Thursday, July 7, 2016

Goodbye, Clara

When I was a very little girl my I took my first train ride, leaving from Lansing's Union Depot and going to Detroit to meet my favorite author, Carolyn Haywood, at Hudson's department store. I don't remember a lot about that day apart from meeting the author and then sitting on the floor of the women's clothing department reading my book while my mother shopped. But I also remember the train ride.

Years later that train depot was decommissioned and purchased privately, eventually becoming a restaurant known as Clara's.

It was filled with antiques including Tiffany lamps (some authentic, some reproductions), chandeliers, a classic clock and other treasures, many from throughout the community.

Clara's became a popular gathering place for all kinds of occasions. I'd often meet friends there for lunch, particularly enjoying their thin-crust pizza (a food discussion upon which there was no clear-cut agreement!). When my friend Suzanne came home, it was often a key stopping point!

My family gathered there after my uncle Martin's burial service to share memories -- a classic Lansing family in a classic Lansing restaurant.

And on happier occasions, it was the site of meetings. Rick first met my friends Mike and Kate there and it is where Kevin introduced Rick and me to Molly, the wonderful woman he would make his wife.

The restaurant was well converted into a lovely, comfortable, reasonably priced place. Details were maintained. The hostess station was the old ticket booth.

And eventually a dining car was added as an extension to the restaurant.

Clara's closed this month. After 37 years, the owners were faced with huge needs for renovation -- resurfacing the parking lot and replacing an expensive roof among them.

Road construction that lasted for several years on the street outside caused a business drop and it just didn't seem as feasible as it once did.

So, Rick and I joined Mike and Kate for a last supper at Clara's. We weren't alone.

The place was packed and it seemed like everyone had a camera in hand. We certainly did!

As we walked through taking photos of the old metal piece from the original R.E. Olds mansion that was at the foot of the steps, I couldn't help but think about my many good times there.


I took a last look at my favorite pieces, like the three monkeys painting (which doesn't show up all that well here, but is simply magical).


The bar was cozy.

And I always loved sitting on the upper level where you had a wonderful view of everything and everyone.

There will be other restaurants, other pizzas, other lovely spots. And perhaps one day another establishment will move into this space and maintain some of the tradition and casual elegance.

But Clara's will indeed be missed in our community -- most certainly by me!

Lights out.

Time to go.


Anne said...

Oh my, that is truly sad. I'm very happy you got to be there to say good-bye to this good friend.

Mae Travels said...

Old small-town train stations are so wonderful, no matter what has been made out of them! Your memories are lovely. Do you remember what station you came into when you rode the train to Detroit as a girl?

So unfortunate that the restaurant owners couldn't maintain the property as needed. Is there any chance that another restaurant will take over the space and do what's needed? Or will they have to sell off all their collected decor and remove any hope of continuity? The original Ann Arbor train station is also a restaurant now -- The Gandy Dancer. Much fancier and more expensive than what you describe. Ironically, there's really a need for a train station there now, and Amtrak couldn't possibly get it back. Elsewhere, the old Art Deco train station in Santa Barbara CA is still the train station. In St.Louis, Union Station became some kind of shopping mall (but I don't know any recent info about it). Those are all I have experience with.

best... mae at

Marilyn Miller said...

It is sad when a favorite place with many memories closes. I hope someone comes and rescues that beautiful building. I even liked the carpet on the stairs. And the pizza looks delicious too.

Tammie Lee said...

It looks like a charming place! Plus you have so many dear memories there. Lovely that you went for one last meal.

bj said...

we had a beautiful train depot in my home town and a restaurant was there for several years...full of the most beautiful antiques....they also faced too many bills and not enuf people coming to eat on a regular basis...sad

Joanne Huffman said...

It's always hard to say good-bye to a favorite place.

Joyful said...

I love it! Too bad it will close but it gave you many happy memories.xx

Lisbeth Ekelof said...

What a pity. It seems like a lovely, beautiful place. I hope someone will be able to take over and renovate it in a caring way. It should be made into a museum, for future generations to enjoy.

BeachGypsy said...

It is so sad to see neat old places with history like that close down. Sure looks like a beautiful old decor there. I am in love with the floral carpet.....reminds me so much of my Ma-Maw's floors from the 40s. That is a great picture of y'all too!

My name is Erika. said...

It is sad to see such landmarks close. It's like a piece of your life has gone and can't come back, not just a restaurant closing. It's looks like it was a gorgeous place. Almost a museum. Glad you shared these photos and got a last evening out to enjoy it. Hugs erika

La Table De Nana said...

A shame..I know a lot of Mtl businesses have had hard times because of the past and now..road repairs etc..too bad:(

Victoria Zigler said...

It's always sad when a place that holds so many wonderful memories has to close. At least you will still have the memories.

Mary Rose's said...

Ack, no-o-o-o!

Without having had the joy of dining and drinking in Clara's, I mourn its loss. What a jewel box of a place! And that pizza .... oh!

Another story well told, Jeanie. I hope Clara's owners see it and know how loved they are.

Maryanne in SC

Bella Rum said...

It's so great that you took your camera. What a neat place. There are several places from my past that I wish I'd taken photos. You know how it is when you're young, you think those places will last forever. I also wish we had digital cameras back then. Thanks for the tour, Jeanie.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Good morning Jeanie!

I loved how you described your childhood moments then moved on up to the present. We are walking story books, the places we've been, the magical backdrops that provide the background and give reason and context to the events. I am so sorry to hear that this monument to a slice of your life is coming to a close. Oh I have to admit, I don't like change. What a gorgeous place, all those antiques that if they could speak, would tell your story among those of others.

Enjoy your day sweet friend.

The French Hutch said...

It is always sad Jeanie when we see our favorite places close up shop! Clara's looks like an awesome place where I'm sure you made many happy memories. Not only a great place to gather with special people but look at the great food they served. We have a similar restaurant here, the old depot. It has come and gone, and is really a beautiful building. Hope this time it is here to stay!
Hope you have a great weekend……….

~*~Patty S said...

Thirty-seven years is a long time.
I bet in addition to everything else the owners might be ready for a rest.
Such a shame to see a landmark like that go.
Hope it gets rescued by someone and keeping delighting people for years to come.

shoreacres said...

There's a big highway project coming in the medium future that involves widening, through several communities. It's true that it needs to be done, but there are businesses that will have to close because of it. Not all of them are as neat as this one, but they still are businesses, and it's going to mean a lot of disruption for them.

The place that I mourned was Stone's Restaurant, in Marshalltown, Iowa. They made a mile high lemon chiffon pie that was their trademark, and every time we made the trip to the eye doctor in M'town (about 30 miles away) we would go there and have pie. They closed a few years ago,so I couldn't go when I was last in Iowa.

However! This is the internet age, and when I did a search for that pie recipe, I found it! It was a copy from the Des Moines register, c. 1958 -- and one of these days, I'm going to make it. I'm waiting until I reach my next weight goal, though. Then, I can eat half the pie if i want!

Jann Olson said...

It's always sad to see places like this go! Certainly can see why the owners felt the need. Thank goodness you have the memories!

Maggie said...

Such a shame that Clara's has had to close. I wonder what will become of all the pictures and antiques? Maybe there will be an auction and you'll be able to purchase a memento to remind you of all the good times that you've enjoyed there.
bon weekend

Julia - Vintage with Laces said...

What a shame! I'm sorry for you that this restaurant has closed. It looks like you all had a great time at your last visit and made some more memories.

Barb said...

Too bad! This looks like such an interesting and historical old building. I really can see that road work which lasts a long time can affect the health of a business. Our I 70 is constantly under construction and some of the little towns/businesses off the interstate are suffering. Hope you're having a great summer, Jeanie - I assume you're watching the Tour!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...


Thanks so much for coming by the blog to leave a comment! Yes, every situation I am finding, is an opportunity for SOUL-CRAFT...and why not? That's what will be left when this husk of a body is gone. What have we learned from having the opportunity to live in this garden of wildflowers?

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

This is just SAD. I for one, LOVE thin crust pizza and it's so hard to find in my city where everything seems to be deep dish. I feel your sadness, because that landmark will certainly be missed, especially since it looks like it was a thriving establishment for awhile.

Thanks for dropping by my place while I was offline. I certainly appreciate it.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

When a wonderful place closes, it is like losing a good friend, isn't it?

I wish you a wonderful start to the week :)

Wandering Wren said...

I could see why you'd miss it, the place has so much character I reckon you'd never get bored as there looks like lots to look at with the decor and as you say lots of happy memories - what fun you could enjoy the last supper together. 37 years is a long time I wonder what will pop up there next? If it was here it would be an apartment block with 37 apartments!
Have a great week Jeanie!
Wren x

Jemma@athomewithjemma said...

I love your passion for life and the sweet memories which you share!
It is always so sad for us when business's close.
I have fond memories of growing up and having breakfast after Church with friends at Me N' Stans-they closed too and I felt like I had lost a tad bit of me with it's closing.
Enjoy your travels Jeanie!

ineedorange said...

It's hard to say goodbye to old friends. What a beautiful place. I hope someone can take it over and revive it.

(So awful when extended road work makes it impossible to keep businesses going!)

Valerie-Jael said...

Oh my , what a wonderful place. What a shame to close it down, so much tradition and beauty. Hugs, Valerie

Lynne said...

I wish . . .
My husband and I would have loved a visit here . . .
More than lovely!
Thank you for sharing Jeanne . . .

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Oh how sad that it closed, especially since you have made so many memories like that! I am glad that you got one last meal there. It looks like such a beautiful, warm and charming place. What a shame that it had to close, although I understand why the owners needed to do that. I hope that someone comes along some day and re-opens it as it just seems like such a great little place.

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