DETROIT – Each time I visit Detroit, I have a new appreciation for the city that holds such a controversial reputation. There is a vast ladder of beliefs that many hold toward the city of Detroit; there are the individuals who live and breathe the city everyday who have hope, and promise the city is on the rise once again. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you find everyone else in the world who think quite differently. The city’s mantra, ‘Detroit vs. Everybody,’ can feel completely accurate.
Detroit’s revival is something that you have to see to believe. I grew up 25 minutes south of Detroit and had visited the city often throughout my childhood. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve explored the city more and more whether it be where my jobs were located, my friends were going clubbing, or my family was going out to eat over the years. Last summer was the first time I actually lived in Detroit – for real this time, not like the times I said I was from Detroit when really it was just easier to say that than trying to explain where my privileged hometown suburb was located.
For three months, each day that I lived downtown I grew to love the city more and more. I’ve seen much of the final products that are contributing to the revival, such as restaurants, the clearing of blight, and new construction. What I hadn’t seen prior to last week were the creators and thinkers responsible for the great things that have been happening in the city. Our trip to meet some of the up-and-coming businesses and entrepreneurs of Detroit proved that the city is once again on the rise and people are putting their whole hearts in the belief that this city has much promise and truly embody:
“speramus meliora; resurget cineribus.”
Owners: Kiki Louya and Rohani Foulkes
Mission: Serve as a non-traditional grocer by providing year-round farmers market and café that offers fresh, locally grown food to the Corktown neighborhood.
Why: Inner cities such as Detroit lack access to grocery stores and fresh food, as Kiki experienced from her own childhood in Detroit. Rohani, from Australia, has lived in various cities across the world and claims that this is the first city she’s lived where neighborhoods don’t have a local grocery store. The two joined forces to bring a Detroit neighborhood what it lacked.
Director: Amy Kaherl
Mission: Ponyride provides social capital to a diverse group of thinkers including entrepreneurs, business owners, and artists that are committed to working together to make our communities in Detroit sustainable.
Why: Ponyride saw the potential and promise of Detroit and wanted to encourage growth from the bottom up that will benefit not only the city but the people in it. By providing an affordable month-to-month space, Ponyride serves as a launch pad for local businesses to succeed.
Owner: Eric Yelsma
Mission: To provide a quality-made jeans, created from good practice and integrity.
Why: Yelsma left the corporate world to follow a passion for jeans. In his business he wanted to prove it’s possible to create a sustainable jean business in the U.S. and not have to create such under terrible working conditions overseas.
Who: Garlin Gilchrist II and Tamara Kamara, City of Detroit’s Department of Innovation and Technology
Mission: To create a better system of information distribution to citizens of Detroit and improve technology the same time the city is rebuilding itself.
Why: Saw that the city lacked greatly in the existing information technology operations sector and wanted to provide a better service to the city and its inhabitants.
What All Had in Common
- Took a risk
- Had a different career in previous lives
- Followed a passion
- Saw Detroit’s potential
- Felt the city’s optimism
- Wanted to be a part of something greater
- Believed in Detroit