Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Winter of Detroit, Part I

You may recall the 2009 Summer of Detroit, and our escapades on Belle Isle, the Grosse Pointes, Hamtramck, and the fantastic finale that was the Tour de Troit. This was a great time, and provided the impetus to see some lovely parts of the city. Looking back at these posts, however, it is clear that while we did spend some quality time in the D, we ended up hitting a lot of the immediately adjacent suburbs, a city within a city, and things on the fringe of town. Enter the Design*Sponge Detroit Design Guide, a lovely list of lots of nice restaurants, shops, and museums, conveniently divided by neighborhood with a linked Google Map showing most of the attractions. I had already read about many of the restaurants and museums mentioned in the guide, but lots of the shops were new to me. In addition, my Detroit geography has never been particularly good (or any local geography, for that matter), so I was always lacking a real sense of how to “make a day of it” if I wanted to go into the city. I declare this the beginning of the 2010/2011 Winter of Detroit. Last weekend was the first excursion.

We started with an area that is already pretty familiar, the Midtown/Cultural Center area around Wayne State University and College for Creative Studies campuses, and tried out some new spots.

Leopold’s Books was a wild success, with me finding some surprise holiday gifts and Alicia picking up a new book about revitalizing Detroit. They stock a small but thought-provoking range of books, magazines, some gift items (like books of postcards), and an impressive collection of graphic novels published locally as well as from outside the city.

Located in the same building, The Park Shelton, we found Goods. They feature local handmade items, and also print t-shirts, bags, and baby garments with custom designs. I particularly enjoyed browsing the array of hilarious and snarky holiday (and other occasion) cards.

Somehow this photo of The Park Shelton looks more like a pencil or pastel drawing than a photograph, but I promise I didn't do anything to change it. Same with the photo at the top...

Although we had planned to walk from the shops (which were next door to the DIA) to lunch at the Motor City Brew Works, we were only able to find a meter that was good for an hour, so we drove. That was really the only disappointment of the day… We shared a great pizza, Alicia had a beer, and I, in my still cold-medicated state, had some locally made ginger ale that was tasty.

Right outside the restaurant, we stepped into the Bureau of Urban Living, another small shop filled with housewares and gifts. They had an amazing print of a map of Detroit with all of the neighborhood names written in that I’ve seen before, and coveted no less this time. Maybe next time I’ll finally pick one up…

Just down the street, City Bird was like stepping into a real world Etsy. In addition to their in-house designs, they stock a wide variety of things (and I mean really wide, from dish towels to leather jewelry) made by other local crafters and artists. I found a few (secret until December!) items I couldn’t live without, and will definitely make it a regular stop on my gift-buying excursions.

While we were shopping, I overheard discussion of Open City Detroit, an organization with which (at the very least) both the Bureau of Urban Living and City Bird seem to be involved. It looks like a useful resource for small business owners in Detroit, and I wanted to make sure to link to it in case anyone is inspired to pick up and move…

It was a great afternoon, and I can honestly say I’m looking forward to winter. Now I just have to get work done instead of perusing the guide to pick the next neighborhood to explore.

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