Holiday Shopping in Detroit!


David Naczycz

"Where do you shop?"

Nine times 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.

Of course 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.

What 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 shopping experiences.

There 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.

The 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.)

Stores David & Co. Shopped At

  • Café De Troit - 1260 Library - Coffee and gifts
  • Biegas Gallery/Artists Cooperative Gallery - 35 E. Grand River - Art and gifts
  • Essence of Harmonie Park - 202 E. Grand River - Accessories
  • Spectacles - 230 E. Grand River - Clothes and Accessories
  • International Imported Furniture - NE corner of Monroe and Beaubien
  • Made in Detroit - SW corner of Monroe and Beaubien - Clothes and Detroit memorabilia
  • Little Things - 633 Beaubien - Gifts, Books, Games
  • Spirit in the Park - 635 Beaubien - Clothes, Hand-made house wares, art, jewelry
  • Sunglasses Hut - Renaissance Center
  • Brooks Brothers - Renaissance Center - Men's Clothes
  • Pangborn Design - Renaissance Center - Glassware, Accessories, Gifts
  • Julian Scott - SE corner of Fort and Shelby - Men's and Women's Clothes and Accessories
  • Farmers Market - Eastern Market every Saturday - Fresh Produce, Flowers, Plants, and Holiday decorations
  • Rafal Spice Company - 2521 Russell St - Spices, coffee, sauces
  • Rocky Peanut Company - 2489 Russell St.
  • Eastern Market Antiques - 2530 Market
  • R.J. Hirt Jr. - 2468 Market - Gourmet food store, gifts
  • Cost Plus Wine Shoppe - 2448 Market - Wine and Beer
  • Pure Detroit - Fisher Building - Clothes, Detroit Memorabilia, Vinyl Records
  • Vera Jane - Fisher Building - Women's fashions
  • City Knits - Fisher Building - Knitting supplies and classes
  • Biz-R Collection - New Center One - Women's fashions
© 2002