Best Of 2008

The Glory of Capitalism - Staff Picks

The Glory of Capitalism - Staff Picks

Bureau of Urban Living
460 W. Canfield, Detroit; 313-833-9336;
Husband and wife team Claire Nelson and Francis Grunow opened the cosmopolitan, hip shopping destination Bureau of Urban Living to fill a need for Detroit residents — a place to purchase home accessories and necessities. But what the duo also did was provide a spot where the ever-increasing numbers of environmentally conscious Detroiters could spend green on going green. Earth-friendly products include Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day cleaning supplies, Twist biodegradable sponges and Euro-clothes, eco-friendly bamboo bowls and kitchenware, and even organic cotton bibs and onsies by Coyuchi. And, sure, while even drug stores are jumping on the eco bandwagon, no other store in the city offers such a mix of fun and practical shopping — laundry detergent side-by-side with handcrafted goods from local artists, clever greeting cards and books by local authors. An added bonus is supporting a business owned by a duo that (besides being some of the most affable shopkeepers around) works hard to encourage growth and entrepreneurship in Detroit. Nelson co-founded Open City, a support network for aspiring and fledgling business owners in the city, and Grunow co-founded Detroit Synergy, an organization promoting the places and happenings in the D. So whether you're a seasoned Detroiter or an urbanite neophyte, shopping here can help you help the world while helping the city. Make sense?

Russell Bazaar
1600 Clay St., Detroit;
In a city that's consistently faulted by regional naysayers for its lack of shopping, any addition to commerce is hailed as an event on par with the Second Coming. And if that hyperbole is due, then it should be due triple-fold to the newly opened Russell Bazaar located in the Russell Industrial Complex. An ambitious $1.5 million project, the Bazaar is intended as a space where commerce exists as lively exchange in a diverse atmosphere, modeled after the street markets of Europe. Nearly 200 vendors offering a diverse grab-bag of goods and services have set up shop, selling everything from clothing and fine art to imported Asian crafts and kitchenware — even two salons and a food court! And while the bazaar offers the same advantages of the mall — one-stop shopping in a convenient location — it also gives frazzled holiday shoppers what no mall can: a chance to find a truly one-of-a-kind gift.

David Michael Audio
4300 Delemere Blvd., Suite 201, Royal Oak; 248-259-7017;
At David Michael Audio there's pure audio porn readymade for those whose attention spans and hearing allow for reach-out-and-touch-the-artist sensations, meditation-like listening and detailing the infinite nuances of recordings. Sure, high-end audio stuff ain't cheap, but what price aural pleasure, attendant goosebumps and getting the most from your valued music collections? DMA owner David Kasab is a kind and gracious young gent who'll help you piece together a cost-effective and mind-blowing system, whether you're into tubes or solid-state, analog or digital, or even if you've no idea what the hell you're looking at. His shop carries myriad of aesthetically and aurally pleasing products from such manufacturers as Rega, Quicksilver, Cayin, Creek and the jaw-dropping UK-made Harbeth loudspeakers (considered by many to be the world's finest) in an atmo that's unintimidating, somewhat geek-free and empty of high-end elitist 'tude.

Salvation Army
28982 Ford, Garden City; 734-261-7175
For less coin than a couple frothy pitchers at your local watering hole, you can cobble together a fine little disposable stereo ready for use wherever tunage is required. Shelved chaotically among ancient curling irons, coffee pots and clock radios you'll find antiquated stereo components (the kind pimped in Playboy ads circa 1974) and more recently made ghetto blasters with detachable speakers, CD spinner and a cassette apparatus that's standing by for that Wang Chung tape that's been lost in a box of middle-school memories in some dark recess of your basement. At this particular Salvation Army, you can exhume some cheap low-fi heaven, to be sure, but don't look for them fangled USB iPod inputs — this is all about the 8-track, Jack.

Record Time
27360 Gratiot Ave., Roseville; 586-775-1550
Yeah, it's a cliché all right — you know, the obsessive music geeks who're so passionate about music that arguments flare as long as at least two employees are within earshot of one another. Yeah, yeah, we all saw High Fidelity. Be that as it may, the young and affable Record Time recruits often engage in verbal sparring which, on a single visit, can run the gamut from dissecting the undersung merits of rapper Esham to the relevance of rock 'n' roll classicists the Black Crowes to the indie cred of Jenny Lewis to the death of techno and so on and so forth. But it all makes sense because that's how record stores are supposed to be. Record shops may appear to be a dying tradition, but they are truly vital for community, for musical unearthing, for tips and suggestions from an actual human being whose head is crammed with pop knowledge — just like those musically literate chicks and dudes manning the well-stocked floor at Record Time in Roseville.

Dearborn Music
22000 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-561-1000
The beautifully packaged Japanese mini-LP reissues of the Band? They're here. So are those hard-to-find and lovely Slade U.K. reissues on Salvo records. The imported deluxe edition of John Mayall Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton or that killer Nina Simone two-disc set from France? All here, as are the latest Mobile Fidelity releases that you won't find anywhere else in the greater Detroit area. In fact, you can't find any of this stuff in the greater Detroit area. So it's good to know that a local, family-run shop can still invest large amounts of money in thousands of hard-to-find imported titles, from jazz and blues to country, soul and rock 'n' roll. True believers in sonic joy who count on music that can be held in their hands should thank their lucky stars that they don't have to donate their hard-earned dough to community-dissolving giants such as Amazon and iTunes.

People's Records
3161 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-831-0864
Mister, you don't know how fookin' good you've got it here. You don't. See, this old dilapidated town is a crate-digger's paradise, and unlike bigger burgs like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco, you can discover tons of amazing vinyl, all had on the cheap. No shit. Among the great places to go digging in Detroit (Stormy Records, Record Collector, Street Corner Music, Car City Records, Record Graveyard, Melodies and Memories, Record Time, Dearborn Music, Encore Recordings, Solo Records and Detroit Threads), Brad Hales' People's Records is arguably the greatest. It's definitely the greatest place to go for shopping for 45s; or, perhaps, soul, funk, electro, disco, hip hop and soul-jazz vinyl. And like Melodies and Memories, you can bump into great Detroit or expat Detroit DJs, you can spot Northern-soul-loving Brits on holiday, you can hear Detroit legends chirping, "Yeah, I played on that record," and you can even bump knuckles with Motor City legend Hermon Weems, who sometimes paints signs and 45 boxes here. Neat!

Melodies and Memories
23013 Gratiot Ave., Eastpointe; 586-774-8480
With its cavernous and ant farm-like layout, its mind-boggling number titles in every genre and format, including 8-track (all of which number in the hundreds of thousands) and three separate stereo systems going at once but never interfering with each other, it's no wonder you can get lost in this lovely, musty place. If there's a title you can't find, you might not be looking hard enough — and sometimes the hunt can last hours and hours. M&M is Detroit's answer to Cali's mighty Amoeba Records, only set in a veritable pop-culture museum crammed with keepsakes. The shop is, in other words, scary-amazing. (Starfucker alert: Eminem still shops at M&M!)

Melodies and Memories
23103 Gratiot Ave., Eastpointe; 586-774-8480
Don't have time to drive to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? (And why would you want to, anyway?) Check out the great rock 'n' roll and pop cultural artifacts on display at this groovy mom-and-pop record shop, one of the last of a dying breed. No, you won't find anything like, say, Eric Clapton's guitar on display (you can see that sorta stuff at the generic Hard Rock Café anyhow) ... but you will find autographed photos and albums, classic posters and other remnants from rock's golden eras, all the property of the store's owners, pop culture mavens all. None of the treasures is for sale — there are plenty of CD's and vinyl for that — just on display for the entertainment of the customers ... although maybe the more persuasive out there can make a strong case to the owners for purchase. Who knows?

Royal Oak Music
512 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-548-4894;
Well, if you're not enrolled at one of the two new (but totally unassociated) schools of rock in the metro Detroit area — and especially if your ambition goes far beyond rock, into areas including jazz and classical or show music — this is probably your place. Royal Oak Music features instruction — from novice to advanced — in brass and woodwind, piano and other keyboards, symphonic strings, drums and guitar. They boast many great teachers, including jazzbos as well as rockers (several of the Howling Diablos teach here). Legendary guitar virtuoso Jack Pitt, clarinetist Andy Mormile (from the old Condon's NYC scene) and some of the best show and pit musicians in the area teach here. It's also a regular hangout for jazzers, both local and visiting, featuring as it does a cool historic ambience, including photos of jazz greats and a sheet music collection that runs from the turn of the century to the present. The jazz playing continually from the sound system ain't too shabby either!

Green Brain Comics
13210 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-582-9444;
Metro Times cartoons and commentaries to the contrary, there are actually no superheroes working in Detroit government (while a space alien from the planet Vandella, Martha Reeves is not super-powered, so she doesn't count). There is at least one avid comic book fan on the city payroll, though — Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr., a guy so self-confessedly geeky that he quoted Terminator 2 in his inaugural address (the "no fate but what we make" line, not, thankfully, "come with me if you want to live"). This reporter has spotted Hizzonner at Green Brain on a few occasions, and owner Dan Merritt says Cockrel is a regular customer who favors sci-fi and action-adventure titles. After years of the hip-hop mayor, is Detroit ready for the fanboy mayor? Will we soon hear rumors of the police rushing to the Manoogian Mansion to break up Moon Mist-fueled arguments over who'd win in a fight, Swamp Thing or the Hulk? Will the city motto change from "Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus" to "Excelsior!"? Will the mayor replace his bodyguards with Imperial stormtroopers? And if so ... well, how cool would that be??

Detroit Comics
23333 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-COMX;
First of all, Detroit Comics looks nothing like the porn video emporiums that a lot of lesser comics shops resemble and more like an honest-to-God boutique that you wouldn't mind, you know, shopping in or being seen leaving. That and its decent selection of periodicals and graphic novels from across the genre spectrum would be enough to recommend it. What makes the place unique, though, is all the lovingly hand-crafted comics-related merch they have on sale. Where else can you get superhero-themed wallets made of duct tape or crimefighter action figures meticulously built out of construction paper? And check out the stools and foot lockers decoupaged with funnybook pages, and the bottle-cap magnets, clocks, necklaces, mouse pads, bibs and onesies all featuring your fave mutants and sidekicks. Aside from just being cool, this stuff gives the shop an air of happy, fannish enthusiasm. Add a selection of goodies from the Bellyache Candy Shop, an old cigarette machine modded to dispense small objets d'art, and a smattering of Dunnys and prints and you might not have to hit the craft fairs for holiday gifts this year.

Rent a Parade Company costume
Call the Parade Company at 313-432-7835 or visit
No doubt you've watched on TV or from streetside as the 3,000 costumed characters of Detroit's annual Thanskgiving parade march by. We doubt you knew — well, it was news to us — that you can rent those costumes during the rest of the year from the Parade Company. Adult sizes only. From $35 to $65. Most popular rentals: pirates, bugs, Uncle Sam, Santa Claus, elves and the Easter Bunny.

Continental Bike Shop
24436 John R Rd., Hazel Park; 248-545-1225;
Up and running since 1937, this Hazel Park institution has as many as 11 people on staff to serve cyclists during the busy summer season. Their repair department can do everything from build custom bikes to refurbish vintage bikes, as well as basic repairs like tune-ups, flats and brake and derailleur adjustments. It's all here, whether you're shopping for a $300 get-it-and-go asphalt-ready Giant Cypress or Sedona, or want a fancy cargo bike like a $950 Kona Ute or a $1,200 frameset for a Surly Big Dummy. But even if you're not spending thousands of dollars for tandem cycles, high-end racing frames or custom jobs, the friendly staff will serve you just the same if you're looking for a new tube, without any intimidating professional hauteur. Sales associate Liz Szewczyk puts it this way: "We all love what we do. Anybody starts out not knowing anything about it. We did; we just try to hide that. The more we can teach people about cycling, the more likely they are to ride and come back." Online bonus: Their website has a handy calculator to show just how much cash you'll save by commuting to and from work by bicycle.

Midwest Camera Repair
318 Oak St., Wyandotte; 734-285-2220
Opines MT shutterbug Doug Coombe: Cameras thought to be goners — the one that got slammed by the slam dancer at the Afghan Whigs show, the one that got doused with a mixed drink at a Super Bowl party, etc. — have been brought back to life here. When your point-and-shoot seems shot, you're probably right to toss it. Anything else is probably worth the time for a look-see. One thing that makes Midwest Camera Repair great is the staff does most repairs on site instead of merely sending cameras off to the manufacturer. So if you do have a problem with a repair, you don't have to send it back to the factory and wait all over again. (Best advice for avoiding Midwest Camera Repair: Don't drop any camera equipment from more than 5 feet. Gravity usually wins.)

Highland Park (If You're Brave)
We have friends who watch gas prices like eagles. And here's what we're told: With rare exception, the only gas pumps in town cheaper than CostCo (members only, of course), and with never a line (for the reasons above) are found along Woodward Avenue in Highland Park. They're often as much as 25 cents cheaper than other stations within two miles. But, let's put it bluntly: Watch your back as well as the pump.

Restaurant Supply Shops
We probably don't need to tell you that the best deals on outfitting your kitchen are at thrift shops and garage sales. But absent the luck and diligence required to meet your needs at the former within any particular timeframe, your best deals will be at restaurant supply companies. The "open to the public" signs are, in our experience, sincere — no one will laugh at you if you're stocking a kitchenette that would easily fit in the restaurant freezers they sell. Depending on where you go, you may not find a fryer holding less than a gallon of oil, but, hey, when it comes to fry pans, woks, salad bowls, double-boilers, salt shakers, chairs, etc., you can use the same stuff as the commercial folks, and you'll be amazed at the prices. Two of our favorites are People's Restaurant Equipment Company, 2209 Gratiot Ave., Detroit; 313-567-1944; and Advanced Restaurant Equipment, 13201 Prospect Rd., Dearborn; 313-945-5600;

Western Market
447 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-546-7288
While just about every small market offers beer and wine, most of them simply line the shelves with the same corporate swill you find in the big chains. It's remarkable what Western Market has been able to do with their limited space. From organic to obscure and in-between, the lone wine aisle is stocked with everyday drinking wine, mostly below $15, with a few real gems on the higher end. Square footage for beer is even less, yet Michigan microbreweries and other artisanal producers are soundly represented. There's usually even someone there to help you decide.

Papa Joe's Gourmet Market and Catering
6900 N. Rochester Rd., Rochester Hills; 248-853-6263; 34244 Woodward Ave., Birmingham; 248-723-9400;
Calling Papa Joe's Gourmetrion a fruit market is tantamount to calling a Ferrari dealer a car lot. But with 500 fruit and vegetable items, the title does ring true. But that's not all. Shoppers will find a breadsmith, a patisserie and an extensive "Gourmet to Go" department. Prime meats and fresh seafood are among the best anywhere. Numerous imported and domestic cheeses are available, as are meats and sausages in the deli department. Flowers and fine chocolates help to make home entertaining complete. The wine department offers choices to complement any meal. This is a chowhound's paradise.

Pink Elephant Cupcakes
Order by phone at 313-499-8353 or online at
If you're like us (meaning if you have an insatiable sweet tooth), then the thought of cupcakes delivered straight to your doorstep seems, well, genius. Add to it the fact that these are no ordinary cupcakes, but scrumptious and decadent gourmet treats, and that's a feat damn near worthy of sainthood. This Grosse Pointe biz, which will turn a year old in November, offers curbside service throughout the metro area (for a fee outside of the Pointes), of 13 unusually flavored cupcakes, including tiramisu, PB&J, the cheekily labeled "stud muffin" (peanut butter and chocolate) and their signature pink elephant, a vanilla cake topped with hot-pink frosting. Along with delivery, they also offer individually boxed and gift-wrapped cupcakes and a kid-friendly DIY cupcake package. But the service that takes the cake is the year of cupcake delivery — for a mere $135, you can have a half dozen cupcakes delivered to someone (or yourself) once a month for an entire year. Screw flowers and gift baskets — cupcakes are the mail-order sign of affection, half-assed birthday gift and plea for forgiveness of the future.

Au Bon Pain
Renaissance Center, Tower 200, Ste. 2102, Detroit; 313-393-2271 and 800 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-226-7516;
You've probably passed one of these if you've been in the center of downtown Detroit; maybe even eaten at one. Au Bon Pain, originally based in Boston, is known for its bread and pastries, though they can be somewhat pricey. The good news, however, is that the downtown stores have a special every day near closing, when customers can buy two of any baked good still on display for the price of one. The Renaissance Center deal starts after 3:30 p.m.; the Campus Martius store after 5. One of MT's editors got so addicted to having two of their chocolate chip cookies every day that his doctor just recently chastised him for his latest cholesterol count.

Whole Foods Markets
2880 W. Maple Rd., Troy; 248-649-9600; three other locations;
Let's face it: It's hard to find a decent salad bar — even a salad bar, period — in the metro Detroit area. That's why Whole Food Markets is a godsend for the salad aficionados among us. Each one — there are two more in the Detroit area, another in Ann Arbor — uniformly has an excellent bar with tons of great selections (in addition to the nearby soup and hot food bars) featuring the healthy and organic food available at this chain based in Austin, Texas. A bit pricey, yes — but well worth it for the salad connoisseurs among is, especially if you're sick of canned and frozen vegetables on a regular basis (especially during these upcoming winter months).

Moss & Associates Furniture Distributors
1804 Miller Rd., Dearborn; 313-841-0460;
While IKEA has become the go-to place for budget-conscious furniture shoppers, the family-owned Moss & Associates has offered a less-overwhelming (not to mention less homogenous) and still affordable alternative since 1960 — long before the first Ikea touched down in metro Detroit. While a large part of their business caters to commercial shoppers — from retail furniture stores to motels — residential dwellers shouldn't be deterred. The in-stock selection may seem minimal, but a large number of suppliers are just a mouse-click away — at wholesale prices. And the staff is more than happy to accommodate, having been known to slash prices for shoppers that spot must-have items or to strike deals with apartment-dwelling bargain hunters.

23700 Woodward Ave., Pleasant Ridge; 248-414-7440
Maybe calling it a resale shop doesn't really do it justice, but no label seems to quite fit this Pleasant Ridge store, which has been outfitting metro Detroiters for more than a year. Unlike a typical resale shop where piles of moth-eaten sweaters outnumber sartorial gems, the fashions at Regeneration are actually, well, fashionable. On the store's well-organized racks, contemporary name brands hang comfortably beside '70s print dresses, and while much of the clothing is not new, it's basically as good as. Owners Nicole Freaund and Melissa Williams buy clothing with a discriminating eye, offering an inventory that ranges from the latest trends at a discounted price to standout vintage threads that may surpass the $100 mark.

DAV Thrift Store
8050 N. Middlebelt Rd., Westland; 734-513-6020
If the thought of buying tight-fitting '80s T-shirts for $1 and cheesy knicknacks for the bargain price of 50 cents gets your pulse racing, than the opening of the first DAV thrift store in Michigan should be enough to bring on a massive coronary. The stores, which are located throughout the country, are owned by the Disabled American Veterans and the proceeds go to programs that help disabled veterans with transportation, and to VA hospitals. And like any good thrift store, there's not much that can't be found at the DAV — car seats, formal wear, kitchen appliances, golf clubs, books ... you get the idea.

City Bird
At various metro Detroit locations and online at
The hype surrounding these crafty siblings has been hard to miss — they've been lionized in a handful of local publications and even got a brief mention in The New York Times as an example of how the young, smart and creative can thrive in Detroit, despite the hordes of twentysomethings that throw off their caps and gowns only to head to the ostensibly greener pastures of cities like Chicago and New York. But Emily and Andy Linn don't just live in Detroit; they've made a business promoting the city they love. Since 2005, they've transformed a simple map of Detroit into a badge of local pride by sticking it on their handcrafted goodies, which include everything from soaps and clocks to plates and jewelry. Their handmade goods can even be purchased at shops in New York and Chicago where surviving while young and hip is not such a big deal, but where Detroit-refugees still want to show some absentee pride

Standard Oil building
Intersection of Beaconsfield and Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Park
Its off-white brick, tiled roof and general art-deconess just beg for this former service station to be something. But instead it sits, at a prime intersection in Grosse Pointe Park with a few cars squatting in the parking lot and a few more signs of neglect every day. It would make a great restaurant — the garage doors would allow indoor seating to spill outdoors in nice weather — or a combination sit-down, carry-out joint, something the neighborhood is lacking. Its location, location, location on one of the main arteries in and out of the Pointes and proximity to a dense neighborhood, thriving business district and schools promise a customer base. Someone, please, put something here

Bikram Yoga
Ann Arbor, Farmington Hills, Grosse Pointe Park, Plymouth;
Twenty-nine postures, two breathing exercises and about a gallon of your sweat dripping — no, pouring — off you in the 110-degree room might not sound like how you'd like to spend 90 minutes. But give it a try and see how you feel when it's over. Oddly refreshed, if dehydrated. Stretched and strengthened. Balanced. For those who think yoga is an easy peaceful time, the Bikram workouts — prescribed sequences of postures that start standing and end on the floor — will cure you of that misconception. And while the hot room is criticized as a marketing gimmick by some, it does provide a nice sanctuary as days get colder, if you can't think of another reason to get there.

Dynamic Rehabilitation
1800 W. Big Beaver Rd., Ste 150, Troy; 1-888-DYNAMIC, ext. 114;
You've probably seen their ads on local TV in which they boast that all physical therapy isn't the same. Sounds like a sales pitch ... but one of the problems with a lot of therapy is the notion of "one size fits all." Dynamic specializes in backs and necks only, and they design a unique regiment exclusive to each individual patient. Several medical doctors are on staff, right there in the office at all times, in addition to the physical therapists, licensed personal trainers and PT assistants. It's not the easiest of programs; they work you fairly hard. The key here is their unique Med-X machine, which strengthens and isolates the important muscles of the lower back. Dynamic has an 80 percent success ratio and while they may not "cure" you (we know of at least one totally "cured" patient, though), they will almost certainly improve your range of motion. Follow-ups for six months after completing the program are free. Headquarters is in Troy but they have four other locations in the metro area. The staff is nice and accommodating, even to those who are cranky (which most people in chronic pain can be). Only fly in the ointment is the lack of Friday and weekend hours ... but if you're in pain, you'll make it work!

Burn Rubber Sneakers Boutique
202 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-543-3000
Don't question the sneaker dedication of rapper Roland Coit (stage name Octane) and professional tap dancer Rick Williams: The pair of friends once drove 11 hours to New York to visit the flagship store of Japanese clothing company A Bathing Ape, and promptly drove back once they finished shopping. Coit would later wear the pink-and-gray kicks he purchased there with his wedding tuxedo. These days, Coit and Williams are the ones peddling multihued, hard-to-find shoes and streetwear out of Burn Rubber, the Royal Oak sneaker boutique they took over in February 2007. Along with selling items like the Nike (h)Air Questo 1 — the limited-edition shoe designed by the Roots drummer ?uestlove — Coit and Williams keep the store entrenched in the hip-hop community that supports it. They regularly host listening parties for upcoming album releases, and the likes of rapper-actor Mos Def (Monster's Ball, 16 Blocks) and Detroit staples like Black Milk, Slum Village and Kanye West signee Big Sean have been spotted at the store as well. This summer, the store released Burn Rubber: The Mixtape, a disc that featured exclusive music from Coit and other top Detroit hip-hop acts. Talk about the best of both worlds.

3401 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-657-0728
This Midtown shop is a veritable haven for retrophiles who believe that vintage (almost) always equals better and that no home is complete without an owl-shaped candle, circa 1970. But it's not all kitschy knicknacks — although those abound in all their tacky, nostalgic glory — but also vintage furniture, lamps, wall-hangings and even clothing, all priced so that even the most cash-strapped shoppers can deck out their pad in something other than mass-marketed chintz. And while the store moved from cramped quarters in the basement of Eastern Market Antiques to its current roomier (by comparison, at least) confines, every nook and cranny still overflows in a treasure-trove of kitschy, hard-to-find goods organized in no way whatsoever. You may have to spend hours browsing, but when you come up with that Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox just like the one you owned when you were a kid — hell, it might even be the same one — it will be well worth the dig.