From low riders and hot music to authentic Mexican cuisine and kiddie
activities, Shop Your Block isn't your typical sidewalk sale. The
annual cultural event and neighborhood festival is also a chance to
explore Southwest Detroit
Even a particularly unaware resident
of Metro Detroit knows that summertime around here is all about
Events-with-a-capital-E. Like just a few weeks ago, when the Gold Cup
Boat Races, Fourth Street Fair and Concert of Colors converged during
one particularly busy three-day span. And while many of these said
events have reached the consciousness of the area's mainstream, some of
the most authentic ones fly beneath the radar of many people not within
blocks of the action.
Such is Shop Your Block, an annual West
Vernor street fair about to mark its 20th anniversary this August 4-5.
Produced by the Southwest Detroit Business Association
Your Block was initially designed to bring shoppers back to a
struggling commercial corridor. Over the years, and with an influx of
Latino culture (and capital), West Vernor has blossomed into a
real-live pedestrian-oriented commercial corridor — and Shop Your Block
has evolved into a vibrant celebration of its residents and businesses.
Your Block is focused around the two main "nodes" of West Vernor's
commercial activity: the intersections of Vernor/Junction and
Vernor/Springwells. The event runs from noon-6 p.m. on Friday and 10
a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, and it is decidedly family-friendly.
are a few recommendations to guide your visit, but don't hesitate to
just park your car or bike and walk down the street. After all, that's
what summer, street fairs and Southwest Detroit are all about.
Sounds of Southwest
Your Block features a stage at each node, but the Vernor/Junction stage
on Saturday has some really hot acts — all of which are local. La
Inspiracion, the 10-piece Latin jazz band led by Detroit veteran Ozzie
Rivera, warms it up at 11:30 a.m., followed by Francisco Solano's Band.
At 2 p.m. is rapper SOL (www.sol313.com
). He just released an album
that is expected to blow up and has already opened for Eminem, Common
and Bubba Sparxxx.
Other notable acts include Kamil Haddad,
Benny Cruz and the Brown Paper Bag Blues Band. Full lineups for both
stages can be found at www.southwestdetroit.com.Dream cruisin', Southwest style
the first time, the souped-up rides so common in Southwest Detroit have
been formally invited to cruise West Vernor during Shop Your Block.
Anyone who has gotten the chance to watch these vehicles bump their way
down the street during the annual Cinco de Mayo parade knows how
entertaining — and awesomely loud —these low riders can be.Good eats
course, most nonresidents make the trek to Southwest Detroit for the
Mexican food the district is famed for. But there are others—mainly
denizens of the night — who swear by the coneys and scrambled eggs at
the narrowest restaurant in town, Duly's Place, located just
kitty-corner from Holy Redeemer.
Down at the other end of Shop
Your Block is a trio of Mexican restaurants that, while popular within
their neighborhood, are not as well known to the broader community.
This is your chance to pay them a visit.
Las Brisas is great for dinner, drinks and
dancing on Friday and Saturday nights. A full mariachi band and
admirable selection of tequilas make Las Brisas a local favorite.
will know El Nacimiento by its roof, which is adorned with rooster
figurines. Only open since 2002, it has established a reputation as an
all-around solid restaurant, and its façade is a wonderful example of
the type of wholesale changes occurring up and down Vernor. The motto
of Nacimiento's owner speaks to the warmth of the joint: "The sun
rises, and there are enough rays for everyone."
your attention? Taqueria Nuestra Familia — of the colorful hand-painted
tables, $3.95 lunch specials and homemade horchata — has arguably the
best in town. Opened in a single storefront in 2000, Nuestra Familia
has since expanded three times into adjoining spaces. For the kiddies
new addition to this year's Shop Your Block is Vernor Beach, which is,
well, a beach under a tent that will offer a wide variety of kid's
activities such as face painting, interactive theater, piñatas,
sidewalk chalk and crafts. Vernor Beach is located at the Springwells
end; the highlights of the Vernor-Junction area will be a petting zoo
and inflatable play areas.It is called 'Shop' Your Block
Vernor is neighborhood-oriented, so many of the shops are of a "basic
goods" nature, i.e., hair and nail salons, pharmacies, mercados and
professional services. However, your visit to Shop Your Block gives you
the chance to check out some specialty shops most likely found nowhere
else in the area.
Many Latin cultures celebrate a girl's 15th
birthday with a Quinceanera, a religious ceremony and party that marks
and honors her journey from childhood to adulthood. Maggie's Creations
specializes in the creation of the elaborate dresses that the guests of
honor wear to their special events, as well as decorations that will
transform her family's home or local social hall into a dreamland for
Variety or dollar stores are no longer the domains of
the hard-pressed inner city; with chains popping up all over
even-affluent areas, they have become as American as 7-11's. But you
have never been to a variety store quite as varied as Nice Price. It's
got your typical hand towels and dish soap and wrapping paper and
candles, but it's also got a surreal assortment of tchotchke and
patriotic paraphernalia. Plus, there's a good chance that there will be
a human-sized Shrek or Winnie the Pooh wandering the isles.
urban cowboy look never really fades into obscurity; it's less a trend
than an enduring "look." Rodriguez Vaquerita Western Wear can gear you
up with the most authentic in boots, hats, belts and more.
while optical stores aren't quite a niche market, El Valle Optical
certainly carved one out for itself by providing a well-chosen
selection of upscale eyewear. One of the strip's newest businesses, it
is located in a nicely renovated storefront.
Interested in learning more about businesses and setting up shop in Southwest Detroit? Click here to check out Model D's guide to investing in the fast-growing area.
Rodriguez Vaquerita Western Wear
El Valle Optical
Holy Redeemer Catholic Church
Taqueria Nuestra Familia
All Photographs Copyright Dave Krieger