'Hamilton' was mostly a hit with local businesses

The buzz resulted in more sales for restaurants while businesses inside the Fisher Building saw more people wandering through

Michael Hodges and Melody Baetens
The cast of 'Hamilton.'

Pop culture phenomenon "Hamilton" brought in extra business for some local restaurants, but it didn't have as much of an impact on retailers during the show's six-week run that ended Sunday, proprietors said. 

Inside the Fisher Theatre, which hosted the Tony Award-winning production about the founding father Alexander Hamilton, cafes and shops saw more patrons than usual, but that didn't always equate to more sales. 

"There was an influx of people come into the Fisher early," said Lindsay Lutz, sales manager at the Peacock Room, a women's apparel and gift shop in the lobby. "The show didn't start until 8, but people tended to arrive around 6:30 or so to visit the shops and whatnot." 

She said over all, she estimated the show's visit to Detroit resulted in 20 to 30 percent more foot traffic, but as for more sales, that was "kind of a toss-up." 

"Some nights were a little bit better than others, but on weekends we noticed more, particularly during the day. For matinee shows there were definitely more people visiting the shop," she said. 

At Stella Good Coffee, baristas certainly saw more people, but they were preoccupied with being in line to enter the theater, not getting a cuppa joe. 

"There were a lot more people lining up in advance (in front of the theater) I think because of security being heightened that people didn't shop as much," said manager Louisa Statori. "We still saw a good number of people, it just wasn't as steady as we kind of hoped." 

Barista Glenn Pelton said it wasn't a "mad house," but the people who came in tipped very well. 

"The actors and actresses of 'Hamilton' thanked us for keeping them caffeinated," he said. 

Just outside the Fisher, however, French restaurant Cuisine saw a sizable boost from the play.

"I can say distinctively it was the best traffic we've seen since I've been here," said chef Paul Grosz, the chef and owner of the restaurant for 18 years."Every night was a Saturday night for six straight weeks. There were no duds. We're sorry to see it go."

Grosz, who himself saw the play and loved it, said he typically doesn't crunch numbers until the end of the month, but bets it was a 300 percent increase.

"It was fantastic," he said. "And it was't just me. Everybody felt it. Of course, we're right across the street, so that helped. We're already busy on the weekends. The real boost was Tuesday through Thursday." 

Ronald Justice, installer for Faro Imaging in Canton, installs a 'Hamilton' banner on the west side skywalk connecting to the Fisher Theatre last month.

Restaurants not immediately outside the theater noted an uptick in customers, too. 

"We saw a nice increase in business," said Mike Nowinski, operating partner of Andiamo Detroit Riverfront in the Renaissance Center, which offers a complimentary shuttle to the Fisher Theatre for diners. "‘Hamilton’ created a buzz downtown which was very positive."

When asked, a representative said Broadway in Detroit was not permitted to release any exact sales figures from the show. 

Even if “Hamilton” were willing to release Detroit attendance figures, comparing the relative number of sold-out performances to New York or Chicago runs would be difficult. The Fisher Theatre is much larger than where the hip-hop musical is currently playing in those two cities.

The Fisher seats 2,089 patrons. In New York, the Richard Rodgers Theatre is smaller by 770 seats. Chicago’s CIBC Theatre is 289 seats smaller.

Another key difference affecting comparisons is that New York and Chicago are among the biggest tourist magnets in the country, and profit not just from locals purchasing tickets, but swarms of out-of-towners on holiday as well.