DETROIT: Upscale Retail

9 Dec

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If you haven’t been to Midtown recently, you need to check it out. The ever-expanding list of places to eat and shop is mind-blowing. With the holidays just around the corner, there’s no better time than the present! Be forewarned, the good ol’ days of free parking are gone–you’ll need a bag of quarters or credit card and your license plate number to feed the pay station, ok, now we’re ready…..

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The newest and probably most anticipated shop to open is Jack White’s Third Man Records on W. Canfield. You may remember Jack and Meg White from their White Stripes days, they played the Detroit bar scene before making it Grammy-award-winning-big. For music lovers, this place is heaven on Earth,  there’s enough kitschy-cool novelties, records, t-shirts and videos to keep everyone entertained. Yellow and black are the label’s signature colors–it’s everywhere–walls, floors, clothing, even the Christmas tree. The front of the shop is filled with merchandise from skateboards and scarves to Hawaiian shirts and Stormy Kromer hats. Vinyl records in 45’s and lp’s fill racks lining the walls; in addition to Third Man there are selections from the Sun and Tamla labels. Photos of Jack, Meg and other band mates reach from floor to ceiling, a video is being projected onto the back wall of the stage area; guitars, amps and monitors are quiet at the moment.

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Headphone stations throughout the space allow you to listen to old favorites or the latest release; you can listen to the entire Third Man catalog in the Listening Booth. Have a seat in the lounge area while paging through one of Third Man’s books, take a ride on a motorized elephant scooter, pose with friends in the photo booth, watch the Mold-A-Rama machine create a miniature version of the rolling record store, pick up a CD by the White Stripes or The Dead Weather.  At the back of the showroom a long hall with a fabulously shiny pressed ceiling leads us to the future vinyl record pressing plant opening soon. Jack doesn’t live in Detroit anymore, but his presence is felt all over the city. In addition to donating a small fortune to the city and saving the Masonic Temple from the auction block, he’s now providing jobs and a cool place to hang out. 

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Next door is a high-end men’s and women’s store selling clothing, accessories and housewares called Willys Detroit. This entire complex of shops is housed in the old Willy’s Overland Motor Company building–hence the name. The compact space is bright inside as natural light floods the room; items are displayed on rolling racks, tables and cubbies. Only a limited number of each item is stocked, so the selection changes often. Seasonal items such as Levi’s jeans, flannel shirts, sweaters and warm jackets, all brand names, attract shoppers. Handbags, backpacks, hats and shoes complete any outfit. Upstairs mannequins pose in large front windows; thick winter hats, gloves and jeans are being prepared to sell. 

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We stop in at the much larger, remodeled Shinola; there’s a tiny  cafe offering Commonwealth Coffee and pastries by Sister Pie, visitors sip on espresso while paging through coffee table books. Up front you’ll find watches, watches and more watches; big ones, small ones, bands in leather, rubber or stainless steel,  mens and womens, in a multitude of colors and designs. New is the Muhammad Ali collection of limited edition products, Shinola has partnered with the Muhammad Ali Center for their Great Americans Series, I’m especially intrigued by the vintage black and white photographs. Reaching from the center of the store all the way to the back you can watch bicycles being hand-built. Pick your frame, your color and jazz it up with leather accessories and an old-fashioned bell– a truly unique way to by your next bike. Across the room you can watch technicians in lab coats and funny hats assemble watches with great precision. The Shinola tag line is : Where American is Made. One thing they continue to make is American jobs.

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We’re having lunch just up the street at Hopcat on the corner of Woodward and Canfield. The original Hopcat opened in Grand Rapids MI in 2008, there are now 8 locations in the Midwest, 4 of them right here in the mitten. Years ago Agave was serving up top-notch Mexican dishes in this space, today people enjoy craft beer and tasty food in the newly re-done building. A large bar runs the length of one wall and wraps around the corner, the line of tap handles across the bar are too numerous to count, liquor bottles have been re-purposed into hanging light fixtures, wide, comfy-looking bar stools are filled with patrons this afternoon. We are seated at a high-top table in one of the front windows, Kris looks at the food menu while I study the beer selections. In addition to the Local 30, they serve a dizzying array of Ambers, Browns, Lagers, Light Ales, Wheats, Belgians, Barleywine, Scotch Ales……well, you get the picture.

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Kris orders lunch and I choose the Thirsty Trout Porter from Dark Horse in Marshall MI. The Cowboy Burger arrives, an 8 oz. patty topped with fried jalapeno peppers, pepper jack cheese, apple cider bbq sauce, cherry-smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and onion, delicious. The burger itself is juicy, love the tang of the bbq sauce and the heat of the jalapenos. Of course you must have the Crack Fries when you come here, Food Network Magazine put them in the Top 10 French Fries in America; crispy, crunchy, peppery, yum! Outside we pause to check out a lovely Detroit-themed mural by Fel3000ft, I’m awed by his work.

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Over on Second we park the Jeep in the Will Leather Goods parking lot. This is truly one of the most aesthetically pleasing, harmonious, welcoming stores we’ve been to in a very long time. A red arrow painted on the side of the building directs us through the giant door to the Coffee Station; a cozy little area offers visitors a place to relax with coffee, pastries and toast–in case you’re wondering, the carrot cake is outstanding! Behind that is a gallery space, currently a photography show entitled American Heroes and Dreamers is on exhibit. 

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The retail space is one large area (this is the former Tomboy Supermarket), the fragrance of leather is intoxicating, a full-size teepee sits in the middle of the floor. Merchandise is thoughtfully arranged on tables and shelves, you’ll find everything you’d expect to see in a leather goods store: wallets, belts, gloves, purses, briefcases, key chains, duffles, and so much more. For Will Adler the garment industry is in his blood; his grandfather, father and brother all worked in the industry in Detroit. Will, a local who moved away at age 20 to pursue an acting career, has turned his leather goods business into a lifestyle brand. In this, his Legacy store, he combines the industrial, mechanical Detroit, with the colors and outdoor feel of his current home in Eugene, Oregon. Read his fascinating life story and career path on the Discover Your Will page. Another Detroiter coming back to support the city. So, there you have it, a whole list of places to shop, snack, eat and drink in your pursuit of the perfect gift.

 

 

 

 

 

2 Responses to “DETROIT: Upscale Retail”

  1. Googie style December 10, 2015 at 7:17 am #

    We continue to love all your articles! This one was great- we continue to believe Detroit will be the city to live in… As much as we love our Cleveland, boy Detroit is where it’s at!
    Those stores are amazing!
    Keep writing great articles! You guys are the best!

    • detroitdvotion December 10, 2015 at 11:48 am #

      That’s so nice to hear! There’s still a ways to go but it has been an amazing transformation so far. Thanks for your kindness and continued interest in Detroit.

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