An eastside classic gains new regard

Watering hole

Marshall's Bar sits next to a bait shop on Jefferson Avenue in Jefferson-Chalmers, one of Detroit's most eclectic and unusual neighborhoods. It's a place where urban gardens dot a landscape of both vacant and well-maintained homes, many of which have canal access and boats docked in the yard. Like those homes, the bar has access to Fox Creek, which runs behind it to the Detroit River. It's not unusual for customers to arrive by boat, tying off their watercraft for a few drinks.

The backyard is where we find 29-year-old Zachary Stratford smoking a cigarette. He lives at nearby Grayhaven Marina Village and races sailboats.

"There's some jackasses," Stratford says of the place. "There's some really cool people. There's some people we give a hug to when we come in. It's a neighborhood bar."

Inside, Marshall's has a fire capacity of 49, and not a whole lot of frills. There's a jukebox, a pool table, and vintage album covers lining one wall. Many of the ceiling tiles are painted: as in, customers take them home and bring them back decorated.

The bar has served customers since the Prohibition era. It was owned from the 1970s onward by Ted Kapuscinski, a former relief pitcher for the Tigers, until his death this summer, according to customers and staff.

Regular Jon Goodloe, 59, was having a drink at the bar on a recent sunny afternoon. Goodloe has been coming to Marshall's for two decades.

"It's a great little kind of hole-in-the-wall," he says.

Five years ago, Marshall's was for the most part quiet and patrons were older. It got so quiet, he says, that a family of black mink had taken up residency in the backyard. Goodloe says that's no longer the case. The bar gets busy on Saturday nights, and it's popular with 20-somethings too.

Bartender Niki Jackson, Goodloe's girlfriend, says she first became a regular at Marshall's before going to work there.

"It's very diverse. It's like a home away from home," says Jackson, 33. "We all refer to each other as family — and I met my love here."

A few feet away, 24-year-old Charlie Magee and 22-year-old Jack Campbell are shooting pool.

"The No. 1 word about this place is 'community,'" says Magee, who lives in Grosse Pointe Park. "It's white, black, old, young, boat mechanic — you get everything."

Marshall's has succeeded with the "dinosaur approach," Magee says: The bar remains unchanged, but tastes always "circle back to Marshall's being cool again."

It's not a bad time to take note of the venerable bar. In July, the Jefferson-Chalmers area was named a "National Treasure" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the first such designation in Michigan. The neighborhood has new investment, and a renovation of the historic Vanity Ballroom is allegedly in the works.

Longtime customer Goodloe says he's excited about the attention the neighborhood around Marshall's is receiving.

"If you own property, you're in good shape," he says. "If you want property, you better hurry up and buy some."

Marshall's is open noon to 2 a.m. daily at 14716 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit; 313-821-0610.

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