Resilient Neighborhoods: Co-working pop-up space offers perks for Detroit businesses

Sherrie Savage used to draw pictures on the walls as a kid. These days, however, she's encouraging others, including grown-ups, to scribble on them. 

The College for Creative Studies graduate is now in the process of turning a pop-up retail space in Grandmont Rosedale into The Coloring Museum, a place whereSherrie Savage (Photo courtesy GRDC) visitors can color murals with washable markers and crayons, learn about local artists, and purchase coloring books and other art-related accessories.

The new gallery is an extension of Savage's other business Naturally ILLustrated, which uses graffiti-inspired illustrations to educate and promote self-love to black women and children. Her product line includes coloring books, coloring posters, and coloring pillows as well as natural hair-themed emoji merchandise. 

Savage, a Grandmont Rosedale resident, originally started off doing coloring event pop-ups all over the Metro Detroit region, but eventually had the idea of putting up black-and-white murals on the wall that people could color themselves.

"I'm really excited about bringing something different to the community and to keep residents in the neighborhood, so they don't have to go outside of Detroit to experience something like this."

Next month, the Coloring Museum will be starting a six-month residency at Grand River WorkPlace, a co-working and pop-up retail space owned and operated by the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation (GRDC). The kickoff party will take place Sept. 1 from 5 to 8 pm and feature free treats from Good Cakes and Bakes and Ice Cream Detroit

Sherrie first heard about the Grand RIver WorkPlace through an ad in the Grand Monitor, GRDC's newsletter. She feels that setting up at the space offers her a wonderful opportunity to test out her concept before committing to a brick-and-mortar location.

"it's great to be able to test my business before I commit to a permanent space. I can gather the necessary data I need to be able to run my business fully in the future," says Savage. "And as far as being able to pop-up in my community, I'm honored." 

The Grand River Workplace is owned and operated by the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation.Co-Working and pop-up retail

Located at 19120 Grand River Ave., Grand River WorkPlace is meant to serve as an incubator and meeting space for local businesses, freelancers, and nonprofits. 

"Our space is really designed to support businesses in all aspects," says JeNiece Freeman Holt,  Grand River WorkPlace's manager. "We want them to learn and grow their business here in our space."

 Grand River WorkPlace was launched by GRDC, a local nonprofit community development organization, in 2014. The nonprofit saw a need for a place in the neighborhood, where entrepreneurs could meet with their teams, get access to resources, and set up temporary retail locations. Open 24/7 for members,  Grand River WorkPlace offers many of the services one would typically associate with that type of location, including printing, high speed wi-fi, mailbox, kitchenette and complimentary tea and coffee. Beyond that, members also get access to two bookable conference rooms, dedicated offices and get free professional headshot photos.

 Grand RIver WorkPlace's operators also work to connect local businesses with resources and host quarterly workshops on topics like grant writing, financial decision making, access to capital, and marketing.

"Those are some really good draws for our business owners. Because you never know what you need until it's there and presented to you like a workshop on social media [presence]," says Freeman Holt. "So that's a big draw for our business owners."

Since opening nine years ago, Workplace has had over 100 businesses or nonprofits take advantage of its services. Today it accommodates 38 member organizations, most of whom are local and many of whom work in the legal or medical fields. 

As for the pop-up retail space, it offers a six-month lease and is designed to help businesses with a tangible product test out their idea with the public. Recent businesses that have leased the space include Estella's Vegan Dessert Boutique and  Moy Hair Essentials. But it's most well-known patron is Detroit Vegan Soul, a 100% vegan soul food restaurant. 

"They were also a member here and moved into one of GRDC's buildings," says Freeman Holt. "We were very instrumental in them having that second location right down the street." 

Grand River WorkPlace's central meeting room.

A 'perfect place' for 'shared space'

Danielle North knows all about the perks of being a member of the Grand River WorkPlace. She's the founder of, Degree Forward, a college completion nonprofit for working professionals and adults.

Degree Forward partners with Southern New Hampshire University, a private nonprofit university focused on online education, to help clients attain their degrees.Danielle North The university is responsible for providing Bachelor's and Associate degrees at a low cost via its project-based curriculum, while Degree Forward offers coaching and wraparound support to local students enrolled in its programs.

North is a long time resident of Grandmont Rosedale and also runs a local indoor playground called Kidz Kingdom. So when she needed office space for her new businesses, she immediately thought of Grand River WorkPlace as a great place where she and her staff could go to work on projects and meet clients.

"When I founded Degree Forward, this was the perfect location to start off and have an office space as a shared space. Although we have a program that's virtual, It's still really important to have a sense of connectivity right here in the community," says North. 

North really loves the workshops that GRDC sponsors for members and feels the headshots have been helpful for her organization. What's more she feels Grand River WorkPlace is a great affordable option for local residents and entrepreneurs looking for a co-working space.

For a smaller nonprofit, business owner or sole entrepreneur looking to have a professional space where they can hold meetings, have access to mail or internet or even [meet[ to other entrepreneurs, Grand River WorkPlace is the perfect place."

Looking to the future, Freeman Holt is hoping to encourage more business-to-business networking and to find new ways to connect with the community. 

"I would love this space to grow into a larger area where community members could have community meetings, block club meetings and just have more connection between our community and our business owners and their services."

Photos by Nick Hagen, unless otherwise noted.

Resilient Neighborhoods is a reporting and engagement series that examines how Detroit residents and community development organizations are working together to strengthen local neighborhoods. It's made possible with funding from the Kresge Foundation.
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Read more articles by David Sands.

David Sands is a Detroit-based freelance writer. He's covered the news for Huffington Post Detroit as an assistant editor and worked as a staff writer for the transportation news site Mode Shift. Follow him on Twitter @dsandsdetroit.