Commerce Design: Detroit award to celebrate small shops impact on neighborhoods

Commerce Design: Detroit award to celebrate small shops impact on neighborhoods

Close your eyes and think of the store you recently visited. For many of us, it was probably some kind of chain. The truth is the big stores have more marketing power to attract your dollars.

That is why small businesses need to get creative with design and grab attention away from the uniform look of the average chain store.

To celebrate the uniqueness of these small shops, Design Core Detroit and AIA Detroit started Commerce Design: Detroit, an award that honors and recognizes commercial projects where small business owners have hired professional designers to help them in the design or renovation of their space. The initiative was licensed from Montreal City of Design, Commerce.

The award celebrates the impact of commercial design projects in neighborhoods. The goal is to increase investment and growth in Detroit’s commercial corridors, promote accessibility and preserve local identity.

“I believe it can work to make a stronger local economy in Detroit, and all over,” says Ellie Schneider, director of City of Design at Design Core.

Commerce Design: Detroit will recognize projects submitted jointly by the business owner and design team, completed within the last five years within the City of Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck.

The 2019 finalists are:

  • 1701 Bespoke (Midtown) – submitted by owner Max Schmidt and designer Patrick Thompson Design

    Bird Bee
  • Avalon (Downtown) – submitted by owner Jackie Victor and designer Marisa Gaggino/HeritageCo2 LLC with contributions from Richard Gage Design Studio, Gaby Buckay, Dan Zwolak, and Clinton Snider
  • BIRD BEE (Downtown – Capitol Park) – submitted by owner Taylor Bolleber and designer Virtuoso Design + Build
  • Central Kitchen & Bar (Downtown-Campus Martius) – submitted by owner Dennis Archer Jr. and designer Ron & Roman

    Detroit is the New Black
  • Detroit Denim (Rivertown) – submitted by owners Eric and Brenna Lane and designer Paul Karas of Ware MFG with contributions from Who’s That, Logan Merry, and Chris and Michelle Gerard
  • Detroit is the New Black (Downtown) – submitted by owner Roslyn Karamoko and designer Gensler with contributions from Rockford Construction and The Donut Shop
  • Floyd (Eastern Market) – submitted by owners Kyle Hoff & Alex O’Dell and designer M1DTW with contributions from Order and Et Al Collaborative
  • Iconic Tattoo (Midtown) – submitted by owner Kelli Marshall and designer Quinn Evan Architects with contributions from Fitzpatrick Structural Engineering PC

    Little High Flyers
  • Kiesling (North End) – submitted by owners Carlo Liburdi & Ashley Davidson and designer Citizen Brand & Story Lab with contributions from Studio BD
  • Little High Flyers (Midtown) – submitted by owner Corina Baldwin and designer Patrick Thompson Design
  • Maru (Downtown – Campus Martius) – submitted by owner Robert Song and designer ROSSETTI with contributions from BrenMar, Mod Interiors, SES, and Great Lakes Hotel Supply Co.
  • Meta Physica (Corktown) – submitted by owners Anahi Hollis and Jenaveve Biernat and designer Anahi Hollis Design

    Stella Good Coffee
  • Norma G’s (Jefferson Chalmers) – submitted by owner Lester Gouvia and designer Hamilton Anderson Associates with contributions from JRED Engineering Inc. and Cecil Consulting
  • Ochre Bakery (Woodbridge) — submitted by owners Jessica Hicks, Daisuke Hughes and designer Et al Collaborative of Detroit LLC with contributions from Hamtramck Ceramic, Sam Seurynck, and Michael Burdick
  • Sister Pie (Indian Village) – submitted by owner Lisa Ludwinski and designer Laavu Studio with contributions from Meagan Elliot

  • Stella Good Coffee (North End) – submitted by owners Shawn Santo, Kevin Borsay and Designer Archive DS
  • Vertical Detroit (Downtown – Harmonie Park) – submitted by owner Jim Lutfy and designer ROSSETTI with contributions from the Monahan Company, Great Lakes Hotel Supply Co., and Ferrante
  • Wasserman (Eastern Market) – submitted by owner Gary Wasserman, and designer Steven C. Flum with contributions from Elliott Earls, Jody Roberts Electric, Aaron Blendowski & Richard Ganis, John Charnota and Unsold Studio

    Workshop / Dendrophile
  • Will Leather Goods (Midtown) – submitted by owner Bill Adler and designer McIntosh Poris Associates with contributions from Illuminart, Micco Construction, and Architectural Salvage Warehouse of Detroit (ASWD)
  • Workshop / Dendrophile (North End) – submitted by owners Shawn Santo, Kevin Borsay, James Willer and Design Team Worskhop + Archive DS

Ten winners will be announced on August 8 at a special ceremony during the August Drinks x Design at the Old Redford Theater.

“The 10 awarded by the jury must contribute to defeating prejudices (design = expensive, modern, trendy, downtown, etc.) and demonstrate, by their diversity, that the quality of design is relevant and profitable for all businesses, whatever their fields of activity, the profile of their clientele, the neighborhood where they are located and the budget they have available,” says Schneider.

The businesses will be judged on the following:

  • Aesthetics of the business
  • Creativity / Innovation
  • Functionality and safety of the premises, accessibility to people with reduced mobility
  • Aesthetics of the facade and graphic quality of the sign
  • Quality of signage; functionality and aesthetics
  • Quality of storefront display(s)
  • Harmony between the inside and the outside of the business
  • Maintenance of the premises
  • Design performance given the budget
  • Design performance given the type of business
  • Design performance considering the targeted clientele
  • Design performance considering the neighborhood
  • Impact on neighborhood revitalization
  • Performance of the design given the history of the business (rehabilitation of a space, renewal of an image, etc.)

The judges are:

  • Penelope de la Madrid – founder, Abaka Interiors
  • Sandra Olave – chair, interior design, College for Creative Studies
  • Rochelle Riley – former writer and columnist, Detroit Free Press
  • Pierre Roberson RA, NCARB – project architect, Design Lead, Building + Places AECOM
  • Eric S. Thomas – senior partner, Saga Marketing

Commerce Design: Detroit is sponsored in part by Bank of America.

“Bank of America understands that strong businesses strengthen communities and the importance of supporting endeavors that promote these values,” says Tiffany Douglas, Bank of America senior vice president, market manager. “Design Core: Detroit, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, supports the growth of Detroit’s creative economy by delivering business acceleration and attraction services and developing programming tailored specifically to creative professionals’ needs,”

Other sponsors include Hudson-Webber Foundation and the New Economy Initiative of Southeast Michigan

While winners will gain more business, there is more to the program. Hopefully, it will cause what Schneider calls a ‘ripple effect,’ where businesses will emulate the successful winner and lessons in success can be shared with as many people as possible.

Photos from Commerce Design: Detroit website

This small business feature is sponsored by Bank of America. To learn more about Bank of America’s many programs and resources for small business owners visit:



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