is the product of family: a family business, family recipes, the family name. “My parents purchased a 19th century home 30 years ago with the intention of opening a restaurant in it,” explains Anna Hoffman, owner of Bon-A-Rose. At the time they purchased the house, it was used as an upper and lower flat. In the ‘80s Anna’s parents converted it into a full-service, seven-day-a-week upscale Italian restaurant using all of Anna’s grandmother’s recipes. “It was always my mom’s dream to have a restaurant,” Anna continues. “Her parents had a restaurant in Detroit so she wanted to honor that.” The original restaurant, also called Bon-A-Rose, remained open for several years until Anna’s mother was forced to close it about 10 years ago due to medical issues.
The family kept the property and at the time Anna was doing bookkeeping for her father. It so happened that both of her daughters were having showers (bridal and baby) at about the same time, which triggered in her a passion to re-launch the family’s restaurant – but doing things a little differently this time. “When our last tenant left I talked mom into redoing the restaurant,” Anna says. “[I told her], ‘We already had the commercial kitchen so we can cater parties on-site and use grandma’s recipes.’” For her daughters’ showers, which they held in the old Bon-A-Rose space, Anna didn’t want to give the usual cheap trinkets as party gifts for guests, so she and her mom made their own salad dressings and marinara sauce with custom labels under the “Bon-A-Rose” name and gave them out as gifts.
The products were so popular Anna thought “there might be something more to this,” so she began doing the research to find out more about product development. Her research led her to Michigan State University, which has the MSU Product Center, a totally free service that helps small businesses and entrepreneurs develop and commercialize their products and businesses in the food economy. They have a wealth of resources available to entrepreneurs which includes counseling and guidance through every step of the product and business development process, and they even host an annual product show for their businesses that attracts buys from all over the state (which is how Anna got Bon-A-Rose products into Westborn Market).
Anna was also introduced to Oakland County’s One Stop Shop/Business Center through the South Lyon/Lyon Township Business Assistance Team organized locally by Michelle Aniol, DDA Administrator & Economic Development Coordinator. Lead small business consultant Lola Aré realized Bon-A-Roses’ business potential and absence of a well thought out business plan and arranged to have her Walsh College small business management class assist in developing the plan. The Oakland County Business Center – MI-SBTDC resources in conjunction with Walsh College’s set a great foundation for Bon-A-Rose and put the company on a solid path to realizing its future potential.
Bon-A-Rose is now carried in 75 retail stores across Michigan including Hiller’s Market, Plum Market, and 33 different Meijer locations in Meijer’s special “Made in Michigan” section that highlights all Michigan-made products (another effort of the MSU Product Center in collaboration with Meijer). They make all from-scratch products made with grandma’s recipes, including the salad dressings and marinara sauces that are hand-poured in their building as well as pickled beets and homemade chunky applesauce (some new additions to their lineup). Recently she has added homemade frozen entrees (like lasagna and meatballs) to the Bon-A-Rose lineup which she sells at farmers markets and in the small country store she has downstairs in her building where she sells a small selection of Michigan-made products.
Over the past four years since this second incarnation of Bon-A-Rose launched, Anna has participated (and continues to participate) in numerous different farmers markets throughout the metro area including Royal Oak and Northville just to get the Bon-A-Rose name out and build a customer base. But most recently this strategy has become yet another project of Anna’s – after the community of Lyon Township expressed interest in operating their own farmers market, Anna worked with them to host it on her property and used the connections she made by participating in other farmers markets to attract vendors.
This Friday she will be hosting her third Lyon Twp. Farmers Market, which brings in about 20-25 different vendors selling a wide range of products. “We want it to be about community,” she explains – not the “Bon-A-Rose Farmers Market” but the Lyon Twp. Farmers Market, to be about the community and not about themselves. There are tents set up along the side of her driveway and she opens her event space and garden for people to mill about and relax. Anna also has some prepared foods for purchase that customers can enjoy in her beautiful garden or inside the historic old home.
The house is still available for small private parties like showers and anniversary parties, which Anna fully caters. They have their liquor license and she carries a selection of Michigan wines at the bar. Her capacity is small – 35 downstairs, 45 upstairs, and 50 in the garden on a nice day. Anna is able to be involved in every step of the event planning process, from staffing to cooking, which is what she prefers. “I love doing parties and weddings and showers,” she says. “I love the food service side; I just don’t love the seven-days-a-week of operating a full-service restaurant. This way I can know everything that the party needs, I can hire the staff I need [for the event]…that’s what I prefer.”
Bon-A-Rose, a nod to the family names Bonaventure and Rosalia, is still very much a family operation. Parents, sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, cousins – everyone pitches in to help out in one fashion or another. Grandma’s recipes have been reborn for a whole new generation and the family business has once again evolved for a new era. “We have this building; we’re entrepreneurs at heart. If things don’t work out one way you try another way. And if they don’t work out that way you try another way!” Bon-A-Rose shows that a little ingenuity and a lot of effort pays off, and the new company continues to honor the spirit of its namesakes.