Drew and Erin Pineda envision 27th Letter Books as a place where voices are heard and stories are shared, and after hearing their story the judges in the Hatch Detroit contest – with help from the voting public – named the husband-and-wife team the winners of the ninth annual entrepreneur contest.
At the Hatch Off event at The Beacon in downtown Detroit, the couple made their pitch for their independent bookstore in Jefferson Chalmers, a neighborhood where there’s $226,000 of unmet sales potential in the books and music category for the neighborhood, Erin said. That equates to about $620 in sales per day. She added that there are only two independent book stores in Detroit that offer new books and the libraries that serve the community have limited hours.
After the announcement, Erin said she was full of “gratitude for the community, which has been behind us” during the Hatch Detroit competition.
This year was the first when five semifinalists, which included Brix Wine and Charcuterie, Ilera Apothecary, Street Beet, and The French Cow, vied for the grand prize. And in another first, the grand prize was doubled to $100,000.
The prize is "huge," Erin says. While they are still finalizing estimates, their rough budget is $200,000-250,000, and the prize accounts for half.
For Drew, a writer and musician who grew up rapping and freestyling, the win is especially great, especially considering that just a few years ago he was battling cancer. While undergoing aggressive treatment, he started writing as a way to share with others what he was going through.
With a brick and mortar bookstore, "now I get to share these important and necessary words that we believe in," he says.
The $100,000 grand prize money would go a long way in transforming a historical building in the neighborhood that they’ve identified for their brick and mortar, the couple said during their presentation. In addition to the business grant from Comerica Bank, 27th Letter Books will also receive more than $200,000 in pro bono counsel from Hatch Detroit and its partners.
Forty-four businesses have opened a physical location in either Detroit, Hamtramck, or Highland Park since the contest began nine years ago, including winners Hugh (2011), La Feria (2012), Batch Brewing Company (2013), Sister Pie (2014), Live Cycle Delight (2015), Meta Physica Massage (2016), Baobab Fare (2017) and Toma Detroit (2018).
Update: 1:13 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18: This story has been updated with comments from Drew and Erin.