By Jeffrey Buck
Hatch Detroit announced its final four business ideas giving each team a chance to speak and answer questions at a live event put on by Model D called The Next Big Thing. The event was amazing, you can read about my experience here, but the acoustics in the main lobby made it rather difficult to hear the answers. I’ve contacted each of the finalists with a set of five “Spine” questions to learn just a little bit more about each of the ideas.
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Inspired by the men’s magazines of the 50s and 60s, Hugh is a store that offers Detroiters a place to find cool stuff for sophisticated living.
With one foot firmly rooted in mid-century “Mad Men” style and the other in the present, Hugh is a store that offers a contemporary take on classic bachelor pad style. Hugh sells all kinds of housewares – glassware, bar and smoking accessories, personal effects, books, furniture, lighting and cool home accessories – with a general masculine focus. But despite its manly appeal, Hugh offers something for everyone.
If Hugh sounds familiar, it may be because of its far-reaching reputation as the first pop-up shop in the region. First in the Fall of 2009, then again in 2010 as a holiday season pop-up with a winter ski holiday bent. In the world of risky retail ventures in Detroit this model has already proven itself twice. The new and improved plan is to make Hugh a full-time shop!
Joe Posch – Owner
How will winning this contest help you achieve your business goals?
Quite simply, the amazing thing about winning this contest is that it will cover every expense of opening up a permanent – exponentially better – version of Hugh. The first version opened on a budget of under $10,000, and the second was done with about $3,500. $50,000 creates a store that is well-stocked, has a large variety of merchandise, is properly built-out, and has the budget to create a strong marketing and online store strategy. These are all things that are essential to creating a sustainable retail business anywhere, but especially in Detroit.
What other Detroit establishment do you most look up to for advice and inspiration?
I’ve been really lucky to have a lot of entrepreneurial friends in the game for a while, so collectively they give a lot of advice and support. But I think the Detroit business I admire the most is Canine To Five. Liz Blondy has created an incredible business, and even though it is service-based (and I have always been goods-based) I am always amazed by her drive to promote her business, to grow it in an intelligent manner, and to improve it based on feedback from other professionals and her customers.
Why should people choose your idea over the others?
I think the primary strength of Hugh is it is the only traditional retail business in the final four, and we have an incredible lack of independent traditional retail in the city. I love all the other ideas, but Hugh actually brings something different, accessible and needed to its neighborhood.
Additionally, there is no guesswork with timing of liquor licenses, health department inspections, zoning variances, uncertainties in the cost and timing of renovations … Hugh wins Hatch and Hugh is open within a year. I am not sure any of the other businesses can say with 100% confidence that is the case.
Finally, Hugh is a tried and proven retail concept. It was very successful both times it was open both financially and in terms of broad appeal.
Have you decided on a space? What neighborhood? And why?
Hugh will go into the new building The Auburn being constructed now on the corner of Cass & Canfield in Midtown. With my store Mezzanine (when in Ann Arbor and in Detroit) and with Hugh’s previous iterations I always looked at historic spaces, and the character of that is my ideal, but The Auburn offers an excellent location, appropriate square footage for independent retail, and creates a link between the activity on West Willis and the activity on West Canfield. It really fills in a gap to create an exciting retail area. Plus I’ve already dumped over $50,000 into renovating historic spaces in Detroit so it will be nice to be able to focus on my main thing, the retail experience.
Also, I’ve chosen Midtown because in my time in Detroit it has really gained retail momentum, and it’s important to build on that. There is outstanding support from Midtown Detroit (the UCCA) for independent retail, and it is increasingly a destination for living and visiting. One thing I’ve learned is that no store is an island – you really do benefit from having neighboring businesses.
What is your favorite Detroit hangout?
That’s a tough one because I kind of go anywhere and it kind of depends when I’m hanging out. As far as regularity goes it’s probably a three-way split between The Park Bar, Honest John’s and Atlas Global Bistro.