Small downtown retailer gets 30 days to leave

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit- A small retail shop called Spectacles that's operated for 31 years downtown has been given 30 days to leave its space because the building has been sold — the latest in the series of long-time businesses being forced out of the central business district as the area becomes an increasingly desirable commercial location.

Zana Smith of Spectacles says the notice to leave was no surprise: “I have been paying attention of what’s going on around me. It’s business.”

In addition to Spectacles, tenants of the eight-story building at the corner of E. Grand River and Centre Street were also notified this week they had to vacate their rental apartments in 30 days. The residential part of the building, which has 10 units, is called the Harmonie Park Lofts.

As long time cheap rent ends in downtown, Spectacles and the tenants appear to be victims of gentrification. Store owner Zana Smith said she "paid very reasonable rents for years" and had no lease. Instead, she paid rent month-to-month.

Resident Geoff George described the rental units as one of "the last cheap artists lofts downtown."

The building at 230 E. Grand River has been owned by Woodward Building Plaza Inc, an entity that state records show belongs to Dennis Kefallinos, a long-time Detroit property owner. The building has been up for sale at $8 million for more than 7 years, according to CoStar, a commercial real estate database.

Besides Spectacle, tenants at 230 E. Grand River include several other small retailers and the 10-unit Harmonie Park Lofts.

The building owners could not be reached for comment Wednesday and there is no word yet on who bought the property.

Smith opened Spectacles in 1984 with $300 and one line of sunglasses. She eventually expanded her offerings to urban wear with many Detroit-centric offerings. She has developed a loyal following through the years. Many customers who have moved from Detroit still buy from her online, Smith said.

Smith said she was notified in writing on Tuesday that she had to leave her space and she wasn't surprised.

"I have been paying attention of what's going on around me. It's business," she said.

Many of the 31 years in which Smith operated her tiny storefront at 230 E. Grand River were tough times for downtown — retail and businesses steadily vanished. But, now, she is surrounded by new structures such as the Z-building one block away and historic buildings that have been renovated and turned into high-end rentals apartments.

The building is also home to Coaches Corner sports bar and Wolverine Fur, a furrier that's been in business for decades. Wolverine Fur has not been informed of the building's sale of or told to leave its space, said owner Clay Campbell. No one was available for comment at Coaches Corner on Wednesday.

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