Owners of The Barn Door consider the community 'part of the family'
The local restaurant, which serves Michigan-made food and beer, offers itself as a 'home away from home.'
About 15 minutes west of Central Michigan University's campus, on the corner of Remus and Coldwater Roads, The Barn Door restaurant is home to the Pulverentes, who consider all of Mount Pleasant to be part of their family.
Built in the late 1800s, then renovated in 1978 the barn originally served as a one-room school house for Isabella County and was later a grange hall for many years.
The building was eventually transformed into The Barn Door when Margarite Rice bought the property. The establishment changed ownership two more times until Cathy Pulverente shifted its identity once more into a family-friendly restaurant and bar.
Seventeen years ago, Pulverente was working a corporate job in Baltimore, Maryland, often visiting Mount Pleasant where she was born and raised. To escape her office job she went out on a limb and purchased the property, .
Pulverente said she shares The Barn Door’s rich history with the rest of her immediate family – all but two employees are part of the Pulverente family.
Her son, Zach Pulverente, works as general manager while her sister and mother often help during the week as well.
“The pros are that you work with your family and the negatives are that you work with your family” Zach said. “But there is a level of trust that you can’t get unless you work with them.”
Cathy said The Barn Door is famous for their homemade burgers, signature buffalo wing sauce and wide selection of Michigan-made craft beers. However, the restaurant does more than provide food.
Hanging from the wall near the restaurant's front entrance is a sign that reads, “We provide the best local harassment in the 989,” meaning the Pulverente’s treat every customer as if they are kin.
“They really do treat you like family,” said Keith Stack, a regular at The Barn Door. “It’s really tight knit”
The Pulverentes view establishing relationships with customers as the most important aspect of the business. Cathy said in some cases the Pulverente family has met CMU students as freshman and watched them graduate, get married and raise children.
The Barn Door also aims to form partnerships with other Mount Pleasant businesses by choosing locally made products and ingredients for their food. For example, they use meat from Smith and Son’s Meat Processing on Broadway Street and burger buns from Cop’s and Doughnuts.
Zach said The Barn Door will be celebrating its local partnerships and welcoming new menu items beginning Dec. 4.
“Every Monday night we will be doing a different Michigan-made sandwich,” Zach said. “Everything is homemade, everything is local.”
In addition, Cathy said The Barn Door is frequently involved with local charities, fundraising and community service projects. The Pulverentes host charity dart tournaments and recently were involved with United Way’s annual “Stuff the Bus” campaign, which provides local schools with funds for supplies.
In 2017, Cathy was awarded the “Working Woman of the Year” award by 95.3 WCSX, a local radio station.
Despite this, the Pulverentes consider 2011 to be the worst year in their family’s history. It involved a divorce, the passing of a family friend and the death of Cathy’s 11-year-old nephew.
“You find out after a child dies that people don’t like to talk about death,” Cathy said. “But Caleb was worth talking about.”
The Pulverentes host an annual Christmas Eve dinner from 12-4 p.m. to thank the public for helping them during their darkest times. During the first week after Caleb's death, family, friends and community members assisted in running the restaurant and bar.
"We felt like we have to give back to the community," said Caleb's sister, Alyssa Bowen. "All the proceeds from the first year were donated to where Caleb went to school, Weidman Elementary, which helped upgrade their library.
The food is completely free, but donations are appreciated and all proceeds go to a struggling family in the community or to the local school systems.
The Pulverentes built The Barn Door on a foundation of family values and a passion for community service. They welcome everyone to be accepted into their extended family of regulars including those who are in need of a home away from home.