Our tour guide waves a plastic fiber optic light wand over her head. "I try to hold this thing up, but most people say it just makes me five-foot-four," she says.
But what Linda Yellin lacks in height, she makes up for in decibels. "Yes, my last name really is Yellin," she points out.
Yellin is addressing a group of some 30 tourists gathered for one of her Feet on the Street walking tours of Detroit, which she invited us to tag along. (The theme of the tour is "Come Hungry, Leave Happy, Learn Healthier," and we can't turn down an invitation for free food.)
It's hard to imagine how an institution like Eastern Market could somehow not be on some metro Detroiters' radars. But these things happen. Many suburbanites who have stayed away from Detroit for years are changing their attitudes, which seemed to be confirmed by the demographics of the day's group, which seemed to skew older and suburban.
Yellin says she's been running the tours for the past 13 years, and also offers music and architecture-themed tours as well. She says in the warmer months she makes multiple tours a month.
"We have quite a bit of private groups that we bring in, whether its conferences from out of town or school groups or seniors," she says. "This year, we've probably had more than 50 tours so far." She says she recently guided a group of international tourists, referred to her by the Motown Museum.
Tickets are $29.00, which Yellin uses to arrange an edible tour of the Market, structured around sampling the various vendors who agree to participate. "Sometimes you wind up with weird combinations, like pickles and chocolate," Yellin says. Our tour on this day started with salsa and chips from Mrs. Pruitt’s Cha Cha Gourmet Salsa, lava cakes from Chez Chloe
, and Russian honey cakes from DeVries & Co. When we arrive at Gabriel Import Co., a sprawling spread of feta, tabbouleh, hummus, and more is waiting for us. And Supino Pizzeria opened early and provided entire pies to sample.
The tour wasn't only limited to food. Yellin took the group to Inner State Gallery to see the latest exhibit. And she says sometimes they stop by Eminem collaborator Luis Resto's studio on DeVries' third floor.
Upcoming Eastern Market tours are planned for Saturday, Aug. 15; Tuesday, Aug.18; and Tuesday, Aug. 25 from 9:30 a.m. to noon. See the full schedule here