Vintage Hamtramck

27 Nov

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Located within the city of Detroit, is the city of Hamtramck, only 2.1 sq. miles  in size, it is Michigan’s most internationally diverse city. Known mostly for it’s Polish heritage, Hamtramck has many facets. Our plan for today was to check out the vintage shops in town. We parked in the centrally located parking lot behind the shops on the east side Joseph Campau, the mild temperature made it a nice day for walking. 

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There was a great deal of activity down one of the side streets; trucks, cables, and huge lights, a now familiar sight around the Detroit area, which means they are filming. Rumor has it GM is making a commercial for the Volt, which is built at the assembly plant right in Hamtramck. Using the city as a backdrop and featuring local residents, the commercial is supposed to air on Superbowl Sunday. Our first stop was the Record Graveyard on Caniff, dealing exclusively in vintage vinyl records, this is a vinyl collectors nirvana. I know nothing about vintage records, yet I find this place fascinating. The album covers immediately grab your attention, with just one look you can usually identify the decade the the album was released. The records are organized by genre; the male vocal selection is dominated by Frank Sinatra, Gene Autry, Country Western section, if you like Jazz, you’ve come to the right place. As I walk around and see names like Glady’s Knight and the Pips songs start playing in my head.(Are you humming Midnight Train to Georgia now?) I recognize the names of artists from my parents generation; Steve and Eydie, Frankie and Annette, Boots Randolph,I even saw Pat Boone. Movie soundtracks are always fun to look through, I find myself saying “Oh yeah, I remember that movie”. Lining the top portion of the walls is a collection of the more risque covers featuring scantily clad women in seductive poses.Back in the day it seems that the cover art was as important as the record inside and is now recognized as such. This is a great place to come and browse, you may even find a piece of your past that you want to take home. The building Record Graveyard now occupies is currently for sale, but the owners are committed to staying in Hamtramck, therefore it is a good idea to call before you make the trip! 313-870-9647.

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Detroit Threads specializes in vintage items and new clothing by local merchants, along with records, CD’s and DVD’s. Every inch of the store is packed with merchandise, aisles are narrow and items are displayed floor to ceiling. I like to take my time, there is so much to see I usually have to walk through twice. New t-shirts and hoodies in all sizes and colors feature both Detroit and Hamtramck. The quantity of used clothing is vast; snazzy sport coats for men in tweed, shark skin and metallic  lame, dressy coats for women in leopard print, wool and even fur.They have great accessories for both men and women including hats, shoes, purses and neck ties. When film crews are in town they often stop in when looking for vintage items.  If you look carefully you can find cool items from Detroit icons like Vernor’s , Stroh’s and Kowalski.  Detroit Threads is also well known for their extensive collection of LP’s, they have it all from local techno to disco and import records, local DJ’s are regular shoppers. They have a little bit of everything and each time you go there’s something new to see. 

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A couple of doors down at 10022 Jos. Campau is a shop called Lo and Behold. Only open for a few months now, the selection is quite random; old furniture, records, posters,knick-knacks, books, clothing, kitchen items, even an old saxophone; the plan is to transition more into records and books. It’s always fun to shop in a store like this because you never know what you’ll find. I always like it when there are several resale type shops grouped together, I can park once and browse for hours.

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Keeping the vintage theme going, we had lunch at Polonia Polish Restaurant on Yemans. Serving up some of Hamtramck’s best Polish and Eastern European food for over 40 years, it has a loyal following. The inside is quaint, a mural depicting life in old Poland covers the back wall, tables and booths line the dining space, authentic Polish dishware is displayed on shelves, Polish music plays in the background. The front of the menu is a Polish Short Dictionary, it includes: Good Day, Please and Thank You, and of course, Kiss Me and I Love You. The phrase is first written in English with the Polish next to it, now if I only knew how to pronounce it……. The combination plate gives you a bit of everything; pierogi, kilebasa, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and golabki, it’s so good! My mouth waters just thinking about it. We love potato pancakes so we ordered those too. Fried to a crispy brown outside, tender and moist inside, slathered with sour cream of course, delicious. Back in 2009 Anthony Bourdain filmed a segment here for the Travel Channel and introduced a whole new audience to the restaurant.

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On our way back home we made one last stop at Bozeks Market on Caniff, not that we needed anything, it’s just fun to look around. The store specializes in central and eastern European foods, especially Polish. The selection of chocolates and sweets is huge; the packaging is pretty, pictures on labels aid in determining what each item is, I’d like to try one of each. Fresh produce, meats and breads are all reasonably priced, everything looks good. Many of the shoppers speak their native language to store employees, the language sounds soft and kind. Besides food you can find cosmetics, magazines and newspapers written in Polish along with liquor packaged in attractive bottles. Before leaving we revisited the candy aisle and indiscriminately chose a candy bar to share, I’m not sure exactly what it was, but it sure was good!

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