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March 30, 1990 - Image 42

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-03-30

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

BUSINESS

S uccess At Sunrise

Soviet
immigrant
Michael
Kuchersky is
a champion of
the capitalist
system.

MELANIE KOFF

Special to The Jewish News

n the eyes of many of his
comrades, Michael Kuch-
ersky was a success. At
31, he was the manager of a
popular restaurant in Moscow
and enjoyed a comfortable
lifestyle by Soviet standards.
Living with his family in a
two-bedroom apartment, he
had a car and a refrigerator
stocked with food. But it
wasn't enough. He wanted to
own a restaurant — not
manage one. He wanted per-
sonal and religious freedom.
The Kucherskys applied for a
visa to leave the Soviet Union
in 1975, just when the doors
of immigration were beginn-
ing to open.
The following year, Kucher-
sky, his wife, Maya, and their
six-year-old son, Roman,
packed their bags and moved
from Moscow to Oak Park
with $300 and their visas.
They had no knowledge of
English. Members of the
Detroit Jewish community
were to be their only friends
in America.
Today Kuchersky is a suc-
cess in his own right. He is
the owner of Sunrise Cafe, a
chain of popular diner-style
restaurants. After a relative-
ly short time in America,
Kuchersky has become an
estalished businessman and a
champion of the capitalist
system.
"Capitalism is the perfect
system. In the Soviet Union,
whether you are a good
worker or a bad worker, you
still are treated the same and
get paid the same," he says.
Kuchersky opened the first
Sunrise Cafe on North-
western Highway in
Southfield in 1983. His em-
phasis on service, cleanliness
and simple, high quality food
at reasonable prices quickly
made Sunrise Cafe a bustling

I

42

FRIDAY, MARCH 30, 1990

Michael Kuchersky has a special recipe for success.

breakfast and lunch stop.
With a successful franchise in
West Bloomfield, another
Southfield Sunrise Cafe open-
ing in May at Telegraph and
10-Mile Road and a franchise
opening in Romulus later this
year, 45--year-old Kuchersky is
out looking for new plots of
land to conquer. Says Kucher-
sky, "Every year business in-
creases. It keeps going up and
up."
Kuchersky previously own-
ed two other Sunrise Cafes,
which he sold. They now
operate as restaurants with
different names and menus.
The second Southfield loca-
tion opening soon will be on-
ly a few miles from the other
two Sunrise Cafe locations.
Kuchersky is an under-
stated man living a modest
lifestyle. He works long hours
and spends leisure time at
home in his West Bloomfield
condominium or at the
movies.
Kuchersky wears a beeper,
which goes off about 15 times
a day, and says he typically
puts in 55 hours of work a
week of running between
restaurants, sometimes pick-
ing up a spatula at the grill
or waiting on tables if a
restaurant is short-staffed.
Kuchersky believes quality
service is the most essential

ingredient for a successful
restaurant. He trained a loyal
group of employees. "Service
is 70 percent of success.
Sometimes the food is not
perfect, so it is very important
the waitresses are nice."
Dishes are served quickly and
often with a "Can I get you
anything else, honey?" or
similar dashes of friendliness.
His employees praise him.

"As long as you
are willing to work
and are not a
quitter, there is
opportunity here."
Michael
Kuchersky

Two employees, in fact, have
been with him since he open-
ed the first Sunrise Cafe.
His wife, Maya, is also a
business owner, operating
Maya's Skin Care Center, a
salon she opened with her
mother, Anna Platner, in
1987. The salon is located
only a few doors down from
the West Bloomfield Sunrise
Cafe and lunch at Sunrise
Cafe is included with any full
day of beauty at Maya's Skin
Care Center.

The Kucherskys frequent-
ly hire Soviet immigrants to
work in their establishments.
Kuchersky has two Soviet
dishwashers working for him
who speak little English. He
is training them to be cooks.
Kuchersky says close to 90
of his relatives, including
both his and Maya's parents
have immigrated from the
Soviet Union for a life in
America or Israel. Many have
settled in Detroit and Kucher-
sky spends what little free
time he has helping his
relatives and other Soviet
Jews assimilate into the
American lifestyle.
"As long as I can help them
I am willing to," says Kucher-
sky, who often acts as a father
figure to the Soviet im-
migrants, dispensing advice,
language lessons and even
furniture.
Kuchersky recalls how the
Detroit Jewish Community
was invaluable in helping his
family adjust to life in
America. They were met at
the airport by volunteers from
the Jewish Family Services
and taken to a furnished
apartment in Oak Park,
which had a few months' rent
paid. "All our neighbors were
Jewish. It was a joy living be-
tween Jews," Kuchersky says.
The family went to school at

the Jewish Community Cen-
ter, where for three months
they were taught the English
language and American
customs.
The Kucherskys had a se-
cond son a few years after
moving to Michigan. Daniel
will be a bar mitzvah at Con-
gregation B'nai David, in Oc-
tober. Their elder son,
Roman, is attending college
and hopes to become a den-
tist. Kushersky says his sons
are "too American to follow
Dad" into the restaurant
business. Adds Kuchersky,
"This is a business mostly for
foreigners."
Both sons were enrolled in
Hillel Day School for a
number of years. "They must
know something about tradi-
tion and holidays. We can't
give them any of that," says
Kuchersky. He explains that
Moscow had one synagogue
and no Hebrew schools. "For
70 years (since the 1917
revolution) we lost our tradi-
tions and holidays complete-
ly."
Shortly after moving to
America, Kuchersky found a
factory job at $3.50 an hour
and he worked there for a
year before he secured a posi-
tion as a painter. "We came
here with the attitude forget
everything in Russia — what
we had, what we did." After
more than three years of
working with no vacation and
no days off the Kucherskys
managed to save $5,000.
In 1979, Kuchersky and a
friend who also had im-
migrated from the Soviet
Union, purchased a "Coney-
island type" hamburger joint
in Hazel Park called Kelly's
Hamburgers. They sold it a
year later to another Soviet
immigrant. Says Kuchersky,
"In America you must move.
I learned very quickly that if
you don't move you die."
Kuchersky then purchased
a Howard Johnson franchise
in Detroit. He counts that ex-
perience as invaluable as it
gave him a broad knowledge
of how franchise operations
work and what foods are
popular. He admits it also
taught him how to successful-
ly work with people and the
importance of being polite:
traits Kuchersky says are not
valued in the Soviet Union.
Kuchersky was able to
secure a $20,000 loan by mor-
tgaging his home and, with
three Soviet partners, pur-
chased the first location for
Sunrise Cafe. Although the

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