Union Joints plan eatery for WWJ building in Oak Park

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News
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  • New restaurant will serve American comfort food similar to the other Union Joint businesses
  • Projected to open in late 2017 or early 2018
  • Company also working on a restaurant in the Brewster Wheeler Recreation Center in Detroit

The team behind award-winning restaurants Clarkston Union, Union Woodshop, Vinsetta Gararge and others announced plans for a restaurant inside the WWJ transmitter building on 8 Mile in Oak Park.

The Albert Kahn-designed structure, opened by the Scripps family in 1936, has been closed for 20 years. Members of the Union Joints development team, including owner Curt Catallo, announced plans for the new restaurant at Thursday night’s Oak Park state of the city address.

“The community really cares about that building, but it’s recognizable to more people than just Oak Park,” said Catallo.

Up until recently Oak Park didn’t allow liquor in restaurants. That ban was lifted last year with the hopes of attracting restaurants. Catallo calls this move a “byproduct” of that ban being lifted. He says he also chose Oak Park because the building spoke to him.

“The buildings kind of tell us where we’re going to be,” he said. “My mom is from Oak Park and went to Oak Park High and I don’t think she would’ve ever imagined that one day that Albert Kahn building could become a business like this.”

The restaurant, tentatively being titled 8MK after the call letters that were once on top of the building, is scheduled to open in late 2017 or early 2018. Catallo said his executive chef Aaron Cozadd will likely come up with a menu of American comfort foods that his other restaurants are known for, particularly their macaroni and cheese.

“I think that what chef Aaron does with the menu and what (designer and partner) Anne Stevenson does with the space, they’re always indicative of what we like to do, but they also pay respect to what the building was...1930s Detroit, there’s a lot you can have fun with,” he said. “Generally, it’s going to be the kind of Union Joints comfort food that’s gotten us this far.”

The 8MK project, which Catallo says is about 8,000-10,000 square feet will seat about 100 people and will have outdoor seating, banquet services and a DJ booth, a nod to the building’s history.

Also under the umbrella of Catallo’s Union Joints are Clarkston Union, Union General, Union Woodshop and the Woodshop Shop – all in Clarkston – and Vinsetta Garage in Berkley. In Fenton, they have the Fenton Fire Hall, and the Pumphouse. Another Clarkston restaurant, Honcho, is set to open in the fall.

The WWJ building isn’t the only renovation underway. In April Catallo announced they would open a restaurant in Detroit’s Brush Park in the empty Brewster Wheeler Recreation Center.

Catallo says that project is “chugging along” and that the Brewster product makes the Oak Park renovation “seem relatively easy by scale.” Both buildings had basements full of water when the team first got their hands on them.

Brewster building had 90,000 gallons of water pumped out of it, and the Oak Park building is currently flooded.

“It’s almost like if they don’t have flooded basements, we’re not interested,” Catallo joked.



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