PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — “Food comes second. People come first.”
If there’s a guiding business principle for Laurie Kelbel, that’s probably it.
She owns Bud & Stanley’s on the Plainfield Township side of 4 Mile Road just east of Plainfield Avenue.
“It's about the customers,” Kelbel says. “It's about contact. It's about family, and I really feel we're based on family first. And our customers are our family, and our employees are my family.”
But the long-running pandemic has upset that family dynamic that Kelbel is so passionate about. “We have a ton of regulars that are part of our Bud and Stanley's family. Not only they are part of our family, but we're a part of their family. We go to their houses; they come to our houses. It's important that we celebrate things with their families. We celebrate births that they have and weddings that they have and their kids graduating. And that's, I think, some of the things that we've been missing with the pandemic, and that's been really difficult for us, not only for myself but for my staff. It's really hard that we're not able to celebrate those happenings with them.”
Like all the neighborhood restaurant owners we have talked to, Kelbel appreciates her “regulars.” They are the ones who ordered takeout to keep Bud & Stanley’s going. “When they picked up their food, they're like, ‘Hey, we're there for you,’” she notes.
Sentiments like that have kept Kelbel going, because she didn't own the place very long before the pandemic hit with its accompanying restrictions. "It was awesome for seven months, and then the pandemic hit,” she remembers. “And from there it's been hard on the staff, and it's been hard on our customers because I think they need us as much as we need them.”
And then there was Kelbel’s breast cancer diagnosis last fall, which explains the pink tents outside. “My brothers bought all those tents … That's something that they wanted to do for me.”
She appears to have recovered well from her surgery. Maybe it’s because the restaurant business gets in your blood.
“I think that when you're in this industry, it's in your heart and it's in your soul and it's what you do,” she says. "When I had surgery, I couldn't wait to get back to work because this is what it's about. I need to be here.This is what I do. I can't imagine doing anything else.”
The site was first an eatery called Stoney’s and then was bought by Kelbel’s employers at that point 21 years ago, Jim and Cheryl Wilson, who named the place after their dogs. Yes, the dogs were named Bud and Stanley. After working for the Wilsons all that time, Kelbel bought the place.
“We're in survival mode, and we will so come through this,” Kelbel says with determination. “We'll get through this, I have no doubt.”