OWOSSO — Shiawassee County has seen a lot of restaurants close recently, and yet another eatery is shutting its doors.
The owners of O-Town Cafe, 101 N. Washington St., announced the cafe was closed Saturday. However, Tuesday married couple Steven and Amber Cohen had a change of heart and decided instead to reopen O-Town — but only for Thursday through Saturday this week, during the Curwood Festival.
O-Town Cafe is for sale. Anyone interested can contact the Cohens at email@example.com.
“We have made the decision to do a last hurrah,” Steven Cohen announced in a Facebook live video Tuesday morning. “We will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The focus is to help with some financial burdens. We want to make sure everybody gets paid.
“So, come in and have your last breakfast burrito,” he said, adding, however, that he and his wife haven’t given up hope of reopening the cafe. “We’re going to continue to fight and pray that we can reopen.”
Bad news Friday from O-Town’s bank in Lansing spurred the closure of the cafe, Cohen said. Posting the announcement on Facebook Saturday, the Cohens have been overwhelmed by an outpouring of support online from customers.
“We’re very humbled by the kind words we’re getting from the community,” he said. “We love the help we’ve gotten and given to the community. We continue to love this town. There are no hard feelings.”
The restaurant, which first opened in July 2017, became known not only for its good food but its generosity. Through the Suspended Meal Program, the couple fed the homeless. The cafe also hosted an Owosso High School dinner theater and turned itself into a 24-hour warming center during a cold weather snap.
On one occasion, Amber Cohen, who ran the day-to-day operations at the cafe, assisted a penniless man get a ride back to Detroit, paying his way from her own pocket.
“Our customers have become our family,” she said. “I must know 50 of them by name. It’s like ‘Cheers’ here — I’ve got their drinks ready as soon as they come through the door.
“This place is my heart. It’s my community. To have to close, it’s heart-breaking.”
Amber Cohen serves as the chairwoman of the Curwood Duck races, set for this weekend; her husband is a director on the Curwood board.
Stephanie Ross and her family — husband Isaiah and daughter Sami — have been coming to O-Town Cafe since it opened, she said. She even worked there as a server for a few weeks.
“We’ve just been coming here forever,” she said. “We loved the place and its mission for helping the community. We came in for the food and to support them.”
Ross said she’s hoping for a miracle that will keep the eatery open.
“I’m obviously sad, but I see hope in all of it,” she said. “I see an opportunity for something beautiful to happen. There’s a lot of people who come here because they love what the Cohens do for the community, and obviously the food is awesome. It’s a place that feels like home.”
Steve Cohen said he’s not sure what is going to happen next.
“We have a lot of praying to do,” he said.
Several other local restaurants shuttered this year: Jumbo’s Burger Bar in Owosso, Ponderosa in Caledonia Township, and Nik’s Coney Island and Bentley Grill (at the same location) in Owosso. Last year, the Cavalier Bar in Corunna closed after a fire destroyed the building.