When my husband Abyars and I decided to make an investment, we checked lots of different places. The corner of South Washington and West Washtenaw, where we are located, was ideal because records showed that 28,000 people were working in downtown Lansing.
Everybody was asking why downtown? We were asking them why not? This was all before COVID-19.
We leased the space, bought our supplies and then COVID-19 hit. We had two ways to go — cancel all agreements or go on with the project. We did not want to cancel because Lansing needs different cuisines and unique food and places. We thought this could be a cozy place where people can chill out and relax and also enjoy good food.
We really wanted to hang together. Yes, it was a challenge. We saw hard times, especially winter term was so slow, but if you have goals and can support your business with different activities or marketing tools we thought we could survive.
Some people thought we were nuts. Now, we have regular customers who really enjoy Turkish food and drinks. We love to cook, but we also love to share our culture and the stories behind our culture.
We do everything from scratch. Abyars is the chef; he went to culinary school after 25 years in engineering.
We rotate the lunch menu with traditional food: Monday and Tuesday, we have pide, a flat bread which is a bread-like a boat filled with different fillings such as cubed steak, ground beef or zucchini. Wednesday and Thursday mostly Turkish meatballs — Kofte Day, with salad and bulgur pilav served with yogurt. Every two weeks on Friday, we cook Turkish ravioli which is filled with ground beef. We boil them than pour some garlic yogurt and melted butter on top. We thought people would not be interested in this one because of garlic yogurt, but we are getting phone calls and now it is one of our popular items.
We are adding seasonally tastes. Fall is here so we will use more pumpkins. We also have some surprises for our lunch menu.
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On the bakery side, we do custom cakes for special occasions. We use Michigan apples for our turnovers and berries for our fruit tarts. We use good quality products — for our eclairs we use Belgium chocolate and decorate with Turkish pistachios.
We also have private cooking classes, which are unique. We started with virtual classes, but now classes are in person. We send a menu and you choose three items which you would like to cook with the chef at the Social Sloth Café.
We think tasting new food is like exploring new destinations. Because of COVID-19, we are not able to travel too much internationally, but we can explore new restaurants and foods.
We feel so blessed and grateful for all the support, especially from the Downtown Lansing, Inc. team.
Burcay Gunguler, along with her husband Abyars, owns the Social Sloth Café and Bakery located in downtown Lansing. They are co-winners of the 2020-2021 Excellent New Business of the Year award from Downtown Lansing, Inc.