By David Ryals
DANNY’S IRISH PUB HAS BEEN A STAPLE OF FERNDALE FOR 30 YEARS. It stands as a testament that a traditional friendly neighborhood pub never goes out of style: everyone comes here and everyone is welcome. It’s nestled along Woodward Avenue in the heart of Ferndale and is a mainstay in the community with a loyal following of longtime regulars.
In traditional bar fashion, Danny’s is small and dark save for soft lighting from the green bulbs on the ceiling. Various other interesting flair adorns the walls and bar, with a couple pinball machines tucked away toward the back. The thing that sticks out the most about Danny’s is its solid character.
Danny himself spoke to Ferndale Friends to explain the longevity of his success. “Our formula is to keep it simple: Pour good drinks at a reasonable price. Keep the menu simple and easy to prepare, add things when you see a need for them, not just because the guy down the street has them. Many bar owners think they have to have all of the latest things, but many times it’s just a waste of money. Give your customers what they want, not what you think is cool. The most important is to find the best employees you can, treat them fair, and give them good reason to stay with you. That should be the secret of any good business.”
On the evolution of Ferndale throughout the years and its impact on his business, he said, “The community has changed dramatically over 34 years. Our own contribution to the city has always been to welcome all people regardless of race, creed, color, gender or sexual orientation. As things evolved, we were in a perfect place to welcome new people and ideas into the community. However, it has always been our position that everyone was welcome, unless they caused trouble. Our relationship with our customers is one of family. And just like family sometimes we have disagreements, but eventually we make up.”
ON HIS OWN BACKGROUND AND LIFELONG RELATIONSHIP WITH FERNDALE: “My family moved to Ferndale in 1946. Back then, it was a quiet community where everybody knew everybody. Kids played outside all summer until the street lights came on. My wife, Sally, has an even longer history. Her grandfather had a grist mill on the northwest corner of 8 Mile and Pinecrest. In 1946 my father built a restaurant on 8 Mile near Pinecrest. The grist mill was gone by that time.
“I bought the bar from Nick Pappas in 1985 when everybody was saying not to buy in Ferndale. However, my history with the city made me ignore all of that good advice.
“In the beginning, Nicks – later to be named Danny’s when I accidentally broke the Nick’s sign – had more of a county-western atmosphere. There were a lot of fights and a lot of customers being barred. It was a little rough-sledding in those days.
“When you kick out your base, you have to rebuild from the ground up. Over the years, the city changed and the new residents began to discover us.
“About ten years ago I left my full-time job and decided to spend more time with the bar. I found some of the best bartenders around and convinced them to come to work for me. They are my second family and they don’t seem to want to leave. I’m a very lucky owner.”