reporter for WDET in Detroit, Michigan.
Motor City Blight Busters, a Detroit-based non-profit around for over 20 years, opened a community coffee house on the northwest side of the city last February. Proprietor Alicia Marion said that she approached the organization about a decade ago with the suggestion to turn an empty storefront near the Redford Theatre into a coffee shop.
“No matter where I went, whether it was locally, Royal Oak or Ferndale or New York or New Orleans and New Jersey, there’s always a neighborhood diner or coffee shop,” Marion said. “I wanted to bring that back here to Lasher and Grand River.”
According to Marion, the coffee house blends the best of both new and used materials, featuring granite counter tops and re-purposed flooring from houses torn down by the Blight Busters. The Motor City Java House offers the same products found at brand-name coffee chains, serving espresso, cappuccino, sandwiches, salads and baked goods.
But what sets the Motor City Java House apart is its local focus. With help from nearby community gardens the coffee shop serves local produce supplied by local vendors.
John George, president of Motor City Blight Busters, said the philosophy behind the java house is to bring people together and make things happen.
“We believe at Blight Busters and the Artist Village Detroit that people of goodwill can always find common ground,” George said. “The coffee shop is really designed to be a place where the world meets … where our city dwellers and our suburban friends can come and not only have a great cup of coffee and a wonderful piece of pie, but also build friendships, create solutions, build bridges and work on projects and programs that benefit everyone.”
The Motor City Java House is just one more example of how the area around the Redford Theatre is starting to come back and thrive, said Detroit city council member James Tate.
“We have a sweet potato factory over there that people talk about far and wide, [and] right next door we have the Artist Village,” Tate said. “So, this is a community and it has a totally different feel than what you would probably expect when you drive into this general area. We have some great people working very, very hard … and this is something that was done outside of city government.”
Marion said her aim was to give people more than just a good cup of coffee. She hoped the Motor City Java House would be a place where people could meet, engage with each other and improve the community.