Obituary: Michael Andrews, colorful restaurateur behind Loon Cafe, J.D. Hoyt's, dies at 72

  • Article by: JANET MOORE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 29, 2014 - 9:38 AM

Just about everyone says Michael “Mikey” Andrews could light up a room with his legendary sense of humor.

The colorful Twin Cities restaurateur, known for popular eateries such as Sgt. Preston’s, J.D. Hoyt’s and the Loon Cafe, died July 23 of cancer. He was 72.

“He made everyone feel like one of his best friends,” said his wife of 33 years, Susie Andrews, now of Palm Springs, Calif. “He liked people and he liked to talk. He was a total schmoozemeister.”

Born in Grinnell, Iowa, Andrews moved to Kenwood as a sixth-grader and instantly made friends with his future business partner, John White.

“We were in recess, and this guy came up to me and introduced himself,” White recalled recently. “It was Mikey. He really was a lifelong friend.”

The duo stayed in touch, and after Andrews graduated from what is now Minnesota State University, Mankato, they opened Ichabod’s bar/restaurant on 7th Street in downtown Minneapolis, where City Center now stands. “It was a New York-style saloon, long and narrow,” White recalls.

The venue was such a success they went on to open Sgt. Preston’s on the West Bank three years later, in 1975. White said the two friends researched the concept at a bar in San Francisco that used fresh-squeezed orange juice in cocktails. They convinced each other that the juice mitigated the effects of the alcohol, but by the end of the evening, the sleeve from White’s V-neck sweater was missing after a bit of roughhousing with his pal.

“I could tell you a million stories like that,” White said.

Their trajectory continued with the Loon Cafe in 1982, famed for its chili, J.D. Hoyt’s steakhouse in 1984 (the name is culled from their parents’ names), then Dixie’s on Grand in St. Paul and Dixie’s Calhoun. Andrews also was a partner in Liquor Lyle’s bar and served on the board of Davanni’s, the sub shop chain.

Andrews also helped start the Warehouse District Business Association in the 1990s. “He definitely was the culminating force for the [Warehouse District] Business Association,” said Dario Anselmo, past owner of the Fine Line Music Cafe.

“He could pull people together because he was Mike Andrews and commanded a lot of respect. He was sort of the Godfather of the Warehouse District.”

He quietly mentored countless budding restaurateurs. “He had an extraordinarily kind and empathetic side,” said Pat Fallon, who founded the Minneapolis ad agency bearing his name. “He was the champion of the underdog. There were many, many acts of kindness that fell under the radar.”

Andrews was a rabid Golden Gopher hockey fan and loved the sport. “He could tell you the third line of the Gophers hockey team from 1981,” Fallon said. The Stanley Cup playoffs were his absolute favorite time of the year.

He loved to read — just about a book a week — and traveled all over the world, often with friends, his wife said. After the couple moved to Palm Springs in 2001, he took up golf, although his wife was unclear whether it was the game or the socializing that he enjoyed the most.

His formidable life experiences informed his sense of humor, she said. “He had an intelligent sense of humor. He’s come up with things, and I’d think, ‘Where did that come from?’ His mind was always going.”

Given his humor, it should come as no surprise that Andrews wanted his epitaph to read: “I Never Bowled.”

In addition to his wife, Andrews is survived by in-laws, and six nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Metropolitan, 5418 Wayzata Blvd., Golden Valley.

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