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Jackson downtown revitalization Steve’s Ranch making it through

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Faye Odeh and her late husband, Steve, opened Steve’s Ranch in 1980. She drives to work every day from the family home in Stockbridge.

“I’d like to see even more restaurants and make the downtown a destination. Our downtown is looking so beautiful with the new streets and sidewalks.”

Faye Odeh

By Monetta Harr

It isn’t often you can talk to the restaurant owner, let alone discuss the apples in the slices of pie the customers just ate.

“We still have apple trees on our property,” Faye Odeh told three women in a booth, first-timers to Steve’s Ranch. “For the pies I use a combination of apples such as Jonathan and Cortland.”

Odeh, 72, works 12 hours a day, seven days a week at the restaurant she and her late husband opened in 1980 at 311 Louis Glick Highway. In her “down time” she bakes pies and multi-layer cakes that have earned her Michigan’s Best Desserts by MLive.

Odeh’s smile and optimism have never left, but over the last decade there has been a lot of anxiety as her restaurant, the downtown and America suffered through the Great Recession. In addition, Consumers Energy moved its headquarters from a building near Steve’s Ranch to one on the east end.

It wasn’t until last spring that she finally saw signs of recovery.

wagon

A nod to the restaurant’s theme, the daily soup and salad bar is set out under a covered wagon near the dining areas which seat 200. An outdoor patio seats another 50.

Now she need only look out the front window to literally see recovery, with the beginnings of Lofts on Louis, a $5.4 million project at 209 W. Louis Glick Highway that may have an urban grocery and 30 apartments. Near that will be the new headquarters of Commonwealth Associates, at Blackstone and Louis Glick Highway, that will eventually bring 300 employees downtown. And for the nearby Hotel Hayes is a $27 million plan to revitalize the historic building as a hotel, retail, restaurant and apartment space.

There is so much potential to the downtown that Jackson leaders say within three years it will totally change, between people working downtown and people driving downtown to shop and eat.

“I am really excited, it’s a great opportunity for all of us downtown business owners with lots more foot traffic,” said Odeh, stirring her coffee at a table near the gas fireplace. “I’d like to see even more restaurants and make the downtown a destination. Our downtown is looking so beautiful with the new streets and sidewalks.”

Odeh said new people are coming in much more often, and business owners pooled together during the rough time and help one another out. And she reciprocates when possible, pointing to a framed white University of Michigan t-shirt on a nearby wall with eight names stitched on it. The framing was done by A Frame Above, 180 W. Michigan Ave., and the names are of her eight children, all of whom graduated from U of M. She has 13 grandchildren.

“Sales are up and people are happier. They are looking forward to something better,” she said.

pie case

Fruit and cream pies line the refrigerated case, all made by Faye Odeh.

Odeh said she never considered closing the restaurant. Instead, she put in money and remodeled, got a liquor license for diners as well as private parties, added a prime rib buffet on Saturday evenings and a brunch on Sundays. Steve’s Ranch is one of the few locally owned restaurants to be open on Sundays, and Odeh said it brings a lot of traffic from churches as well as people driving downtown.

Her 18 employees have stuck with her through thick and thin.

“I don’t want to take 100 percent credit for turning things around because this is a total effort. A good employee is a cornerstone of the business. You can have good food but you also have to have good service,” she said.

Service clubs meet there regularly, including Jackson Rotary which has met there for breakfast every Tuesday since the restaurant opened.

“I was here when they needed me and they kept meeting here when I needed them,” she said.

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