All around Metro Detroit you will find quaint little villages, historic cities and hip downtowns. Each one a little different from the other, it’s fun to check them out and see what they have to offer.Today we are visiting Clawson, just 2.2 square miles in size, downtown can be found at the intersection of 14 Mile Rd and Main (aka Livernois).
We begin our visit with a stop on Rochester Rd, this is where Michigan’s largest retail candy store, Doc’s Sweets resides. Nothing fancy on the outside, the inside is a virtual wonderland of candy, they have everything here, it even smells sweet! Easter displays are front and center, chocolate bunnies, candy eggs and Peeps in every color of the rainbow await their place in your Easter basket. Plywood shelving units divide the space into wide aisles, Jelly Belly and M&M’s have huge display cases that dispense the flavor and color candy of your choice. Old-fashioned treats like those pastel colored candy buttons stuck to strips of paper bring back childhood memories as do Slo Poke, Now & Later, Zots and Laffy Taffy. Do you like Gummi Bears? How about a gummi worm, frog, shark or turtle? Licorice comes in strings, wheels and snaps, Scooby Doo, Mickey Mouse and Star Wars figures are filled with candy; for fans of chewing gum they sell Razzles, Chiclets and Fruit Stripe. Do you remember Sixlets? Not only are they available individually, like many of the items here, they can also be purchased in bulk. Employees are friendly and helpful, you can’t help feeling happy yourself surrounded by all this sweetness.
Magic anyone? Wunderground Magic Shop on Main St is a fun place to visit even if you can’t pull a rabbit out of a hat. Wall to wall and floor to tin ceiling the space is filled with books, card tricks, magic wands, supplies and accessories for magicians of every skill level. Looking around we notice playing cards clinging to the ceiling overhead, ventriloquist puppets look ready for conversation, novelties, pranks and gag gifts make us laugh out loud. Chatting with the man behind the counter we learn the ceiling is original, the second floor of the building was originally the Ambassador Ballroom. Wednesday nights were rolling skating nights at the Ballroom, it was so popular the owner built a separate roller rink across the street in 1941.
Across 14 Mile Rd is what used to be the Ambassador Roller Rink, a Clawson landmark for over 60 years, the building still retains the original wood floor, hockey scoreboard and over 300 pairs of roller skates. In 2006, husband and wife team Stephen and Mary Liz, opened one of the coolest stores around, Leon & Lulu in the 15,000 sq ft space. Referred to as a ‘lifestyle store’, to me it is shopping heaven. Old and new, quirky and classy, unique and classic, the variety of items and styles seems endless. Easter decor items greet us at the front of the store, vintage roller skates are dressed up with sequins on a nearby shelf, antique glass bottles from Detroit sit atop a table. Freshly popped popcorn is being kept warm in a red cart, a young woman wearing skates offers us a beverage then rolls off. Many things vie for my attention at the same time; the open ceiling shows off its wood beams, unique light fixtures glow from above, funky artwork hangs on walls. Kris and I begin roaming the store together but soon we have split off in different directions, I always have an idea of where he’s at from the sound of the camera as he snaps pictures. I take my time browsing, I am a sucker for handbags and kitchen do-dads. Kris spies an awesome vintage score keeping machine out of a bowling alley–sweet!
Vignettes of couches, chairs and tables are beautifully laid out, I cannot resist trying a few of the pieces. Discarded items like metal doorplates, teacups and spoons have been reused to create light fixtures. I meet up with Kris and we walk around again showing each other the pieces we like best. I have been here on several occasions for special events, usually charity fundraisers, there’s always food and drink and you’re guaranteed a good time. The owners are extremely generous, last year alone they hosted 64 events, 51 of them benefiting local charities. Every time I come, the store has different merchandise, making it fun to explore. I recently learned Leon & Lulu will soon have a neighbor, the owners have acquired the old Clawson Theatre to be used as additional retail space and a bakery/cafe. Like the roller rink the theatre was built in 1941, movies were shown until 1962; like most small town theatres the building was used for other purposes and then sat vacant. To me the most exciting part of the deal is the plan to replace the original marquee to make it look like a classic downtown movie theatre again, it will add so much charm to the streetscape.
Walking east down 14 Mile Rd we notice and old record shop, Flipside Records. Doing business here since 1983 the store sells new and used vinyl, CD’s, DVD’s, video game systems, vintage stereo equipment, posters and t-shirts. We love to browse shops that sell vintage anything, record stores always have great things to look at and listen to. T-shirts hang from the drop ceiling, like items are grouped into sections, I see my first Iggy Pop bobblehead, Kris is leafing through old albums, some of them have awesome cover art. It has been a while since I have seen stacks of 45’s, of course Elvis takes up a fair amount of space. Vintage record players make me yearn for the days when things were simple and real; you actually held the arm on the record player and placed the needle on the vinyl, sound came out of speakers instead of tiny little earbuds attached to an iPhone, ahhh, the good old days!
We come to a Japanese grocery store called Noble Fish, having heard only good things about their sushi we decide to give it a try. The small store has a huge selection of grocery items such as sauces, oils, rice, Sake, beer and snacks along with Japanese gifts and kitchen goods. Both of us enjoy looking at the brightly colored packages, sometimes wondering what it is, or what one does with Gingko nuts or a can of Quail eggs. Now, Pocky we know, but here in addition to chocolate and strawberry we can try almond crush. Coolers along the side of the store hold pre-made sushi boxes, fresh fish and multi-color rice cakes. All the way to the back we find the sushi counter; we fill out the order sheet, take a seat and wait for our food. 5 stools are pulled up to a counter, there are probably another 5 tables in the restaurant space, each seating two people, to say it is small is an understatement. Sushi specials are handwritten on sheets of paper and taped to the walls, be sure and look them over before placing your order. A cart holds a thermos of hot green tea and pitchers of cold water, cups and glasses are available for you to help yourself. Our sushi is delivered to our table, it looks and tastes delicious, prices are reasonable and the rolls are nice sized. A line of people has formed to place orders, as soon as we are finished we leave to make room for someone else. We take one more walk down the rows of items, certain there is nothing we need for home we head over to the register. Even Japanese grocery stores have impulse items at the check-out counter, Kris has his eye on a chocolate cookie-looking thing, the clerk tells us it is mochi filled with red bean paste, the things we thought were chocolate sprinkles are actually roasted sesame seeds, what the heck……You know, it wasn’t bad.