DETROIT — The small storefront located on Michigan Avenue, just west of the Lodge Freeway, could be easily passed over as just another hopeless, vacant structure. Ben Newman, however, sees a burgeoning business, Detroit Institute of Bagels, in a neighborhood rife with entrepreneurs.
“I want the things we’re doing to be unique enough to draw visitors here who will come and see and experience Corktown,” says Newman, 28, who recently purchased the storefront for Detroit Institute of Bagels. With the Corktown opening, he will join the ranks of other startups like Slows Bar BQ (in the process of expanding), Mudgie’s Deli, Astro Coffee, and the Sugar House.
The ongoing revitalization of Corktown, one of Detroit’s oldest neighborhoods, adds value for city-dwellers and suburbanites alike, says Olga Stella, vice president for business development at Detroit Economic Growth Corp, a quasi-public development agency.
“Small businesses help make a place more livable, and improve conditions for both residents and employees,” says Stella. “Any small business owner will be welcomed with open arms as long as they are dedicated to putting together a quality product and providing good service.”
Newman, who holds a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Michigan, is just as concerned with enhancing his community as running a successful bagel business.
“Part of what I want to do is offer quality food super conveniently here in the city, (and) making sure that we’re offering quality product is the number one thing,” he says. “But (we) can also offer a good and efficient service.”
Newman says he will also focus on architectural design that makes the area more inviting. He plans on installing large pane windows in place of the current brick façade, as well as smaller windows along the sides of the building.
Inside, customers will experience portions of the production process firsthand, as Newman plans to either bake or boil the bagels in plain view. The outside will be comprised of a parking lot, green space, and a fenced-in patio.
Detroit Institute of Bagels plans to hire about 15 employees, who Newman hopes will share his vision of community mindedness. “It’s what makes Astro awesome, that the employees feel invested in the business,” he says. “They’re not just making bagels. They see it as something bigger.”
Astro Coffee is one of many of the nearby businesses to assist Detroit Institute of Bagels, whether it’s referring contractors or sharing utility bills to create an accurate business plan. Additionally, Newman has been bringing in people from the community to work on things like branding and packaging. “All of the areas that you need to be prepared for to open a business, someone with an amazing amount of expertise has taken on that part of helping,” he says of his co-workers.
Though Newman claims he’d be happy to open up shop next week, Detroit Institute of Bagels is slated to open in the fall. Until then, he’s happy to continue working with the community.
“That’s the vision with this,” says Newman. “How this turns into a bagel shop in the next nine months, I don’t know. But someone does, and they’re helping.”