Thursday, April 19, 2012
Hob-Snobbing--Shedding light on Detroit one candle at a time
“I had two black eyes and couldn’t come to the event,” said Tonette, recalling her abusive relationship. “So I made up an excuse. Alicia said to me “I know you don’t know me, but I feel secure enough to say that I know you’re lying to me.’”
Tonette admitted to her troubles, and Alicia became a supporter and friend. To apologize, Tonette made Alicia a candle that looked like a cappuccino. “She called me back and said, ‘Do you think you can manage retail?’” said Tonette.
Maybe Alicia recognized herself in Tonette. She, too, was a single mother who had left an abusive situation. Her job at the Troy Marriott introduced her to the service industry. As a volunteer, she became interested in the Motor City Blight Busters, a group that was transforming the west side. She ended up serving as an executive assistant with the organization for 13 years—and most of that time, she dreamed of opening a quaint little coffee shop in the area.
“I traveled a lot,” said Alicia. “I love bed and breakfasts, I love placed like Ann Arbor, Idlewild, Atlanta and New Orleans – everywhere I went I brought back ideas to Detroit. ”
It took her five years of fundraising—and the support of Motor City Blight Busters, the group that developed the Artists Village-- to be able to open the shop on Angels’ Night 2011. “People said I was crazy to open a shop in the middle of the worst economic times in history,” said Alicia. “They told me just to make it a chicken joint—no one is out buying coffee. But I had a vision.”
When she met Tonette, Alicia immediately recognized a fellow “Queen,” (Alicia calls all the women she meets “Queen.”) She reached out as a friend and business mentor, and now the two run adjoining shops. The doorway between the businesses is always kept open. The cozy, intimate feeling is like a sitcom set, as their customers and neighborhood regulars flow in and out all day.
Both entrepreneurs see themselves as Detroit Snobs.
“I’m not buying into poverty and hopelessness,” said Tonette. “A lot of people who come into these doors say, ‘Wow, this is like a shop in Birmingham, not Detroit!’ That’s why I love Detroit Snob. That’s the attitude behind wanting to see things get better right here in Detroit.”
Alicia agreed. “Detroit Snob doesn’t mean that I think I’m better than anyone else,” she said. “But at the same time, I don’t want to see the negative energy that Detroit gets saddled with. Being a Detroit Snob is simply having an attitude of pride.”
Detroit Candle Co. is located at 17340 Lahser Rd., Detroit, MI
Desiree Cooper will be speaking to the April meeting of Women in Communications at Motor City Java House, 17336 Lahser Rd., Detroit, MI on Tuesday, April 25, 2011 at 7 p.m. Non-members welcome! Register here.