Jack Savas has a vision with one eye on the future and another in the past. What he really sees is something very unique to this community, a European-style café that becomes a hangout for Dexter-area locals and a destination for visitors.
Savas, who has lived in the Dexter area for seven years, said he was surprised to learn that the oldest restaurant in Dexter was the A&W. But he’s been thrilled to see the recent development in the downtown area and wants to create a place unique to Dexter.
“It’s going to be a European-style café with 1960s branding,” said Savas, who grew up in Birmingham but lived in four countries in 17 years and has spent plenty of time in Europe, especially France. “I have spent more time in cafes than I have in offices so I know what I want to create from those experiences.”
So what is a European-style café?
“It means tall, open spaces with large windows and art on the wall,” he said. “This café will have expresso machines from Europe, fresh-baked croissants every morning and fresh-prepared foods including grilled-salmon salad, ribeye-steak salad, smoothies and a wide variety of premium coffee all roasted locally in Michigan.”
Among the local businesses contributing will be White Lotus Farms in Ann Arbor, Mindo Chocolate Makers in Dexter and RoosRoast Coffee in Ann Arbor.
The 1960s branding begins with the name, “Strawberry Alarm Clock European Café,” based after the psychedelic rock band from Los Angeles best known for their 1967 hit “Incense and Peppermints.”
But it doesn’t end with the name.
“They were a one-hit wonder and I’m hoping to be a one-hit wonder with this café,” Savas said. “The wait staff will be decked out in flair jeans and have that 60s feel and look.”
Another important and unique aspect of the café will be when the doors are open.
“We are going to be open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. to start,” Savas said. “I want this to be a destination for theater goers and give the folks who see a show at the Encore Theater a place to go after. Unfortunately now when people have an activity in Dexter in the evening everything is closed besides the pubs and restaurants. We want to have a destination that doesn’t serve alcohol for young and old. I think this will fill a void here in Dexter.”
The café will have one full-time employee and several part-time employees. There will be five tables inside along with lounge chairs.
“We want this to be a community destination that you can get to by foot with outdoor seating and become a true meeting place,” Savas said.
In 2014 Savas bought the house at 3441 Broad St., right behind the railroad depot. The foundation of the house wasn’t salvageable and the structure was knocked down in April. Savas received a special-land use approval from the Planning Commission in May and will go before the City Council on July 13 for final approval.
“My optimistic goal is to be handing out candy on Halloween,” he said. “But there will be a lot to get done between now and then.”
The building will include a 750-square foot studio apartment upstairs and there will be seven parking spots onsite. Craig Borum, who is a professor of architecture at U-M, helped design the building along with a team of international graduate students from U-M.
The structure’s location within the Dexter community is intended to be an extension of the downtown linking the community between the Dexter Cider Mill, the Dexter District Library, and Main Street.
The exterior look and feel of Strawberry Alarm Clock European Café has been thought out in such a way as to ensure that it is integrated into the surrounding residential neighborhood without conflicting with those living their lives in their homes around it.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support from the community and local businesses,” Savas said. “This is going to be a place with a lot of class and sophistication that serves a healthy menu of food and beverages. I’m excited to get it up and running.”