In July I was invited, along with 11 other travel writers, (I was the only male) for a 4 night stay in Detroit Michigan. It had been more than 25 years since I was last in Detroit and that visit was for only a day so I could cross over to Windsor Ontario Canada to buy prescripton drugs at less than half the US prices. For journalistic accuracy I must mention the 1967 riots and the July 2013 Chapter 9 bankruptcy that was the largest filing in US history with over $18 1/2 billion debt. November 2014 the city exited bankruptcy. The population dropped from 1.8 million in 1950 to around 700,000 currently. There were abandoned building, vacant lots and a city that looked like a war zone. That ends the negative part of my story. Thanks to many people that includes Quicken Loan founder and Detroit native Dan Gilbert and another Detroiter Little Caesar Pizza founder and Detroit Tiger & Detroit Red Wing owner Mike Illitch Detroit has risen from the dead to a great Rennaissance This is the story of present day Detroit. www.visitdetroit.com
I asked my hosts if I could visit American Jewelry and Loan that was the site of one of my favorite TV shows- Hardcore Pawn. It aired on TruTV from 2010-2015 with 162 episodes. Located on 8 Mile Drive (Eminem the rapper grew up in this area & had a song about 8 Mile Drive) a 4 lane semi-highway that runs east to west and was 12 miles from Detroit Foundation Hotel where I was staying for 3 nights. Co-owner Les Gold was kind enough to spend almost an hour talking to me and showing me his operation. His son Seth Gold (day off) is one of his partners. Daughter Ashley Gold Broad has left for her own on-line jewelry business. Les started working at about the same age as I did- seven. His grandfater (Popsie) had a pawn shop & also employed his father who would not let him call him Dad in public but insisted on L.G. Les does not have a lot of kind things to say about his father. Later on he worked for his dad at Sam's Loans before leaving to open his own operation in 1978. In 1993 they moved to their present 50,000 square foot store. Les is also the author of For What It's Worth- Business Wisdom From A Pawnbroker- published by Portfolio/Penguin. www.pawndetroit.com
During my 3-night stay at the Foundation Hotel my only complaint was the lousy coffee at breakfast. This 100 room hotel is located just across the street from the Cobo Convention Center. The two parts of the building used to be the old fire department headquarters as well as the Pontchartrain Wine Cellar. Thank goodness for the valet parking attendants who hold open the huge former firehouse doors. The small check-in desk (Detroit Bike & Slow Roll are available as well as local goods for sale right in front of the desk) sits next to the Apparatus Room that has an open kitchen as well as a small private banquet room. All meals are served here. There is a door that led to the rooms as well as a conference center. I was able to walk to many of the downtown attractions. www.detroitfoundationhotel.com
Our day began with breakfast at the Apparatus Room in the hotel as our group loaded into our private van for a tour of the Motown Museum. I am a huge Doo Wop fan and loved seeing the photos and album covers of my favorite singers. "Hitsville U.S.A." is the nickname given to Motown's first headquarters. The building was purchased by founder Berry Gordy in 1959. It was converted for use as the record label's administrative building and recording studio, which was open 22 hours a day. Following success in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Gordy moved the label to Los Angeles and established the Hitsville West studio there, as a part of his focus on television and film production as well as music production. We had a chance to walk through the actual recording studio where Motown artists recorded their songs. www.motownmuseum.org
Lunch was downtown at Parc Restaurant in Campus Martius Park. One of the ways the city drew people back to downtown was to hold outdoor concerts as well as add sand and chairs in the park for relaxing. There were also food trucks and stands. www.parcdetroit.com
Windsor Ontario Canada
Guardian Building Art Deco Ceiling
The Spirit of Detroit
GM Display- Renaissance Center
Joe Louis Fist- Hart Plaza
When I heard we were going to visit a Detroit winery & taste their wines I was excited. Dr. Claes Farnell & Blake Kownacki are partners in the first winery in the Detroit city area. They are building a winery & have contracted to grow their grapes in local Detroiters back yards. The tasting took place at a popular wine bar in downtown called Vertical Detroit. Four wines are produced & all were quite good. Had not tasted a dry Honey Mead before. The other wines include a dry Riesling, Chardonnay and a Cabernet Franc Rose. www.detroitvineyards.com www.verticaldetroit.com
Two Michelin Star chef Thomas Lents prepared a private meal in the Foundation Hotel private room for our group after the wine tasting. It was served family style with 8 dishes and a variety of sides. It was superb.
After breakfast at our hotel we were off to visit the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA). The museum ranks among the top 10 museums in the USA and I can see why. There are over 100 galleries and I especially liked the Play Ball and the Star Wars Costume Galleries.www.dia.org
Lunch was at the recently reopened members-only Detroit Club. Established in 1882 it suffered along with the rest of the city and opened the Grille Room to the public. www.thedetroitclub.com
It was off to Grosse Pointe Shores for a visit to the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House. www.fordhouse.org
Dinner was at Lumen and is another example of the revitalization of downtown. The restaurant opened a few months ago and was rocking. One of my dearest NYC friends is from Detroit and she insisted I try the cream puff with Sanders hot fudge and vanilla bean ice cream. Lo and behold it was on the dessert menu here. I actually ate the whole thing and then checked the calorie count. It was over 1,000 but it was worth it. www.lumendetroit.com
After breakfast we checked out of the Foundation Hotel and headed to Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester Hills. A 2012 National Historic Landmark it was the home built (1926-1929) by Matilda Dodge Wilson, widow of automobile pioneer John Dodge and her second husband, lumber broker Alfred Wilson. It is an example of Tudor-revival architecture. In 1957 it was donated to the state of Michigan and is now owned by Oakland University. www.meadowbrookhall.org
Meadow Brook Hall was kind enough to prepare a box lunch for us to eat on the bus as we drove to Birmingham and the Townsend Hotel located about 20 miles from downtown Detroit. The town is quite upscale with a park around the corner from the hotel and the main shopping street only 3 blocks away. Townsend was first opened in 1988 and the new wing was added in 2015 giving it a total of 150 rooms. Many celebrities stay here rather than in downtown Detroit. Some famous people who were born here include actors Christine Lahti, David Spade and former NBA player Shane Battier. Tim Allen lived there as a teenager. Population is around 20,000. www.townsendhotel.com
Several of our group had Tea Time (2-5PM) in the lobby. I chose to walk a few blocks to the Birmingham Museum located on the site of the first brick shoolhouse in town. I marveled at the displays showing the history of the area. www.bhamgov.org/museum. I then strolled around the very walkable downtown store area.
Our final dinner was at Merrill 220 located in the "Old Detroit Edison" building. Originally opened in 1979 it was renovated and reopened in 2014. It is certainly the "hippest place in town" but the noise level was such that I could not hear the person sitting next to me. www.220restaurant.com
I had breakfast at the Rugby Grill and wondered why we were given a credit of $32.50. Then I saw the prices and realized I was not getting any change. Before being picked up for the ride to the airport I grabbed a to go bag at The Bakery located near the rear of the building.
Could not forget the beautiful flower display in the lobby.