In response to the COVID-19 shutdown effects, my organization, the Live6 Alliance, created a pilot program called Livernois Outdoors to provide patio furniture to eateries and restaurants located on Livernois’ Avenue of Fashion to encourage visitorship to the corridor.
In 2019, the city of Detroit invested in a large streetscape redevelopment project, which slowed operations for a lot of businesses on the corridor. It was a long and extensive project spanning just south of Seven Mile to Eight Mile, removing the center median and expanding the sidewalks in front of the retail storefronts. During the construction period, many businesses struggled to keep their doors open and attract customers.
Patio furniture outside Good Cakes & Bakes at 19363 Livernois. And then in spring, just as business was expected to bounce back, the pandemic hit. Due to the stay at home order and business shutdowns, restaurants and eateries could not open as usual.
As a means to take full advantage of the new sidewalks and incentivize businesses to open and expand their operations, Live6 gifted outdoor patio furniture to seven restaurants located on Livernois’ Avenue of Fashion — Narrow Way Cafe, Kuzzo’s Chicken and Waffles, Good Cakes and Bakes, Yoshi Hibachi Grille, Noni’s Sherwood Grille, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, and Durden’s Food Truck.
This allowed them to provide outdoor seating for their customers and to attract new businesses to the corridor. Due to the pandemic, many small businesses were cash strapped after being unable to open during the spring months as usual, so we provided them with a one-time gift that would hopefully drive clientele to their businesses.
In total, we gifted about 70 sets of patio furniture to seven eateries.
A small team designed the pilot initiative and program as an extension of the Live6 Giving Tuesday PPE giveaways, which we executed in May. Live6 saw an opportunity in the new double-wide sidewalks in the neighborhood and understood that many eateries could only safely reopen if they took advantage of the new streetscape and utilized the outdoor infrastructure, which was new to the area.
When the pandemic first hit, we noticed that the sidewalks were empty and wanted to create a program that would help small businesses draw attention to this anchor corridor in Northwest Detroit.
We surveyed all these restaurants in advance and asked what they needed in addition to tables and chairs. Most restaurants said they wanted some barriers, such as planters, to designate the patio from the sidewalk and umbrellas so people would be comfortable and shaded from the sun.
At that point in the season, in early July, it was tough to find patio furniture. Most places were out of stock. We wanted to take on that challenge on behalf of the business owners to provide high-quality goods and services to their customers. We had all of the furniture assembled and delivered, dropped off, and ready for use.
The businesses have told us that they’ve highly utilized furniture. They are happy to have been gifted patio furniture -- they all admitted it was something they knew they wanted and needed. We have also noticed an uptick in the usage of the table and visitorship on the Avenue. We’re seeing more people spending time on the corridor, which is good for long term business and economic development in the area.
We hoped to provide visitors with the opportunity to sit down and enjoy the neighborhood and learn all that it has to offer instead of leaving quickly in their car after they pick up what they came for. Some other small businesses and boutiques have been staples in the area for decades. It allows customers to patronize those other businesses when they’re not just picking something up and taking it away.
We’re hoping to recreate this project on McNichols, which is undergoing a similar construction project in the spring of 2021. By replicating this project next season in adjacent geography, as well as provide some furniture for other businesses, not just restaurants and eateries, the goal is to create a destination district in Northwest Detroit which has something to offer everyone. Our goal is to support small businesses and drive customers to the area to experience all they have to offer.