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The “big” news a few weeks ago that Nike opened a retail store in downtown Detroit had me flashback to a Free Press front-page story in fall of 1994 celebrating the opening of the new IHOP on Jefferson Ave. As you can see from this March 1996 New York Times article, the IHOP’s opening back in the late 20th century was a pretty big deal, and perhaps even worthy of such front-page attention: “When it opened 16 months ago, the IHOP became the first sit-down, family-oriented national restaurant chain to open in Detroit in a quarter century.” The first year in business it had the highest sales volume of any IHOP in the Midwest. Of course, much has changed in Detroit in the 20+ years between the IHOP’s opening (still there, BTW), and the Nike Store’s opening last week.
Just think for a moment - readers’ of-age - of all the places in Detroit you can now get a fine craft beer, or an even finer craft cocktail! (Full disclosure: I, too, am a beer-snob.) HopCat and Jolly Pumpkin are only five-minute walks from my Woodward office, and even Whole Foods now has weekly beer tastings. But, despite the hype and spectacle, I’ll take OG-beer joints like Honest John’s, Traffic Jam or Motor City Brewing Works any day of the week!
Back to shoes and pancakes and Detroit’s future, which, unlike beer, we all need. Admit it: as a kid who grew-up in the 80s, 90s, ought’s, or today, you REALLY wanted to wear Nikes to school. Whoever you are – the Nike Swoosh is just seriously cool and badass, right? Oh, but let’s help each other suppress that pesky cognitive dissonance of learning who actually makes such aesthetic wonders (hint: children in sweat-shops)! And, please, don’t tell me that $139 shoes only cost $19 to produce! Just let me get my swoosh on and keep imagining I have a personal trainer.
My snarky sarcasm aside, to be perfectly honest: I’m fine with Nike opening a store in downtown Detroit across from the historic Hudson’s site. I won’t shop there, and I don’t think I know many who will. (When I buy Nikes for my teenage son, it’s at Discount Shoe Warehouse.) But, hey, if you want to buy ridiculously overpriced shoes in downtown Detroit, knock yourself out! Detroit surely needs the property tax revenue – I just hope Nike didn’t get any tax credits to open like Whole Foods.
Wherever you buy your shoes, however, you should have no illusions about what the new Nike store is, means or actually represents about Detroit today in 2016. That’s not really a store you’re walking past on your way to Quicken Loans, it’s a 4D advertisement and branding magnet for a specific vision of Detroit’s future. No matter how much it gets manipulated into some sort of idea of “newness”, this popular ideology about Detroit’s future, actually, is quite old; it’s the same tried-and-true corporate consumerism that already failed everyday people in America, and Detroit, in the 20th-century. What’s that saying again? “Burn me once shame on you; burn me twice shame on me.”
I think it’s about time for some pancakes at the original IHOP on W. Vernor in SW Detroit - Duly’s Place!