Finding Mister Spots
The story of Mister Spots begins with an accidental cat named Spot. While in college at BGSU, Philadelphia native Jim Gavarone had a large fish tank and would frequent a local pet store. At the store, Gavarone was approached by a sobbing girl holding a kitten saying, “They’re going to kill this cat. They’re feeding them to their snakes! These guys on campus have a huge snack and though they’d feed them free kittens instead of rats for $2.99.” Even though he didn’t like cats, he agreed to take the little spotted kitten to give to a friend only to find out that the friend had already left campus for Thanksgiving break. Gavarone was stuck. During the 18 hour drive to and from Philadelphia for the holiday, “Spot” became his cat. Although Spot lived for 19 years, his legacy lives on in Mister Spots!
Gavarone caught a lot of flack for naming the business after him. His landlord even called it “Mister Flops” thinking they wouldn’t last six months.
In Gavarone’s last semester at school, he was approached by Jim Kelley, a friend from Bowling Green. Kelley hated his job as a sales rep and had an idea to start a restaurant. Neither of them had any experience in restaurants or business but decided to give it a shot with less than $10,000 cash and Kelley’s credit card.
After looking downtown for a space, they found the original location at 125 East Court and did most of the plumbing, electric, painting, and other construction renovations themselves. To their surprise, their efforts passed code inspections! With less than 30 days until the grand opening in February 1985, the restaurant still needed a name. Jim’s Steaks, Paisano’s, and dozens of other names were suggested but non seemed right. The Gavarone grabbed his cat and said, “Spots! Mr. Spots!” He had some doodles he did during class and had a rough sketch of what is now the famous Mister Spots cat cartoon logo. For 1985, it was edgy.
Mister Spots Bowling Green was among the first restaurants to sell buffalo wings in all the Midwest. They had authentic Amoroso’s rolls shipped in from Philadelphia weekly and the meats and cheese were the finest and most authentic Italian deli meats. You couldn’t even get most of these items until they were brought in for Mister Spots. No one had even heard of mortadella, capicola, prosciutto, etc. There was a line down the street when they first opened their doors and they were completely sold out of food. Mister Spots had to close, regroup, and re-open 2 days later.
The first several weeks were very stressful but the Jims managed to iron out all the wrinkles. One worked during the day, the other at night for about 18 months straight. Gavarone and Kelley opened the Mr. Spots in Ann Arbor, MI in the fall of 1986. In 2012, Spots Bowling Green moved locations to their current home at 206 North Main.
As the years went by, Spots became more than just a college joint. With enough stories to fill several books, Mister Spots has become a regional food beacon winning awards for best wings in both Ann Arbor and Bowling Green. Recognized in national, regional, and local press and media. Mister Spots is Bowling Green and Ann Arbor’s first choice for sandwiches, wings, and fries for 36 years and counting.