For many, Detroit conjures up thoughts of urban decay—city streets filled with graffiti-covered walls, abandoned buildings and potholes. However, for a city that has suffered many financial (filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in July 2013, for one) and crime issues, it has done an impressive job of picking itself up. Now, it stands tall, stronger and more beautiful than ever. And it’s not just because of the cars.
From the architecture to the food, prepare to be in awe of a city making great strides in reclaiming itself. Detroit locals saw the potential Detroit had and took advantage of it to share their positivity and passion for the city they love. Don’t believe us? Check out any of these independent shops and art projects proudly lining the streets for a true taste of Detroit culture.
1. Bon Bon Bon
Bon Bon Bon is located in Hamtramck (a historically Polish enclave within Detroit’s borders) and opened its doors in April 2015. The Bon Bon Bon philosophy is, “good people deserve good chocolate,” and we couldn’t agree more. Owner Alexandra Clark spent her life traveling the world and originally started her career studying the economics of chocolate, so she must know what she’s doing. Flavors come in Gin & Juice, Bacon & Eggs, S’mores, Coffee & Donuts, and more. Just recently, Alexandra Clark opened up her second Bon Bon Bon location in downtown Detroit and is currently operating a pop-up in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
2. The Heidelberg Project
While it would be hard to dismiss the signs of neglect in some areas of Detroit, street artist Tyree Guyton took a creative approach to the decay he saw around him and created something beautiful. The installation, titled The Heidelberg Project (picture above), is an open-air art project on Detroit’s East Side. Using everyday discarded objects, Guyton started the project in 1986 to breath life back into his impoverished, crime-ridden neighborhood of McDougall-Hall. Across the different houses and yards that line two city blocks, sculptures incorporating decorated cars, homes with bright polka dots painted on the outside, and other found objects create symbolism and intrigue. In 2014, a string of arson attacks destroyed several of The Hidelberg Project pieces and in response, a crowd-sourced fundraising drive raised $54,000 to purchase and install a comprehensive solar-powered surveillance system.
Shinola proves Detroit is more than just a working class automotive city. The on-trend company manufactures and sells handcrafted bicycles, watches, and other lifestyle accessories. They create timeless designs while providing quality items. For Shinola’s COO, Heath Carr, it was important for them to manufacture, design and create their product entirely in the United States. When deciding on the location, Detroit was always on the top of their list. They have two retail locations in Detroit—one of which also has a cafe.
4. City Bird
This unique and quirky gift shop opened its doors in 2009 in a 600-square foot space. Tucked away in Midtown Detroit, the shop offers a well-curated selection of Detroit- and Great Lakes-themed housewares, jewelry, clothing, greeting cards and postcards. City Bird, which is now in a much bigger space, is favorite indie boutique amongst locals and a must-see for visitors.
Amanda (Ama) Scriver is a full-time community builder and official ‘head bee in charge’ of the food, fat and feminism blog, Fat Girl Food Squad.