SAGINAW, MI — On the east side of the Saginaw River, a take-out seafood restaurant’s loyal clientele keeps the restaurant from being washed away by the tides of time.
Brother Arthur’s Fish & More, 2522 E. Genesee, today maintains the distinction as the longest black-owned restaurant in Saginaw.
It’s a badge of honor that André Miller wears proudly. The establishment’s origins predate his ownership, but the Saginaw native was a loyal customer long before he bought the business from founder Aaron Arthur’s widow in 2010.
“A friend introduced me to it after it opened in 1987, and it became a place we used to frequent when I was a teenager,” Miller said. “As I got older and became a young adult, my kids, me, and my mom went there a lot.”
A lot has changed at the restaurant over the years, but Miller said its reputation for home-cooked fish remains intact. His favorite menu item hasn’t even changed since those early visits: “Red snapper,” Miller said.
On the same street where the store stands today, Brother Arthur’s began about a half mile northwest. As his clientele grew, Arthur moved the site twice before settling about three blocks from Saginaw High School, where Miller graduated.
At the time, there was still a lot of distance between Miller and his life as restaurant owner. At the time, Miller dreamed of owning a business worthy of a Hollywood script, literally.
“I grew up watching ‘Hill Street Blues,'” Miller said of the crime drama that aired on NBC in the 1980s. t one of the officers father’s places, where they chilled out and ate. I always wanted a place like this.
Miller attended culinary school in Wisconsin beginning in 1995 and then spent a few years working in restaurants, including Applebee’s.
Miller eventually took a professional detour in life by joining the automotive industry. He worked on an assembly line at Ford Motor Company in Detroit for 10 years. Then the end of that career set the stage for the next.
Miller said he agreed to a six-figure takeover of the company shortly after the 2008 recession decimated the economy. With this one-time influx of cash in his pocket, he attempted an investment in his hometown that continues to pay off today: the purchase of Brother Arthur’s.
“I didn’t think of it as a bet because it was already an established restaurant and it was already big in the community,” he said. “So it was really a no-brainer. For me it looked like it was going to be a win, and it turned out to be the case.
Miller said it took a while to learn about customer trends.
“January is the slowest month in this industry for me,” he said. “I didn’t understand that at first. So, that January first, I thought, “Oh my God.”
On the other hand, summer remains the most active season at Frère Arthur.
“You have people on vacation, you have people who think it’s too hot to cook in the house, and they come here,” Miller said.
After the pandemic hit in 2020, some local restaurants suffered. Not all of them survived. But Brother Arthur’s, which was a take-out establishment decades before the pandemic forced other restaurants to adopt the practice, has seen an increase in business, Miller said.
“When everything was slowing down and the world was closing in, Saginaw and my clients showed me their appreciation and love,” he said. “I was affected by supplies – as it was hard to get supplies at the time – but my customers kept me afloat.”
Much of its clientele resides in the neighborhoods surrounding Brother Arthur’s, including many of the same families who frequented the restaurant when Miller first bit into one of the restaurant’s red snappers. But there are also people who come from as far away as Grand Rapids, he said.
“I get a lot of clients from Flint and a lot of clients from Bay City as well,” Miller said.
Catfish remains the most popular menu item, he said. It’s been constant for decades.
Miller’s staff – which includes members of his family – also cooks and prepares dishes other than fish. The soul food-style menu includes chicken and pork chops with sides such as fries, fried green tomatoes, okra, onion rings, and spaghetti. For dessert, customers can end their meal with a cupcake.
Miller said he plans to remain at the helm of Brother Arthur for at least 10 years.
“Then I hope to pass it on to a family member,” he said. “It’s been one of the staples of the community, and I want it to continue.”
Brother Arthur’s opens Tuesday through Saturday. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, then 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
For more information, visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.
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