Car Wash Café owner dead at 56

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To those who knew him, Larry Meeks was more than a businessman running Harbor Town Garage off Jefferson Avenue. He was a charming, generous man with big dreams, which included his unusual Kar Wash Kafé on Meldrum Street.

Meeks, who died April 29, of a heart attack at 56, used to own a collision shop on Harper Avenue, which later moved to Mt. Elliot near Jefferson, but was best known as the man who filled up the corner of Meldrum and Jefferson with an odd assortment of classic cars, repurposed refuse, odd antiques and a stage, all under a wall with a sign that read “Enjoy Detroit.” Those drawn in by the quirky cornucopia found a hangout that included a car wash, an ice cream parlor, a junk museum and, often, music from DJs or bands.

Hamtramck’s Jason Janusch, who knew Meeks for several years, says, “He was the most generous man. He’d teach anybody, give ’em a job in the shop, teach anybody to work on cars, even give away cars for free or for cheap.”

If that sounds unlikely, Meeks’ longtime friend Joe Hartson says it could be true. The lifetime Detroiter, 53, says he knew Meeks for decades, and was a Kafé customer who, as “Disco Joe,” used to DJ on the weekends when bands and parties took over the establishment. Before his death, Meeks had proposed bringing back the parties.

And Hartson says Meeks was a generous man who thought of the community. “Next to his bump shop,” he says, “there’s a house there they were making a men’s and boys’ thing, a mentoring project.” With Meeks gone, the project is still up in the air.

To learn more about Meek’s Kar Wash Kafé, see Sarah Klein’s 2005 story on Meeks and his unique establishment.

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