When it comes to putting food on the table, there's no sibling rivalry among members of one of DeWitt's newest restaurant families.
Last summer, a team of two brothers and two sisters opened Family Tree Café
in a renovated space in DeWitt's downtown district. Owners include brothers Tim and Steve Russell and their sisters Ann Williams and Sue Vlahakis. Parents Gene and Kay Russell also helped get the restaurant up and running, but are now sitting back and enjoying the food and serviced provided by their kids.
"It's been really good working with my siblings," says Co-owner Tim Russell. "Some of the spouses pitch in, too, and do what needs to be done."
In early 2015, the Russell siblings seized the opportunity to acquire the frontage that once housed the Heart and Soul Restaurant and Sam's Kitchen. After a few weeks of ripping out carpet, redoing electrical, painting, and laying new flooring, the hardworking family transformed the space into a cozy, family-style eatery.
Close to 140 people can sit in booths and tables in the 2,800-square foot space, enjoying the homey atmosphere evoked through picture windows, discreet lighting, ceiling fans, and non-obtrusive TVs. The restaurant's "nostalgic hallway" features historic pictures of DeWitt ad well as vintage signage and artifacts from bygone restaurants and businesses.
"One of our goals is to put the rest back in restaurant," says Russell. "We don't understand the need to hurry up all the time, and want Family Tree to be a relaxed, casual environment for folks to come in, sit down, and enjoy a meal."
The Family Tree Café features home-style comfort food and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The café also has a liquor license. Specialties include hearty breakfasts, 12 kinds of burgers, and weekly specials like prime rib, rosemary chicken, Greek style lamb and goulash. Grilled sandwiches, wraps, pastas and salads occupy a prominent part of the menu, as well as a wide selection of homemade appetizers like mac-and-cheese bits, spinach pie and jalapeño poppers.
"We're looking forward to being connected with the past while looking forward to the future," says Russell. "It's good to see more folks become regulars. It's all part of expanding our family tree out here in DeWitt."
The Family Tree Café celebrates on year of operation this June. About 20 people work at the café, including the owners.
Source: Tim Russell, Co-owner, Family Tree Cafe
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
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