A U-M Weekend in the D

by Jennifer Conlin, ’83 | Winter 2017

Detroit is full of strivers, dedicated urban enthusiasts working to keep the city’s storied past alive while also contributing new elements to its culture. The result is an authentic experience for those familiar with the city as well as those visiting for the first time. A driving force behind a number of must-see destinations in Detroit, from small retail outlets to internationally recognized institutions, are Wolverines. Whether they are founders, owners, managers, or all three, these individuals are committed to the city’s past, present, and future. To celebrate the devotion and dedication of some of these graduates, Michigan Alumnus has compiled a Maize and Blue weekend itinerary in the city where the University was born.


1 p.m.

The Detroit Institute of Bagels was born in an apartment kitchen where brothers Ben Newman, ’06, MUP’10, and Dan Newman, ’10, slaved over vats of steaming dough. Since 2013, the business (now solely owned by Ben) has occupied a building in Corktown, renovated by contractor Alex Howbert, ’04. Traditionalists will like the standard bagel flavors and fixings. For a twist, try the La Colmena, a sandwich made with local chorizo, egg, scallion cream cheese, avocado salsa, and tomato. detroitinstituteofbagels.com; 1236 Michigan Ave.

3 p.m.

Next, head to The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), opened in 2006 by Marsha Miro, ’67, the founding director and former arts critic for the Detroit Free Press. More than a decade since its opening, its mission remains the same—to educate the public about contemporary art, whether visual arts, performing arts, music, or literature. Visit the one permanent installation at the museum, “Mobile Homestead,” by Mike Kelley, ’76, a life-size replica of his childhood home. Kelley, a longtime friend of Miro and an acclaimed artist, worked on the project from 2006 until his death in 2012. 
mocadetroit.org; 4454 Woodward Ave.

5 p.m.

Six years ago, Dave Kwiatkowski, ’00, introduced craft cocktails to the Corktown district of Detroit when he opened the Sugar House. The candlelit bar honors the era of the speakeasy, from the mixologists dressed in aprons and ties (pictured right) to the lengthy drink menu, which runs the alphabet from an Absinthe Frappe to a Zombie. Kwiatkowski is the co-founder of other Detroit restaurants, including The Peterboro, serving modern Chinese fare in Detroit’s historic Chinese district, and the downtown bistro Wright & Co. sugarhousedetroit.com; 2130 Michigan Ave.

6 p.m.

Next door to the Sugar House is Slows Bar BQ. Founded in 2005, Slows is widely known for its mouth-watering menu. Chef and co-founder Brian Perrone, ’95, is the reason you need a reservation. Slows’ sustainably sourced, wood-smoked meats, like beef brisket, pulled pork, and apple-glazed chicken, paired with two side dishes (the mac and cheese and jalapeno-spiced black beans are particularly popular), are a hit in a city that knows its barbecue. The 36 beer taps don’t hurt either.
slowsbarbq.com; 2138 Michigan Ave.

8 p.m.

Cinema Detroit, founded by Tim Guthat, ’93, and his wife, Paula, is an independent movie house that shows a mix of classic, cult, and contemporary films. Housed in a former furniture factory, it is open seven days a week and serves freshly made popcorn and Faygo pop, and hosts screenings and discussions with filmmakers. Its mission—beyond benefiting the community and the arts—is to promote media literacy and to spark dialogue. cinemadetroit.org; 4126 Third Ave.


9 a.m.

On a Saturday morning, there is no better place to be in Detroit than Eastern Market, where some 250 vendors sell every kind of produce and artisanal food imaginable as well as crafts and clothing. easternmarket.com, Russell Street

First, grab a Mitten Bite, an all-natural snack bar handmade by teenagers from The Detroit Food Academy. Co-founded by Noam Kimelman, ’09, MPH’12, the nonprofit program works with 10 high schools and more than 200 students, teaching them cooking, nutrition, business basics, and food product development. smallbatchdetroit.com; Shed 2

For fashion, stop at Orleans + Winder, an upscale retail space owned by Erin Wetzel, ’05. Her second-floor loft looks
more like a gallery than a garment store, with an elegant display of clothing, footwear, art, and objects created by avant-garde designers from all over the world. orleansandwinder.com; 2501 Russell St., Suite 200

Around the corner, drop into The Detroit Robot Factory, where retail manager Tom Bianchi, ’10, is happy to sell you any number of robot kits (a soda bug, brush, or doodling robot). He also will tell you about 826, the creative writing and tutoring center up the metal staircase. This national network has thousands of volunteers working in cities with underserved students. The retail shop helps fund 826’s important nonprofit work. 826michigan.org; 1351 Winder St.

It might seem a bit early for a drink, but given its location in Eastern Market, pop by the Detroit City Distillery, which J.P. Jerome, ’05, opened with friends in 2014. Detroit was a bootleg town during Prohibition. Now, thanks to this distillery, the spirit (and spirits) of the 1920s have been brought into the 21st century. It makes small-batch artisanal whiskey, gin, and vodka, served in its tasting room but also distributed well beyond. Pick up a bottle for later, or enjoy a midday cocktail, like a Beets in Space, made with the distillery’s own Railroad Gin, pink fizz, beet juice, lemon, and soda. detroitcitydistillery.com; 2462 Riopelle St.

1 p.m.

In April 2015, Jon Carlson, ’93, and Greg Lobdell, ’94, MARCH’98, opened Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria and Brewery in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood. Ron Jeffries, ’89, owner of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, supplies the beer. You can’t go wrong with the Market Pizza (topped with the best seasonal ingredients available), the Fire & Smoke (think charred red peppers), or the South Pacific (hint, it has candied pineapple). jollypumpkin.com; 441 W. Canfield St.

The first thing to buy at City Bird, a store that sells Detroit-themed merchandise, is “Belle Isle to 8 Mile: An Insider’s Guide to Detroit” (2012). The store’s owners, Andy Linn, ’06, and Emily Linn, ’00, wrote the book along with their brother, Robert Linn, ’09, MUP’11; the siblings are seventh-generation Detroiters who know the terrain. City Bird features the works of local artists: houseware items, jewelry, stationery, T-shirts, and much more. Nest, located next door, is more like an old-fashioned general store, selling locally made foods, body lotions, and trinkets. citybirddetroit.com; nestdetroit.com; 460 W. Canfield St.

George N’Namdi, MA’74, PhD’78, is the creator and founder of the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, a sophisticated, sleek gallery that specializes in African-American art. His 30 years of experience running the gallery are evident the minute one walks through his four exhibition spaces, which include indoor and outdoor performance areas. The gallery also offers yoga, dance, and arts and educational programs, but the best time to visit is when George, a Detroit icon always wearing a pork pie hat, is there. nnamdicenter.org; 52 E. Forest Ave.

5 p.m.

One would never guess that Selden Standard, co-owned by Evan Hansen, ’01, was once a dry cleaner. Today—with its modern, intimate interior, complete with a wood-burning oven behind the bar—the restaurant’s setting complements the “seasonal rustic” food featured. Ingredients come from nearly 30 local farms and producers. With simple dishes like grilled whole trout with fried shallots, and lamb sausage with eggplant, you’ll spend more time choosing what to drink than eat, thanks to the extensive wine, beer, and spirits menu. seldenstandard.com; 3921 Second Ave.

7:30 p.m.

The Detroit Opera House is the 2,700-seat venue that hosts productions of the Michigan Opera Theatre (MOT), run under the direction of Wayne Brown, ’73, the president and CEO of the company. MOT has its own orchestra, chorus, children’s chorus, and extensive educational outreach programs. While its season always includes four operas, MOT also hosts touring dance repertoires and musical theater productions in the magnificent opera house, which underwent an extensive restoration in the late 1990s. The 2018 season includes “Tosca,” the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and “Romeo & Juliet.” michiganopera.org; 1526 Broadway St.


9 a.m.

Head to the Avenue of Fashion in northwest Detroit and the Narrow Way Cafe, which opened in July. David Merritt, ’08, and his brother, Jonathan Merritt, ’05, set up shop in the Livernois corridor to support designers, stylists, and wholesale buyers who operate boutiques and shops. Along with a range of teas and coffees, the menu includes fruit smoothies (the peach was particularly peachy) and sweet and savory treats supplied by fellow alumni-owned businesses Zingerman’s and Avalon. If you must, this is a great place to check in with the office, given the free Wi-Fi, printer, and office supplies.
thenarrowwaycafe.com; 19331 Livernois Ave.

11 a.m.

Yao-Fen You, MA’00, PhD’05, is associate curator for European sculpture and decorative arts at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The collection explores works from the Middle Ages through the mid-20th century, displaying everything from pictures and sculptures, to tables and tea sets. Be sure to seek out Auguste Rodin’s “Vase of the Titans, 1877/1879,” ornamented with pre-Olympian gods twisting and straining under the weight of the urn. Visit the airy Kresge Court afterward for a glass of wine, tapas, and great people watching as you linger over lunch. dia.org; 5200 Woodward Ave.

1 p.m.

Your final stop is Detroit’s contribution to the Arts and Crafts Movement at Pewabic. Filled with ceramic pottery bearing the distinctive Pewabic glaze, the building honors the artist and teacher Mary Chase Perry Stratton, HMA ’30, one of the founders of Pewabic. She and Horace James Caulkins, a high-heat and kiln specialist, blended art and technology and ushered contemporary ceramics into a new age. Stratton established the ceramics department at U-M and received an honorary master of arts degree. Don’t leave without perusing the tiles, cups, vases, and paperweights in the shop for a calming souvenir to take home after a fast-paced weekend. pewabic.org; 10125 E. Jefferson Ave.

Michigan Alumnus Presents: Alumni Serving Detroit

Three alumni entrepreneurs give their perspectives on their work in the city and look ahead to the future.

Jennifer Conlin, ’83, is the deputy editor of Michigan Alumnus magazine.