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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

SWEET GEORGIA BROWN GETS EVICTED AND OTHER UNFORTUNATE CLOSINGS

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.

UPDATE

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

1 comment:

Sean Jagodzinski said...

The closings in the area have definitely been depressing. I got the unpleasant task of walking past Sweet Georgia Brown while they were being evicted. Athlete's Foot surprised me. I had just gone in there a couple weeks ago.

The new flower shop, tourist information center, and future newcomers will hopefully balance the retail scene out. I'm really hoping some of the successful micro businesses from the Russell Bazaar look at this strip in the near future.

Do you or anyone else have any idea when the Avis Car Rental place in Merchant's Row closed?