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Posted on Wed, Dec 1, 2010 : 11:06 a.m.

Another 800 words about Andy Garris and a bar (please welcome Woodruff's to Depot Town)

By Richard Retyi

Andy Garris

Andy Garris on the last night of the Elbow Room 

Richard Retyi | Contributor

The next time you see Andy Garris, he'll be working behind a different bar. With the smoldering bridge of the Elbow Room in the rearview and the cold, dark stage of Savoy behind him, Andy is ready to twirl his mustache and pour drinks at a new venue. This time, Ypsi's most popular drink slinger will work for longtime friend Hasan Mihyar who's opening a new establishment in Depot Town. Not opening next year, not opening in a few weeks. Opening tonight.

With the support of one of the most successful business families in Ypsilanti, Hasan and Andy hope to finally find a place they can call home.

Yes, I'm writing another 800 words about Andy Garris and a bar. Feel free to check out Wikileaks instead.

Four months ago, during the salad days of summer, I wrote a piece about the last night of my favorite Andy Garris bar, the Elbow Room.

"The best bar in Ypsilanti and my favorite bar in the entire world closed last night. The Elbow Room welcomed me into its gritty, grimy, sometimes sticky embrace for three years and grew to be much more than just a place to get a drink. The end was sudden — operator Andy Garris told me Thursday that the bar’s final hurrah under his management would be two nights later. I didn’t have much time to mourn. The finality of it has yet to sink in. Heck, I just became foursquare mayor of the place, for crying out loud. And now it’s over."

The birth of Woodruff's
Andy moved from the Elbow Room to Savoy and now moves to Woodruff's at 36 Cross St. in Depot Town the former site of Celebrations Banquet Hall and better known as the old Cady's Grill.

With a suggestion from friend Todd Osborne, the pair named the new saloon Woodruff's as a tip of the historical cap to Ypsilanti's lesser-known (but Googleable) past.

In 1823, Major Benjamin Woodruff established the first village in Washtenaw County, building a fine home. The governor of the territory named the settlement Woodruff's Grove, and that's where Mr. and Mrs. Woodruff lived, the former becoming the first justice of the peace, sheriff and mill builder in the county.

Two years later, three prominent settlers combined their land to form Ypsilanti named in honor of hero of the Greek War of Independence, Demetrius Ypsilanti. Ypsilanti prospered but the Grove withered. When a schoolhouse burned down at Woodruff's Grove, the village was abandoned. Woodruff, and his wife packed their things and moved to Ypsilanti where Benjamin lived out his days as a "social and accommodating" man who "made a good landlord." Woodruff was buried in an unmarked grave, but you can look for the Woodruff's Grove marker which is supposedly located at the junction of South Prospect and South Grove Streets.

"We didn’t want to distinguish the bar with a name like The Machine Shop," says Andy. "We wanted you to think, am I going to my grandpa's basement?"

"We'll serve drinks, we'll play some music and we'll have a crowd from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.," Andy says.

"We've got to pour drinks and bands need to play."

"Hasan signed today, he'll get the keys tomorrow and we'll open Wednesday," Andy told me Monday night.

Hasan and Andy worked together at the Elbow Room and Savoy, but this will be the first place they can truly call their own. Hasan has signed a multi-year lease, and Andy is convinced that Woodruff's can be as special as any bar he's been a part of.

"Woodruff's can succeed, grow and realistically sustain itself," says Andy. "Hasan and I know what we're good at. We want it to feel like you're coming over to our place to hang out."

It helps that landlords Bill and Sandee French have been so supportive right out of the gate.

"It's common knowledge that the Frenchs are great business people," says Andy. "We're grateful to have people with a proven track record looking out for us."

The plan is to focus on the 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. crowd and develop the restaurant side of Woodruff's. They'll serve simple items in the beginning and work towards a menu that can be sustained.

"Simple street cart food done well," says Andy. "It won't be a big menu but we'll have items that people will love."

Hasan, Andy and a dedicated crew of volunteers worked all day Tuesday and will be plugging away all day today to prepare for the grand opening. Three bands have been all over Facebook promoting the event (Derby Mama, Ben Daniels' Band and Buttonsphere) so Hasan, Andy and company better be ready to hit the ground running.

"A lot of things won't be ready on Wednesday," says Garris, "but we'll be open. We've got to pour drinks and bands need to play."

Oh, and about that other stuff: I'm not going to write about the Elbow Room, and I'm not going to write about Savoy. I count Andy and Hasan among my friends. We've shared details of each other's lives, bitched, laughed, been angry and been sad in each other's company, and I'm pretty sure I've even seen their butts at some point. If you want to know about the Elbow Room and Savoy, there are real reporters on the case.

Richard Retyi writes the bi-weekly-ish column Lie to Your Cats About Santa as well as contributing to the blog In Bed By Eleven with area celebrity Jordan Miller. Read his back issues of here (there's a story about kickball in there somewhere), email him at OR follow him on Twitter at



Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 2:06 a.m.

@Shadow, I don't know anything about the Alley Bar, but he drastically increased attendance at Elbow Room and left over a dispute with the ownership to take over Savoy, which, I can tell you, was crashing and burning before he took over. By the time the owner (read: not Andy) shut it down, he had drastically improved attendance there as well, on several occasions drawing more than 200 people with minimal marketing support. So, he leaves one bar at the end of his management contract (if you dig deep, you will find that sale of the bar was hinging on building upgrades demanded by the City and MLCC that the owner failed to address) Leaves, the next because the owner gets the power shut off, and now has set up a long term deal with people who are happy to have him. I've spent a lot of time in bars, and Mr. Garris is pretty good at running one. The Frenches saw that and ran with the opportunity. Even Linda French, owner of Aubree's rival Sidetracks, has welcomed him to Depot Town. He must be doing something right. @SusanK, lots of people in business get sued all the time. I have a friend being sued because a long ago fired salesman made an outrageous, unsupportable lifetime guarantee on a product to a customer 10 years ago, and the customer is trying to get it, even though it was never actually offered by the company. Hasan and Andy know each other pretty well, I'm pretty sure he knows what he's getting into. And, as I say, lawsuits don't mean much of anything until the courts, not or anyone else, say they do.


Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 12:34 p.m.

Is Hasan Mihyar oblivious to the fact that Andy Garris is being sued? Where Andy goes, trouble follows. I can't imagine why anyone would partner up with him for obvious reasons.


Thu, Dec 2, 2010 : 3:43 p.m.

So, let's see... that's shutting down 3 bars in 3 years? If we toss in the old Alley could be 4. I think I'll think twice about provisioning for Mr. Garris' services should I ever get into the bar business.

Richard Retyi

Thu, Dec 2, 2010 : 2:16 p.m.

@glimmertwin: Sorry it took me a while to respond to your comment - I was giving Mr. Garris a foot rub. As I explained at the end of my post, and in more detail in Last Night of the Elbow Room, I'm friends with Andy and I've patronized three of "his" bars since 2007. I like the atmosphere he generates and how hard he works to please his customers. Music, special events, fundraising - he's superb. All Brian Flanagan did was quit business school, have a child out of wedlock and open a poorly named bar. When's the last time you saw a Cocktails and Dreams franchise?


Thu, Dec 2, 2010 : 8:33 a.m.

I haven't seen a bartender get so much attention since Tom Cruise was in that movie about one. I don't get it. Gambling debt? Love affair? Last breath favor requested by a loved one? What's the deal?


Wed, Dec 1, 2010 : 4:51 p.m.

OMG...totally miss Vinyl Joes. Used to frequent that local often. Good luck to Woodruff's, I hope to stop in soon :)


Wed, Dec 1, 2010 : 3:21 p.m.

how neglectful of me to forget to mention the Greenroom, and Vinyl Joes?


Wed, Dec 1, 2010 : 3:15 p.m.

Good luck Woodruffs! As a long time Ypsilantian, I frequented Cady's many a times, and my wife used to wait tables there. They had great food. It's really been sad to see all of the places I used to throw down close up, or just change drastically. It started with Cross Street Station, migrated over to TCs, Cadys, & the Wooden Nickel, and claimed the Smellbow as a victim. I hope people can come in and revive these locations. I'll be checking out Woodruffs soon.


Wed, Dec 1, 2010 : 1:38 p.m.

@ rich and Ed, Thanks for the update. I was never even aware of Celebrations. It sounds like Woodruffs is going to be more of a bar with bar food. I went to Cady's now and again and it was usually pretty good fair and the service was always good.It was a little more upscale/formal than Sidetrack in appearances but not in attitude, which was nice.Somewhat of a comparable to Haabs. I am looking forward to the new place in the old TC's. I sure hope they serve burnt ends. I tried them for the first time at Lockharts in Royal Oak and they are great, excellent over a house salad.

Richard Retyi

Wed, Dec 1, 2010 : 1:22 p.m.

@treetown: I lived in Ypsi at the time of Cady's closing and to the best of my knowledge Willy's never materialized. A while later (it seemed a long while) Celebrations opened. I regret never getting to Cady's before it closed, but I was inside Celebrations once and it seemed okay. Fear not BBQ lovers, apparently a barbecue place is slated for the old T.C.'s Speakeasy spot on Michigan Ave.

Richard Retyi

Wed, Dec 1, 2010 : 1:02 p.m.

@Eric and Ignatz - Andy did a phenomenal job at Savoy, transitioning from a bar with a capacity a little over 100 to a place that can fit 700. Savoy transformed through the summer and into fall and you could see the place's potential during the larger events. That said, I'll be happy to see Andy (and Hasan) return to a smaller venue where it'll be much easier for them to truly make it "their" place.


Wed, Dec 1, 2010 : 1:01 p.m.

What happened to the BBQ place that was supposed to open up here?


Wed, Dec 1, 2010 : 12:11 p.m.

This is a happy surprise!

Eric Empson

Wed, Dec 1, 2010 : 11:53 a.m.

Well done. Though I will miss the Savoy, it was a beautiful room for shows, I look forward to Woodruff's in the old Cady's spot. A great music venue in Depot Town? I'm in.