Gallup Properties owns the wildly eccentric building on Stadium that housed Sze-Chuan West, and if you haven’t gotten a look at its cave-like interior, you may have missed your chance. Sze-Chuan West closed in February, and Charles Gallup (or “Chuck” as he cheerfully answers the phone) hints that the building might soon be going under the wrecking ball. He confirms that the last owners of the restaurant, Qihao Zheng and Yu Fang Cai, recently sold the business. And at this point Gallup stops talking, saying only that he understands there will probably be another restaurant there, but that it might not be in that building.
Whatever form the new building takes, odds are it won’t be nearly as interesting as the present structure, especially in its original (and you can say that again) 1960s glory. Kales Waterfall supper club (nicknamed and fondly remembered as “the Caves” by many locals) opened in 1963 and was designed by owner Jimmy Kales himself.
Kales, age ninety-six, is living in Florida and playing tennis every day, says son Alex Kales, a retired teacher who subs in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Alex was in high school when the supper club opened. “Inside, it was three caves, very dark–gray or blackish walls, with stained glass windows and spotlights that shined on them from the outside. He had a thirty-five-foot waterfall to the left as you walked in.” The waterfall, says Alex, frequently malfunctioned.
Alex says his father at first wanted the building to be “in the shape of a whale, with the entrance through the mouth.” More conservative minds prevailed, but Kales was able to realize his vision for the interior. In classic 1960s supper club style, the Caves featured light music during dinner, then a larger band (such as the Billy Maxted Band) and dancing afterward. “The dinner music was often me,” says Alex. A piano player and singer, he went on to become a music teacher.
Kales sold the business in 1973. For about a decade the building was a Chinese restaurant called Lum’s, then became Sze-Chuan West. Asian-restaurant trivia: it was named “West” to distinguish it from the original Michigan Sze-Chuan, in a strip mall in Canton.