Overcast   66.0F  |  Forecast »

Mom and Dad Owner Vinsetta Garage and Clarkston Union

Curt Catallo and Ann Stevenson, parents of two, own three hip delicious restaurants (Union Woodshop, too) in Oakland County, southeast Michigan

When it comes to crafting delectable eats at hip restaurants nestled in re-invented old buildings, Curt Catallo and Ann Stevenson are local heroes.

And, besides having the "most macked" mac 'n cheese in metro Detroit, they know the trick to a quick 'n happy family photo shoot.

"We bribed the kids with the featured desserts!" says Curt.

This mom-and-dad team definitely has full plates. They own the popular Clarkston Union and Union Woodshop restaurants in downtown Clarkston – and current hottest-table-in-town Vinsetta Garage in Berkley.

Curt Catallo and Ann Stevenson

As for juggling their other jobs – Ann runs the Union General Store, a modern take on the traditional gathering spot adjacent to the Clarkston Union, while Curt heads Union AdWorks, a busy 60-person advertising shop – with raising Cassius, 9 and Cosima, 8? Well, this duo walks that line with such flair that they make it look easy and, dare we say it, fun.

"We have a shorthand," as Ann puts it, "and we have a forgiveness for how short the shorthand can get."

Oh, and did we mention they literally live above the store?

It's a recipe that's just right for them. For one thing, both love what they do, so shoptalk at the dinner table is just fine, Curt says. And they've been together so long (they met at college in Vermont at age 18 and have been married 15 years), they grew together as business owners, Ann adds.

"We're sometimes the most finely tuned critic for how we're doing things business-wise," she says, "but we have a lot of confidence in each other, and tend to work pretty well together."

Their kids are in the thick of it – and it's made them adaptable, adventurous and, especially, feel like a part of their parents' work life.

                                                                                                  Dine Out!

"Those lines between work and home aren't as clear-cut as a typical family, but I think it works for us," Curt says. "It's a throwback thing for our kids, like if they were to grow up on a farm – except instead of a farm, it happens to be a restaurant and store."

And their young tweens have been in pretty much every industrial-salvage shop in Minnesota, Chicago and Detroit. "It's given them an appreciation for the process of what goes into what we do," Ann says. "They're used to dealing with a lot of different types of people, because that's the nature of our work."

Neither had any burning restaurateur ambitions back in 1995, when the opportunity came to open Clarkston Union. The building had been a Baptist church, and Curt's parents wanted to keep it from falling into disrepair.

Curt and Ann's Faves

"My parents bought it without really knowing why they needed it," Curt recalls. "Everyone thinks they can open a restaurant, and we were no different."

Ann had waitressed on school breaks, but Curt "had maybe made a burrito once in his life," Ann says (and Curt corroborates). So they leveraged their strengths to create the unique feel of each restaurant. Ann's aesthetic sense shines, particularly in the charming touches. For example, at Clarkston Union, many seats are old church pews, and one wall sports a bingo board.

At Vinsetta – a Woodward Avenue icon and, its website declares, "the oldest garage east of the Mississippi" – the vestibule's walls are lined with old repair slips left behind (Curt had an ad intern carefully conceal all the hand-written telephone numbers). Hosts and hostesses manage the throngs waiting for tables in what was once the garage manager's office, complete with vintage desks and chairs.

Curt, for his part, plays host, greeting guests and making sure everything runs smoothly. And, says Ann, he's come a long way: Pops is now very knowledgeable about food and what people want to eat when they go out. Their eateries are famous for that mac: All three have it, and if it's not the best on the planet, it's hard to imagine better. You might call their style American classics that go beyond the expected: Think burgers made from succulent duck or a meatloaf featuring house-ground beef.

Each time they've moved a business into a new space – from the early days creating the kind of place they'd like to hang out at in Clarkston Union to the blue-collar beauty of Vinsetta – they were drawn by the building.

"We both had the experience that some of the most precious moments from childhood were exploring and finding something sort of magical," Ann says. "This is sort of an extension of that. We're taking a building that has a very specific intent ... and we're intent on repurposing it."

They're not creating museums, though – or turning that original intent it into a kitschy theme. Instead, they tip their hats to what came first, while creating something fresh.

"There's something very playful about that; something we both get a kick out of," Ann says. "We're not preservationists, but we believe in honoring the craft of people who worked in the building – its soul and its history."

Add your comment:
Advertisement

More »Latest Articles & Blog Posts

Mushroom Recipes for a Family Meal

Mushroom Recipes for a Family Meal

Mushrooms can be a tough sell with picky eaters but these dishes will entice them to try a bite – or two!

Tennessee Law Prevents Parents from Giving Child a Hybrid Last Name

Tennessee Law Prevents Parents from Giving Child a Hybrid Last Name

Carl Abramson and Kim Sarubbi mashed together their surnames for their first two kids, but Tennessee law says they can't use the last name 'Sabr' for baby No. 3.

Sticky Fingers Duct Tape Book Offers Easy Bow Making How-To

Sticky Fingers Duct Tape Book Offers Easy Bow Making How-To

Sophie Maletsky's new guide, published by Zest Books, is packed with fun crafts and DIY ideas kids and families can make out of colorful duct tape.

Paper Craft Fun with Handprints, Garland and Kawaii Art

Paper Craft Fun with Handprints, Garland and Kawaii Art

This versatile craft material transforms into an acorn fall creation, decorative ribbon, cute Japanese critters and cool dividers for your kid's closet.

How to Prevent Your Child from Choking

How to Prevent Your Child from Choking

Mealtime can turn from pleasant to panic in a matter of seconds. Protect your child from this mishap with our list of dos and don’ts.

YouTube Moms Parody Iggy Azalea's Hit Song 'Fancy'

YouTube Moms Parody Iggy Azalea's Hit Song 'Fancy'

The rapper's had the hit of the summer, but these clever mothers made it their own, riffing on pregnancy and motherhood in some pretty funny viral videos.

Biscuit Recipes: From Classic to Chocolate

Biscuit Recipes: From Classic to Chocolate

September is National Biscuit Month, but you can bake these any time! These recipes, including classic biscuits from Betty Crocker and cornmeal biscuits from Martha Stewart, will have you reaching...

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement