Tag Archives: Flint MI

Flint: We’re still here…

15 Aug

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We’re in Flint MI for the Be A Tourist In Your Home Town event.  There’s still a ton of stuff to see and do, we better get moving…

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The Capitol Theatre opened in 1928 as a venue for live Vaudeville performances. It became a movie palace then a rock venue hosting concerts like Black Sabbath, AC/DC and Green Day, it closed in 1996. The building was purchased by Uptown Reinvestment Corp and The Whiting; after a complete $37 million dollar restoration the theatre is once again hosting live music, comedy, film, dance, and it’s on today’s tour. The exterior is definitely unique, they call it Hispano-Italian style, I call it gorgeous! The terracotta form work along the top of the building is exquisite, molds were made from the existing pieces and meticulously replicated, I can’t tell the original from the new. The original ‘Capitol” blade sign and marquee were restored, I bet it looks super-cool at night. Just inside the front doors lies the outer lobby, a geometric maze of plaster painted in gold, burgundy and purple hints at what we’ll find inside. In the lobby the ceiling arches up, rosettes fill coffers, everything is trimmed out in gold. Heavily textured walls are parchment colored, the original light fixture seems small for the space, stairways lead off to the sides. We make a slight detour exiting through a side door into a long hall. Almost everything except the floor has been updated, this section is home to concessions and ticket sales.

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Now we make our entrance into the grand auditorium itself; it’s stunning. At first we’re in an area with a low ceiling, we’re actually under the balcony, the plaster work is spectacular, really chunky and with great depth. Our guide points out an original section of ceiling they left untouched during the restoration, you can see how they matched the original colors and took them up a notch, I love that they left that. Walking deeper into the theatre we have a clear view of it in its entirety, this is what they call an Atmospheric Theatre, this one is made to look like a Roman Piazza, some make-believe village in Italy. I don’t know where to look first so I start at the top. A lovely blue glow illuminates the night sky of the domed ceiling, stars twinkle in the twilight, if you look closely you can pick out constellations. My eyes travel down from there, row after row of ornate molding surrounds the stage, the proscenium arch is richly detailed. Ornate plaster is everywhere, lots of leaves, scrolls, faces. Looking at the sides gives me the feeling of being in a tiny village, lower block walls give way to mock structures with doorways, gates, windows, balconies; no two are the same. The light fixtures and sconces are opulent, all of them original and re-worked for l.e.d. bulbs. 

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The group is invited onto the stage, it has perfect sight lines to get the entire atmospheric effect, wow! Some in our group talk among themselves, I overhear them telling others about how they used to come here in their youth, others are seeing it for the first time. The rigging and lighting systems have all been updated with state-of-the art technology. Because the stage area is small, large productions such as musicals are held at The Whiting. Descending from the stage we make our way across the main floor and up the stairs to the balcony, everybody spreads out, some sit while others are busy taking photos. From here we have a completely different view of things, now it’s like we’re right in the village; I feel like I could walk through the gate or sit on one of the balconies. It took 14 months to complete the restoration, the theatre officially opened in June.

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The street level of the Capitol Theatre building is home to new businesses Shift and Floradora share a space. The boutique sells eclectic items for the home, jewelry, gifts, fun accessories and clothing; I like the funky decor. Floradora is an extension of the shops main space in the Flint Farmer’s Market. Pick up a bouquet of fresh flowers or place a custom order for that special occasion. It’s great to see new retail coming into the downtown area, shops like these really attract foot traffic to the area. Now you can shop, eat and grab a coffee or cocktail in a walkable district.

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Alley Fest is taking place in the Buckham and Brush alley’s between 1st and 2nd streets, all we have to do is follow the sound of the music. Strings of lights zig zag between buildings, artists display their wares under canopy’s, pastel portraits of iconic stars are painted on the wall. The free festival is just getting started so it’s not too crowded yet. We check out clever t-shirts, painted skateboards, large canvases and metal jewelry. A crowd has gathered in front of the band at the far stage. The festival focuses on all things Flint from the bands to the artists. There are lots of things with the image of the water tower, it gives me chills.

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A steel door is propped open, people go in and out, I want to see what’s inside. Near the door a dog lays comfortably in his bed, beyond him a set of shelves hold men’s shoes and boots, we’re inside Sutorial Boot and Shoe Makers. This place is way cool, old industrial sewing machines are put to use creating custom hand-made shoes and boots for clients. Cut-outs of soles and forms lay scattered about, the owner is talking to a group of curious people like us. There’s barely room to walk in the space that serves as showplace and workspace. It’s nice to see things being done the old-fashioned way.

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We’ve covered everything in the downtown area, we’re ready to move on a little further. As we drive over to Grand Traverse Street I read a piece of graffiti on a wall that says “The world is a dangerous place to live. Not because of the evil but because of the people who do nothing about it.” The people of Flint know that all to well. Time to kick back and have a beer. Tenacity Brewing occupies a beautifully renovated brown brick building that used to be a firehouse; food trucks are parked out back, hops grow on the patio. The interior is casual, low-key, comfortable. Unique little gathering spaces are tucked away here and there, clear growlers turned into pendant lights hang above the L-shaped bar. Unable to choose one or two to share we do a flight of six; they also have cold brewed coffee and root beer on tap. We drink hard cider, stout, a smoky porter and ale, a really good variety. The stout is my favorite, Kris’s is the Honey Blu Blu Cider. By the amount of pewter mugs filling the shelves behind the bar I’d say they have a loyal following. Here’s what it says on their website: “The story is quite simple. A few of us who happen to like beer and love Flint got together and decided that our town needs a brewery. So we went to work creating one. Keeping with the resolve and determination of Flint despite its ups and downs, and because we knew opening a brewery would not be easy, we named it Tenacity Brewing.” These are the kind of people who make a difference, they change a city, change perceptions, change minds. I hope you’ll make your way to Flint soon and see all the good things happening for yourself.    

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FLINT: Farm Fresh………

16 Dec

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Each day signs and advertisements encourage us to “buy local” and “shop small” to support our community, city and state; the growing number of farmers; markets, maker fairs and small businesses are making it easier to do just that. Today we are in Flint MI visiting the new Farmers’ Market that opened downtown in June. The 32,000 sq ft, year-round, public market currently has about 50 vendors selling everything from fresh produce, meat and cheese to wine, Mexican groceries, coffee and baked goods. Housed in the former Flint Journal Printing Facility, businesses are open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; there’s a demonstration kitchen on the first floor and meeting rooms on the second level.

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Once downtown the market is easy to spot, large red letters rooftop act as a beacon to the building, the parking lot is busy with cars coming and going, an outdoor vendor is selling fresh evergreen wreaths, garlands and decorative pots. We find a space near the back, the side of an adjacent building is a cleverly painted mural of an overflow parking lot, vintage vehicles fill the few spaces, tail lights glow red, some even have real side-view mirrors, cool! We follow fellow shoppers inside, I immediately recognize the unique ‘market’ scent, that great mix of spices, food being cooked, coffee brewing, fresh fruit and vegetables, love it. To our left we find a Mexican and a Beirut market side by side, both sell grocery items and hot food, we pass through the atrium buzzing with activity and walk to the Art At The Market Gallery at the end of the hall. The space is long and narrow, framed photographs and paintings hang on the walls, clay pots, bowls and vases are handsomely displayed. Stained glass pieces glow under bright lights, metal art, furniture and jewelry are available in many different colors and designs.

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We head back to the main marketplace, rows and rows of food vendors tempt us with their offerings; cheese comes in full and half wheels, wedges and chunks, colors vary from white to yellow even green and blue. The milk comes from cows, goats and sheep. Piles of cabbage, hard squash and sweet potatoes fill a booth, Crust from Fenton is selling loaves of white, rye and challah bread along with onion rolls, cookies and brownies; I purchase a loaf of the Saskatoon Prairie Seed, it’s our favorite. Over at Charlies’ Smokin’ Bar-B-Q a line has formed, sure smells good….. Across the aisle fresh greens wait to be tossed into a salad, next to that you can buy gourmet popcorn, there’s handcrafted soaps, pasties, cheesecake, donuts and chicken salad. Mc Carrons Orchards has more than a dozen varieties of apples, at Bagels & Beans you can purchase a bagel as big as your head. At another produce stand brussel sprouts still cling to their stalks, grapefruit and oranges perfume the air.

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We browse the many aisles, weaving in and out, free samples abound, everywhere you look people are eating, ok, enough, time for lunch! There are many places to grab a snack or a meal, after walking around the whole place we choose Sweet Peaces; tucked into a tiny little spot, there is only room for 3 tables, you can also get food to go and eat in the large atrium area. The menu is completely plant-based and vegan. We order at the counter and are rewarded quickly with our lunch. The samosa is an Indian pastry filled with potatoes, peas and spices, it’s very good. The Mo-Mos are Nepalese steamed dumplings filled with cabbage, carrot, onion and spices, served with a sesame ginger sauce, very tasty. The special of the day is an Indian vegetable curry with butternut squash and pumpkin, really delicious, spicy but not too hot. Now we’re ready to shop again.

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Across the way is d’vine Wines, remember to look down at the cork floor. In addition to selling tons of Michigan wines they also sell varieties from Spain, France, Italy, Australia, South America and New Zealand; they also feature wine from California, Oregon and Washington, in addition to wine accessories like glasses, corkscrews and the like. The Local Grocer is a collaboration of businesses selling locally grown produce and grocery items such as flour from Westwind Milling Co, popcorn kernels from Bur Oaks and roasted soybean nuggets from Rabble Roasters; we pick up a few things for home. Time for coffee…… I saw a sign at Hot Cups for an Eggnog Latte, they even use eggnog from Calder Dairy, that I can’t resist. Kris gets an iced coffee, we have a seat in the atrium and relax as we drink out beverages, now that hits the spot!

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Driving around downtown earlier we noticed a sign in front of the Masonic Temple for a holiday market by Flint Handmade, let’s go! We score a spot on the street right in front of the building, built in 1911 it’s a Flint landmark. Inside, the building is intriguing, the market is happening right here on the first floor in the auditorium, the shopping begins…. The room is simple, understated, what a cool place to hold an event like this; tables are arranged into wide aisles, successful shoppers are loaded down with bags, the holiday spirit is palpable. We meander past baskets filled with goofy felt characters, some have bright pink hair others sport multiple eyes, any child would love one. Hand-dyed scarves, bags, hats and gloves fill a table; they are lovely, Flint Handmade is selling t-shirts. There are several jewelry booths; wire-wrapped pendants hang on long chains, one artist sells nothing but rings. My favorite are the pieces made from old watch parts and scrap pieces; gears, hands and faces are reconfigured and made into stylish earrings and necklaces, they’re gorgeous in an industrial way. Some artists create unique, decorative objects from discarded items, they call it upcycling, I like it.

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Out in the lobby I ask if it’s possible to look around the building, we are given a tour and a chance to explore the place—- awesome. We ride the elevator up to the top floor (#3) and exit into rooms decorated in red, banquet tables are set up in one area, a wide white molding surrounds the stage, the Boardroom is stunning; heavy wood panels cover the walls, the fireplace is gorgeous, light fixtures throughout are simple stainless steel. The history of the local Masons is found in photographs, in cabinets filled with medals and cases loaded with memorabilia; it’s truly fascinating stuff. The next floor down decorated in blue, is home to the main auditorium. The room has almost a medieval feel to it; raked seating on each side gives everyone a clear view, free-standing columns flank the entryway, one is topped with an antique-looking globe, the architecture screams Masonic artistry. We encounter antique ornamental chairs, showcases with trophy’s and an elegant sword. Beautiful bookcases reside on the mezzanine level. 

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This building has housed lodges including Flint 23, Fellowship 490, Shriners, York Rite, Scottish Rite and other Masonic bodies that devote themselves to charitable works that benefit the Flint community. It is said the Free Masonary is likely the world’s oldest fraternity dating from medieval times. There’s some amazing history here! We’ve had a great day here in Flint, seems new things are popping up all the time; it’s good to see some of the old ones have stood the test of time.

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FLINT: The Other Motor City

9 Oct

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There were only a few days left to catch the “Muscle Car” exhibit at the Sloan Museum in Flint, so we headed north to Flint‘s Cultural center for a fun-filled afternoon. The museum itself celebrates Flint’s glory days; from lumber center and birthplace of GM to home of Buick and AC Spark Plug. At one time GM employed over 80,000 people in its Flint plants. This was the land of the famous sit-down strike of 1936-37 that was vital in forming the UAW. Sloan takes us through 20th century history in Flint and the region. The museum also hosts traveling exhibits in its temporary gallery, so it’s nice to stop in every now and then.

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The displays had been changed up since our last visit; Carol Churchill Pierson’s Doll collection filled the first few rooms. A portion of these amazing dolls were purchased by the owner on her travels; others were commissioned by artists and respected doll makers to create historical figures. Free standing display cases line the walls, scenes are of significant historical events in period settings, dolls depicting famous figures teach us about important events in history. I have to admit my favorite ones were the “First Ladies”, the attention to detail is exquisite; beautiful gowns, fancy hairdo’s and even fur coats, I’d bet these are the ones most little girls would love to play with! 

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We moved on to the next gallery, this one is a real attention-getter, especially if you are male. The Muscle Car display features ten vehicles that epitomize the Muscle Car era; a 1970 Hemi Superbird is stunning  in Lime Light, you can’t help but be drawn over to it with its bright color, nose cone, rear wing and of course, the Road Runner on the side. You may not think of silver as a typical muscle car color, but this 1964 Pontiac GTO  with a red interior is a subtle beauty. The horsepower wars had started much earlier, the 1957 Chrysler 300 C has a 392 Hemi that puts out 390 horsepower that’s powerful even by today’s standards. We checked out the 1969 Chevy Nova with a 396, a deep blue 1965 Olds Cutlass 442, a 1969 Hemi Charger R/T, blue with a white top and stripe and another car I’ve always liked, a 1970 AMX in Big Bad Green. Kris was definitely in his element here; he has always liked cars, this era being one of his favorites. When it comes to Muscle Cars anything goes; color is key, you could get almost any color on the exterior including pink and purple. The interiors were not left out; red, orange, green and blue could be had along with patterns like hounds-tooth and plaid, how cool! There were fake side-pipes, hood scoops, bold stripes and most importantly the size of your engine called out with decals or emblems. The space is complimented by the poster-size ads that hang on the walls; these are typical advertising tools used back in the day. The whole exhibit was very well done, we’re so glad we got a chance to see it.

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The 20th Century Gallery is home to “Flint and the American Dream”; over 600 artifacts including photographs, period clothing, signs  household furnishings and vintage cars take us through time and show us what life was like in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, it’s fabulous. We enjoy this section each and every time we come; eye-catching displays submerge us back in time, well-written descriptions explain what was going on at the time both in Flint and America. We learn about the birth of the UAW and Flint’s role as the Arsenal of Democracy; the 20th century was a time of big changes both good and bad. 

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Just a short walk about 1 block east from the Sloan Museum is the Buick Automotive Gallery, your paid admission gets you into both buildings. This facility houses  80 Flint-built automobiles with up to 30 on exhibit at any given time. The building is also used for restoration of vehicles and houses Sloan Museum’s Perry Archives. With that out of the way, let me say, this place is amazing. Many of the cars here are prototypes, you’ve never seen anything like ’em. Plenty of 50’s Ultra-cool, space age styling; one, the “Wildcat II” looks like Buick’s version of a Corvette, gorgeous! Another, the Centurian would look right at home in Buck Rogers garage; in addition to an all plexiglass roof, it even has a backup camera…These cars must be worth a fortune. Cars throughout Buick’s history are represented here including a Hellcat Tank Destroyer from WWII, along with plenty of automotive memorabilia. A replica of a 1940’s soda fountain sits near the back, have a seat and relax with a glass bottle of Coke, neat-o. Be sure and check it out!

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The Flint Crepe Company is located on S. Saginaw Street downtown; small cafe tables and chairs are set up outside, the window invites you to partake in both sweet and savory crepes. Inside tiny white lights hang from the ceiling, work by local artists decorate the walls, mmmmmmm, the coffee smells great! The menu is substantial, pick one from the list or create your own, they all look delicious. Since we were both extremely hungry we chose the Reuben and the Monte Cristo; one of the many things I like about crepes is they are quick to make. Before we knew it plates arrived; the Monte Cristo was loaded with ham, turkey, cheese and a touch  of jam for a little sweetness, delicious. The Reuben as you can imagine was filled with shaved corned beef and sauerkraut topped with a wonderful sauce, excellent. The crepe itself had a nice flavor and was nice and tender. Our plan was to have the savory and then the sweet, but we simply had no room left for the sweet, next time. They also serve Zingerman’s coffee and espresso, a perfect match for a crepe. If you visit on a Tuesday all tips are donated to a local charity, a different one each week; they definitely support the local community.

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Before getting back in the car we took a walk around downtown to get a look at some of the historic architecture; we were in and out of several buildings, Bank of America has an awesome space with a great lobby. Heading back, we passed a parking lot off of Saginaw and Kearsley that was playing host to the 6th Annual Bikes on the Bricks. Friday was their practice day and open to the public; we stood on the sidewalk, sort of stopped in our tracks by the sight of so many police on Harley Davidson motorcycles driving around orange cones. We spotted open bleacher seating near the track and had to get a closer look. Basically the event is a skills competition open to active uniformed police officers and their motorcycles, it’s quite a sight! Throughout the lot challenging skill courses are set up using bunches of those infamous orange traffic cones. As we sat and looked out it was difficult to figure out what the participant was supposed to do; once a rider took his bike through the course it all made sense. To our right was a spiral course, you know, like if you took a cinnamon roll and loosely unrolled it; they start in the center and work their way outward trying their best to leave all cones standing. The speed and agility of some of the riders was impressive, then there was the guy who not only knocked over several cones, but ran one over and dragged it across the track, that was funny! Police forces from all over attended, we saw officers from the Michigan State Police, Rochester, Southgate, Toronto, St. Paul, Detroit, Ottawa and Flint. As time went on they attracted quite a crowd, these guys have skills!

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