Tag Archives: Vintage

HAMTRAMCK: Hidden Secrets

22 Oct

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Hamtramck, at just 2.1 square miles, urban life flourishes here. Perhaps it’s the mix of cultures, customs, religions and ethnicities; immigrants from all over the world have settled here for centuries. Maybe it’s the result of the blue-collar work ethic Detroit is so famous for or the authentic everydayness of life in this enclave. Whatever it is, let’s face it, Hamtramck is cool! Today is the 2014 Neighborhood Arts Festival, it’s not like any other ‘festival’ we’ve ever been to. Activities are taking place from one end of the city to another in storefronts, lofts, galleries and homes; from music to dancing, painting to printing, there’s something for everyone.

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Being an afternoon event, we arrive on Jos Campau just in time for lunch; the longstanding Campau Tower has just re-opened.  Serving burgers, hot dogs and milk shakes, it’s sure to be a hit with the locals. The diner is teeny-tiny, we grab the last empty stools, leaving standing room only, the menu hangs above the grill, one of those old-fashioned numbers with the white letters that press into a black felt background, there’s a lot to read. Besides a good scrubbing and some freshening up the restaurant looks the same as it always has. Now, white cafe lights criss-cross the ceiling, a flat screen TV mounted on the wall shows an old episode of Twin Peaks, stained glass lamps dangle by chain from the ceiling. People stop in placing carry-out orders, it’s a busy day at the Tower. Our food finally appears, the Brotherly Love hot dog, which looks amazing, brisket Bao Bun and fries. Unlike the service, the food was really good; the hot dog is split then covered with caramelized onions, peppers and cheese sauce…yum. The apricot brisket bun, tiny and tasty. The menu selection runs from the expected to the adventurous.  Now let’s check out the festival!

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Atomic Cafe Art Gallery is right across the street; the space is long and narrow, black paint covers the walls in the first gallery, a ping-pong table takes residence near the back, a couple is playing as we look at the art. Paintings are bright and colorful, some cartoon-like, near the back, toilet seats are covered in colorful Marvel Comics and shellacked to a high shine, another grouping depicts Detroit scenes: Scarab Club, Belle Isle fountain, the infamous Kowalski hot dog sign. Through an open doorway we enter the next gallery; Kris and I both walk towards the same piece, 12 boards are covered in a highly textured coating, each piece is a different, brilliant color, it’s hard not to touch. A number of artists are represented, the variety of styles and pieces is welcome, cool, old items have been upcycled into lights, there’s a little bit of everything. A few steps away we drop in at Lo & Behold, the shop has an ever-changing inventory of neat things. Kris spots a gorgeous 1940’s microphone, I follow his lead to have a look, it’s a beauty. The shop is fully stocked with vintage 45’s and record albums today, they also offer cassettes of artists who perform here. I make a note reminding us to come for the live music this winter.

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Tekla Vintage is one of those funky vintage stores that offers everything from home goods to handbags, it’s owned by Hamtramck Mayor Majewski. The store is brimming with wild fashions from the 60’s and 70’s, there’s no shortage of polyester here; one look at a pair of platform shoes makes me laugh out loud, literally….   Glass and mirrored shelves hold lovely Polish items such as dolls, plates and vases. Styrofoam heads wear fashionable hats, guys, you can find a great bow tie here. Some of the fixtures and display cases look original to the store, I’m crazy about the glass front doors with the lucite handles. Continuing on Jos Campau there’s an open studio up on the second floor of a building, Carl Wilson and Mariuca Rofick have their work on display. Light pours in from large front windows, art covers the walls, we love getting a peek into these great spaces. At the 9338 Campau Gallery Abigail Alwin plays her cello, visitors are gathered around in the large open room. She plays her instrument and works a series of pedals which allow her to record, then play back a piece of music, looping it so she can add to it, creating a piece with many different parts.

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 Over on Caniff, Public Pool has an exhibit titled “The Last Record Shop”, we have been looking forward to seeing it. Fashioned to look like a record shop, quotes from musicians are painted on the wall, album covers rest on shelves and tables. You must take your time to look at the cover art, satirical and clever, they are great fun. Next we make our way into the neighborhood. A large brick building on Klinger is home to artists studios and Silva Perum Bookstore. When we arrive, adults are guiding children in a number of activities, one man teaches how to ride a skateboard, in the yard kids are drawing and making Halloween masks. Inside we traverse the halls, popping into individual studios, so much amazing stuff goes on here. Time is fleeting and there are still so many things to see; we make our way to Sobieski St.

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A simple, white, 2-story house sits non-nonchalantly, a closer look reveals a series of paintings surrounding the front door. We are welcomed inside by the homeowner who tells us this is her hobby house, a place where she can create, display her art and entertain. She shares the space with another artist, the house is cozy, quaint and a great way to share their talents with the public. Down a ways, we enter the second story home/studio of artist Emily Wood. The hall going up is lined with her framed art, her studio is jammed packed with her work in every medium from paint to pottery to sewing. Kris and I are both in awe of her talent, her painted streetscapes are so life-like. The front room is cluttered with bottles of paint, brushes and works-in-progress, a panel of material sits on a table, the print is her very own drawings of houses in Hamtramck, sweet! 

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We make our way to a quirky little neighborhood in the North end of Hamtramck, a graffiti covered van sits curbside outside the studio of Will C Bevan, a Memphis native who spent the last year in New York before moving to Detroit. His work on display is a series of abstract patterns, very appealing to the eye. It blows our mind to think of what an artistic hub Hamtramck has become, who would’a thought? Filter Detroit is an artist residence owned by a woman who resides in Germany…  For 4 months a year, an artist lives rent free in the back portion of the house, in exchange they must make/leave some sort of contribution, print a book, write a poem, do a painting; in the front room of the house is such a piece, one of the traveling artists created a mural depicting Detroit. An empty lot has become a tree farm of sorts as saplings sprout from the center of old tires.The house next door is called Play House, and for good reason; the house has been completely gutted of interior dividing walls and floors and has become a performance space. We enter from the backyard and find ourselves in a lovely hardwood floor room, a Classical Bengali music concert has just ended, the folks who own the house own several properties on the street, they have big plans for all of them!

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Walking to the end of Moran we see Treasure House, an old 1920’s home, somewhat of a living collage; steps are multi-colored, art pieces, random objects and found items cover the surface, lean against the porch and take up space on the lawn. Across the street an ordinary house has become a monster house; eyes, fangs and large hands  make one wonder what’s inside. The structure is colorful, and oh so interesting with painted globs of slime dripping down the front. Even the fences are tied into the overall artistic statement of the neighborhood, painted up in bright hues, they are aglow in the late afternoon sun. Written words remind us to Keep Singing, Keep Learning, Keep Loving, loose windows and building materials are strewn about. Another house has this awesome life-like painting of a man, it looks as though he is working on repairing the house right this minute, windows are boarded up, random patterns are drawn on the wood. Power House is another public art project, the goal here is to have the house completely functional off the grid. It currently creates its own electricity from wind and solar energy. With so much positive going on in and around Detroit it always makes me wonder why it’s such a secret. Thankfully, events such as the Hamtramck Neighborhood Arts Festival allow us to find the amazing behind the perception.

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DETROIT: Eastern Market….Sunday

30 Jun

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Sunday’s were made for relaxing, taking it slow, easy. It’s a day to sleep in, enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee, go shopping  just for fun. If that sounds good to you, we have just the place for you to spend a Sunday: Eastern Market. That’s right, since the beginning of June, sheds 2 and 3 are home to the new Sunday Street Market; let’s have a look. 

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Parking is a cinch compared to your average Saturday; we are in front of Germack Coffee, perfect, we grab a cup to go, cross Russell Street and begin to browse the market. Shed 2 is open-air; a cute vintage trailer with pink and green stripes is parked just inside the entrance, a swimsuit hangs from the open door, scarves hang from a line on the side. A table in front holds old hats, suitcases and other funky items, the set-up is great, like an outdoor vintage store. Across the way an artisan has set up shop, Two Stix 5 Stones sells handmade knits and accessories; her shawls are gorgeous. We take our time strolling past various booths, there’s a nice mix of antiques, handmades and vintage; a mannequin wears a cool old STP jacket, photographs of iconic Detroit buildings are transferred onto pieces of wood, a large jewelry case holds rows of antique rings. Rehash By Amy has taken ordinary light fixtures, given them a whimsical paint job and converted them to solar power, what a great idea! They would look fabulous hanging above a porch or deck. Across the way we spot a grouping of antique signs; Coke, beer and old street signs are all for sale along with a parking meter, you never know what you may find.

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There are a few different T-shirt makers, another booth has a wide selection of items from automotive pieces to the old aprons the newsboys used to wear. On my right I notice an old delivery truck that has been converted into a boutique; step up into the make-shift store, clothing hangs from a rack on the right, accessories are on the left, very clever! Making our way to Shed 3 we pass The Detroit Pop Shop, flavors include chocolate peanut butter banana, blueberry lemonade and cucumber lime basil;  by the number of people eating them, I’d say they’re pretty popular. Shed 3 is completely enclosed, a large Shinola clock hangs from a post, food trucks are serving up lunch, there’s even a gelato truck. A few vendors are selling fresh fruits and veggies, another is selling flowers; dahlias are eye-catching in peachy-pink, scarlet and lavender, zinnias are blooming in bold red, yellow and orange. Live music is being played in the distance, sounds like a xylophone, buskers perform throughout the market. Looks like the Sunday Street Market is a hit!

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The Eastern Market area is also known for its vast array of graffiti, it’s fun to drive up and down the streets looking for new pieces. Right on Russell St a huge mural covers the front and side of Wholesale Produce Distributors; done in shades of turquoise and purple on a tan background, a slew of characters from a guy in a hat, to a shark, are in action. Take the time to really absorb it, the detail and expressions are fabulous! I still favor the grazing cow on the side of Eastern Market Cold Storage, it’s like he’s watching over everybody while he eats—-we are his entertainment. There’s another cool one over on Division, the Greenbriar Foods and Corridor Sausage building; it’s a great scene with a cool cast of characters. Throughout the area you can find wild colors, groovy settings and hip creatures on anything from a building to a dumpster or a roll-up door. We did stop to check the progress on the expansion of the Dequindre Cut, currently running from the riverfront to Gratiot, when the next phase is completed it will continue all the way to Mack; look for it to be completed sometime after Labor Day. 

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It’s such a lovely day we are having lunch on the patio at Mercury Burger Bar on Michigan Ave. The space is really charming; picnic tables are right at home on the brick patio, gardens surround the fence line, nearest to us a goat made from a recycled Quaker State sign appears to be eating the flowers. A graffiti mural covers one wall, strings of lights criss-cross over head, I bet it’s a sweet place to hang out in the evening. While we wait for our food to arrive I notice many Boston Coolers and shakes being delivered to surrounding tables, mmmmm, they look good…… Before long our meal is set in front of us; the French Onion Burger is wonderful, the meat is tender and juicy, topped with crisp bacon, carmelized onion, Gruyère cheese and onion straws, makes you hungry doesn’t it? The Chicago Dog is done up right; mustard, relish, tomatoes, sport peppers, onions, pickle and celery salt packed into a poppy-seed bun. No meal would be complete without an order of Mercury’s hand-cut fries, the sea salt and black pepper are our favorite; the perfect amount of seasoning on incredibly fresh, just from the deep fryer fries…..yum!

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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.