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  • 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.

  • City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May

    Margaret Doll Rod will celebrate the release of her new EP, Margaret, with a show at PJ’s Lager House on Saturday, May 10. A statement reads, “The EP contains 3 new original songs and one Chrome Cranks cover with Italian actress Asia Argento singing background vocals. Margaret moved to Italy after the end of the Demolition Doll Rods where she still lives touring and performing festivals in Europe. The Dollrods were a Garage Rock force for over 20 years, opening for Iggy, Jon Spencer, The Scientist, The Monks and The Cramps. Margaret was the front person and principal songwriter for The Dollrods. Her chief musical foil was Danny Kroha, who joined the Demolition Doll Rods after the now legendary Gories called it quits. Margaret’s sister, Christine, on drums, rounded out the legendary trio. Margaret will do a special performance in the round that night with a 360 degree revolving stage and special guest DJ Adam Stanfel.” The bill will also feature the Stomp Rockets and the Volcanos. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Music review roundup

    Send CDs, vinyl, cassettes, demos and 8-tracks to Brett Callwood, Metro Times, 1200 Woodward Heights, Ferndale MI 48220. Email MP3s and streaming links to Ricky Rat’s Tokyo Pop/Glitter People (New Fortune) 7” single highlights all that’s great about the Trash Brats guitarist, but also his limitations. The man can write a bubblegum rock ’n’ roll song to match anyone in the city and most beyond. He’s also a killer guitarist, ripping out one throwaway riff after another with reckless abandon. He’s a machine. On his own though, without Trash Brats frontman Brian McCarty, his voice doesn’t have enough strength to do the songs justice. Not that you need to have the greatest voice in the world to sing this stuff – you don’t need to be able to perform vocal gymnastics – but you do have to be able to wail the tunes out. Both of the songs on this single are great, but you can’t help but wonder how much better they would sound with McCarty or somebody similar talking the mic. Still, as they are the songs are great fun. We’re just being picky. The Paper Sound’s Trajectories is a dense, atypically dark Americana-tinged album, unrelenting and […]

    The post City Slang: Music review roundup appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes

    “Neighbors wanted.” That’s the message on the homepage of, a new website launched by the City of Detroit today to auction off city-owned homes to prospective buyers who pledge to fix them up and move in. “We are moving aggressively to take these abandoned homes and get families living in them again,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement today. “There are a lot of people who would love to move into many of our neighborhoods. Knowing that other people are going to be buying and fixing up the other vacant homes at the same time will make it a lot easier for them to make that commitment.” The website to facilitate the auctions went live this afternoon. The first auction is scheduled to take place Monday, May 5. Officials said in a news release that one home will be auctioned per day, Monday through Friday. Fifteen homes are available for sale on the site, a dozen of which are in the East English Village neighborhood. Any Michigan resident, company, or organization that can do business in the state can bid, according to the website. Properties will be for sale for only one day, with bidding taking place from 8 […]

    The post Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes

    In case you haven’t heard, two of the biggest names in film, Steven Spielberg and John Williams, are collaborating to put on a benefit concert for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this summer. In case you wanted to go- well, you’re too damn late. The DSO says tickets to the June 14 concert were snapped up in a record-breaking 15 minutes after they went on sale at 9 a.m. today. The DSO has since released this statement to fans who didn’t snag seats: Our apologies to everyone who was unable to buy tickets this morning for our historic benefit concert featuring John Williams and Steven Spielberg. Despite increasing our phone and internet system capacity for the day, a surge of hundreds of ticket buyers purchased tickets in a matter of minutes, filling the phone lines and temporarily maxing out our web servers. After a one-hour pre-sale made available to donors and subscribers at 8am, we released additional seats at 9am to the general public, including seats available for as low as $30. All seats sold out immediately. The concert program seems nothing short of top notch: Williams will conduct the orchestra as it performs some of his most iconic tunes, such […]

    The post Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Culture Feature

Ponyride's Entrepreneurial Spirit

Ponyride, the brainchild of Slows Bar-B-Q founder Phil Cooley, houses innovation that feeds Detroit’s ‘renaissance’ buzz.

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Veronika Scott

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Phillip Cooley

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Derek Craig

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Ponyride, located at 1401 Vermont Street in Detroit houses 25 different businesses.

An adventure and a great cup of java are brewing at Anthology Coffee. Tucked away at 1401 Vermont St. in a former abandoned warehouse in Corktown, Anthology Coffee is part of Ponyride — a community of shops and businesses found in a unique Detroit setting.

The brainchild of Slows Bar-B-Q owner Phillip Cooley, Ponyride opened two years ago and was created to house concepts and concerns its tenants were passionate about, from entrepreneurial to nonprofit. Distinctive murals decorate the building’s outer walls as you drive up — painted by many different American and international artists, as part of the Detroit Beautification Project.

Working the counter at Anthology Coffee is California native Derek Craig, 25, from Napa Valley. Craig serves up a dynamite cup of coffee called Ardi, which is from Southern Ethiopia — and tastes like blueberries and dark chocolate; it’s as good a cup of coffee as you can imagine.

Craig met Anthology Coffee owner Josh Longsdorf in California and moved to Detroit to work for him. Anthology Coffee has been up an running for more than two years and has operated out of Ponyride since last September; before that, Longsdorf operated out of various pop-up stores.

“The people of Detroit is what sold it for me” says Craig, Anthology’s only employee, about moving from the West Coast to lay stakes in the Motor City. “They are humble and genuine.”

On a peaceful Saturday morning, a ballet class is being held at the venue next door to Anthology. Craig sees the community at Ponyride as collaborative rather than competitive. “It is more like a family,” he says, where residents barter and trade in good faith. “It’s really easy for ideas to turn into something.”

On a Monday afternoon, Ponyride is positively hopping. In a shared space typically used for yoga and hip-hop dance, there is a workshop collaboration to promote joy in Detroit. The place is filled with about 40 people and growing. The energy is electric.

A visit to Ponyride is a journey. Walk upstairs to Detroit Denim Company. The owner, Eric Yelsma, has been here two years and loves Ponyride. “Any community space has its pros and cons” says Yelsma, “but this space is fantastic.”

Detroit Denim started out of Yelsma’s house, but he calls Ponyride his first real start. His handmade jeans include all U.S.-manufactured materials, made on traditional machines. He and his three part-time employees also make belts, a few leather goods and even Apple MacBook covers, developed, he says, from a Ponyride-facilitated collaboration.

Journey to the space adjacent to Detroit Denim, and you happen to the home of the Empowerment Plan, where multiple seamstresses are making coats that turn into sleeping bags. Arnetta is making pockets. Annis is working on Velcro and foot bags.

The coat-and-sleeping bag combination is the invention of Veronika Scott, who had the idea a couple of years ago while a student at the College for Creative Studies. In 2011, Scott became Ponyride’s first tenant and this has become her full-time job. Four thousand coats have been made so far this year, going all to homeless people in 10 cities throughout the country; Scott states that her main priority, however, is Detroit.

All her employees are single parents who have, themselves, been homeless. They take donations. People can sponsor coats for $100 dollars. The Empowerment Plan also receives corporate sponsorships, including from Rock Ventures, Quicken Loans and General Motors.

A return to Anthology Coffee finds Ponyride creator Cooley, who calls this space his actual home and residence. “I feel like I get to wake up and play every day,” Cooley says, “with people bouncing ideas off each other from all different disciplines, whether for profit or nonprofit.”

Cooley grew up in the rural town of Marysville, one hour north of Detroit. He earned an undergraduate film degree and then dropped out of a master’s architectural program at the University of Michigan to work full time at Slows Bar-B-Q, the company he founded.

Combining Slows and architecture school was a 180-hour week, he says, adding, “and an impossibility.” Before that, he spent two years modeling, a job that took him from New York to London, Tokyo, Paris and Barcelona.

Cooley bought the 30,000-square-foot space that is Ponyride for a bargain foreclosure rate of $100,000 with earnings from Slows because, he says, it was a bargain he could not pass up. He was looking for a residence with working shop space and wanted to no longer pay rent. He saw Ponyride as both a home and a springboard for a myriad of possibilities. He then brought in friends and, ultimately, the community to ask them what they wanted to do with the space — taking suggestions for whatever people were passionate about.

Because of volunteer labor, he is able to keep rents low, at 20 to 25 cents per square foot, constituting a 75-80 percent reduction from the market rate. There is also an educational component whereby tenants teach free classes to give back for the bargain they receive. The goal, Cooley says, is to make this sustainable.

There are 25 shops and businesses at Ponyride and another 20 waiting to get in. Remodeling is 90 percent complete. From a typeset letterpress to a production company making videos, to a metalsmith’s shop and woodworkers, the tenants, according to Cooley, are “the reason that Ponyride exists.”

The name Ponyride is meant to conjure going back in time to when people are younger and more creative with fewer hang-ups. “When you are young, everyone loves a pony ride,” says Cooley, who sees Detroit as a city of hope and tremendous potential. He feels projects like Ponyride allow people to do what they’re passionate about, “Detroiters — and Detroit — will save itself.” A visit to Ponyride truly makes this seem possible.

Carl Bookstein writes about culture and business for the Metro Times. Send comments to

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Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
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