As downtown Clawson changes, new owners ask what neighbors want in a corner pub
Pumachug will open this year where Black Lotus brewing was at the corner of 14 Mile and Main
The last few months saw a lot of changes for the cute downtown area of Clawson.
The Oakland County suburb had some longstanding destinations close, like Black Lotus Brewery at the corner of 14 Mile and Main. Across the street, Vietnamese restaurant Da Nang shuttered after a decade of service.
On the northwest corner of the same intersection, Pizza Hut, one of the few remaining sit-down versions of the national chain, also went dark recently. Also nearby, Moose Winooski's pub closed after more than three decades of serving the neighborhood.
So when residents Andrea and Tyler Williams got the keys to the Black Lotus building after it closed for business, they thought it might be a smart move to ask their fellow neighbors what kind of business they would patronize before landing on a concept.
They put the request out on their website last month, and the Williamses said in the first three weeks more than 2,100 people responded with ideas.
The themes that are "rising to the top," Tyler said are "healthy, vegetarian, vegan options." Andrea said what she's hearing from residents is that they want food that is "familiar and approachable" but "high quality and delicious."
Everyone seems to agree Clawson doesn't need any more sports bars.
"As a female resident of Clawson," said Andrea. "I want a place that I want to go to in the summertime and sit outside and have a high-quality meal and feel comfortable being there at a price point that is approachable. I want a place that I can go for a casual meal with my husband, but I also want a place where I can invite my group of girlfriends for a classier happy hour."
As for the bar, they aren't keeping any of the brewing equipment, so there won't be a brewery, but they do have a passion for craft beer and cocktails, they say. A lot of survey responders asked them to stock IPAs, sour beers and cider.
When Black Lotus went out of business, Tyler said he and Andrea “were shocked.”
“They did so well for so long,” he said. “Clawson is right on this precipice of being something … it could be something absolutely amazing. We thought with this corner, it was going to be important who came in and put their flag down and said this is what we’re going to bring to Clawson."
The couple, who have no restaurant experience, went from hoping somebody would bring a cool concept to the area to saying, "hey, let's do it."
They're not without a clue, though. Tyler, a fourth-generation Clawson resident, is versed in the worlds of real estate and finance, and Andrea, who is originally from Denver, has a marketing and sales background. They met while attending the University of Florida and currently live in a house Tyler's grandfather built, just a few blocks from Pumachug.
"We're smart enough to know what we don't know," he said, adding that they are aware of the industry struggles and the high failure rate among restaurants. "This is a passion play. We want to see something amazing come to Clawson. We've been building a pretty strong team to help us fill in those gaps."
"We're not doing this because we want to make money," said Andrea. "We just felt so strongly about what was going to go in that space on that corner that we just ended up here. But we feel strongly enough about it that we're going to figure out how to do it."
And that name? It sounds like a fast-drinking large cat, but "pumachug" has a long history in Clawson. It's an early name for the area, dating back to the 1800s. The Williamses say the name may have come from the "chugging" sound heard at the corner of what is now 14 and Main because it was home to both a cider mill and a saw mill. Wikipedia suggests it may derive from a Potawatomi word.
"Clawson has such deep roots ... we're hoping to keep that alive," said Tyler, adding that they'd like to have a portion of their new restaurant to pay homage to the city's history.
Pumachug is expected to open in late spring or early summer at 1 E. 14 Mile in downtown Clawson. Visit pumachug.com to submit your two cents or learn more information.