Detroit skyline (Photo: Thinkstock)
What do you find in a city that’s not choked with big-box chain stores? Local shops that run the gamut from quirky to downright weird, with unexpected treasures waiting to be unearthed at every corner. Whether you just want a funky souvenir from your trip or you’re planning an entire shopping expedition, here are a few only-in-Detroit favorites you must put on your list.
First US Illustrated Edition of this Sherlock Holmes classic, from 1893. Tentative price $850.00 (Photo: Courtesy of John K. King Used & Rare Books)
Is there anything as enticing as the smell of old books? OK, maybe a shot of whiskey, but not much else beats the anticipation of stepping into a creaky old building bursting at the seams with piles and piles of old books. Who knows what fantastical tales await you in the yellowing pages of the some million titles lining the endless shelves of this former glove factory? Forget the bottomless depths of online booksellers — hang out here for a few hours to (re)discover the thrill of scanning spines, of tipping one off the shelf when it intrigues you. Also forget computerized inventory (no computers here), book club best-sellers (the owner favors the curious and esoteric), and any sense of time passing — you could lose days wandering the aisles.
Related: Detroit’s Ultimate Whiskey Tour
Vintage Cadillac at The Auction Block (Photo: Courtesy of The Auction Block)
Where are you going to find a stuffed elk, an airport metal detector, and a vintage Cadillac under one roof? Try the massive Auction Block — a jumble of police-seized goods, estate sales, and liquidations that some may find creepy and others may find intriguing. You never know what oddity you might encounter. Check their website for auction dates or explore the warehouse’s anytime sales. (Also visit ReStore next door for architectural salvage coming out of Detroit homes.)
Vintage barware at Hugh (Photo: Courtesy of Hugh)
The mad man in hugh (sorry, we couldn’t resist) will flip for the vintage barware, smoking accessories, and other essentials in this pop-up turned retail store in positively blooming Midtown. Initially inspired by midcentury modern bachelor-pad style, the retail offerings have evolved to include goods that dapper gents and ladies alike will covet.
The Brakeman 40mm from Shinola (Photo: Courtesy of Shinola)
“One day they’ll call Geneva the Detroit of Switzerland,” you might overhear in the expansive, sunny space inside the Detroit College for Creative Studies where the only sub-$2,000 watch not made in China is built. Detroit-honed hands — former autoworkers — tackle the meticulous work of crafting the Swiss-quality timepieces, and the city is so integral to Shinola’s ambitious plans that retailers interested in carrying the brand are required to visit the D. Choose your own made-in-Detroit watch at Shinola’s flagship Midtown retail store, where you can also shop for handcrafted leather goods, luxury bicycles, and — why not? — an organic cold-pressed juice.
Brain and ribcage jewelry at Rust Belt Market (Photo: Courtesy of Rust Belt Market)
You might be as ready to banish “curated” and “reclaimed” as we are, but hang in there — this is a legitimate use of the worn-out words. The artists, designers, and collectors setting up shop in this former Old Navy box are bringing you an Etsy in real life, with all the vintage curated goods your pinning heart desires, not to mention an array of creations (jewelry! clothing! furniture!) born of reclaimed materials.
Seth Gold of Hardcore Pawn (Photo: Courtesy of American Jewelry)
File this under “guilty pleasure.” Nobody’s saying you have to fess up to watching truTV’s “Hardcore Pawn,” but if you are compelled to check out the real-life store, we’re not judging. In the market for a vintage Tigers stadium flag, an 18 karat white gold chain, a man’s mink coat — or just need a loan? The Gold family has you covered.
Dana McMahan is a Louisville, Kentucky-based culinary, travel, and fitness writer who is hoping to soon split her time between Kentucky and Detroit.