Under a New Name
R. Hirt Jr.'s retail store
2468 Market St., Detroit;
Longtime patrons of Detroit's Eastern Market got a good scare last year with the announcement that the venerable R. Hirt Jr. company, founded in 1887 and run by four generations of the same family, was closing its doors. As it turned out, fortunately for fans of the vendor of specialty goods, the store was actually closing for a mild renovation, passing back into the hands of another Hirt descendant, the man who ran it until recently, David DeVries. The renovations and renaming were to be done by March, but it seems early May is a more likely opening date. DeVries tells people, "The business is 124 years old; if we have to take a few months off, I think they'll understand." We're still hazy on what the renamed venture will be called, but the old-fashioned charm should remain, with a few updates. One wag in the know joked that "the store will be 'modernized' — from an 1891 format closer to a 1912 format."
Best Place to Record
Shop on Foot
Crate-diggers, rejoice! Hamtramck has a clutch of three excellent record shops within walking distance of one another. On Caniff, there's Record Graveyard (2926 Caniff St.; 313-870-9647; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday), which crams in a pretty comprehensive selection of rock, pop and jazz, as well as old show tunes, comedy, spoken word and soundtracks. They're in the midst of an incredible vinyl sale to help them sell off stock and move to a smaller space. Don't overlook the back room, which has thousands of 45 RPM singles worth digging through for gems. Just around the corner is Detroit Threads (10238 Joseph Campau; 313-872-1777; detroitthreadsstore.com; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday, closed Sundays), Mikel Smith's venerable store, which has been in Hamtramck for a dozen years now, selling a quirky selection of clothes, memorabilia, and around 50,000 records, give or take a few thousand. Finally, just down the street, is a new entry from vinyl-hound Richie Wohlfiel, Lo & Behold Records & Books (10022 Joseph Campau; 734-664-1186; noon-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday), selling old mags, art, clothes, but transitioning more into records and books. In fact, the store recently acquired most of WJZZ's jazz library, more than 108 milk crates' worth of records. Bargain-friendly and willing to trade, Wohlfiel would rather sell to locals for less than score big on eBay.
Best Audio Store
David Michael Audio
4341 Delemere, Royal Oak; 586-244-8479; davidmichaelaudio.com
Famous punk rocker Henry Rollins said, "People can hurl any epithet they want about the snobbishness they think audiophiles retain. Let them drink their wine from boxes. The sound of my Bob Ludwig-mastered pressing of Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy coming through my system cuts through their contempt like Toshiro Mifune's katana blade!" True that. The best, most interesting way in this area to discover, or at least sweeten, your hankering for great recorded sound is through the two gents at David Michael Audio. They're a nonjudgmental pair who can easily set you up with a system that'll tap your mind, on pretty much any size investment you are willing to make. If you want to just come in and listen, that's cool too. Sometimes they even have LP events in which a whole album is listened to without interruption through what will be the finest playback system you've ever heard. They carry everything from Rega to Harbeth, from Luxman to Magico. Hours vary, so please call ahead.
Best Folks to Get Out
that Damn Spot
26051 Dequindre Rd., Madison Heights;
Let's say you're clumsy enough to kick over a cup of coffee on the floor and dense enough to not notice that some of the coffee splashed into vertical fabric blinds ... like dense enough to not notice for a week. Let's say you frantically begin calling blinds shops for help. Not a service we found. Well, hope you're lucky enough to be thereby directed to Chet's, an outfit that's been saving folks like you since 1986. We can't vouch for their full array of services, which range from marble to upholstery cleaning and something called "wood floor enhancement" as an alternative to refinishing. Our Internet searching finds high praise for quality and some bitching about price, and since Chet's includes some get-what-you-pay-for references on its website testimonials page, they're clearly not marketing themselves as a budget service. We can report that Chet saved our blinds and butt — and on a rush job in time for a house full of guests for Thanksgiving dinner. And we didn't even worry about drunks spilling their drinks.
Best Place to Pretend You Live in Portland
22801 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 810-441-9115; rustbeltmarket.com
If you've got friends in town and you want to impress them without trying, lead them to this 15,000-square-foot space, the former home of an Old Navy, and let them get lost in this circular bazaar filled with DIY crafters. Maybe it's not as rad or edgy as Detroit's Russell Industrial Center, but it's not bad for the easygoing burbs, and it still attracts its fair share of eccentrics. Splurge a little on a soy candle or a soy smoothie or a robot-shaped throw pillow. Sure, you don't actually need much of this stuff, but you'd be surprised at how much you realize you need at least some of it — from shoes to seeds to soaps. Dash in the soundtrack of local musicians serenading you from the center of the charmingly cluttered floor and you could be standing at Portland's renowned Saturday Market, only with less hemp. Get there before something corporate swoops in.
Best Place to Rent a Costume
The Parade Company
9500 Mount Elliott, Studio A, Detroit; 313-923-7400; theparade.org
On a past episode of The View, Tom Selleck can be seen posing for the cameras next to a giant papier-mâché replica of his own head worn by a good-humored member of the morning show's crew. Constructed and rented out by the team at the Parade Company in Detroit, the giant noggin boasts a mustache as broad as the real-life-Selleck's shoulders. Mr. Selleck's is one of many featured heads that can be rented from the Parade Company's "Heads of Detroit" collection — other favorites include Diana Ross, Father Cunningham and Joe Louis. They also carry non-specialty heads such as hound dogs, ducks and monkeys. Besides the heads, the Parade Company boasts more than 3,000 good, old-fashioned costumes — Roman soldiers, Shakespearean actors and swashbuckling pirates to name a few. Costumes start at $20 per use and go up from there. They don't do licensed character costumes ("We don't have SpongeBob," they told us firmly over the phone), but with such a grand selection, you won't care. Whether you need an impressive Halloween costume, want to make a splash at a private party or just need to add a little spice to an event, the Parade Company's the best place to rent a costume.
Best New Detroit
Detroit Farm and Garden
1759 20th St., Detroit; 313-655-2344; detroitfarmandgarden.com
Just in time for spring, the folks at Detroit Farm and Garden have opened their doors allowing the smell of damp soil, fresh mulch and fertilizer to waft out. Located in the former Third Police Precinct on Detroit's Southwest side, DFG prides itself on filling the city's largely unmet need for quality farming, gardening and landscape resources. They carry bulk (mulch, compost, top soil) and a large variety of seed, as well as chicken, goat and rabbit feed. They'll even deliver their goods for a small fee. A landscape architect by trade, owner Jeff Klein has also assembled an impressive collection of quality tools for all of your farming, gardening and landscaping needs. All of DFG's farming and gardening supplies are all-natural and organic, designed with the earth in mind. The DFG space itself will play host to gardening and farming classes intended to educate the Detroit's burgeoning green thumbs by drawing on the experience and talents of urban farmers who have been here for years.
Best New Boutique
The Peacock Room
15 E. Kirby St., Detroit; 313-559-5500; peacockroomdetroit.com
Located on the ground floor of the Park Shelton, this new boutique features a mix of new, vintage and quality consignment clothing for trendsetting Detroiters. Almost as attractive as the stock — flouncy skirts, patterned scarves, vintage bowties, colorful socks, saucy stockings — is the shop itself, artfully arranged with eye-pleasing displays that make the merchandise seem like it's part of decor rather than up for grabs by discerning shoppers. Make sure you take multiple browsing laps around the place so your eye doesn't pass over some hidden gem you just have to have — from reproduction vintage jewelry and cuff links to chic hats and handbags. Adding to the Peacock Room's elegance are the original architectural details uncovered by owner Rachel Lutz after leasing the space. What started as a modest renovation to remove drop ceilings and drywall turned into a full-on historic renovation when Lutz realized that the store was located in the historic building's original 1927 dining room. She is slowly returning the spot to its original grandeur, including original paint colors and mirrored ceilings. The enthusiastic and outgoing Lutz is more than willing to give shoppers the inside scoop on the updates, as they discover lovely treasures both architectural and sartorial.
Best Place to Outfit Your Legs
Hosiery with Style
660 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 248-217-0058; hosierywithstyle.com
Are pantyhose passé? Are bare legs the new black? If you answered yes to either of these questions, one trip to this specialty boutique inside the First National Building will quickly change your mind. Stockings don't have to be dull necessities that turn your legs the unnatural hue of burnt toast and rip after a single wearing. Bright colors and flashy patterns abound at Hosiery with Style, which stocks the best-known, high-quality brands of stockings, including Berkshire, Calvin Klein and DKNY. While bold and provocative patterns may only appeal to the fashionable brave of heart, the store also carries the everyday basics, including a large selection of plus sizes, basic socks and thigh-highs. Purses, shoes and other fun accessories are also available, as well as a selection of men's socks. And while the inevitable runs always make hose shopping a love-hate enterprise, frequent shoppers are rewarded for their trouble with a free pair of stockings after five $15 purchases.
Best Way to Soap
up Your Skin
This local purveyor of bath and body products creates luxury items free of harsh additives and unnatural ingredients. Instead, DressGreen uses high-quality, natural ingredients and essential oils that clean, moisturize and leave your skin as fresh as a newborn's. Along with your basic bar soaps, DressGreen products include body creams, lip balms, perfumes, eye cream, facial masks and shaving soaps. Especially luxurious are the shampoo bars, which cleanse hair without removing essential oils — meaning your hair is as shiny and soft as the chick's in a shampoo commercial, but without the unhealthy and environmentally unfriendly chemicals. Products come in a variety of pleasing scents, including pomegranate juice, coconut milk, mint vanilla and lemon sugar, and arrive at your door in pretty, recyclable packages tied with a bow. DressGreen products are available at City Bird in Midtown, but for the full line of items, see the website.
Best Retail Change Over
460 W. Canfield, Detroit; 313-831-9776; nestdetroit.com
If you're anything like us, you were saddened when Midtown's Bureau of Urban Living permanently closed up shop. Not only were we going to miss browsing the shop's diverse mix of home accessories, but also because we couldn't imagine walking in to the space and not seeing proprietor Claire Nelson behind the counter offering a friendly smile and the latest neighborhood scuttlebutt. But the melancholy was short-lived thanks to the quick remake of the spot into a new home goods store, Nest. Operated by the Linn siblings, who also own City Bird (Nest's next-door neighbor), the store offers a range of products sure to add comfort or flair to any urban dwelling. Sweet-smelling soy candles, eye-catching terrariums, stationery, art prints, bar accessories, mixing bowls, soaps and a wide range of other items, decorative, functional and, oftentimes, both. Many products are from Michigan manufacturers or independent and family-owned companies, and the beautiful shelves displaying much of the merch were salvaged from Cass Tech.
Best Retro Store with Retro Soundtrack
23700 Woodward Ave., Pleasant Ridge; 248-414-7440
126 E. 14 Mile Rd., Clawson; 248-589-0500; regenerationclothing.org
The staff at Regeneration can be pretty tough, but not on their prices — a win-win, pretty much. Sure, they didn't want my dad's polyester button-up with its gaudily accentuated collar, or his tar-spotted pair of holey Levi's, but that's because they only let the best stuff out on their floor. Beyond fair prices and fairly cozy respite from the disturbing drone of megamalls and fried-food-flinging Target stores, one can be coaxed into loitering here extensively by the charm of the store's homespun soundtrack. Further research is required, but we've heard such pleasing and piquant mixes that included Talking Heads, Blondie, Massive Attack, Elvis Costello, Bo Diddley, Echo & the Bunnymen, the Kinks, the Smiths, Love, Beck, the Shirelles and even Chopin. What's that? Os Mutantes? When most stores along the strips of the suburbs seem content to dial in their satellite radio and zone-out, these folks take time to arrange playlists, thereby supplementing the store's already fetching style.
Best Place to Shop in Color
508 S. Washington, Royal Oak; 248-548-1065; ifounditatscout.com
This charming Royal Oak shop veritably pops with color, with walls painted a brilliant array of pink, teal and yellow and products grouped in attractive color-coordinated displays. Scout offers a seamless array of new and retro goods — from offbeat kitchen items and funky knickknacks to ceramics and fine art prints — with authentic vintage items sharing shelf-space with the hottest names in contemporary designs. It's often hard to distinguish the old from the new, and it's tempting to purchase a whole handful of goodies rather than disturb the owner's thoughtful, eye-pleasing arrangements. The knack for design and composition is further evidenced by the shop's striking window displays, which change to match the season or the holiday. Along with colorful decor, Scout also sells candles, lotions, perfume, art books, plush animals, T-shirts and jewelry.
Best Place to Put Up Visitors on the Cheap
2700 Vermont St., Detroit; 313-451-0333;
Upon hearing the words "Hostel Detroit," travelers may be tempted to imagine a dark, drafty warehouse affording little comfort — but they couldn't be more wrong. Located in one of Corktown's historic corner storefronts, Hostel Detroit has a decidedly bed and breakfast feel — fresh flowers and potted plants line the windowsills — and it's quiet enough to curl up with a good book. Topping out at 22 guests, the hostel offers private ($47 per night), semi-private ($30 per night) and dorm ($25 per night) accommodations. As an educational hostel, Hostel Detroit prides itself on its ability to educate patrons about the city through in-depth conversation, tours and even pairing patrons up with like-minded individuals who are excited to show off hidden gems around town. If you're thinking of traveling to Detroit yourself or have friends and family looking to visit the D affordably, our staff agrees, Hostel Detroit is the place to stay.
Best Place to Shop, Cook & Stay
Honor & Folly
Above Slows Bar B-Q at 2138 Michigan Ave., Detroit; [email protected]; honorandfolly.com
Honor & Folly is the brick and mortar manifestation of Meghan McEwen's passion for design and travel. The freelance writer, blogger and former editor of design magazine CS Interiors has created a space that is part retail design shop, part boutique hotel and part classroom. Located above Slows, the two-bedroom inn comes complete with access to a fully stocked kitchen, and while it may not offer all the amenities of large hotels, it is sure to appeal to adventurous travelers who prefer access to vintage bikes over room service. The space is outfitted with handmade items from local designers, from cutting boards and bed linens to aprons and lighting, most of which are also available for purchase. Honor & Folly can also be rented out for parties and other small events, and it also offers cooking classes with Chef Tenley Lark, whose résumé includes stints at Roast, Slows and Le Petit Zinc. Most classes are $50 or $60, and include topics such as Southern classics and knife skills. To book a bedroom or two for your choosy out-of-town guests ($165 per night for one room), to purchase a handmade apron or for a schedule of classes, see the website.
Best Place for
Advanced Restaurant Services
13201 Prospect Rd., Dearborn; 313-945-5600; advancedrestaurantservices.com
Our big tip here is a concept. Typical consumers assume that restaurant supply shops are not for them, despite signs that say "Open to the Public." And thus most of us miss out on great buys, great advice and a great shopping experience. True, a place like Advanced in Dearborn sells freezers large enough to hold the entire kitchen of many a MT reader; we've seen shops where the smallest deep fryer needed a gallon of oil. But these stores have plenty of restaurant-quality items — from bamboo skewers to ramekins to knives and stock pots and bar stools — that can also work just fine in the home. And last time we checked, we didn't see any of those cool "Please Wait to Be Seated" signs at Williams-Sonoma. Advanced — founded in 1917 — is reputedly the largest of these outfits in the area, sprawling over an area roughly the size of an auto plant. Go in looking for a paring knife, and we guarantee you'll come out with more.
Best Detroit Gift Destination
Tulani Rose in the Spiral Collective
4201 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-832-2477
We found a number of Yelp commenters whose experience matched our own: we'd needed a gift and been saved by Tulani Rose, part of the Spiral Collective at the corner of Cass and Willis (the former sites of the Cass Corridor Food Co-op and Cobb's Corner for Detroit history heads, the bustling strip that includes Avalon Breads these days). Select clothing, accessories and jewelry, soaps, teas, incense are among the offerings. Bellocq's custom-blended teas, Saipua olive oil-based soaps, blank handmade books and reclaimed wood jewelry are some of the top goods currently, proprietor Sharon Pryor tells us. Adding synergy to a visit is that the collective of women entrepreneurs includes Source Booksellers (which focuses on nonfiction, including metaphysical-spiritual concerns, health and well-being, feminism and African-American culture) and Dell Pryor Galleries (whose exhibits have included artists as established as the late Romare Bearden as well as new discoveries). Although all three outfits go back much further (all the way to the 1970s for Dell Pryor), their collective is now celebrating a milestone 10th anniversary.
Best Place to Get Wedding Photos that Pop
661 Kensington Ave., Ferndale; 248-962-3339; stereoghost3d.com
It's becoming a widely accepted truth that everything is infinitely more awesome in 3-D — including those wedding or graduation photos you need to have taken. Stereoghost, a new company headed by local photographer and technical artist Chris Dean, offers custom 3-D photographs of anything you like, including people and architecture. Photo shoots start at a base rate of $300 plus variable costs of your particular requests. Two distinct processes are used: anaglyph, a trusted process that requires the viewer to wear those stylish 3-D glasses, and lenticular, which yields a hologram-like photo and does not require the glasses.