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Tom Brandel, founder of Tom's Oyster Bar, dies

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

Tom Brandel, founder of Metro Detroit favorite Tom's Oyster Bar, died early Thursday morning, according to the restaurant's current owner.

Nick Ritts, of Ritts Hospitality which now owns Tom's Oyster Bar Royal Oak, said they received the call of Brandel's death Thursday evening. 

"He was really beloved by the guests and the staff when I took over because he was very, very nice and down to earth with everybody. He would sit down and have a cup of soup with the regulars at the bar and with a big personality like that, with all those businesses, sometimes that's not typical," said Ritts, who last spoke with Brandel two months ago. 

Tom Brandel

Brandel opened several restaurants in the Metro Detroit area that attracted people from miles away. 

He opened his first eatery, Union Street Station, in the 1970s and sold burgers and beer. Union Street became popular with locals as a place for sports and brew until he sold the restaurant. 

Years later in 1985, using the same Union Street location, Brandel opened his upscale seafood spot Tom's Oyster Bar in Grosse Pointe Park. 

Brandel wanted to open a different type of restaurant, telling The Detroit News in 1990, "Everyone who opens a bar sells chili and hamburgers. I decided on oysters."

"It was a gamble but anytime you try something different and the quality is there, it's bound to be successful," Brandel told The News. 

Tom's Oyster Bar indeed became a success as Brandel opened several locations including in Southfield, Harrison Township, Detroit and Royal Oak. 

Brandel retired and sold the oyster bar in 2011 to Ritts Hospitality. 

"Tom was a visionary and built an empire of Oyster Bars that focused on upscale seafood and libations in a casual atmosphere. Tom was very kind to us and loved that we kept his legacy going strong," the restaurant posted on Facebook.

No information was available on Friday afternoon about services.