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The People Behind the Detroit Comeback: Part 1

Posted on Thursday, August 25 2016 in Culture

Downtown Detroit Drone

The story of Detroit: It's is a page-turner, a nail-biter, a best seller. And the final chapter of this epic tale is yet to be written. Sure, we've had more than our share of challenges, but as we learned in writing class, conflict and resolution are the cornerstones of good storytelling – just like the people behind the comeback are Detroit's cornerstones.

Innovation is a strong theme throughout the tale of Detroit, with exciting plot twists from hometown heroes like Henry Ford and Berry Gordy. Now, a creative class of young entrepreneurs are contributing their own optimistic chapters to America's greatest comeback story, peppered with eagerness, opportunity, risk tolerance and sweat equity. It truly is the people that make the place. Here are just of few of the many people helping to shape the city's future:

Joseph "J.P." O'Grady and Brendan Blumentritt, Aptemal Clothing, LLC. The catchy slogan, "Detroit Hustles Harder" pretty much sums up the pride and entrepreneurial spirit of the city in three simple words. O'Grady and Blumentritt, who created the catchphrase, turned a tiny t-shirt company into a growing apparel line that is sold online, through a dozen local retailers, at music festivals and from their Division Street Boutique in Detroit's Eastern Market. Celebrities from Eminem to Sir Richard Branson have been seen sporting the slogan.

Detroit Hustles Harder
Photo credit: Aptemal Clothing

Erika Boyd and Kirsten Ussery, Detroit Vegan Soul.
"Detroit Vegan Soul was born out of our desire to make good, healthy food accessible to everyone, and to break the cycle of diet related diseases in our families and community," reads their website. The couple chose a vegan diet after losing Erika's father to cancer. Erika's "veganized" versions of her family's traditional soul food recipes drew rave reviews. With backgrounds in marketing and food service and experience working in their own families' small businesses, the pair were perfectly poised to start their own business venture. They now own Detroit's first 100 percent vegan soul food cafe, featuring comfort foods made with fresh, plant-based ingredients that are local, seasonal and organic whenever possible.

Vegan Soul
 Photo credit: Detroit Vegan Soul


Mark Wallace, Wallace Detroit Guitars. The idea of using reclaimed wood from abandoned homes to make electric guitars is brilliant on so many levels. While keeping discarded lumber out of landfills, founder Mark Wallace creates unique, artistic and high quality instruments that have captured national media attention. "Detroit has always been about making things and it's always been about making music. I love Detroit and I love music, so it just made sense for me to combine those two things," said Wallace.

Wallace Detroit Guitars
 Photo credit: Brad Ziegler


Want more? Check out The People Behind the Detroit Comeback: Part 2

By: Michelle Fusco

Photo credit: Vito Palmisano