Dina Velocci of 876 Baldwin

Recipe for Success

Dina Velocci and her husband created a dining destination and inspired community revitalization in the small West Michigan village of Baldwin.


Growing up in New York City, Dina Velocci was exposed to the restaurant business from a young age, with her family owning and operating an award-winning deli. It should come as no surprise that Dina would one day own a restaurant herself, but its location might.

Sharing an Italian American heritage and love of food and wine with her husband, Paul Santoro, Dina opened 876 Baldwin in the village of Baldwin, a small community in West Michigan. Why Baldwin? Paul has owned property on the Little South Branch of the Pere Marquette River for more than 20 years, and Dina fell in love with the area and its people. In 2018, they made Baldwin their home.

As registered, licensed nurse anesthetists in practice management and clinical care, Dina and Paul already had full plates. Yet they saw an opportunity to make Baldwin not just a thoroughfare, but a destination. In 2019, Dina and Paul embarked on a three-year process to envision, redevelop and build one of West Michigan’s best dining establishments – and created a positive ripple effect on the surrounding community.




They sought to purchase the historic Masonic Temple in the center of town: two stories of unused commercial space to convert into a restaurant on the main level and rental properties above available for housing. After receiving the Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act Grant from the local municipality and a Michigan Community Revitalization Program grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) in 2021, their vision was finally coming to life.

“It just kept growing. With Jodi Nichols at The Right Place and meeting the right people, we ended up working with the MEDC, the village of Baldwin and Osceola State Bank. Everyone was very infectious with excitement. ‘This is so cool. Let’s do this.’ It helps when you have that kind of collective support that gets behind you.”

Dina and Paul knew housing availability would be a barrier to attracting the type of talent they would need in an executive chef. As part of their compensation package, they decided to offer housing — one of the newly renovated units directly above the restaurant — to sweeten the deal. This was a major draw for Glenn Forgie, formerly of Red's on the River in Rockford, who stepped into the role with gusto.

The community has welcomed them with open arms.

“We hear from people who have been living or visiting Baldwin for 20+ years who have such deep gratitude to have a place where they can go for a nice glass of wine and some steak. People at first express disbelief that the top-notch new restaurant they keep hearing about is based in Baldwin, and we love to change this perception — one meal at a time. Why not Baldwin? It’s a short getaway from so many places and the heart of Michigan history. We hope when people walk through our doors, they feel its potential…and at home.”




Since opening 876 Baldwin, Dina and Paul have embraced the hustle of entrepreneurship while still finding time to enjoy the natural beauty of the nearby Pere Marquette River and Manistee National Forest. That balance of food, family and community has been their recipe for success.

“Baldwin has such a rich history. It’s an undiscovered gem. Back in the day, it had electric, plumbing and water, before most anywhere else did. It was such an advanced little town, and then it lost its steam, especially when the marble plant closed. You look around and you’ve got beautiful hiking trails, the fishery, the Pere Marquette River which is a ‘Blue Ribbon’ trout stream. It has so much outdoor activity. And then you look at the town and where it’s located. It’s a perfect crossroads of M-37 and U.S. 10, and you have so much traffic that goes through that whole town. You have to give them a reason to stop. If you start building that buzz, the town gets revitalized.”