Infiniti Motor Group
Year built: 1912
Lot size: .39 acres
Building size: 3,350 sq ft. (previously 2,000 sq ft.)
Believe it or not, this is the only commercial building that has a centennial year listed in public record. A trip down any of our Mile roads, Telegraph, or Grand River will reveal lots of old buildings. We know they’re old, we just have to start digging. Seeing all the connected businesses along certain stretches of our Mile roads get my imagination revved up. The remnants of a “downtown” area – and the potential that is hiding behind them.
I stopped in to see the guys at Infiniti Motor Group (well, let’s be honest, I was dying to see the inside!) and they were surprised at how old their building is. The business has been here for roughly 8 years and they mentioned that the previous business that was housed here was a plumbing company, who had been in the building for 20-30 years.
I was slightly disappointed when I walked into the main office area and saw a drop ceiling. Attics hold a lot of clues, but there was no attic space in this one. “What’s behind there?” I asked. And when an employee pointed to a ceiling tile that was missing, there it sat in all its glory – a beautiful wood ceiling. Luckily the entire ceiling is exposed in the shop area, so I was able to snap a picture – way better than asking if I can get my ladder out to peek around up there.
The photo below from a 2002 listing shows how the building must have looked before Infiniti Motor Group took over. It looks like the business may have been Vic’s. The sign on the side says Vic’s Plumbing Heating Supplies. The yellow sign to the right even has a business tagline “DO-IT-YOURSELF”.
In 2003, a break-in was reported at Vic’s Plumbing which involved 12 bathtubs beings stolen out of the storage yard. According to police, the chain on the gate had been cut. First of all, how do you transport all those bathtubs? And secondly, where are you going to store all those bathtubs? Unless you plan on opening up a small hotel or something.
Unfortunately, there was a second break-in that year where “an unknown number of
shower faucet kits were reported stolen” by the owner. The thief or thieves punched a hole in one of the walls measuring 2 x 2 feet. There was also a burglary that took place in 1981, which involved 15 steel steel window guards being stolen out of the chain-link yard. Seems like there might be a pattern here, or maybe the same culprit(s) kept coming back over the years?
1976 Redford Observer Ad.
So who was Vic of Vic’s Plumbing? Well, his name was Victor P. Ratkus and he was born in 1915. He moved from Pennsylvania to Detroit when he was just 10 years old. He was a member of the local 98 Plumber’s Union. According to his obituary from 2009, Vic was “a master plumber and self-described ‘workaholic’, he owned Vic’s Plumbing on Telegraph Road in Redford and worked six days a week until his retirement at the age of 87. It was said, ‘After people looked around they could always find what they needed at Vic’s.’ Victor had many loyal customers who enjoyed not only his hard work, but also his conversational skills.”
He was married to his wife Loretta for 70 years (she passed away in 2006). “The true way to render ourselves happy is to love our work and find in it our pleasure.” – Victor P. Ratkus.
In 2006, the building was listed again with a price reduction and an updated photo. Clearly the same building, but the window sizes and positions have changed, a third window has been added. It looks like what might have once been a garage door has since been bricked up (although it reappears after the purchase by Infiniti) The only key features are the two signs and the location of the door. Even the bricks themselves are a different color. What’s even stranger is that this new listing lists the year built as 1968. Hmmm.
Going back even further, we find a 1956 advertisement in the Redford Observer for Pat’s Coffee Shop, “Pies Like Mother’s” listed at this address.
I’ve still got a lot of digging to do on this one, so stay tuned. If you know of a business that was here in the past please let us know in the comments below.
**2019 – The business currently housed in this building is called “H & C Autosales”, although the building itself hasn’t been bought/sold since 2006. The 2018 street view on Googlemaps, on the other hand, shows the Infiniti Motors’ sign replaced with “Wheels Motors.”