Wednesday, February 25, 2009


The film industry continues to make positive news in Michigan. Now, after announcements that the abandoned temporary MGM Grand Casino in Detroit, and the former GM plant in Pontiac will be converted to a graphic design and production studio respectively, the most recent chatter from the Detroit News has the Motor City Film Works production company converting the old Detroit Free Press building into a production studio.

The Detroit News quotes Richard Gerber, owner of technology firm Intelegen as stating, "'We intend to turn the former printing press area into a sound stage. That's 80,000-square-feet of space.'" The owner of the building told the Detroit News that an announcement will be made in the next couple months, but declined to offer specifics. The Free Press building has been abandoned since 1998, but activity was reported at the building over the past few months, prompting rumors of a re-opening.

See the Detroit News article here.

Unfortunately, along with this piece of good news came word from California that the it will now offer tax incentives to the movie world as well, so as to curb films from shooting out of state, i.e. in Michigan and other states which offer rebates.

Take a look at the details for the new California film incentives here. Or, just forget that I even mentioned California and enjoy the news about 321 W. Lafayette.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Tomorrow is the day before lent, for those who celebrate it, and to the rest of us, either "fat Tuesday," "shrove Tuesday," or in Hamtramck, "paczki day." Historically, paczki day started as a way to use and rid the house of every ounce of lard, sugar, eggs, and fruit, all forbidden for consumption during lent. The end result is fried dough containing a normal human being's entire caloric intake for the day. The historical premise may have faded, but the paczki a great excuse, especially for over sized mid-westerners, to eat an inordinate amount of calories, carbohydrates, sugar, and eggs, all packed into one mouth watering treat.

A Paczki, for those who dont' know, is a deep fried piece of dough, which is flattened into a sphere shape, filled with fruit preserves, and covered with icing and powdered sugar. These polish treats have been around forever, but became a phenomenon over the past century once metro Detroiters' outside of Hamtramck got a taste for them and realized that they had no self control. Recently though, Kroger, and other local groceries picked up on Metro Detroiters' taste for sugar and lard, and paczkis can now be found year round, albeit without the charm of eating one after standing in line at a Hamtramck Bakery on that infamous Tuesday. Probably more relevant is that the inherent thought process behind creating these caloric monsters (using any/all unhealthy ingredients left in the kitchen and combining them into one food item) should be a pretty good indication that paczkis should probably only be eaten once a year.

Paczki day still holds a special place in the hearts of Metro Detroiters, and this year is no different. Three years ago, the City of Hamtramck decided to create a "Countdown to Paczki Day," held on the Saturday before paczki day. The Detroit Free Press recently quoted Hamtramck's Mayor, Karen Majewski, as stating, "This event is all about getting families in the spirit of Paczki day," which by my accounts refers to the spirit of people overindulging with complete disregard for physical health and societal norms. Awesome.

This year the countdown event contained a covered tent with about nine different bakeries offering free paczkis, polish music, the chance to learn the polka, and rides on the "Paczki Express," bus, giving patrons a glimpse of the plethora of bakeries selling the fried delight. Families of many ethnicities poured into the tent on Joseph Campau and Holbrook, thumbing their noses at frigid temperatures, and extreme snow, not to mention the 500 calories (low ball estimate) each paczki approximately contains.

Organizers of the event say that festivities will be scheduled throughout Tuesday as well, including performances by Hamtramck local bands the Polish Muslims, the Kielbasa Kings, and Polka Floyd, among others at various Hamtramck bars throughout the day. (see schedule here). Furthermore, Hamtramck bars and bakeries will celebrate the holiday with bar crawls, giveaways, and Polish food and drink.

While Saturday's event has already passed, Tuesday is still upcoming. If you don't have work or are able to take a couple hours off to fatten yourself up, take a trip to Ham Town and enjoy yourself. Bring some paczkis back to the office and all will be forgiven.

The Hamtramck Star published a poll a few years back asking readers which bakery was their favorite for paczkis. You can find the list below. Note: Although it has not not aired yet, Family Donut Shop was featured by Tony Bourdain when he was in town filming an episode of "No Reservations" last month.

New Palace Bakery
9833 Joseph Campau St
Hamtramck, MI 48212
(313) 875-1334

New Deluxe Bakery
11920 Conant St
Hamtramck, MI 48212
(313) 892-8165

New Martha Washington Bakery
10335 Joseph Campau St
Hamtramck, MI 48212
(313) 872-1988

Bozek's Meat & Groceries
3317 Caniff St
Hamtramck, MI 48212
(313) 368-6752

Family Donut Shop
11300 Conant St, Hamtramck, MI
(313) 368-9214

New Polka Bakery
9834 Conant St, Hamtramck, MI
(313) 873-7959

Detroit Army

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


After delays, banruptcy hearings, and negotiations, Greektown Casino Hotel has finally opened its doors by offering $99 a night rates. As recently as February 5, Greektown Casino received approval from bankruptcy Judge Walter Shapero to borrow $46 million in additional financing to finish the permanent 400 room hotel.

In any event, the hotel is now open, and if anyone is able to afford paying for a downtown hotel for the night, $99 is a nice good deal. Model D reports that all inclusive packages include, " a delux room with champagne, chocolate-coverd strawberries, an aromoatherpay basket and breakfast in be for two for $189, and The Party's Getting Bigger which, for $229, include a deluxe room, dinner for two at Bistro 555 and $75 to gambe with at the casino." (Model D

For reservations, call 877-GCH-5554 or visit

Detroit Army

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


The last couple weeks haven't been promising, and that's saying something considering what we've been through.

Within a week of the end of the newly svelte, bearded, but still a prick, King Kwame's most recent stay behind bars and subsequent flee towards Dallas, Sweet Georgia Brown was gone. Even a year of refraining from paying rent couldn't save the upscale southern food hangout of some of Detroit's most recent infamous figures. Don't worry though, maybe Sweet Georgia Brown will re-open now that Kwame returns to the D to testify about other miscellaneous corruption charges.

Meanwhile, based on owner Derrick Coleman's reaction to the news of his restaurant's closure, it's apparent that he wasn't even remotely aware that the restaurant was being shut down. DC was quoted as saying, "Businesses open and close every day, and it was news to me that Sweet Georgia Brown's would be evicted this morning," which in DC terms could only mean, "whoop-de-damn-do."

Maybe after getting away with not paying rent for so long, DC thought Greektown Casino wouldn't actually go through with the eviction. Um, yes this is Detroit and it slightly resembles the wild wild west, but apparently Greektown Casino got a clue and decided that allowing a restaurant to lease space without paying rent probably wasn't the most business savvy decision. Seems odd that Greektown finds itself in bankruptcy protection...

Anyway, I continue to wish DC the best of luck and hope his retail block near Linwood and Clairmount whethers the current economic tsunami determined to demolish everything in its path...

And that brings us to the rest of this uplifting round-up, which includes a plethora of retail and bar closings along lower Woodward and more. Within the past 8 years or so, this had become an area which showed signs of promise after the newly built Compuware Headquarters forever changed the landscape surrounding Campus Martius.

To start, the always classy (sarcasm), and overly raucous Club Bleu on the East side of Woodward shut its doors after occupying that spot for at least a decade. Next, the Borders in Compuware decided to shut down, which prompted a firestorm of rumors implying Hard Rock Cafe's imminent demise. Bill Shea of Crain's Detroit did his best to quash that sentiment by speaking to someone at the restaurant's media relations group who denied that the restaurant was shutting its doors.

Continuing the rash of closures was Athlete's Foot at Woodward and John R, which is already cleared out and empty. In 2004, before we got stuck with the lazy ass, lethargic, and virtually useless Athlete's Foot employees/owners/others with unclear connections, Athlete's Foot's space was widely reported to be the site for a NikeTown (still waiting). Apparently it will now serve as more empty space on the city's main thoroughfare.

Oh, and apparently one day recently, Johnny Rockets, in the Foxtown/entertainment district on Woodward, also mysteriously disappeared, although no one seems to care one way or the other. It wasn't very good and had odd hours, but it was a chain restaurant which provided a recognizable name. As much as I'd like every business in the city of Detroit to be unique, chains are a necessary part of a thriving city.

Then the Woodward Restaurant, located on the East side of Woodward by the Kern's clock, went under as well.

Finally, well, I mean, hopefully finally, because every time I think I'm done listing places which have shut down within the last week or so, I come across another business's downfall, I've heard reports that the coney island inside Comerica Park, which I believe was still Leo's as of last year, is no longer open either.


Nevermind, apparently I spoke too soon. Since I started this article about 24 hours ago, at least two more prominant places within the city limits have closed. Zaccaro's Market, on Woodward near Brush Park, is finished after less than a year in business. Additionally, the Mercury Coffee Bar on Michigan Ave., across from Slow's Barbeque and over looking Michigan Central Station, closed on Monday after only four months in business. The Free Press did quote Mercury Coffee Bar investor Ryan Schirmang as stating that the coffee bar will reopen on Friday after, "'...taking this time to undergo construction improvements, refine our business model, and clarify the management issues that have weighed us down thus far."'

Both of the preceeding businesses seemed to have tremendous promise. Zaccaro's was hailed as reason to believe that a high end market could survive in the city, and Mercury Coffee Bar was the latest venture from the Cooley brothers, owners of, among many successful businesses, Slow's Barbeque. I hear rumblings that Zaccaro's market wasnt properly financed, didn't have a sensible business model, had a poor location, and had inadequate customer service. I don't know if any of this is true, but I hope that this failed attempt at bringing high end grocceries doesn't deter other entrepreneurs from bringing groccery stores in general to the city. On the other hand, who knows what the recent statement from Mercury Cofee Bar regarding a Friday re-opening means.

Furthermore, this economic mess is not only affecting business within the city. There are presently a multitude of inventory reduction sales and store closing signs lining Maple Road in downtown Birmingham, and those don't include eateries and boutiques which already went out of business

I will say that to Birmingham's credit, Leo's Coney Island is back on Old Woodward after taking back their old spot from Greek Boys Coney Island, which was terrible, Coldstone Creamery re-opened after closing sometime last year, Home Run Deli opened up on Old Woodward in the former juice bar spot across from Chen Chow (can't remember the name), and work continues on two new midrises, one which will house Bank of America etc. on Brown and Woodward, and one which Greenleaf Trust will anchor on Maple and Woodward.

We all know it's tough out there and the aforementioned closings are indicative of that, but to end this post on a relatively positive note, I'd like to suggest a few new places to try. Have dinner at Angelina's Bistro in Grand Circus Park, which prepared a wonderful meal for our large Detroit Synergy group dinner club function recently. Check out Pizza Tastebar, the new one part pizza parlor, one part lounge in Times Square. Eat freshly prepared fish at Frank Taylor's newest restaurant, Detroit Seafood Company in the former Intermezzo spot in Harmonie Park. Try Charles Sorel's brand new French bistro, Le Petit Zinc, on Trumbull and Howard in Corktown. Step inside Finn and Porter, the upscale surf and turf dining establishment which just recently opened in the newly renovated Fort Shelby Hotel.

Also, don't forget about Spa1924 Grille, located in the Book Cadillac Hotel. I admit that while I originally stated that I wasn't so geeked about its opening, I have heard very good things from people who have already tried it, and I am increasingly more intriqued by the the restaurant's champaign bar. I'll meet you there and we can all gather to toast failing businesses, uncertaintly in the work place, and high unemployment. Sounds fun.

But seriously, postive thinking leads to positive results...I think...

Detroit Army

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Apparently the point of the Belle Isle "Shiver on the River" was to promote public support of Belle Isle non-profit groups. This past Saturday, what seemed like every non-profit Belle Isle group ever, set up tables inside the Belle Isle Casino to show why we should pledge our funds and there seemed to be a decent turnout. Personally, I enjoy helping out the Belle Isle and its vast array of amenities whenever I can. With a layout created by New York City Central Park designer, Frederick Law Olmstead, the island is an unbelievable place, which, if given the proper care, can compete with any public space in the country.

The main reason for my visit to the Shiver on the River though, was to catch a glimpse of the now shuttered Belle Isle Aquarium. Closed in 2005 due to budget cuts, Saturday marked the first time that it was open to the public in four years. The aquarium has a long, and storied history. While only about the size of one showroom in some modern day aquariums, such as the stunning National Aquarium in Baltimore and Shedd in Chicago, the Belle Isle Aquarium opened on August 18, 1904, making it the oldest public aquarium in the country. Designed by Albert Kahn,

"The exterior of this structure was most noted for its Gothic style entrance. This highly decorated stone facade incorporated two spitting fish and the emblem of Detroit. Underneath, the word "AQUARIUM" was carved into the stone with the face of Neptune, the Greek God of Water. The facade and the front of building would soon become covered with vines, that would give it a more rustic appeal."
(Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium)

While there were no fish in the aquarium on Saturday (the place is in no shape to be open, hence the need for support), it was previously home to 1,500 individual animals and 146 species. Now, with nothing inside but empty showcases, scattered furniture, and, even in lieu of the Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium's best intentions, a distinct feeling of sorrow, it was hard not to imagine weekends past, where parents would take their kids, dress them in their Sunday's best, and watch them stare in amazement at everything the aquarium had to offer.

The preceding paragraph was meant to make you feel nostalgic, even if you never had the opportunity to visit, because in a time of economic crisis, it's hard to see how the Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium group is going to find the resources to reopen this Detroit gem without massive public support. You can't, however, fault them for trying. I sincerely commend their efforts and will continue to give my support. I'm sure even the Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium would admit that the aquarium might not be on on the top of everyone's list of important causes during these trying times, but even in times of hardship, it's nice to look forward to one day when this Detroit institution could be up and running once more.

If you are interested in supporting the Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium's cause, you can help monetarily, or physically, by going to the Friends of Belle Isle Aquarium's website at Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium.

If you are interested in learning about ways in which you can support Belle Isle and its institutions, you can check out the Friends of Belle Isle website here.

Below are some photographs taken this Saturday at the Belle Isle Aquarium. You can find the entire flickr set here.

Detroit Army

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Good news arrived today in an otherwise miserable start to the year.

"A former Pontiac auto plant and the defunct MGM Grand Casino will be converted into film production studios that will create 4,000 new direct jobs in Metro Detroit, boosting one of the state's few fast-growing industries.

An $86 million digital animation and visual effects studio to be called the Detroit Center Studios will set up shop in the former MGM Grand Casino downtown, and is set to open by the end of the year. In Pontiac, a $54 million film production studio called Motown Motion Picture Studios will be built at General Motors Corp.'s former Centerpoint plant, according to Granholm's spokeswoman Liz Boyd."

If the movie industry is really going to have an impact in Michigan, steady, permanent jobs are necessary. Today, news from Pontiac, and the City of Detroit, give a glimmer of hope that jobs of this ilk may be forthcoming. While I am well aware that the proposed studios announced today will be housed in already abandoned buildings, I'd rather these buildings not be abandoned again. For that to happen, we'd better hope that other states don't pass tax breaks higher than our 42%. I do believe, however, that as long as Michigan's tax breaks remain the highest, or at least extremely competitive with other states, building permanent infrastructure before other states will be a key to keeping film making an itegral piece of our economy. No doubt, this is a positive development.

Check out some of the details at New, expanded Metro Detroit movie studios to add thousands of jobs

I'll keep you updated...

Detroit Army