You’re Going to Sell What? Where?!
But a partial response can be found at the front of my shop. The construction of my space involved tearing down the faux wood paneling that had been slapped on the walls sometime in the past, probably right around the time that the corporate grocers started moving in (Side note: It's a small wonder to me that I now own a shop only a few blocks from where my great-grandparents, escaping from Lebanon near the beginning of the last century, opened a little grocery store. Their building is no longer there.). Once the cheap façade had been removed, we found ceramic tiles bumping up against bright little paintings of sailboats. Pulling down the drop-grid ceiling exposed seven feet of height accentuated by setbacks and moldings. Much of this was in bad shape and, sadly, had to be covered up again. But the ceiling remains exposed and the richly colored tiles write their patterns near my windows. These remnants are part of my argument.
I have no way of directly competing with digital media or giant bookselling chains, just as they have no way of competing with me. I own a place with a particular past. I sell objects and all the sensations associated with them. The internet still hasn't figured out how to offer the aura of object-hood, that space between seeing pictures of Diego Rivera's "Detroit Industry" and actually being there, craning your neck back for minutes and having to look at something else because you're starting to hurt. The retail chains, by definition, can't offer a unique experience. This sense of place is where my store holds part of its advantage.
This same sense is what still distinguishes Detroit. Wandering down Woodward or through Capitol Park is an experience completely unique to this place. If you find yourself alone on Belle Isle, you can be sure that you are the only person in the world watching that stretch of water. This is why we stay here. This is why it's so hard to watch our buildings go down. I believe my store can compete because it has a sense of place. It's important that we think of our city in that way.