Andrew’s on the Corner celebrates building’s 130 years

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Detroit has a history of bars and restaurants with roots that go back to the early days of the 20th century, but few buildings have been continuously operating as a bar as long as at the corner of Jos Campau and Atwater.

Andrew’s on the Corner, 201 Jos Campau in Detroit, has been in owner Tom Woolsey’s family for 99 years. Naturally, a 100-year celebration is being planned for some time in 2018.

This week, though, the bar will celebrate the building’s 130th year with a party with food and drink specials Thursday night.

Bartender Arthur Mullen did some digging and found that the building was built in 1887 and opened as a saloon owned by Edward Bidigare the same year. Woolsey’s grandfather, Gus Andrew, and great uncle Andy Andrews took over a few decades later in 1918 and renamed the space Andrew’s Bros. Restaurant.

Woolsey literally grew up in this building. He lived upstairs, and has memories of growing up on the corner, doing things kids do, like riding his bike. He would accompany his grandfather to trips to Eastern Market to get food for the restaurant, and he says many things he does to run his business he learned from his grandfather.

Woolsey worked under his grandfather until his death in 1977. Woolsey said shortly afterward, he bought out his cousins and closed the bar for renovations, reopening in 1981 as Andrew’s on the Corner.

In the early 1980s Woolsey, a lifelong hockey player, decided to start offering shuttling service to local events to and from his bar. This Saturday, Andrew’s will offer a free shuttle to and from the Jay-Z concert at Little Caesars Arena.

He said the first event he ever shuttled customers to was the 1982 Detroit Grand Prix. As a hockey fan, he not only would drive customers himself to and from the games, but Andrew’s on the Corner was a popular spot to run into players from the Red Wings and visiting teams.

Besides being known as a sports hangout, Andrew’s, which opens daily at 11 a.m., also has a full menu with daily specials like barbecue rib tips, chicken and waffle sandwiches, Delmonico steak and fish. The standing menu features pub grub like burgers, salads, soups and sandwiches, including a popular crispy perch sandwich.

Woolsey, who still runs the bar along with his daughters, says success comes from being self-aware. He’s survived recessions and the NHL lockout of 2012-13, and says downtown growth has been good for his business, too.

“Do what you do best,” he said. “Remember who you are and what you are good at. You can’t be everything all at once.”

Twitter: @melodybaetens