Saturday, July 17, 2010

Main Street Stories: Paint Creek Tavern

The Paint Creek Tavern at 613 N. Main St. is known with affection among long-time Rochester residents as the PCYC, or Paint Creek Yacht Club (it's located on a waterway, after all!). Today it is a treasured local watering hole and gathering place, the quintessential neighborhood tavern, but it has its roots in the days of the interurban streetcar.

Walter W. Brown and James Dungerow established their lunch stand on the location of today's PCYC in 1919. The location was a strategic one, being directly across Main St. from the Detroit United Railway's powerhouse and car barns. The Brown & Dungerow stand was patronized by the DUR workers and streetcar riders alike, who purchased popcorn, beverages and sandwiches from the business.

No alcohol was being sold in those days – Michigan had gone dry on May 1, 1918, and Oakland County had been dry under a local option vote since 1916. Nationwide prohibition followed the state vote and lasted until 1933. As soon as it was once again legal to sell beer in Michigan – in June of 1933 - village officials granted a liquor license to Brown & Dungerow's tavern, and about 1934, as the country struggled upward from the depths of the Great Depression, the partners built the current structure at Main St. and Paint Creek. When James Dungerow later bowed out of the business, Walter Brown continued to operate it under the name Brownie's Tavern.

In December of 1947, Walter Brown retired from business after 28 years and sold the bar to Harold and Frank Snover. Snover's Tavern became the Paint Creek Tavern in the mid-1950s, and has carried that name for the past half century, through a succession of owners following the Snovers. A group of regular patrons of the bar bestowed the nickname “Paint Creek Yacht Club” or PCYC for short, going so far as to adopt an official logo and print up membership cards.

The streetcars no longer rumble past on Main Street, but Paint Creek Tavern continues to offer food and refreshment on the banks of Paint Creek, just as Brown & Dungerow set out to do 91 years ago.

I have a feeling that there are more stories about the PCYC out there waiting to be told. Readers?

This view of the Paint Creek Tavern from the collection of Rod and Susan Wilson shows what the building looked like before its 1997 renovation.


  1. Ah, yes - The Tavern - often on a Saturday afternoon this is where you might you find me, seated on one of the 4 barstools at the far end of the bar near the game machine, my three partners-in-crime and I engaging in our ritualistic Saturday lunch that dates back many years. We're all way past our drinking years, but we find that fun can be had without...and with a far less expensive tab!

    Speaking of drinking, however, I can't mention the Tavern without a devilish grin coming to my face - even now after all these years. Yes, this is where I had my first beer. It was a Pabst Blue Ribbon, late in an evening near the end of June 1968. You've probably drawn the conclusion that I was NOT of legal age back then - nor was I even close. Times were different then and I can't say I condone that, but it was sort of a "coming of age" ritual, sacred in that it was with my Dad, his best buddy, and his buddy's son, (also my best buddy), to whom also that torch was passed that night.

    Those 2 Dads have since passed on. Those 2 sons (older now than the Dads were then) will always think about that night at the Tavern, and their Dads that took them there.

  2. i remember when Lee Cromie owned this, going there all the time with my parents, and watching the christmas parade every year out the window.
    as a kid I really loved to see the trains going by too.