Monday, January 25, 2010

An Open Letter to the City of Detroit

Dear Detroit,
I travel to your fair city for 14-16 days each January over the last 3 years for NAIAS. I come in with the masses for press, industry, and preview week and then stay to greet the public with the latest and greatest in the automotive industry. Your city has had a tough time over the last 20 years and I know the current economy has not helped either. But I have to say, for a city that is broke and needs a renaissance, you sure don't want my money. I don't get it. Don't you want me to spend $4 on a small hot chocolate? I was happy to pay for it, but your Starbucks at the Ren Cen had a line close to 45 minutes long. I tried to get soup and a panini in the lobby at Presto Deli by Andiamo at 6:30 PM. You told me...."Closed". That's odd...industry night went until 9 PM. I would figure that there is money to be made in the last 3 hours of the show. My hotel closed their coffee bar at 5 PM, their restaurants at 9 PM, the one place that does serve good food late won't do take out. I'm tired, I worked all day, why can't I take the food to my room? I am happy to tip the server. I know, I know, you want me to pay $18 for a small salad delivered by room service, but you didn't even offer bread with my expensive greens.

So, here's what I don't understand. NAIAS funnels millions of dollars into your city for two weeks, why aren't you trying to accommodate your visitors? Tell your staff they are going to work longer hours, extra days, make more money, and cater to the visitors to your city. Did you ever see Field of Dreams? Remember, "If you build it, he will come?" Trust me, it would work. I will happily give you my dollars. I don't mind spending a couple of extra bucks for conveniences like shorter lines at Starbucks or grabbing a soup at 9:30 PM when I get off of work. Sometimes I feel like at lot of you just quit trying to make this city shine.

While you are at it, please tell your cab drivers to stop trying to rip me off. I know how much it is from Cobo to my hotel. Don't tell me it is $5 more. I am going to only pay you what the meter says. Oh wait, you forgot to run the meter? I am still only paying the metered rate. Cab drivers are the ambassadors to any city. Just ask the Big Apple. Regulate your cabs and visitors will walk away happier and less disgruntled.

I will be back next year, and I hope to see more businesses open, your city flourishing, and a maybe a few more smiles for the guests who just want a hot meal after 12 hours at work. Come on, Detroit, I know you have it in you!

Now, not all of my experiences were bad. Here are a few gems in the Motor City that deserve my money and your money the next time you visit. They were open extra hours, or they had great customer service, or they just added something special to my trip.

Slow's.....Best St. Louis ribs not in St. Louis:

Zoom Cafe for staying open on the weekends so we had a place to eat lunch:

To The Whitney for being the most fabulous place to eat if you are a "Lady Who Lunches":

And to the pastry chef at Iridescence for making my tummy happy with my lantern dessert and to my server who offered up some great suggestions with enthusiasm and a genuine smile.

Thanks for letting me vent, Detroit. See you in 2011!
xo kb


  1. My favorite was the GPJ guy that was robbed at gunpoint on his way back to the hotel from Slo's.

  2. What you have witnessed and described is what makes Detroit different than other major cities. The BIG things are located within the city proper... theaters, museums, stadiums, etc but the everyday life things are located in the surrounding areas 'the edge cities'.

    It is a good thing you didn't want to go to a grocery store, because there isn't one, in the entire city. Eight hundred thousand people, 75 square miles and not one grocery store.

    For most people who live in SouthEast Michigan when they go to Detroit, they go to their event location, Cobo, the Joe, Comerica, etc, then they leave and go home. Oh they might stop for dinner in Royal Oak, or Sterling Heights, or Novi, but they aren't likely to wander around near their venue looking for a place to eat. Don't get me wrong there are many nice restaurants in the D, but by and large they either cater to an early dinner or lunch crowd or they are in and of themselves a destination.

    One of the reasons the city was so interested in bringing the casinos to the city, aside from the revenue stream, was the possibility of having people stay in the city and supporting secondary businesses, and to an extent that has worked in that limited area.

    Prior to the 2006 Superbowl, it was much much worse. The Host committee spent years prepping the city for the Superbowl, full restaurants were opened just for that week.

    So that's SouthEast Michigan, next time you come hopefully you will be able to get out of the city, once you are passed 8 mile its a whole new ballgame.

  3. I might have to disagree with you on this one, Mathieas. Here's why: LA has the same type of situation as Detroit with the downtown area, but LA took a closer look and decided to change that. Instead of watching a downtown whither away to nothing, they used their convention center and built things around it.....a stadium, an entertainment venue, restaurants, shops, a museum. Now, when I go to work at the convention center, I have a place to eat. In fact, I have choices and they stay open to accommodate the crowds. "If you build it, he will come"

    When we are all on the road, we are often working 12 hours or more. This is often true of the talent, press, production crew, industry, and sales people. Unfortunately, we don't have the time or the opportunity to see all the rest that Detroit or Michigan has to offer. That is why someone....a mayor, a developer, an entrepeneur....really, anyone needs to have a vision for this area of Detroit and create a renaissance. Take a look at LA Live and see what it has done for the downtown LA area. Or if they did open temporary restaurants, do you know how much more money would be funneled back into the city? If Detroit doesn't learn to cater to visitors and business travelers, they will never recover. And that, to me, is very sad.

  4. Kristyn, I think you missed my point, I agree with you, Detroit NEEDS to develop secondary industries; however, the reality has been that it has not happened.

    Every few years, Detroit gets a new 'white knight,' someone who decides that they are going to revitalize Detroit. The first such project, in fact, was the Renaissance Center, thus the name. This was followed by the New Center area, the Fox theater district, the Compuware center, and a few others in between. However, these become pockets of disjointed development unconnected and quite frankly isolated by ghetto.

    For people who live in Michigan it isn't a big deal, they go to their event then head back to their town and their favorite restaurant, bar, shopping center, etc. For visitors to the city, well they don't come all that often. Detroit really isn't set up for tourists, which is a shame.

    People have been trying to fix Detroit ever since it got broke in the 60's and there are little pockets of progress scattered about, but by-in-large the big problem still remains.

  5. Sorry, I am just getting to your comment. Yeah, Detroit has a long way to go. I see what you are saying and I hope that one day the city will see a true renaissance.....not one called the Ren Center where nothing is ever open. ;)


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