Aside from all the altruistic reasons — like boosting the economy and supporting your neighbors — it’s hard to ignore that shopping local is … well, just plain fun.
With dozens of new boutiques and products arriving on the scene each year, it’s also easy to discover the latest and greatest D-inspired treasures, from T-shirts to home décor — there’s even Motor City-branded incense. And you’ll find plenty of folks on this bandwagon.
“People are absolutely wanting to wear their Detroit pride more and more,” said Erin Berline, manager of the Detroit Shoppe. “We are that ‘comeback kid’ like NYC and Vegas both were not so long ago. Those cities have emerged stronger than ever, having rebranded themselves, and we see Detroit following down that same path.” Here’s a glimpse of some of the coolest new shops, trinkets and homegrown edibles that embody Detroit. Consider it a preview meant to inspire your inner treasure hunter. Now go shop and find that little piece of Detroit that speaks to you.
1 DAY | 1-3 HOURS
1. SHOP LOCAL IN DETROIT
City Bird and Nest
Emily Linn and her brother Andy Linn own two boutiques in Detroit’s Midtown: City Bird, which opened in 2009, and Nest, which debuted in 2011.
City Bird showcases Detroit- and Michigan-themed items produced on site, as well as housewares, accessories, paper goods, cards and jewelry made by more than 200 artists and designers.
“We’ve found that customers, both locals and visitors, really respond to locally themed items,” Emily Linn said. “I think that people are both fascinated with the city’s history and excited by the potential of its future and are eager to celebrate it.”
“We call ourselves the original local culture shop,” manager Ryan Hooper said of Pure Detroit, a collective of three shops and cafes that originally began 15 years ago by an urban planner and architect duo, Shawn Santo and Kevin Borsay. “We are curating the local culture of the city in a retail format.”
Pure Detroit sells hand-screened locally designed T-shirts, Detroit books and food. But the highlight of shopping at Pure Detroit, Hooper said, is the experience of visiting Detroit’s most prominent and architecturally significant buildings.
“Detroit feels so much like an active, thriving city,” said Hooper, adding that people want to celebrate their connection to the city. “I think it’s a blue-collar thing, in the same way that a lot of blue-collar workers in the city take pride in their job, they take pride in their city.”
The Detroit Shoppe
Located in the Somerset Collection, the Detroit Shoppe offers up nostalgic favorites for diehard Detroiters, as well as “expatriates” of the city. Some favorites include seven flavors of Faygo, Vernors, Better Made potato chips and Sanders chocolates.
“Detroit is gritty, urban and tough, yet cool, hip, artistic and industrious,” said Erin Berline, manager of the Detroit Shoppe. “This is being embraced more and more by not only Detroiters, but by people from other states and countries. Detroit is becoming the current ‘it’ city on apparel.”
Rust Belt Shopping Market
Beats thump from an in-house DJ booth, the fragrance of freshly roasted coffee beans dances in the air. It’s just another Saturday morning at Rust Belt Market, Detroit’s newest collective of artisans and collectors.
Opened in 2011 in a defunct 15,000-square-foot Old Navy building, Rust Belt Market is filled with more than 50 Michigan-owned shops, each selling handmade, locally produced or high-quality vintage items (think a brick-and-mortar version of Etsy).
“The Rust Belt is a hub of creativity,” said owner Tiffany Best of her Saturday/Sunday marketplace. “Detroit is jampacked with skilled makers and creative types — many of whom are starting over after the loss of a job but are now successfully and happily self-employed. One of our goals is to help artists make a living at what they are good at and love to do.”
2. MORE LOCAL SHOPS
We’d be remiss not to list a few other interesting addresses that have serious Detroit flavor when it comes to atmosphere and products sold. Check ’em out. Some are nostalgic, others are newer entries to the scene.
Detroit Athletic Co. carries the largest collection of Detroit-based sportswear, collectibles and throwback products in the world. Going strong after three decades in business and a stone’s throw from the hallowed ground of historic Tiger Stadium.
The Gibraltar Trade Center is a weekend marketplace like no other. Lots of Detroit-based small business owners selling every conceivable type of item.
Goods Detroit carries local artist garb and miscellaneous stuff is sold here, but what’s really cool is the “made while you wait” personalized service. Design your own D-centric T, hoodie, onesie or pet-friendly item.
3. DETROIT GIFTS
There are a million ways to wear Detroit on your sleeve. Here is our handpicked list of the latest and coolest gifts from our favorite city.
Michigan Cork Coasters are sturdy and cut in the shape of the Mitten State, these cork cutouts are perfect for your favorite bartender’s bar. ($16 set of 4, ilovecitybird.com)
Detroit Skyline Tiles are a gift you can’t find anywhere else. Head over to Pewabic Pottery, where you’ll find items for any budget, like the beautiful keepsake Detroit Skyline Tile. ($28, pewabicstore.org)
Made in Detroit T-shirts from Kid Rock’s company gives props to the city’s industrial roots and its resilience through hard times. If you’ve seen the tongue-in-cheek “Motor City Kitties” logo, that’s these guys. ($25, madeindetroit.com)
Valentine Vodka is clean and slightly sweet. If you like your drink on the harder side, Valentine Vodka should be on your shopping list. It’s distilled and bottled in metro Detroit and has won a slew of gold medals in worldwide spirits competitions. (valentinevodka.com)
Garden Fresh Chips and Salsa is the gift that keeps giving. Take one chip, dip it and eat it and you’ll quickly want to repeat the process. From humble beginnings in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale, Garden Fresh is now one of America’s top salsa brands. (gardenfreshsalsa.com)
McClure’s Pickles and Bloody Mary Mixer are a local favorite. McClure’s pickled cukes are extra crunchy and their Bloody Mary Mixer is just the right amount of hot and spicy. So good, you’ll forgo buying by the jar and go right for a case of 12. (mcclurespickles.com available at Nest, ilovecitybird.com)
Add a pop — Vernors, Faygo Red Pop or Rock & Rye are all faves at the Detroit Shoppe.
For dessert, grab a jar of Sanders hot fudge, a sinfully thick treat.
5. FREE SOUVENIRS
The cheapest (and best) souvenirs are great memories. Wander around Detroit’s greatest sights and fall in love with the city all over again. Key photo ops include the Joe Louis Fist and the Spirit of Detroit, the International RiverWalk, Motown Museum (outside photos only) and Comerica Park. Best places to take pics of the Detroit skyline: Hart Plaza, Belle Isle and across the Detroit River on the Windsor riverfront.
Photo credits: City Bird, Rust Belt Market, Pete’s Chocolates, Pure Detroit, Detroit Athletic Company, McClure’s Pickles, Made In Detroit t-shirt, Pewabic tile, chips & pop and Cullen Family Carousel by Bill Bowen; The Detroit Shoppe by Jason Vaughn
Mentioned Attractions And Venues
City Bird460 W. Canfield St., Suite 103
Detroit, Michigan 48201