A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine took me on a quick tour of a few must see places in Detroit. Besides grabbing a cocktail at Great Lakes CoffeeRoasting Company(they make coffee & cocktails?! be still my heart!) and Two James (the first distillery in Detroit since prohibition), we grabbed a snack (more like dinner) at Slow's and then a nightcap at Traffic Jam & Snug. We ducked into some shops off of the Cass Corridor (hello City Bird, Nest, Nora & Hugh!), checked out a few of the Heidelberg Projecthomes, the Eastern Market and the neighborhoods different non-profits like The Blight Authority are cleaning up. I loved each stop , but I was most amazed by the tour we took a place called 'Ponyride.' Haven't heard of it? No worries, I hadn't either. Since leaving Ponyride, I've been amped. Quite simply, it was one of the most inspirational places I've been in a long time.
So what is this "Ponyride," you ask? Well I have some answers!
According to their mission statement:
"Ponyride is a study to see how the foreclosure crisis can have a positive impact on our communities. Using an ‘all boats rise with the tide’ rent subsidy, we are able to provide cheap space for socially-conscious artists and entrepreneurs to work and share knowledge, resources and networks. We purchased a 30,000 square-foot warehouse for $100,000 and offer space for $0.10-$0.20 per square-foot, which includes the cost of utilities.PonyRide nurtures collaboration using shared resources, knowledge, and ideas to cultivate opportunities created by the strengths and crises of Detroit. Participants serve Detroit communities by sharing their craft and expertise."
Sounds great, right? You had me at nuturing collaboration. Bottom line, Ponyride is a unique collaborative incubator/office/makerspace for artists and entrepreneurs, located in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit.
On my tour, I was equally as blown away by each entrepreneur and craftsman as I was the idea of creating a collaborative environment. My heart stopped when we entered Stukenborg Press, the studio of letterpress printer Bryan Baker on the 2nd or 3rd floor (so many rooms, so much inspiration, I lost track of where I was). This video highlights not only Bryan's craft, but his passion & spirit. When he says, "Find it, pursue it as hard as you can, and it will eventually make sense of itself," I feel like he's talking to me, 5 years ago. High five, Bryan, high five.
The shared resources, knowledge and ideas that the mission of Ponyride discusses are so prevalent in the Stukenborg video, which was created by filmmaking collaborativeOrder & Other (another Ponyride tenant that brings stories of brands like Shinola & Cheverolet to life). They are working together to create a positive impact on the community. And guys, their videos are amazing. Sigh.
Anthology Coffee blew me away - a coffee shop on the lower level of Ponyride (which is located at 1411 Vermont Street in Corktown, Detroit, by the way) that sources, roasts and brews some amazing coffee.
Detroit Denim Companymade me want to run around and touch all of the denim bags, jeans, and leather items that were in sewing machines or being finished on tables. I had to keep telling myself to look with my eyes, not my hands. Total sensory overload, and what a cool company! In addition to the brand’s staple 13 oz. selvedge “Heritage” straight-leg men’s jean—complete with hand-hammered copper rivets, copper buttons and gold contrast stitching—Detroit Denim Co. produces tote bags, leather bags, belts, aprons, and small leather accessories.
The Empowerment Plan was the pinnacle for me. Right out of college, I worked at the South Bend Center for the Homeless, a center dedicated to stopping the cycle of homelessness. Veronika Scott, of the Empowerment Plan, not only provides coats for homeless populations across the country (sleeping bag coats to be precise), but she helps provide the skills and jobs to help empower women of homelessness to get back on their feet. Visit http://www.empowermentplan.org/ to learn more.
RunJit Detroit- It's like Ponyride took some of my favorite things-- coffee, letterpress, denim, socially responsible entrepreneurship -- and then threw a cherry on top with DANCE. Like, yep, Lisa, this collaborative is for your head to explode with happiness. RunJit creates ground-breaking choreography, combining individual styles of dance with jitting, a unique dance style native to Detroit. Striving to expose the dance world to jitting, while staying true to their Detroit roots, RunJit uses their talents and determination to introduce individuals in the city to various styles of hip-hop dance. RunJit offers affordable dance classes at Ponyride to those who would like to learn.
From coats for the homeless to dance classes, and letterpress workshops to the home of 'Beard Balm,' Ponyride is one of the most unique corners in Detroit (in my humble opinion). Stop by to grab the most delicious and passion filled cup of coffee you'll find and see if you can snag a tour. It's well worth it.
And while you're at it, stop in and check em out at their Open House from 4-9 p.m. on December 8th. I'll see you there!
After spending the last couple weeks in Detroit, I'm ready to take my Detroit love to the next level. What are some MUST VISIT places in town? When you're in the D, what do you do? Let us know in the comments!