Rudy’s a restaurant?

Change is afoot for the venerable Rudy’s Market downtown. Photo by Phil Custodio

BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
The year 2020 may be the year Rudy’s Market on Main Street changes from a grocery store to a different type of eatery.
Owners are looking to remake the 87-year-old downtown business at 9 S. Main Street into a restaurant.
“It’s been tough to compete as a small, independent, downtown grocery store,” said Robert Esshaki, who owns the business along with partner Christopher Thomas. “There aren’t a lot of mom and pop stores around anymore.”
Changes in the grocery industry, people’s shopping and dining habits, and competition from the internet have all contributed to the decision, Esshaki said.
“I was born into the business. I love the business,” he said. “I’m not complaining, but the industry has changed. It’s time to pivot.”
Plans are still in the preliminary stage, with change of use for 9 S. Main Street on this past Monday’s Planning Commission meeting agenda. A site plan would need approval by City Council and the Historic District Commission, because of its downtown location.
“We have a long way to go,” Esshaki said. “We do not take this lightly. I realize Rudy’s Market is a downtown institution. It’s been an anchor of downtown.”
Consideration of different business ideas for the building showed use as a restaurant as its most viable use, he said.
“Potentially two smaller restaurants in the same building, two concepts,” he said. “We’re talking to customers and the  city to see what would be a good fit.”
The building will probably remain single story, and catering service would continue.
“We’ll keep the name, sign, and the building,” he said.
Ideally, it would complement businesses and restaurants already downtown, including Olde Village Cafe, The Fed, and the Union Joint restaurants, including the Union, Honcho, and Woodshop, he said.
“Curt (Catallo, Union owner) does an amazing job, creating this downtown environment people have been looking for,” Esshaki said. “We’ll reach out to customers, the city, anyone with an opinion to make this a win-win for the city, restaurants, and Rudy’s.”
The native-stone building at 9 S. Main Street was constructed in 1915-1916, according to the Clarkston Community Historical Society. It was a car dealership and service station, then a Kroger Grocery & Baking Co. store in 1942. Rudy Schwarz moved his Rudy’s Market into it in 1954.
Schwarz opened his first grocery store in Clarkston in 1933, when he bought Hagele’s Meat Market in a building on the southwest corner of W. Washington and S. Main Street. That building burned down in 1939. The property is currently a parking lot for 5 S. Main Street, home of The Clarkston News.
Schwarz temporarily ran his business in the Township Hall building at 21 S. Main, moved to 31 S. Main in 1941, then to 9 S. Main in 1954.