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.