Above: Brooklyn’s Katie Waluck happily handles the battering and frying of the fabulous fish that Aggies serves.
Napoleon eatery has recipe for success
Long-time establishment thrives serving up burgers, pizza, and fish
Story and photos
by John Hummer
Like many businesses, life has been tough for Aggies Sports Bar in Napoleon the past two months – but they’ve stayed the course and are making it.
“We had some debate whether or not we were going to stay open when this [coronavirus] hit,” co-owner Scott Ashe said. “In my mind we always were going to stay open. Once we decided to stay open, we had a mark that we needed to hit to break even and that’s what we’ve done. The days that we haven’t, we’ve made up for it on other days.”
Brandon Cross of Napoleon flips a burger through the air. As a great cook, Brandon also has fun on the job.
Aggies, located at 108 S. Brooklyn Road on the curve in Napoleon, has been a mainstay in Napoleon since the 1980s when co-owner Steve Smoyer started the business. Smoyer then sold Aggies in the early 2000s before going in with Ashe on a second go-round on Feb. 6, 2019.
“The Napoleon community has been great since I’ve been here,” Ashe says. “It’s a great place to raise a family and have your kids grow up. The schools are the best around.”
Ashe was employed by Napoleon Community Schools for 22 years, most recently as co-principal and athletic director. He also coached the Napoleon varsity football team for several years.
“When you’re an athletic director, you don’t have time to breathe,” he said. “I thought I’d have a little more time off when I bought into a business. I was looking forward to retiring a little bit – nah, it’s just as busy.”
Smoyer is also active in the Napoleon community. He has coached sports teams for Napoleon Schools and is currently a member of the Napoleon Township Planning Commission.
Scott Ashe, co-owner, Aggies.
“It’s been good to work with Steve,” Ashe said, adding that he’s learned a lot from Smoyer. “He’s been in the business a long time. He’s got a lot of great connections in the community – that’s been big for us.”
Ashe said the business had to transform from a sit-down restaurant and bar to a ‘to-go’ place for takeout and curbside service only, with no alcohol.
“We weren’t set up for that,” he noted. “We learned the first couple weeks [of the pandemic] and now we got it down pretty good. The staff has just been phenomenal. Everyone has been working extremely hard.”
Aggies typically has around 40 employees; only a handful of them are able to work right now. They run the takeout and curbside service from the back end of the bar known as “Average Joe’s”.
“Hopefully, we’re getting ready to call everybody back and get to work,” he said, in hopes that the “stay home” order will be lifted soon.
Once things start opening back up, Ashe said they’d like to expand their seating outside.
“That will help increase the seating,” he said. “[The state] is not going to let us do full-go. I’m guessing it’s going to be 25 to 40 percent capacity.”
Ashe and Smoyer changed and added to the menu when they took over the operation.
“One of the things we did was we upgraded everything when we got here – upgraded the meat and steaks, the fries, and the sandwiches,” Ashe stated. “We’re looking at getting a char broiler and doing steaks that way once a week, too.”
When asked what the “bread and butter” or the staple of the business is, he replied, “Right now, I think it’s our burgers and pizza. Our sandwiches are great, but I’ll put our burgers up against anybody, anywhere. It’s high quality food – we get our meat from A&A Market – and they’ve been great through this whole process,” adding “The pizza has really accelerated, too. “We’re doing big numbers in pizza.”
Ashe said when a lot of other places have been shutting down and giving up due to COVID-19, or not able to stay open because of whatever reason, that has helped keep Aggies going.
“And now we’re getting people from outside the area coming – Manchester and Jackson,” he says proudly. “We had a lady come in the other day from Adrian – they heard we had good pizza.”
But Ashe is humble, nonetheless.
“We’re far from perfect – we’ve made a lot of mistakes. If we do make one, we try to fix it,” he says. (more below)
If someone from outside Napoleon doesn’t know Aggies, one thing that might surprise them is their outstanding fish fry on Friday nights.
“We have fresh fish,” Ashe notes. “When you come here, we’re not giving you a frozen patty. You’re getting it fresh. You’re getting a nice big, thick piece of perch, walleye, or pollack.”
He added that Aggies is now making homemade soups. The shutdown has also enabled them to experiment on a few new things.
“I’ve got some cooks that are willing to try,” he said. “They got great ideas and we’re running with them.”
Aggies is currently open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed on Sunday. Normal hours will resume when they can re-open the restaurant and bar inside when the state’s “Stay Home Stay Safe” order is lifted.
“I just want to thank the community,” Ashe said emphatically. “They’ve been great. They’re there for us and I hope they understand we’re here for them. We didn’t stay open just for fun. We stayed open to serve our community. Knock on wood, we’ve been able to do that the past two months. We’re very fortunate – the community has been great to us.”
For more information or to place an order, call Aggies at 517-536-8383 or find them here on Facebook, where their menu is also accessible.
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