Detroit businesses on Livernois Avenue create a block club

With a folding chair slung in a nifty carry bag, Sevyn Jones stood outside her business, Skin Bar VII, on Detroit’s historic Livernois “Avenue of Fashion” on Tuesday afternoon and began a trip to the past.

Less than 30 minutes before an outdoor bouldering club meeting was scheduled outside his apartment building at 18951 Livernois, Jones, 42, recalled walking down the same block as a little girl with her granddaughter. mother, Lula Mae, on her way to the old Revco drugstore which stood next to another old Detroit landmark, the B. Siegel department store, at the corner of 7 Mile and Livernois.

From Revco, Jones’ childhood memories in Livernois took her in the opposite direction, this time heading south to 6 Mile, as she recalled taking piano lessons at Miner Brothers School, located at 17180 Livernois, a few doors down from Little Caesar’s. . But just as Jones was talking about a somewhat later period in her life when she worked at Arbor Drugs, which occupied space now occupied by CVS, 18600 Livernois, a force of nature, in the form of a stifling heat and humidity, brought her back to the present. Suddenly, story time was over. Jones said the outdoor meeting scheduled for 3 p.m. will be held inside his business, which offers facials, waxing, acupuncture, teeth whitening and more. .

Jones’ calm demeanor and smile indicated that the decision to invite his neighbors inside for the meeting was a no-brainer. But when she explained the importance of the meeting, an urgent tone could be heard in her voice as she made it clear that the business discussed in her comfortably air-conditioned basement was far more important to the meeting attendees than any recent discussions on the weather.

Skin Bar VII’s Sevyn Jones, left, speaks during a Livernois Avenue of Fashion block club meeting at Skin Bar VII in Detroit on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press

“When you think of the avenue of fashion today, realistically you kind of only think of 7 Mile to 8 Mile,” said Jones, who opened Skin Bar VII in 2019. But on our block (between Clarita and 7 Mile) we have two of the oldest fashion avenue businesses, which are the House of Morrison (Home of Professional Shoe Care) and Dixon’s (Barber Shop), and these are businesses born out of generational wealth and they provide a model that we can all learn from.

“That’s why it was important that we still had our meeting because it was time for us to come together and do what we had to do. If we all actively work together, it contributes to everyone’s success. And it contributes to who we are as one of the oldest black business districts in the U.S. We have a standard to live up to and I want to be part of it, so it was really like a personal mission and my objective to activate this block.

The sight of several foldable chairs in carrying bags, similar to the one Jones had earlier, revealed that many members of the bouldering club were indeed ready to meet outside if the meeting had not been moved inside. And for their dedication, they not only had the opportunity to reunite with fellow neighborhood business neighbors, but they also had the chance to engage with vital community resources, including District Manager Kim Tandy. 2 from the city of Detroit, who was the dominant voice at the start of the meeting.

Detroit Neighborhood Department District 2 Director Kim Tandy speaks during a Livernois Avenue of Fashion block club meeting at Skin Bar VII in Detroit on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Detroit Neighborhood Department District 2 Director Kim Tandy speaks during a Livernois Avenue of Fashion block club meeting at Skin Bar VII in Detroit on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press

“Kim Tandy is with the mayor’s office and she’s a valuable liaison to our business owners, so we want to work with her as much as possible,” Jones said. “Whatever resources I accessed to grow my business, I wanted to make sure that block club members also had access to those resources. If you need help with your facade, I’ll get Motor City Restore here; if you need help with your business, I’ll bring the folks from Motor City Match. It is useless if only one company benefits from the resources offered in the city. It will only work if we work together – there is no other way.

And together, 10-12 bouldering club members at different times, with input from other community guests, covered a five-point agenda in a scheduled 2-hour meeting, which included how whose block would best present itself to a large number of visitors to fashion avenue. throughout the day at the upcoming “Jazz on the Ave” festival. Some of the Jazz on the Ave decisions made by block club members representing hair salon, cosmetic beauty bar, custom art framing business, facial spa, hair salon, practice lawyers, a men’s clothing store and more included a uniform look around each business with white tents accompanied by black and white balloons and decorations; the recruitment of street artists to entertain festival-goers; and the selection of “New Black Wall Street” as the theme of the block. The festival provided bouldering club members with a vital short-term goal to unite around. But the ease with which the business owners worked together hinted that Tuesday’s meeting could have positive long-term ramifications.

“We are here to see the beginning of a new renaissance,” said Mark Harris, buyer and salesperson at The Broadway menswear store, a Detroit institution now located at 18999 Livernois. “We want the region to come back; we want it to be bigger and better than ever; and it’s just important that we come together as a community to promote business and fellowship. When The Broadway came to the neighborhood, it brought a sense of history and what fashion avenue was all about, and we just wanted to be a part of bringing it all back.

The Aug. 6 Jazz on the Ave event that Harris and his colleagues discussed at length on Tuesday will also be one of many independently organized activities that will include citywide programming for this year’s Neighborhoods Day. August 6 presented by ARISE Detroit!

Skin Bar VII is one of many businesses that opened on Livernois Avenue of Fashion in Detroit on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. Owner Sevyn Jones hosted the block club meeting.
Skin Bar VII is one of many businesses that opened on Livernois Avenue of Fashion in Detroit on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. Owner Sevyn Jones hosted the block club meeting.
Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press

“Over 150 community organizations and neighborhood clubs have signed up for Neighborhoods Day because they love their neighborhood and Jazz on the Ave is one of our premier events,” ARISE Detroit! Executive Director Luther Keith said Wednesday. “At Jazz on the Ave, you’re going to see people congregating, dancing, eating, enjoying the music and all the entertainment that’s going on, and it’s all made possible through the efforts of people like the members of Clarita to 7 Mile Block Club on Livernois.They, like all Neighborhood Day-related groups, make the statement, “We believe in the future of Detroit!” That spirit of community members and neighbors working together is something I wish I could capture and bottle.

Jones says the “spirit” described by Keith can be felt by anyone who takes the time to connect with the current version of Fashion Avenue. She made her point by telling another personal story.

“At our celebration on June 16 this year, I walked through Livernois and had a great time visiting all the vendors. And when I got to Eight Mile, I didn’t feel like walking back, so I took the Livernois bus,” Jones said. “First, I googled the bus schedule on my phone and looked at the schedule and the bus was on time. And when I got on board, I had an amazing experience: I used to ride the Dexter bus growing up and it was none of that. The bus was clean, the bus driver was friendly, the people were nice, and you could even charge your phone on the bus. It was like a luxury coach and kudos to the City for providing that kind of service.

After explaining his bus adventure, Jones painted an equally compelling picture of what can also be experienced from the sidewalk on a walk down Fashion Avenue, including his patch of country between Clarita and 7 Mile. on the west side of Livernois.

“It’s energy, it’s vibe,” Jones said. “Most people here are their bread and butter. And as you walk past each business on our block, you can feel the heart and passion that each business owner put into their location.

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