Four walkable metro Detroit shopping districts to visit this holiday season

Metro Detroit business owners say shopping small is the way to go this holiday season.

Shoppers have no shortage of options for places in and around Detroit to buy gifts, take a window shopping stroll or grab a coffee or bite to eat. There are 22 walkable corridors in Detroit, according to the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and some — like the historic stretch of majority Black-owned businesses along Livernois Avenue — are longtime staples, while others like East Warren Avenue rebuild after the foreclosure crisis as new businesses take root.

There are also the spots outside of Detroit proper, too, including one tucked inside the roughly 2 square miles of Hamtramck and a short drive out onto Dearborn’s bustling Michigan Avenue.

Here are four walkable metro Detroit shopping districts to check out:

East Warren Avenue Corridor

Detroit’s East Warren Avenue corridor, which spans 3 Mile Drive to Cadieux, received more than $8 million from the city’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund to revamp the area with bike lanes, pavement, sidewalks, parking lots and landscaping. Since then, new businesses have started opening up on the 0.6-mile streetscape.

“East Warren has always been a corridor that met the community’s needs. It’s where you could do your everyday shopping as well as get a gift for someone and things like that,” said Joe Rashid, executive director of East Warren Development Corp. “Through the foreclosure crisis, we saw a huge dip in occupancy on the corridor. We see our job as really figuring out how to bring East Warren back in an equitable way. And so we really work to get neighborhood-driven business going — so businesses, people who live, work and play in the neighborhood.”

Commercial occupancy dipped to 36% in the once thriving Detroit corridor, he said, but has since climbed to about 50% and is growing quickly as more investment pours in. Morningside, East English Village and Cornerstone Village are the three neighborhoods that surround the stretch. Residents, Rashid said, wanted to see restaurants and places where people can congregate.

There’s Next Chapter Books, which started off at the historic Alger Theater as a pop up for a few months and now operates out of its own brick and mortar shop. Doors opened in September.

“We knew we wanted to be in Detroit. We knew we wanted to be in a neighborhood that was in need of a bookstore,” said Sarah Williams, who owns Next Chapter Books with her partner Jay Williams. As a journalist and historian, respectively, both believe that reading stories is the way to grow compassion and understanding, she said.

Sarah Williams lived in Morningside as a child and remembers walking to the Jefferson branch of the Detroit Public Library for story time, where she fell in love with reading. She and her brothers would walk to school and go sledding at the park.

“What I’m excited about is learning from the community and seeing a space where the magic … the joy of reading can be available and found with other kids as well,” Williams said.

Nearby, shoppers can grab a cup of coffee at Morningside Cafe, which opened its doors in September as well. The opening comes after a business next door caught on fire last year two weeks shy of the cafe’s original launch, causing smoke and some fire damage.

Morningside Cafe, with its bright Detroit-themed mural painted by artist Trae IsAAc spanning one wall, is about “coffee and vibes,” said owner Jeffrey D. Lewis II, who grew up in the area and watched as family homes were gutted and businesses were boarded up over the years, in a once bustling neighborhood. But it’s always been home, he said.

Now, Lewis is a part of rejuvenating the corridor with the coffee shop which also includes a community space for meetings and private events. The cafe is “for the people,” Lewis said. He wants to bring back the neighborhood of his childhood, without the vacant homes and lots.

From left, Riss Dezort owner of Eastside Roastz, Brie Ann Bell Project Manager who works to help out new business along East Warren Ave. Tina Anderson owner of TBakes Treats and Nina Bradford owner of Longevity Vegan Cuisine meet to discuss possibilities Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023. (Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)

“That’s the vision that has always remained in the back of my mind and I know we may not be able to resemble what we once were, but I believe the opportunity is there where we can do some great things now,” he said.

Lewis said he wants to see East Warren Avenue storefronts filled with businesses and the streetscape extended. Once upon a time, he said, commercial corridors in Detroit were the original shopping districts and “neighborhood downtowns.”

“I think we’re going back to that trend where everything should be based right within your neighborhood as it should be. Downtown shopping is great, but everyone may not have the means to get downtown,” Lewis said.

The East Warren Development Corp. is hosting holiday markets highlighting local businesses and vendors starting on Small Business Saturday. The markets will run from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. on the following Saturdays: Nov. 25, Dec. 2, Dec. 9 and Dec. 16.

  • Next Chapter Books: 16555 E. Warren Avenue; 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Thursday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday.
  • Morningside Cafe: 16369 E. Warren Avenue; 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday – Friday; 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sunday

Avenue of Fashion

The historic Avenue of Fashion, along Livernois Avenue, has about 100 small businesses — mostly generations-old family-owned stores alongside first generation endeavors. There are clothing stores, beauty and barber shops, vegan food and a shoe repair business.

That’s according to Sevyn Jones, owner and esthetician of luxury spa Skin Bar VII and a Livernois block club president. Jones described the Avenue of Fashion — from about Eight Mile to SIx Mile — as a “collective of business cousins” where everyone knows one another. The streetscape has a wide sidewalk, bike lanes, metered parking and benches.

“You never know what’s behind that door,” she said. “So, a lot of times when you go down the avenue, you see a lot of the developing things, but you might want to pay attention to the one that’s been there for quite a long time because there’s a lot of history there.”

Jones’ own business has been around since November 2019 and was shuttered on and off for about six months throughout the COVID-19 pandemic — a time when she thought “it was over” and unsure if her small business would bounce back. But in 2021, she fully reopened the spa.

Skin Bar VII brings a luxury spa experience to city residents so they don’t have to go to the suburbs to get quality services and products, she said. Shoppers can grab gift cards and skin care sets and give the gift of relaxation, Jones said, including a buy one, get one free deal — buy a $150 gift card and get an $85 gift card for a first-time client facial — this weekend and the weekend of Small Business Saturday.

Walk a few minutes down the avenue and shoppers can grab raw juice from The Energy Zone, a family-run business that’s been around since 2021. The mission, said co-owner Jackie Lang, is to help people get healthy. The store sells juices, smoothies and lemonades.

Patrons can go further down to West McNichols Road to reach Lucania Lavish Couture — owned by Lola Lucania Black, a self-taught clothing designer and nurse by trade. She learned how to sew from YouTube early in the pandemic and now her dresses — with their intricate beading, ruffles and feathers — fill her storefront and boutique.

Lola Black standing outside building Lola Black, 46, is the owner of Lucania Lavish Couture on the Avenue of Fashion on Livernois. Black and friends of hers spent part of Thursday, November 16, 2023, outside of her fashion and clothing business in Detroit adding Christmas ornaments. (Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)

The physical store, which opened in August, specializes in custom handmade clothing for special occasions, like proms and weddings.

Working as a nurse during the pandemic, Black spent a lot of time alone outside of the hospital to curb the spread of the virus, and so she had to find an outlet. For her, that was fashion. With a sewing machine that was gifted to her and YouTube videos, Black set her new endeavor into motion. Soon came an online store featuring her creations and now a brick and mortar. She still works as a nurse and runs Lucania Lavish Couture, too.

During the pandemic, Black lost friends, co-workers and patients she adored.

“I realized life was so short,” Black said.

Black consults with clients to come up with the design, constructs the garment and works with them on the proper fit. Costs depend on the item and range from $100 for custom shirts and dresses priced anywhere between $300 to $699 or more. Her store has ready to wear items as well.

“We’re not cookie cutters. Nobody is shaped exactly the same. You may be the same size, but you’re not shaped the same way. So, having that garment allows it to lay on your body where it is almost perfection. When they say ‘fit like a glove,’ that’s the look that you’re gonna get,” she said.

Her boutique will have sales up to 90% on Black Friday and will host a “sip and shop” on Small Business Saturday. On Cyber Monday, her online store will feature sales as well.

On Small Business Saturday, the Avenue of Fashion will have food trucks and stores will have promotions and sales, Jones said.

The nonprofit Black Leaders Detroit will also be distributing gift cards, ranging from $10 to $50, on Friday to shop at 11 Black-owned businesses on the Avenue of Fashion. Some stores will also offer discounts. Patrons must stop at 19472 Livernois to pick up gift cards from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Skin Bar VII: 18951 Livernois Avenue; 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday

The Energy Zone: 19166 Livernois Avenue; 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday

Lucania Lavish Couture: 17388 Livernois Avenue; 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday; 12 p.m.-5 p.m., Sunday

Hamtramck’s Joseph Campau Avenue

Tekla Vintage, as its owner describes it, is like grandma’s house.

The store, located on Hamtramck’s Joseph Campau Avenue, sells men’s, women’s and children’s vintage clothing, housewares and jewelry from the 1970s or earlier. The former hat store sat vacant for a couple of years before its owner Karen Majewski, former mayor of Hamtramck, opened Tekla Vintage nine years ago.

“It was really important to me to restore a traditional storefront with the open vestibule and to bring this old venerable building back to life,” Majewski said.

Tekla Vintage is among several vintage and thrift stores along Hamtramck’s commercial corridor.

“It’s such a gamut of variety of people who stop in here, you just never know from day to day, and there is still a lot of foot traffic on Joseph Campau,” she said.

The district, she said, is walkable and features small family-run businesses patrons won’t find at the mall.

“It’s one of a kind,” she said. “You’re not going to find it anywhere else. You’re not even going to find it down the block at the other thrift store, the other vintage store.”

Rat Queen Vintage sells clothing and accessories from the late 1940s through the 1980s. On Sunday, owner Joanna Komajda-Smith, brings in pet rats. She chose Hamtramck for its walkability and affordability, Komajda-Smith said, and has dubbed Joseph Campau the “sustainable mile” because of the second hand stores that have cropped up over the last few years.

Tekla Vintage: 9600 Joseph Campau Avenue; 12 p.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday

Rat Queen Vintage: 10031 Joseph Campau Avenue; 1 p.m.-7 p.m., Wednesday; 12 p.m.-6:30 p.m., Thursday-Friday; 12 p.m.-6 p.m., Saturday; 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday.

West Downtown Dearborn

Though West Downtown Dearborn is known more for its restaurants and coffee shops along Michigan Avenue, one retailer about a block away from the thoroughfare boasts Dearborn pride with locally made goods.

The Dearborn Shop on Garrison Street has Detroit and Dearborn merchandise, including t-shirts, hoodies, baseball hats and stickers, and other items crafted by as many as 80 Michigan vendors, like earrings, jewelry and candles. The brick and mortar store opened in July 2022.

Born and raised in Dearborn, owner Lizzie DiMaria, said she wanted to support local businesses that are trying to grow and offer Dearborn-themed items, which she said weren’t as common as Detroit or Ford-based merchandise.

“Dearborn has a lot of city pride,” she said.

One of her vendors, she said, is in her mid-90s from Dearborn and sells Michigan-themed greeting cards. Others just graduated college or high school who craft and want to make some extra cash.

DiMaria’s dog Millie is a regular at the shop, greeting customers with hugs and “nose boops,” she said. The Dearborn shop even has “Millie merch,” featuring her face on it.

“When you’re buying something from a small shop, that money is directly passed on to the person who made the thing that you bought,” she said, like the mom who uses the money to buy her kids Christmas gifts or the college student who needs to pay their way through school.

The Dearborn Shop: 21906 Garrison Street; 12 p.m.-6 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday; 12 p.m.-5 p.m., Friday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday

Contact Nushrat Rahman: [email protected]; 313-348-7558. Follow her on X, formerly known as Twitter: @NushratR.

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