to make shopping with us more fun, we thought ‘what better way to do this than to open a restaurant where shoppers could a get a beautiful lunch to complete their shopping experience?’”
When an opportunity arose to purchase the1940s theatre next door to Leon & Lulu in 2016, the couple lovingly restored the space—making it an extension of their original store and adding a restaurant. Today, the Show at Leon & Lulu features quirky cards, custom framing and locally made gift items, and Three Cats Cafe serves a tasty menu of fresh, light menu items.
A Cafe is Born
Shoppers are invited to “shop, dine and sit with friends” in the Art Deco-inspired cafe while black-and-white movies play all day on the big screen. Soups, salads, sandwiches, pastries and coffee drinks are all made in house at the charming cafe with a menu that is updated every day.
Mary Liz credits General Mills for being a wonderful partner and resource as she and her staff have embarked on the journey of opening and operating a restaurant. Tamela Porter, customer account specialist for General Mills Foodservice, worked with Mary Liz and Yvonne Belletina, the chef who runs the kitchen and plans the menu, to identify the best products for the popular bakery case.
“These products help us keep our bakery case full with a variety of items that we can bake in-house and truly make our own,” said Mary Liz.
While the cafe used to have pastry chefs come in and make a range of items, it just wasn't economical or feasible in the smaller kitchen space. Today, they have one pastry chef along with Chef Yvonne who rely on a variety of General Mills products such as Pillsbury™ TubeSet™ Muffins, Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls as well as Gold Medal™ Cake and Muffin Mixes to help keep the bakery case stocked with minimal labor.
Other products have served as inspiration for some of the cafe’s signature menu items, such as using Pillsbury Biscuit Dough, used for a number of savory hand pies and sandwiches. Chef Yvonne has also discovered that Pillsbury Pie Dough works perfectly for the personal-sized dessert pies, ideal for those customers looking for a little something sweet but not necessarily a huge portion.
Chef Yvonne, who fancies herself more as a home cook and had little restaurant experience before Three Cats Cafe, has succeeded in creating a delightful menu that she says represents the types of items she enjoys and paying close attention to knowing what works for the customers who visit.
Mary Liz said that running a restaurant is something they’ve figured out together but it all comes down to what makes the customer happy. By all accounts, Three Cats Cafe has definitely found a sweet spot with their satisfied customer base of happy shoppers.