Resilient Neighborhoods: 'Tis the season for holiday pop-ups on Detroit's East Side

Business owner Tina Anderson has been looking forward to this holiday season — and not just because of the lights and festive cheer. 

She's the proprietor of TbakesTreats, a Detroit baking business that specializes in cakes and cupcakes and also offers some vegan treats. This year Anderson is
 participating in a special holiday event called the E. Warren Holiday Market, which is focused on raising the visibility of East Side businesses like hers. She feels it's a great opportunity to introduce her baked goods to the public.

"I'm excited," she says. "I've just been thinking of some different things to put together for the market, in regards to gifts, where they can go home and bake the goods themselves. I'm going to put them together and package them up like gift baskets."

Now in its second year, the E. Warren Holiday Market is taking place at 4925 Cadieux Ave. from Nov. 26 through Dec. 17 on Saturdays between 11 am to 3 p.m. It's being sponsored by the E. Warren Development Corp (EWDC), an East Side nonprofit dedicated to supporting and enhancing the East Warren Avenue commercial corridor and supporting surrounding neighborhoods.

Joe Rashid, EWDC's executive director, says the holiday market was founded to give businesses and residents in the community a local alternative to other seasonal markets taking place downtown.

"The holiday market is meant to be a showcase of all the different amazing local businesses that we have in our neighborhood," he says. "[We want] commerce to take place and people to get their gifts in a local way, while also allowing our local vendors to not have to go across town to be able to showcase their wares." 

EWDC hopes this holiday market will be even more successful than last year's event, which brought about $20,000 into the local economy. While 2021's holiday market took place outdoors, the high winds and weather vendors and customers encountered last year encouraged EWDC to change things up a little for 2022. 

This time around, the event has been moved indoors to the Cadieux Stage, a historic sound and motion picture studio that's been frequented by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Bob Seger, and Parliament-Funkadelic. The 23,000-square-foot studio and performance venue was recently bought by developer Christopher Lee, who is in the process of redeveloping it.

During the holiday market, the Cadieux Stage will be decked out with holiday decorations, including a Christmas tree. Each week is expected to bring together more than 30 vendors selling items like bath and beauty products, jewelry, apparel, pottery, candles, and food. Music is being provided by DJ Nouveau and other East Side Detroit-based DJs. There will also be food trucks, cider and hot chocolate, an area for holiday photographs, and a raffle for visitors who bring toys to donate.

"We want to make sure that people feel welcome and festive," says EWDC Market Manager  BrieAnn Bell. "We're going to have fun."

Visitors check out EWDC's holiday market at the Cadieux Stage. (Nick Hagen)Supporting local businesses

This year's event kicked off on Nov. 26, Small Business Saturday. Approximately 75 percent of the businesses featured in the holiday market are local to the East Warren neighborhood. Helping area businesses like these is a mission that's near and dear to EWDC's heart.

The nonprofit is dedicated to bringing 100% business occupancy on E. Warren between Mack Avenue and Alter Road. Since its founding three years ago, EWDC has worked diligently to encourage and assist local businesses in a variety of ways, from setting up the E. Warren Tool Library to establishing a digital literacy and marketing program called Let's Get Digital E. Warren. Perhaps its most visible project, however, has been the creation of the East Warren Farmers Market, which currently takes place in summer and fall at 16835 E. Warren Ave. 

Scott Boateng, owner of the skincare and beauty supply company Preva Body, is a regular participant of the farmers market and is also participating in the holiday market this year. He is appreciative of the supportive community EWDC has helped establish through these events.

"My first Farmers Market was East Warren," he says. "Even if I'm not there everyScarves and jewelry for sale at EWDC's holiday market. (Nick Hagen) week, I'm still connected. I'm still checking in on everyone. We're all invested in each other's success."

Stacey Davis is another farmer's market vendor who's attending this year's holiday event. She owns Stacey's 2 Day Tea, a company that sells homebrewed iced tea. For her, participating in the markets and EWDC's digital marketing classes has given her helpful insight into running a business that would have been difficult to obtain elsewhere.

"The information I have gained from this farmers market has been invaluable," she says. "What would have cost me tens of thousands of dollars [to study at school] has been very nominal. And it's been a good way for me to get to know my neighbors."

As with the farmers market, EWDC sees the holiday market as a chance to help emerging local entrepreneurs hone their skills.  With that in mind, the last Saturday of the market, Dec. 17,  will feature a commercial business resource fair to help connect local businesses with support from organizations like the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. 

"We're really working to not only provide a space for these businesses, but allow them the different elements of technical assistance to actually grow their business and do other things," says Rashid.

A sandwich board announcing Next Chapter Books pop-up at the Alger Theater. (Nick Hagen)A mini-bookstore at the Alger

The holiday market isn't the only holiday pop-up happening in Detroit's E. Warren neighborhood this year. The historic Alger Theatre retail space at 16451 East Warren Ave. will also be hosting a temporary bookstore pop-up this season. 

Next Chapter Books' pop-up will run Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from Nov. 25 to Dec. 18. The bookstore is a joint venture between Jay Williams, a formerJay and Sarah Williams automotive industry manager who is pursuing a Master's Degree in public history, and his wife Sarah, a freelance journalist who regularly contributes to Model D. They currently live in Redford, but are looking to relocate to the city of Detroit where they hope to set up a permanent bookshop. 

Inspired by existing Detroit bookstores like Pages Bookshop, 27th Letter Books, and Source Booksellers, the couple has been looking into the feasibility of setting up their shop on the East Side. While their market research has been promising, the pop-up is a chance to see how the local community responds to a bookstore. 

"We really love books and we're really encouraged," says Jay Williams. "We're looking at a used and new model, where we would probably do about 70% used books, because we think affordability is important. But at the same time, we wanted the representation and relevance we could get with the remaining 30% of what's current being mixed in."

The pop-up will feature around 2,000 titles, with a mix of genres that includes contemporary fiction, social justice, biographies and memoirs, cookbooks, history, politics, sci-fi and fantasy, poetry, young adult, and children's books. The Williams' daughter, Emma, who runs a pastry business called Been There, Baked That, will also be on hand selling cookies and muffins for the pop-up.

The Alger Theatre, an art deco-style movie theater, first opened its doors in 1935 and closed down in 1985. Right now, an organization called Friends of the Alger is raising funds to continue renovations of the theater auditorium and storefronts like the one being used for Next Chapter Books. In addition to pop-ups, the space also occasionally hosts special events.

The Williams connected with the Alger Theatre through Rashid, whom they know through an area softball league. As stewards of the local business community, EWDC doesn't see the two pop-ups as competing and is trying its best to maximize foot traffic between the two events.

"We're trying to cross-promote," says Rashid. "The Alger has always been our Vendors showcase their goods with the public at EWDC's holiday market. (Nick Hagen)community messaging board and the heartbeat of our area. So it's important to try and help them activate these storefronts that are in the process of being renovated." 

EWDC hopes both events raise the visibility of area businesses in the community and around the city at large. Beyond that, working on the preparations for this year's holiday market has really shown Bell just how far East Warren's emerging business community has come in the last few years.

"Being an entrepreneur is a one-person show a lot of times," she says. "For this year's holiday market, they're coming to me with plans on how they are going to package and market their items. I see the advice and confidence coming down from our vendors. They're really excited."

All photos by Nick Hagen.

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.