While sitting in the spacious, Albert Khan-designed Russell Street complex, once owned by the notorious hotelier Leona Helmsley, the conversation rolls easily out of General Manager Jim Chapman. His fondness for the place, and the vision of its owner John Kefallanos, are infectious.
But I have an ulterior motive: As a lifelong hoarder, whose minimal spatial limits have been reached (and then breached), maybe I should consider renting some vendor space myself to, ah, divest myself of a portion of it?
Chapman says that management’s prevailing philosophy is to view the Bazaar as a “business incubator.” He beams with special pride when revealing that, already, five or six vendors have managed to break out into larger spaces, or even into their own successful permanent locations outside the Bazaar. A mixed blessing? He shakes his head ‘no’—it appears to be all part of the plan, which is that the eventual success of any retailer can only, ultimately, raise the status of the whole Bazaar.
The main criterion for inclusion is that the potential vendor blend in well with the overall scheme, Chapman said. Therefore, if for example there are already three booths selling women’s new clothes (they discourage used clothing vendors generally, although sometimes allowances will be made), then they might be less enthusiastic about adding another.
The one exception would seem to be for sellers of original art. Those vendors are preferred, with the ideal target being about one in every three booths dedicated primarily, if not exclusively, to people’s own works of art. Of course, art can be pricey, and a difficult sell even in a good economy, so Chapman is realistic as well. He would also love to see a cellular phone store come in, as well as more toy or general children’s vendors.
Potential vendors get a tour of the facility, and then sit down to talk business. One can have a permanently set-up booth in the facility for as little as $66 per weekend, which will get you an approximately 8X8 secured space (where one can leave their wares during the week), or for the even lower price of $30 per weekend, one can set up a table along the concourse. There are spaces available as large as 12X25, and security to help thwart potential shoplifters, which Chapman insists is a very minor problem at worst.
Likewise, he says that cars are as safe as anywhere in the city, with “less break-ins than Royal Oak or Birmingham” occurring, and indeed both the fenced perimeter and the general volume of shoppers would seem to act as authentic deterrents. Imminent upgrades include the south parking lot, currently gravel, to be paved. Special events include extended hours and a chance to win a $100 shopping spree coupon during Father’s Day weekend. Also in the works? Business seminars on how to advertise and run your business. All positive signs for a unique shopping plaza that would seem to have its best days ahead.
For more info: Contact Jim Chapman at (313) 972-7009 or (313) 471-9751. The Russell Street Bazaar is located along the 1-75 service drive north of Grand Boulevard, at the SE corner of Clay Ave. From the freeway, one can easily spot their enormous, colorful banners covering the building’s facade. Check out the website for the adjacent artists’ enclave, the Russell Industrial Center, at www.ricdetroit.com.