“It’s a great little place, an old neighborhood bar atmosphere,” says a smiling Henry Tomczak while sitting at . “Maybe one of the last when you think about it.”
Tomczak lives in Warren, works in Dearborn, and is a regular presence here.
In previous incarnations, The Bar was named J.P. Kelly’s, McFaddens, or Holiday Bar. It was where then-owner Bob Hostetler had his German Shepherd, Daisy, buried outside the back door; where cops on motorcycles could drive through the front door and out the back. And it was the place 17-year-old waitress Megan Darr debuted at, and eventually co-owned.
On June 10, The Bar will honor Darr's legacy of love for animals and for life with the fifth annual Megan's Dreams golf outing, which benefits the and Megan’s Dreams–a nonprofit that offers educational scholarships for veterinary medicine. The event was started after tragedy befell the co-owners of The Bar in 2007, when Darr was murdered.
But The Bar is a place and a staff with many good memories, too.
“It’s a ma and pa shop," shares Jeff Walkuski, the cook. "The regulars are great and they bring family.”
“It’s a diverse crowd," adds owner Christopher Soroka. “They have different careers and lives. Our bar is known. It’s warm, comfortable. Retired policemen come in.”
Little party groups sprout and occasionally Detroit Lions personnel will drop in. Intriguing pictures abound, including Detroit’s Olympia Stadium, the famous Ford Rotunda, Calvin Theater (circa 1927) and assorted Detroit hockey players.
The decor and the atmosphere come back to Soroka and Darr, who met in October 1996 and married in May of '97.
Soroka and the newly named Megan Darr Soroka took ownership of The Bar in October 2004. Soroka, a former automotive design leader, saw work going overseas and grew weary of seeing all his friends laid off in the auto industry. Both had wanted to own a bar.
As a 10-year-old kid in the early '70s, Soroka would board the bus alone every week at Evergreen and Grand River in Detroit. Destination: the old Olympia Stadium where he would watch Mark and Marty Howe–Gordie’s sons–at the Junior Red Wings practice. He had company–it was Gordie himself, along with wife Colleen. They were always nice.
That 10 year old couldn’t know that some 33 years later, his brunette wife would be nestled in the arms of this same silvery haired Gordie Howe, forming such a memorable photo. The kid couldn’t imagine that she would be “very beautiful and never boastful or narcissistic ... her mother’s favorite child," as described by Darr Soroka’s sister Allison.
The youngster couldn’t foresee that three-and-a-half decades later, the couple’s new bar would be adorned with eight pictures of Chris Chelios, the owner of Cheli's Chili and former Detroit Red Wing.
It was that same Cheli's where Darr Soroka worked, then died horribly as a stabbing victim (along with co-worker Mark Bernard) at the hands of vengeful, recently fired employee Justin Blackshear, who is serving life imprisonment for the crimes. It was Jan. 2, 2007. She was 49.
Soroka and Darr Soroka had only owned The Bar for 14 months.
The couple had been childless and practiced simple values. They cherished going to bed every night as a family–two humans, two dogs and one cat. Their love for each other and their pets was all they needed.
Eight months into 2007, the dogs heard the garage door and still ran to see Megan–but it was never her.
“More than 10 years ago I met a woman that’s beyond words. She changed my life forever,” said Soroka in 2007. “Megan was a woman with such passion for life, love and the people she touched along the way. Megan’s smile and laugh would make anyone feel better about their day and themselves."
“She was the most loyal, giving, honest and loving person I have ever met. I went to bed every night looking forward to waking up, so I could be a part of Megan’s life and her day.”
But that kind of life was gone forever.
“She was absolutely the single largest female influence in my life ever," bartender Susan Grygorcewicz said. “I will never get over this. It will never be OK for me.”
At times now, to hear Soroka speak, it’s quite like he’s talking about a friend’s life, or a movie he’s seen–not the zombie-like, real-life horror that was the year 2007.
The Bar lives on, but never forgets Darr Soroka.
“Everyone knew Megan,” Soroka says. “Go anywhere in Dearborn and ask about her.”
Like , which had never seen a guestbook filled with the signatures of 800 viewers until the incomprehensible arrival of one Megan Darr Soroka.
Back in the present spring of 2011, there is incessant unprecedented Michigan rain. But the door at The Bar busts open and it’s now total sunshine–it’s Carrie Jo Chrzan. Her and Soroka have been dating since December. Suddenly she’s wearing his engagement ring. A big day is foreseeable.
Soroka, nearing 50, is sipping a beer, flashing that smile–the one that exhibits satisfied, understated happiness.
The Megan’s Dreams Charity Golf Outing will take place Friday at the . For more information, visit the Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter's website.