Publisher's notebook: Detroit, storefront city

Springtime in the city is my favorite time of year. Neighborhood merchants prop open their doors and dust off their outdoor seating. Sidewalks come alive again with people walking, biking and lingering. New flowerboxes are planted, new signs are posted. It feels like a rebirth after the long winter season.
Our local indie storefronts are often at the forefront of this renewal, beckoning us back outside to rejoin the world. They set the stage for our waltz of weekend errands, giving us places to trade hellos with neighbors while we check off our to-do lists. A trip to the hardware store for a home improvement project, a visit to a local baker or butcher to restock the pantry – these experiences can be much more blissful than a brutal big-box blitz if you shop local and enjoy the journey.
The spring and summer months – before the crush of the holiday shopping rush! – is a great time to reacquaint yourself with local retailers. And this year there are more opportunities than ever to participate in creating a stronger local economy in Detroit. Whether you’re a shopper or a shopkeeper, you are an important part of making this work. Here are a few efforts worth checking out:
8 Weeks Under 8 Mile
This new community-wide campaign challenges you to do all of your shopping in Detroit for eight weeks. Think you can do it? Sure you can! The campaign kicked off last Saturday in Southwest Detroit and continues through June 30, with all invited to participate and document the experience online. Led by the Detroit Revitalization Fellows, the project aims to create lasting awareness of opportunities for buying local. We think it’s a great chance to share good tips for finding everyday basics in the city. Check it out at
Detroit Ca$h Mob
Photographer David Lewinski started this local effort to support city retailers via a simple Facebook group. Here, he invites friends to join him in spending a little money ($2 to $20 suggested) on a designated day at a designated business. So far, the mobs have helped boost sales at places like Spiral Collective, Hello Records, Detroit Hardware and Metro Foodland, attracting over 600 followers and counting. Join the group for future mob notices or to suggest new locations.
BALLE Conference
The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (or BALLE) is North America's fastest growing network of socially responsible businesses, and this year’s conference is happening next week, May 15-19, in Grand Rapids. BALLE believes that local, independent businesses are more than employers and profit-makers; they are neighbors, community builders and social innovators, aligning commerce with the common good. Several local business owners are presenting, and we’re excited to welcome visiting guests to Detroit for a post-conference tour. Learn more about BALLE here.
Hatch Detroit
The popular local retail business competition is gearing up for their second annual contest offering a $50,000 prize to the best new retail idea, thanks to sponsorship from Comerica Bank. Hatch will begin receiving applications on June 1, so now is a good time to dust off that dream business idea of yours and get ready to submit! For more details, visit
Belle Isle to 8 Mile
This forthcoming printed guide to Detroit will feature a comprehensive, carefully curated selection of more than 700 Detroit attractions, sites, institutions, restaurants, bars, and curiosities from the essential to the obscure. The book is currently being researched and written by Andy and Emily Linn (of City Bird), Rob Linn (of Mapping the Strait), and more than 30 of their favorite authorities on the city. To submit your ideas and stay tuned for the release, visit belleisleto8mile.
Do The Right Thing
Join us tonight, May 8, for our Model D Speaker Series at Willys Overland Lofts on the role of small business in the community. We will debut two new short films about Avalon International Breads and City Living Detroit before their nationwide release for The Responsibility Project. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.; the program begins at 6:00 p.m. For more info, read here.

Publisher Claire Nelson writes a monthly column for Model D. Re-read her last one here
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Claire Nelson is the founder of Urban Consulate, a network of parlors for urban exchange. Most days you can find her in Detroit or New Orleans.