Actor invests in city, teams up with Dilla’s Delights

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

It makes sense that Hill Harper chose coffee when he decided to invest in a Detroit business and move to the city.

The actor, author, businessman and mentor with a high-energy personality operates like a well-caffeinated person who is not just looking to sell beans at the Roasting Plant in downtown Detroit, but also offer ways to help put the city and its young people on the right path.

Introduced by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Harper spoke to a crowd at his new business Wednesday morning, revealing plans to intertwine his new business with his Manifest Your Destiny Foundation, which helps underserved young people — particularly high-risk eighth- and ninth-graders — stay on the right track.

“Coffee, if you think about it, it’s a growing industry,” Harper said. “There are so many different jobs from the importing to the exporting to being a barista, the wholesale ... and it’s still growing and it’s growing fast.

“It’s also something that’s healthy, it’s good for you.”

Harper, who said he will partner with the YMCA and other organizations, points to computer coding as a way that a lot of people think can solve joblessness for younger people, and says that while that’s a great concept, it’s not for everybody.

“Coffee I think is a gateway work position, and I’m able to hire young people, train them and get them working.”

Harper, who is the host of the CNN series “How It Really Happened with Hill Harper,” also gave the scoop on his partnership with Dilla’s Delights, which he says has “the best doughnuts in the world.”

Three new flavors, which Harper helped develop, will be sold exclusively at Roasting Plant on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, so as not to undercut any business from the shop, at 242 John R in Detroit, Harper said. Look for the Berry Gordy, a blueberry vegan doughnut; the Big Sean with double chocolate and sea salt; and the Hill Harper, which is a caramel, Sumatra coffee-infused doughnut.

“Part of what’s important to me is finding out ways to support other local businesses,” Harper said. “I reached out and I said, ‘Listen, we can serve a better cup of coffee if we partner with a great pastry.’ It gives them consistent income from us buying their doughnuts on a regular basis, three times a week.”

Harper, who celebrated his 51st birthday Wednesday, also debuted Roasting Plant’s new iced coffee capabilities. They can now serve  freshly roasted, freshly brewed coffee iced down without being watered down or diluted.

Harper, who will play a journalist in the upcoming Tupac Shakur biopic “All Eyez on Me,” said his favorite Roasting Plant drink is the Sumatra-Bali blend espresso.

Besides his investments in the city’s people and business, the Brown University and Harvard Law School graduate also has purchased a house in the historic Boston Edison district and is having it renovated.

“The city, it feels very familiar to me because in many ways there’s a vibrancy there that’s similar to Brooklyn and there’s a creativity here that’s similar to Los Angeles and Silicon Valley,” said Harper, who was born in Iowa. “Then there’s this Midwest culture that’s familiar to me ... this city is so unique and it’s so special.”

Once he’s settled in, it’s clear Harper will be a Detroit Lions fan and plans to attend a few games.

“They have the best line backing crew in the NFL, they just got better, they’re going to get better. They’re going to do extremely well,” he said, adding that the Detroit Pistons “need to get better.”

“Tigers are great, and I’m going to hit some Red Wings games. I like the Red Wings..”

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Twitter: @melodybaetens

Roasting Plant

660 Woodward, Detroit

(313) 782-4291

Open 6 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Thurdays, 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays, 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturdays and 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays.