Most Midtown bars have cocktail shakers and bitters within reach now. But Jumbo's Bar isn't in Midtown. It's located in the Cass Corridor, physically and spiritually.
And as perhaps the last surviving Corridor dive bar that hasn't closed or changed its identity — it's been open since 1940 on Third Street — Jumbo's is refreshingly down-to-earth. There's the simple, instantly recognizable green brick exterior, the epically graffitied bathroom, a fully functional cigarette machine that sits against one wall, and, yes, you can get your hair cut there on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Please refrain, however, from ordering a cocktail whose preparation requires a blowtorch, vegetable garden, or both.
"I don't want to wait 15 minutes and have you charge me $10 for a drink that tastes like shit," owner Cindy Furkovich says of the craft cocktail movement.
Furkovich's father, Steve Demoff, was "Jumbo," a Word War II Army veteran who first operated a coney island on Third Street before opening the watering hole that bears his name across the street. He died in 1989. At 5-foot-5, Demoff's nickname referred to the size of his temper, not his stature.
A 1980s Detroit News profile of the legendary barkeep hangs in a frame on the wall at Jumbo's, and recounts how Demoff got his nickname (from a Detroit cop), and how he took care of the neighborhood's down-and-out ("This tin shack, I'd lock up drunks in it instead of letting the cops get them.") Demoff was known as the Mayor of Third Street, the article says.
When Furkovich was growing up, the neighborhood around Jumbo's was undeniably seedy. Many of the apartment houses that once lined the street have been torn down, and Furkovich's only nearby neighbors are Third Avenue Hardware and Bill's Recreation, the city's last pool hall. The bar's location is between two worlds, with the trendy Selden Standard restaurant a block to the northeast and one of the city's largest homeless shelters a block south.
"There always was drugs. There were always some hookers," Furkovich says. She remembers the Cass Corridor of yore for its diversity too, including a substantial number of Native American residents.
Demoff's son Robby took over the bar a few years before his father's death, but was killed in a car accident in 1997. So the good-natured, witty, and warm Furkovich, 59, has run the family business ever since. When T-shirts were made for the bar's 75th anniversary, Furkovich revived a slogan from Jumbo's earliest days: "Where good friends meet."
Jumbo's is known for the birthday parties held for customers, and annual traditions like the Super Bowl party, where Furkovich always makes coney dogs. The customers are, in a word, diverse.
Furkovich has a newspaper clipping from the 1940s with listings for about 35 Detroit drinking establishments. Jumbo's is the only name on the list that remains in existence.
"It's not gonna change. I like the bar the way it is," Furkovich says. "There's only one rule: You can't be an asshole."
Jumbo's Bar is open 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-midnight Sunday, at 3736 Third Ave., Detroit; 313-831-8949.
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