In this 2006 interview, Bruce Ferris, owner of Ferris Steak House at 8700 Detroit Avenue, talks about the history of the oldest steak house in Cleveland. The restaurant was started by his grandparents, immigrants from Lebanon, in the 1940s. He is the third generation Ferris to run the restaurant, and his family has now served 5 generations of customers in the Detroit Shoreway area. Ferris also talks about his life, growing up in Parma; working at the family restaurant and other restaurants, including Swingo's in downtown Cleveland; going away to college in 1980 on the East Coast; and then working in hotel restaurant management on the West Coast before returning to Cleveland in the early 1990s to run the family restaurant. Ferris also talks about celebrities that have dined at his restaurant on Detroit, at another Ferris restaurant that operated in downtown for a short period of time; and at Swingo's.
Ferris, Bruce (interviewee)
Souther, Mark (interviewer)
Transcription sponsored by Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization
Mark Souther [00:00:01] I'm here today interviewing Mr. Bruce Ferris. And the date is April 18, 2006. This is for the Detroit Shoreway Oral History Project and my name is Mark Souther from Cleveland State University. I'd like to begin, Bruce, by asking you to tell me when and where you were born.
Bruce Ferris [00:00:18] I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1957.
Mark Souther [00:00:24] What neighborhood did you grow up in?
Bruce Ferris [00:00:26] The Parma area.
Mark Souther [00:00:29] And you were... You mentioned to me on the phone recently that your grandparents ran this restaurant, Ferris Steakhouse.
Bruce Ferris [00:00:37] Correct.
Mark Souther [00:00:38] Did they live in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood?
Bruce Ferris [00:00:40] They did. They lived in the Cleveland area over here. As a matter of fact, above the restaurant for a while.
Mark Souther [00:00:47] Did they start out living above the restaurant?
Bruce Ferris [00:00:49] They started out living above the restaurant, and then they moved into a neighborhood in Cleveland, off of Schaaf Road.
Mark Souther [00:00:58] Where is that located? I've heard of Schaaf Road but I'm trying to...
Bruce Ferris [00:01:01] Schaaf Road is over off of Broadview [Road]. And the, let's see, a little more south of here, I guess you could say. Mm hmm.
Mark Souther [00:01:16] Could you tell me a little bit about your grandparents' background?
Bruce Ferris [00:01:19] Sure. They... My grandma and grandpa came over from Lebanon. And when they did come over, they basically opened up a restaurant right at 50... The original restaurant was 5817 Detroit Avenue. And they ran that for about six years and they outgrew it. And then they came up here at 87th and Detroit. And originally just the one side was a bar-restaurant. And they owned and operated that. And then in the early '60s, the dining room prior to that was a dry cleaners. And when the dry cleaner retired, they would knock through the wall and made that their dining room. And it's been like this since, I think, '61 or '62. So, and then my grandpa passed away at an early age of 53, and the two brothers took it over in the mid '50s with my grandma and they ran it for... from the mid '50s till the mid '90s. And then I came back from California and took it over in the mid '90s with my sister, and we're still operating it today.
Mark Souther [00:02:46] This section that we're sitting in right now, the old section of the restaurant, was it more... You mentioned on the phone it was more of a tavern at first?
Bruce Ferris [00:02:53] Correct. It was called Ferris Cafe. It's exactly what it was. They just served sandwiches and, you know, beers and what have you. And then eventually got into dinners and then decided to put a steak on the menu, and it was a big hit, and put a few more steaks on the menu and then people were requesting more steak, so we put more steaks on and that's how we became a steakhouse.
Mark Souther [00:03:16] When did that happen? When did the transformation to the steakhouse occur?
Bruce Ferris [00:03:19] Oh, that was. Geez let's see, 46... That was probably in the late '50s that that happened.
Mark Souther [00:03:29] This is when your father was running... your parents were running the restaurant.
Bruce Ferris [00:03:31] Correct. Mm hmm. Right. My dad, his brother, and then my mom and my uncle's wife. All of them. Correct.
Mark Souther [00:03:38] Did it quickly transform into primarily a steakhouse or did it take a number of years for that transition to happen?
Bruce Ferris [00:03:42] It took a number of years. It was more, like I say, a tavern cafe and over the period of maybe about five or six years, seven years, we kept adding entrees on because people wanted more dinners. And the place was always busy from 11:00 in the morning. We had huge lunch business. And then in the evening, the dinner business was phenomenal. For 30, 35 years, it was just nonstop from morning till night.
Mark Souther [00:04:13] Who was your target demo... I guess target demographic, who were the people who came to Ferris Steakhouse in its sort of heyday years that you were mentioning?
Bruce Ferris [00:04:24] It was, the neighborhood itself was primarily Irish. So it was probably 90 percent Irish back then. But then you also had some big businesses here as well. You had Eveready Battery, you had St. John's Hospital, you had Ferry Cap & [Set] Screw, you had Monarch Aluminum, you had American Greetings and all the businesses up on Berea Road there at 117th [Street]. So in its prime you had over 5,000 employees within a mile, a square mile, of this... of the restaurant, you know, plus the neighborhood, so it was huge.
Mark Souther [00:05:06] I imagine many people came at lunch then.
Bruce Ferris [00:05:09] Lunch was very busy. We opened at 11 o'clock and by 11:15, 11:20, there was a line out the door every day for 30-some years when the neighborhood, you know, was strong.
Mark Souther [00:05:24] I want to come back to this but I wanted to go back and fill in one gap. You mentioned that you were in California for a time. Can you take us through the time from when you grew up in Parma until you got to California and then coming back?
Bruce Ferris [00:05:37] Sure.
Mark Souther [00:05:39] What did you do in those years?
Bruce Ferris [00:05:40] Well, I grew up here. I worked at the steakhouse when I was younger as a busboy and as a... worked behind the bar as a cook and what have you. And then during that time, I worked at different restaurants and I've got... I got very interested in cooking. I was intrigued and I decided to formalize what my interests were, which was cooking. So I went to college in Rhode Island called Johnson and Wales College, and I did a four-year degree there with a two-year behind it, a culinary degree, two-year culinary degree with a four-year bachelor's degree. And while I was there, I worked up at Brown University Faculty Club as their pastry chef for about two and a half years. And then after college, I wanted to work in the hotel industry. And since I was born in the Midwest and I just lived in the east, on the East Coast for four years, I decided to... it's time to go to the West Coast. So Sheraton Hotels hired me out of college and I went out, worked with Sheraton Hotels in Downtown L.A. and up at Universal Studios and did restaurant work, all management restaurants, bars, clubs. And then after about four years, Hilton Hotels gave me a call in Anaheim and I worked in a 1,600-room conventional hotel there. And I did that for about seven years and then decided to come back here when my dad was very ill and couldn't, you know, really just kind of semi-retired, so I came back and took over the restaurant.
Mark Souther [00:07:17] What um... [stops due to interruption]
Bruce Ferris [00:07:24] Yeah we can pause.
Mark Souther [00:07:30] [inaudible]
Bruce Ferris [00:07:24] Go ahead.
Mark Souther [00:07:25] You're telling me about being at the Sheraton and working in [crosstalk] Hilton Hotels?
Bruce Ferris [00:07:30] I did that for 11 years and had a real good run out there. I really enjoyed it. But I came back because, like I say, my dad was ill and my uncle was in his mid 70s at the time. So it was really time to come back and, and take it over. There was no one else to run it, and otherwise it would have probably just closed down. So I wanted to keep the tradition going.
Mark Souther [00:07:51] You mentioned to that you and your sister worked in the restaurant even when you lived in Parma growing up that you would come and help.
Bruce Ferris [00:07:56] Right.
Mark Souther [00:07:57] Was that while your grandparents still operated it together? [crosstalk]
Bruce Ferris [00:07:59] My grandmother [crosstalk]
Mark Souther [00:08:01] ...when your parents were operating it [crosstalk]
Bruce Ferris [00:08:03] Parents were operating.
Mark Souther [00:08:03] In the mid-'60s, the 1960s.
Bruce Ferris [00:08:05] Well, my grandma was here till... My grandma worked here till she was 86 years old. So she always stayed on and always wanted to be around the business and what have you. And you know, those those are the days when all the Browns football players came in and the Indians and the hockey, you know, hockey team, Cleveland Barons came in. And we still do a lot of business. A lot of the judges and the politicians and attorneys, they all still come in for lunch and dinner and what have you. So it's... The tradition is definitely carried on. There's no question about it. We'll always run a good operation, nice, clean, fair operation. And it's just been real good for us. And it put five of us through college. Little restaurant like this, so it worked out okay.
Mark Souther [00:08:51] Yeah. You mentioned a lot of Browns players and Indians players, politicians. [crosstalk] A lot of big names come through this restaurant over the years. How... Why here? You know, in a way, we're in an area that you said had about 5,000 daytime employees, so it's clearly a hub. What I'm wondering is, did these, some of these players, did they live in the neighborhood or did they... did this place get such a wide reputation across Cleveland in those years that people came from all over the place to come here?
Bruce Ferris [00:09:21] It was a combination of both. A lot of them lived out in Westlake area in Rocky River and then plus the reputation because we basically... you know, when you walked in the door, we took care of each person on an individual basis. You walked in here, you walked into our home, and we always to this day still cut our own steaks by hand. So if someone wanted... the football player came in and it was known that instead of a... we had a standard 10 and 14 ounce steak on our menu, if they wanted the 18 or 20 ounce steak, we'd cut it for 'em. So we used to cut a lot of steaks. So we used to personalize the service to allow these guys... And they loved it, you know? And so when they came in, it was nice and our piano player, Tommy Stanton, who's been with us 51 years, was basically, he was one of the family members here almost, you can call him, you know, so he knew. He knew what everybody needed and what have you. And took care of them as well like we did. So.
Mark Souther [00:10:19] Did you recall any specific players who came in? Particular interesting or funny stories about any Indians or Browns players that came in?
Bruce Ferris [00:10:28] We were... we were too young, really. We just were kids and we just worked, you know. But... [inaudible interruption] Go ahead.
Mark Souther [00:10:42] So you're mentioning that the players that come in but this was when you're still fairly young. [crosstalk].
Bruce Ferris [00:10:51] We were still kids, sure. Sure. But my dad knew a lot of 'em, my uncle knew a lot of 'em. I said before we spent a lot of the politicians and a lot of the attorneys and what have you, and that was because we're five minutes from downtown off the Shoreway. So for them to jump in their car and come up here was nothing. You know what I mean?
Mark Souther [00:11:12] The Shoreway was here, I suppose, all through these years, because I understand that it was started, I guess, in the late 1930s or early 1940s. [crosstalk]
Bruce Ferris [00:11:19] Correct.
Mark Souther [00:11:19] So it's always been close...
Bruce Ferris [00:11:21] It's always been here. And it's been a very, very good. You know, street or, you know, I guess highway for us. It connected us with downtown. We're a minute off the Shoreway. And without that, I'm sure we wouldn't have the business or had the business we had with the... with a lot of the people that did work downtown. To drive up Detroit would've taken them another probably 15 minutes with the lights, what have you, at least 10 to 15 minutes, but with the Shoreway, once you jump on the Shoreway from City Hall and the Justice Center it's literally about a two-minute ride. So it's nice.
Mark Souther [00:11:55] When you were growing up, do you remember whether you really wanted to one day operate this restaurant? Was it ever a dream of yours or was it something that you never really imagined?
Bruce Ferris [00:12:06] I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I always was involved with different things, you know. I used to race cars and build cars and I had a lot of different types of interests. But for the most part, you know, myself and our whole family worked in a restaurant. But I've got a brother who's a pilot and a sister who is running, as we speak right now, running for Congress. And I've got another sister who was in the restaurant business but she's a stay-at-home mom. And then the other sister, the younger one, decided that, you know, after thirteen years at home raising her kids, she wanted to get back into the business. So I brought her into the business here. And so that happened.
Mark Souther [00:12:48] Where did you race cars?
Bruce Ferris [00:12:51] Just at local, you know, Norwalk and Thompson, Dragway 42. So as a kid you're 18, 19, you're building cars and just kind of getting greasy just for something to do. It was more of a hobby. But I didn't know if I wanted to do that professionally or not. And I decided working in restaurants and then I worked in down... a downtown restaurant and hotel, a nationally known restaurant and hotel, and I liked it. So that's when I decided to pursue it and go on and further it.
Mark Souther [00:13:18] Which hotel?
Bruce Ferris [00:13:19] That was Swingos Keg & Quarter. Yeah, I worked there for about two, little over two years, as a waiter and then I worked in a kitchen with a chef over there and enjoyed it and said, it's time to keep going.
Mark Souther [00:13:31] What's was the location for that? I've heard of that restaurant but [inaudible]
Bruce Ferris [00:13:34] Originally that was at 18th and Euclid. Yeah, it's now a Comfort Inn, but used to be one of the finest restaurants and hotels in Cleveland, Ohio. Yeah.
Mark Souther [00:13:44] I want to ask you just a little bit about that before we come back to the Detroit Shoreway area. What year was this or years was this?
Bruce Ferris [00:13:50] From '77 to '80. From 1977 to 1980. In 1980 is when I went to school in Rhode Island.
Mark Souther [00:13:55] Did most of the people who came to the restaurant at Swingos, were they people going to play elsewhere at the time?
Bruce Ferris [00:14:02] Yeah, you bet. Playhouse Square. We did a good lunch business with a lot of celebrities that when they came into town would stay there. Like I say, it was a very, very elite property for the city of Cleveland. So, you know, when I worked there as a waiter, it wasn't unusual to see movie stars when they came into town that stayed there and come in for dinner. And it was exciting it was fun. You know, it's good. But that's when it was in its prime. And that was, like I say, back in the '60s, '70s. I worked there for like almost three years from '77 through '80.
Mark Souther [00:14:32] Was this the same building where the Comfort Inn is?
Bruce Ferris [00:14:34] Correct.
Mark Souther [00:14:35] The very same building is just that it catered to a bit more of, I guess upscale...
Bruce Ferris [00:14:39] You bet.
Mark Souther [00:14:39] Crowd.
Bruce Ferris [00:14:40] Yeah. Mm hmm. Exactly. Sure.
Mark Souther [00:14:44] Coming back to Detroit Shoreway, how would you say that your family's experience at the restaurant shaped your feeling of connection to this neighborhood over the years?
Bruce Ferris [00:14:53] Well, we've always been a part of the neighborhood growing up and, you know, the neighborhood definitely turned around quite a bit. And it's... over the years, you know, it's not a secret, it's declined in the surroundings. But I think that there's a lot of effort being put into Detroit Shoreway and part of Cudell with a lot of the renovations. So. We decided to stick it out and see if it could ever come back. And I mean, it was it... It's easy to pick up and move, but sometimes it's hard to recreate what you have originally. And that's a chance, you know? And the thought runs through our mind every day, whether I want to pick it up and move it and relocate it to a different area. Sometimes a part of me says yes, sometimes a part of me says no. But the neighborhood, we've seen it all. I mean, from when you couldn't get in the restaurant, years ago, to drug dealers on every corner in the summertime or what have you. A lot of government Section 8 housing makes it real tough for people that want to come down this area anymore. So it's been a struggle. There's not a secret. A lot of restaurants, a lot of businesses around here have struggled with the, with the neighborhood. And we decided to try to stick it out and see if it'll come back. So that's where we're at right now.
Mark Souther [00:16:22] When was the low point would you say?
Bruce Ferris [00:16:24] The low point was not that long ago, probably last couple of years. I'd say it was probably the low point. And it's.. there's definitely an incline, but it's a very slow incline. So a lot of these places can't make it. You've got to be able to survive and you've got to be able to stay with it if you're going to make it. And there's times where you used some of the resources, the neighborhood to help you out and sometimes just can't, you know? [music in background] Is that too loud over there? Okay.
Mark Souther [00:16:57] It's just nice to have some background...
Bruce Ferris [00:16:59] Okay.
Mark Souther [00:16:59] At times. So this is fine.
Bruce Ferris [00:17:00] Sure. Sure.
Mark Souther [00:17:02] How over the years have... you mentioned that it started out as more of a tavern, the Ferris Cafe, and then you added items to cater to customer demand in more recent years. How has the menu changed or has it changed along with any changing tastes?
Bruce Ferris [00:17:23] It hasn't really changed that much. Our lunch menu has changed. We offer like a lighter flair. We do a lot of salads, a lot of wraps, the sandwiches. I mean, you have to know what the people want and what their demands are. And we give it to them, you know. In the old days, everything was more burgers and steak sandwiches and very little salads and lighter flairs because, I mean, in the older days, it was.. It's what... That's what they wanted. People are a little more health-conscious now. I think with the heart disease being what it is... what it's bringing to a lot of people and what have you. But we try to go with some low-fat, low-carb dishes and people accepted them.
Mark Souther [00:18:08] Today, would you say that there is a particular business or businesses that bring in a lot of customers at lunchtime, more than others that you've noticed or not particularly?
Bruce Ferris [00:18:17] Well, we still have a lot of the shops in the area, machine shops and factories or whatever. And we still get a lot of their sales people in that bring in clients. We have a very good, steady clientele at lunchtime. Our lunches are very good for the most part. I mean you always have your regulars come. We've got about 20, 30 regulars that come in every single day. And it takes years to build that that type of clientele up. And then in the evening on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, are your slowest days usually in the business. It's always an effort to bring in. And then the latter part of the week, we did some jazz on Thursday. And we do live music. We've always done live music on Friday and Saturday. You know, piano. So that's always been our strong... our strong nights as any restaurant. [crosstalk] Yeah. Piano does that, sure, it brings in... People love live entertainment, you know. And they think they're getting it for free, which they are, to a degree.
Mark Souther [00:19:20] To a degree.
Bruce Ferris [00:19:20] Yeah.
Mark Souther [00:19:24] What are some of your hobbies and interests when you're not working in the restaurant?
Bruce Ferris [00:19:28] I enjoy golf. I golf quite a bit. For the most part, I like to get out and get up in the morning when it's quiet 6:00, 6:30 in the morning just go out and play. Play nine or maybe 18 or maybe in the evening and what have you. I still enjoy cars. I don't build them or collect them. But I used to when I lived in California. I used to buy and sell old antiques and collect cars and what have you. But you know back here, I kind of just set that aside for right now, and I'm sure I'll get back into doing something with cars down the road. It's always been a love and a hobby. But more, I golf. I enjoy golf. It's peaceful for me. Yeah.
Mark Souther [00:20:12] It's a contrast to the restaurant.
Bruce Ferris [00:20:14] Yeah.
Mark Souther [00:20:14] The bustle of the restaurant.
Bruce Ferris [00:20:15] Hustle, bustle the restaurant and you gotta shut the phone off and just go out because when you turn the phone back on you get the calls and that's just the way it is. It's a 24-hour, seven day a week position. I mean, it's your own business. When you own your business, it's... that's your home. Extension of your home. If you don't treat it that way, it'll never work. And you got to be here.
Mark Souther [00:20:35] I want to go back and fill in some things that have come to mind. A little bit more about your grandparents. I want to go back and ask what they did in Lebanon before they came to America.
Bruce Ferris [00:20:47] Uh, they, uh, they had... They were in the food business over in Lebanon as well. I think they had a grocery store over there. And then they, I guess... I can't remember exactly when they came over. I think my dad was young. They came over I think in the... I want to say probably late '20s. I think mid to late '20s. They came over here. Yeah. And then just kind of... Well, my grandfather did a lot of odds and ends stuff until he got into the bar business. You know what I mean, the tavern business. So just kind of wanted to make... earn some money to buy a business. And that's what they did.
Mark Souther [00:21:28] Where did they live in the earliest years they were here?
Bruce Ferris [00:21:33] You know, that I'm not sure. I think they were over on Schaaf Road for the most part. And then... And then my grandma moved over. She had a couple places over in Hilliard in Rocky River, and then she moved to Parma. When my grandpa passed away and we always kind of kept an eye on her, but she most lived by herself for the most part. My grandpa died when he was in his early 50s. So he was young. But she was around for a long time. Yeah.
Mark Souther [00:22:05] Also, you mentioned on the phone that Eliot Ness came here.
Bruce Ferris [00:22:08] Well, yeah, the Eliot Ness used to do up and down a lot of these streets, not just us, but up and down Detroit Avenue and Madison and Lorraine. They used to go into the bars in the early days and look for liquor that was bootlegged and no tax stamps what have you. So his guys used to come in here and let my grandma and grandpa know ahead of time. And my dad, whatever, that they were coming in because they were good friends with a lot of guys involved there. So they used to hide whatever they had to hide to make it work, you know? So.
Mark Souther [00:22:43] What years [inaudible]?
Bruce Ferris [00:22:44] Jeez, that was I'd have to guess and don't quote me on this I'll have to find that out. But I'm going to say, probably I'm going to say the late 50s, maybe mid to late 50s. I'd say that's when he was around. Yeah. It might have been the early 60s, maybe as well. But I don't quote me on that we can find that out, though. Yeah.
Mark Souther [00:23:13] In more recent years, are there any memorable people who have been to the restaurant that surprised you, people that showed up at the restaurant? That you thought...Wow.
Bruce Ferris [00:23:26] Every once in a while you get like an Indian's player, Brown's player or whatever they'll pop in. But one time... we opened up a second restaurant downtown. The second Ferris is back in 1998, and we ran that for about five years. And once 9/11 hit, everything started going south. So we had the reconcept it in and we changed it over to Harry Buffalo, but we had the restaurant downtown and once in a while we'd go feed visiting teams over at the visiting locker room of Jacob's Field. So a friend of mine was the visiting locker room manager. And every once in a while we would take food over and these guys would finish up the game. On Sunday, they had to eat, shower and jump on a bus and go. So once a while I'd feed them and it was kind of interesting. One time a friend of mine, I love the Yankees. So we always told this guy it was the losing locker room manager that if you want to... if anybody wanted to play golf from the New York Yankees. We'd love to take him out. So we ended up playing golf with Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. David Firestone, one day we played 18 holes with them so that was kind of fun. Nice connection to have. But a lot of the players used to come over the on like they had a day game on a Saturday. He'd send a lot of eight or 10 guys over at a time. Big group. But I said, take care of them and put them in my dining room over there just in the corner and let them eat in peace, which was kind of fun. And they enjoyed it. And so they came back quite a bit. You don't make a big fuss over it. And they like that. So.
Mark Souther [00:24:57] You still run Harry Buffalo?
Bruce Ferris [00:24:59] No, we... my partner and I just we sold that in '03, September of '03. We converted it from our Ferris is to a Harry Buffalo. And we ran that for about a year and a half. And it was it ran very well, very strong. And then we had a couple of people that wanted to buy it. So we sold to a group and they are still running it today and they're doing well. We still kept the building, though. We own the building and they just lease from us, but they own the business.
Mark Souther [00:25:30] Can you tell the location of that for benefit of the tape?
Bruce Ferris [00:25:33] Oh, yeah. That's located on East 4th and High Street, which is on East 4th between Prospect and Huron. It's the closest restaurant to Gund Arena... to the Q they call it now. The old Gund Arena. But it was the... it's the closest restaurant to them. So it was a great location. We loved the location. It was just the timing was not good because of 9/11. So we converted over to more of a Harry Buffalo Sports looking type of an operation with the burgers and wings and chicken tenders. And what have you. It's a hit. It's working very well.
Mark Souther [00:26:07] Do you have any other businesses besides Ferris?
Bruce Ferris [00:26:08] No, I don't. Every once in a while I do a little consulting work for people here and there. But no, this is it for right now. Eventually we'll get into something else, because I've always been into other things with this. And I'm looking around right now to maybe do something else. Maybe another Ferris or just depends on the opportunity. See what pops up.
Mark Souther [00:26:29] Possibly in the suburbs?
Bruce Ferris [00:26:31] Yes. You bet. Yeah, it might be time.
Mark Souther [00:26:34] Crocker Park?
Bruce Ferris [00:26:34] Might be. It's a busy area out there, though. Real busy. Not a bad thing, but a lot of competition out there.
Mark Souther [00:26:43] Is there a moment that you can think back to in all your years running the restaurant or spending time here when your parents ran it. Is there a moment that stands out in your mind that is especially memorable?
Bruce Ferris [00:26:58] Well, we've always had some good, good memories. Overall, I mean, I'm trying to think if there is a memorable one. Well like I said I guess once in a while you get maybe some celebrities in or what have you, but nothing real memorable. I mean, we were all here quite a bit. And I remember years ago when Danny Thomas was alive. He was always here for every year in February for a feast day banquet down at St. Mary's Church and a couple of times. He came in and but as far as whenever you get a lot the ball players would come in a lot, we wouldn't make a big fuss over it because it's just part of the whole experience. So. But any memorable? No, I can't say any real memorable. No.
Mark Souther [00:27:49] When players have come in every few years. How did the rest of the patrons [inadubile]?
Bruce Ferris [00:27:55] Oh, they're all excited. But for the most part, they were... the clientele we had, it was pretty respectable. You know, the clientele. And they didn't rush for autographs or whatever. But there's times when the ball players would say, if anybody does want an autograph, we'll be more than happy to sign. But same with the politician I mean, downtown. When we had the restaurant there. We had Puff Daddy came in with Jennifer Lopez. And I wouldn't let the staff ask for autographs at all. But after dinner, his PR guy came over to me and said, if anyone would like autographs, he'd be more happy to sign autographs. And then I said, no problem. Then they let them stay in line to get their autographs. He had a picture of himself and he wrote each one and so that was cool. But we used to get that. And Jerry Springer, Montel Williams and a lot... sometimes presidential candidates came in Bill Bradley. And we've had a lot of political people upstairs. We had a banquet upstairs, do a lot of fundraisers for them up there. So that's been good. It's been exciting and memorable. I gues there but here is more low key, I guess you could say. If you just want to kind of get away and not be bothered this is the place to be. That's the reputation we have.
Mark Souther [00:29:09] Who would you say is, you don't have to name the name if you don't want to but, I was going to ask who the longest customer that you... the customer thats been here the longest that you can remember.
Bruce Ferris [00:29:20] We have patrons. We have patrons that have been coming in here for over 50 years. I mean our piano player has been with us 51 years. OK, but we've got a... I've got a gentleman that has been coming in here since the late 40s, early 50s. I mean, late 40s, early 50s. And there's a few of them. We've got people from. We have the gentleman who owns Universal Grinding, Don Toth. He's been coming here for over 50 years. He's still coming in every single day for lunch, brings his foreman and he brings his kids and his sons that work with him, you know what I mean? So I'd say 50 plus years people been coming in here and they still come in. And when my dad was alive those people, there's not too many of them around they would be in their 80s. But the next generation you're talking about are in their 55, 60 year old, and that's the second generation or third generation is 30, 35 year old. Fourth generation is 18, 20 they're just getting married and bringing their kids in. And so we've got five generations of people that were coming in here and still coming in. So it's kind of nice. Nice to see. So the people that we used to come in way back. The neighborhood doesn't bother them. They're used to it. They understand what it's all about. And if you want a great dinner with a great value and a clean operation, this is where people come. Some people that go to certain restaurants for Italian food, some people go to restaurants for Chinese food or whatever, when you want a great steak and people say they won't go anywhere else but here. There's a lot of steakhouses out there but they won't go anywhere else but here. Thanks. Okay.
Mark Souther [00:31:09] We'll wrap up in just a few.
Bruce Ferris [00:31:10] Sure.
Mark Souther [00:31:13] What you think is the most pressing concern that the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood faces today, or at least this section of Detroit Shoreway? [crosstalk] Most pressing concern.
Bruce Ferris [00:31:22] Well I think the biggest concern you have right now is you've got this government housing that's here and Section 8 housing. And if you don't move that out, you're not going to attract new business. They're doing a lot with Battery Park and I commend them for doing that. And up the street, Cudell has done some work and what have you. But as long as you have, I mean, I would never expand. I mean, there was one time I was gonna buy the place next door and expand the restaurant, put in a back room. But as long as you have Section 8 housing, government housing in the area, it's hard to justify doing it. So they've got a big challenge on their hands. As long as the housing is what it is over here. Until they move that and move it into a different area, it's gonna be hard to bring this back like it used to be. And boy, it used to be strong.
Mark Souther [00:32:14] Would it be better in some ways to think about going to a street like Lake Avenue or Clifton Boulevard? Would that make a difference? Stay in the general neighborhood rather than move [inaudible].
Bruce Ferris [00:32:27] Oh myself? Oh, yeah. I've been looking I've looked over on Lake Avenue. I've looked over on Clifton. I've looked over in certain areas. But you've got to make sure that when you move five years later, it's not going to follow you as well. Doesn't make any sense. So but I definitely thought just moving even down by 40th and Detroit, where it's all businesses or no residential, that would be that would help out a lot as well. So it's a challenge and it's something that I have to kind of make a decision on and decide what I want to do within the next year or so. And then make the move. Staying here is gonna be tough, as if the business still if there is a neighborhood doesn't really make a major metamorphosis change, it's gonna be tough to stick around. We rode it out as long as we could. And business is okay, but it could be a lot better. And so it's not a hobby. You got to make a living. So it's important.
Mark Souther [00:33:33] Is there anything else that you would like at the end of the interview?
Bruce Ferris [00:33:35] Oh, I think you've covered pretty much everything, you know what I mean. We've been here for probably the longest and oldest family owned steakhouse in the city of Cleveland. And it's been good for us and it's been a great run. We've got some great patrons, some great people. And I think we'll carry on no matter where we're at. I think they'll follow us. We've been good to them, they've good us.
Mark Souther [00:33:59] Thanks very much.
Bruce Ferris [00:33:59] Your welcome.
Mark Souther [00:33:59] This has been an interview with Bruce Ferris, and the date is April 18th 2006. Thank you again.
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"Bruce Ferris interview, 18 April 2006" (2006). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 955019_999011.