CityLoft, Downtown Detroit Days Market Place create shopping mecca downtown

Posted on July 2, 2012

Detroiter Anita Prysock typically drives the 10 or so miles north to fulfill her retail fix at the Somerset Collection in Troy. On Thursday, the upscale shopping center came to her.

Prysock was one of the hundreds of city residents, downtown workers and suburban visitors who braved the heat and humidity to enjoy the cool confines of CityLoft, a group of pop-up shops at 1261 Woodward Avenue.

“They have all the stores here,” Prysock said, her hand running along the brushed silver ladles and tongs on display at the Williams-Sonoma booth. “I don’t have anything in mind to buy, but if I see something I need, I might have to pick up a thing or two.”

CityLoft is a kind of valentine to Detroit, said Linda McIntosh, spokeswoman for The Forbes Co., which owns Somerset Collection. Forbes co-sponsored the summertime event with Detroit-based online lender Quicken Loans Inc. and its associated firm Rock Ventures, which oversees its properties.

“This is Fifth Avenue and that is TriBeCa,” said McIntosh, referring to the three-dozen Somerset retailers at CityLoft and about 30 artisans, crafters, bake shops and clothing shops participating in the Downtown Detroit Days Marketplace across the street.

This is CityLoft’s second year in Detroit, bringing some of the nation’s largest retail names into downtown.

The stores complement the city’s eclectic retail mix and lure new shoppers into Detroit to see all of the changes here, McIntosh said.

CityLoft shops offer a limited selection of products compared with the full-line stores in Troy, but still have high-end lighting displays, and savvy merchandising and sales staff.

Across the street, the retailers atop the Premier Parking Garage were trying to stay hydrated under their blue-and-white tents. But the friendly demeanor of the booth workers and well-stocked temporary stores were a hit with 4-year-old Antonio Russo, who picked up a free jelly bracelet from one booth, and a white-chocolate Rice Krispies treat from another.

“We came to support the city and dump a little money into it,” said Elaine Russo, Antonio’s mom and a resident of Huntington, W.Va.

The family is in town living at the downtown Holiday Inn for about six weeks as Russo’s husband finishes a medical rotation at Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System.

Music filled both retail spaces, whether it was summer hit “Call Me Maybe” blaring from the DJ booth inside the raw CityLoft interior or the sound of the city buzzing at the DDD Marketplace. Both gave these spaces an energy and sense of community that was infectious, workers said.

“We love everything about it,” said Cheryl Timlin, assistant store manager for Vera Bradley, which brought a full complement of its signature paisley-and-plaid purses and bags to CityLoft.

“We were here last year as well, and it really brought me back to the city. Now I have all these new favorites, like the Avalon Bakery,” she said.

Quicken Loans interns brought the party up a notch, filling the stores and handing out fliers at strategic corners around the city. The goal, said one employee, is to bring the lunchtime crowd down to Woodward to experience the unique carnival there.

Armanda Herbert, founder and CEO of Soul Seasonings, said she hoped the event would let her continue to refine her bakery items in hopes of someday opening a storefront.

That is one goal of the DDD Marketplace, with employees from Bedrock Real Estate Services, part of the Quicken Loans family of companies that helped Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert buy nine downtown buildings, touring the site and taking video, photos and leads from potential tenants.

“I’m testing out products at places like this and farmers markets as a beta site,” said Herbert, a barbecue expert turned chocolatier. “Food is my first love, and I make everything from scratch.”

For three weekends — this week through Saturday, July 26-28 and Aug. 16-18 — this block of Woodward is trying to turn back the clock to the summers of the 1950s through 1980s, when the Detroit Downtown Days began.


Location: 1261 Woodward, Detroit
What: About 36 mini-shops from Troy-based Somerset Collection’s upscale retailers
Hours: Through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Downtown Detroit Days Marketplace

Location: 1206 Woodward
What: More than 40 independent artists and businesses selling wares outdoors
Free parking: Premier Parking Garage, 1206 Woodward
Shuttle: From Somerset Collection in Troy to CityLoft
Free trolley: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to and from downtown offices, hotels and Midtown destinations

By: Karen Dybis, The Detroit News