Another 800 words about Andy Garris and a bar (please welcome Woodruff's to Depot Town)
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 AnnArbor.com 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 AnnArbor.com here (there's a story about kickball in there somewhere), email him at email@example.com OR follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/richretyi.