Detroit West Village Developments Build Towards Opening

DETROIT—A series of retail and restaurant developments planned for the Detroit neighborhood of West Village was announced with much fanfare last fall. Two restaurants, Detroit Vegan Soul and Craftwork, a tea room called Tarot & Tea and a cafe, the Red Hook, were expected to open by spring.

Located in a cluster of neighborhoods on the city’s east side known as the Villages of Detroit, the new businesses were recruited through a joint effort between the West Village Manor and Parkstone apartment buildings, the Villages Community Development Corporation and Revolve Detroit, a program sponsored by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. The developments were billed as an effort to bring vibrancy to a neighborhood lacking in walkable retail and dining options.

Although many months have now passed, the bustle of new commerce is still noticeably absent along the stretch of Agnes Street between Parker and Van Dyke where the businesses are supposed to set up shop.

Does this mean the projects have fallen by the wayside? Not according to Brian Hurttienne, Executive Director of the Villages CDC.

“All tenants are still in line to open. Work is still happening and all loans have been approved,” he told Mode Shift in an email, adding that he could not go into further detail.

Detroit Vegan Soul may have had a few hitches, but the restaurant seems to be on track for a fall opening. The business, which started out as a catering service and placed as a finalist in Comerica’s 2012 Hatch contest, will offer customers animal-free alternatives to traditional soul food dishes.

Kirsten Ussery, who co-owns the business with Erica Boyd, said they’ve been working with their building’s property owner to get the new space up to code.

“We have to get through electrical, mechanical, fire department, and health department inspections,” she told Mode Shift in an email earlier this month. “Based on what is left for us to complete, we're estimating an early September opening,”

The Red Hook, an expansion of a Ferndale cafe with the same name, is also aiming for a grand opening this fall, perhaps as early as September. Sandi Heaselgrave, who owns the cafe with her husband Andrew, told Mode Shift she’s still negotiating a lease for the new space. Visitors to the new location should expect many of the same amenities found at the original Ferndale cafe.

“We'll serve freshly baked pastries from Pinwheel Bakery and Stumptown coffee (espresso, pour-overs and cold pressed),” she said in an email. “Our beans are roasted weekly in Red Hook, Brooklyn, by Stumptown Coffee Roasters.”

Progress is being made at Craftwork as well. Crain’s Detroit reports that a construction crew is now renovating the site of the future eatery after a series of unspecified hold-ups. Hugh Yaro, Craftwork’s owner and an investor with Ronin Sushi in Royal Oak and the Commonwealth restaurant in Birmingham, has also made an important staffing change.

Michael Dalton, 37, a veteran of many Detroit area kitchens, including Cameron’s Steakhouse, Ronin Sushi, Roast and the Chen Chow Brasserie, has replaced Michael Geiger as the establishment’s new executive chef. He’s now developing a short, simple menu with a variety of local ingredients for the restaurant. Geiger is staying with the project as a consultant.

If all goes to plan, Craftwork will open its doors this November, according to Crain’s.

Nefertiti Harris, the proprietor of Tarot & Tea, is also close to opening, and she can barely contain her enthusiasm about the Agnes Street developments. “It’s so exciting,” she told Mode Shift. “It’s a beautiful neighborhood. The trees are beautiful. ... It really lends itself to these unique kind of storefront businesses.”

Harris, who also owns the Textures natural hair salon in Midtown, says visitors to her tea room will be able to receive spiritual consultations like tarot card readings, intuitive readings, palmistry and tea leaf readings. Decorated with a vintage New Orleans look, the space will also feature a retail section offering a variety of Michigan-made items, including candles, oils and hand-painted silks.

Harris just signed a lease for her 550-square-foot storefront space and hopes to complete interior work on it in the next month or two to allow for an August opening. Infrastructure work that needed to be done at her building set her timeline back a little, but she’s not in the least bit troubled by the delays.

“Anytime you start a new project like this, you’re going to run into some glitches,” she said. “That’s just how it is. It’s par for the course. It’s nothing that alarms me at all."

 

What are you most looking forward to opening on the West Village strip? Tell us in the comments below.

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