Photos by Gary Anderson
Article by Kathleen Federspiel
Shaking hands with Jim Hughes in his violet establishment, Diamond Jim's, was only the beginning of my warm welcome. When passing Diamond Jim's on Midland's Main St., it may appear to be just another bar, but with Jim Hughes's experience and attention to detail, it is far from that. With its array of food and drinks and focused management style, originality has been nailed on the head. Jim, a Kentucky native, wanted "to bring a little southern hospitality to the restaurant," to Midland, a competitive edge that is bound to succeed.
The company is progressing in a way that Jim and business partner, and girlfriend, Marinell Shafer, had hoped. With a history in management for many big, franchised restaurants, Jim has seen how not to do things: too quickly. He and Marinell wanted an approach based on gradual success and growth, one that would leave room for adaptation and top-notch training. This is how things have worked out. Since opening in November, they have gone from serving only lunch to a full dinner menu, and since the first week in May, they have experienced their best weeks of sales. Northwood University's graduation week beat their best week by $10,000. Jim says they expected to see sales drop afterward, but the following week was their second best week. According to UrbanSpoon.com, Diamond Jim's is number one in soups (all homemade from Hughes's recipes) and number three in American dining for the Midland area. These are only a few of the positive rankings they've received so far.
Jim works long hours, mostly in the kitchen, but he says it's a "labor of love." Marinell, currently employed at Dow, stops in for lunch and rounds to the tables. She works some nights and opens Saturday mornings, so Jim can catch a few extra Zs.
Currently, they are open from 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Monday through Saturday, and 12 p.m.-12 a.m. on Sunday. However, when they started in early November, the menu was lunch only, and that lasted until February 1, when the dinner menu was introduced. Moving forward with a dinner menu and obtaining a liquor license were only a few of the challenges faced by the owners. As with any business, human resource management is a challenge. Sometimes it's difficult to "be the boss," Jim states as we discuss managers' fear of having to fire, yet he says it's important to find the right balance. That means finding chemistry, a group of people who accurately reflect the business' philosophy. The above-average wages and flexible work environment serve as incentives for the staff.
Now that we know where the business presently stands, how about exploring its past? The physical location of Diamond Jim's, 101 E. Main St., has survived many transformations, and Jim says that has proven to be a challenge of its own. "A building is a brand," and "it had been tarnished." The previous restaurant/bistro/bar, whatever it finally developed into, had a reputation that would have to be shaken. The poor service and mediocre food at the previous restaurant was one of Jim's first experiences when he visited Michigan for a date with Marinell. He drove to Michigan from Kentucky to spend time with the lovely lady he'd met through AmericanSingles.com. Once he realized the potential of their relationship, he decided to move to Michigan. For the next five years, he would manage the Cracker Barrel in Bay City. However, with the availability of a downtown location and a long-brewing idea, thoughts turned into actions, and here stands Diamond Jim's.
During the brainstorming, discussion of the name surfaced, of course, as it is the premier image of a business. Many people may assume Jim Hughes is Diamond Jim, but that's not the case. Initially, he was actually against it. The business is named after Diamond Jim Brady, a man who loved to eat and drink, a passion mildly appropriate for a bar & restaurant.
So, there's quality food, drinks, two flat screens, outdoor seating, and did I mention live music? It's all acoustic so the restaurant maintains a comfortable ambiance for an assortment of people. The website provides a schedule for upcoming performances as well as links to the artists' sites. Diamond Jim's also has an active Facebook page containing a large social network and loads of information and pictures, definitely worth "liking."
At Diamond Jim's, there is a commitment to creating an atmosphere where people want to be, both inside the restaurant and in downtown Midland. This strong business philosophy convinces me that the business has a sparkling future. It is a rare and precious gem hidden in our own back yard.
Diamond Jim's is located at 101 E. Main Street, Midland. For more information, visit their website at http://diamondjimsmidland.com/ or their Facebook page.
© Kathleen Federspiel, 2010