901 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit; 313-961-0622; kingsbooksdetroit.com
While big box bookstores shutter by the numbers and mom-and-pop operations struggle to compete with Amazon and, well, the fact that most people these days seem to digest information in 140 characters or less, one iconic Detroit establishment is king — John K. King Used & Rare Books, that is.
If you're headed downtown on the freeway, it's hard to miss this literary giant. Since 1965, John K. King has become a labyrinthian treasure trove that houses a collection of 1 million books in more than 900 subjects. Upon entry, visitors are greeted with a map detailing the contents of each of the four stories. While you may go in with a list of must-find titles, the more seasoned bookworms will tell you that titles will find you.
More than the collection itself though, what John K. King offers is an experience. From the coveted old-book mustiness, and the charming handmade cardboard aisle descriptions and illustrations, to the walkie-talkie equipped staff who are ready to assist you in even the most impossible of searches, when you visit John K. King you are bound to leave with something special. —Jerilyn Jordan
2045 Dixie Hwy., Waterford Twp.; 248-338-3220; dixilandfleamkt.com
At the border of Waterford and Pontiac you’ll find two flea markets in one at Dixieland. In the warmer months you’ll find the parking lot full of vendors dressed in sunhats and overalls. They’re selling their wares out their truck beds and on tarps laid out on the ground — a mix of used chainsaws, old baseball cards, and other household items. But every so often in the mix you’ll find a gem — a vintage record, a stylish old necklace, or a vintage beer sign that will fit in your garage just right. This is the appeal of the outdoor lot — the dig for the hidden treasures and the conversations you’ll have with the vendors and fellow bargain hunters along the way. Move inside and you’re treated to some of the finer antiques (and air conditioning). Here you’ll find a jeweler, knife and sword shop, an erotic adult shop, a vintage Playboy magazine booth, and great vinyl record store, to name a few. The beauty of Dixieland is that you never know what you’ll find — go in with an open mind and a few dollars in your wallet (yes, cash) and you’ll never know what treasures you’ll walk away with. —Anthony Spak
1353 Division St., Detroit; 313-285-8887; divisionstreetboutique.com
When Brendan Blumentritt and J.P. O'Grady started slinging T-shirts out of their backpacks more than 10 years ago, they had no idea they were embarking on careers. But it was a single slogan that sealed their fate: Detroit Hustles Harder, a phrase that has grown so ubiquitous it is often mistaken as the name of their company, Aptemal, and has become somewhat of an unofficial slogan for the city.
Also placing Aptemal a cut above the rest are its collaborations with various local artists, which began about three years ago. Detroit sculptor, painter, and designer Chris Turner has designed bold, pop-art-style images to grace the company's T-shirts, and Detroit artist Ouizi's signature flowers are embroidered on the back of its satin jackets. Aptemal began to shift from putting the Detroit Hustles Harder slogan front and center on its gear, in a move that lets the clothes speak for themselves. On the brand's newer windbreakers, jackets, hoodies, and sweats, you'll find the DHH logo in smaller text, placed tastefully on a breast or kangaroo pocket. —Violet Ikonomova
1531 Union Lake Rd., Commerce Charter Twp.; 248-363-8882; dv8bodyart.com
Tiffany Diamond is especially proud of her specialty piercing studio in Commerce Township.
“I think a lot of people do it because they really love the jewelry,” she says. “I just loved the idea of having another spot where I could put a diamond or gem. The first time saw a tongue piercing, I was like, ‘You can put jewelry in your mouth?’ Until then I had only seen a gold tooth or a gem in the tooth.”
Another reason to put your trust in Diamond is that DV8 stocks only the finest jewelry. “My studio carries only high quality, American-made, nickel-free jewelry, with genuine gemstones and diamonds,” she says. “I’m one of a few stores in Michigan that does not carry any lower-end stuff.”
The sort of piercings Diamond offers wouldn’t work so well if the jewelry hadn’t evolved with the times. Though punks in the 1980s might have sported a safety pin in the ear, contemporary designs are softer and sexier, more evocative than provocative.
“Piercing jewelry has come a long way,” Diamond says. “They’ve come up with a lot of different things you can do. Thirty years ago, it was hard to find ornate piercing jewelry with diamonds and gold. These days, I sell gold and diamonds every day. It’s not just putting spiky stuff in people’s ears anymore.” —Michael Jackman
Multiple locations, valueworld.net
There is perhaps no thrift store so vast, so well-organized, and so well-priced, as a thrift store in the Value World chain. Each of Michigan's 14 Value Worlds stands at more than 10,000 square feet, housing home goods, accessories, and thousands of articles of clothing. And much like any reliable chain, Value World has streamlined the experience of rifling through stuff that once belonged to someone else by ensuring that all of its stores adhere to the same organizational pattern. Split down the middle by gender — men's stuff to the right, ladies' to the left — with racks broken down by article of clothing and color, each aisle at Value World presents a rainbow of opportunity. Looking to score a trendy silk top on the cheap? Ditch the trip to Urban Outfitters and hit the intimates section in the back corner for a wide selection, all for $5 or less. There are no dressing rooms, however, so be sure to wear some kind of tight-fitting coverall if you wish to try before you buy. —Violet Ikonomova