"Where do you shop?"
out of ten, this is the first question I am asked when I tell people
that I live in Detroit. They wonder how I go grocery shopping without
a Meijer or a Kroger to be seen. God forbid that I want to shop a gourmet
market like Whole Foods. But after moving into the city, I've found
that I have no problem finding groceries. Apart from the splendid supermarket
in my neighborhood (University Foods on Warren at the Lodge), I also
can swing by Eastern Market to get fresh meat, dairy, and produce superior
to and cheaper than those at Whole Foods.
those are just groceries and even I doubted that someone could accomplish
all of their Holiday Shopping in the city. However, I am a believer
in this city and with the opening of some new stores downtown, I decided
to put the city to the test. I and several of my friends from Detroit
Synergy spent two Saturdays exploring the retail options the city has
to offer. Some of those that went along probably shared some doubts
with you the reader. They wondered whether it was possible. We've heard
so much in the papers and on TV about the lack of retail in the city.
If you believe those reports, then surely it would be impossible to
accomplish our goal. Well don't believe everything you see on the news.
we found was that not only did Detroit have plenty of places to buy
Holiday gifts, but that it had an incredible selection of items that
could not be easily found anywhere else in Southeast Michigan. Items
that we purchased ranged from artwork and crafts to clothes and accessories.
With most of these purchases, the items were unique to the store itself
and many of the designers were actually there in the store. If anyone
runs into Tommy Hilfiger at Marshall Fields, let me know. Some of the
stores were small mom and pop operations such as Little Things (633
Beaubien) and Cost Plus Wine Shoppe (2448 Market). Others were local
designers, Made in Detroit (Greektown) and Pangborn Design (Ren Cen
Wintergarden), that have brought their products to regional and sometimes
national prominence. The new Julian Scott department store at the corner
of Fort and Shelby simply took our breath away in a setting reminiscent
of Fifth Avenue department stores. I was told that they even carried
men's sock garters which, according to one of our shoppers, are the
very height of men's fashion. Vera Jane (Fisher Building) was a stylish
boutique that wouldn't seem out of place in either Lincoln Park or SoHo.
The ten or so people that accompanied me on these trips were stunned
at the breadth of shopping options and every single one of them bought
at least one gift. At least a few of us covered almost our entire gift
list for the holiday and, all in all, everyone was thrilled with their
are still some obstacles to shopping, particularly for those who prefer
to shop within the controlled environment of a mall. Most of these stores
are scattered throughout the downtown and adjacent neighborhoods. There
are concentrations in Eastern Market, the Fisher Building, and the Ren
Cen, but even those locations have only a handful of stores. Parking
options range from free on-street parking to $10 deck parking, and if
you try to drive between all the different stores, then parking could
start to add up. Walking between locations can result in a lot of time
outside and it requires you to bundle up at this time of year. The construction
at the Renaissance Center has rendered that building almost inescapable.
However, these few inconveniences were far outweighed by numerous positives.
We received excellent personal attention at all of the establishments.
Julian Scott clerks offered us refreshments as we shopped! None of the
people at Banana Republic ever did that. We all felt that being able
to see the sights of the city as we shopped definitely beat shouldering
our way through the aisles at Wal-Mart. Also, I just read an article
that said the city would be offering two hours of free parking at meters
between Dec. 17th and Dec. 31st, which would solve some of the parking
problems. Finally, our strolling took us into a few of the great bars
and restaurants that abound in the city. I'm sure there is nothing like
the Detroiter Bar (649 Beaubien) in Somerset or Lakeside.
good news is that the shopping is only going to get better in the city.
More than half the stores that we visited opened within the last year.
As GM completes their renovation of the Ren Cen, they will continue
to add retailers and with Taubman Centers managing the property, it
promises to be Detroit's first mall. Julian Scott, which is already
wonderful, is planning to triple its space. New lofts along Woodward
will all have retail on their ground floors and more stores continue
to be added to the new Compuware Building. So I would expect that December
2004 will present an even better shopping scene and based on our experience
this year, we would all highly recommend you make the trip down.
(David Naczycz is a resident of Detroit with his own
consulting practice in organization and community change. He is
also a co-founder of Detroit Synergy, a volunteer organization that
seeks to mobilize people in the metro area to get involved with the
city of Detroit, breakdown negative stereotypes, and contribute their
ideas and vision to the future ofDetroit.)