Restauranteurs target West Village stretch, word-of-mouth success

Posted on November 26, 2012

While most of the new restaurant investment in Detroit is confined to core areas like Campus Martius, Midtown and Corktown, some restaurateurs are looking to a small stretch of Agnes Street in Detroit’s West Village.

Three restaurants are opening on Agnes Street in West Village between Van Dyke and Parker streets: Red Hook Coffee, Craft Work and Detroit Vegan Soul.

The openings are part of the pilot program of Detroit Revolve, a collaborative effort between the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. and building owners to marry willing entrepreneurs with empty storefronts.

For Red Hook Coffee, it’s the expansion of a business launched in Ferndale. Sandi Heaselgrave struck a deal with the owner of Pinwheel Bakeryto open the first Red Hook coffee shop inside the bakery in downtown Ferndale, at 220 Nine Mile Road, in October 2011.

While the suburban coffee shop has been a success, Heaselgrave never lost sight of her original goal: opening a coffee shop in Detroit. Heaselgrave said she wanted to open Red Hook in an underserved part of Detroit and settled on Agnes Street because outside downtown was a better fit.

“I feel like these little pockets of neighborhoods are better served with a little local strip in each neighborhood,” she said.

Red Hook will serve coffee and sell Pinwheel Bakery’s pastries. It’s expected to open by spring.

Hubert Yaro, co-owner of Ronin Sushi in Royal Oak and Commonwealth Café in Birmingham, is opening Craft Work at 8047 Agnes St., the former home of Harlequin Café.

Yaro said he and co-owner Michael Geiger fell in love with the 4,000-square-foot space, even if it’s not the easiest location to get to.

“Really, the main reason we took the space was because of Indian Village and West Village,” Yaro said. “(The area) reminded me of the East Coast.”

Yaro said the first year will make or break the restaurant. He hopes neighborhood dwellers will create enough buzz to draw interest from the metro area, much as Corktown embraced Slows Bar BQ.

“That’s why the neighborhood is really important,” Yaro said. “Corktown embraced Slows, word spread and then it became a destination.”

Yaro said Craft Work will be an American-style tavern, but the menu is not finalized.

Kirsten Ussery, co-founder of Detroit Vegan Soul, said she shopped for spaces in Corktown and Midtown before settling on West Village for the vegan restaurant, but she said costly rents in more popular areas forced her to look beyond the usual restaurant destinations. The restaurant is at 8027 Agnes.

“We think that it’s a good thing to activate another neighborhood in Detroit,” Ussery said. “We are hoping the ‘if you build it, they will come’ saying comes true.”

Detroit Vegan Soul is slated to open by the spring and will serve vegan fare such as okra stew with brown rice and cornbread and seitan (wheat protein) pepper steak with quinoa and sesame broccoli. Dinners will cost around $12.

While some hope the fringe areas of Detroit will become popular destinations, there’s momentum in the core downtown. (See above.)

The Broderick Tower will be home to a 175-seat restaurant called The Broderick Grill, a 40-seat wine bar called La Cave and an 80-seat yet-to-be named biergarten.

Mike Higgins, president of Detroit-based Broderick Restaurant Group, said the increasing number of people working and living in the city prompted the decision to open the new restaurants.

Higgins said the company spent about $600,000 to build all three restaurants, which are expected to open by mid-February.

“We are right in the middle of the entertainment district, and we have the Detroit Opera House, Fillmore Theater and Music Hall within a two-block radius,” Higgins said. “There are even more restaurants coming to the area, but I think there will be a need for them.”

Nathan Skid, Crain’s Detroit