Blog: Joe Zainea

Joe Zainea, 76, owns The Majestic, an entertainment venue consisting of some of Detroit's top live music venues, the Majestic Theater and the Magic Stick, as well as restaurants, bowling, and billiards. His sons, David and Joe S., serve as the complex's general manager and head chef, respectively. In 2008, Joe received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Preservation Wayne for his commitment to community involvement.

Joe is one of six children of immigrants from Damascus, Syria. In 1946 his father, who never worked for anyone else, purchased the Garden Bowl
bowling alley, which became the core of today's Majestic entertainment complex.

After received his bachelor's degree in accounting from the University of Detroit-Mercy and attending the Detroit College of Law, Joe was drafted into the U.S. Army.

On returning from serving in the American Hospital of Paris' military section from 1957-59, he writes, "… I came home in the middle of a French government crisis when Charles de Gaulle came to power. The airport opened on a Wednesday and I was in line trying to get a ticket home, when some high ranking officer asked me why I was going home with such urgency and I told him that I was to be married on Saturday. He took me right to the front of line and made arrangements for me to be on the first flight out to Washington, DC and then to Selfridge Air Field and to be met by a cab to take me home. Remember, in those days it took 15 hours to fly from Paris to Detroit. We had a rehearsal dinner on Friday, married on Saturday, and left for London on Sunday."

Post-honeymoon, "I resumed my work helping my father and brothers run the Garden Bowl. Mary, my wife, and I had four children, in pretty quick succession. Remember, in those days you ran by the rules. Go to school; meet a girl; get drafted; come home; get a job; get married and by 35 you had four kids. (and working your a.. off to raise them. That was life, but it was good. We bought a home on the east side of Detroit and we still live in it today. I have not done too much in those fifty-some years. Same house, same work, same wife, same-o, same-0, but I love it."

Together with his wife, he has visited Japan, China, Thailand, Egypt,Trukey, Greece, Syria, Lebanon, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Russia, Estonia, Germany, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Malta, Ireland, Scotland, Great Britain, Fiji, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Swaziland, Senegal, and South Africa.

"There are still lots of places we would like to travel to," he adds, "like India, Israel, Dubai, and central and southern Russia. Perhaps when I grow up."

After years of doing business in midtown Detroit and overcoming many trials in the process, his motto reads:

"Forget Arrogance, Try Humor".

Joe Zainea - Most Recent Posts:

Post 6: The 1967 Rebellion

My father, brothers, and I have been operating the Garden Bowl on Woodward since 1946.  My sons, Dave and Chef Joe, now operate the same place along with other parts of the Majestic Theatre Center.

I was at Tiger Stadium on that Sunday, in July 1967, when the riot broke out.  I could see smoke in various directions from my seat in the upper deck.  At the end of the game the announcer told us to leave the stadium in an orderly fashion and to avoid certain streets, like Grand River, etc. 

I returned to the Garden Bowl after the game as our group was made up of our customers.  We had just recently renovated the Garden Recreation (later named the Garden Bowl) in 1966, hoping to hold onto our customers which were running to the suburbs.  It didn't help, they ran anyway.  Our new clientele at that point was made up of Asian Americans, from the Cass Corridor, and African Americans.  Our manager was Chinese American.  When I returned to the Garden after the game, the place was packed with many Chinese, as they all closed their restaurants for the day because of the riots.  There were some African Americans too.  The next day, I was driving to work with my father, and saw quite a view from the rise of the I-94 freeway over 1-75.  There were burning buildings in every direction, mostly toward the northwest. It was scary and awesome and sits vividly in my memory.  My brother George arrived and we tried to figure out what to do.  The few leagues we had cancelled for the mean time.  The mayor announced a curfew of all business after 8 p.m., later in the same day he announced a 24-hour curfew. 

My brother and I decided to call the Salvation Army to see if they would be interested in using our bowling center as a place to give a break to the Police, Firemen, and National Guard.  The 101 st and 82nd Airborne soldiers were called in a few days later.  I told the Salvation Army they didn't have to pay us anything for bowling, and that we were doing this as a favor to those groups.  They called me back and said that that was a great idea.  I had an "A" shaped sign made that read  "Welcome all Police, Firemen and Soldiers  This is your recreation center?Free bowling"  and placed it on the roof of my car parked in front of our business.  The Salvation Army told me to serve food and keep track of the bill and that they would reimburse us later, after everything settled down. 

The place was packed again and again with police, judges, prosecutors, firemen, and later soldiers.  They sat in the restaurant/bar area and talked and played cards.  They purchased all sorts of unique sandwiches, like E&B Hot Dogs, Altas Sausages,  Budburgers, CC stew, and many other named eats.  Of course, these were not necessarily sandwiches, but they ordered it anyway.  Remember, there was a curfew on all alcoholic beverages and of course we wouldn't serve drinks (like Hell).  If a judge ordered an E&B Hot Dog, who was I to disagree with him.  We ran out of beer and liquor and my brother George rented a truck and droved to Toledo accompanied by one of Detroit's Finest to buy more beverages.  After being restocked, we continued serving twenty four hours a day to this group.  Needless to say, our buildings were well protected. 

I also remember, when the 101 st and 82nd airborne bowled in our center, our parking lot across the street had a tank protecting the tripod rifles of the soldiers.  I have a picture of my then six-year-old son, David, sitting on the lap of a soldier holding his rifle.  We have it hanging in our Majestic Café.

 By the way, in about two months I got a huge check from the Salvation Army for all "those" sandwiches we sold.  Another good point was that all of our help was able to work right through the riot.

I remember looking out the front door of our bowling center and watching thugs break the windows of a men's clothing store and clear out every item in it and then it was set on fire.  Owners of neighboring businesses called us from their suburban homes to find out how things were going.  They should have come down and protected their businesses too.  What trying times they were. 

But, a year later, in 1968, the Tigers won the World Series and all of metro Detroit celebrated together as if nothing had happened the year before. Woodward was packed with white and blacks cheering on the Tigers and Detroit; wondrous years, indeed.

I like to refer to the situation as a rebellion, rather than a riot.  Blacks were not treated well in the forties, fifties, and early sixties, and even to this day.  They rebelled.  Granted the riots did more damage to their own properties than suburbanites but it did awaken all of society to the need to improve their station in life.  Today, much of that racism has been replaced with elitism.  I equate the both of them equally wrong.  Whenever a person, regardless of his or her race, feels he or she is better than another, for whatever reason, that person is indeed just as guilty as if they discriminated based on race.   Where you live, the size of your house, the brand of car you drive, the education level you have achieved, or any other rationale a person uses to think of him self as better than someone else, is merely showing inadequacy.  A person's real worth is measured by the content of his intellect, heart and soul, and his relationship with others.

Post 5: 80/20 and Other Musings

Everything in life seems to be centered around the 80/20 percentage split. 80% of the population in the US – I'm sorry to say – don't meet the standards in their thinking that other countries, in their majority, do. 20% of Americans have the capacity to analyze and reason for themselves effectively.

If you just apply this to the city of Detroit, or Metro Detroit let's say. Metro Detroit has four and a half million people. Twenty percent of that is 900,000 people. So there are 900,000 people who are amenable to the city of Detroit. They understand that it's important to put their money in the city, to invest in it, to save it. But in the city of Detroit, where you also have a population of 900,000, only 20% of the people want to be in the city. Which means we have over 700,000 people in the city of Detroit who would much rather be living somewhere else.

As a matter of fact, a neighbor of mine told me he would rather be living in Grosse Pointe. And I asked him why. I said, "You have a beautiful home, you raised your family here, you've been here thirty years." He's one of the first African-American neighbors that I had. And he's telling me how beautiful Grosse Pointe is. And I said, "It's no different. All we have to do is paint our houses, cut our grass, accept what we have."
What is a house but a roof to protect us, like a car that lets us go from place to place? If you always wanna measure something in the matter of appreciation, then don't ever buy a car, because it never maintains its value. Why should a house have to increase its value? Unless you enhance it of course. But the value of a house is the home. That's my point. The home is where you live, where your family lives, where you congregate. A house is a building, and it can come and it can go, but it's the home that makes it important. And people put the wrong emphasis on that.

If you just look at the 80/20 rule in terms of the electorate, I'm sorry to say that 80% of the people are downright unaware of the facts and what's really at stake in life. And it is really a tragedy. I'm on an email list of about 60 people, and we were discussing the financial reforms and the new regulations and reforms for Wall Street in the bill that was before Congress, which was just signed.

They were all opposed to it. And I wrote that one of the greatest Republican presidents that we had in our history was from a wealthy set. His pals and friends were the likes of Carnegie, Mellon, Morgan, Rockefeller. And he went directly against their wishes, by creating laws that were for the common good. And they "de-friended" him. He was one of the greatest presidents because he took us in a new direction. Previous to him, it was the old boys' club that ran the country. And he did some other remarkable things – some not so good. But one of the most remarkable things he did was create the National Park system.

My question to the people on the list was, "Who was this president?" Now of all my friends that I know, only one knew who I was speaking of. You know who he is, don't you? One person knew who I was talking about. Isn't that a tragedy? People are so much ingrained with what comes out of Fox News, and they don't go beyond that to get to proper thinking.

I've traveled a lot. And I'm thinking, "Why do people in other countries know more than we know?" I mean, I was in Egypt, and I was talking to a pre-teen kid, and he was telling me the capitals of all the countries of the world. How many of our 12 year olds can tell us the capital of Canada? What is wrong with our thinking?

My pastor was giving a sermon on mysticism. And he ran into an 8th grader who had 370 Facebook friends. He said that he told him, "Those are 370 acquaintances." You have to distinguish what it means between being involved with a person and just knowing them.

Corporations in America now are what the oligarchy was in the Russia before the Bolshevik revolution. They're the aristocracy that brought the French people to revolt against their kings. It goes back to England five hundred years ago, when Cromwell told the king, "You can stay as king but in a titular roll, and you have to let the people govern themselves through a parliamentary system."

How come Americans now don't see that corporations today are in the same position as those dukes and lords and barons, or the counts and countesses of France, or like Rasputin in Russia? The corporations, they're the Rasputins.

Is a corporation a person? They don't have flesh and blood. But the Supreme Court says they are.

I'm a capitalist. I run a business. But I'm a capitalist who understands that people are different than me, but they all need to be served. I always like to use the idea of a big tent: I want everybody to come into my tent.


When I was a young boy we lived on Lakewood – which I referred to as "Damascus Road," because so many of my cousins lived on that street on the east side of Detroit. My mother had a very small kitchen that had a wood floor. Every Friday she would get down on her hands and knees and scrub that floor with Fels Naptha soap, and bleach the floor afterward. Then after it dried she would go over the floor with steel wool, to smooth out the high points. She hated that floor with a passion. She told my father, "Why don't you get me Linoleum like my sister has?" Her sister lived a block away.

Well, my father acquiesced: a new floor, and he bought her Linoleum. And when I was about to get married I took a step up. I bought a house on Audubon that had Linoleum, and I tore it out. And I bought Congoleum. I loved my Congoleum. It always shined. You never had to wax it. You never had to polish it. It shined all the time. It looked beautiful.

Then my best buddy bought a home in Grosse Pointe. And he put ceramic tile down. And every time I would go to his house I would look at his ceramic tile and say to myself, "Boy, do I like that ceramic tile. I got this Congoleum. But I love my Congoleum. It's much prettier than ceramic tile." But I figured I had to take a step up.

So I installed a wood floor.

And this just teaches you the folly of people when they put values on the wrong things in life. Does it make a difference whether it's Linoleum or Congoleum or a wood floor? The answer to that is no. It's how you appreciate it, and what you love. And that's my story of Congoleum.

Post 4: Woodward Avenue Memoirs

My motto in life is "Forget arrogance, try humor."

And I have to get into something light-hearted in nature. I like to remember what Woodward Avenue was like in the 40s and early 50s – it was packed with people. They were living in the SROs (single resident occupancy hotels) in the neighborhood, like the Strathmore across the street at 70 West Alexandrine, now abandoned but soon to be renovated. And these people would take the train in from the outlying towns and cities, perhaps as close in as Royal Oak and as far away as Fenton. They'd get off at the train station on East Grand Boulevard and Beaubien, and they would either ride their bikes or get a cab to their jobs at Burroughs or in Hudson's or at one of the banks, and they would stay as the SROs Monday throughThursday nights, and after work on Friday they could take their ride back on the train to their suburban homes.

But during those weeknights they had to be entertained, they had to eat, and it caused this area around here to be a beehive of activity. In every restaurant you had to wait for a seat. There was no such thing as empty seats in restaurants. The bowling alley was very busy with people entertaining themselves that way.

We had a string of "taxi dance" halls, where the guys would go and pay a small amount of money to get into the place, and buy a string of tickets at ten cents a piece and go up – usually they were above a bar or restaurant – and they would be in what we used to call a "dime a dance" hall. And there would be a spinning glass bowl hung from the ceiling, the girls would be all around the periphery, and you'd take the ticket out.

And if the girl was just, you know, mediocre, you'd say "How many tickets?" and she'd put her finger up meaning "one ticket," and you’d give her the ticket and you'd dance with her. Or if she was a little better she'd put up two fingers. And if she was a hottie she'd put her hands up meaning "ten tickets," and she was willing to give you a whole lot more than just a dance! She was looking to be entertained for the rest of the night, or to entertain.

That's what this whole neighborhood was full of at that time, from the river all the way up to the New Center area. We did not even have a parking lot. You didn't need it. The streetcars were jammed. On a Saturday night, when Windsor had their "blue laws," where everything had to close down at 11:30pm, the Canadians would all get on the streetcar at the foot of Woodward and come up to the "north end," which was what this area used to be referred to as. And they'd go to the Greystone Ballroom which was across the street, or to Convention Hall if there was an auto show; that's where the old Vernor's Building is. Now it's a Wayne State apartment building.

And they'd come in the bowling alley, or one of the bars – we had six bars within this block. Every corner had 2-3 bars. And restaurants. And it was just jammed. And it was a beehive of activity. Our population in Detroit at that time was around two million people. But the concentration of people in the downtown and the Midtown area, as we refer to them today, might be as high, and I'm saying might be, as high as half a million or three-quarters of a million. It was jammed with people in those days.

What the SROs were, they were single rooms, no baths, no commode, and you had to go down the hall. And what the men would do, they would team up, and put a day bed in a room, you know, one regular bed and a day bed. Then they would buddy up with someone who was working the next shift, and one would use the room while the other was working, to split the cost of the room.

If you wanted to take a shower you'd go to the concierge at the desk, you gave him some coin, and they gave you a towel, a bar of soap and a slug, a token, to enter the shower. And the trick was you'd never close the door until your buddy took over!

They had plenty of places for women then too, with the same set-up. And one of them was down by the old Kresge Building, right near the Masonic Temple. It was called the Angelus House, and it was all women. And when some of these guys wanted to have a date they would go there and introduce themselves; they would have mixers, you know, social mixers. One was run by the Baptists, and you had to be extremely careful about that one, because they were very very strict and prudish. Another one was run by the League of Catholic Women, the Tracy Center. These were all in that area down there, near Times Square.

How many theaters did we have? How many bowling alleys did we have? I would say between the river and where the three freeways are now that we must have had 30 bowling alleys. And they were all busy. Now we have one. Our place. Isn't that amazing?

It was a different day and age. I remember on a Saturday night the streetcars would have three cars in tandem. It was a great method of transportation, and people didn't stop riding them – the lines were bought up by General Motors so they could enhance their bus business. So on those streetcars all the doors would open up and the people, some of them these Canadians skirting the blue laws, they would rush out, and we had to be ready for 'em.

And they would get a little drunk, and they might shack up with a woman. And they'd go back to Amherstburg the next day, to their Anglican church, and they'd pray to God that they'd never go back to that sin city. Sure as heck they'd be here the next week!

We had a counter man, an African-American man named Henry, he was like a "gentleman's gentleman." He was a concessionaire; my dad did not believe in having employees. If you worked here you concessioned out something, you had your own business. And Henry was the perfect gentleman's gentleman. He wore a smock and a small leather tie. He reserved your bowling ball for you. He used to collect the bowling balls, because they all had numbers on them behind the counter. When you arrived to bowl he checked your coat, and he had ready for you your special cigar. He had a long cigar counter. He had maybe a hundred different brands of cigars rolling in a machine like a hot dog roller, and he had a paper cutter, and he cut the tip of the cigar off and he handed you your cigar.

And out of the floor came a gas jet, and you puffed on your cigar to light it with the gas jet. He had stacks of paper, and he stapled them and made cuffs. Everyone used to bowl in long sleeves, so he made paper cuffs. He didn't charge you for that. He'd take your coat, he'd brush it and hang it up, and he'd have your bowling ball for you, and then he'd ask if you wanted your hat cleaned while you were bowling, or if you wanted it just blocked.

He had one of these machines behind the counter, I remember from when I was a boy; you'd put the hat on, you'd step on a pedal, and steam would come, and you'd turn the hat, and he'd have a brush and he'd clean the hat, and he'd put it up on the shelf and it'd be ready when you were finished. Then he would take your shoes and shine them while you were bowling, for the two or three hours that you're bowling. He rented you his bowling shoes. And he'd charge a dime, and when you'd come back to the counter you gave him your "horse numbers" he took your bets. At the end of the day he'd probably make one dollar off you. And he sent all four of his kids to college. They were a little older than me.

The kitchen was a concession. It was called "Connie’s Polish Kitchen." And my father had a spiral notebook in his shirt pocket, and that was his accounting system. And we'd open the bar at exactly seven o'clock in the morning, because the people living in the SROs wanted to go out for breakfast. And breakfast would include pickled pigs' feet, a raw egg inside a small glass of beer, with a shot of Kessler's whiskey next to it – Kessler's "Smooth as Silk" whiskey; it was cheap-cheap-cheap whiskey!

And if they went over to get a breakfast from Connie she would call out to my father, "Al, Stosh- seventy-five cents." And he'd mark it inside this little spiral notebook, and you left. And you'd be back after work, and you'd bowl and you'd drink, and he'd mark it in this little spiral notebook. And come Friday when you got your paycheck you came in, my dad had a pocket full of money, he'd cash your check. He'd put some money aside because some of them didn't speak fluent English. They were eastern European immigrants, and he'd put it in a money envelope and he'd say, "Here, give this to the concierge at the hotel to pay the rent for the week." And he was like a social worker! And at the same time he made money off them. It was pretty cool!

We opened at seven in the morning every day. And they'd be lined up outside. These were the ones that worked at the hospitals. They were called, it was a bad word, they were called "DPs". That's not a nice word, "displaced people." They did the worst jobs, way down below the level of any orderly, the worst jobs. They were from eastern Europe. It was not nice, not a nice thing to call someone a "DP".  

Post 3: Scrip Money: New Economy?

My father started a creamery in 1916, and by the 1930s it was a very large creamery in Detroit called Family Creamery. They supplied Detroit public schools and many other schools with half-pint bottles of milk. As you know, cows continue to make milk whether there's a depression or not, and they had to sell it. The city of Detroit was only able to pay them with scrip money. So here they're accumulating this large amount of scrip money. There were three-year, five-year and seven-year payouts; some of them didn't meet they payout, so the creamery had to extend them. And the city paid interest paid on the scrip.

So they had a lot of this scrip money around. And it was used in the Syrian community in a bartering system. What they did with the scrip money was, let's say you had a job; you were paid an amount in cash, probably very little, and the rest you were paid in scrip. And my father would say to the workers, "I'm gonna pay you half in scrip money, half in cash, so I can survive in business. Use this scrip money over at Simon Grocery, or Johnson Depot, or in this hardware store", businesses that were all owned by the same ethnic people, the Syrian community.

And in a sense by using this scrip money internally they prospered while the majority of the country was suffering, because a lot of businesses in the city didn't want to take it.

My father and some partners took some of the scrip money and bought properties from Detroit Bank. There were three houses on Lakewood that were under construction, and the contractor went belly-up. This bank, which is the predecessor to Comerica Bank, was willing to accept scrip money for the properties they were stuck with. And this was one of the few banks that didn't fold during the Depression.

Then my father hired carpenters, plumbers, bricklayers, and he paid them half cash and half scrip, and he told them, "Take the cash and pay for the things that you absolutely have to have, like your mortgages." Then he told them to use the scrip money wherever it was possible in the Syrian community.

And it worked. The bank was able to get rid of this property that was on their books, my father and his partners were able to hold on to their cash, and they were even able to exchange scrip money for stock in the Detroit Bank. So everyone ended up pretty well off by using this scrip money within the community.

Now it's the 90s and I went to National City Bank to ask for a loan. And they said the loan was too large for the manager in the branch to handle. So they called in another officer and he too said that the amount was too large, and that I would be given a "personal banker."

So a lady called me and she introduced herself on the phone as "my personal banker." And I was explaining to her about our business on Woodward Avenue, and I told her, "Come down and visit us, have lunch in one of our restaurants." And she said, "That would be difficult – I'm in Indianapolis." I said, "You're my personal banker and you're in Indianapolis? What is this? I wanna meet you." Well, that's the way the banks have grown and grown and grown to the point where there's hardly any personal contact.

And there was another day, this was in 1999, and I was very frustrated; business was very difficult. This was the end of the Reagan "trickle down" era, and our affluent customer base of African-Americans had left for suburbia, and we were left with a difficult clientele, and I was facing tough times. So I went to the bank and I was very frustrated. And I went to the window that said "Commercial Accounts Only – Not Available From 11:30 to 1:30." And it was the first of the month, and the line was serpentine out the door, because everyone had just gotten their welfare payments.

When it was my turn at the window the teller put up a sign that said "Closed." But I got the manager to have her open it up again for me. And all this time next to me there was this guy at the next window and he was eating peanuts, and he was drunk, and the peanuts were dribbling down his chin. And he was cussing out the teller; he wanted his money, and she wasn't able to give it to him because he had already expended it.

I finished my business, and he continued to abuse the teller, and I turned to him and I said, "Sir, this is a place of business. You cannot speak like that. It is not appropriate." And he turned to me and he said, "I'm sorry, sir." And I said, "No, you don't mean sir, you mean 'Reverend' ." I made myself out to be one! And oh, he started to tell me how much he loved his Jesus. Then he went back to the teller and he continued to cuss her out, because he wanted his money.

And that day I picked as the day when I said "I'm leaving." And I went to my credit union in the suburbs. It's too bad. I wonder if they ever learned their lesson. Like when you go to the post office – not the main office on Fort, where they've done a good job of educating the staff – but at the other post offices in the city there's a city amount of bitterness on the part of the clerks. And it's because they're putting up with lots of aggravation all day. But along comes another person who's not part of that scene, and they get treated the same way. And it's very frustrating.

So often times I pick up my stuff and I go to the post office either in downtown Detroit or in Grosse Pointe. Where you're treated differently. It should not be like that. Everyone should be treated the same. And the people themselves have to learn respect too.

Post 2: The Making of the Majestic

The Garden Bowl, aka The Garden Bowling Alley, and, later, Garden Recreation, opened on August 1, 1913. It was built by Ive Giese and John Bauer. Mr Giese was an executive with GM and Mr. Bauer was an old bowling alley man. It had 10 lanes on the first floor and a billiard parlor on the 2nd. It went only to where the first poles are located. The rest was the roof over the 1st floor lane. The billiard parlor was fantastic. It was grand stands to watch tournament play.

It lost its luster when the Detroit Recreation was build on Lafayette St in downtown Detroit. It had  88 lanes on four floors and pool tables on another four floors. One floor of the billiards was made for tournament play. The first floor had facilities for men, such as a hat shop, a barber shop, men's fashion stores, shoe store and a cleaners. It was a working man's country club. The Garden Bowl was a smaller version of the same.

In 1926 they built over the lanes of the 1st floor from where the first poles are located (near DJ Booth) to the back wall adding 12 lanes. It was the hottest bowling spot in the nation.  Groups of hot shots from other major cities would challenge the Detroit bowlers and they would use the Garden because it was a neutral alley. Detroit's hot shots played at the Casino Recreation on Woodward and Temple.
The Garden Recreation went into receivership during the depression of the early thirties and the bank holding the paper hired the manager named Roy Fleming  to run the place until Mr Bill Nagy bought it in 1939. Mr. Nagy had a heart attack in 1945 and died and Mrs. Nagy put up the place for sale. 

Albert Zainea, my father, owned several businesses at the time and one of them was a slaughter house on the Eastern Market. The owners and workers of the produce houses and slaughter houses used to play poker on the 2nd floor of the Gratiot Central Market, which was bowling alley called Alcona Bowl. The owner told my dad about the Garden being for sale and he began to run the place under a management contract until he bought it in August 1946. It had ten lanes on the first floor and twelve lanes on the second.

The place was packed with business since WW2 ended and Detroit had a herd of people living in what is now Midtown Detroit, perhaps as many as 700,000 people. They lived in SRO (single resident occupancy) hotels.  The men would live in the far-out burbs and take a train into the E. Grand Blvd/Beaubien station and cab it to their jobs on Monday mornings. They would share the room with others who worked a different shift. They stayed in Detroit from Monday morning until after work on Friday and departed for the burbs again. They caused a hell of lot of business for bars taxi dance halls, and theaters. We had seven bars within a block of the Majestic. We never closed. It operated 24 hours a day. Jackpot bowling would go on all night until it was time to go to work the next day. We had leagues upon leagues bowling all hours of the day and night. The people were prosperous because of the shift from war time production back to autos. We were jammed.

In 1947 my dad modernized the place with a suspended ceiling and drapes on the side walls and carpeting, things never heard of before. We had installed new florescent lighting. The cat's meow at the time. It's the same ceiling today.
In the 1960s the war veterans began to marry and buy new houses with no down payment in the close-in suburbs, like Roseville, Dearborn and Oak Park. We called them Levittowns. Every house looked the same. They would build a house a day, selling for $8000 with no money down on the GI bill of rights. Well, you could see what that did to the city centers. They we devastated. Bowling alleys were built on every other corner along with movie houses. " Wow, I live in the Grand Oaks subdivision, where do you live?" It was the measurement of success. Such foolhardiness.
The Garden Bowl had about 1,500 league bowlers in the early 1960s and had only 300 after the 1967 riots in Detroit. We rebuilt the business with hard work and an appeal to the African Americans. We started a "Learn to Bowl+" program, where we taught the new customers how to bowl at no charge at all. We organized leagues from them and we developed 2,000 new bowlers by 1970. The seventies were prosperous again for the Garden.
In the late eighties the African American crowd also started to leave for the suburbs and we went into tough times again. We had to file reorganization under Chapter 11. In four years we came out of the bankruptcy and began to prosper again. We encouraged the young urban minded kids, some the grandchildren of former customers, with Rock-n-Bowl and other hip events. It worked. Also in the seventies and eighties we started to manufacture trophies, plaques and awards and silk screened shirts in what was the old Majestic Theatre. Later, we moved that operation to another building.
The Majestic Theatre was built in 1913 and opened on March 1, 1915 with a Broadway play called Molly Codell with Douglas Fairbanks. It was a classic theater at the time, with stadium style seating. It had two organs, one in the pit and another on stage with the pipes on the side walls. It sat 2100 people. It featured silent movies and Vaudeville. Later it became a second-run movie house and then a third run and still later went to cheap movies, open all night. It became a church for a rouge name Prophet Jones and still later a photography center for auto commercial for the new television industry. Later we leased it to make the trophies, etc. 
We added the Majestic Café  from what was the Gnome Restaurant in the eighties. We made a hip menu that appealed to everyone from the young to the old, from the college kids to the symphony goers. It worked again. We added the Majestic Club in 1984 and it took off. Starting with an underground club and later to national touring rock bands.
In 1992, we removed eight of the bowling lanes on the 2nd floor and added pool tables and a dance floor and stage. It went over very well with bands. A year later we removed the other four lanes to expand the dance area. We called it the Magic Stick, a takeoff of Majes stic.
In 2002 we added Sgt Pepperoni's Pizza on the ground floor of the Garden Bowl and in 2008 we added the Alley Deck, an outside deck serving food and drink.
That is what makes up the Majestic Theatre Center today.

Post 1: My Smokestack Mentality

Back in the '80s I was having great difficulty in my business, mainly because of the Reagan "trickle down" economic system. My friends and I were going to Amherstburg, Ontario, driving along Highway 18A along the Detroit River, going south. And I looked across the river and I saw the shuttered steel mills on Zug Island and Downriver, and I said to my friends, "Look – there should be smoke coming out of those chimneys. That's the backbone of the American economy. We have to manufacture things."

And my friend told me I was in the wrong era, that I thought in a 19th century way, or a 20th century way, rather than the new 21st century thinking. And he said that I had to get into the frame of mind where money is working for money, where you're making more by taking money and switching it from one asset to another asset, and in the process you make money.

Now, he was in the leasing business and very successful. He bought a beautiful home just off Lakeshore Drive in Grosse Pointe Shores. He told me I was doing the wrong thing. And I told him that this was just the opposite of the way it should be. You need to work at the foundation of things. And I used the metaphor of horse manure to a farmer: it doesn't do any good sitting in a great big pile. You have to spread it around on the ground, and you fertilize, and it grows upward, and it grows upward to a point where even people at the top rung prosper – rather than the other system which says that from the top it trickles down. It never trickles down.

It always goes from the bottom upward.

And another fella that was in the car with me, he and his wife, he's a lawyer. And he agreed with my friend. And the discussion went on, that I was in the wrong frame of mind, and that leasing and these kinds of business were the way to go. And this lawyer friend said, "You're stuck down there in the ghetto; you should move on with the trend, so you can continue to grow."

But I struggled through the 80s. And the irony is that today it's reversed. Today the prosperity is more in the Midtown area than it is in the "Reagan territory," which is what I call north of 696. All Reagan did during his administration was to create ways to embellish areas north of 696, and he couldn't have cared less about Detroit.

Of course it might have been that our mayor at the time, Coleman Young, called Reagan "Pruneface." It wasn't a wise thing to do.

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