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Franklin Fine Wine & Café to Open on Monday

“Soft opening” on tap to work out any problems for later grand opening.

Downtown Royal Oak has a new business neighbor – Franklin Fine Wine & Café. Manager Mike Larranaga has been busy getting the inventory and recipes together for the store. Steve Soka owns the store along with two others in the metro Detroit area.

“It’s a little bit of everything – it’s a fine wine shop by definition – but in the planning stage we just kept getting bigger,” Larranaga said. “There’s a full wine cellar, a cigar humidor, a full-blown kitchen with all prepared foods – we’ve got a chef on the property. It’s fun for me because I get to pair food and wine all day long.”

Larranaga, a southern California native (La Jolla, a suburb of San Diego) will have $1.5 million worth of inventory on hand in the 7,500-square foot store when he gets it fully stocked.

Eclectic wines, cheesemonger

“We’re featuring nothing but eclectic wines,” he said. “He (Steve) gave me the go ahead and said please be eclectic and no big bucks wines. That’s exactly what my forte is, so he gave me a green light to play.”

You won’t find any generic wines at Franklin Wine Ship & Café, according to Larranaga. And, there will be plenty of choices for the cheese and beer lovers as well.

“We’ll have one of the largest craft brews – lots of Michigan and craft beers from all over the world,” he said. “We are actually bringing in a cheesemonger and we’ll be cutting our own cheeses, packaging our own cheeses – we’ll have a wine club, a beer club and a cheese club.”

There will be three sommeliers on the floor at all times according to Larranaga. The chef, Michigan native Craig Ostrowe, will be busy preparing all sorts of take-home dishes that can be warmed or served cold for a satisfying dinner or late-night snack.

Gourmet pizza, full deli, salad bar

“He’ll do gourmet pizzas, we do have a full deli and a full salad bar but that’s just the walk-in. We’ll also have a carry-out case where he’ll be doing salmon, chef specials, tenderloins – you name it and it will be there. We want people to come in – especially with everybody working – get a full meal, take it home and eat it. It’s all prepared,” Larranaga said. “It’s almost like sending the chef home with them.”

The store will probably open around 9 a.m. and close around midnight. Summer hours will include a walk-up window for cappuccino, espressos, coffees and other drinks.

Former auto parts store

The property used to be an auto parts store that was built in late 1930s and Soka decided that’s where he wanted to be.

“He (Soka) fell in love with the building,” Larranaga said. “He actually kept as much of the existing as possible. There are old railroad trusts going across the ceiling that holds the roof up. He could have taken it down but he chose not to. He fell in love with the architecture.”

Once the business is open and the kinks are worked out, there will be a grand opening with plenty of wine tastings and much more.

The Duke of Royal Oak December 06, 2012 at 02:17 PM
What a GREAT asset to Royal Oak. Congratulations on such a wonderful concept,especially retaining the architecture of your building. Such nice Royal Oak history now preserved. I understand the need for the security curtains..... by the way I really like them too. A feast at the Palace is being planned! HRH The Duke of Royal Oak
Lee December 06, 2012 at 02:21 PM
great idea, BUT get rid of the steel shutters on the front. TERRIBLE look for your business and Royal Oak. Definitely turns me off to even walk into the business when it is open.
Jerry Q. December 06, 2012 at 03:12 PM
"He fell in love with the building..." REALLY??? Is that why they covered it with Dryvit and made it look like a crappy suburban party store? This is just a glorified Liquor/Lotto place that will bleed business from established Royal Oak businesses like Holiday, Elie's and Cloverleaf Fine Wine. Another winner from the "throw-it-all-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks Royal Oak Planning Commission. And it's right next to a kids' playground.
The Duke of Royal Oak December 06, 2012 at 03:46 PM
OH DEAR!
g wahl December 06, 2012 at 05:04 PM
@Jerry, I agree. It looks like a strip mall CVS-style liquor store. If historic details remain, those photos hardly reveal any. The ghetto shutters don't help either.
Fran December 06, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Jerry, your description of the planning commission is right on target. This place is coming in as a Trojan Horse. They want to be a bar without buying a liquor license. If they have a "full kitchen" and sell wine by the glass, methinks it's trying to be a restaurant. This is nothing more than the planning commission allowing a wine shop/party store to backdoor their way into being another bar/restaurant into town WITHOUT purchasing a liquor license. Notice how they mention how they will be dispensing cappuccino, espressos, coffees and other drinks from the walk up window. The other drinks they mention will be wine for the outdoor patio. How convenient!
Tamaratamarayono@yahoo.com December 06, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Good luck ... I will be there everyday for lunch .
Concerned Resident December 06, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Jerry Q, I too have some very serious concerns that this will turn into a liquor store that may not be appropriate for Royal Oak's downtown. I have no problem with selling/serving alcohol in our downtown as a general rule. Establishments like Elie's and Cloverleaf Fine Wine are excellent additions to Royal Oak and clearly provide a great niche service. In particular, these establishments may be at a disadvantage to this store because it has an attached parking lot, a very rare commodity in downtown Royal Oak. I will be upset if this store slowly evolves away from the high-minded goals stated in this article and turns into a run-of-the-mill liquor store and in the process drives out stores like Elie's and Cloverleaf. Hopefully the steel awnings/drapes are not an early indication of what is to come. Concerned Resident
Linda December 06, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Congratulation good luck
Jim Herrig December 06, 2012 at 07:19 PM
State law says you can't sell alcohol within 500 feet of a church or school, but Royal Oak ignores that law. Blackfinn, Tequila Blue and now this wine shop are all within 500 feet of St Paul Church and School. Apparently, St. Paul is now the patron saint of alcohol.
The Duke of Royal Oak December 06, 2012 at 07:45 PM
WOW! Give them a chance to open folks. It is better than an empty store front, and let us not forget the tax revenue paid to the city.
The Duke of Royal Oak December 06, 2012 at 07:48 PM
I believe that St. Paul's Church gave their approval for those establishments that serve alcohol near their church.
Jim Herrig December 06, 2012 at 10:03 PM
It's an existing building. Taxes are collected on vacant buildings, Duke. Of course, no one wants to see vacant buildings. I agree that the ghetto shutters need to go.
The Duke of Royal Oak December 06, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Jim Herrig- Business's also pay personal property taxes to the city, I also believe there is a DDA tax, not to mention the sales tax to the State of Michigan. Jobs are created when a business opens too. The security curtains look great! Very tasteful.
Jeanne Sarnacki December 06, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Strip mall architecture at its finest.
Mark Itall December 07, 2012 at 01:23 AM
Some really uninformed comments today from Jerry, Jim and Fran. Hopefully they will try and obtain real information next time before they open up. It is distressing when people run off with a small piece of the picture. Jerry, if a plan is presented to a city's Planning Commission that meets city ordinances, like Franklin did, under state law a Planning Commission has no ability to deny the plan. Moreover, a business's effect on other businesses in terms of lost customers is completely irrelevant to any approval process. That would be cronyism, not acceptable, and the city would eat lawsuits. Jim, Royal Oak ignored ZERO laws. St. Paul signed off on all of the liquor licenses, otherwise they would not have been issued. Fran, simply nonsense.
Mark Itall December 07, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Yes it is Jeanne. Too bad the City Commission never signed off on the several attempts at better design guidelines the Planning Commission put forth over the last 13 years.
Sally December 07, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Thanks Duke.. People are haters and have nothing else to tallk about.. The city approved every thing on that building.. from shutters to the wallk up window.. Don't forget, this was an old ,ugly , neglected , and aboundant building for more than 10 years..thanks to Steve Soka for making the entrance of the downtown royal oak strip so beautiful..those people that are writing the negative comments are the competitors no more than that.. They are scared of this new establishment to take them down.. Good luck to you Soka.. Will be there all the time ..can't wait
Jeanne Sarnacki December 07, 2012 at 02:44 AM
You are so right. It appears they may finally see the wisdom in this - it was a losing battle all those years ago.
Tom December 07, 2012 at 05:26 AM
Mark, you are mistaken, and/or maybe Jim didn't state his point in the best possible way. There absolutely is a state law that says alcohol can't be sold within 500 feet of a church or school. A local community can waive their objection, though, and the Michigan LCC will take that into consideration. The church and the city didn't object to waiving the state law in the case of Blackfin, Tequila Blue, and this new wine shop. If they did object, none of those businesses would have gained approval from the state.
Tom December 07, 2012 at 05:34 AM
Never heard of a wine shop or other retail outlet having a "soft opening". Only have heard a "soft opening" for a restaurant or bar. Can anyone else recall a soft opening for a wine shop, party store, or other retail store?
Justine December 07, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Mark Itall - the Franklin store was approved as a Special Land Use. As such, the city can impose restrictions they see fit as stated in the Zoning Ordinance. Specifically, "The Plan Commission may impose such additional conditions and safeguards deemed necessary for the general welfare, for the protection of individual property rights, and for insuring that the purposes of this chapter and the general spirit and purpose of the district in which the special land use is proposed will be observed." It is 100% their responsibility to make sure the city retains it's character and this can be achieved by placing conditions on what a building looks like, materials used, hours of operation etc. This is NOT just a normal site plan application. I'm hoping this business will be an asset to the community, but there have been some absolutely valid concerns raised about how things are approved here and why there isn't some type of design standard required in the downtown.
Nancy Barnett December 11, 2012 at 02:09 AM
Lee, The food is fantastic and as far as their shutters go..who cares what the place looks like.If you were hungry and this was the only place to go and get something to eat,I bet you would walk in.
Sherry Lane February 19, 2013 at 04:32 AM
My husband & I thought we would try this place out tonight, we parked on the side of the building, off the street got out of the car proceeded to the side door, when we seen that there wasn't a menu on the door, most eateries in Royal Oak have there menu's posted on a door or window, we started to walk to the front window to see if there was a menu there, as we started to walk a guy came out and told us it was a private lot I told him we were just checking to see if there was a menu posted and he said VERY RUDELY that the menu was inside, Royal Oak was not very busy tonight, and this place didn't have any customers that I could see, so sorry for you, we left your PRIVATE PARKING LOT, NEVER TO RETURN, seems to me like you would have appreciated the business !!!

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