Bea's Detroit wants to help small businesses flourish with art garden on Dequindre Cut

The sunny yellow lemonade stand on the Dequindre Cut just got more colorful

Several 3-by-3 canvases featuring local small businesses have popped up in Bea’s Small Business Art Garden next to Bea’s Squeeze lemonade stand, which launched in 2019 on the Dequindre Cut as a pop-up to market Beatrice and Eli Wolnerman’s upcoming coworking space in Eastern Market.

Located on the site of a former meatpacking factory that in recent years had featured an egg mural before it was demolished to make way for the coworking space, Bea’s Detroit was taking longer than expected to build, Beatrice Wolnerman says. In the meantime, “we wanted to do something fun to market our space,” she says.

They launched Bea’s Squeeze on a 600-square-foot parcel of land they bought on the Dequindre Cut, selling and delivering lemonade through a pail and pulley system to parched passers-by, bikers, and walkers. What started out as a marketing installation turned into a thriving business. Today the shelf-stable lemonade is sold in 11 states.

The lemonade stand was such a success for them that they are hoping to bring similar exposure to small businesses, especially during this time when businesses are closed as a result of the pandemic, through the art garden, Wolnerman says. Businesses can purchase a 3-by-3 sign for $250 and then have the option to pay for a full year or for six months. As the weather gets nicer, flowers will also be planted in the garden.

As a coworking and co-creating space that aims to be that “middle ground” for businesses that are outgrowing the home office but aren’t quite ready for their own facilities, Wolnerman says the pandemic has made it challenging for them engage with small businesses. So the art garden is a way to help entrepreneurs market themselves and their businesses while putting “a fun spin that fits in with everything the [Dequindre] Cut stands for, community space and creativity.”

Bea’s Detroit is experiencing its own challenges as a result of the coronavirus. After celebrating a grand opening on Feb. 27, the coworking space had to shut down like all other nonessential businesses. Without income coming from coworking memberships or the café, they’ve adapted by launching the BeaHive, a virtual coworking community. For $20 a month, members can join live streams featuring local entrepreneurs; on May 11, Sister Pie founder Lisa Ludwinski was a featured speaker.

“Our business is a business that absolutely cannot survive without people physically in the space. So we knew we had to do something in order to keep ourselves afloat and stay relevant,” says Wolnerman of the virtual community.

As for the lemonade stand, it will be back this summer, Wolnerman says, and its pulley system makes it perfect for socially distanced refreshments.

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Read more articles by Dorothy Hernandez.

Dorothy Hernandez is a freelance writer and editor who frequently writes about food at the intersection of culture and business. She has contributed to NPR, Midwest Living magazine, Eater, and a variety of other publications. Visit her website and follow her on Twitter @dorothy_lynn_h.