In the late 1800s young Albert Jacoby came from his native Luxembourg and settled in Detroit. He became a bartender at the fashionable old
Pontchartrain Hotel on Woodward Avenue, where NBD (now, Bank One) built its headquarters.
Meanwhile over on 624 Brush Street was an establishment called Jake’s Tavern. It was owned and operated by the Voight Brewing Company.
As the story goes, the brewery wasn’t happy with Jake, and coincidently, the brewery representative had come to know and respect the charismatic
young bartender at the Hotel. At some point the brewery came to Jacoby and asked if he would be interested in taking over the bar on Brush. He was
interested all right; in fact he hatched a plan.
There was an attractive German woman who cooked for the hotel. Her name was Mina. Jacoby goes to her and tells her about the opportunity that has
been presented to him. He makes it simple…I like you… you like me…I can tend bar…you can cook…let’s get married and do this deal!!!
So it was done, Al & Mina were IN and Jake was OUT.
It didn’t take Jacoby long to get his confidence. In fact, three months after taking over, the Voight Brewing was also OUT, and the two of them hung
out their own shingle.
That was October 1904. The neighborhood was predominately German and Mina’s old world cooking was an immediate success. Beer, Jacoby
believed, was the working mans drink and he priced it low. The business prospered and a downtown tradition was born.
Enter Albert Jr., the second generation Jacoby. With Albert comes an infusion
of fun and food of a different nature…a different culture. With Albert comes
IRISH! His wife is from Dublin and she introduces the likes of corned beef &
cabbage and Irish stew. He introduces Irish beer & spirits and hangs
shillelaghs on the back bar. At the same time this is going on the
neighborhood is changing. The place becomes a hangout for the local movers
and shakers. The courts are near by…the lawyers are near by…and the
politicians are near by! It’s also important to note that at this particular point
in time the city was run by, what was referred to as, the “Irish Mafia.” As
they say in marketing circles…Jacoby’s was nicely positioned. The business
Born into all of this was third generation Jacoby; Edmond. Ed was
enthusiastic innovative and extremely charismatic. He would “hold court”
behind the bar at lunch time and customers would show up early to get good
seats. Every one wanted to be his friend, and all the area business owners
wanted him to cater, or host their private functions. Eddie ruled the Jacoby
roost through the sixties, seventies and eighties.
On January 4th of 1989 there was a fire. The place was closed for months
while it was put back together. Ed decided he’d had enough of the business,
and when the restaurant reopened, turned it over to his two kids…the forth
generation Jacoby’s. As it turned out, the young Jacoby’s’ didn’t have quite
their dads’ flare for running the joint, and the business suffered. He removed
his son and daughter, and took the place over himself. His job was to keep it
afloat and find a buyer.
Along comes a 26 year old named Michael Bell. His grandfather and father
were regulars at Jacoby’s and good friends of Ed. The optimistic young man
doesn’t see a tired old “has been” of another area, he has a vision of an
exciting and viable downtown Detroit. By the way, this was 1995. GM had not
yet bought the Renaissance Center; there were no casinos…no ball parks.
Michael really believes that “if you build it they will come.” Anyway, he
convinced his father, Dick Bell, to join him in the venture - bought the place,
then set about breathing new life in the old establishment.
It has taken years of hard work and perseverance… but, once again…the
business has prospered.
In July 2006 Chicago investor Wally Wolff, purchased Jacoby’s from The Bells, and with the local family help of his sister-in-law Monica Boynton, they are
continuing the traditions of this long standing Detroit institution. Come by and take a look. You will be glad you did.
© Copyright 2010 - Jacoby’s German Biergarten Since 1904
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