The Little Caesars in Grand Rapids’ Eastown neighborhood is in a 1950s-era building that used to be a gas station. Photo by Mike Nichols
A nondescript 1950s-era Little Caesars is beginning to fill a void in Grand Rapids’ Eastown neighborhood.
Many locals are still discovering the pizzeria in a former gas station, at 1200 Wealthy St. SE, which is owned by franchisees Andy and Joan Kulesa — a husband-and-wife business team.
Andy worked as a Little Caesars area supervisor for about 18 years before he and his wife bought six stores in 2005, Joan Kulesa said. They now own nine Little Caesars in West Michigan and two in Indiana.
Eastown represented a gap between their other Little Caesars locations, Kulesa said, and the pair opened up the shop this summer.
“That area, the Eastown-Grand Rapids area, was underserved with Little Caesars,” Kulesa said. “There was kind of a hole there. It took us three years to find a good location.”
The Kulesas kept the look of the 1950s-era building, with a flat roof and rounded front edge, partly because it worked and partly because it’s in a historic neighborhood.
“Even though the garage doors don’t work, we had to leave them there,” Kulesa said.
The pizzeria has bench that runs along its large window, a bench that’s often used by customers to sit down and eat. It can turn into quite a party.
“We wanted to maintain that bench, because we thought it was really cool,” Kulesa said. “The whole neighborhood is kind of eclectic, so it adds to that."
The look might be part of the reason business is starting to pick up for the pizzeria, said Brian Burns, store manager.
Fridays are his busiest days and nighttime foot traffic generates much of the business.
What has surprised Burns is how many customers stay to sit and eat, a rare occurrence for a Little Caesars, where customers usually order and pick up food.
But in a neighborhood like Eastown, the store needs to adapt to its customers’ style, he said.
When in Eastown, do as the Eastowners, even if you’re a Little Caesars.
“We get a lot of big groups of people that come in and hang out,” Burns said. “I think it’s because they walk here.”