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Jake's Old City Grill

"My first job outside the family business was in sales. I sold shoes and men's wear from Toledo to Saginaw.

One day, I got a call from my father who said he wanted me to join him in a venture. I did, and took a 70% pay cut. But with the anticipated success of that venture, I then would have the capital to start my own business.

That was 1973 in the days of disco. The air was dirty and it was a very unique time. We had a nightclub called The Fortress which is now currently the Panda House restaurant. Then in 1975, I opened my own nightclub in Bay City called The Fortress North.

In 1975, there were seven nightclubs in the area. By 1978, there were 17.

By 1980, there were two, and I wasn’t one of them.

When you lose everything, you get a wake-up call...and then you can either be a victim or get up and do something.

I went to work for a remodeler and my job was to sell kitchens and cabinet refacing. I didn’t know a doggone thing about kitchens or cabinet refacing, but I had a family to feed. I was a straight commission salesman which is almost like being unemployed, so I decided to venture out on my own.

We started a cabinet shop and it became successful. But then the bottom dropped out again.

Once again, I got a call. My father had a little bar on the South side of Saginaw that was damaged during the demolition of an adjacent building. The city demanded that he be vacated and they were going to give him nothing for his building or his business.

So I negotiated. We didn’t get a lot, but greater than they initially offered because we promised we would take that money and reinvest it back into the city.
In my search for properties, I ran across an old fire station on the corner of Bay and Court. We bought it and opened a pub called “Nines”.

In the language of the firefighters, they called their building the plural of the station number. So Station #5 was “Fives”. This building was Station #9.

It was also the ninth business my father and I had started in the City of Saginaw. The license plate issued to me randomly was “NYN 909”. The antique art deco mirrors from the bar that was demolished had nine rays of sun on them. There was only room for nine barstools and the building could fit 69 people.

It was a small place, but extremely successful. I shared in that success with my father and found a new love. I had big dreams.

The building Jake’s is in now came up for sale in 2001. I purchased it and then the events of September 11th happened. The world changed. In this business, there’s a substantial failure rate and banks don’t like restaurants in good times. Those weren’t good times. The money wasn’t available and we had to pause the project.

I used that time to really think about what I wanted to do. I wanted to respect the historical value of the building, so I started doing research at the Saginaw News and the Historical Society about the buildings, the district and the community.

I kept running across the name “Little Jake”.

He was 4-foot-11, 110 pounds. A Jewish immigrant that came from Germany to Detroit, then Flint, then Saginaw where he became very well known. A consummate entrepreneur, a marketing genius.

There was no historical significance to calling it 'Paul’s', so we called it 'Jake’s'".

- Paul Barrera, Sr., Co-owner, Jake's Old City Grill