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 Post subject: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2017 5:46 pm 
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This year is the 25th anniversary of Hopleaf. I know the bar and restaurant have declined a bit over the years as they have grown, but it is still one of my favorite places in the city to sit outside and eat good food and drink a lot of expensive beer. Anyways, mentioned in another thread that the owner has been sharing his backstory of the bar on Facebook and I felt it was interesting enough to share here.

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 Post subject: Re: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2017 5:47 pm 
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Imagine Valentines Day in Chicago, 1992 on North Clark Street, 5148 N Clark, to be exact.. It was certainly less notorious than Valentine's Day 1929, a bit further south at 2122 N Clark, but for us, it was less deadly but still momentous. Khalid Sahi, seen in photos included in this post, a car salesman from Pakistan who was profoundly out of his element running a bar, typed out a letter to his customers on that day to inform them that he had sold the bar and that "with God's will" Mr. Michael Roper would be the new owner operator of Clark-Foster Liquor Inc.

Khalid "Sid" Sahi, had a short tenure as the owner and having garnered no financial gain from his venture, was more than anxious to escape. As I explained in the earlier post, he had not been warmly welcomed by the staff or customers. However, they had no idea who I was or what I had in mind for their favorite hideaway.

What did Clark Foster Liquors look like? I'll be posting some photos over the next few weeks but to start, I've included an drawing of the layout in this post.

5148 N Clark was a rather typical Chicago mercantile structure built in 1896 when this part of Chicago was in the newly annexed ( 1889 ) into Chicago, Lakeview Township. To the north was the Andersonville School, demolished in 1920 to build the 4 story Hegelin Block, completed in 1925. To the south, a slightly smaller mercantile building was built the same year. That building is now also part of Hopleaf.

5148 N Clark, being somewhat wider than many of the other storefront buildings at 35 feet, had two stores to rent and three apartments. As near as we can tell, there was a barber shop in the north space and a grocer/meat market in the south. In mid 20th Century the south store became a liquor store and when the barber retired the north store was partially joined to the grocer/liquor store to make a "tap room".

There is a type of liquor business in Chicago that is not common in most other parts of the country. It is even becoming nearly extinct here. It is the liquor store with a "tap room". These places used to be fairly ubiquitous in Chicago blue collar neighborhoods. They sold package goods, sometimes a few staple grocery items and they had either a separate room or a counter where customers could drink "on premise". Clark Foster Liquors was one of these places.

When I entered Clark Foster Liquors on the morning of the 15th of February, 1992, I would have entered the south door. The north storefront door was more or less permanently closed. On my left was a self serve cooler with cold beer and wine to go. Old Style, PBR, Miller, Bud, Busch, and other such brands, mostly in cans were offered. Boones Farm, MD 20/20, Night Train, Thunderbird, and Wild Irish Rose were the "fine wines" available. Eggs, some packaged "meats" and milk were also offered. There was also a large water cooled air conditioner not shown on the drawing that was almost the size of the cooler.

On my right would have been most of the wall that once separated the store from the barber shop. On that wall were shelves with the package liquor. Since their customer base for their package goods tended to be lower income and often desperate for a drink, the selection leaned toward cheap brands and they were in small formats. Half pints and even the "minis" of a size airplane passengers are familiar with were sold. The now illegal 190 proof Everclear Grain alcohol was sold here. There was also a formica counter with some stools for on premise drinkers.

I the back were two washrooms. The women's room was carved out of the old single stall shop washroom. It was tiny. The mens room floors were somewhat soggy from a toilet that had leaked for a long, long time turning the plywood subfloor to mush.

Along the back wall was a door, often propped open that led to the three apartments and to the side entrance that opened onto the gangway between the buildings. To the right rear the wall had been opened to allow for a customer passageway to to north bar room, known to the customers as the "dark side". There was a non functioning washroom used as a janitor's closet in the back.
The "dark side" bar was a half round bar with a ship motif with a bowsprit protruding into room. Of course the shag carpeting tacked to the front bar was not very nautical. There was a cigarette tar stained drop ceiling and an array of poker machines along the north wall. There was no seating other than bar seating.

Sadly, SId's one "improvement" was to glue mirror tiles to the north wall. Under those tiles was a mural of Hans' coastal fishing town in Sweden. It is still there, under the tiles and under the drywall we put on top of it all. I think when competitor Simon Lunberg had a mural pained at his bar, Hans did not want to be outdone and had one painted at his place. I am not sure why Sid covered it but I doubt a mural of his hometown in Pakistan would have been well received.

The back bar had a well stocked cigarette selection and a unique feature, mail slots with names of city workers who were required to live in the city but who didn't and used the bar as their "home" address. Hans was a Democratic Precinct Captain who put these "residents" to work on election days in exchange for the favor. It was a fading Chicago tradition.

Heat for the two bar rooms was provided by an ill ventilated gas furnace hung from the south room ceiling. With no windows or other source of air, perhaps some of the intoxication customers felt did not come from alcohol. Another feature that mysteriously escaped city inspectors was the north bar room sinks. While they had drain pipes that poked through the floor, they ended there sending water to the floor. This less than code following setup had been in place so long that the thin concrete floor was undermined and had collapsed and the water found an easy exit via the sandy soil under the building. The sandy soil in his area is a reminder that in ancient times this was Lake Michigan bottom.

Perhaps looking at the drawing will give modern Hopleaf customers an idea what the 1000 square foot room looked like. Beyond the back wall and stairwell were two floors of small two bedroom apartments. They were occupied and more on that topic in future posts.

25 years ago tomorrow, the story of how this place became Hopleaf begins.

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 Post subject: Re: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2017 5:47 pm 
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February 15th, 1992 was in the pre Global Warning era when winter was winter. It was cold, in the teens, and dreary. The sidewalk was un shoveled and icy. I had a lingering cold and no voice. I had spent a long night in the unheated basement taking an inventory of the beer, "wine" and spirits on hand. Unfortunately, I had to buy all of the inventory. It included Night Train and Boone's Farm wines, lots of cheap 40 oz beers and a rogue's gallery of cheap spirits brands. That done, I had to take over this place that I had doubts about.

Clark Foster Liquors opened daily at 7 AM. Sometimes there were people waiting at the door shivering in the cold. Many of these people did not want a drink; they needed one. To service this audience, Clark Foster Liquors stocked plastic half pints of 190 proof Everclear and $1 minis for those who pan handled for their fix. Some of them bought some soda or juice to mix with their poison. As for the people who drink in house at 7 AM, they included shift workers from nearby Tempel Steel, Streets and San crews, and union carpenters and other tradesmen. Some came after the graveyard shift and some before they clocked in. Some mornings it was a rough crowd.

Once I signed the papers, I had been surreptitiously coming in to watch the employees work and check out cliental. The employees were a mixed bag. There was Hugh Gillespie, known to most as "Scotty". He was a Scottish immigrant with a thick accent and a perfect temperament for this place and its crowd. There was Peter Gonzalez. He was one of three Puerto Rican brothers who lived in the second floor rear apartment. He was a short plump ex City worker who had an infectious laugh. He was hard to not like. There was Judy. She had an interesting background. She grew up in Korea the child of a Korean War American soldier and a local woman. Growing up mixed race in Korea was difficult. Eventually, her and her seamstress mother moved to Chicago. She was honest and hard working.

Shirley was the workhorse of the staff, working the majority of the night shifts. She was from a dead end coal town in West Virginia, had married at 16 and come up north with her new husband Billy Ray. She had several children divorced and remarried. Her ex, Billy Ray was still an every day customer at Clark Foster Liquors. She had a heart of gold but was sometimes overwhelmed by her life's challenges. Finally, there was Jonna. She was longtime owner Hans' ex wife. In fact, she and Hans married and divorced twice. She was a Danish immigrant in her 50's who worked the opening shift.

Of all the employees that I inherited, Jonna was was the one who I had determined I could not keep even for the transitional period. To many drinks went over the bar unpaid for. I decided to let her go on day one.

On that cold, miserable morning, I came in at 6:30 to meet her when she came in. I armed myself with a $50 bill to pay her for the day. It was a Saturday so the shift workers would not be coming in When she arrived, she was surprised to find a stranger in the bar. She had not been informed as to the coming change. We went downstairs to get her bank and while there I gave her the bad news. It was particularly weird and uncomfortable because I had completely lost my voice due to my cold. She began to cry which made the whole ordeal worse. I paid her, she left and I opened.

That first shift was one of the most difficult in my career. I did not know anyone, the prices, or the routine. The customers wanted to train me and that was rather wrong. There were traditions I was unfamiliar with. First, there was the "shake of the day" in which every customer was given dice in a can to shake that determined how much, if anything people paid for their first beer. I learned that gambling was the main draw for many of the regulars. In the north room dice games like "Ship, Captain and Crew" and Craps were played all day. The poker machines paid off in spite of the law against such things. Trips to the track and calls from bookies were part of the daily routine. At noon every day, the previous owner played a pornographic film on the VCR. I knew that soon, I was going to become an unpopular guy.

The thing that I noted in my pre takeover visits and found more disturbing once I was there all the time was the unvarnished racism and hate speech. Everyone felt perfectly comfortable using the "N" word and worse. The dice games, the poker machines, the porno movies, the liquor meant for feeding the alcoholic beast and the racist language had to go. That was my task. Over the coming weeks I pulled people aside and told them that in the near future, everyone would be welcome, including them, but in order for everyone to feel welcome, the hate speech had to end. For most, that was a deal breaker. I had to find new customers to replace them and I had to do that soon if we were to survive.

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 Post subject: Re: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2017 5:48 pm 
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February 16, 1992, having completed my first challenging day as the new captain of the USS Clark Foster Liquors, my job was to turn this ship around. Unfortunately, just like ocean-going behemoths, this ship had significant momentum and that momentum was sending it to the bottom. It would be one thing if we had a lot of operating capital but that was not the case. The bar was losing money. It was ugly. It had a clientele that was less than welcoming to new customers......or owners. The only thing that was keeping the lights on was the three illegal poker machines.

Poker machines that "paid" were illegal in Chicago. They were usually owned by gangsters who in exchange to the owners letting them use their space, split the take 50-50. 15% of the take was programed to go to the "lucky" winners. Those are not great odds. The machine's owners paid us back for whatever winnings we paid out. It amazed and depressed me to watch carpenters, painters, truck drivers, and other hard working blue collar men lose their entire paychecks in these machines. They had an insatiable appetite for five dollar bills. These machines created a dilemma for me. I felt guilty for having them. They were completely against my ethics. And they took in more money than the bar and the package goods sales combined. More than a few of the regular customers came in specifically because we had the machines even if they were consistent victims. I decided to rid myself of the machines but not before there was an incident brought on by us having them.

When it was slow or late at night, there was a buzzer on the door. People would push the buzzer and stand so their face showed through the opening in the painted door. That opening was created by pealing an Old Style logo decal off of the door. It created an opening that was the shape of a shield. If the potential customer was white, they they were always buzzed in even if they were not recognized. If they were unknown blacks or Hispanics, they were waved away. There were a few regular Hispanic customers and one black man and one black woman who found a way to ignore the racist hate speech and regularly mix with the bar's crowd.

One night, either because the door was inadvertently unlocked or perhaps because she was female and was buzzed in, a black woman came in, looked around the room and then opened the door for three black men with guns. They also had crow bars. They announced that they were only interested in robbing the machines. They jimmied the locks and made off with a big haul of ones and fives. They knew we would not call the police since we would not want to draw attention to the machines. Nice criminal scheme. I learned from regulars that this had happened before. Many of those regulars thought that the robbers were in cahoots with the machine owners who would be ahead if they paid the thieves perhaps 20% of the haul and kept 80% instead of the 50% they would have had to give me even accounting for fixing the locks. I am not sure that made sense but I could not prove otherwise.

A couple of weeks later, I asked to have he machines taken out. A rough looking Serbian gangster asked me who's machines I was going to put in place of theirs. I said none. Rather disarmed, he asked me if I was going to turn the place into a gay bar. I nodded yes and he left. As long as I was not putting someone else's machines in, he had no problem with us. So the only reliable revenue stream the place had was now gone. Brilliant.

I set up a new bartenders schedule that included one bar shift a day for me except for Tuesdays when I worked from 7 AM straight through to closing at 2 AM. Most days Peter Gonzalez opened in the morning, either Scotty or I worked the middle shift and Shirley or Judy at worked at night. Many nights between 2 AM and 7 AM I worked all night dismantling Clark Foster Liquors. We would never close during he process. I had also stopped reordering the worst of the products hoping to sell through all of the stock of things we would never want in the future. No more Night Train or Boone's Farm "wine". No more Everclear or minis. Of course we still carried Bud, Miller Lite, and Old Style. We also sold Old Style and Special Export on draft. The draft system, cooler, tower and faucets were in terrible shape. Cleaning them was nearly pointless. Most customers drank beer from cans and bottles. I don't blame them.

Previous owner Sid had told me that several customers had long been accustomed to running tabs. One customer, Johnny Gonzalez, ran huge tabs that carried over month after month. He was an alcoholic and drug addict who was a master of scamming Social Security Disability and food stamps and subsidized prescription drugs which he sold on the street. He was also the brother of our morning bar tender Peter and a third brother, Jose who worked nights in plant that made tar and asphalt on the south side. Jose did not drive and took the bus to and from that hellhole. Peter and Jose paid the rent on the second floor rear apartment in this building and let Johnny mooch off of them. To ween him off of the tabs, I lowered the cap on it every month and made him pay an ever higher percentage of it until he owed nothing. Once there, he and all of the other people who ran tabs became strictly "pay as you go" customers. There were a few people who cashed pension and social security checks at the bar. One guy even cashed a Swedish Government pension check every month. Fortunately, we only got burned once taking a check. I have long gotten over the $240 dollars I lost on that one.

The bar was so unappealing at this point that I did not even want new people to see it. Even friends and family. I was afraid that first impressions would stick and we were not offering any products I was proud of anyway. I was basically running a white ethnic dive bar and not even a good one at that. One person who did see it early on was Colin Woods. He had an unfortunate experience. Colin was visiting America from Australia for the first time. We had a mutual friend in John Tucker who I had known in Detroit and who had met Colin on his around he world adventure trip a few years earlier. John had asked If we'd put him up for a few days on his first stop. He came to the bar directly from the airport and right after he arrived a young man burst into the bar bleeding profusely from a deep cut in his arm. He shouted that he needed a bar towel and a bottle of vodka. He poured the vodka on the pulsing wound and wrapped it in the bar towel. I was about to call the police when he stopped me. Apparently he was beating up his girlfriend in the "carriage house" behind the building two doors south when her brother arrived and pushed him through the glass storm window in the door. This was my introduction to Glen Elder. He and his family of miscreants will pop up in this story again and again. They finally moved their multi decade neighborhood crime wave away only three years ago. They won't be missed. For Colin, his first impression of America was less than stellar. For me, it represented another sign of what we were up against.

In have always been good with space. Had I been more disciplined, perhaps I could have been an architect. Of course, I would have had to have better grasp of math and geometry not to mention drawing skills and legible handwriting. I don't but I am able to look at an ill utilized space and imagine a better layout. I can describe where things should be and make a rough drawing of it and turn it over to a professional to make it code compliant and contractor friendly. I would compare it to a melodist who can't read or write music who communicates to someone who can to arrange the musical idea to a recorded performance. Through a friend from Detroit, I met and worked with architect Herb Trochelman to come up with a plan. We would wind up with a 60 seat single room with two HDA compliant washrooms in the northwest corner. All we had to do was survive long enough to find the money to build it.

Since the space is so very different, the photos and diagrams included in this post have detailed descriptions to help orient the reader. Unfortunately, we took very few photos of this first build out. You'll have to use your imaginations as we move along.

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 Post subject: Re: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2017 5:49 pm 
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After some writings about a bar on Clark Street in Chicago in need of everything, an owner ill suited for the business and a rocky change of hands, one might wonder about the person who'd want to take on such a venture fraught with the risk of failure. How did that person choose this calling and this place?

On that cold February morning when I first turned the front door key at 5148 N Clark, I was that person and I was 38 years old. I had lived in Chicago for 10 years. I had come to Chicago after my entrepreneurial efforts in Detroit had failed. The bar I had co owned was mortally damaged by a fire set by some Neighborhood bad guys. The next venture was pulled out from under me by the building owner who sold the location for another use. I had some personal issues and I needed to get away from some unhealthy influences. It was time to go. Detroit was a rough town but it was a place I knew well. In spite of all its problems, leaving was not an easy decision.

My then girlfriend wanted to move to New York City. I had never even been there. The reconnaissance trip we made to New York City was enlightening and perhaps a bit disillusioning. The economy in New York in 1982 was bad. In fact unemployment was nearly 10%. New York had teetered on bankruptcy in the mid 1970's when President Ford famously responded to pleas for Federal help with the headline quote "Ford to NYC, Drop Dead". There had recently been a garbage strike. Staying in the Chelsea Hotel only 4 years after Sid killed Nancy there and walking around for a week or so, seeing rats in broad daylight feasting on trash pilled in front of buildings ( Where were the alleys? ), too many empty storefronts and a city that while comparatively enormous, seemed almost as down on its luck as Detroit. With no real prospects there and rents high by Detroit standards, we opted out of New York. I have come to be very fond of New York City since those days, however. New York City's remarkable recovery and resilience is truly a wonder.

While my then girlfriend's first choice had been New York, I was quite familiar with Chicago. I had been visiting for 10 years. The streets were clean and the moniker "The City That Works" was still apt. Rents were more reasonable than New York and I had a few connections there, however tenuous. In the spring of 1982, we took a trip to Chicago, her first. We stayed with an acquaintance of mine and made the decision to move to Chicago. I put my house on the East Side up for rent, found a tenant, packed up and we moved to an apartment on Seminary and Grace. Within a week, I had a day job at Rose Records on Wabash and a night job at Tut's, a late night music club who's owners were familiar with people I had worked with in clubs in Detroit. My girlfriend found a job as a receptionist at a chemical company during the day and a server job at Don Roth's Blackhawk at night. Being from job starved Detroit, we were amazed at how quickly we had found four jobs in Chicago. Soon, both of our beater cars died and we became entirely dependent on the CTA to get around. Having lived in Detroit for so long, viable public transportation was almost as fun as a carnival ride for us. It was a happy novelty.....and it got us to work.

We started to melt into the city but not as a couple. We split within a few months of the move. On my own, working two jobs, I wondered how I would ever get back in the bar business. It seemed an impossible dream. While Chicago was a big, bustling town with far more nightlife and opportunity, it was expensive relative to Detroit and I had very little money. Owning another bar would be deferred. It was deferred far longer than I could have imagined.

I never stopped looking for a place or observing things at places I liked that I'd incorporate in a future venture. There were places in Chicago and Detroit that I made mental notes about every time I visited. Of course I learned from places I worked at and each of those places deserves some ink on paper. But other places like The Tap Room, The Cadiuex Cafe, Verne's, Union Street, The Woodbridge, The Alcove, Alvin's, Kovac's, The Song Shop and others in Detroit were helpful idea generators. In Chicago, Gare St Lazar, Sheffield's The Gingerman, Danny's, Hemingway's, Bucket of Suds, Twin Anchors, Schuba's, Sterches, The Oxford Pub, Augenbliock, The Bluebird, Max Tavern, The Rainbow, Crash Palace, The Half Shell, The Artful Dodger, Bombacigno's J&C Tap, Jak's Tap, and Quencher's all also lent me a thought or two about aesthetics, service, products, furnishings, and those undefinable things that make a place comfortable, convivial and addictively welcoming.

Many people come to the tavern trade because it is the family business. Not so with me. As far back as I can know, I can't find an ancestral tie to this calling. My father dropped out of school in the eighth grade to help support his Maltese immigrant parents and siblings. While working in a General Motors plant, he learned to be a skilled machinist, a trade he labored at for over 50 years. His father worked on a Ford Motor Company assembly line for 30 years after coming to America in 1914. Henry Ford’s $5 day was a beckoning call across the globe. His father, my great grandfather, was a fisherman. My mother’s Scottish father was first a farmer growing sugar beets in northern Michigan and then worked in a railroad station livery stable. He died young, two weeks before my parents married. We know nothing of his parents. His wife, my grandmother, grew up in a German speaking household on the cold shores of Lake Huron. Like may paternal grandmother, she did not work outside the home. Each had six children. All of the male offspring were drawn into Michigan’s best known trade, the auto industry, and its center, Detroit.

Not only did none of my family work in bars, they were not regular customers in them once they married. My parents liked a cocktail from time to time but mostly the bars they frequented were at a Knights of Columbus hall or at the bowling alley. I never remember my dad stopping off for a beer on the way home from work. If I were to be introduced to tavern culture, it would have had to be on my own. And so it was.

I had the good fortune in this respect to be born in January of 1954. As I approached my 18th birthday, the Vietnam War, dragged on. it was often said that we were sending our young boys to be killed in Southeast Asia before they could even order a beer in a bar or vote for or against those who sent them there. In the political climate of the times, the voting age dropped to 18 nationwide and in many states the drinking age dropped as well. As it happened, Michigan was one of those states and as of January 1, 1972, 18 year olds could imbibe. I turned 18 on January 4th.

I had been a fanatical fan of the wide ranging live music scene in Detroit since 1968. I had been going to see bands at all ages venues habitually since I was 14. Besides the local bands like Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, The MC5, and The Stooges, I sought out Ray Charles, Muddy Waters, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis and big touring rock bands like The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa and The Ramones among many others. It was not unusual for me to see three or four shows a week, much to the detriment of my schoolwork. While this era offered more opportunities for those under 21 to hear live music than most eras, there was a lot of music that could only be heard in bars and nightclubs so it was inevitable that the first bars that I would be drawn to were the music clubs in Detroit. It was a very, very fertile time for music in Detroit. The city was bursting with jazz, blues, country and western ( Detroit had a huge population of Appalachian whites who came up to work in car plants and brought their music preferences with them ), rock and roll and ethnic music venues that were previously closed to those under 21. Suddenly, while still in high school, these venues opened up to me.

At 18, I was thrilled to be able to go to bars with live music in the city. However, my first experiences revealed how incredibly naive I was about drinking. Up until saloon doors opened to 18 year olds, I had not been very interested in beer, wine or spirits. There were other mind altering substances that were far more appealing to me at the time. No more naive drinker ever entered a bar than me in winter of 1972.

When I entered The Red Carpet, The Dump, The Alcove, Ethel's, Verne's, or Mad Anthony’s to hear a band, I walked up to the bar wide eyed, vulnerable and bewildered. I tried a lot of really dumb fruity cocktails, shots, and occasionally our local Stroh’s beer. I had no concept of how much I could handle and some nights, I went over the cliff. Often the night ended in a head spinning nightmare. This period of amateurism lasted quite a while. I never paired up with a drinking mentor. I was either on my own or in the company of others equally clueless. In spite of this, besides the music, there was something that was oh so alluring to me in the bars, taverns and nightclubs I frequented. They were lively. There was a diversity of people to encounter. And there were fabulously interesting women.

I turned 18 while also still in high school. My senior year was definitely affected by the new distractions afforded me by the lower drinking age. Not that I needed more distractions. I was an indifferent student with very poor study habits. I also was not involved in typical American high school activities. I did not play any sports and was not interested in being a spectator either. I did not attend football or basketball games. I did not attend a prom or homecoming dance. While I was there surrounded by 1960-70's Catholic School life, I felt like an alien. When the choice was Johnny Winter at the Eastown or the prom, there really was no choice for me. My only high school girlfriend and I broke up when I was 17. When I looked around the bar rooms of Detroit’s East Side or Cass Corridor and compared the women there to the girls I went to high school with in their plaid jumpers and starched white blouses, I knew that I had to find a way into this world.

My senior year was also impacted by a near death experience the summer before. Since this event directly impacted my entry into tavern ownership, I must take a detour to explain since it directly allowed my first tavern venture to happen.

I have always been an avid bicyclist. I still love bikes. During the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, I was making a plan to do a long bike tour around the Great Lakes. There was a high end bike shop in the wealthy northern Detroit suburb of Birmingham. Wanting to outfit my bike for a long distance tour, I rode to Birmingham on a sunny day in August. Riding fast along a row of parked cars crouched down on my drop handlebars I was not paying attention to people in the parked cars. A door suddenly opened at the worst possible split second, when the sharp corner of the door was in the path my throat. It tore open my throat and I flipped over the door landing in front of the car on my back and bleeding profusely. I had opened up my right carotid artery and punctured my jugular vein. I was bleeding out fast.

What do I remember of it? Not pain. No pain at all. I stared up at the panicked motorist frozen in terror. I saw the sky and heard the sound of gurgling liquid. I put my hand in my throat for a second and then perhaps realizing the futility, dropped it back onto the pavement. Looking up at the clouds, I felt as if I was falling through space. I felt oddly euphoric. The edges of my field of vision began to “white out”. Suddenly there was a man standing over me shouting at me to stay with him. He was trying to get me to stay conscious. He sounded like a man calling to me from the end of a long hallway. His voice was disturbing my euphoria and I felt this as a moment of annoyance. I did not realize that I was falling towards death. He did. I vaguely remember him reaching into my throat and pinching off the bleeding. I blacked out.

My savior was a policeman, Harold Christy, who witnessed the collision. While the man who hit me did nothing in spite of being a Marine combat veteran between two tours in Vietnam, this policeman, an Army vet, was cool headed, courageous, certainly not squeamish and he knew what he had to do to save my young life. When the ambulance arrived he rode all the way into the emergency room with his hands still in my throat, only letting go when surrounded by surgeons. My heart stopped. I needed five transfusions. I was in surgery for nine hours. A neurosurgeon was rushed in to assist from downtown. A police car picked up my father at the machine shop where he worked and brought him in. I actually briefly regained consciousness for a minute or so before surgery and saw him. At least that is what I remember. It was probably the worst moment of his life.

I woke up 3 days later initially paralyzed from the neck down. I did not know where I was or what day it was. I gathered that it must be night. A nurse saw my open eyes and asked me some questions. I could not answer. She put a buzzer in my hans and told me to press if I needed anything. She did not know that I could not feel anything and could not press the button.

Over the next many days and weeks I recovered rather miraculously. Being 17 helped. Scar tissue on my spinal column from the blunt impact and whiplash left my right arm paralyzed and areas of my right leg without feeling. The total paralysis I awoke to did not last long at all. I am eternally grateful for that. The operating surgeons came in one by one to tell me how uniquely lucky I was. Apparently almost no one lives through that sort of traumatic injury. I did.

I began therapy to slowly bring back the use of my right arm and hand. Being right handed, I was exempted from writing papers or written exams during my senior year. I just coasted through school. In fact, I am not sure how I graduated since I was short of credits at the end of the school year. I never met a high school math course that I could pass. Algebra and Geometry were and still are totally beyond my comprehension. My dad, who never even went to high school had a natural affinity for geometry. It was a trait not passed on to me. I think that I received extra academic leniency because of my terrible trauma and miraculous recovery. They may have just wanted to be rid of me.

I understand that he man who inflicted this trauma on me returned to active duty the following day and then another tour of Vietnam. I never heard of him again. I did hear from his insurance company. He was profoundly underinsured. Had I have been a father of 10 and been killed, his anemic policy would have only paid out $15,000. Even in 1971, that was woefully inadequate.

Fortunately, I was a minor living at home and I was covered for my medical expenses by my dad's policy. I was lucky that these costs pale in comparison to what they would cost now. Now, my medical bills would have exceeded my dad’s insurance and would probably have driven us all into financial ruin. As it was, I got the $15,000 maximum for “pain and suffering" from the young Marine’s insurance company. Actually, it was $10,600 after the lawyer had his cut. This was important to my future in the bar business. My dad allowed me to have access to the $600 and socked away the $10,000 in an investment account. Not exactly a Charles Schwab or Michael Bloomberg type of investment but it had a profound effect down the road. It was my "seed money". A silver lining had come from a terrible accident. The accident also made me ineligible for the draft.

After a post high school summer working an odd series of jobs including some that were the kind of factory work that seemed to be a "right of passage" for Detroiters in the time before the collapse of the auto industry, I attended Wayne State University. It was located in the heart of the city, between the central business district that was to the south along the river and the "New Center" area on Grand Boulevard where General Motors' impressively massive headquarters was located. It was an exciting time in Detroit. There was a burgeoning art scene on the Cass Corridor, active anti war, civil rights and black power movements, unauthorized "wildcat strikes" in auto plants, great music, places to see the latest art cinema and of course, there were lots of bars. I loved the bars. I loved the women in the bars. I liked the conversations. The bars I liked the most had very diverse clienteles. I did not grow up among, blacks, Jews, Arabs, Mexicans, Asians, gays and lesbians, or free thinkers. Now at school, in the neighborhood and in the local bars I blended in with all of these people for the first time.

With no goals and terrible study habits, I faltered badly at school. Nothing really clicked for me and I changed majors frequently. Urban Planning, philosophy, music history and theory…………I flailed away. While my classwork suffered, I enjoyed the campus life in the middle of the city. There were big anti war demonstrations, free concerts, screenings of foreign films, art gallery openings, speaking engagements by the well known radical thinkers of the era and every night there were lots and lots of taverns with wide open doors. By this time, I had learned a little bit about drinking too.

I decided to move downtown and rented a $65 a month studio in a funky building on 3rd and Antoinette. I needed a job. I applied for a job as a waiter at the Traffic Jam at 2nd and Canfield. This bar was the brainchild of a gay couple, Ben Edwards and Richard Vincent. It has opened in 1966 and had an aesthetic very different that anyplace else in the city. It was a big place that was decorated with architectural salvage items from the buildings being demolished in the area for university expansion, parking lots, and post 1967 riot damage clearance. Mass demolitions of historic buildings is a trend that never ends in Detroit. At least The Traffic Jam saved some bits of those structures. Those who know the Traffic Jam now should know that it was a very, very different place then. Now it is a restaurant. Then it was a real bar.

The Traffic Jam in the 1970's was a very busy place. It attracted WSU students and staff, office workers from downtown and the New Center area to the north. People of all persuasions from the adjoining neighborhoods came in as well. Long before he became legendary due to the award winning documentary “Searching for Sugarman” , Sixto Rodriguez was a nearly every night regular at the Traffic Jam. The locally famous drag show entertainer, Tabu was also a regular. For the time, The Traffic Jam had more ambitious food and beverage offerings than most bars. They paid attention to some small details such as offering wine better than the jugs under the sink that most Detroit bars poured. They had an actual cocktail menu. Being the early 1970’s there was no “craft beer” movement yet but they did offer a variety of beer styles.

The staff was very diverse. Coming from a Catholic school background, I did not grow up with the sort of people who were my new workmates. African Americans, gays and lesbians, Asians and Hispanics. Vietnam vets. Jews. Leftist activists. They were often people who were well traveled, sophisticated and worldly. Not like me.

I was not much a waiter. Actually, I was terrible at it. Most of the floor staff were pretty young women and most of the customers, particularly male customers, wanted them to wait on them…..not me. When there were tables of rowdy fraternity guys, the female servers would pass those tables on to me which disappointed the customers and assured me a minimal tip. I liked the job though and I weathered the storm and was eventually offered a chance to get off of the floor to fill a service bar opening. It was the start of a climb up the ladder.

In some big bar/restaurants, there is a separate bar that just services the waitstaff. Few if any customers get drinks there. There are no stools. Service bars tend to be compact with everything being a step or two away. The service bartender gets big orders fro servers in a hurry to get back to the tables. At The Traffic Jam, the servers made the “set ups” or glasses with the sodas, tonic, juices etc that I then added booze to. Beer and wine were easy to quickly dispense. There were a fair amount of elaborate cocktails. The Traffic Jam was not a heavy pouring bar. There were two ice bins, one with crushed ice, and one with cubes. Crushed ice filled the bottom of the glass an cubes on top. A half an ounce of whiskey added to that glass looked like more than it was. The head bartender at The Traffic Jam was a tight fisted and tightly wound man named Wayne Slagg. I learned the basics about the mechanics of bar service from him but I learned more important things from my fellow bar tenders. I am grateful to this day that these more experienced people took me under their wings. I moved from the service bar to the long customer bar.

While the Traffic Jam was a perfect place to learn a lot about the bar business and while the owners were enlightened and far ahead of their time, I was restless there. It was not the coolest bar in the neighborhood. There had also been some changes in the staff and many of the new people were interested in bringing the union into the place. The Hotel, Restaurant, Club Employees and Bartenders Union, affiliated with the AFL-CIO was a union in decline. Most people in the industry now were not career people to whom a pension, heath care benefits or seniority were priorities. Most of us could not imagine sitting in the smoke filled union hall on Selden waiting for a call to put on our white jackets and work a banquet at the Hilton. So while Ben and Edward were social liberals, they were also pragmatic business people and they hired a union busting firm to make sure that the union vote failed. There were some new short lived employees who came on board around election time and we all knew which way they would vote. The atmosphere and morale changed.

I voted for the union although now, I think I was naive to do so. I think that the union was too weak to have done anything for us. I think that our situation was very different than that of workers in steel mills, auto plants, or coal mines or that of police officers, teachers or fire fighters. Those were career people who stayed at one job for decades. Not many of us were likely to be at the Traffic Jam in 2004 at their retirement send off party. I am sure no one was.

As it happened, I was also working at Cobb's Corner at the time. Cobb's was a very different kind of place and it was only one block south of the Traffic Jam. The Traffic Jam owners felt that Cobb's drew a less desirable crowd. Perhaps also this would provide a way to rid themselves of another person who voted for the union because they gave me an ultimatum: Quit Cobb's or quit the Traffic Jam. Since they had been cutting my hours anyway, I read the message clearly and moved on. It was the best decision I could have made. Cobb's was the place that made it inevitable that I'd be still in the bar business more than 40 years later.

I have one final anecdote about the Traffic Jam. There were no TV's there. Lots of bars did not have TV's then. Maybe that is why I so loathe TV screens in bars to this day. However, on August 9, 1974 a bartender brought a black and white portable TV with "rabbit ear" antennas into the bar and and set it on the corner. President Nixon was scheduled to speak and we were all in suspense. Every customer and every employee gathered around. Even the kitchen staff left their stations. When Nixon said "Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow..........." The place exploded. It was a moment in history and being in a tavern with all manor of humanity seemed so right.

I had finished my "basic training" and was ready to jump all in to the tavern culture of Detroit.

Next up, Cobb's, The Bronx, The Belcrest, Clementines, The New Miami, the fire, Clutch Cargo's, and then I'll rejoin the Chicago story.

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 Post subject: Re: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2017 5:59 pm 
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300 pages.


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 Post subject: Re: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2017 9:13 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2017 11:35 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Sun Mar 05, 2017 5:39 pm 
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Crystal Lake Hoffy wrote:

When it was slow or late at night, there was a buzzer on the door. People would push the buzzer and stand so their face showed through the opening in the painted door. That opening was created by pealing an Old Style logo decal off of the door. It created an opening that was the shape of a shield. If the potential customer was white, they they were always buzzed in even if they were not recognized. If they were unknown blacks or Hispanics, they were waved away. There were a few regular Hispanic customers and one black man and one black woman who found a way to ignore the racist hate speech and regularly mix with the bar's crowd.

One night, either because the door was inadvertently unlocked or perhaps because she was female and was buzzed in, a black woman came in, looked around the room and then opened the door for three black men with guns. They also had crow bars.


He doesn't seem to grasp the irony of the second paragraph after his set-up in the first. :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Sun Mar 05, 2017 7:48 pm 
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When I took over one of the regulars was this guy named "Joey Rod," or "Joey Orr," I forget. Nice guy. Seemed to have money but nobody knew what the hell he did. Always talking about some "business partner." A real raconteur though. This guy could talk about anything and he was the only guy I ever knew who could work the MC5 and harness racing into the same conversation and have it make sense. Heavily, heavily alcoholic but he always paid for drinks. Things would turn really dark when he had a few too many though, which was every day. He would go off about how some real estate guy from New York named Trump or Dump was going to be President some day and will solve all our problems. He would harass the other customers. Intimidate them. Infringe on their free speech. It got to the point where we had to kick him out. I mean, I'm trying to build a business here. Last I heard he was vandalizing Islamic temples or something.

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 Post subject: Re: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Sun Mar 05, 2017 8:14 pm 
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DannyB wrote:
When I took over one of the regulars was this guy named "Joey Rod," or "Joey Orr," I forget. Nice guy. Seemed to have money but nobody knew what the hell he did. Always talking about some "business partner." A real raconteur though. This guy could talk about anything and he was the only guy I ever knew who could work the MC5 and harness racing into the same conversation and have it make sense. Heavily, heavily alcoholic but he always paid for drinks. Things would turn really dark when he had a few too many though, which was every day. He would go off about how some real estate guy from New York named Trump or Dump was going to be President some day and will solve all our problems. He would harass the other customers. Intimidate them. Infringe on their free speech. It got to the point where we had to kick him out. I mean, I'm trying to build a business here. Last I heard he was vandalizing Islamic temples or something.


:lol: You really captured his writing style. You just needed a couple misspelled words.

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 Post subject: Re: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 9:25 am 
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What a self important douche. It's a bar

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 Post subject: Re: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 9:30 am 
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sini wrote:
too many words (I am a rapper) didn't read

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 Post subject: Re: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 9:49 am 
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:lol: :lol: Pretty much

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 Post subject: Re: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 3:01 pm 
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good dolphin wrote:
What a self important douche. It's a bar


+1

Why would anyone read that? There aren't enough fucks in the world not to give that would cover my interest in that story.


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 Post subject: Re: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 4:05 pm 
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His story can barely mask his disdain for the common man.

It takes a lot of balls for a guy who had his own substance problems (seems implied in the story) and chose selling alcohol for a living to hold the people who purchase it in such contempt.

This puts his ban on kids at restaurant in a much different context.

Oh, and there is more of his story!

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 Post subject: Re: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 8:53 pm 
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good dolphin wrote:
His story can barely mask his disdain for the common man.

It takes a lot of balls for a guy who had his own substance problems (seems implied in the story) and chose selling alcohol for a living to hold the people who purchase it in such contempt.

This puts his ban on kids at restaurant in a much different context.

Oh, and there is more of his story!


Contempt? A little strong. Consider too the audience for which he's writing. Guys like me who go out of their way to not end sentences with prepositions.

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 Post subject: Re: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 9:15 am 
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SpiralStairs wrote:
good dolphin wrote:
His story can barely mask his disdain for the common man.

It takes a lot of balls for a guy who had his own substance problems (seems implied in the story) and chose selling alcohol for a living to hold the people who purchase it in such contempt.

This puts his ban on kids at restaurant in a much different context.

Oh, and there is more of his story!


Contempt? A little strong. Consider too the audience for which he's writing. Guys like me who go out of their way to not end sentences with prepositions.


Re read his paragraphs about his early days and try to arrive at any other conclusion.

He could have written that he had uneasiness about being a guy who sold alcohol to alcoholics, which is what he did in the beginning. Instead, he projected the disgust with himself onto his clients. He was happy to take the money of alcoholics and gambling addicts when he needed it to keep his doors open.

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 Post subject: Re: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:14 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Hopleaf Backstory
PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 11:50 am 
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Unsure how how this place is so popular for food. I had a mediocre experience a couple years ago so forgot about this place.

Gave it another try this weekend and ordered the mussels. Suuuuuuuuuuuuucked. Sauce was too bland. Never skimp on the garlic! Don't understand how you have "Moules" chiseled on your facade and yet they suck dick.

Good beer selection though. Should stick to just being a stuffy bar for white beer dorks.


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