By Darlene Hawley – Growing up in Wayne in the 1940’s and 50’s, our family of seven (later to grow to nine) very seldom ate out. Money was tight with a large family and just getting everyone dressed up and ready to go to a restaurant was challenging. But, it was always a real treat when we did go out for dinner in Wayne. There was no shortage of restaurants in Wayne in those days and fast food restaurants had not appeared on the scene as yet. Downtown Wayne serviced all of the needs of the people of our community and the surrounding area. There were clothing, shoe, music, variety, drug, hardware, grocery and jewelry stores as well as beauty shops, barber shops, car dealerships, garages and many business and utility offices. Wayne also had many restaurants which served the people who worked downtown as well as those who shopped downtown. These restaurants were filled with local people having breakfast, lunch and dinner at their favorite spot during the week and on weekends. I have many fond memories of walking to downtown Wayne with my sisters and friends in the summer or on Saturday mornings to go to the library, shop at the 5 & 10 Cent Variety store and have lunch at the soda fountain in Kresges or Cunningham’s on the north east corner of Michigan Ave. and Wayne Rd.
In 1824 when George M. Johnson bought property in a vast wilderness and built a tavern on the Old Saulk Trail which meandered from Detroit to Chicago, our community had its beginnings. Johnson’s Tavern might be considered the first “restaurant” in our community. It serviced travelers on foot, horseback stage coach and wagon. Since that time, many eating establishments have been built in our area and have thrived, changed owners, changed names, rebuilt, moved locations and always served the growing community. Long time residents of Wayne will remember many of these eateries mentioned in this article and many will recall others that may not be mentioned. All have provided people of our community with sustenance and a place to socialize.
In 1929 The Central Restaurant sat on Michigan Ave. It was probably named after the railroad which ran through Wayne. Passengers disembarking from the trains could get a meal at The Central. In 1939, some may remember The Club Restaurant, The Cottage, The Village Coffee Shop and The Wayne Café, which were all located along Michigan Ave in downtown Wayne. The Wayne Café was in the Wilson Building which later became Kresges. In 1947 Mr. R. Reynolds bought a restaurant run by the senior Leright family and opened Chappie’s Coffee Shop. It was built on Michigan Ave. (where Stuart’s Dress Shop was built a few years later) and was across the street from Mulholland’s and Brownie’s Taxi Stand. Chappie’s was a family restaurant which employed the whole Reynolds family including grandma, aunts and uncles.
Fessler’s was a long time restaurant at 35103 Michigan Ave at Washington St. It later became the Cameo and then the Golden Boy. The Golden Boy moved to Elizabeth Street (where The Avenue sits today) when Chuck Muer bought the property and built a new building to house his restaurant Chuck Muer’s at Michigan and Wayne Rd. Chuck Muer closed his restaurant and sold the building which became Rex’ Restaurant. (Last year Rex’s owner closed and sold to McDonald’s who removed the building and will build a new McDonalds on the site.)
In 1946 there was a Dolly’s Lunch at Wayne Rd. and Van Born, The Pit Barbecue at 32746 Michigan Ave. and the Hamburger House at 35826. Others restaurants along Michigan Avenue were The Hearthstone Inn at 35604 and Papa Harry’s at 35002. The Barrick’s Restaurant was at 2920 Washington and was formerly called the Princess Cafe. Avery’s Restaurant was located at 35714 Main Street. Chum’s Fine Food could be found on the south side of Michigan Ave. east of Second Street and was a favorite of locals for many years. The owner, Mr. Stockwell, eventually moved to Glenwood across the street from Wayne Memorial where his son, Larry Stockwell, took over and runs a popular doughnut shop to this day. The Chat and Chew Grill was located on Michigan Avenue across from Old Wayne High (which later became West Side Junior High and then the Administration Building for the Wayne Westland Schools. Today The Korean Village sits on the site). On the south side of town, Temple’s Dining Room was located on the east side of Wayne Road at Harroun Street and provided patrons with fine dining. It later became The Prince and the Pauper. The Tip Top Grill was on the south side of Michigan Ave. across the street from the State Wayne Theater. The Wayne Dairy provided our community with milk and milk products plus an ice cream parlor serving sodas, sundaes and other treats. It was located on the south side of Main Street, west of Newberry.
Ed’s Lunch was located at 3924 Wayne Rd. between Norris and Brush. Besides serving food it was a pool hall and was a front runner in selling pizza before all the pizza shops opened. Ed’s Lunch was also the site of many professional billiards competitions in days gone by. Long ago the Chocolate House sat at 35203 Michigan Ave. and later became Flo’s Grill and then Sheila’s Grill before closing. Frenchy’s Coney Island was on Wayne Rd. across from Jake’s which was originally Weberline’s. Lee’s Hamburgers and Catering on Main St. was run by Jim Leright and was located across from the old Roosevelt school between Sophia and Clark streets. The white, cinder block building still stands today across from the Westchester Towers. Mr. Leright also had a restaurant on the west side of Wayne Rd. south of Chestnut. It later became Howard’s Hoagies. Another eatery was the Northside Restaurant located on Wayne Rd. in the southern section of the building housing Northside Hardware. The Ledgerock Restaurant was located in the building where the US 12 is today. It later became the Cameo. This block of buildings originally housed other stores including the Wayne Hobby Shop. The Alamo was located on the north side of Michigan Avenue east of Venoy and the Town House was located near it. Claude Howard (a city councilman) purchased it and built Howard’s Town House on the south side of Michigan Ave. which is now the Red Apple.
Sambo’s Restaurant opened in a new building on the north side of Michigan Ave. west of the train viaduct and west of the Wayne Bowling Alley. Sambo’s and the property it sat on were bought out by the Ford Motor Company. When the Metro Mall was built it housed the Wayne Cafe, later to become a Coney Island which is still operating today as Nick’s Coney Island.
As a teen, my friends and I all congregated at drive-in’s being built to service a more mobile society. In the 50’s, the A&W Root Beer Drive-In on the east side of Wayne Road just north of Glenwood and Daly’s Drive-In on the west side of Wayne Rd. north of Palmer were very popular spots.
Today we have a number of restaurants and a large variety of fast food restaurants in Wayne from subs to pizza, Chinese to Mexican and hamburgers to health food. Many serve breakfast items, lunch and dinner. We are on the go and we want fast service. Many of our bars and lounges serve food today and chain restaurants are popular where the menus and surroundings are carbon copies of those in other towns or cities and from state to state. Today’s restaurants cater to our need to be on top of every event going on in the world, be it news or sports, by providing TV sets on every wall and sometimes even in the bathrooms! It’s nice to remember going to a local restaurant where you recognized your neighbors and were waited on by people you knew. The food was homemade and even though it was not fast you enjoyed the time to visit and slow the pace of your day. I know I have only touched upon some of the local restaurants of the past but hope I have given you something to stir your memory. Where do you remember “dining out”?
(Thanks to Wayne Historical Museum Manager Richard Story for material for this article.)