The holiday shopping season is here. While the big malls in metro Detroit are usually busy with holiday shoppers during this time, you don’t have to leave the city to buy gifts for your loved ones or yourself. Here are three Detroit businesses you can support during the holiday season and year-round.
4240 Cass Ave. #105, Detroit
If you want to give someone a gift that stimulates the mind, a good book from Source Booksellers is a great idea.
Janet Webster Jones is a Black woman who has owned and operated Source Booksellers in Detroit for 32 years. Jones said the Cass Corridor/Midtown neighborhood has changed a lot over the 20 years her store has been in the area, but she embraces the change.
“If you’re in business, you have to stick and stay, because things are going to change all around you,” Jones said. “And the business is going to change as a result of those changes.”
One change the brick-and-mortar bookstore on Cass had to endure during the COVID-19 pandemic was selling books online while the physical store was shut down. Jones said she was somewhat surprised to see “another whole world of business” open up.
“The social dynamics that were happening at the time, particularly with George Floyd’s murder and Breonna Taylor and all those others, people across the country got real interested in reading about racism and police brutality and all those kinds of things that came along with it,” she said.
Jones describes her store as a “niche nonfiction bookstore” that pulls in customers from all over.
“I just had a woman come in today who drove all the way from Farmington Hills,” she said. “A few days ago, we had someone come in from Grosse Pointe, then obviously we get a lot of Detroiters from all across the city.”
Though Jones is a self-described “lover of all things Detroit,” she said it doesn’t bother her when people from the city go to the suburbs to shop.
“There’s a real historical context for it,” she said. “You had the freeways tear up so many of the neighborhoods starting in the 1950s, and that made people feel like they had to leave the city to go buy things. But there’s enough out here for everybody; if people choose to shop somewhere else, it doesn’t bother me.”
Jones works at the store full time, with her daughter, primarily, then
has a few other part-time workers lend a helping hand. The holiday season is a big time of year for her.
“This time of year is special because there are so many significant holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza that people do shopping for,” she said, “but then also New Years, MLK Day, and Valentines Day that come at the start of the year. So lot’s of people are thinking of gifts for their loved ones.”
Mama Coo’s Boutique
1701 Trumbull, Detroit
If you’re looking for affordable-yet-stylish clothing or accessories for women, Mama Coo’s Boutique in Corktown is a great place to start. Alana Rodriguez, a born and raised southwest Detroiter, first opened Mama Coo’s as a pop-up shop eight years ago. She opened her brick-and-mortar store three years later.
Rodriguez said having a business in Corktown isn’t typical for a Latinx woman from southwest Detroit.
“The dynamic and demographics were always different between southwest Detroit and Corktown, but what’s nice to see now is that people from (other) neighborhoods do come here, and they feel comfortable,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez went to college with plans to work in the nonprofit sector, but now she believes her business is satisfying that urge to make a difference.
“I love seeing young Black and Brown girls come in and see me here and my sister here, knowing that this is ours, like one day they could have a store like this,” she said.
The holiday season can be busy for Mama Coo’s, but Rodriguez said this time of year is the “bread and butter” for her business.
“We want to get new products out there, we want to get people in here, we want to have events, we want to have pop-ups and invite other businesses for cross-promotion, we need to do everything because this is where we’re going to make all our money,” she said.
Rodriguez said that, last year during the pandemic, the store transitioned to making a majority of its sales through social media pages, but this holiday season, she is hoping for a return to normal.
3031 W. Grand Blvd., Ste 505B
If you want to buy gifts that also contribute to a worthy cause, then Swaggles might be the right business to support this holiday season. The apparel company makes clothing and accessories for humans and dogs. It then donates a percentage of the proceeds to local and national no-kill shelters and rescues.
Temeria Heard founded Swaggles in 2019 after seeing images and videos of animal abuse that “kept me up at night or woke me up at night.”
“I have a little dog, and I love her so much and I couldn’t imagine somebody doing anything to hurt her,” Heard said. “Just seeing the dogs being abused was heartbreaking.”
Heard said Swaggles’ mission is to support businesses and causes that share a passion for helping animals and giving donations to animal rescues.
“No matter what, even when we don’t have sales, we still donate,” Heard said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged businesses all over the country, and Swaggles was no different. Heard said that the business saw some good days and some bad.
“Sometimes it’s kind of slow, sometimes we get a little hit and we’re a little busy,” she said. “So it just kind of depends on where people are at and what their priorities are.”
Right now, one of Heard’s goals is to keep growing the Swaggles brand.
“I feel like (Swaggles) is my little baby, and to see it’s just 2 years old,” she said, “my goal is to speak it out there that this is going to be a household name.”
This story was developed as part of a partnership between BridgeDetroit and The Neighborhoods, which is a City of Detroit storytelling initiative. We have teamed up to identify Detroit’s thriving neighborhood business corridors and highlight the entrepreneurs who power them. The Neighborhoods takes the photos and BridgeDetroit writes the stories.