When it comes to thriving business corridors in Detroit, downtown and Midtown too often get all the attention. Or, when highlighting Black-owned businesses, the Avenue of Fashion along Livernois gets the spotlight. However, there are active commercial centers throughout the city run by dedicated Detroit entrepreneurs.
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BridgeDetroit and The Neighborhoods, which is a City of Detroit storytelling initiative, have teamed up to identify Detroit’s thriving neighborhood business corridors and highlight the entrepreneurs who power them. McNichols between Schaefer and Hubbell, near Sinai Grace Hospital in the Hubbell-Puritan and Harmony Village neighborhoods, is one of those bustling centers.
McNichols Black Business District
The Boss Collection, a clothing store, boutique and hair salon at 14438 W. McNichols, is a destination for Detroiters on the hunt for a style change. Owner Tonisha Gasaway has run this store for almost two years, but has been doing hair since she was 15 years old.
“I really hadn’t thought about doing the clothing store-thing until people noticed these accessories I was wearing,” Gasaway said. “So that’s what pushed me to do more, because a one-stop shop is everything, and I wanted to meet that demand,” she said.
Shortly after opening, the COVID-19 pandemic changed Gasaway’s plans. Suddenly, she had to learn how to sell products outside of the store and began styling hair at people’s homes.
“During (the pandemic) I started to sell clothes off my porch, and I ended up making $20,000 during those months where the store was shut down,” she said.
One of the biggest difficulties Gasaway said she has faced is finding business support for her shop’s operations.
Not knowing what help exists is common for the businesses in this area, where some owners have said they have to be resourceful and rely on friends or family for help.
Charity Dean, president and CEO of the Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance (MDBBA), said one “huge barrier” for Black entrepreneurs in Detroit is not having easy access to capital.
“Getting money into the hands of small-business owners isn’t a new challenge, but one that is consistent and widespread across metro Detroit,” Dean said.
One way that MDBBA helps these businesses is to create programs that connect Black business owners to funding partners and to help those owners create business plans. Dean said these programs can help businesses in a lot of ways.
“If they need legal assistance, we have partners that are helping with (legal matters). If they need financial statements, we have partners that we’re paying for to help them get capital and documents ready,” she said.
Another barrier for these businesses, according to Dean, is that people with the resources to help business owners need to shop or visit neighborhood establishments. Showing up helps.
“You have to come around, otherwise your good intentions won’t go anywhere,” she said.
The Detroit Economic Growth Corporation launched Detroit Means Business (DMB) during the pandemic. DMB is also focused on developing Detroit’s neighborhood economy by connecting small businesses with resources and helping them navigate the City of Detroit’s procedures. The organization recently offered grants to drive foot traffic to small businesses for the holidays and lists funding opportunities for Detroit’s neighborhood businesses.
However, for some small business owners, the information isn’t reaching them.
Bradford Cross, is a barber and co-owner at E&B Salon at 14139 W. McNichols. Cross said he knows there are people working for the city that are supposed to help small businesses, but they “never come around.”
“You’re the first person to ask me about what could help my businesses, and you’re not even the person who is actually supposed to help,” Cross said. “That’s why the business owners around here find ways to make it on their own.”
Cross, who opened the salon with his brother nearly three years ago, said the pandemic was challenging in some ways and beneficial in other ways.
“A salon is something that people always are going to need, especially in Detroit,” he said. “Young guys don’t want to walk around with a bummy haircut, and women definitely always want to look nice, so we were still making money.”
Cross takes pride in running a unisex salon because he can cater to every kind of Detroiter.
“The thing about a barbershop is that everyone, young and old, comes in here,” he said. “So (me and my brother) make sure it’s a family-friendly place where everybody in the neighborhood can come.”
Cross, with the help of his brother, also owns a home improvement business, party bus rental service and a home health care business. He says those businesses struggled during the pandemic.
“Some of the other businesses we run just weren’t as easy to do remote or with social (distancing), but we still made it through,” he said.
Despite the challenges, Cross said he takes pride in having “a lot of different hustles.”
“Detroit is a city of hustlers and people who grind all day,” he said. “But even then, it feels like no one notices all the work. Maybe they do and just don’t care.”
Tremon Gougisha is another Detroit business owner with multiple hustles and revenue streams. Gougisha owns the Infinite Clouds Hookah Shop at 13715 W. McNichols and Model Life Fashion and Infinite Designs at 13703 W. McNichols.
Gougisha said he takes a lot of pride in being a business owner in Detroit.
“I’m from the city, and I want to give back,” Gougisha said. “So I try to keep everything in the city. I don’t want people to have to go out to the suburbs to shop or to find a job. There’s jobs right here.”
William “Snook” Russell owns Snook’s Klassik Kutz next door to Gougisha’s Model Life Fashion and Infinite Designs. Russell said he loves having his shop in an area with so many other Black business owners.
“I like it because it doesn’t feel like it’s just me and my shop, it feels like we’re all getting this money together,” Russell said.
Russell, who started cutting hair at people’s houses last year during the COVID-19 shutdowns, said he has had his shop on McNichols for about six years.
“This one spot has so many businesses that just need some promotion,” he said. “If people from (the city) came around more they would see it the way we see it.”
McNichols Black Business District Businesses
Beatrice Bar and Restaurant (14444 W. McNichols) A family-owned restaurant that specializes in home-cooked finger foods.
Bob Farr’s Florist (14149 W McNichols) A florist that has been around for 50 years, the business makes floral arrangements for occasions from funerals and weddings to parties and anniversaries.
Boss Collection (14438 W. McNichols) A clothing and accessory boutique with a small salon inside. A one stop shop for fashionistas.
E&B Salon (14139 W. McNichols) A family-owned and family-friendly barbershop and hair salon for people of all ages and walks of life.
Families Barber Salon (14137 W. McNichols) A family-friendly salon for anyone looking for a new look.
Fred’s Barbershop (14331 W. McNichols) A barbershop fit to give Detroiters of any age a fresh haircut.
Infinite Clouds Hookah Shop (13715 W. McNichols Rd) A hookah lounge and smoke shop for anyone looking for a relaxing place to vibe out.
JQ Creative (14309 W. McNichols) A small gallery that does custom graphic designs.
Lash Lounge (14432 W. McNichols) A small nail salon that can get your nails looking good for any occasion.
McNichols Electric (13729 W. McNichols) Store that sells microwaves, vacuums and other small home appliances.
Model Life Fashion and Infinite Designs (13703 W. McNichols) Store that sells custom clothing designs and apparel.
Modish Salon (14141 W. McNichols) Detroit beauty salon that does hair style, braiding and replacement.
New Beginnings Childcare and Academy (14015 W. McNichols) Daycare and afterschool programming for children from 6 weeks old to 12 years old.
Pro Tax (14311 W. McNichols) A resource to help people file taxes and get the most from their tax returns.
Rono’s Caribbean Family Dining (14001 W. McNichols) A family-owned restaurant and dining hall for anyone who wants traditional Caribbean food.
Runaway Styles Salon (13814 W. McNichols) A barbershop, salon and spa for Detroiters who want to look and feel good.
Safari African Hair Braiding (14305 W. McNichols) A hair salon that specializes in hair braiding.
Snook’s Klassik Kutz (13705 W. McNichols) A barbershop for people who want a haircut with Detroit style.
So Unfair Wig Bar (14440 W. McNichols) A wig shop and salon for anyone looking to try a new hairstyle.
Southern Smokehouse (14340 W. McNichols) A Southern-style restaurant that specializes in smoked soul food.
Sweet Soul Bistro (13741 W. McNichols) A restaurant with nice soul food style dining right in the neighborhood.
Teresa’s Place (14000 W. McNichols) A bar and grill for Detroiters who want to get food and drinks in the neighborhood.
Untouchable Empire Unisex Salon (13711 W. McNichols) A unisex salon for Detroiters of all ages and backgrounds who want to look good.
Work and Wear Uniform Plus (14135 W. McNichols) A store that sells work uniforms for Detroiters.