Arthur Michaels, a businessman who helped develop the Hamburger Station restaurants in the Akron area, died Dec. 10. He was 87.
Mr. Michaels, a son of Greek immigrants, was a Realtor; his brother John was a contractor; and his brother Andrew, an attorney. They formed a family business and together ran Michaels Real Estate and Michaels Building Co., before branching out into the restaurant business.
Mr. Michaels’ son, John, said his father was a Realtor first and foremost. He never saw himself as an individual success, and always emphasized the family aspect of their business. “He was never much for saying ‘me’ or ‘my,’ it was always ‘us’ or ‘ours.’ He kind of downplayed things,” he said.
They came by their first restaurant, the Bread and Thread in Fairlawn, in the early 1970s when one of their tenants closed his restaurant and they decided to open up their own place in the spot. The eatery had an adjacent clothing shop and wine shop where customers could buy bottles to take home or drink at the restaurant. The brothers had built the Ghent Road building in Fairlawn where it was located, which is now home to the Winking Lizard.
Another eatery, the Fife and Drum Bar, in downtown Akron on Main Street, was a sandwich shop with draft beer on tap. “Always ice cold draft beer,” John Michaels recalled. The specialty of the house was a submarine sandwich served on a giant, 10-inch hamburger bun, which was enough to feed four people.
It was Mr. Michaels who initially partnered with the late Jim Lowe to found the city’s chain of Hamburger Station restaurants. Eventually, Mr. Michaels and his brother John bought controlling interest in the chain, which grew to eight locations.
Hamburger Station became the first fast-food restaurant in downtown Akron when it opened in 1975.
Three locations remain today and are operated by John Michaels and his cousins, Art and Frank Michaels, sons of brother John Michaels. The trio also operate the On Tap chain of restaurants, but John Michaels said the idea for the restaurants really came from his father and uncles, beginning with the first location on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls.
Aside from his son, Mr. Michaels is survived by two daughters, Lisa Gray and June Michaels; his brothers John and Andrew Michaels; seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
In keeping with his father’s wishes, there was no funeral service. “He didn’t like to be the center of attention that way,” his son said.
Lisa Abraham can be reached at 330-996-3737 or at email@example.com.