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Franks Restaurant celebrates 100th anniversary, City declares Frank’s Appreciation Day April 5

Franks Restaurant celebrates 100th anniversary, City declares Frank’s Appreciation Day April 5

Franks Restaurant celebrates 100th anniversary, City declares Frank’s Appreciation Day April 5

At the Zeeland City Council Meeting on Monday, April 1, 2024 at 7PM, Mayor Kevin Klynstra will read a proclamation naming April 5, 2024 as Frank’s Appreciation Day.

The following information, recounting the history of Frank’s restaurant, was provided in a 2021 press release: Opened in 1924, Frank’s is the longest-running restaurant in the Zeeland and Holland area. Frank’s began as a fruit and confectionery store owned and operated by Frank and Mary Dionise. Over time it evolved into a dine-in restaurant and in 1960 was passed on to Frank Jr. and his wife, Pat. In the 1980s, Frank Jr. passed the torch to his son, Dan, who began helping his mom with the daily operations. Dan was sort of a carbon copy of his dad, joking and laughing with customers. In 2008, Dan passed away and Pat’s grandson, Shane, began sharing the responsibility of running the family business. At one time, Pat, Shane, and his mom, Lynn all served together behind the iconic Frank’s soda fountain counter.

Before 2020, Shane Hammer, great grandson of the original founders, was exclusively representing his family’s restaurant. Customers always looked forward to seeing Shane behind the counter, as they did, the Dionise men before him, flipping burgers and joking with staff and regulars. But during the pandemic customers began noticing a new face around the joint, as well.

Teresa VanderZwaag, owner of The Farmhouse, another local Zeeland restaurant, found herself in an unexpected partnership with Hammer as she was seeking creative solutions to meet the needs of her own customers during the thick of the pandemic. As dining party sizes were required to be petite and socially distanced, VanderZwaag was seeking a venue to offer her Farmhouse customers a private dining experience. This prompted her to approach Hammer – who she didn’t know at the time - to use his banquet facility to east of Frank’s Restaurant. Frank’s hours were still paired down to limited curb-side orders and the banquet facility was sitting unused. Happy to help another local restauranter, Hammer offered to let VanderZwaag use the east building, as needed. Through this gesture, not only a partnership, but a friendship was built. Reopening Frank’s during the pandemic took their teamwork.

Hammer needed staff so VanderZwaag stepped in and together they brought back the legendary Frank’s dine-in experience.

Through the hours logged manning the grill at Frank’s – located at 134 E. Main - and sharing the neighboring banquet facility at 136 E. Main, VanderZwaag and Hammer started dreaming up a permanent and more robust use for that space. VanderZwaag applied for and received a liquor license for 136 E. Main, and together, they plotted how the building east of the original Frank’s restaurant could become its own business.

The original Frank’s and the new restaurant, accurately named Frank’s East, have different addresses, different hours, different beverage menus and slightly different food menus but they also have a lot in common: Frank’s East is connected to Frank’s via a hallway and a set of restrooms. The two businesses also share a kitchen; VanderZwaag’s new restaurant at 136 E. Main relies on the kitchen on the original Frank’s side.

VanderZwaag was accepted into the Frank’s family by opening Frank’s East, and shortly after, the bond was strengthened when the family trusted her to purchase the original Frank’s restaurant. The Dionise family, VanderZwaag family, City of Zeeland, and generations of past staff and customers will celebrate the 100-year milestone of Frank’s, which has been a very special place in the heart of downtown Zeeland for an entire century. VanderZwaag is planning a big celebration this summer, but in the meantime, the City of Zeeland will proclaim it Frank’s Appreciation Day on April 5, which honors original founder, Frank Dionise, Sr. on the anniversary of his birth.

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