How this man saved Two James, Cork & Gabel building in Detroit from demolition

By Alex Atwell - Photojournalist, Ken Haddad

DETROIT - "If I was 15 minutes late, they would have already had the wrecking ball hit the building, destroying it. So, I'm glad I was here early to catch it."

Joe Mifsud, the owner of the building that now houses Two James Distillery and Cork & Gabel in Detroit's Corktown, on Michigan Avenue near Michigan Central Station, has a story to tell.

Mifsud bought the building nearly 20 years ago. It was a big deal to him, the first building he ever bought. But it was almost reduced to a pile of rubble.

"When I first bought it, there wasn't one window on the building - not one door. It was basically a shell," said Mifsud.

Mifsud came to work on the building one week after buying it, and when he arrived, a wrecking ball crew was getting ready to demolish the building.

"I couldn't believe it. 'Is this for my building? The building I just bought? With all the money I have'?"

Mifsud begged the crews to wait, telling them he just bought the building and had the paperwork to prove it. They allowed him to get the paperwork and the demolition was canceled.

"It's nothing but amazing, it almost feels like a miracle. To now have a building like this, in a great area, and I saved it. It feels fantastic," said Mifsud.

Now, Mifsud is running his new restaruant, Cork & Gabel, which opened in Dec. 2018. Cork & Gabel’s name is derived from a combination of gabel, the German word for fork, and cork, a nod to the restaurant’s location in Corktown.  The idea for this fusion stems from their Executive Chef Matthew McGrail's, Irish and Italian hertiage and Mifsud's passion for German food.

Watch Alex Atwell's Uniquely Detroit feature story in the video player above.

The building has been through many different businesses and overhauls in history. It used to be home to a muffler shop. Check out the photo below:

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