A Detroit legend has died.

Ron Gurdjian, the man who was everything to Tom’s Tavern and beloved to legions of Detroiters near and far, passed away on Sunday night. He was 78.

The bar, located on 7 Mile just west of Wyoming, literally embodies the term “hole in the wall,” and it had plenty of holes in its walls. Not to mention, it’s slanted floors and rickety bar.

Not only was Ron a legend, he kept legendary company.

When televisions were stolen or when someone looking to take some booze creatively removed a wall with their truck, the likes of Bill Bonds and Mike Ilitch chipped in to keep the place running.

Ron, a native of Highland Park, didn’t start Tom’s Tavern, but he became synonymous with it. The story goes that it started in the late 1920s during prohibition. Kept up in a time when permitting was, to say the least, a bit lax in the city of Detroit, the shack became the one of the few businesses still standing on the strip.

I’m not sure Ron ran a bar. I think he ran a piece of his soul that came out through laughter, rants, slaps on the back, and smiles. The jukebox always had the right song, even though the songs hadn’t been changed out in years.

His burgers or corned beef sandwiches would set you straight after a long night of drinking, and something weirdly magical always seemed to happen there.

For more — including my own Ron story, dealing with an impending tour bus — listen in the player above.

This story first appeared in the Daily Detroit News Byte podcast.

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