KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Kalamazoo’s newest restaurant is serving more than just a wholesome breakfast or lunch.
The Walnut & Park Diner in Washington Square had its grand opening Thursday. It’s managed by community corrections provider KPEP and run by students and graduates of its hospitality vocational training program.
KPEP leaders and students of the provider say the diner will provide an expanded opportunity for those in the program to get the independent living skills they need.
“Every day, I can be positive,” diner employee Quincy Johnson said. “I can actually set an example for people who haven’t done the right thing or haven’t changed. You get a second chance at life if you go through things. This program is actual excellence. That’s the feeling. It gives you a second chance at life.”
“When they’re participating in the program, they get ServSafe certification, they go through the American Hotel Lodging Education Institute, they get certification there, first aid, CPR,” KPEP President and CEO William DeBoer said. “So they get a lot of things that they can take with them to their next job. And they learn how to be a good employee. That’s a good thing. Whether you’re working in a diner or coffee shop or factory, it doesn’t matter — you still have to be a good employee.
A total of nine students and graduates run the diner and already existing Walnut & Park Cafe. KPEP plans to add three more next week and wants to return to a pre-pandemic total of 24 between the two business.
The diner is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays. The goal is to eventually open on more days and as early as 7 a.m.