Jack White previews Third Man store at opening party

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Before its doors open to the public on Friday, Jack White threw a private party for a few hundred guests at his new Third Man Records store in the Cass Corridor Thursday night.

Those guests — friends, family and members of the Detroit rock community — were given a sneak preview of White’s expansive new emporium, a black and yellow wonderland selling all manner of Third Man goodies, collectible vinyl and Jack White-themed merchandise.

White — dressed sharply in a black suit, black shirt, black hat, yellow tie and yellow shoes as bright as the sun — mingled with the crowd all evening, laughing, shaking hands and posing for pictures. He jumped on stage and said a few words midway through the party, which started at 7 p.m. and stretched past 11 p.m.

He greeted the crowd with a hearty “what’s up, Detroit?” and spoke of the spirit of the Cass Corridor neighborhood "where we all made our bones," mentioning sculptor Gordie Newton, rockers the Gories and the sounds of the Gold Dollar, the now-shuttered club where the White Stripes played their first shows in 1997.

“Everything in this neighborhood seems to me like the perfect place for the renaissance and the rebirth and the regrowth from the ashes that Detroit is going to rise from,” he said, raising a glass to the crowd.

In the crowd were members of White’s Third Man team, who also wore black suits, black shirts and yellow ties; White’s Dead Weather band member Dean Fertita; White’s fellow Raconteur Brendan Benson; comedian (and Detroit native) Keegan-Michael Key; and enough key players from Detroit’s garage rock years to perform a definitive oral history on the subject on the spot. Dan Kroha and Margo Price both performed live on the store’s stage at the event.

Outside the store, its windows were covered in black plastic wrapping while on the roof, the signature Third Man radio tower logo was lit up like a Christmas tree.

A few dozen tents were set up with campers awaiting the store’s official grand opening Friday. Lines started forming early Thursday morning.

Once those customers enter the store, they’ll encounter a dizzying collection of Third Man Records-branded hats, scarves, pet leashes, collars, bandanas, frisbees, knit hats, coffee mugs, puzzles, onesies, hockey jerseys, coffee cups, headphones, sweatshirts, T-shirts, patches, buttons, stickers, lighters and more, most decked out in the label’s signature black and yellow colorway.

Merchandise for sale at the new Third Man Records store.

There are bins stocked with 45s and 12-inch records from Third Man artists, special sections dedicated to Sun Records and Tamla Records reissues, a listening booth and a booth where visitors can cut their own records.

There is a section of Third Man books and a comfortable living room setting to hang out in and read them, a Polaroid photo booth and a “Mold-A-Rama” that makes blow-molded plastic figurines of the Third Man Rolling Record Store, which was parked outside the building Thursday. A small screen on one wall plays a video of the MC5 playing at Detroit’s Tartar Field in July 1970.

The walls are decked out with oversize photos of the MC5, the Gories and the White Stripes, with a light fixed on Meg White’s face that makes it look as if the light of God is shining upon her.

Past the main retail space is a hallway where many of White’s collectible records hang like a Wall of Fame celebrating his vinyl innovation. That leads to perhaps the building’s most impressive piece of real estate, a vinyl record pressing plant, which for now is an empty warehouse but will soon be a fully operational vinyl headquarters, with the goal of pressing records 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The floors are painted bright yellow and the room’s floor-to-ceiling beams are blood red.

Party attendees were provided beer, wine, meats and cheeses, and a Third Man Records cake — the frosting was black and yellow, of course — was cut up and served as the night drew to a close. White and his team assembled at the end of the evening for a group photo in the pressing plant area, commemorating a successful party and the start of a new era for Third Man in Detroit.

The Cass Corridor store follows the first Third Man store which was opened in Nashville in 2009.

Friday’s opening was featuring in-store performances by Margo Price, Lillie Mae Rische and the Gories.