Friday, March 6, 2015

Happy Friday!

I'm a planner and a bit of a control freak. I make definitive plans and to date I've been really good about keeping them. That said, I don't have blog plans. I enjoy writing a blog, I've been doing it for years now. I like that it encourages and compels me to get out of the house and try new things. I also love sharing information about Detroit and hearing from people around the world who come away with some new opinions. Sometimes I wish more people visited the site and other times it doesn't bother me. I flirt with the idea about trying to make a little money on the blog but it seems like a long shot. Thinking about the blog's future I have no idea what's in store. I don't know if I'll do it for a couple years or a decade. I always want the site to look better, although I am relatively satisfied with its current appearance. As you can see there are a lot of questions and uncertainty but for once in my life it doesn't bother me. The best thing about doing this blog is that it allows me to throw caution to the wind, live a little and get carried away.

Tonight Lindsey and I will be watching The Americans. We are very behind but I have faith we can make it through at least half of season 2. Saturday, I'm meeting Gram for breakfast and my sister-in-law Ann at IKEA. Improving our home decor is definitely a weakness and I have a few ideas in mind to upgrade our space. The evening will be more Americans or BSG game night - plans are up in the air.  Sunday we are celebrating Mom's birthday at Cliff Bell's! And we'll be going to our first DEEEETROIT basketball game of the year with Melissa and Phil.

P.S. Another favorite Keri

Photo credit: Glam Adelaide

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Detroit Bloggers

The reason I decided to blog was because I enjoy reading about city life. My coast to coast staples are Cupcakes and Cashmere and Cup of Jo. I waited years to find similar blogs pop up locally and when it didn't happen I decided to do it myself. Since then I've found some great Detroit blogs and it's my year 2 goal to meet these ladies in person for an interview.

With Love From Detroit: Callie lives by the Detroit River with her husband and two sons and writes about her life in Detroit. My "Life In Detroit" pieces were in part inspired by her "We Choose Detroit"posts. Because it's a small world the first person I met in Inforum turned out to be Callie's neighbor! When I went to visit Teresa I literally ran into Callie and her son on the street. It was fun to meet a blogger in real life and I hope we can do it again more purposefully.

The Detroit Girl: When one of my former co-workers heard about my blog he thought it was Monica's blog. She's the hip city girl I would have liked to be a few years ago. We often check out the same places and it's fun to see what she thinks of them. Monica is blog ambitious and planning a local blogger meet-up. I can't wait to hear the details and meet other Detroit lovers.

The Closet Confessional: Dana is a Detroit fashion blogger. She models the best outfits at fabulous Detroit locations (above it the Belle Isle Conservatory). As someone who only dreams of having fashion sense, I love seeing what she wears and reading her take on celebrity fashion.

Dula Notes: If you check out my monthly recipes you've seen a few from Nicole. She has the best food blog that always leaves me hungry. She also left me with blogger envy last year when she did the 5 Things: A Travel Guide To Detroit post on Hither and Tither.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Mercury Bar

The day I decided to start blogging with a purpose we met Kristin and Paul for dinner at the Mercury Bar. I didn't really have a plan and the post reads like a Yelp review (albeit I don't hate the food picture). Since I didn't have great photography and my blogging format changed, I opted to keep it off the Eats page. This has always bothered me because Mercury Bar is one of my favorite places to eat and I often recommend it to people looking for somewhere to go in the city. It's perfectly situated in the heart of Corktown across the street from the Michigan Central Station, the diner has a modern retro look, the food is delicious and the servers are always friendly. It's also across the street from Slows a.k.a. the restaurant that put Detroit on the map. It is generally packed with their overflow customers but, personally, I'll take a burger over BBQ.

Interviewing waitstaff has become a staple activity for me and something my dinner companions have learned to endure. Obviously, I couldn't resist asking our waiter Zak the typical Detroit questions. He was really sweet and reminded me of my cousin, Anthony.

Do you live in Detroit?
I do, I live in Woodbridge.

What do you like about the city?
It's like no other city in the world. I feel like there are so many things that you can do, there are so many different tastes and cultures.

What would you change about the city?
We need more unity. I feel that the only reason there is so much crime is because people need help. Since no one wants to help them, they take it upon themselves. I feel that if everyone came together it would solve a lot of the miscommunication and confusion and all that other stuff too.

What are you looking forward to happening in Detroit?
I'm looking forward to seeing all the businesses that have started up thriving and seeing more businesses thrive. Activity for young kids out here, to see them get off the street and better themselves in life. I would really like to see that.

What is your favorite item on the menu?
It has to be Southwest Detroit

My favorite menu item hasn't changed. The Hummer is the best "cocktail" in town. The spiked milkshake comes in a fun vintage glass, with homemade whipped cream, a cherry and a side container of extra - all for $8! The Topor Burger is my all-time favorite burger. I also recommend skipping the fries and ordering tater tots. You can get fries anywhere but tots are a special treat.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Top 10

It's always interesting to see what blog post end up being popular. It often seems random and the posts I'm most excited for don't get a lot of traffic or posts I feel could have been done better get lots of hits. Interestingly, my most popular post of all time is the International Literary Project for Africa. I feel like it must have made the rounds on Pinterest or something but I have no idea (I've not prioritized analytics). And even though this is not a food blog, recipes posts are always a hit. Since this is a Detroit blog, I'll stick to the most popular posts as they relate to the city.

10. Grand Circus Park

9. Life in Detroit: Chris & Emily

8. Eastern Market Spotlight: Pie Guys Bakery

7. Taqo Detroit

6. Belle Isle Conservancy

5. Campus Martius

4. Detroit Restaurant Week: The Jefferson House

3. Life in Detroit: Charles Ashley

2. Life in Detroit: Carl Levin*

1. Corktown Tour

*Chloe's first interview is actually number second place but I shared that yesterday.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Chez Chloe Follow-Up

This time last year I decided to convert my personal blog into a public Detroit blog. It’s been an interesting and exciting and to celebrate I wanted to look back at some of the things I did in those early weeks. One of my first interviews was with Chloe Sabatier of Chez Chloe. Danny bought my first lava cake for Valentine's Day 2014 and it instantly became my favorite dessert. Eager to promote my new favorite find and intrigued by her experience in Detroit as a Parisian, I reached out for an interview. At the time, the blog had my old title, a rough layout and limited Detroit content. I can only imagine what Chloe thought of my email. Thankfully, I lucked out and she agreed to let Danny and I meet at her apartment for an interview. It was a nice but rocky interview (photography problems were 100x worse). 
Throughout the year we've seen Chloe a lot. She knows the route for dropping lava cakes off to Danny at the hospital and I regularly spot her at Detroit vendor events. Since the treats are a staple for special occasions (I ordered hundreds of mini cakes for Carl Levin's retirement party), we've developed a relationship with Chloe and when I asked for a follow up interview, she readily agreed.
2014 was a big year for Chloe too. It was Chez Chloe's first full year in operation. The company has grown a lot. When I want to get a last minute gift, I can now go to a local grocer to find a lava cake. She's been featured in various articles and at events - including, Oprah's The Life You Want weekend in Detroit! We met Chloe at Eastern Market Saturday to catch up and talk about how things have changed in the past year.

How was year one in Detroit?
It’s been a year and a half now. Everything is going very well- very - fast but organic. It’s growing slowly but surely. I got a new contract with Westborn Market, Plum Market, Whole Foods is coming soon, and Busch’s maybe. I got this big contract with Air France that is great because it is consistent. There is a flight every day. It’s going to be from Detroit to Paris on business class, the mini lava cakes will be served. It’s fun saying I work with Air France and my mom is coming in April and I know she will fly back with my lava cakes on board. People will be eating my cakes above the Atlantic - it’s amazing. 
I also do Eastern Market because I love it and it’s a way for me to talk to my clients because I don’t have a shop. I need people to see me and interact with me. I need to know my customers as well. And [I do] the Royal Oak farmer’s market. I opened Chez Chloe's Corner inside of Treat Dreams. The cakes are there everyday and people can have freshly baked lava cakes and ice cream. This is good because I can tell people they can come any day and the cakes are there.

You have done a lot, expanded a lot. Did you meet your expectations or exceed them?
It’s funny because I don’t push much but being at Eastern Market I will meet the manager of this market or this restaurant and they’ll ask me if I want to sell the cakes and I’ll be like, 'Yeah let’s do it'. It’s very organic. People come to me, people are very helpful.  They help me find new business to expand the brand. This year my main goal is to be able to ship all over the country because I receive more and more phone calls from New York, from Seattle and I think I can output more if I say I ship nationally. It’s something I’m working on with my partnership with Eastern Market and Garden Fresh Gourmet. They created this organization called SEED. They help entrepreneurs who are in the same positions as mine -they do farmer’s markets but want to expand more. Hopefully, they will help me ship nation wide.

It seems like you have worked with a lot of small business partners. Do you feel like it’s a unique environment in Detroit or that those resources are available everywhere?
That’s something I don’t really know because I’m in Detroit and I don’t travel much inside of the States but I think it’s something particular to Detroit. I just saw a picture from a friend of mine who posted it while she was in New York, there are advertisements that say this restaurant is hiring in Detroit, move to Detroit. Graffiti that says move to Detroit. Even my friends in France send me articles that have five pages about Detroit in French newspapers. My friends know I’m in Detroit so every time they see something it catches their attention. There are a lot of things going on here, more than in other cities. There is more opportunity. It’s not just the people who want to create something, it’s the customers and people living here - they want these new businesses.

How has Detroit changed since you have been here?
It’s changed a lot. When I moved here it was two years ago. The Riverfront was not the same. The restaurant choice was very very limited. Now we can not even keep up with the new restaurants. I have to go online on Eater to see what’s open and I know there are about four new restaurants that I haven’t seen yet. New breweries, new bars and all of them are packed. Now on Saturday night we can not even eat at a restaurant. There is a line for an hour and a half to two hours - we have to stay at home. It’s amazing. It’s a great problem to have in Detroit. It’s going the right way, it’s totally safe. Now I don’t think people are scared to come here. I think maybe two years ago, there was some ‘it’s not safe’ but now if there are still people wondering if it’s safe, those people are stupid. If you come here you see. I’ve never had an issue living here. And living in other cities - Paris for example, in the Metro I’d have people talking to me or looking at me weird or trying to flirt and here never. That’s something I like. 

What can we expect from Chez Chloe in 2015?
New flavors, I want to work with a professional baker. National shipping. Selling in more stores - Busch’s and Whole Foods. And that's pretty much it.

Lessons in Business from Chez Chloe
I'm not an entrepreneur but the blog is a lot of work. I asked Chloe what lessons she learned this past year and her answers resonated with me. It's easy to want things to be what you want them to be immediately but patience is key in business. 
  1. You can't prepare for everything: Everything when you start from packaging, labels, boxes, flavors, it’s going to change. Don’t put too much money in designers and things like that at first because those things will change.
  2. Never disappoint the customer. 
  3. To be known, it takes a long time: Do a lot of events to promote the business. Everything is building and building. I’d do a market and I wouldn't sell anything and I’d feel like I lost my time but actually no - I’d see someone two months later who would be like, 'I saw you at this market and I didn’t buy anything but now I am going to buy'.
  4. The quality of the product is the most important thing. 
Photo Source: Mini Lava Cakes Chez Chloe Facebook