Clara’s Lansing Station, a staple in the Lansing area for more than 37 years, will close its doors Sunday.
In 1978, Peter Jubeck chose the old Union Depot (Lansing, Michigan) built in 1903 as the site of his new venture Clara’s Lansing Station, which opened in the summer of 1979 bringing life back into the once proud structure. The name “Clara’s” was chosen because it was a popular name at the turn of the 20th Century, and because it was the name of Swartz’s mother. This new restaurant location, designed and developed by Peter himself, was much larger than his pizza restaurants, touting a seating capacity of over 200 guests. Clara’s menu was larger too, offering steaks, seafood, hamburgers and salads in addition to Sir Pizza’s fare. The décor displayed turn of the century memorabilia from around the state. Clara’s quickly became a local favorite.
In 1980, Jubeck hired Ross Simpson as General Manager to help further develop the concept and menu, and to handle operations of the restaurant. Simpson added more entrées to the menu, including “Chicken Hawaiian”, Clara’s biggest seller. Simpson left Clara’s in 1982 to join the T.G.I. Friday’s restaurant chain, but returned to Clara’s as Director of Operations in 1989.
Shortly after his return, Simpson expanded Clara’s entree menu to sixteen pages, added an award winning Sunday Brunch, and outdoor patio dining. This period resulted in substantial sales growth, which allowed Jubeck to undertake an expansion of the Lansing restaurant. The subsequent addition of a restored 1910 Pullman Dining car to allow seating for 60 additional guests was completed in early 1999.
Early in 1991, Jubeck and Simpson purchased and restored the Michigan Central Railroad Depot (Battle Creek, Michigan) built in 1888 and, on June 8, 1992 opened Clara’s on the River restaurant with a seating capacity of 300 guests. It offered the same food and beverage items as Clara’s in Lansing, and emphasized the rich history of Battle Creek in the depot’s decor. Clara’s on the River was an immediate success, with over 330,000 visitors its first year. In late 1998, Clara’s completed the development of a twelve hundred square foot banquet room in the “Railway Express Agency” (REA) building located on Clara’s on the River’s property.
Peter Jubeck died of esophageal cancer at his home in Wacousta, Michigan, on May 12, 2003 at the age of 67. His wife and children continued to operate Clara’s Lansing Station for a time but decided to close it down in 2016.
Simpson became the sole owner of Clara’s on the River upon Peter Jubeck’s death, and continues to operate the Battle Creek, Michigan location.