Restaurant and bike shop to join tattoo parlor and beer store in old Chinatown building

Ever since moving to Detroit in 2003, Matt Hessler has wanted to open a tattoo parlor in the city. Come mid-June, he will be doing just that. Once construction wraps up on 3401 Cass Ave., Hessler will open Iconic Tattoo, a sister shop to another parlor he owns in Rochester.

The custom tattoo and body piercing shop will occupy the corner space in a building Hessler purchased last year on the corner of Cass and Peterboro in what was known, at least for a few decades, as Detroit's Chinatown. Three more businesses have already claimed the remaining space in the 9,000-square-foot building.

Dave Kwiatkowski and Mark Djozlija of Sugar House- and Wright & Company-fame will be opening a restaurant with Asian-inspired fare called the Peterboro, says Hessler. Downtown Detroit Bike Shop will also occupy a storefront on the Peterboro side of the building. 8° Plato Beer Company Detroit, a craft beer store, will face Cass Avenue, as previously reported.

Expect the tattoo shop to open first and the bike and beer stores to follow. The restaurant, which will have to build its kitchen after work on the building is completed in June, will take longer to open. Crews are currently replacing the long-compromised roof, which was the source of a considerable amount of water damage to various parts of the building. Despite the damage, Hessler says the bones of the building remained strong and even two-thirds of the terrazzo floors were salvageable.

One of the biggest changes neighbors and passers-by can expect will be Hessler removing the wood paneling and other materials obstructing storefront windows. He plans on restoring the large windows to something closer to their 1920s origins.

"The building will be all bricks and glass again," says Hessler. "Open light and big windows are essential for public buildings. It needs to feel more inviting."

After the Lodge Freeway displaced the original Chinatown in the 1960s, many of the businesses were moved to the area around Peterboro and Cass. 3401 Cass featured a number of these businesses, including the Wah Lee grocery store. In re-storing the building, Hessler has found a number of interesting things leftover from previous tenants, including a Chinese puppet theater, which he plans to re-purpose.

Hessler has enlisted the help of a Shanghai-native now living in metro Detroit to translate much of what he has found. She's also helping him to restore the multi-sided Chinatown sign still on the corner of Peterboro and Cass. They've found an artist skilled in Chinese characters to make pieces similar to what was found on the original signs, including greetings, Chinese blessings, and things about the city.

Source: Matt Hessler, owner of 3401 Cass Ave., Iconic Tattoo
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.
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