Greenacres neighborhood thwarts Asian Corned Beef egg roll threat — classism?

Oct 16, 2018 at 11:12 am
click to enlarge The former Stanley's Other Place on the south side of Eight Mile Road just West of Woodward. - Tom Perkins
Tom Perkins
The former Stanley's Other Place on the south side of Eight Mile Road just West of Woodward.

The city of Detroit Zoning Board of Appeals has denied Asian Corned Beef a zoning variance it needs to open a store in the former Stanley's Other Place building near Eight Mile and Woodward.

That means owner Hasan White won't open the carryout corned beef egg roll restaurant and commissary for his other five locations that he planned for the site.

The Oct. 9 decision came after the city heard intense opposition to the ACB from the Greenacres-Woodward Civic Association and residents in Greenacres, which is one of the city's wealthier neighborhoods.

They argued that an ACB would be a blight on their neighborhood and increase traffic, but multiple other residents previously told Metro Times they feel the effort to thwart ACB is a case of classism. Those neighbors — who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of upsetting the neighborhood association — said they do not believe the fifth horseman of the apocalypse is a corned beef egg roll, and they welcome a nearby dining option.

click to enlarge A leaflet distributed throughout Greenacres ahead of the Oct. 9 zoning hearing.
A leaflet distributed throughout Greenacres ahead of the Oct. 9 zoning hearing.
Some suspect one of the main issues Greenacres residents have is ACB's customers — the chain's other stores serve what are largely lower income, African American areas. Indeed, several Greenacres residents who spoke at the Oct. 9 ZBA meeting raised fears of Asian Corned Beef's customer base.

"It's not what Asian Corned Beef does, it's what it brings, and what it brings — that's going to cause people to flee," Greenacres resident and real estate agent Brian McGlaun told the ZBA. He claimed an ACB would force residents to sell their homes and leave the neighborhood.

When pressed by a ZBA board member to clarify how a restaurant would bring down property values and possibly the neighborhood, McGlaun stated that "this specific restaurant would create an atmosphere where people will want to leave."

A zoning change would be "like living next door to a landfill ... or an incinerator," McGlaun added, and he claimed the shop's customers would loiter and increase "criminal activity."

Other Greenacres residents raised fears of "debris, litter, and likely rodents" and possibly "trash everywhere."

Greenacres-Woodward Civic Association President Mariah Dickerson also noted that ACB and its customers are a big part of the problem.

"We've seen the type of business — the Asian Corned Beef commercials, fighting at the one on Gratiot ... it's the type of establishment that we are opposed to," she said. "That type of restaurant — I mean, they've been in the news, it's the type of business .... "

click to enlarge Egg rolls from Asian Corned Beef. - Tom Perkins
Tom Perkins
Egg rolls from Asian Corned Beef.

ACB made headlines last year for a late-night brawl caught on video, and some on social media have questioned its commercial featuring busty ladies lusting over the size of the egg rolls.

The neighborhood association bristled at the suggestion of classism in a previous Metro Times article. After refusing to speak on the record for that story, it sent us an unsigned letter defending its position and attacking Metro Times. Metro Times once again offered board members a chance to speak on the record for this story, but did not hear back.

Regardless of what happens, ACB is a well-loved concept. White's mom, Kim White, invented the corned beef egg roll in 1978, and her son is in the process of growing ACB into a popular city chain. It specializes in salty egg rolls stuffed with cured beef and gooey cheese. Though the corned beef egg roll is not quite at coney dog status, it could be argued that it's the city's next great regional dish. Aside from egg rolls, the shop sells corned beef sandwiches and other finger foods. 

The building at 2411 W. Eight Mile Rd. seemed like a suitable location because it has always been used for food service in one way or another, an attorney for White told the ZBA. It first served as a private dinner club, then operated as Stanley's Other Place from the 1970s through around 2011.

White bought the vacant property at some point during the last few years, but the city's zoning had changed since the building was built, and a restaurant is no longer permitted without a variance.

Greenacres residents mobilized against ACB after they learned of White's plans. In a front-page story in the August Greenacres-Woodward Civic Association News newsletter, Greenacres resident Nick Lessnau argued that the ACB would drag down property values and voiced concerns about the overflow of ACB's "litter, noise, and stench."

Residents also said they feared an increase in traffic through the neighborhood. They claim motorists heading west on Eight Mile would turn left at Woodward, then cut west through their neighborhood instead of using a turn around on Eight Mile. No one conducted a traffic impact study or provided empirical evidence to support their claims.

White didn't respond to a request for comment, though his attorney, Michael Lebow, told Metro Times that it's simply not possible for him to open shop there.

"Total shut down," he said. "The community galvanized and that was very formidable."

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