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  • Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County

    CNN has a message to all prospective landlords: Head to Wayne County! Occupancy and rental rates are increasing, the report says, creating an opportunity for serious returns on investments. In fact, after comparing the median sales price of homes to average monthly rents in nearly 1,600 counties, RealtyTrac found that Detroit’s Wayne County offers landlords the best return on their investment in the nation. Investors who buy homes in the metro area can expect a 30% gross annual return from rents. That’s triple the national average of 10%. RealtyTrac, an online real estate information company, says the county offers investors low prices for larger homes — with a median price of $45,000. “We’ve got some steals here,” said Rachel Saltmarshall, a real estate agent and immediate past president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, told CNN. “There’s a six-bedroom, 6,000 square-foot home in a historic district selling for $65,000.” For more, read the entire report here.

    The post Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit

    This Saturday, audiophiles across the world will venture out to their favorite independent record stores in search of limited releases that quickly become collectors items. The third Saturday of April marks the fairly new international holiday Record Store Day. There are certainly dos and don’ts to know for RSD — like where to shop, and how to shop. That’s right, there is an etiquette to shopping on Record Store Day and violating that code makes you look like a real asshole. In my experience of celebrating Record Store Day, I’ve seen stores use a few different tactics as far as stocking the special releases. Some establishments will set up a table, somewhere in the store, where a few shoppers at a time can flip through records in a calm and contained manner. Other places will have a similar setup, with all the releases at a table, but shoppers ask the store employees for the releases they want. It’s like a record nerd stock exchange. This process gets loud, slightly confusing and incredibly annoying — this is where elbows start getting thrown. Then, there are places that put the releases on the shelves, usually categorized by size — twelve inches with the twelve inches, seven inches with the seven inches and […]

    The post The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled

    The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, which was supposed to be making a triumphant return this year, has been canceled. A statement on the website says that the festival will be back in 2015. Back in November, Ford Field hosted an announcement party for DEMF, where it was revealed that a new DEMF festival would take place at Campus Martius Park in Detroit over the July 4th weekend. “I’m proud to be involved in the biggest and best electronic music festival in the world,” said Juan Atkins. “The future’s here. This is techno scene.” Not the immediate future, apparently. The DEMF people claim that the M-1 rail construction is partially to blame for the cancellation/12-month-postponement. Read the full statement here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards

    Despite a turbulent 2013 which saw Metro Times change owners, move buildings and change editors twice, we picked up eight awards at the Society of Professional Journalists Awards on Wednesday night. The big winner was Robert Nixon, design manager, who picked up a first place for “Feature Page Design (Class A)” for our Josh Malerman cover story, first for “Cover Design (Class A)” for our Halloween issue (alongside illustrator John Dunivant), and a second in that same category for our annual Lust issue. In the news categories, our esteemed former news editor and current contributing writer Curt Guyette won third in “General News Reporting” and third in “Best Consumer/Watchdog” – both Class A – for the Fairground Zero and Petcoke Series respectively. Music & Culture Editor Brett Callwood placed third for his Josh Malerman cover story in the “Best Personality Profile (Class A)” category, and former editor Bryan Gottlieb picked up a couple of Class C awards for “Editorial Writing” and “Headline Writing” (third and second, respectively). We were also pleased to learn that our investigative reporter Ryan Felton won first place and an honorable mention for work published while at the Oakland Press. The MT ship is steady now, […]

    The post Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval

    In this week’s Metro Times we took a look at the state legislature’s role in Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy — in particular, how it must approve a $350 million pledge for the so-called “grand bargain” to remain intact. And, with last night’s announcement of a significant deal between the city and Detroit’s pension boards and retiree groups, the ball is Lansing’s court now. The new deal, first reported by the Freep, would cut general employees monthly pension checks by 4.5 percent and eliminate their cost-of-living increases. Police and fire retirees would see no cuts to monthly checks, while their cost-of-living increases would be reduced from 2.25 percent to 1 percent. Under the original offer, police and fire retirees cuts were as high as 14 percent, with general retirees as high as 34 percent, that is, if the groups rejected the “grand bargain,” an $816 million proposal funded by foundations, the state, and the DIA to shore up pensions. The sweeter deal for pensions, though, it must be noted, entirely relies on the state legislature approving $350 million for Detroit’s bankruptcy.  And while this broke after Metro Times went to press, that was the focal point of this week’s News Hits column — so, it’s worth repeating: The […]

    The post Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday

    This Saturday, April 19, is Record Store Day, and there is plenty going on in metro Detroit and Michigan. Of special interest to us is Chiodos’ 7” single “R2ME2/Let Me Get You A Towel,” Mayer Hawthorne & Shintaro Skamoto’s 7” “Wine Glass Woman/In a Phantom,” Chuck Inglish & Action Bronson’s 7” “Game Time,” Chuck Inglish & Chance the Rapper’s 7” “Glam,” Chuck Inglish & Chromeo’s 7” “Legs,” Chuck Inglish, Mac Miller & Ab-Soul’s 7” “Easily,” James Williamson’s 7” “Open Up and Bleed/Gimme Some Skin,” Black Milk’s 12” “Glitches in the Break,” Mayer Hawthorne’s 10” “Jaded Inc.,” Wayne Kramer & the Lexington Arts Ensemble’s 12” “Lexington,” and best of all, Ray Parker Jr.’s 10” “Ghostbusters.” We wrote about James Williamson’s release this week. Go shop. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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A second chance

For one family, a business becomes a road to redemption

Photo: MT Photo: Detroitblogger John, License: N/A

MT Photo: Detroitblogger John

Artie and Arthur Willis.

Arthur Willis calls a customer into the workshop at the back of his store.

"See this?" he says, pointing inside the gears of an old vacuum cleaner. He's showing the man how to perform a minor repair himself for next time. "Tighten this down. There. Now put that belt on that roller." The lesson takes three minutes.

And — with that — he just got rid of some repeat business.

But that gesture, he figures, will bring that customer back for something else some other time. Because here at Bronson's Vacuum Cleaner Service Shop, on McNichols near Greenfield, everything is about helping the customers. It has to be.

"It's tough. Wal-Mart, Sears, I cannot compete with them," says Arthur, 56. "They can sell 'em cheaper, but they can't beat us in service, and that's the benefit of having a ma-and-pa business. Nobody can beat a ma-and-pa in service. They're going to give you the service because they want you back."

The shop belongs to him and his son, Artie, 35. Two longtime employees work here too. The place is a relic from the days before mega-stores, when a single small business could specialize in a single small item.

When he bought the place 25 years ago, it was another shot at having his own business, after his first one was essentially wiped out. But the store became devoted to bigger things.

"It's a selfish reason," Arthur says. "Just to be able to keep a business in Detroit and not sell out. Almost every black business in the city of Detroit is selling out or closing up. We have a tremendous problem with African-Americans in the city of Detroit patronizing African-Americans, and our dollars don't stay in the community at all. So our young kids can't get a job."

"What if I can have enough business that I can hire 10 of those kids? That means I got 10 kids off the street and I'm teaching them a trade. And that's the reason I keep it open, because I refuse to shut it down."

That's not the main reason though.

Arthur once
had his own janitorial company. His wife ran a maid service.

Things went very well for a while. "We made a lot of money," he says. But he didn't pay all his taxes and it cost him. "You get involved with Uncle Sam in not paying the taxes and he has a way of bringing you down to the bottom," he says. The fines and back taxes ended the good life. Goodbye, Corvette. Goodbye, nice things.

"I was devastated," he says. "You go from having a nice income to no income. But I'm glad I went through it because it's why my faith is stronger. Really, it's not about how much money I make anymore. If I make a lot of money but I'm not happy with anything else, what's the purpose of having the money?"

After his fall, he started going to church more, took Bible studies classes, and became a pastor at a church in Romulus. He's also a volunteer chaplain for the Detroit Public Schools. When someone's kid gets shot at school or some other tragedy happens, he's the one who gets the call to come in and comfort the distraught.

Bronson's had been around for years when Arthur found it for sale and bought it. This would be his second chance.

"It never really was mine though," he says. "This was basically for the family and basically for my son."

All three of Arthur's other kids got college degrees. But Artie didn't want to. Since he was a kid he'd join his father at work, both at the janitorial company and at Bronson's, watching and learning. Arthur encouraged it. "Because he didn't go to college, I knew down the road that he's gonna need a place to work; he's gonna need this," he says.

Their shop
is small. A few dozen vacuum cleaners circle the floor space along the walls and poke upward from shelves standing in the middle. Some are 50-year-old Hoovers and Kirbys, right next to newer, more elaborate models imported from China. It's like a museum of vacuum cleaner history.

In the old days, they made them heavy and durable, and they'd last for a decade or more. If it broke you got it repaired. Nowadays they're made of light plastic and break easily.

Bronson's survives because, in tough times, its customers will get their old vacuum cleaners fixed instead of buying a new one, and because, many of them say, the old models are simply better than today's.

"When archaeologists come back a thousand years from now they're still going to find a Kirby," Artie says. "You can burn it, beat it, but you can't break it. They made a model of a vacuum cleaner that actually withstood the test of time."

Most repairs are about $20. Or you can trade in your old vacuum for credit on a new one. Rebuilt vacuums sell as cheaply as $29. The vintage models are still popular with the older folks, who know from experience that they don't make them like they used to.

"This one here's probably 50, 60 years old," Artie says, going into showroom mode. He taps on one. "Everything's cast iron on here. You could go outside and vacuum up the concrete with this. I'm serious!"

He clearly knows his way around vacuums. He had no choice but to learn. This place would become his second chance too.

He was
in his apartment about 10 years ago when some guys from the neighborhood broke in and robbed him. He chased them out, called the cops, filed a report. When the police left, the robbers showed up again, and a shoot-out ensued in the street.

A bullet hit Artie in the leg. He, in turn, shot and killed one of the men. That earned him six years in prison for voluntary manslaughter.

His father had given him the shop, and now had to come out of retirement to keep it alive until Artie got out. He'd need it more than ever after this, Arthur figured.

"Coming out of jail is gonna be tough for a young African-American to go find a job, 'cause when you get a record or something, it's tough to get a job anywhere, 'cause you get a stigma," Arthur says. "And you see that all over the city of Detroit. Very seldom are you going to make any big money doing anything, 'cause the first thing they're going to ask him is, 'Oh, you did time?' And I didn't want to have the streets be his life."

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