Detroit Threads thrives on street cred

Retail detail

Sep 16, 2015 at 1:00 am

Mikel Smith, purportedly "Detroit's oldest raver," is the face of Detroit Threads — metro Detroit's go-to record store for electronic music, particularly Detroit techno — as well as a vintage clothing store, a Detroit-themed apparel store, and an all around resale shop where you can find anything from vintage magazines to zines, tapes, CDs and DVDs. Since 1998, Detroit Threads has occupied a storefront on the now largely defunct strip of retail shops on Joseph Campau Street in Hamtramck, where neighboring shops included the legendary electronic nightclub Motor Lounge, as well as a cafe, a small restaurant, and a few quirky boutiques and resale shops. For one reason or another, the business have closed their doors over the years, but Detroit Threads seems largely unaffected by the fickleness of small business economics, opening its doors six days a week to a consistent flow of clientele.

Nothing is too preciously displayed (read: there is merchandise piled everywhere) behind the old-style storefront's two large walk-in window displays, as Smith operates exclusively on street-cred and word of mouth. In the early days, Detroit Threads was the kind of place that you agonized over whether you should tell your friends about or not — a secret destination among local electro-heads on the hunt for rare records where you could see the likes of Theo Parrish and Omar S. bin digging or selling off drool-worthy chunks of their personal collections. Now, and for several years running, Detroit Threads is widely known among Detroiters and international visitors alike as a must-hit landmark during Movement festival weekend and Record Store Day, where Smith often hosts special guest DJ's (including members of Underground Resistance and Detroit Techno Militia), features special local releases, and fills the shelves with thousands of techno-oriented titles, including new and used LPs, EPs, and 10-, 12-, and 7-inches.

Upon walking into the store, the throbbing beat of house music hits your ears before you have a chance to take in the wood paneled walls, industrial carpeting, fluorescent lighting, and large center counter space. The outer walls and surrounding spaces are lined with Detroit and Hamtramck graphic tees ranging in sizes from infant to adult, emblazoned with phrases like "Motor City," "Detroit Techno," and "Paczki Power," as well as logo tees from Underground Resistance, WABX, Planet E, and other local names. Alternating with the new apparel is a vibrant selection of true vintage threads, including 1950s knits and Hawaiian shirts, '60's mod sets, splashy '70's polyester patterns, studded punk cuffs, and grungy Pendleton plaids. All the gear is priced around $15, even the impressive, albeit dusty selection of hats and shoes. Stacks of vintage magazines dot the space in small stacks and include old issues of Life, Jet, and Melody Maker. All around you, merchandise fills display cases, hanging fixtures, and T-bars, in a lay-out reminiscent of an early '80s pawn shop, but instead of Rolex watches and flat-screen TV's there's Drexciya's The Quest and releases from Cryovac and Docile. The highlight and raison d'etre really is the vast record selection, divided into used and new, and genres and sub-genre's that include ghetto tech, booty, jazz, blues, disco, funk, hop-hop, gospel, new wave, industrial, downtempo, dubstep, electro, experimental, label specific sections like FXHE and Sound Signature, and of course, Detroit music.