Jesse Cory didn't make the decision to move his Internet art start-up to Detroit's Eastern Market by himself. He had his wife, his partner and five of his employees with him when they walked through 1410 Gratiot in the middle of last summer.
They saw the century-old building's vintage features, high ceilings and exposed brick walls. They saw that the renovation was practically complete and the finished space was perfect for a growing, edgy business like their's. And they'd only seen the first floor when they knew 1410 Gratiot had to be their next home.
"We walked through it and said, 'You want to sell this?'" Cory says.
is a spin-off of 323 East
and the Ohm Creative Group
, a combination art gallery and marketing agency. Remember the Kwame mugshot mugs? Those came from the Ohm Creative Group and were sold at 323 East. Cory and his partners founded the quirky, art-inspired business in an odd-shaped commercial building on the eastern edge of downtown Royal Oak in 2006. The marketing agency magic took place in the back and the front gallery sold the wares of local artists with a heavy emphasis on graffiti art.
323 East and the Ohm Creative Group launched 1xRUN
in 2010 as a way to sell limited editions of art prints. The idea took off and the business has grown rapidly since. It now employs eight people and a handful of independent contractors, becoming the centerpiece of the 323 East and Ohm Creative Group business empire.
323 East's downtown Royal Oak location couldn't keep up with 1xRUN's growth and increasing need for space to warehouse more art. The L-shaped building only consisted of a few 100 square feet on one floor. Cory and his partners began looking for a new home for their business and Detroit's greater downtown area was at the top of their list.
"There is an energy in the city we felt we were missing," Cory says.
He adds that he and his colleagues spent months speaking to every local economic development agency they could find and looking at even more spaces. There wasn't much in the way of what they were looking for, which consisted of a historic, urban building with three sizeable floors (a ground floor for an art gallery, a floor for 1xRUN art storage and work space and a floor for Cory to live on) that was largely renovated. Cory and his team didn't want an extensive renovation to take away from building their business.
The three-story building on Gratiot turned out to be perfect for those needs. The previous owners that had rehabbed it in 2005 were ready to move on after other opportunities led them elsewhere. They offered a Cory and his partners a land contract to purchase the building. And then there was Cory's familiarity with the block's emerging Bohemian atmosphere of artists and entrepreneurs.
"It's a very inspiring street," Cory says. "There are a lot of artists that have been there for years. We're excited to be part of the rebirth of that block."
Source: Jesse Cory, president of 1xRUN
Writer: Jon Zemke
Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.