Where to Shop in Detroit
From boutiques featuring artisanal wares, to one of the most historic open-air markets in the world, to a haven for bibliophiles, Detroit offers a wide range of shopping destinations for every person on your gift list. Stroll through miles of books at John K. King Used & Rare Books or look for that elusive vinyl reissue at Records for the People. You won’t be disappointed in the Motor City.
441 W Canfield St, Detroit, MI 48201, USA
The word “shinola” was popularized during World War II when the phrase, “You don’t know shit from Shinola” became a commonplace colloquialism. Back then, it referred to a Texas brand of shoe polish, which was government issue for all soldiers. In 2011, the name was bought, the product created, and space found. Since then the demand has gone through the metaphorical roof. Watches assembled entirely in the Argonaut building on Milwaukee, bicycles crafted by hand in the back of the showroom on Canfield, and leather goods stitched in Missouri are part of the Shinola brand of Made in America products. They’re part of a company that employs 100 people in Detroit. They’re also part of a movement to restore quality manufacturing to the forefront of American consciousness. Shinola is building something and people are coming. The first collection of Shinola watches featured at Barney’s in NYC sold out almost immediately and the company is having trouble keeping up with demand online. Stop in the TriBeCa New York City showroom, the Detroit showroom on Canfield, or one of the many boutiques around the country that sell the Shinola bicycle and see for yourself what it’s all about! There’s even an option to pick up your watch from the Detroit factory on Milwaukee. I took the tour myself and I’d highly recommend it. There’s a positive spirit in the air that’s highly contagious!
4240 Cass Ave, Detroit, MI 48201, USA
The light-filled retail space that is Nora on Cass Avenue is a haven of good design, unusual gifts, and all manner of tempting delights you didn’t know you needed. The site claims Nora is a collection of “Scandinavian housewares, Japanese pottery, Detroit jewelry, and more.” While all those are good, it’s the “more” that really tempted me to stay for a long time perusing and wondering and dreaming. I walked out with just a postcard, showing a photograph of Andy Warhol in front of the city’s Renaissance Building. Significant to me because Warhol is one of my favorite artists and Detroit has now left a mark on me that was wholly unexpected. Though I easily could have purchased a nightstand carafe set, a gemstone and metal necklace, or even a set of striped dishes that would never have fit in my carry-on suitcase! Nora, like Hugh next door, should be very high on your shopping list for Detroit. Stay tuned to their websites, as each store sometimes opens the door that connects them to open at the same time for special events. Now that would be a true “Can’t Miss!”
901 W Lafayette Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226, USA
If John K. King Used & Rare Bookstore looks more like an enormous factory than a sweet independent bookstore, consider this: The building, which was once an old glove factory, stuffs more than a million secondhand and rare books onto each of its four floors. Each of these floors is open for browsing Monday through Saturday, but inquisitive readers must schedule an appointment to view the Rare Book and Art Book Rooms. With such a colossal selection, it’s rare that readers leave without an extraordinary find.
Eastern Market, Detroit, MI, USA
The eat-fresh, know-your-farmer trend that’s sweeping the United States hasn’t skipped over Detroit. But lest you think Eastern Market is just like the pokey farmer’s markets cropping up all over the country, know this: Eastern Market is an entire neighborhood with a goal no less grand than becoming the food district for Detroit, and doing it in a way that retains the neighborhood’s intrinsic funkiness. There’s produce aplenty at the Saturday and Tuesday farmer’s markets, but if you miss one of those days, you’re in luck: The neighborhood is stocked with butchers, bakers, fishmongers, and everything else you’d need to prepare for your next city picnic.
1345 Division St #102, Detroit, MI 48207, USA
The Eastern Market neighborhood is expanding to become a haven for the arts as much as for those seeking fresh, locally sourced food. Signal Return is a product of that expansion. Open every Saturday (the main market day) as well as Thursdays and Fridays, it is a shop, gallery, and practical workspace that welcomes local letterpress artists. It’s an ideal place to browse if you’re still looking for that Detroit souvenir that can’t be bought anywhere else in the United States. While letterpress is popular, these designs are not like any you’ve seen. Many are truly one-of-a-kind and they range from posters and greeting cards to t-shirts and bags.
4240 Cass Avenue
Detroit has style. It has always had style. From cars to music to art, the city has influenced good design and curated good sense since long before it received its current reputation that would suggest otherwise. Walking into Hugh is a reminder of just how great Detroit can be for those with good taste. Owner Joe Posch opened his current boutique after a short break from the retail scene in Michigan, and his latest endeavor is a refreshing blend of midcentury modern antique furnishings, specialty men’s grooming products, bar accessories, housewares, and miscellany such as framed vinyl albums. Much of the floor set the day I visited seemed to channel the best of Mad Men‘s Don Draper—a very good thing. Yet I suspect it will change often, as the pieces Joe chooses won’t stay long. They’re simply too nice to sit around without being snatched up. Hugh should be very high on your shopping list when you visit Detroit; whether you’re a man or a woman, there’s no doubt you will find something you can’t live without.