Illustration: Alice Ralph
Illustration: Alice Ralph

In the late 1990s, Detroit’s Cass Corridor was considered one of the poorest, most crime-ridden areas in the USA, with 300 people sleeping in tents in one patch of the neighbourhood.

Today, the Cass Corridor has been renamed ‘Midtown,’ and its transformation is held up city-wide as a post-auto industry template for how small business owners can jump start even the most troubled neighbourhoods. Last year alone, 74 new businesses opened or signed leases in Midtown, making it a destination for visitors, but a concern for long-term residents, worried rent increases might force them out.

As Midtown continues to develop, we look at the anchors and innovators who have shaped the neighbourhood.

1. Ann Perrault & Jackie Victor, Avalon International Breads

Avalon International Breads opened in 1997 in a space that had nothing but one light bulb, a pipe, some plywood doors and no windows. It soon became (as it remains to this day), a warm, rustic café/bakery, where friends and strangers sit together to enjoy one of their frothy coffees or loaves of organic bread, along with an array of sweets, soups and sandwiches.

2. Ms Pryor, The Dell Pryor Gallery

West Willis Street painting by artist Bryant Tillman. View it at Dell Pryor Gallery. #detroitartscene #dellpryorgallery

A photo posted by DELL PRYOR GALLERY (@dellpryorgallery) on

The Dell Pryor Gallery – opened in the 1990s by Ms Pryor, who is now in her eighties – has always sold the work of local artists. Pushed out of two other neighbourhoods by developers, she now shares her space with Tulani Rose, the name of her daughter, Sharon’s, gift shop. The store was once a jazz club, which Ms Pryor frequented in her youth.

3. Goodwells Natural Foods Market 

Goodwells Natural Foods Market is the neighbourhood ‘go to’ spot for vegetarians and those in search of healthy food. Famous for their ‘Pocket Sandwich’ – a soy patty with spinach leaves, alfalfa sprouts, tomato and cucumber, and an original tofu sauce, all wrapped tightly into a whole wheat pita – it goes well with one of their fresh soups.

4. Tom Kartsotis, Shinola

Leather goods, bikes, and watches ? #MadeInDetroit #KatieAndJamieInDetroit

A photo posted by Jamie Michelle (@_jamiechelle_) on


Shinola specialises in watches, bicycles, and leather goods. Created by Fossil-founder Tom Kartsotis and opened in 2013, Shinola immediately made the neighbourhood a destination for both tourists and suburbanites. They now have stores all over the world, but this remains their flagship store, where ‘Made in Detroit’ watches retail for between $475 and $995 and the company’s bicycles are in the $1,950 and $2,950 range.

5. Motor City Brewing Works

Courtesy of Motor City Brewery
Courtesy of Motor City Brewery

Motor City Brewing Works is Detroit’s oldest operating brewery. Opened in 1994, it produces hand-crafted, superior quality beer in equipment salvaged from the city. Serving pale ales, nut brown ales, and even pumpkin ale, there is something for every beer drinker…including stouts.

6. Andy and Emily Linn, City Bird

So many great #cards in stock right now! #sendmoremail #snailmail A photo posted by citybirddetroit (@citybirddetroit) on

Brother and sister Andy and Emily Linn are the team behind gift store City Bird. Featuring the works of local artists, their shelves are stocked with Great Lakes-themed houseware items, jewellery, stationery, t-shirts, and much more.

7. The Majestic Theatre Center

Photography: Andrew Jameson
Photography: Andrew Jameson

The Majestic Theater Center boasts live music acts, a bar, and even a bowling alley. Dating back to 1915, the building is on the National register of historic places and was once the largest movie theatre in the world, with 1,651 seats.

8. Source Booksellers 

? I adore this nook @sourcebooksellers. #nook #readingnook

A photo posted by @shantefagans on

Source Booksellers is a nearly three-decade old independent bookstore specialising in non-fiction. Its founder, retired Detroit Public School teacher Janet Webster, handpicks books on every topic, from history to health. The space also hosts regular free yoga, tai chi, qui gong and (sometimes) belly dancing classes.

9. The Inn on Ferry Street

The Inn on Ferry Street is more of a historic complex than an inn. Consisting of four restored Victorian homes and two period carriage houses, it is easily the most charming place to stay in the entire city. Thankfully, it also has all the comforts of a modern hotel.

10. Felicia Patrick, Flo Boutique

Period. A photo posted by Flo Boutique Detroit (@floboutique) on

Fashion designer Felicia Patrick opened the doors to Flo Boutique in Midtown 15 years ago. Her clothing is eclectic and original and cannot be found anywhere else, thanks to her keen buyer’s eye, which includes supporting local artists. You’ll find rails filled with willowy blouses, fitted jackets, leather goods, jewellery, hats, shoes and bags, and soon, pieces from her own line.

11. Pilar Baron-Hidalgo, Naomi Khalil & Elias Khalil, La Feria

#mejillones #mussels #tapas #laferiadetroit

A photo posted by @hseuper on

For your Spanish Tapas fix, head to La Feria, a restaurant that opened a few years ago after winning startup business contest, Hatch Detroit, and scoring $50 K in seed money. On summer days the restaurant is packed with patrons drinking sangria, and during the winter, they can cozy up with a bottle of Rioja and a plate of fried eggplant, with honey and seared shrimp in garlic.

12. Joe Posch, Hugh

Cass trip A photo posted by Nat Estrada (@natnest) on

Walking into Hugh is like stepping onto the set of Madmen. The store sells ‘classic bachelor-pad style’ products such as vintage martini shakers, mid-century furniture, ashtrays and glassware. They, too, got started thanks to Hatch Detroit.

13. Kevin Borsay & Shawn Santo, Pure Detroit

Pure Detroit, around since 1998, was one of the first retail stores to celebrate Detroit during a time when few others were doing so – by creating and selling products made in the city. Located in the Fisher Building in Midtown, they also have two other historic locations in the city.

14. Willy’s Detroit

Willys Detroit is the sleek sister store of Shinola. It opened its doors last year, selling everything from apothecary lotions and potions to designer apparel and smelly candles.

15. Greg & Lisa Miracle, The Great Lakes Coffee Roasters

Founded by Greg and Lisa Miracle in 1994, The Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company now boasts a café in Midtown. A popular spot for socialising and working, it serves organic coffee for those intensely conducting meetings (it’s been roasting since 1999) and local beers and imported wine for those who want to party.

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