10 semifinalists announced for 2019 Hatch Detroit contest

A bookstore, gaming lounge, vintage clothing shop, and more are among the businesses selected out of nearly 450 applications – a record – in this year’s Hatch Detroit entrepreneur competition.

Now in its ninth year, Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest has helped popular businesses such as Sister Pie, Lip Bar, and La Feria launch. The competition was created in 2011, during the recession, and the contest has not only survived, but thrived, Hatch Detroit founder Nick Gorga said during the unveiling event Friday at N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art. The first six winners are all open, he said, and 35 of previous top 10 alums are also open, a “testament” to the support of the community and talent of the entrepreneurs in Detroit, he said.

Husband and wife team Drew and Erin Pineda are now a part of that top 10 group. They started their business, 27th Letter Books, in June after being inspired by their travels.

“Out of that came this idea of opening a bookstore, creating a space for community …and finding a way to help connect people through stories because there is such a magic to sharing our personal stories with each other, interacting with books and being in a community,” Erin says.

They’ve done pop-ups at Norma G’s and Lost River, and after talking to other entrepreneurs, they were encouraged to apply for Hatch Detroit. As a fairly new business, “we were completely surprised and so thankful and grateful for the opportunity and to be in community with these other great businesses. It was really cool to see a lot of people excited about the city and about entrepreneurship,” Erin said.

For entrepreneurs with a dream to open a brick and mortar, Hatch Detroit is a goal for many, including Jeffrey Lewis, the owner and founder of Morningside Café. If there is one lesson he’s learned it’s to keep trying. He’s applied twice and gotten rejected, and this time he’s one of the semifinalists.

Being selected is “very significant” to him because it means being a part of the Hatch alumni network.

“I’m honored to be a part of the amazing group of business owners, entrepreneurs (who have gone through Hatch Detroit),” he said.

Since its inception, 44 Hatch alumni businesses have opened their doors in neighborhoods throughout Detroit, Hamtramck, or Highland Park.

At $100,000, the grand prize is the largest ever. The timing was right to “double down,” said Patricia Alexander, Comerica Bank vice president of business banking and Hatch Detroit board member, citing the rising cost of doing business.

The semifinalists include:

  • 27th Letter Books: an independent bookstore and audio recording space.
  • Brix Wine and Charcuterie: a wine and small plates gathering place in the Liv/7 neighborhood along with Brix Concierge, a wine curation service.
  • HM Style Lounge & Chill Room: a music lounge and cultural space in the Grandmont Rosedale community, hosting special events including live art, fashion shows, and poetry slams.
  • ILERA Apothecary: an organic and vegan beauty tech company.
  • Morningside Cafe: a local community coffee and entertainment café in Morningside.
  • Neighborhood Office and Incubator Space: a community-driven coffee shop and collaborative workspace/resource center that will be accessible to both Spanish and English-speaking residents.
  • Old Soul Vintage: a vintage retailer in Detroit specializing in men’s and women’s clothing.
  • Playa vs. Playa Gaming Lounge: an urban, hip-hop and comic-themed entertainment facility in the Fitzgerald neighborhood.
  • Street Beet: a vegan comfort food pop-up that aims to open a brick and mortar.
  • The French Cow: a pop-up inspired by French cuisine and culture with the goal of a brick and mortar space that will serve crepes, cheese, ice creams, and other French treats.

Public voting began at midnight, Sept. 28 and runs until Oct. 3. People can vote up to three times a day by going to www.hatchdetroit.com/vote or Hatch Detroit’s Facebook page or by visiting the following locations to vote in person.

  • La Feria: 4 until 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2
  • Northwest Detroit Farmers’ Market: 4 until 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3.

The four finalists will battle it out at the annual Hatch Off event on Oct. 17 at The Beacon at One Woodward in downtown Detroit.



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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.