Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Eat at Joe's, Coney Joe's in Brighton

I drove to Brighton today in search of an address, 130 W. Grand River, found on the back of a vintage postcard, probably dating from the late 1950s.

"In Brighton, it's the Canopy. Food with imagination. Cocktail Lounge and Dining Rooms. Smorgasbord every Thursday, 5:30-9:30 p.m. Room seating 85 people. Gaslight Room seating 25 people."

You might remember this sort of place from your youth, or more likely your parents remember it from their's. Clearly, this was the place to be in 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in Brighton. Cocktails, smorgasbord, an ashtray on every single linen-draped table and even a gaslight room.

It's gone now. In fact, it's been gone for some time. According to the building's current occupant, the Canopy closed in 1989 and sat vacant until 1992 when Prudential Preview moved in. Currently, the broker-owned real estate firm, Preview Properties calls the building home. The owner of Preview Properties shared a bit about the old Canopy. Being centrally located between Lansing, Detroit, Ann Arbor and other centers, business people met their for working meals. Like many community landmarks and meeting places, the location is still remembered as the Canopy by people in southeast Michigan.

Next door and around the back you can find a restaurant celebrating 25 years in its current location. Coney Joe's, started in 1972, is still standing and serving hot dogs, burgers, fries, and even ostrich burgers.

Currently owned and operated by the founder's daughters, it boasts the "world's greatest coney." And for 2 dollars, it was quite satisfying.

One of the daughters and I talked about the current economy in this state, about the boom years of the 1990's, about the importance of small locally-owned business to a community's economic health. She had even heard about initiatives in other parts of the country to create local currencies. She allowed as how business has declined in the last two years, but then added, "since 9-11." Apparently, when the big box stores were all sprouting around Brighton, construction workers flocked to Coney Joe's. But that building rush has wound down.
Still, the humble hot dog has outlasted the power-dinner smorgasbord next door. Long live Coney Joe's.