Photo: Courtesy of Evan Fried/DIOP featuring Keenan @keenan_no_kel
In the last week, thousands of Detroiters have marched for miles to protest police killings of Black men and women. Beyond policing, the protests have forced a reckoning with the ways in which racist systems infect all areas of society — including how we shop, and which business owners get support from patrons, financial institutions and political leaders.
In Detroit — a majority Black city with high levels of Black entrepreneurship — we still see white-owned businesses receive larger shares of money and attention, whether it’s a nine-figure tax break for a company that struggled to hire Detroiters, or constant media coverage of a barbecue restaurant (in a city full of great barbecue).
Over the years, some white business owners in Detroit have made the news for outwardly racist comments and mistreatment of staff members of color. You probably heard recently about Redford-based Detroit Popcorn Company’s debacle: the former owner allegedly suggested on Facebook that protesters need “knee’s on there (sic) necks.” He is no longer affiliated with the company, and major clients Quicken Loans and the Detroit Zoo have cut ties. An acquaintance of the owner of Hot Taco and Town Pump Tavern claimed that the restauranteur also shared racist posts on Facebook last week. Those are just the latest incidents, though: see Founders Brewing Co, Detroit Mercantile Company, Kid Rock’s Made in Detroit bar… the list goes on.
Add gentrification into the mix, and you get instances of Black business owners losing downtown leases or forced to close. Right now, they’re particularly struggling due to the economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic — nationally, the number of Black business owners currently working declined nearly twice as much as the overall rate from February to April, and few minority businesses received federal emergency funding.
If you’re looking for ways to diversify your shopping, promote equity through your wallet and support businesses that look like the communities they serve, spending your dollars at Black-owned businesses is an easy first step.
So whether you want to pick up an expert-approved bottle of wine, find a new book, upgrade your wardrobe, frame a piece of art, start a fitness class, just eat something delicious or nearly anything else, there’s a Black-owned business for that. Here’s a very incomplete list of some of our favorites in Detroit and ones recommended by Detour readers — we’ll be updating it with more, so head to our Facebook group to share your own faves.
And oh yeah — if it’s popcorn you’re looking for, Metro Detroit has you covered with Motor City Popcorn, Jetta’s Gourmet Popcorn or Poppin’ & Mixin’ Kettle Corn.
Note: Check with individual businesses for the latest information on hours and service changes due to COVID-19.
Dining & drinking:
- The Jamaican Pot: For eat-in and takeout, The Jamaican Pot’s authentic flavors will make you feel like you’re transported to Montego Bay. Popular menu items include a saucy jerk chicken; utterly delicious beef patties and tender roti.
- YumVillage: Located in New Center, this fast-casual eatery is led by chef and owner Godwin Ihentuge. He dishes out Afro-Caribbean favorites like charred and spicy Jerk chicken and Maafe rice, allowing customers to build their own custom bowl.
- Sweet Potato Sensations: The story of this family-owned company dates back to 1976, when couple Cassandra and Jeffery Thomas made an irresistible sweet potato cookie recipe. Word got out, and now their neighborhood restaurant is known for not just desserts, but sweet potato waffles and pancakes, soups, sandwiches and salmon croquettes. Curbside pick-up, delivery, online orders and gift cards are available.
- Ima Noodles: Mike Ransom’s cool Corktown noodle shop is the home seat for a burgeoning empire, now also dishing out steaming bowls of udon and ramen to diners in Midtown and Madison Heights. Ima’s menu distills Japanese cuisine into approachable fast-casual selections — there’s also a great little beer and sake list. Could this concept possibly be the next Chipotle? Believe it!
- Ivy Kitchen & Cocktails: A neighborhood gastropub run by Nya Marshall is known for its amazing cocktails and killer brunch. This spot is currently open for carry out and delivery via Uber eats.
- Good Cakes & Bakes: You can actually feel good about eating decadent layer-cakes, cupcakes and pastries from this Livernois Avenue shop. Grab some treats today via online ordering, delivery options and gift cards.
- House of Pure Vin: Located in the heart of downtown, this spot is ideal for wine lovers and future connoisseurs. The store is currently providing bottle pick-up, online shipping and hosting a must-watch Quarantined Series via their social channels.
- Floods Bar & Grill: This is a local institution, the antithesis of “New Detroit” eateries with their overwrought cocktails and subway tile. The drinks are always strong, the catfish tenders are always hot, and the music is loud — and it’s been that way since it all began.
- Ellis Island Tropical Tea: Nailah Ellis-Brown started Infinity Beverage Company back in 2008 with a serious mission to share her late grandfather’s famous tea recipe — he was a Jamaican immigrant and a self-starter who became a well-known caterer in the Bronx. The tea is an antioxidant, smooth Jamaican blend she makes with love. You can shop for the tea here.
- Chef Greg’s Soul-N-The-Wall: You’ve never had a sandwich quite like this! Gregory Beard, aka, “CHEF,” crafts an unbeatable “Boogaloo Wonderland” — a savory combo of ground beef (or shaved steak, chicken or veggies), caramelized onions and melty cheese, drizzled with his famous Boogaloo sauce.
- Faustina’s Creole and Soul Food: Craving authentic Creole and Cajun food? Chef Anthony Faustina prepares Cajun catfish, fried okra and seafood gumbo — a rare gem here in Detroit! Faustina has extensive cooking experience, catering for celebs like Erykah Badu, Stevie Wonder, Patti Labelle, Fantasia, Idris Elba and more.
- The Detroit Pepper Company: Healthy and delicious can be used in the same sentence when it comes to this restaurant! This spot is known for the best stuffed peppers — plus grain bowls and fruit smoothies to keep you cool and refreshed.
- Delphine’s Jamaican Cuisine: Owner Delphine Drake is a self-starter who launched her career with homemade Jamaican seasoning blends sold throughout metro Detroit. Now, she’s running her own restaurant, serving up authentic dishes like Jerk chicken and curry goat, accompanied by rice and peas (beans), cabbage and plantains.
- Peteet’s Famous Cheesecakes: This local favorite takes cheesecake to a whole new level. Think: two-layer cheesecakes, cheesecake-stuffed strawberries, cheesecake-filled cannolis — the list goes on.
- D&D Cuisine: This spot may be “Home of the Lamb Chops,” but there’s so much more: wings, lobster bites and creamy chicken Alfredo are just a handful of tempting options at this Livernois dining spot.
- Sloppy Chops Restaurant: Fine-dining at its best! Dig into steaks, burgers and seafood dishes prepared by Chef Al El — oh, and save room for the strawberry crunch cheesecake for dessert if you can.
- They Say: This jazz music-filled establishment run by Terry Payne Sr. has a little bit of everything. While the dining room is currently closed, this well-liked establishment has kept fans happy with weekly Facebook trivia questions and regular curbside pickup/delivery.
Retail & services:
- Backstitch: Owner Kristine Ferguson opened her Highland Park alterations and mending shop on a shoestring budget in December to provide a service that wasn’t readily available to her community. The accomplished tailor also sells her own clothing focused on sustainability. Ferguson reopened the store this month and encourages appointments.
- Art In Motion Ceramic Studio & Gallery: This independently-owned ceramics studio is known for showcasing unique artists and workshops/classes. During quarantine, curbside clay pick-up and projects are keeping those creative minds sharp.
- Bob’s Classic Kicks: Located in Midtown, this shop is known for its brand new and gently used sneakers, hats and apparel. They’re back open now by appointment.
- DIOP (Diaspora Inspired Streetwear): Mapate Diop, a first-generation American with West African roots, cofounded DIOP and sells clothing, scarves and masks through his online store. His mother’s love for Ankara fabric was a major springboard for creating the apparel line. Diop donates a percentage of face mask purchases to support frontline workers and vulnerable Detroit communities.
- Source Booksellers: Janet Webster Jones runs this small but lively independent bookstore in Midtown. She’s not only known for hand-picking fascinating non-fiction books, but for bringing the community together through book talks and mind-body-centered classes (currently gone virtual). You can purchase books online at sourcebooksellersonline.com.
- Jabs Gym: With creative, HIIT options like kickboxing, BoYo (a breathless boxing/yoga combo) and Strong by Zumba, Jabs Gym will leave you breathless — and wanting more. Locations in Eastern Market and Birmingham, with online sessions and new socially-distanced outdoor boxing classes.
- Live Cycle Delight: Amina Daniels’ West Village studio is known for its focus on mindfulness and community. While in-person classes are still out, there’s a multitude of online classes to help you get your daily sweat.
- The Fit Park: Owners Mark and Thea Parker are leading the way in HIIT workouts, weight training and yoga — classes are available Monday through Sunday on Zoom, or try an outdoor class at Geary Park.
- Cream Blends: Owner Yolanda Williams followed her dream of being an entrepreneur after learning how to make soap in her own kitchen. Reboot your skincare routine after months of quarantining with her amazing soaps, body oils, bath bombs made with natural ingredients.
- Shy vs. Bold Boutique: From customized face masks, to fun leggings and plenty of Tie-dyed apparel, this spot is on top of the latest fashion trends. Whether you’re shopping at their Southfield location (by appointment) or browsing online, you can find one-of-a-kind women’s clothing and accessories to keep you stylin’ all summer.
- Teaser’s Boutique: Affordable designs for women of all shapes and sizes, right on Livernois Ave. Appointments are currently available.
- Flo’s Boutique: This independently-owned women and men’s shop in the West Village has been keeping fans happy all quarantine long with virtual fashion shows, plus curbside pick-up for all of your stylin’ needs.
- Voluptuous Bien’Aime Boutique: Summer is basically here — it’s time for some new dresses and sun hats right now. With styles ranging from extra small to plus size, there’s something for every woman. Currently open with limited hours by appointment.
- Simply Casual: This retail fashion hub has been a Detroit favorite for over 20 years. Now back open for business, this men and women’s boutique along the Avenue of Fashion is the go-to spot for a new outfit, trendy eyewear, shoes and jewelry.
- Pink Poodle Dress Lounge: Owner Raeshawn Bumphers‘ bridal shop and dress boutique honors the inspiring women in her family, while bringing glamour, style and elegance to the community. Appointments are currently available.
Recommended by event designer/ producer, Melinda MeMe Anderson of Studio M Detroit:
Local Farms — recommended by Taste the Local Difference:
Kuzzo’s Chicken & Waffles, Detroit Soul, Detroit Vegan Soul, Bert’s Marketplace, The Kitchen by Cooking with Que, Le Culture Cafe, Vicki’s Bar-B-Q, Detroit Chips, City Wings, Savannah Blue, Norma G’s Cuisine, Black & Mobile (delivery), COOP, Le Crêpe, Detroit Is The New Black, The Black Dress Co, Modele Dress, The Lip Bar, The TEN Nail Bar, Eric’s I’ve Been Framed, Detroit Shoe Shine and Shoe Repair, Red Rose Florist The Collective (home to Brenda Stroud Studio, The Studio Upstairs, Stef-N-Ty Hats, African Imports and The Detroit Cuffs).
And a few faves that we’re waiting on to reopen soon: Textures by Nefertiti, Cafe d’Mongo’s Speakeasy, Detroit Sip and Narrow Way Cafe.
Detour’s Alex Washington, Ashley Woods Branch and Kate Abbey-Lambertz contributed.
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this post included a photograph of Good Cakes and Bakes’ April Anderson by George Clarence Atelier without attribution. We regret the error.