YPSILANTI, MI – It took no more than 30 seconds for Mike Kabat after receiving a phone call to say yes to becoming Ypsilanti 4th of July Parade grand marshal.
Kabat was the owner of the old Restaurant Haab, located in downtown Ypsilanti for 47 years. Haab’s Restaurant, a family-run establishment that served a loyal clientele, had been open for more than 87 years before it closed in March.
Related: “Our clients were family.” Haab’s Restaurant closes its doors after 87 years in Ypsilanti
Kabat will lead the parade at 11 a.m. on Monday, July 4, from Oakwood and Cross streets to Depot Town to Rice Street. This is the first year that the Ypsilanti 4th of July Parade has taken place since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020.
For each Fourth of July parade, the grand marshal is chosen to be recognized as a “pillar of the community,” said Ypsilanti parade director Erica Hampton.
In trying to determine this year’s grand marshal, Hampton said Kabat was chosen after talking about the closure of the Haab restaurant.
“When we said his name, everyone (thought) it was the best idea ever because he’s been such a nice man over the years and has given back so much to the community. ‘Ypsilanti,” Hampton said.
Kabat remembers watching the parade when he came to the community and started operating the Haab restaurant. He said his children made and sold snow cones and he always brought ice water to those walking in the parade.
“It’s a wonderful honor (to be chosen as Grand Marshal). I’m not sure I deserve to be honored in this way,” he said.
For many customers, the closure of Haab’s Restaurant came as a surprise.
Kabat said he had “a tough but easy decision to make”, after finding out his son had health issues. He said he decided to close the restaurant because “family is more important than anything”.
Since the closure, Kabat has received numerous emails and calls highlighting the connections Haab’s has made within the community. He said he even received a request from a client to buy the table under which he and his wife sat not only for their first date, but also for their engagement.
Through Haab, Kabat also provided Ypsilanti with a source of information. His past experience as a newscaster for The Ann Arbor News prompted him to start monthly newsletters about 10 years ago.
“We would showcase the activities that were happening in the Ypsilanti community showing how vibrant the Ypsilanti community could be and really was,” Kabat said.
The Haab Restaurant is just one of the ways Kabat has contributed to its community. He was also the founder of the downtown Ypsilanti merchant group known as the Central Business Community at the time and served as chairman of the town’s heritage festival.
“Almost everything was focused on what we could do to make the downtown community a more vibrant community than it was when we got here,” he said.
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