Did you see correlation between your experience of Detroit and the media's depiction in 2009?
Yes and No. Yes in the sense that I had lost my job in February and joined the legions of unemployed in the city, where headlines of doom and gloom didn't exactly soften the blow. And no in the sense that you can either follow headlines and allow them to dictate your way of thinking, or you can aspire to make your own. When you decide to look at the city in a positive light, you become free to the many ways in which change is in fact possible. By meeting and surrounding myself with people who share this way of thinking, I've been able to avoid the relentless negativity, and enjoyed a very positive 2009 given the circumstances.
What'll be different about 2010- for the city? For you personally?
I think 2010 will be different simply because it is not 2009. As unkind to the city as this past year was, the general sense around town is one of optimism for 2010 and good riddance to 2009. However dismal the outlook, we are still in the midst of a revival. There are those that acknowledge this and those that don't, but keeping this positive momentum going is certainly a focus for myself and sounds to be that of others as well. There are a lot of important projects that could break ground in 2010, both of large and small proportion that could really define where the city is going.
Why do you live in Detroit? How's it different from other places?
Well, I have one of those typical stories of having grown up in the region and having quickly exported myself anywhere but here. Over the course of seven years I chose to live in New York, London, Sydney, and Tokyo before finally booking a ticket to return to Detroit. Moving back to the states was a big deal and I was deciding between a move back to Brooklyn, or a new and uncharted territory only 40 minutes from my hometown of Ann Arbor. Clearly it was Detroit in the end, and so far no regrets. The biggest factor for me was understanding that Detroit needs people like us, desperately. It is wide open to those creative and resilient enough to see its potential and to work towards it. The reward in that is much greater than I could accomplish becoming another statistic in Brooklyn's constantly growing creative class.
What kind of things do you get into in Detroit? Do you have a job? What is it? Why not do it in Royal Oak? in Chicago? NYC?
Well, I'm currently working on opening a specialty coffee shop in Corktown called Astro Coffee, a few doors down from Slow's Bar BQ. Its been an intense process that has seen nearly every new small business owner in the city lending their knowledge and support for my venture as I've done for theirs. Its a beautiful thing. What other major city could you open an 800 sq. ft. shop and expect anybody to care or take notice like they do here? With the help of a strong word of mouth community and online publications such as Model D, we've got a lot of exposure and support at the moment. People want a cool city and we're starting to see visable signs of that.
What's your favorite thing that happened here in 2009?
The best aspects of 2009 for me was seeing the comeback of the small independent retailer. With the likes of CityBird, Leopold's, Hugh, Good Girls Go To Paris, Shangri La, Supino's, and the Burton Theatre; we saw tremendous strides towards becoming the city we all dream of. People are taking it upon themselves to fill gaps in our offerings and are helping to make the city more attractive to residents and visitors alike.