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After several months of anticipation, Cardinal’s Nest Tavern held their soft opening Tuesday, July 19. After a quiet lunch, customers were packed inside and outside the restaurant for dinner. Just one night later, the tables of Cardinal’s Nest were again packed with people as the restaurant partnered with SVSU to put on an exclusive party to support both the Alumni Legacy and Forever Red scholarships.

The event was attended by SVSU staff and faculty, along with students, alumni and community members. A suggested donation of $5 was given at the door, and complimentary food and drink was provided as a preview for what’s to come at Cardinal’s Nest.

“I think everything about tonight was a win,” Associate Dean for Student Life and Leadership and Forever Red adviser Bryan Crainer said. “The restaurant was able to showcase some of their menu, the SVSU community came out in a big way and two scholarships are going to benefit tremendously.”

Owner and head chef of Cardinal’s Nest Tony Gojcaj stressed that the restaurant will be staying very closely connected with SVSU, which is why he wanted to use the opening as a fundraiser for the university. Gojcaj, who owns numerous restaurants throughout the state including the Willow Tree in Saginaw has over 35 years of restaurant experience, 22 of those as a restaurant owner.

While pizza was featured at the exclusive party, Cardinal’s Nest has a menu featuring a wide variety of foods including burgers, sandwiches and pasta to go along with the pizza.

“We will be serving all kinds of food here,” Gojcaj said. “But I really believe our pizza is going to be the best pizza in the tri-city area. We don’t do any kind of conveyor pizza, we use a stone.”

Gojcaj is also working on opening new restaurants in Bay City and Farmington Hills, but he has already began training his staff for when he can’t be at Cardinals Nest all the time.

While Cardinal’s Nest is located in the same lot where T-Dubs closed last summer, there is hope that a closer connection with SVSU will lead to more success for the lot’s new restaurant.

“If tonight is any indication, I think they’re off to a good start,” Crainer said. “The outpouring of support from students, staff, faculty and alumni was great. I would assume if business from the SVSU community remains strong we’ll see Cardinal’s Nest supporting SVSU in a variety of ways in the future.”

Cardinal’s Nest manager Ken Scarmeas, who worked closely with Crainer and Director of Media and Community Relations JJ Boehm, to coordinate the event also felt strongly about the night as a whole.

“It was a great turnout for it being the end of summer, the offseason,” Scarmeas said. “I believe keeping that relationship between our restaurant and the SVSU campus is the most important thing we need to do here.”

Along with many other students, a group of SVSU student orientation leaders attended the exclusive party after a day of orientation on SVSU’s campus.

“Everything tasted pretty good,” orientation leader Shane McClure said. “I’d definitely come back; it was good food.”

The relationship between SVSU and Cardinal’s Nest appears to be off to a strong start, a start that both parties would like to continue in the future.

“I want to be a home for Cardinals here,” Gojcaj said.

For further coverage of this event, visit The Valley Vanguard’s Facebook page to view a photo album of last night’s festivities.