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Posted on Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 5:30 p.m.

Ray Knight, founder of Ann Arbor's Knight's Steakhouse and Knight's Market, dies at 84

By Lizzy Alfs


A picture of Ray Knight hangs inside Knight's Steakhouse on Dexter Avenue. Knight died on Feb. 16.

Melanie Maxwell |

Born and raised in Ann Arbor and remembered as one of the “original townies,” Ray Knight’s five children say their father touched an extraordinary number of lives in this community.

Knight died Saturday at the age of 84 at his home near Knight’s Steakhouse on Dexter Avenue.

“He touched a lot of people,” said Bob Knight, Ray’s eldest son, who helps run Knight’s Meat Market on Spring Street and cuts the meat. “He taught us how to be good to everybody…and he never needed anything from anyone.”

Between five kids, there is a lot to say about their dad: he was generous, passionate, hardworking, tough, caring and quirky.

Ray opened Knight’s Market, at 420 Miller Ave., in 1952, transforming an existing business into a quality meat market. In 1984, he purchased Annie’s Dugout at 2324 Dexter Ave., opening the now iconic Knight’s Steakhouse. Over the years, Ray had a brief stint as general manager at the Ann Arbor Country Club, and he catered parties and fundraisers in the community — often free of charge. Eventually, he opened a Knight’s Steakhouse in Jackson.

“He was one of the hardest workers I know. That’s what he did; he worked every day,” said his son, Chet Knight, who oversees maintenance for all of the Knight’s properties.

He gave a lot and expected nothing in return — like the time he gave away his Rolls Royce golf cart to a man in northern Michigan who had trouble walking up his driveway. Ray cooked on Thanksgiving Day so people could get carryout meals from the restaurant; he donated food to fundraisers; he loaned friends money; and he had a habit of putting customers on charge accounts, letting debts pass unnoticed if customers didn’t have the money to pay.

“He did a lot of those things,” said Don Knight, who runs the restaurant on Dexter Avenue. “Things we didn’t even know about…he’d give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.”

Growing up, the five siblings knew they’d be involved in the family business. They all have their roles, and although Ray never defined those for them, it just flows. Bob and Sherry Bedolla, Ray’s only daughter, run the market. Don handles daily operations at the restaurant. Chet handles maintenance and Jeff Knight oversees the business side of things. They also have fiercely loyal employees who have worked with them for years.


Chet Knight, left, Bob Knight, Sherry Bedolla, Jeff Knight and Don Knight stand inside Knight's Steakhouse in Ann Arbor. The five siblings all work for the businesses started by their father years ago.

Melanie Maxwell |

The siblings look after one another, they make each other laugh and they banter like all families. And thanks to their dad’s influence, they share a passion for good food, hard work and the Ann Arbor community.

Ray built successful businesses by working a lot and staying consistent with his products. His children can only recall their dad taking a single sick day in his career, although he had a passion for playing golf and cards. Asked when Ray stepped down from daily operations, Bob joked: “About six days ago.”

“Traveling to him was going to Dexter,” Don added. “That was one of his famous quotes.”

Ray’s health started deteriorating in 2010 when his wife, Mary, died.


Ray Knight was passionate about cooking, working, playing cards, golfing and his family.

Nie Family Funeral Home

“He kind of quit,” Don said.

He got an infection in his leg, and Jeff said that’s when he stopped coming into the restaurant, choosing to stay home instead. He was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer about a month ago and was being cared for at home. He died Saturday morning.

A large picture of Ray hangs in the restaurant on Dexter Avenue — a tribute to the business he cultivated from day one. Founded on good food, strong drinks and a sense of community, the Knight family doesn’t plan to divert the business from Ray’s original vision.

“That’s what he envisioned this place to be — an Ann Arbor townie hangout,” said Jeff.

And with no signage out front except the black chess piece, to many people, Knight’s Market and Knight’s Steakhouse are both hidden gems in Ann Arbor.

“People come in here because they think it’s Cheers,” Bob joked.

Jim Chaconas, a commercial real estate broker with deep Ann Arbor roots, called Ray one of the “original townies.”

“I’ve known Ray since I was a little kid,” he said. “He was a very, very loyal man.”

Chaconas remembered a group of men, including his father, Ray and Bill Fraser, sitting at Fraser’s Pub in Ann Arbor every Tuesday.

“He worked really hard and he played really hard,” Jeff said.

"He lived the way he wanted to live," Bob added.

Funeral arrangements are being made by Nie Funeral Home of Ann Arbor. A memorial is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. on Feb. 24 at the West Liberty location.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at


Dick Russell

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

Ray Kinight was Ann Arbor, just as much as the U of M. He created a special meat market that we began frequenting in 1964 when all his children were small. Later came the restaurant with lots of atmosphere and comraderie. Then Ray, after a morning stint baking pies, sat supervising from his spot at the end of the bar. We moved away 15 years ago but on any ocassion that we return to Ann Arbor, Knight's Restaurant is the #1 stop our list. Dick Russell

Pretty Gritty

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 11:27 p.m.

"Jesus Baby" - Ray Knight.


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 9:24 p.m.

While the family lost a very good man, they have to be encouraged by the fact him and Mary are now together again. Great people, make great people, and that is exactly what has happened here.


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 9:14 p.m.

Steven and I send our deepest sympathies to the Knight family and to Ray's many friends. Ray will live on in the restaurant and market, both of which contain the best good vibes in town. Peace.


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 8:34 p.m.

original townies yep what the place was about


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 8:33 p.m.



Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 6:33 p.m.

I never knew Mr. Knight, but his bussiness has been a staple of the Ann Arbor community and I always recommend it to out of towners. You know you've been doing something right when you don't even have to advertise your restaurant or even have a sign with it's name on it out front, and there are still customers lining up to eat. Mr. Knight has left a great legacy for Ann Arbor.


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 5:41 p.m.

Next time there's a power outage, you'll see another Ray Knight legacy as the restaurant will be fully operational with its generator. He always thought ahead. We've missed seeing Ray and the card games. Our hearts go out to the family but it's good to know he left the businesses in capable hands.


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 4:11 p.m.

I did not know the man but just based on his bio and all the heartfelt comments, I wish I did. It is the truth in our humanity to give and it will be returned. Mr. Knight lead this kind of existence and his children are his legacy. What an incredible man. Now he is probably looking down with his wife Mary and hoping others will do as he did. It is not wrong to feel envious of this man - a good envy to say we would all love to be blessed with such a heart and family. The children were blessed with their Dad. My prayers to the family and close friends.


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 3:43 p.m.

He lived quite a life, and we should thank our lucky stars he did.


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 3:31 p.m.

So sorry to hear about this. I can only hope that the outpouring of kind words about Ray and his kids give them comfort in their loss.


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 3:13 p.m.

A day that was always dreaded by many as we knew we would lose an Ann Arbor icon, a good friend, so much Ann Arbor history, an just an amazing man. Thanks for the good golf memories! My condolences to the people that loved and respected and needed him most---his family.

John Hritz

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

Condolences to the Knight family.


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 2:25 p.m.

I have lived on Spring St. since 1973, just up the street from Knight's Market. I have always felt that the market and the Knight family are the "anchor" in our neighborhood---which recently became Water Hill. Ray and Mary represent the American Small Business People in my mind. Great parents, great children---and now even the grandchildren are carrying on the Knight's hard working, loving legacy.


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 2:18 p.m.

Lovely piece, Lizzy. Condolences to the family. It's hard to pass on such strong work ethics and it sure sounds like Ray hit a home run! Best wishes.


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

What a legacy. My father shopped at the first market he took over when the original owner moved. The best meat in town. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. And, you all still have the best meat in town.


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 12:24 p.m.

My condolences, Ray was a good man and raised a great family


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 12:06 p.m.

What a history! We lived in the neighborhood and often shopped at Knights in the 1960's, bought the steaks for my (first) bachelor party in 1993, and for an anniversary in my (second) marriage just a couple years ago. Ray was always behind the meat counter! Best wishes to the Knight family, and Godspeed, Ray!


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 11:55 a.m.

Hard worker, charitable, successful businessman and raised decent hard working children - a life well lived. My condolences to all the Knights for the loss of Mr. Knight and also the loss of their mother.


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 11:52 a.m.

He created a true Ann Arbor landmark. Sympathy to his family.

Urban Sombrero

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 6:23 a.m.

I'm really sad to hear this. Ray Knight has left a wonderful legacy. His family should be proud. Knight's meat market has, in my opinion, the best meat in town. And, Knight's Restaurant has, in my opinion, the best French Dip sandwich in town. May Mr. Knight rest in peace.


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 9:20 p.m.

That French Dip is possibly the best east of the Mississippi. Try it with mushrooms and Swiss cheese sometime.

Jamie Pitts

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 4:52 a.m.

My condolences to the Knight family. Knight's has a great energy about it, definitely one of the places that I consider "classic Ann Arbor" since recently moving to the area. The market is really nice too, and I can't wait to see what happens with the expansion. Ray Knight created some great things in his lifetime!


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 3:12 a.m.

Always enjoyed the restaurant and market and seeing the family. Big loss for the AA area. Very nice man and family.

Vanessa Revelli

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 2:45 a.m.

So sorry for you loss, Don and Sherry. Your family has always been so kind to me. Much Love, Vanessa (Barlow) Revelli

Linda Peck

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 1:47 a.m.

Blessings and prayers to the whole Knight family and friends. May your hearts have peace always.

Ricardo Queso

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 1:30 a.m.

The ultimate Townie.


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 12:28 a.m.

Didn't know the man, but that restaurant is just great. I have loved the place since day one.


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 12:05 a.m.

You had a great dad and he will be missed by many. Carry on!!

Little Patience

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 11:47 p.m.

My deepest condolences to the Knight family.

Martha Cojelona Gratis

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 11:36 p.m.

An Ann Arbor legend. You will be truly missed.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 11:23 p.m.

It really was meaningful to sit down with Ray's five children. Hearing them recall memories was touching, and there were many things I wasn't able to include in the story. Bob was very adamant that he'd have nothing without his father, who gave him work and always stood by his side while he was growing up. Ray was a master bridge player and had a serious passion for cards. He could often be found at the restaurant at night playing cards with friends. One time, a woman came in the market and Ray was waiting on her. She forgot her credit card and asked if she could come back the next day to pay. Ray agreed and handed her $20 so that she wouldn't be without money the next time. About Ray's love of community: he purchased a row of houses on Spring Street - Chet lives in one now - and the kids grew up there. Then, Ray later lived in a house next to the restaurant. He had an incredible sense of place and a passion about all things Ann Arbor. Also, the Knights said they are one of the oldest families in Ann Arbor. The siblings were recalling when their great great grandfather built a home at Scio and Knight (yes, named after the family). Finally, I mentioned in the story that Ray often donated time and food to fundraisers. One time, Don said he donated 220 12 ounce filets. Pretty cool stuff!


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 4:30 a.m.

Nice article Lizzy about a great place and a2 family, it very much reminded me of a story Geoff Larcom did about my dad in the a2 News back in 2008, thanks for carrying on a nice tradition.

Vivienne Armentrout

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 11:22 p.m.

Readers might enjoy my affectionate post about Knight's,


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 12:14 a.m.

Nice post with multiple updates. I sure wish made links clickable like their competitor, does. Your link was short, but they aren't always.


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 11:14 p.m.

"Hey baby" RIP

Jim Osborn

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 10:49 p.m.

He left a very nice legacy, his well run family business, and after reading the article, five children who care about each other and get along well enough to run a family business together. I call his life a success. Good food, too.