There’s a new way of doing business in Detroit. First take an old building that has been vacant for years, maybe even decades, add a group of budding entrepreneurs, a team of volunteer architects, mix well and place in a neighborhood hungry for economic revitalization, the result; a series of Pop-Up (temporary) retail spaces in the Jefferson East Business District (JEBA) affectionately nicknamed Jeff Chalmers. We have driven down this strip of Jefferson near the Grosse Pointe border for years, it is attractive and has remained intact. Today as we park our car we see that it is lively; there are sandwich boards on the sidewalk, an outdoor cafe, people milling about. First we head into Coffee and (______), we are instantly charmed by the space; furniture is made from wooden pallets, a bicycle rim ads whimsy and light, paintings by local artists decorate the walls, bright-colored cushions and a turquoise wall make it feel light and summer-y. Pastry chef Angela is behind the counter pulling espresso shots and describing today’s baked goods (the “and”) to a customer. As the word brownie reaches my eardrum I know exactly what I’m going to order. Angela did a stint back in the fall in West Village, her “Coffee and” shop was well received in the neighborhood, we are glad to see her at it again. Taking a seat at the counter we anxiously take a bite of the brownie; the edge is chewy, the center soft and gooey, a piece of chocolate heaven. As we sip our iced coffee a steady stream of patrons come and go, many seem to know each other, all are excited at the prospect of a neighborhood coffee shop. We are greeted by a man named Ritchie, he’s the economic development director at JEBA, he tells us a bit about the Pop-ups and the area, his enthusiasm is contagious.
Myra’s Sweet Tooth occupies the space next door, a table displays delicious looking cookies and cupcakes, there’s a line at the ice cream counter. We cut through the back to the River’s Edge Gallery, it is very well done and looks as if it has always been here. Each of the 5 storefronts were given a team of volunteer designers from the Detroit chapter of the American Institute of Architects, they were given two months and a limited budget (I heard $2,000 each) to create a custom space for each pop-up client; what they accomplished is an amazing, eye-appealing cohesive district. We cross Jefferson, D:hive has opened a storefront; the large front window is home to wood furniture painted red, white and blue, a street map of Detroit covers one wall. Inside, Sister Pie and Sweet Potato Sensations are selling their signature baked goods. A large area is dedicated to Detroit itself; neon colored sheets of paper are filled with lists of restaurants, bars and activities, trying to connect people to the surrounding environment. Goodwells Organic Market has opened a temporary space too; the decor is a definite home run! Wooden barrels are filled with fresh fruit, discarded window frames are mounted on the wall and used as shelves, a bright yellow door hangs horizontally over a table; clear canning jars are implemented as light fixtures, the shop looks fresh and bright. The young man behind the counter whips us up an awesome fruit smoothie. The district seems to be an instant success. (Pop-ups will be on Jefferson through July 6th, Coffee and (___) until July 27)
Have you heard there’s a beach in downtown Detroit? Seriously! From now until the end of September Campus Martius Park is home to tons of white sand, beach chairs and a Beach Bar and Grill serving Frankenmuth beer and cocktails. Guess where we’re having lunch? We place our order at the bar, the food portion is run by the folks at Fountain Bistro, we choose a table on the wooden deck that gives us a nice beach view. The area is fabulous; surrounded by skyscrapers, the fountain on one end, Soldiers and Sailors monument on the other, there’s nothing else like it. Tables in lime green, orange and turquoise are set up on the deck, area workers relax in beach chairs, shoes off, feet pushed into the soft sand. Small children play with pails and shovels, delighted at the feel of the grains in their fingers. Before we know it our lunch arrives; the Traverse City salad is outstanding with the homemade strawberry vinaigrette, the chicken pesto sandwich is large and flavorful. When we have polished off the food and fresh squeezed lemonade we cross over to Cadillac Square.
From now until August 23 Cadillac Square is hosting a summer time market. Monday through Friday from 10 am until 2 pm food vendors are set up in bright green mock storefronts. In addition to the food, visitors are treated to live music each day with Lunchtime Acoustics. It just so happens that today is the 4th Friday of the month, which means “The Market” is in full swing. This area is reserved for artists, designers, vintage dealers, apparel, home goods and craft foods by independent retailers. We wander from booth to booth; wallpaper, t-shirts, preserves and jewelry, all top quality products. In the background a duo play guitars and sing in Latin American style, it is a lovely afternoon. You have two more chances to visit the market: July 26 & 27 and August 23 & 24, open 11a-9p Friday, 11a-7p Saturday…….don’t miss it!
Did I mention that today is National Skateboard Day? We had noticed groups of skateboarders making their way through the city all day long, then someone mentioned they were gathering near the old Brewster projects. Let’s see what they can do! We park along the side of the road near the 375 service drive, the long forgotten Brewster buildings stand windowless and empty, mother nature has reclaimed the surrounding land, abandoned tennis courts have been transformed into a make-shift skills course for skateboards. Dozens of young men take turns jumping piles of bricks, some slide across yellow railings, others maneuver their boards along concrete benches, it is easy to single out the best skaters.
We watch for a bit then head over to Hamtramck’s urban skate park. Just off the Davison is Detroit’s first (and only) permanent skate park; this is the kind with the cool bowl shape where skaters ride up along the top of the wall. A small group of talented skaters ride down graffiti covered concrete ramps and walls, each seems to have a signature trick. They have come from downriver, Saginaw and Ann Arbor to participate in the days activities. It has been a full day, we have covered many areas of the city, and yet there is so much more………