Passing on the family legacy
By Carolyn Marnon – Built in 1926, no one could have predicted the future of 35234 W Michigan Ave. Four years later, in 1930, Gus Roussakies was born in Warren, Ohio during the depression. Gus, a U.S. citizen, travelled with his family to Greece when he was just a year old.
As a young man of 18, Gus would need to enter the military service and serve during the Greek Civil War that raged on at the time. To avoid the mandated service, Gus returned to the United States to live with an aunt in Detroit. He later moved to Baltimore. This was an area known for its large Greek population.
Arranged marriages were the norm for Greek families of the time. A marriage was arranged for Gus with a young lady whose family owned restaurants in the area. He worked in the restaurant business, and his in-laws eventually helped set him up in his own business. Unfortunately, his wife died while in her 30s and left Gus with a 7-year old daughter to raise as a single parent.
Gus returned to Detroit with his daughter and started working at Ford’s Wayne Assembly plant. Thus begins the story of the family in the Wayne area.
Gus’s daughter is the mother of Costas Ciungan (pronounced chun-gan), the current young owner of Costas Village Bar, formerly known as The Village Bar.
Costas’s grandfather owned The Village Bar for over 30 years. Back in the late 1950s/early 1960s, Gus bought the bar (the bar side has been a bar ever since it was built, according to Costas). With the old theatre operating nearby, the “joint was hopping,” according to Costas. Grandfather Gus, he said, gave much to the Wayne community and engaged with the community. He tried to sell the bar and retire, but by the mid-to-late 1990s, the contract became null and void. The business reverted back to Gus. He operated it by himself until 2001 when he brought in his brother, John.
In 2010, Gus tried to sell the bar again. The process to sell the bar is lengthy and after six years, the bar again reverted back to Gus. Unfortunately, Gus died in November, 2016. Gus had left his interest in the business to his brother, John, and to his only grandson, Costas. The family gained possession of the bar back in November, 2017.
John owned another bar in Livonia, so he sold his interest in the bar to Costas. Costas is now the bar’s only owner. Costas wants to bring back the tradition and history of his grandfather’s bar. He wants to help serve people. He wants to serve not just good drinks, but good food reminiscent of that which was sold during his grandfather’s years.
Costas started helping in the kitchen when he was 16 years old. Before that, he would clean the bar on Sundays. Gus would share recipes with his grandson. He always wanted things done a certain way. Costas says he gets his burger meat from Norm’s Market in Westland. This meat makes a burger similar to the ones his grandfather made.
Costas mentions that the prior owner did make some infrastructure improvements and put in new flooring. He is looking for a warm and welcoming feel when a guest walks in the door. Restoring great customer service and quality food products is his goal. New management and staff are in place, including Costa’s aunt, Carolyn Ciungan, who is the manager and works days and his sister, Christina Tobin, who is the night manager. Costas has a twin sister who lives in Texas and is not involved in the business.
The bar reopened as Costas Village Bar on July 12 under the management of Gus’s family and brings back good food and spirits. In August, the bar held it’s official ribbon cutting ceremony.
In addition to enjoying food, liquor, beer and wine, you can play Keno and Pull Tabs. There is a TouchTunes jukebox and 6 pool tables available. 9 TVs can almost ensure you won’t miss your favorite sporting event; one even has an 85-inch screen. You can get your food to go, and you can even order beer and soda to go. The beer comes in a sealed 6-pack.
Some might be puzzled by the rowing pictures and framed jerseys hanging on the wall. Costas is a part-time rowing coach at Grand Valley State while pursuing his Master degree part-time. The framed jerseys are ones he was given when his rowing team won races. He explained that the losing team in a race would give their jerseys to the person in their same rowing position of the winning team. These are prized possessions to Costas and something he is very proud of. The display of old newspaper clippings and vintage photos are from Gus’s rowing days.
Starting Thursday, September 13 at 6:00 p.m. you can participate in or just enjoy listening during Open Mic with host Robert Johnson. Starting Tuesday, September 18 at 7:00 p.m. you can come in and enjoy Trivia Night. Friday and Saturday night feature Karaoke starting at 9:00 p.m. The bar is open to having bands play on Friday or Saturday nights. Contact Christina, the night manager.
And don’t let the name fool you. This is not just a bar. Costas wants the community to come in and enjoy themselves. Families can dine in the bar area until 9:00 p.m. The bar serves grilled cheese, chicken tenders and French fries, all favored by young eaters. The prices are reasonable. Costas says he has had good feedback.
“We’re trying to make it a family restaurant with good food. We’re hoping to be a charming space. The first thing we did when this was an idea and there was talk, how we can come back in. We created a distinct logo with five stars emphasizing good food, good drinks and good service.”
Although the family is Greek, there are no plans for Greek music or dancing. You can, however, enjoy a Taste of Greece on Saturday nights. There is plenty of parking behind the building and some parking on the street in front. The location is convenient if someone wishes to catch a movie at the State Wayne Theatre and then have dinner.
Dreams for the future would include an outdoor patio. Perhaps an opportunity to do something with the vacant land next door.
When asked why he thought his grandfather left him the bar, he answers, “I think he thought I was the right man to leave it to. We always learned from my grandfather to seek a better path for ourselves. I visited him; I worked for him.”