There’s something special and irreplaceable about a local restaurant or pub. In a world with so many chain restaurants and franchises, a locally-owned eating spot is something to be celebrated. It’s more than just a place to eat- a local restaurant is an extension of the community it serves.
My favorite local spot has always been the Dispatch Sports Pub & Grill in Lansing, Michigan. I was born and raised in Lansing. My dad’s good friend, Norval, owns the Dispatch, so I have very early memories of going there and eating in their special “Lonigans” section with my family.
The food was always incredible. As a kid, my dad and I used to argue, in a fun way, about the Dispatch’s best offerings, from burgers to fries to chicken tenders. We both agreed that the Dispatch had the best burgers around.
I know I’m not the only one who has fond memories of the Dispatch. The restaurant has been around for decades, so people all over Michigan remember good times had by all at the Patch.
Just thinking about the Dispatch brings a smile to my face. That’s why it was so devastating to hear that in the early morning of Oct. 14, the Dispatch burned to the ground. A fire reportedly started around 4:30 a.m., and the building is a total loss.
While it’s comforting to know the staff at Dispatch wasn’t around when the building burned down, so they were safe, it’s still heartbreaking to see a building with so much history and love gone. The Dispatch was truly one of the oldest locally-owned restaurants in Lansing. That building seemed destined to stand for eternity.
When I first heard about the incident, so many thoughts and emotions ran through my mind. “I have to tell my dad,” I thought. “He was to call Norval and see how he’s doing.” Then, I thought about all the amazing friends I’ve made at the Dispatch.
When I was in college, I tried a retail job during Christmas break, but it wasn’t for me. The next holiday season, I decided I really wanted to waitress. I had zero waitressing experience, plus didn’t know anything about alcoholic drinks, but I still wanted to make it happen. My dad said he was okay with me doing it, as long as it was at the Dispatch. I was stoked.
Most restaurants make you start out as a host, but Norval and the Dispatch started me as a waitress. I was so excited! My first lunch shift was a complete disaster. I believe Teya, who became one of my good friends, was stuck training me. Poor thing!
My first few weeks were rough. I loved it all, but the customers probably wished they had a different waitress. There was the time someone ordered an O’Doul’s, and I had no idea what he was talking about and just kept asking him to pronounce it over and over. And then, one of my all-time greatest moments was when someone ordered a rum and coke, and I brought them a rum and Sprite. Nice.
I remember a few days in, hearing someone mumble, “Oh, that girl won’t last another week here.” They were wrong.
I loved working at the Dispatch. Pretty soon, I started to get the hang of it. My coworkers were patient, kind and welcoming. I made best friends with the girls- Teya, Sarah, Jen, Kristi, Amy (who didn’t work there, but was high school friends with most of the girls), Kim, Erica. There are many more.
And, oh, the stories. I went to some amazing parties with my friends from the Dispatch. They took me out for my 21st birthday, and we started the night – where else? – at the Dispatch. I drank so many different concoctions that night! There’s also a story that involves me going to the bar with my Dispatch friends dressed as a mermaid. And the time I went out with a cook I was crushing on that everyone warned me was a “bad guy.” I guess I learned the hard way!
After I stopped working at the Dispatch, I still went, year after year. The food was so great, as were the atmosphere and personalities. I took many friends there over the years, and one of my favorite dates of all time happened there. It was a first date with Chris, because the Dispatch was a cozy, special place for a first date.
There are so many more good memories. Too many to share. Maybe I’ll do another post just with Dispatch memories. Feel free to reach out to me with your own.
Knowing that the original Dispatch building is no longer there is heartbreaking. But, like many “things” in life, the Dispatch is much more than a building. It’s about decades of memories, which will never be erased. It’s also about the good people who have kept the establishment running for decades, whether it was someone who worked there for just a year (like me) or has been running the place for many years, like Norval, Carol and Kim. Maybe it will even come back better than ever, either in the same spot or a new location.
The Dispatch isn’t really gone. It’s in transition, and the people and memories that made it what it is are still alive and vibrant. That makes me smile.