Hugh gets hatched: Bachelor pad specialist wins $50,000 for Midtown retail project

Hatch Detroit is over, and my store Hugh ended up winning. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it, but obviously I’m incredibly thrilled and so thankful for the support during all the weeks of voting. Winning Hatch Detroit is a super big deal -- I just won half the amount that a Project Runway winner gets and I didn’t even have to cry on national television! The win means I will be able to open a store that not only looks great, but has the right product mix, a superb location, smart marketing and a robust web store -- the kind of advantages that help guarantee success.

Possibly the strangest thing about winning is the fact that I almost didn’t enter the contest. I knew about it of course, but my initial thought was – having been in the retail game in Detroit before – it was something for the next generation of retail entrepreneurs.  

Then one day I went with Liz Blondy (of Canine To Five fame) to pass out Hatch Detroit information to retailers in Ann Arbor. After walking around town and talking about how the different stores might work in Detroit I realized there was no store I thought to be a better fit for Detroit than Hugh.

Being a contestant was a real emotional rollercoaster and I will tell you this much, I’m definitely never running for public office. Trying to get votes, consistently and from a wide range of people, is not always that fun. You’ve got to ask people to become invested in your success (or at least invested in your not failing) and you have to be shameless about it. I think doing that was harder than any of us in the top 10 expected. Also, it is really difficult to see your highly-personal business idea languish in the polls. There were times when Hugh was behind in the beginning when I just sat and thought, "why am I doing this to myself?" 

There is a flip side though. Finding people who are happy to rally behind you and believe in your idea, win or lose, is a rare and miraculous experience. And the entrepreneurs who made it to the top ten are an amazing group. When I think about the transformative powers of these ideas and the people behind them, I feel so optimistic about this city I get a little choked up.

What’s next? Unfortunately for me and for news photographers they are not handing over a giant check for $50,000 (a waste of Detroit’s Next Great Retail Photo Op if you ask me!) I will get together with Nick and Ted from Hatch Detroit over the next few weeks to make a plan. Then I assume they get to work planning Hatch Detroit Season 2 while I get busy making some retail magic happen.

When the permanent Hugh opens the merchandise will be a similar mix to the first time it popped up. It will be comprised of mostly new products -- barware, personal accessories, home décor, furniture and lighting – with a little bit of cool vintage mixed in. The style will be manly but ladies don’t worry -- there will be things you’ll love too!

As for the opening -- Hugh is going to be in the Auburn, the new mixed-use building under construction at the corner of Cass and West Canfield. It is scheduled to be finished in August, so look for a September opening. Yes, there will be a party; and yes, you are invited. (Editor's note: see this Kraemer Design Group rendering of the Auburn in Curbed Detroit. And, yes, that elegant photographic visage in smoking jacket at left is our author and contest winner Joe Posch.) 

I’ll be putting updates of my progress on the Hugh blog, and if you want to stay informed you can sign up for the e-mail list there, or become a fan of Hugh on Facebook.
Thank you again to everyone who participated in the voting in Hatch Detroit -- even if it wasn’t for Hugh! The greatest thing about the entire contest was that it showed Detroit is passionate about independent retail, and there is no shortage of outstanding retail ideas. Remember -- a Starbucks or BW3 or Pottery Barn doesn’t give a neighborhood personality the way independent retailers do, so support the ones we have and encourage the ones on the way!