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Monday, October 1, 2012

News Businesses Make a Difference

Here is a great article from The Detroit News.  It proves what a difference a few determined business people can make in a community!  Who is ready to step up their game in Rogers City?

Detroit — The Avenue of Fashion, a two-mile stretch of Livernois Avenue once known for its high-end clothing boutiques, shoe stores and hair salons, is poised to become a destination — again.
Once a shopping mecca, the strip between Six Mile and Eight Mile fell into disrepair in the 1970s when suburban malls became popular and national retailers abandoned the area.
But within the past several months, an influx of young entrepreneurs and veteran business owners have begun to fill the empty storefronts and clean up the streetscape.
A fashion boutique opened in June. A True Value Hardware is under construction. And nearly a half-dozen shops and restaurants are planned.
The city of Detroit, store owners and the nearby University of Detroit Mercy and Marygrove College are trying to turn the forgotten strip into a popular retail and dining destination.
The Detroit Works Project, a nonprofit that provides money for community projects , along with numerous grants, have repaired storefronts, resurfaced five miles of streets, repaired more than 2,000 street lamps and made improvements to more than 87 homes in surrounding neighborhoods.
"It's like we're sitting in the middle of California during the gold rush," said Joe Lanier, co-owner of Terry's Place hair salon and wig shop, a Livernois staple since 1971. "We have a gold mine nobody knows about."
Marygrove College and UDM have collaborated to create art galleries in the windows of abandoned storefronts, filling the empty space with local pictures and paintings.
Noni's Sherwood Grill, a long-standing restaurant halfway between Seven Mile and Eight Mile, was demolished and rebuilt. A new dress shop, coffee place, shoe store and ice cream shop should open this year.
"The Avenue of Fashion is morphing," said Rufus Bartell, owner of Simply Casual clothing store, which opened six years ago. "It's a more eclectic mix than in the past. We want to develop the same momentum Midtown and Corktown have. We have all the elements."

Avenue again draws celebs

During its prime — the 1940s, '50s and '60s — the Avenue of Fashion was an elegant commercial stretch that served the surrounding upscale neighborhoods, said Greg Sumner, a history professor at the University of Detroit Mercy.
The avenue drew doctors, lawyers, professors, auto executives and other high-class businessmen, Sumner said, and was "the cream of a number of other vibrant commercial pockets in the sprawling city."
But gone are the days of B. Siegel, Winkelman's, Marty Furest Shoes and others that attracted the likes of Marvin Gaye, countless celebrities and area athletes.
"My mom used to bring me here," said Don Studvent, who opened the 1917 American Bistro, the strip's first upscale eatery, a few blocks south of Noni's three years ago. "There were so many stores and boutiques."
Back in the day, Red Wing legends Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio would frequent Harry Solomon Men's Store and get a free hat each time they scored a hat trick.
Owner Harry Solomon left Livernois to focus on his Bloomfield Hills location in 1974.
Today, 1917 American Bistro draws a new wave of celebrities, such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, comedian Steve Harvey and TV's Judge Greg Mathis. And local hair salons count Detroit Lions players and their wives as clients.
"There's still a lot of life that's going on over here," Studvent said.
"We need to get back our sense of pride. There's no better place for a business to open up and thrive."
The same problems that affected all of Detroit — namely, white flight — hit Livernois, too, Sumner said.
The opening of the first suburban shopping mall in the U.S., Northland Center, in 1954 and the '67 riots only accelerated the strip's abandonment, he said.
"Its decline represents the 'boom and bust' roller coaster of Detroit in general," he said.

In the Corktown mold

Ty Haygood, the 31-year-old co-owner of Flagship Boutique, which opened in June, wants to help revive that storied retail past.
"You wouldn't be re-creating the wheel, just putting air in the tires," he said.
But today's Livernois is far different than the area that housed name-brand retailers. It's re-emerging in the mold of a reinvented Corktown with unique, individually owned stores.
"We're getting those shops that you can't find anywhere else in the world," Lanier said.
Shop owners admit foot traffic isn't where it needs to be. That could be helped by even better lighting, more parking and a stronger police presence, Lanier said.
"We definitely have a reputation of crime," he said. "That mindset changes the whole perspective. As we continue to build new businesses, that will help people realize it's safe."
Once that happens, 1917's Studvent said, the avenue can become the place he remembers from his childhood.
"It's still here," he said. "It got a little dull but a lot of people are shining it up and bringing back its luster and gloss."
(313) 222-2401

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120929/BIZ/209290355#ixzz283bl974U

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