Flint, MI—Over the sizzle of bacon and the gentle whir of a kitchen vent, Aaron Sajdak talked to his lunch customers while carefully monitoring a pot of sausage gravy.

“I was trying to do a soft open because we’re trying to get a rhythm going,” Sajdak said. “You know what? It was soft, but we’re still getting our butts kicked.”

Sajdak and Ashley Trevathan, Sajdak’s fiancée, smiled at each other from behind a waist-height service counter. The pair estimated they had gone through nearly three gallons of their gravy in just one day.

That’s because though they opened Ooo Wee’s Diner only two weeks ago, news traveled fast that the former Krystal Jo’s Diner location was back in action.

“Tony got a lot of love out here,” said Ryan Mattson, who lives a few blocks away, of the diner’s former owner Tony Tucker. “A lot of people just came in on word of mouth.”

Lloyd Parker chats with friends inside Ooo Wee’s Diner on Fenton Road in Flint, Mich. on Thursday, June 30, 2022.

Sajdak said he knows he has big shoes to fill taking over the former Krystal Jo’s location. While Tucker now heads the Old Newsboys of Flint, he remains much beloved by the surrounding community. 

“I think he still does all the bike drives for the kids,” Mattson said as Sajdak started boxing up his order. Tucker is known for his bike giveaways and repairs as much as he was for Krystal Jo’s itself.

“It’s crazy because everyone was trying to give me bike parts still,” Sajdak said of Ooo Wee’s first week operating. “So I asked Tony, and Tony’s got another guy doing what he was doing. So it worked out.”

Sajdak said Tucker may still come by to help him learn the ropes in the next few weeks, as he and Trevathan have kept mostly the same menu as Krystal Jo’s, even if they’ve changed the decor. 

“What did you guys do with the car hoods and the doors that were on the walls?” asked Michelle Johnson, a former regular of Krystal Jo’s, as she sat down at the busy counter.

“Tony took all those things. It’s in his basement,” Sajdak said, a grin slowly moving across his face as he spoke. “I’m sure his wife loves it.”

The dining area is small, maybe 30 seats, so everyone could hear Sajdak’s joke. They all laughed together.

“Don’t I know it,” a man at the end of the counter said, shaking his head and sipping a Pepsi.

A freshly made dish rests on the counter at Ooo Wee’s Diner on Fenton Road in Flint, Mich. on Thursday, June 30, 2022.

Aside from the diner’s decor, other changes include a “5 LB Burger Challenge” starting on July 6. The challenge offers diners a free meal if the customer can eat a five-pound burger in under an hour. Sajdak said he has 20 people signed up so far.

“I already had some big guys in saying ‘I hope you like cooking for free,’” Sajdak laughed, adding cheese to a double bacon burger for a guest sitting by the front window. “I’m like ‘alright alright, we’ll see.’”

While Sajdak and Trevathan currently live in Kimball, Mich. Sajdak said they are now looking for a new home in Flint, where he already owns rental properties.

When asked why they decided to open over an hour away from home he replied, “I like Flint so much. Everyone is just family out here.”

And family is incredibly important to Sajdak, who named the diner for his late brother Lance Campion’s favorite phrase since high school.

“He’s got more blood, sweat, and tears in this restaurant than I do,” Sajdak said, noting it was his brother who helped the couple renovate. “So to honor my brother, we did it. We named it after him without saying ‘Lance.’”

Trevathan gave Sajdak’s shoulder a squeeze as she handed Mattson, who had been sharing more stories of Tony and his southside neighborhood while he waited, three full bags of breakfast and lunch specials. 

Another customer asked Mattson if he wanted help carrying the food out.

“No thank you, I’ve got it,” Mattson said, gathering the white plastic bags. “But I’ll be back next week.”

Both Sajdak and Trevathan smiled again: there went one of Ooo Wee’s first regulars.

Ooo Wee’s Diner is located at 3616 Fenton Road and will be open Wednesday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....