Oak Park man opens restaurant for squirrels and birds amid coronavirus pandemic

With bars and restaurants closed across Michigan, a man built a new place with some open seating in Oak Park - for the wildlife.

James Vreeland is the proprietor of Maison De Noix. It opened a few weeks ago and is already a hot spot with its stale bread/pizza crust and mixed seed trio.

"Every morning we have a rush around 10:30 to 11," Vreeland said. "With the shutdown, there's not a lot of cafe options we're the only game in town."

James said he wanted to do something fun and lighthearted in the middle of the anxiety and uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic.

"My wife Amanda, she's been feeding the squirrels in our yard for years and we have some regulars,' he said.

Maison De Noix, by the way, is French for the nuthouse and James built the tables and chairs out of stuff around the house. It's complete with a hostess stand and a menu, for anyone strolling by.

"We have a mixed seed trio starter, the bread course is stale pizza crust, the entree for the day that we have right is peanuts on the half shell, and we're out, unfortunately, but our dessert was counter-softened apples," James said.

As for the customers, the regulars include squirrels, cardinals, and blue jays.

"The blue jays are terrible tippers and fairly messy diners but they'll swoop right into the middle of the action, steal peanuts and make a run for it," James said.

The morning rush is streamed on Facebook and it's got a lot of attention with James saying he's seen an article as far away as Hong Kong. That, however, was never his goal.

"Surprisingly enough it's not a very complex idea. It's tiny tables and a cafe for squirrels, there's no bigger purpose to it beyond it's just something different and a little bit of a break from everything else," James said.