The next one: 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 20 at Always Brewing Detroit, 19180 Grand River in the Grandmont Rosedale area.
WDET’s bankruptcy reporter Sandra Svoboda will give an update of the case and answer questions from residents. We also want to hear from the audience about what’s happening in the neighborhoods, and there will be a chance to make suggestions and share ideas about how the city can recover.
In advance of the conversation there, Sandra talked with the owner of Always Brewing Detroit, Amanda Brewington. They started their discussion with Amanda’s story about opening her business.
Amanda Brewington: I actually just wanted to open a coffee shop in the city of Detroit so I started driving around, looking at places and I was, you know, finding a few but never the right, no parking, no roof, that actually happened. Things like that. We ended up in Grandmont Rosedale. I actually had a mentor at Techtown that I still see regularly. He had a meeting with Tom Goddeeris, the executive director of the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation, and Tom was like, yeah, I wish we had a coffee shop over here and Darren, that’s my mentor, he was like I know a girl. She’s trying to find a coffee shop. So that’s how we ended up in Grandmont Rosedale. I had a meeting with Tom after that meeting and he kind of drove me around the neighborhood, showed me the different things going on, told me about the long-standing commitment they have, they’ve been there 25 years, Grandmont Rosedale to kind of get the neighborhood organized and working together. They already were but it helps and so it’s just a really great, stable community. Everybody looks out for each other.
Sandra Svoboda: Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation, of course, is a community partner helping to host the meeting. But after you opened the coffee shop, you ended up moving to the neighborhood too. What drew you there?
AB: The idea was to open a coffee shop where I could live near it. I’m totally in. I opened the shop there. I live there. I’m part of it. So we opened the shop about a year ago, and we moved on the Fourth of July. So now I’m a neighbor too.
SS: So this will be the first of our community meetings that we’ve done in a coffee shop. We’ve been in churches, parks, community centers. What can we expect the conversation to be like at Always Brewing Detroit? What are the issues, challenges and really the benefits of living in the neighborhood?
AB: In Grandmont Rosedale, people there they don’t just talk about it, you know. They’re the kind of people that if something needs to be done, they do it. If trash needs to be picked up, I have several regular customers that come in with like a bag of trash they picked up on their walk from their house to the coffee shop. These people, they just do it. That’s why I’m there, that’s why I love Grandmont Rosedale. It’s not the kind of community where people have meetings to discuss what to do. They have one meeting, and then the next meeting they go and do it. We actually have a group they call themselves “Trash Talking” that comes every fourth Saturday and they pick up trash. They come in, have coffee, talk and then go pick up trash. That’s just like a neighborhood initiative that they started.
SS: So maybe our community meeting up there is going to be some ideas, programs, initiatives that could be expanded to other neighborhoods of the city. Can you tell me a little bit how you might see that working, what recommendations your community might have for other areas in getting these kinds of things going?
AB: Definitely. I think communication is key. You’ve got to have leaders and you’ve got to have people who talk to each other. They have block captains, they have a neighborhood Vacant Property Task Force that meets once a month and check on all the houses that are vacant and makes sure they are stable, safe, all that good stuff, and so I really think having leaders established in a community and then having those people talk to the others, and it just spreads that way.
SS: I don’t mean to put you on the spot about spying on your customers, but when they do come into the coffee shop, do you hear them talking them about the bankruptcy? What questions do they have about it, or what’s really striking them about it enough to be talking about it?
AB: When it first happened, a lot of the customers were coming in talking about it, in the sense of “Yeah well, that happened.” It’s not like a thing day to day concerns us or affects us, but it’s definitely something we’re aware of because you know, what happens after that? What about pensions? Pensions is a huge conversation. There are a lot of people in my neighborhood who have lived there 30-plus years and they have pensions from the city and they’re like OK, is that still going to happen?” There was a lot of talk about that going on for sure.
SS: What are the challenges remaining for GR, It’s in the city of Detroit, the city is in bankruptcy, not immune from fiscal challenges and other issues. What remains to be done in your area?
AB: Definitely, I think in our area there’s theft, three’s crime, there’s things going on. We just keep expanding radio patrol and things like that. There are definitely things that need to be done, more precautions put into place. Lighting is coming. We have lights there now so that’s really exciting. Things are coming along There is always more to be done. It’s still Detroit. Even though it looks really nice, late at night people want to make sure their car is in a well-lit area and all that good stuff.