Let's think big and shop small this holiday season.
Big as in, wow, there is a growing number of independent shops in Detroit to handle your buying desires. Small as in, yes, thankfully, there is not a big box retailer within miles of the stores on the list below.
That's right, city folks, you can spend your money right here in Detroit: downtown, Midtown, Corktown, Eastern Market and other neighborhoods. Detroit has lots of shops offering a range of gifts, from apparel to décor, artsy craftsy items, old and new vinyl records. Many of the stores offer products made in Detroit or Michigan.
To help you shop local, here is a handy list of some of our favorite city spots. Keep it close, share with friends, family, and strangers lurking in your social networks.
Image courtesy of Pure Detroit
Let's start by heading downtown for some deals at Pure Detroit
, in the Guardian Building (locations also at the Fisher Building in New Center and the Renaissance Center on the riverfront). This is the place that put the "big" into small Detroit business way back in 1998. Here, you can score local and hyperlocal T-Shirts and hoodies, historic city maps, stationary and books, jewelry, and even Detroit City dog collars. We know you want one.
While downtown, you will also want to go to Spectacles
(230 E. Grand River Ave.). For over 20 years, Zana Smith has kept her tiny shop in Paradise Valley stocked with items to meet all your hip hop, techno, and house music fashion and accessory needs. This is where you can find apparel for the club and the street. Don't be shocked if old friend Jeff Mills or other music luminaries step in for a visit.
Slide down to Greektown for a stop at Detroit vs Everybody
, 400 Monroe St., where you can find clothing, accessories, and other street gear to keep you warm and positively fierce (or fiercely positive) about the city throughout the holidays and the rest of the winter.
At D:hive (1253 Woodward Ave.) the Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) presents Detroit Made, a holiday pop-up shop happening Dec. 12-13
, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The featured makers include McClary Bros., Rebel Nell, Sparklegarden, Tender, the Distance Between and about a dozen others. All items for sale are designed and produced in Detroit. Sounds like a win-win to us.
Book lovers need to sneak into John K. King
(901 W. Lafayette Blvd.) for used and rare books. Open since 1965, the store features four floors of print items, each one a new adventure. Plan on spending at least half a day here.
Head up the road to walkable Midtown to check out what City Bird
(460 W. Canfield St.) have to offer. Owned and operated by siblings Emily and Andy Linn (the seventh generation of the Linn family to live in Detroit), the two stores feature a little bit of everything, including housewares, paper goods, books by local authors. Pick up a copy of "Belle Isle to 8 Mile: An Insider's Guide to Detroit," a 448-page guidebook compiled and published by the Linns that features "more than 1,000 attractions, sites, institutions, restaurants, bars, and curiosities from the essential to the obscure."
Image courtesy of City Bird
Across the street, check out what Shinola
can do plenty for you for the holidays, including selling you high end watches and bikes (of course, of course), but also leather goods, knit caps, and pet accessories for that pampered little furry guy or gal that curls up with you on the couch or bed.
While you are still on the south side of Canfield, why not stop into Willys Detroit
(441 Canfield St.), Shinola's sister store, where you can find more high-end and well-designed quality goods for that high-end, quality special someone.
Take a walk a block south through the newly-constructed green alley between Canfield and Willis and veer left to Source Booksellers
(4201 Cass Ave.). Here you will find a fine literary selection for the non-fiction book lovers in your life.
On the same block is Flo Boutique
(404 West Willis St.), where you can find clothing and accessories for men and women.
Walk north on Cass to the Auburn Building to Nora
(4240 Cass Ave.). This is where to find kitchen and bath items, leather bags, porcelain bowls from the Hasami Collection, paper and office items, and a selection of games and block sets for those little Detroiters near and dear to you.
While at the Auburn, don't miss Hugh
(4240 Cass Ave.). You can get all your home bar accessories, glassware, accent tables, sofas and sectionals here. Owner Joe Posch places great value on design, so expect high quality shopping fun at this location.
Also in Midtown, check out Detroit Artists Market
, 4719 Woodward Ave. for Art for the Holidays, a gift market where you can find a wide range of original art including paintings, jewelry, metal, photography, books, cards, glass, ceramics, fibers, and more.
The Museum Shop at the Detroit Institute of Arts
(5200 Woodward Ave.) is also worth a walk a few blocks north for art books, prints, ornaments, and jewelry.
A block up in the Park Shelton (15 E. Kirby St.), the Peacock Room
offer new and vintage apparel and clothing accessories for women.
And while you're in Midtown don't forget People’s Records
, 4100 Woodward Ave. This is where to find vinyl by the (we'll go out a limb here and call it) millions. We're talking 12-inch, 10-inch and 7-inch records for that special collector you are so, so lucky to have in your life.
A good spot to begin shopping for the urban pioneer or the neighborhood homebody is Detroit Mercantile Co.
(3434 Russell St.). Lots to pick from here, including scarves, caps, plenty of cool Detroit stuff (including coffee mugs, flags, shirts, stainless steel necklaces emblazoned with a Detroit map).
Savvy Chic - Photo by Walter Wasacz
Work your way into the market and make a stop at Savvy Chic
(2712 Riopelle St.). The shop was opened by Karen Brown
in 2000, and features scented candles, canned and packaged imported food items, books, and greeting cards. A side room stocked with a seriously good selection of clothing and accessories for ladies and "savvy gents."
For all your letter press passions and desires -- including art posters, cards and other printed matter -- the market offers Signal-Return
, (1345 Division St.) and Salt & Cedar
(2448 Riopelle St.) -- both fabulous, must-see stops for all shoppers.
Salt & Cedar - photo courtesy of Salt & Cedar
Detroit City Distillery - Photo by Walter Wasacz
For locally-produced spirits, hop over from Salt & Cedar to the Detroit City Distillery
(2462 Riopelle St.) conveniently located right next door. Here, you'll find bottles of small batch artisanal whiskey, gin, and vodka. Take home a beautifully-designed bottle or just stop for a cocktail to break up the shopping grind.
After Detroit City and before you leave Eastern Market, you might need some coffee and pistachios for the road. Look to Germack
(2509 Russell St.) to take care of that.
Also, a reminder: Eastern Market Sunday holiday markets
are happening every Sunday from now until the holidays. Take advantage, we say, and do your shopping then.
A must pre-holiday visit is to El Dorado General Store
(1700 Michigan Ave.) home to vintage gear for men and women. The store also features items for the home, including some handmade items, textiles, and jewelry.
Within walking distance is Two James Spirits
, where you can taste at the bar (how about that egg nog?) or buy bottles of bourbon, gin, and vodka distilled on the premises to go.
Deeper into the neighborhood, find literary gifts at Ditto Ditto
(1548 Trumbull), a small book shop and independent publisher established in 2012. This Friday might be the perfect time to go, for this happy hour event.
On the corner of Trumbull and Bagley, take a look inside and say hello to Wade Kergen and all the other friendly vinyl experts at Hello Records
(1459 Bagley). Looking for a great selection of rock, soul, jazz, and electronic records? They have you covered.
And a few more, here and there
It's not hard to get into the holiday spirit at Pewabic (10125 E. Jefferson). A great night to go is the annual Holiday Shopping Night,
this year held Wednesday, Dec. 10, 6-8 p.m. Look for ceramic tiles, ornaments, dinnerware, and other artfully classic and contemporary items.
In the nearby West Village, check in at Paramita Sound
, where still more vinyl - this time all new product -- is ready to move for discerning holiday shoppers.
In Southwest, even more gift booze can be found at Our/Vodka
No booze for you on this trip to Hamtramck (though we'll leave it up to you to find a suitable neighborhood bar of your choice) before or after (or before and after) you go shopping at the Polish Art Center
, 9539 Jos. Campau and Tekla Vintage
, a shop across the street (9600 Jos. Campau) recently opened by the town's mayor, Karen Majewski.
At the art center, look for all things religious and secular for the holidays, including ornaments, cards, calendars, books, and CDs. The displays in the windows and inside are worth a look this time of year.
At Tekla, the mayor can show off her collection of hats, outerwear, clothing accessories and other classic items for women and men. If you're so inclined, bring up Hamtramck or Chene St. (later called Poletown) history with Majewski, who will give you her thoughts about the last 100 or so years of the two neighborhoods.
For bonus points ask her about her book, Traitors & True Poles
, published in 2003. Who knows, maybe she has a copy to sell at the store. It could be the perfect gift for that cute, smart impossible-to-buy-for ethnologist on your list.
Walter Wasacz is a former managing editor for Model D.