San Morello Dishes Up Satisfying Takes on Italian Classics

May 07, 2019 207

BY: Liana Aghajanian

Long before 1400 Woodward Ave. became San Morello, downtown Detroit’s newest restaurant, it was home to a jewelry company. That became a menswear store, then a furrier, later a drugstore, and most recently, from 1997 to around 2012, a hair company called Eastern Wigs. But it first started as T.B. Rayl Co., a hardware store that occupied the building beginning in 1915. T.B. Rayl Co. sold everything from tools to gas stoves to sporting goods under the motto, “There Really Isn’t Any Better Place.”

In 1925, the company wrote to the Detroit Free Press to celebrate their 50 years in business, through which they’d seen Detroit grow from a mid-sized city to the fourth largest in the country with a population hovering around 1 million (the city’s population peaked at 1.86 million in 1950). “We look back with some regret for the passing of old Detroit, a comfortable, enjoyable town of about 100,000 inhabitants, who were seemingly well satisfied with the town and themselves,” the proprietors wrote. “The town has grown, but Rayl’s has grown faster.” One wonders what T.B Rayl Co., which closed indefinitely in 1958, would say now.

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