Back in 2010, Ben Newman had a dream of better bagels for Detroit. He and his brother Dan launched Detroit Institute of Bagels
out of their flat in Corktown, selling unique bagel flavors like bacon cheddar and rosemary-olive oil-sea salt made to order. The bagel buzz built quickly; a Kickstarter campaign
raised about $10,000 towards their own bagel shop and they were top ten semi-finalists in the first-ever Hatch Detroit competition in 2011. When they purchased a building on Michigan Avenue in Corktown roughly one year ago, it seemed that Detroit’s days as a bagel desert were coming to an end.
But as anyone who has tried to renovate a historic and long-vacant building can tell you, these things take time.
"Anything going from idea to reality takes two years, (that’s) what everyone told me," says Ben Newman, co-founder and bagelsmith of DIB who also has a Masters in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan.
Since Model D reported on the purchase of the building at 1236 Michigan Ave.
, the Newmans have received Rehabilitation Tax Credits, but weren’t allowed to do any sort of renovation work on the building during the approval process. The building itself has, at their best estimate, sat vacant for roughly 40 years before they acquired it, and when they began to look at the basement as the bagel production facility they quickly realized it wasn’t going to be practical and a new production facility would have to be added on.
"(We were told) we might never be able to fully waterproof the basement and end up tens of thousands of dollars into trying and still be forced to build a new space," Newman explains. "For the employees, for myself, for the experience and overall efficiency it will be better to have all production happen on the same floor as the retail."
DIB broke ground Jan. 3 on its new bagel production facility, which will be located in the space between the current building and PJ's Lager House (sharing walls with both). The 1,800-square-foot new building will be set back about 30 feet from Michigan Avenue. The rest of the street-facing lot will be a green space with outdoor seating. Inside there will be windows between the café and the production facility which will allow customers to watch the process of bagels being made.
Renovation on the original building hasn't yet started, though now that ground has broken on the new facility all of the construction will move forward simultaneously.
"That was part of the year-long process," Newman says. The structural plans and mechanical drawings for both buildings had to first be completed, submitted and approved before any significant work could be done.
While their initial hopes of opening in 2012 were perhaps a bit too ambitious, Newman remains undaunted and continues to move forward. "I am really happy that people are excited about our opening. I realize that it's a very good thing to have a following before we open," he says. “We’re not just opening a bagel shop (in) a white box space; we’re redeveloping a whole property. For me that’s what I’m passionate about."
Source: Ben Newman, co-founder of the Detroit Institute of Bagels
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg