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New Center retail rises again with help of DEGC’s Small Business Team

Aug 31, 2018

From Andrew Lucco, Business Development Manager

The area known as Detroit’s “New Center” was once one of our nation’s wealthiest neighborhoods – home to General Motors, Fisher Body, and the buildings of Albert Kahn. The rapidly growing auto industry of the 1920s and ‘30s attracted a variety of commerce – high-end dining such as Lilli’s and Topinka’s, retail shops, entertainment and hotels.

The GM Building and surrounding area had everything needed to sustain a busy executive – from shoeshines and barbers, to upscale retailers and travel agencies. In 1940, Saks Fifth Avenue opened their fourth full-line department store in the former New Center Building, now the Albert Kahn Building. Years later, Crowley’s Department Store opened in New Center One.Today, after decades of retail decline in the New Center area, new shops are opening to serve a growing and diverse neighborhood – many thanks to DEGC’s Motor City Match (MCM) program.Today, after decades of retail decline in the New Center area, new shops are opening to serve a growing and diverse neighborhood – many thanks to DEGC’s Motor City Match (MCM) program.

MCM Round 10 winner Ferne Boutique opened to the public Aug. 24, at 6529 Woodward Ave. This is owner Laura Horwath’s second store and first in Detroit. Founded in Bay City in 2015, Ferne Boutique’s mission is to provide a friendly and comfortable environment where women of all ages can feel confident and empowered while shopping. The 1,500 sq. ft. boutique has created jobs for two new employees, one of which is a Detroit resident, with plans to hire an additional employee in the new year. With Horwath hand selecting the contemporary styles featured at Ferne Boutique, the store fills a high demand for women’s retail clothing in the city.

Nostalgia and history inspired Horwath to open near the intersection of Woodward Avenue and East Grand Boulevard, as did the area’s new energy. Horwath, a former advertising and sales executive, dipped her toe into Detroit retail via pop-up ventures in Downtown Detroit Markets.

“I think the pop-ups have really helped me to grow in Detroit, get my feet wet and understand the people and tourism going on,” Horwath said. “It was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to be in Detroit.”

To date, 41 MCM businesses have opened since the program’s start three years ago. The program has assisted more than 1,000 entrepreneurs on their journey from “idea to open,” awarding $6M in cash grants to 139 businesses in 29 of Detroit’s neighborhoods. Other business owners have received a variety of additional critical services, including finance workshops, design, technical and business planning assistance, and business/building matchmaking.

The result is nearly $40 million in neighborhood investment.

And there’s much more to come. Ferne Boutique is just the first of four MCM businesses opening in the New Center area in the coming months. The other three businesses include:

Cooking with Que is a live demo kitchen that teaches customers how to “eat to live” by introducing more plant-based foods into everyday cooking. The business is a Round 10 cash awardee that received a $60,000 grant. It will be located at 6529 Woodward Ave., right next door to Ferne Boutique.
New Center Eatery is a casual dining and carry out restaurant. The business is a Round 9 cash awardee that received a $25,000 grant. It will be located at 6549 Woodward Ave.
Baobab Fare is a full-service restaurant and community space featuring East African cuisine. The business is a Round 12 cash awardee that received a $50,000 grant. It will be located at 6568 Woodward Ave.
At Motor City Match, we know that businesses are most successful when they are surrounded by other successful businesses. By awarding new and existing businesses in clusters, we maximize the effect of our grants while building dense, walkable commercial corridors. Driven by our Neighborhood Retail Study, our awardee selections match businesses with the neighborhoods where their goods and services are in high demand. By creating a climate conducive to sustainable, successful businesses, Motor City Match is helping to build long-term stability in Detroit’s neighborhoods.

Working closely with the city of Detroit, funders and other support organizations, DEGC’s Small Business Team is rebuilding Detroit’s legacy of entrepreneurialism by creating an ecosystem that supports neighborhood commerce.

Ferne Boutique will open to the public on September 4, 2018. Stop by 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. on Sundays.

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