Shops

388. The Farmer’s Hand – February 3, 2019 – Detroit, MI

February2019Farmer'sHand2 (2)February2019Farmer'sHand3 (2)After lunch at Folk and shopping at Mama Coo’s Boutique on a sunny Sunday in early February, I stepped into The Farmer’s Hand, the Corktown grocer adjacent to the restaurant and vintage clothing store.

The tiny shop showcases a thoughtful curation of locally-produced fruits, veggies, cheeses, and other grocery goods, such as Mindo Chocolates (produced in Dexter) and my perennial obsession, Gus and Grey jams (one of Detroit’s finest exports, in my opinion!). Baked goods, salads, sandwiches, and other ready-made items are also available for purchase, as are coffee and tea. A window-facing counter allows patrons to eat, drink, and relax in-shop before heading out to face the rest of their day, foodie fuel in hand.

1701 Trumbull Ave.

Detroit, MI 48216

www.thefarmershand.com

387. Mama Coo’s Boutique – February 3, 2019 – Detroit, MI

February2019MamaCoo's2 (2)Mama Coo’s! I visited this cute shop back in early February and have lately been pondering a return jaunt. Considering that five months have elapsed since my first visit (!), I’m due!

The Corktown-based store is one of those thoughtfully-curated spaces around which you can rotate multiple times and find new items catching your eye with each revolution. It sells jewelry, magnets, candles, crystals, buttons, handmade greeting cards, vintage clothing, and other striking goodies.

Multiple items intrigued me, and I went for all four of them: a packet of soothing-scented incense sticks; a polished nugget of rose quartz; a magnet emblazoned with “The Patriarchy Isn’t Going to Smash Itself” and drawings of female historical figures and superheroes; and the best candle I have ever smelled, a concoction that included scents of peppermint and lavender – and was it eucalyptus? I burned it up long ago and don’t remember what it was called or who produced it, but it was AMAZING, the kind of candle you take a big whiff of before you head out the door for the day to give you a boost – and now I’m legit penning into my planner a return visit to Mama Coo’s at the remembrance of it!

The employee working the counter at Mama Coo’s that day was so friendly and lovely, too, chatting with me about the history of the shop and the building it is housed within (which she said the owner’s grandparents had lived in at one point years ago).

In short: Mama Coo’s Boutique is a gem, one worth a first visit, a return visit, and many more beyond that!

1701 Trumbull Ave.

Detroit, MI 48216

www. mamacoosboutique.com

383. Pewabic Pottery – December 30, 2018 – Detroit, MI

december2018pewabicpottery1 (2)december2018pewabicpottery3 (2)december2018pewabicpottery4 (3)Pewabic Pottery, how excited I am to finally be acquainted with you!

I knew that the pottery studio and shop established in 1903 by Mary Chase Perry and Horace Caulkins had a rich history in Detroit and had long wanted to visit. I didn’t realize until I pulled up to the building on a sunny Sunday afternoon in late December 2018 that it is a National Historic Landmark, with an exterior as gorgeous as the handcrafted goods housed inside.

Entering Pewabic’s first-floor showrooms, I was enchanted by the array of beautiful handcrafted ceramic goods made both in-house and by featured outside artists. I browsed the decorative tiles, vases, ornaments, urns, and serving dishes and selected a snowflake ornament and a sea-foam-green glazed decorative tile that reads “Detroit is Beautiful” to take home with me.

After making my purchases, I walked up to the second floor, where I perused ceramic pieces and written plaques outlining Pewabic’s history.

I’m keeping this post immensely short and sweet for me, because as you may have noticed, this is my first time posting here in over five months (WTF, Self???), and I’m simply happy to be back on the blog and finally showcasing this Detroit gem. It is definitely worth a visit, both for the simple pleasure of browsing the meticulously crafted goods and for the opportunity to support the local artisans who make them.

10125 E. Jefferson Ave.

Detroit, MI 48214

www.pewabic.org

382. Bikes and Coffee – December 16, 2018 – Detroit, MI

december2018bikesandcoffee1 (2)december2018bikesandcoffee2 (2)I’m forever enthused to find a new indie coffee shop. So when the recently opened Bikes and Coffee in the Woodbridge neighborhood of Detroit popped up on my radar, you know I was there!

As its name implies, Bikes and Coffee isn’t simply a coffee house. It’s also a full-service bike repair shop that offers cycling-related gear and builds custom bikes by request.

The small shop artfully melds its two business elements, with counter and sofa seating up front for cozy latte sipping, a barista-station island in the center, and bike frames, tires, and other gear concentrated along the rear peripheral.

I’ve been to Bikes and Coffee twice: once on a gorgeously sunny Sunday in mid-December when I enjoyed a white tea latte while sunning at a window-facing counter seat and again two weeks later, when I sipped a rich cappuccino.

The first time I was there, the owner’s kitten was there, too, running and jumping and playing. What an adorable little guy! He pawed playfully at my legs and hopped up onto one patron’s lap.

Whether you’re a cycling enthusiast or not, Bikes and Coffee is worth a visit. Bring your bike in for a tune-up and sip on some caffeine-fueled goodness, to boot!

1521 Putnam St.

Detroit, MI 48208

www.bikes-coffee.com

374. Marcus Market – October 27, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018Marcus2 (2)October2018Marcus1 (3)After a latte-sipping visit to Urban Bean Co. one rainy Saturday afternoon in late October, I wasn’t ready to go home, so I decided to jaunt over to Marcus Market to check it out.

I’d expected the Midtown/Cass Corridor-based business to be an indie grocery shop à la the now-defunct (R.I.P!) Parker Street Market. It is that, but it’s also a liquor store – and a purveyor of smoothies – and tacos!

As witnessed during my late-afternoon visit, the liquor-store aspect appears to be the most popular – at least among the college-student demographic. There were loads of young adults making alcoholic beverage purchases, presumably in preparation for Saturday night (ah, I remember those days!). Marcus Market has a wide selection of liquor, craft beer, and wine.

It also offers a variety of grocery items (bagged coffees, juices, snacks, soups and other canned goods, etc.) and goods you’d find in a drugstore (such as school supplies).

And then there are the two counters toward the back of the store, where the smoothies and tacos, respectively, are offered!

Who doesn’t love a fresh smoothie? I will say, however, that the food counter I’m most excited by in Marcus Market is the one that offers tacos, because that is helmed by El Taco Veloz, a Mexican restaurant based in Southwest Detroit that I’ve yet to visit but learned about this year and SO want to check out. Their tacos are supposed to be BOMB – and you can see from online reviews of Marcus Market that people are digging the ones they’ve ordered from the satellite location of El Taco Veloz located there.

I want to have the full El Taco Veloz experience at its original location in Southwest Detroit (where you order from a food truck and then eat in the dining area in the building behind it), so I did not partake of it within Marcus Market. But isn’t it awesome that Marcus Market helps peddle these purportedly glorious tacos – and so much other stuff?

4614 Second Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

371. Sfumato/Castalia – October 18, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018SfumatoCastalia1 (4)October2018SfumatoCastalia2 (2)October was a busy month of visits for me (11 in total!). And when I called upon a gorgeously-kept Victorian manse one Thursday evening in mid-October, I got two visits for the price of one via Sfumato/Castalia, a perfume shop by day and cocktail bar by night.

I’d stumbled across this unique establishment while searching online for naturally made perfumes sold in the area. I was in need of a new scent but wanting to veer away from traditionally-made perfumes with their oft-synthetic ingredients. Sfumato’s site popped up in my search results, and I was psyched to learn that a perfumery creating signature scents from plant-based ingredients resided right in Midtown.

According to Sfumato’s website, its scents are concocted from “trees, flowers, herbs, and spices.” This is evident when you step into its basement-level shop and sniff sample sticks of the eight perfume varieties currently for sale.

Four perfumes reside in Sfumato’s Signature collection, and four are deemed Black Label. An eight-milliliter bottle (dubbed the Travel size) of a Signature scent is $30; a Black Label variety in that size is $40. Sixty-millileter Standard size bottles run $90 and $120, respectively.

And then there are the perfume flights – the route I ended up taking. I couldn’t decide which of Sfumato’s scents I liked the best, so I decided to get to know the four Signature varieties (Epiphany, Gravitas, Siren Song, and Survival Instinct) better via the flight option, which proffers one-milliliter sample vials of each for $15 (the flight containing the four Black Label perfumes is $20).

Three and a half weeks after my visit to Sfumato, I’m down to the dregs of those four vials of Signature scents, and I’ve enjoyed the heck out of them. I find wearing the herbal, woodsy, citrusy, luxurious plant-based scents both soothing and exotic.

It’s a close call between Gravitas, Survival Instinct, and Epiphany as to which one is my favorite, but my snap-judgment verdict at the moment is that it’s Epiphany, with its aura poetically described on Sfumato’s website of “intense greenness with hints of dew-covered moss and life ready to step into the sunlight. An elegant party that always pleases, no matter who attends. The scent of myself, delivered divinity on a fresh spring day.” How can one not feel transformed by the wearing of a scent with a description such as that?

As the wearer feels transformed by the donning of Sfumato’s enchanting scents, so Sfumato itself transforms into something else entirely. In the evenings, starting at 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, its shop counter turns into a bar rail, and it becomes Castalia, the cocktail bar.

And as one might expect, Castalia is not your typical cocktail bar. Each of its signature alcoholic beverages have been inspired by one of Sfumato’s scents. When you order one, it’s served to you with a napkin sprayed with the scent that inspired the drink. You’re encouraged to sniff the napkin as you sip the drink to mingle the olfactory experience with the tasting experience. Non-alcoholic versions of each cocktail are also available.

I decided on the cocktail that paired with the Mocha Valentino Black Label perfume, the Cacao Manhattan, and savored the rich notes of chocolate, coffee, and spice in the whiskey-based drink as well as in the scent that accompanied it.

While as a perfume shop Sfumato’s tiny interior had been welcoming, I especially adored the environs as a bar. With its dusky lighting and stone walls, it was intimate and cozy; the bartenders were the consummate hosts, friendly and charming. What an ideal place to enjoy a warming cocktail and the rich scents that accompany it on a dreary winter’s evening (or any evening, really)!

3980 Second Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.sfumatofragrances.com

www.castaliacocktails.com

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

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