Good Girls Go to Paris Crepes owner says, 'this is the best I’ve seen Detroit ever.'
Published: March 4, 2014
Torya Schoeniger is the owner of Good Girls Go to Paris Crepes, a culinary effort inspired by her love of all things French. After finishing her studies at Wayne State University in French and teaching for several years, Schoeniger decided to open her crêpe shop, as well as the stylish, French-influenced restaurant Rodin, which closed at the end of last year. She has now moved her crêperie into Rodin’s former space, where she now serves crêpes with a full bar. She’s a voluble, profane, very funny person with a knack for frank and offbeat opinions.
MT: What advice would you give to people moving into Detroit with a desire to help the city?
Schoeniger: I’ve lived in Detroit all my life, and I’ve never known a Detroit other than RoboCop Detroit. [laughs] This is the best I’ve seen Detroit ever. And I understand the intentions of people moving in with the idea that they’re the new “saviors” or whatever. I’ve befriended a lot of people who’ve just moved to Detroit, and I find everybody’s intentions are very good. I encourage more people to come. Let’s say I didn’t try all these different businesses and didn’t have a crêpe shop and I’ve just been living in the city. I’d see all these new people come in and see that they’re given a voice right away, while other people who’ve lived here have not had a voice. God, that’s a hard question, because you don’t want to …
MT: But it’s true that someone who moves into Corktown and starts a little business there …
Schoeniger: And why Corktown? Because you have a mix of people, but at the same time it’s predominantly white. Why Midtown? You have a big mix of people. Why downtown? You have a lot of things going on. You’re not going to see these people move to …
MT: … Mack and Bewick?
Schoeniger: [laughs] Mack and Bewick! No! I mean, I’m 35 years old now. If you’re 25 years old and have a $50,000-a-year job, where are you going to move? You’re going to move downtown. Where are you going to go? You’re going to try to expand your circle, I think, but you’re going to go with what you know, to places where people look like you.
MT: But I think what makes your perspective interesting is that you seem to straddle those two worlds so well.
Schoeniger: I’m a black, lifelong Detroiter. But I am able to move within the different realms of Detroit easily, and I do it all the time. And it’s not even code-switching, because I talk the way I talk, am the way I am. I’ve been the same person since high school! I’m fortunate enough to have been exposed to lots of different experiences and people. And I welcome people with open arms, but at the same time … I do get the little hairs on the back of my neck that stand up when people just all of a fucking sudden come in and they’re just like the new shiny penny. [laughs] Certain people come here because of a job, and those jobs give them a platform and …
MT: … and they’re instantly taken much more seriously than somebody who’s lived at Seven Mile and Conant.
Schoeniger: Because money talks. Always. And, at the end of the day, people in power can relate to people who have similar backgrounds, rather than reaching out to somebody who’s different.
MT: It’s self-selecting thing?
Schoeniger: I really don’t think it’s done on purpose. I don’t think it’s intentional. I think that people gravitate toward people they’re comfortable with. You can challenge it all you want, but people are going to gravitate to somebody you’re comfortable with.
MT: But that also plays out in what businesses you patronize. What about supporting longtime businesses?
Schoeniger: The funny thing about that is, Detroit is a big city, but it’s like a small town, really. Everyone kind of knows each other. When you open a business it makes news. When you close a business, it makes news. It seems when you do anything, it becomes local, if not national news. I moved my crêpe shop and the Free Press and the News wrote about it. If this were Chicago, nobody would give a shit. Nobody would care. Anyway, I can honestly say I go places in the neighborhoods. I do some of my shopping at Whole Foods, and if I go to my old neighborhood, I go to Foodland. Or I go to the big beauty supply shop on Greenfield. That’s where it gets difficult. You have these people who’ve been here all their lives and how do you meet them? Are you going to go get a haircut at Classic Cuts on Warren? If you did that, would that make you a “Detroiter”? You have to prove something?
MT: Well, what should newcomers do?
Schoeniger: Right now is the perfect time to create, really create. There’s a huge housing surplus. You can get a house for $500, for $2,000 in Poletown, just outside Midtown. If I could encourage any young people moving to Detroit, white or otherwise, to do something, it would be to buy a house where you wouldn’t normally buy a house. There is so much room to do something creative. Like Patti Smith said, New York is taken. My dream house would be to take one of these old houses and make it your Pinterest mansion. There are pockets of that, like when you go on Farnsworth, full of people that farm and do really creative things, or North Corktown, which they weren’t talking about that much five years ago.
MT: I get that Detroit’s a good buy for newcomers who don’t have a lot of capital, relatively speaking. But this whole idea of coming in and planting your flag, what’s the best way to do that in a way that’s productive for everybody?
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