What started as a daily newsletter to highlight various restaurants and retail spots in Detroit has since expanded into CoreDetroit.com, a website dedicated to showing off some of the city’s best places to eat, drink, play, and shop.
“We have around 240 business profiles right now,” says Alex Linebrink, founder of Core Merchant, a Detroit-based custom payment solutions company. “These are businesses that are all over Detroit, including those that are not visible on the daily commute down Woodward — places you wouldn’t normally drive past when you’re down here for work.”
Linebrink says he launched the website after receiving feedback from CoreDetroit e-newsletter readers, requesting a searchable database of the profiles he and his Core Merchant staff have been sending out via Facebook and email since 2012. The new site includes an interactive map that can be filtered by neighborhood or activity; a blog including a photo of the day and reviews; and the Core Shop, where visitors can purchase local artwork.
While the list of new businesses to feature isn’t as long as it once was, Linebrink says he’s not hurting for content. “There are a lot of places we haven’t discovered. We have people (contacting us) every day, to tell us about something that’s been open forever. There’s also this barrage of new places moving into Detroit, opening up new spots, because everybody knows its only going up from here,” he says.
Overall, CoreDetroit aims to highlight one-off venues, although they do make an exception every so often for the occasional franchise. “We’ve covered Birmingham Deli, which is a local family-owned franchise, with three or four locations scattered throughout Detroit. And then there’s Bagger Dave’s, which is a small franchise so far, but everything they do is incredibly local,” he says.
While there’s considerable overlap between CoreDetroit and Core Merchant, which came out of the Bizdom startup accelerator three years ago and is now located in the Ford Building, Linebrink hopes to see that change over time. “Once we’re up for a while and start making some revenue through advertising and things like that, I would like to see (the companies) separate a little more, but right now the website is part of Core Merchant and being funded mostly by that,” he says.
As far as Core Merchant goes, the company employs a staff of eight and has been working on an event ticketing system that launched in a beta test via HauntPay.com last fall. “It was weird timing. We launched it for the haunted attraction industry, and now we’re the largest event ticketing provider for haunted attractions in the United States,” he says, adding that the company will soon offer a ticketing system for more general events as well.
To mark the launch of CoreDetroit, the website will host a month-long giveaway contest through May 8, during which users who register for the site’s daily e-mail will be entered to win gift cards and event tickets from local sponsors.