Shops

366. Rocky’s Historic Eastern Market – October 6, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018Rockys1 (2)October2018Rockys2 (2)During my recent birthday jaunt to Eastern Market via a bike tour with Wheelhouse Detroit, I made a first-time visit to Rocky’s Historic Eastern Market, a dry-goods store on Russell Street.

What an impressive assortment of goodies this place peddles! Certain items especially caught my eye:

-The wide assortment of nuts and nut butters, including the intriguing ghost-pepper peanuts and spicy peanut butter

-Locally-made goods such as Gus & Grey jams (an obsession of mine!)

-A bulk candy section brimming with chocolates and glossy hard candies in every color of the rainbow, delighting my inner six-year-old

-Ant Wafers. These are chocolate-covered confections crunchy with – you guessed it – real black ants(!).

I left Rocky’s with an item small enough to easily carry back with me on my bike: a jar of Gus & Grey’s Hubba! Hubba! raspberry-habanero jam. Those ghost-pepper peanuts still entice me, though!

2489 Russell St.

Detroit, MI 48207

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365. Germack – October 6, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018Germack1 (2)October2018Germack3 (2)Surrendering to the experience at play brought about my visit to Germack last Saturday.

If you read my last post regarding my visit to Wheelhouse Detroit, you’ll know that Saturday was my birthday and the day I took a guided bike tour to Eastern Market during rain showers. During a hiatus in the tour where our group was allowed to explore Eastern Market on our own, I found myself wandering in a downpour with two hours on my hands and no umbrella.

What to do? I felt crabbiness at the situation start to settle in – then shrugged it off. Nope, I wasn’t doing the bad-mood thing – not on my birthday. “Surrender to the adventure” became my mantra.

The practice was at play then. After fortifying myself with some pierogis from the People’s Pierogi Collective stand at Eastern Market (and discovering that its Corned Beef and Swiss pierogis are LIFE), I surrendered to the adventure by wandering towards Germack’s Russell Street-based café and shop.

As you may already be aware, Germack is a Detroit-based purveyor of nuts, coffee, chocolates, dried fruits, and other dry goods. (When I think Germack, the Tigers-branded bags of roasted and salted shelled peanuts sold at Comerica Park always come to mind. So simple and yet so addictive!) According to its website, it’s also an O.G. of nut-roasting, declaring itself the “oldest roaster of pistachio nuts in the United States” (who knew?).

Aware of the company’s rich local history, I was pleased at the opportunity to visit Germack. Desire for a hot beverage and to scoot my soaked and bedraggled-looking personage away from the crowds was also a motivating factor.

The building’s interior is allocated for the coffee house on the left and the shop on the right, with no dividing wall in between. I didn’t browse the shop, but I know it sells nuts and coffee and chocolates and spices and coffee-brewing equipment and probably a myriad of other things. In that visit, I was focused on ordering a coffee, settling down, and drying off.

I ordered a cappuccino and felt extremely fortunate to nab the last open table in the bustling café. My cappuccino was brought to me, and it was boldly flavored and piping-hot. Initially disappointed that I had no book with me, I remembered the reading app on my phone and opened a writing about – interestingly enough – being relaxed about life to encourage a positive outcome.

The book’s stance could be dismissed as woo-woo, sure. But as I sat there reading it, sipping my cappuccino and enjoying the urban-rustic coziness of the Germack shop, I realized that my mood had become relaxed, present, pleasant. And that – miraculously! – the rain had alchemized into blue skies and sunshine. Surrendering to the adventure felt pretty good right about then.

2517 Russell St.

Detroit, MI 48207

www.germack.com

364. Wheelhouse Detroit – October 6, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018WheelhouseDetroit1 (3)October 6, 2018: a gnarly-weather day + my birthday + the day I visited Wheelhouse Detroit for the first time and took a guided tour with them.

I embrace the birthday warm-and-fuzzies wholeheartedly, because what better holiday exists than one where you get to celebrate being born/still being alive? I like to do special stuff on my birthday, and a bike tour with Wheelhouse Detroit remained undone on my 2018 bucket list, so I decided to book a spot on its Eastern Market-themed outing that landed on my birthday.

I knew when I booked the Saturday tour earlier in the week that I was taking a risk with the weather. Cue to one-and-a-half hours before the start of the event and me staring gaping-mouthed from my living room couch at the torrential downpour outdoors. Rut-roh.

I was tempted to scrap the whole thing, chucking the $50 I’d paid for the tour ($35 for the tour itself, $10 for a bike rental, plus fees) to stay planted on my couch reading a novel. But that wouldn’t be a birthday adventure, would it? I called Wheelhouse Detroit to confirm the noon tour was still on (it was – I was told they only cancel when extreme weather of the thunder-and-lightning variety is involved), and did my best to surrender to whatever journey unfolded.

Arriving at Wheelhouse Detroit’s riverfront shop based in Cullen Plaza (formerly Rivard Plaza) on Atwater Street during a brief hiatus from the showers, I was glad to see that four other tour attendees had shown up. I was asked to sign a waiver, given my helmet and a poncho, and my bike seat was adjusted by a staff member.

Hopping on the bike, I was pleased with how comfortable it was. I’m no bike expert, so I couldn’t tell you what kind it was besides . . . standard bike? It was obviously quality but wasn’t some intimidating racing bike or anything. It was super comfortable and easy to ride, to my relief. To my memory, I’ve only ridden a bike once in the last three-plus years (since my Summer 2015 Nautical Ride excursion): on an extremely bumpy, zippy downhill mountain route that did not inspire confidence in my cycling abilities. I was seeking ease and comfort on this Detroit bike tour, and I found it.

The three-hour tour started with our guide, Henry, routing us to Eastern Market via the Dequindre Cut.

The Dequindre Cut – so MAGICAL! I want to cover it in its own post on 100 Places in the D – it deserves to be highlighted – but I wasn’t able to stop and take any photos of it during this ride. A return trip to adequately capture the beauty of this bike/pedestrian path running along the site of a former rail line under overpasses vibrant with artwork is definitely in order.

We approached Eastern Market after 20 minutes of riding, amidst a fresh downpour. We had two hours to explore the market independently, we were told by Henry.

I wasn’t especially enthused to learn that two hours of the three-hour tour were dedicated to exploring Eastern Market on my own, in a downpour, on my birthday. But hey, surrendering-to-the-adventure was the theme of the day, and after some initial crabby wandering in the rain outside Eastern Market like a wet dog, I adjusted my attitude and did just that. I’ll highlight what new-to-me places I visited during this time in upcoming posts.

When our group reconvened, we rode for another 40 minutes, back down the Dequindre Cut and along the Riverfront. It was a lovely ride – all sunshine and blue skies by that point (hooray!) – and I adored it.

Overall, this tour with Wheelhouse Detroit was great. Henry was a kind and pleasant guide, riding at an easy pace, signaling when we needed to turn, guarding our bikes during the Eastern Market sojourn, and providing interesting information about the Eastern Market and RiverWalk (including plans for the RiverWalk’s expansion).

Considering that the Eastern Market trek is the shortest of Wheelhouse Detroit’s tours in terms of mileage biked at five miles (most advertise mileages in the teens), I should’ve suspected that the shopping portion would occupy a considerable chunk of it. I’d love to explore some of the longer tours, including those that highlight Southwest Detroit, Belle Isle, and “Haunted Detroit” (a showcase of allegedly ghost-populated locales running this October in honor of the spooky month-end holiday).

Of course, Wheelhouse Detroit is more than a provider of tours. According to its website, the shop sells new and used bikes as well as a myriad of cycling-related products, including tires, tools, helmets, clothing, and biking-related accessories such as locks, cargo bags, and lights. Bikes can be rented independent of the tours for jaunts along the riverfront and throughout the city, as well.

1340 E. Atwater St.

Detroit, MI 48207

(with an additional location in Hamtramck)

www.wheelhousedetroit.com

314. Vault of Midnight – March 10, 2018 – Detroit, MI

March2018VaultofMidnight1 (4)March2018VaultofMidnight3 (2)

Comics, graphics novels, and board games: I need more of them in my life, I’m thinking, after visiting Vault of Midnight in downtown Detroit a few weeks ago.

The emporium for the aforementioned items of whimsy and imagination and magic reminded me of how much I love playing board games and how I’m always saying I’m going to host a game night at my house (but have yet to). It peddles an impressive amount of serious board games: intricate, strategic games far from the toy-store game-land of Monopoly, Mall Madness, and Operation that I grew up in.

These serious games are stickered with serious price tags; with many in the $40-to-$80 range, they are not what I’d categorize as an impulse purchase. I assume most people going into Vault of Midnight to procure these board games are doing so intentionally, either because they know exactly what they want or are confident they’ll find something they’ll want enough to buy.

All I know is, I’ve been fortunate enough to play some of these kinds of intricate, strategic games at other people’s houses, and I find them as entertaining as all get-out. Not to trash the $10 ’90s-version of Clue that I grew up with (that game was LIFE to me in the first grade!), but these serious board games are fun to play because they’ve been crafted with care, from their rules to their artwork to the elaborate planning and scheming required of many of them to win.

What I’m saying is that in my experience, these serious board games are worth the serious price tag if you know you’ll be playing them on a regular basis instead of letting them collect a thick film of dust on a shelf in a closet in your basement (cue my copy of Scrabble: Deluxe Edition enduring that very fate). And I think it’s amazing that there’s a place right here in downtown Detroit reminding us of their awesomeness, beckoning us to enjoy some unplugged fun with them for an hour or two.

Of course, the unplugged fun is not only being touted by the serious board games at Vault of Midnight but also by its wide selection of comics and graphic novels.

I’ve never been an aficionado, per say, of either comics or graphic novels, but I did read the Detroit Free Press funnies religiously for years as a kid and fostered a love for Archie comics stemming from the ’60s-era issues saved by my paternal grandparents (and still find myself pondering the latest volume of the Riverdale gang’s shenanigans every time I spy it in a grocery-store check-out line). And I’ve read and enjoyed a few great graphic novels, such as Maus and Ghost World. It’s a genre I’ve long intended to explore more but haven’t. As with the board games in my basement closet, that intention often lies dormant, collecting a thick film of dust in my mind.

I can’t speak to the specific kinds of comics and graphic novels that Vault of Midnight stocks, because I didn’t delve too deeply into them. I looked at a few comics that appeared to be small-batch varieties, possibly even handmade, which intrigued me. I’d like to return and check those out in greater detail.

Maybe it’s time for me to more seriously consider and pursue my interests in board games and graphic novels and comics. Maybe it’s time to actually set a date for game night; maybe it’s time to invite more whimsy and imagination and magic into my life. Certainly, another visit to Vault of Midnight is in order!

1226 Library St.

Detroit, MI 48226

(Locations also in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor)

www.vaultofmidnight.com

304. 8° Plato Beer Company – January 15, 2018 – Detroit, MI

January2018Plato1 (3)January2018Plato3 (2)8º Plato Beer Company is in the house today!

I’d long been curious about this beer store in the Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit, and after lunch at Red Dunn a few weeks ago, my ale-aficionado friend and I stumbled across it and decided to give it a go.

All I can say is Holy Hops! there is a lot of beer here. I mean, obvi, it is a beer store – and it’s a good one, its shelves being stocked with popular local craft ales and ciders and more obscure (at least from my novice perspective) brews from around the globe. Beer-related merchandise such as t-shirts and snacks are offered, as well. A multitude of brews are on tap, too, so it can act as your growler filling station, and there’s a bar counter so you can sit and enjoy a pint in-house.

We decided to cozy up to that bar rail to kill an hour tucked away from the swirling snowscape outside the window and reality in general. (Spending time downtown characteristically has this whimsical effect on me, where I feel like I’m escaping oft-mundane everyday life when I hang out there. It is pretty magical there compared with cookie-cutter-chain-establishment-littered suburbia.).

While we were sitting there, the friendly bartender offered us samples of two sour beers that had recently come in, the names of which totally slip my mind. I do remember that the draft pint I enjoyed was Cheboygan Brewing Co.’s Blood Orange Honey, one of the many Michigan craft brews on draft.

I’m all about lauding the Mitten-made products, so I’m happy that 8º Plato Beer Company is yet another local outlet helping to hype them up. And bonus: the store has another location, on Nine Mile Road in Ferndale.

3409 Cass Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

http://8degreesplato.com

292. Honey Bee Market La Colmena – November 11, 2017 – Detroit, MI

November2017LaColema1November2017LaColema3November2017LaColema4TGIF, guys! I’m THRILLED for it to be Friday because that means it’s finally the day when I’ll be heading down to the D for some happy-hour shenanigans at a new-for-me place or two (look out for post(s) on that next week).

I hope you’re also able to get some exploring in this weekend – unless hunkering down at home in your sweatpants is the much-needed alternative after a hectic week. If that’s the case, I totally get it – that’s my preference sometimes, too! Sweatpants are on the shortlist for Greatest Gifts EVER from the Universe for me – especially during what for us in Metro-Detroit is a chilly, oft-rainy time of year. But if you do get out this weekend and visit any new places in the Detroit area or elsewhere, please feel free to post about it in the comments field below; I’d love to hear about it!

Speaking of sweet, sweet weekends: last Saturday,  I was fortunate enough to be able to pop down to what is fast becoming one of my fave neighborhoods in Detroit, Mexicantown. After my visit to top-notch tamale joint Tamaleria Nuevo Leon, I decided to check out another nearby establishment, Honey Bee Market La Colmena.

The grocery store located near the Canadian border in Detroit is a gorgeous facility displaying ample amounts of produce, dry goods, meat, and baked goods, with a focus on Mexican and other Central American products. I’d heard rave reviews about the quality of its grocery selection and prepared foods, so I was excited to check it out.

I geek out over quality markets, no joke! A market with superior produce and specialty goods is one of my favorite places to be in the whole wide world, right up there with libraries (bookworm 4Life!), new-to-me countries, and Comerica Park. And Honey Bee Market La Colmena did not disappoint.

Despite being in existence since 1956, the shop is a new-looking, modern facility – the result of a recent renovation, according to its website, which nearly quadrupled the store in size from 4,000 to 15,000 square feet.

The front section of Honey Bee Market La Colmena displays ample amounts of fresh produce, followed by rows and rows of packaged goods ranging from canned beans and tomatoes to McClure’s pickles. Toward the back of the store are the cooler area and the meat counter, from which I purchased a couple of pounds of fajita skirt steak, which was excellent marinated, pan-seared, and put into tacos.

There’s a long table near the butcher counter displaying a myriad of tortilla options, from which I selected a pack of 30 corn tortillas (soooo many tacos in my future – and I’m NOT complaining about that!). I also bought a selection of produce, including some perfectly ripe avocadoes and five petite limes for only $1, plus some jalapeño pesto called Jala Pesto.

I would be remiss in writing this post about Honey Bee Market La Colmena if I didn’t mention its fresh-made salsa and guacamole! There are samples of it in the produce area when you first walk in; I tried both and especially loved the guacamole. I was this-close to purchasing some, but my splurges on the Jala Pesto (which was like $6) and the steak stopped me. However, know that it IS delicious and is definitely worth taking home.

As someone who loves to cook (check out my other blog, A Cookable Feast, for more on that topic), it is so nice to know that this clean, quality, well-stocked, reasonably-priced grocery store exists and that I can come here when I’m looking for ingredients for Mexican/Central American recipes that I can’t find at Meijer or another local produce market. Thank you, Honey Bee Market La Colmena, for giving me another first-rate market to geek out over!

2443 Bagley Ave.

Detroit, MI 48216

www.honeybeemkt.com

290. 3 Winks – November 10, 2017 – Ferndale, MI

November20173Winks2 (2)November20173Winks (2)Hi, guys! Happy Monday! I hope you had an excellent weekend exploring. I was fortunate to be able to check out a couple of new places this weekend, including 3 Winks, a gift shop in downtown Ferndale.

I was admittedly motivated to visit this shop by my massage therapist giving me a $10 promotional gift card for it. Once I walked into 3 Winks, I was glad that she had. It contained such cute stuff!

This is the kind of small shop so packed with an assortment of interesting items that it can take you several rotations around it to examine it fully, its wares including such fun gift ideas as mugs and tea towels embossed with funny sayings, fancy scented soaps, quirky greeting cards – including greeting cards paired with bath salts – jewelry, lotions, Michigan-centric wine glasses, and scarves.

After much deliberation in my several rounds around the shop, I decided on a printed scarf that I hoped would push me out of my mostly-black wardrobe comfort zone (sure, black is chic, but let’s face it, day after day of it can get boring without a little accessorizing). The scarf cost more than the gift card value, which I was happy about, because with the 3 Wink’s owner being so nice and its offerings so eclectic and fun, I wanted to support the shop by sending some actual dollars toward it.

As is no surprise given the nature of this blog, supporting small businesses is important to me. I mean, who wants all of the shopping options to be corporate-drone options? Not moi – which is why I’m going to keep 3 Winks in mind when I’m in need of a thoughtful gift item or treat for myself.

203B E. Nine Mile Rd.
Ferndale, MI 48220

www.3winksgifts.com

277. Colasanti’s Market & Snook’s Butcher Shoppe – September 17, 2017 – Highland, MI

Colasanti's1 (2)Colasanti's2Highland is represented on 100 Places in the D!

I feel particularly joyous about Highland being a new-to-the-blog city because of its distance from where I live in Macomb County (it’s an hour due west of me). I was slated to trek out there for a friend’s baby shower, and I thought, “hmm, could I kill two birds with one stone and get a 100 Places visit in, too?”

Happily, the shower venue was about a mile from Colasanti’s Market & Snook’s Butcher Shoppe, a produce market-slash-butcher shop that piqued my interest.

I was curious about the two names attached to this establishment and discovered the backstory on its website. Snook’s Butcher Shoppe opened on its own in 1979; it moved inside Colasanti’s Market in 1989 at the prompting of the grocery store. Then in 2007, the owner of Snook’s purchased Colasanti’s, and the two entities officially merged. So that’s why the long name!

I am somewhat obsessed with gourmet markets (selecting high-quality produce is a joy to me – nerdy I know, but it’s an art form!), so it’s no surprise that I loved this joint. The large, well-stocked facility is a home-chef’s haven; it offers everything from rows and rows of gorgeous fresh produce; the butcher counter; a plethora of grocery items; baked goods; prepared meals; an ample wine and craft-beer area; bulk foods – AND it has an affiliation with English Gardens where it lets them sell in its parking lot.

If you are in the market for some fresh produce, some fancy hummus, some singular salsa, some fall-focused flowers, or if you are like me and simply like to visit these kinds of places to decompress and get inspiration, then you’ve got to check out this grocery store with the mouthful of a name! Colasanti’s Market & Snook’s Butcher Shoppe, you are AWESOME.

468 S Milford Rd.

Highland, MI 48357

www.colasantis.com

275. Arts and Scraps – September 16, 2017 – Detroit, MI

ArtandScraps5ArtandScraps1ArtandScraps2ArtandScraps4Arts and Scraps is a thrift store, but it’s an art-products-based thrift store, which to me makes it the coolest thrift store on the planet.

The Detroit-based shop/charitable organization geared toward encouraging childhood creativity among low-income populations had been on my mind for months – since late winter/early spring, when I cleaned out the closet in my home office and gathered up buttons, crayons, yarn, bits of fabric, safety pins, and other craft-related detritus, bagged them, and threw them in the trunk of my car with the intention of going there and making a donation. Finally I made it over there on a sunny Saturday afternoon in mid-September.

As instructed on Arts and Scraps’ website, I parked near the side delivery door where donations can be dropped off, hauled my bag of offerings out of my car, and knocked. A friendly older woman answered, thanked me for my donation, and asked if I wanted to have a look around. I hadn’t planned on doing that, but I was like sure, why not? So she let me through the back area to the front of the shop.

OK, let me say, when I walked through that shop, I was like, WOW! I brimmed with excitement as I took in the fabric room with its shelves of colorful offerings and the main shop area with its bins and bins of every crafting material you could ever think of: buttons, pipe cleaners, cardboard, yarn, wallpaper sample books, spools of thread – even metal cookie tins in all shapes and sizes. And it was all there for super-cheap prices, such as a dollar for four spools of thread. A dollar!

This place was heaven to the 10-year-old craft-happy kid inside of me. It had me fantasizing about using the shop contents to craft the kind of large-scale modern art installation made from everyday materials that I adore; if inspiration hit me someday, I would know exactly where to go. Give me five baby-food jars, some embroidery thread, a wallpaper sample book, and those wine corks – stat! I’ve got creating to do!

So if you’ve got a creative project you’re looking to dive into, consider skipping those pricey national-chain craft stores and hitting Arts and Scraps for your supplies instead. You’ll save money and support a good cause – a total win-win in my (scrap)book. 🙂

If you are interested in donating supplies to Arts and Scraps, here’s the link to the page on its site that gives donation-material guidelines: www.artsandscraps.org/get-involved/individuals/save-materials-from-home. Financial donations can be made through the site, as well.

6135 Harper Ave.

Detroit, MI 48224

http://www.artsandscraps.org/

269. Frank & Me – August 26, 2017 – Clarkston, MI

20170826_15171420170826_15170220170826_151514After eating some of the best pulled-pork enchiladas of my life at the Clarkston Union one Saturday afternoon back in August, my friend and I wandered into Frank & Me, an adorable boutique store on Main Street in downtown Clarkston. Its two stories are packed with stylish clothing and accessory finds, as well as fun gift-worthy items like wine-scented candles and mugs and linens with funny sayings on them such as “Caution: free range children” and “Mom, you’re so cool they named jeans after you” (love that one).

I believe I stumbled into Frank & Me during one of my previous Clarkston visits but for some reason decided not to cover it for the blog then (maybe because I moved in and out of it too quickly to get photos – it’s happened before in window-shopping scenarios). I feel justified throwing it on here as a new place because I know that previous visit didn’t pre-date the origins of the blog, and it’s too cute not to include!

20 S Main St.

Clarkston, MI 48346