Six years ago, Mikiah Westbrooks achieved her dream of opening her own business.
Brix Wine & Charcuterie Boutique, a wine bar and retail shop, got its start in summer 2017 in a former bank building on the corner of Van Dyke and Kercheval in the West Village neighborhood where she grew up.
“I’ve always wanted to do something in the community,” Westbrooks said. “That was something that was really important to me.”
The 1,100-square-foot space featured wine from around the world, a private lounge inside the refurbished bank vault with high-end bottle service and charcuterie boards for guests to pair with their fruit forward spirits.
But in 2018, Westbrooks’ dreams were dashed when she had to close Brix amid a dispute with her landlord. The unexpected hurdle didn’t stop the West Village resident from pursuing another passion–launching her own wine brand called Haus of Harriet, which pays homage to abolitionist Harriet Tubman and her perseverance.
“Harriet Tubman never stopped,” Westbrooks said. “She showed me you have to keep moving in life.”
Five years later, Westbrooks has revamped the business as simply Brix Wine and reopened this month in a new space on Franklin Street within the Orleans Landing apartment complex in the Rivertown neighborhood.
Brix is among the latest recipients of Motor City Match, a program that provides funding and tools to help new and expanding businesses in the city. Westbrooks’ $32,000 grant will be used to enhance the building’s infrastructure. She won a previous $32,000 grant from the organization in 2016.
Drake Phifer, a Detroit artist and founder of marketing and promotions company Urban Organic Arts and Culture, said he’s been fortunate to have experienced Brix in both of its iterations.
“I enjoyed it as it was (in West Village) when it was a bar. The focus is now on retail. I like the concept of making the new Brix a nice stop off on the way home to get a few bottles of wine or even a case,” he said. “It’s in the heart of Rivertown. You never know who you’ll run into. It has a real neighborhood vibe to it that Detroiters can appreciate whether they’re nearby residents or visitors.”
Deputy Mayor Todd Bettison, in a statement this month announcing the grant award, said businesses like Westbrooks’ “create the character of a neighborhood.”
“I am impressed by Mikiah’s vision for Brix Wine to be a welcoming and inclusive space for all wine enthusiasts,” he said.
Westbrooks said that the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down her reopening plans, but she also wanted to take her time and make sure that everything was in place this time around.
“You can never ensure that you’re not going to close,” she said, “but I just wanted to make sure that I took my time and did it right and had everything in place like financing, marketing, all these different things in place so that I can just keep moving forward.”
Keep on moving
In the five years since the West Village location closed, Westbrooks has kept busy by working a marketing job and planning for the relaunch of her business.
The entrepreneur first contemplated moving Brix to New Center and then to the Avenue of Fashion on Livernois and Seven Mile, but those plans fell through.
Anthony Askew, a real estate developer who managed Motor City Match when Brix opened its first location, said Westbrooks is one of the program’s “brightest stars.”
“With the first iteration of Brix, I watched Mikiah transform an idea into a true community asset,” he said. “When it closed, Brix left a void in our city not easily filled.
“To see Mikiah persevere through every obstacle set before her is nothing short of inspiring, and I am so proud of her hard work and determination,” Askew added. “Mikiah is a prime example of when Black women are provided with the tools and resources they need, incredible things happen that benefit us all.”
Brix’s new 1,400-square-foot space at 1588 Franklin Street is a mix between a wine cellar and a cozy lounge, with hardwood floors, shelves of red and white wine stocked in one corner and dark red loveseats and small, wooden coffee tables taking up another.
Westbrooks said she was introduced to wine at the age of 21 by her sister and has loved it ever since. Even the name of the shop is a nod to the wine world, with brix meaning the estimation of the sugar content of grape juice or fermenting wine.
At least 50 wines are on display in the shop from as far away as California, Spain and South Africa, Westbrooks said. Brix also carries a Michigan Riesling and Cabernet Franc. Prices range from $22 per bottle on the low end to as high as $300.
Westbrooks said for this location, she’s looking to focus less on the bar and more on retail and hosting events.
“We offer retail wine to go, we do events, wine tastings, things like that,” she said.
Brix will host an event Thursday called Give Me a Riesling, where guests will get to try five types of the white wine. Tickets are $25 and available at Eventbrite.
Westbrooks said she has been getting positive feedback since the shop reopened from new and returning customers.
“Oftentimes the focus is on the heavier spirits. But there is something a little more delicate and refined about wine culture. Wine centers around connection, culture and conversation,” added Phifer. “There are a lot of exchanges that occur over a bottle of vino that won’t occur in any other setting.”
Orlando Bailey contributed to this report