Nike store to open Thursday on Woodward

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Nike Inc.’s first “community store” in Michigan opens its doors at 10 a.m. Thursday in downtown Detroit.

The store at 1261 Woodward is looking to do more than sell athletic apparel in the two-story, 22,000-square-foot space. The so-called community stores — there are six others in the U.S. push for physical activity and give back to the cities through volunteer work and collaboration with local organizations.

That initiative is happening immediately. Employees have already begun working with children in the Detroit community through the local Boys & Girls Club, the Diehl Club, by holding flag football and basketball games.

“We’re looking at places Nike can make a positive impact on the community and make a change,” Nike Communications Manager Hetér Myers said. “It’s important to have connections with whom we do business.”

The store in the former F.W. Woolworth building is hosting its grand-opening celebration Thursday morning with Michigan State University head basketball coach and soon-to-be-inducted hall-of-famer Tom Izzo and MSU’s mascot Sparty. Attendees will have the opportunity to take photos with both.

Additionally, the Nike store is holding group fitness activities and a community youth run June 3 and 4 as the celebration continues.

The Detroit store is the first of Nike’s community stores to offer $40,000 in $5,000 annual grants to eight local nonprofits through the recently expanded Nike Community Impact Fund. Those groups have not yet been chosen.

Nike’s community stores typically aim to hire 80 percent of their employees, known as “athletes,” from within a five-mile radius of its location, but the Detroit location surpasses that goal, Myers said.

Billionaire businessman Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate owns the building Nike is occupying. Bedrock Executive Vice President Dan Mullen said it is exciting to see implementation of the project after a few years of recruiting Nike.

“It’s great to see Nike is focused on the community,” Mullen said. “You’re going to find people just hanging out there. It’s going to be magical to see.”

Several passersby stopped at the store this week to peer through its front glass windows in the days leading up to the opening as workers organized merchandise.

“Having a Nike store in downtown Detroit is a dream,” said John Gardner, a self-proclaimed life-long Nike aficionado.

Gardner, who works for Wayne County within walking distance of the store, said he even considered taking off work Thursday to attend the opening.

Others said they see Nike’s inauguration in Detroit as a hallmark of what is to come for the city.

“Detroit needs all it can get,” said Ken Means, a resident of North Rosedale Park in Detroit. “As we get more of the foot traffic, the area can be successful.”

Jon Purkey of Berkley agreed: “It’s going to draw a lot of people down here. Hopefully, many will follow the lead.”

Mike Bernacchi, professor of business administration at the University of Detroit Mercy, echoed those sentiments, acknowledging the Nike store will benefit the area beyond its philanthropic work. Bernacchi called the store a “statement.”

“The opening says Nike would like to be part of the rebirth of Detroit, part of the people, part of the millennial move that’s taking place,” Bernacchi said.

Although the store is likely to attract the growing population of young people in the area, Bernacchi said Nike also fits in well with some of the upscale retailers found on the street, including the John Varvatos men’s apparel store and Moosejaw outdoor equipment and clothing stores.

“To some extent, higher-end retail would only have been a wish tank for retailers in the area not long ago,” Bernacchi said. “I think it’s very smart of Nike to make the move at this time.”