Tag Archives: diner

DETROIT: The Colony Club

7 Apr

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They say, “you can’t judge a book by its cover”, they’re right! There are so many beautiful building interiors in Detroit hiding behind ordinary facades. Today we are visiting The Colony Club on Park Avenue. Let me set the stage. It was the Roaring 20’s, the United States was experiencing economic prosperity never seen before; electricity, automobiles, radios and telephones were attainable by the average working man. Charles Lindbergh made his first solo, non-stop, Trans-Atlantic flight from NY to Paris, Duesenberg’s Model J was unveiled, Jazz music blossomed, movie stars and sports heroes graced magazine covers. Women joined the work force and were given the right to vote. Here in Detroit, women were keeping pace with the changing times; four women’s clubs opened within four blocks of each other providing a place for women’s functions, recreation and socializing. The Colony Club opened in 1928.

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Kris and I haven’t been in this building for almost two decades, we have arranged a special tour with Director of Sales and Marketing, Nicole. The red brick, Georgian-style building was designed by the Smith, Hinchman and Grylls architectural firm (think Buhl, Penobscot & Guardian Buildings). At seven stories tall the exterior is simple, limestone and iron grill-work add a touch of elegance. The lobby is stunning! An artist by the name of Victor is responsible for the gorgeous restoration paint work. The lovely peacock pattern is not original but fits the time period perfectly; gold and silver dance off delicate lacy designs. The black and white marble floor gleams, years of being covered with carpet protected the finish.When the building opened in the 20’s, three small shops were located on the ground floor, today, these are used as reception areas. We ascend marble stairs to the third floor, the ballroom.

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Done up in Louis XVI style, lavish, opulent, resplendent and grand are just a few of the words I would use to describe this space. Decorated in Versailles cream and gold gilt with a splash of bronze, Victor has done his magic once again! Original crystal chandeliers sparkle in the sunlight, plaster details are impressive, huge arch-shaped mirrors make the room feel so open and airy. Delicate wall sconces are also original, pale blue inserts appear to be Wedgwood, iron grill-work creates faux balconies. It’s easy to imagine Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly gliding across the dance floor. Speaking of the floor, it’s unique in the sense that it’s wood and not carpet, re-laid about a month ago, it too is splendid. Twin stairways lead to the next level, I’d guess many a bride has stood on these steps for photos. From here we have a panoramic view of the breath-taking ballroom. The 4th floor was the original dining room, a commercial kitchen resides in the same place as the first kitchen. The dining room itself has been transformed into another rental space for smaller gatherings; today it is set up for a wedding ceremony. Soft yellow, peach and more dazzling gold cover the walls and plaster details, quite stunning. Chandeliers and sconces are brand new, made special for the space. 

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Back in the day men were not allowed above the ballroom level, it was a women’s club after all. There were 16 sleeping rooms on the 6th floor, card rooms, salons, squash and badminton courts on the 5th, even a solarium on the roof (currently being restored). The Depression brought economic hardship, the building fell into foreclosure and the women of the club disbanded. Occupied by several businesses, the UAW purchased the building for its Detroit headquarters in the 60’s, after that, Wayne County Community College had it for a while. Preservationist Charles Forbes bought the building in 1984, thank goodness! It was leased to the Detroit Police Department to be used as its Police Academy (this is the time period we were here). With Superbowl XL on the horizon, Forbes management began an extensive restoration of the club, ESPN used the building for Superbowl functions. Today Colony Club has become a popular venue for weddings, dinners and special events.

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Moving forward in time to 1936, we are having lunch at Elwood Bar & Grill, another of Chuck Forbes buildings, it seems a natural choice. If you’ve lived in the metro Detroit area for a while, you may recall in 1997 the Elwood was relocated, as was the Gem/Century Theatre which moved 1,850 feet to make room for Comerica Park and holds the Guinness World Record as the heaviest building (2,700 tons) ever moved on wheels. Today the cream and blue enameled steel Art Deco diner resides on Adams Ave behind the Detroit Tiger’s left field. The swanky interior has been completely restored. Today the whole area is bustling with activity in preparation for opening day.

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Sitting in a booth window-side we take in the details of the diner, walls are painted green in a textured technique, narrow chrome strips orbit white globe lights , two-toned wood  makes up the bar. The most unique feature is the mural street map of Detroit that fills the circular recess in the ceiling, it details the path of movement the Gem and Elwood took to their new permanent locations. A large plate of food is set on the table, we are sharing the Blackened Chicken Melt: Cajun-spiced chicken breast grilled and topped with pepper jack cheese, tomato, Dijon and mayo served on egg-dipped grilled sourdough bread–delicious! Alongside the sandwich is a side of tasty cole slaw and a pile of fresh hand-cut fries, yum! Detroit is filled with treasures such as these. These days it seems more and more buildings are being restored and re-purposed,  that’s good news for all of us!

Vintage In The Metro

5 May

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Spring in the Detroit area can be tough; days can be chilly, windy and rainy, not exactly an invitation to spend time outdoors. Still, we have spent so much time indoors, we are antsy to just get out. Days like this, lunch and a little shopping get our mind off the weather and onto fun things. We are actually more the browsing type, our shopping trips usually lead us to great vintage shops, antique stores and flea markets; lots of looking and every once in a while, a great find we have to bring home.

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Our first stop is Vogue Vintage Surplus, a warehouse-type space on Wolcott St in Ferndale. This is nitty-gritty type shopping; it’s colder in the building than outside, items are everywhere, shelves are full of smaller pieces. An old dryer chair catches my eye as soon as we walk in the door, its sparkly blue vinyl is cool. There are so many things to look at I have to stop and really focus. A true treasures hunter’s emporium, goods are sorted as opposed to displayed, couches, end tables and large landscape scenes are huddled together. Used telephones span the decades from rotary dial to cordless, desks vary in size from single to multiple cubbies. Old trophies, a complete set of china, wacky knick knacks and an old wooden canoe make it fun to look around. The warehouse has everything a home needs, light fixtures, glassware, televisions, stoves and refrigerators; while some of it is antique or vintage other items are simply ‘used’. If you’re looking for a milk can, traffic light, a pair of wooden shoes from Holland a piano or an old radio, you know just where to go!

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Traveling up Woodward into Pleasant Ridge we park behind Vogue Vintage and enter through the back door. Once things have been gone through at the Surplus, the nicest items come here to be sold. Racks of vintage clothing are separated into men’s and women’s sections, pieces are in nice condition, funny how many of the styles are popular again today.

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 The shop has a fabulous array of lighting, everything from table lamps and pole lamps to sconces and hanging fixtures. Furniture and accessories are set up in vignettes, a living room here, a dining room there, all very swanky; it’s sometimes surprising how well mis-matched pieces go together. Along with traditional Mid-Century pieces there is a nice selection of 1960’s and 70’s; you know, shiny chrome, bright colors, bold designs, Lucite and yes, a sofa pit. With the impending arrival of summer, outdoor furniture, a super cool bbq, coolers and bicycles are timely items. From large pieces to small, hats to vintage games, posters to metal wall sculptures, they have an awesome selection. Vogue Vintage is now located at 2747 Hilton Rd Ferndale 48220

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Going shopping and out to lunch go hand in hand, there’s a cute little diner on the east side of Woodward called Mae’s. There’s an open parking spot right out front and no line, good timing by us. From 1959 to 2009 this tiny space operated as Anna’s Coffee Shop, in 2010 Sean and Jessica Mc Carthy re-opened the diner as Mae’s, it is Pleasant Ridge’s oldest restaurant, a bit of a landmark, you might say. There are two unoccupied turquoise and aluminum stools at the counter, we take a seat and begin studying the menu. Serving breakfast and lunch, most of the items are made in-house from scratch; biscuits and gravy, jam, baked goods and pancake batter are all made in the 7-foot wide kitchen, bread comes from Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, chips are Better Made and the pop is Faygo and Vernors. We have a great view of the goings on; hot food comes through an opening in the kitchen, servers are busy taking orders, running the espresso machine, filling containers with jam, and delivering food. Ours arrives piping hot, the Mexicantown Skillet is two scrambled eggs sitting atop a combination of homefries, sausage, black beans, sautéed onions, jalapenos and pepper jack cheese. A side of 8 grain 3 seed toast and pico de gallo make this dish delicious. The Portland Special is a sandwich made up of Cap’n Crunch breaded chicken tenders (seriously), pepper jack cheese and hot sauce between grilled farm bread, a side of blue cheese dressing and a bag of chips complete the meal, yum! UPDATE Mae’s is now closed for business.

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There’s still more old stuff to see…… Moving on to Royal Oak, we stop in at Lost & Found Vintage; specializing mainly in clothing, the shop is laid out as a great little boutique with men’s items on the lower level and ladies on the upper. Mannequins are dressed in spring outfits, basket-type handbags and pastel scarves polish off the look. Old street signs top off a large wood cabinet that holds accessories and colored bottles. Downstairs a fellow can find everything he needs to be fashionable; denim jackets, plaid sports coats, silky ties and bowling shirts. The space is masculine with trunks, antlers, an old shoe shine chair and stylish hats. Upstairs is definitely girly; skirts, dresses, purses, sandals and hats. Merchandise is all good quality, many items are sure to bring a smile…..or an eye-roll as the case may be.

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Oddfellows Antiques is on 12 Mile in Berkley. The 9,000 sq ft  building was built in the 1920’s for, you guessed it, the Oddfellows. This is one of those antiques stores that divide the building up into smaller dealer spaces, there are nearly 50 here. Opened eight years ago, it is a favorite of locals and has been voted “Best of Hour Magazine” for the last three years. We enter on the lower level; lots of folks seem to have had the same idea as each aisle is busy with shoppers. You never know what you’ll find in a store like this as the variety of items is wide. Kris and I browse slowly through the shop, I see owls are back in vogue, Elvis never went out, glassware is abundant. Dealers sell a little bit of everything; great old tin signs, soda pop memorabilia, beautiful antique mirrors,tools, rugs, even a little bit of Mod from the 70’s. I love all the old glasses, each with its own purpose; juice, water, highball, martini anyone? There are things we remember from our grandparents homes and things our parents had too. All of these things create a link from the past to the present–maybe that’s the real draw, familiarity, fond memories, good times.