The Detroit News’ Santiago Esparza on Derrick Coleman’s noble efforts to improve commercial activity in his hometown.
Coleman has purchased land on Linwood between Clairmount and Taylor and hopes to acquire more to Gladstone. He is building a pizza shop, cellular phone store and upscale barber shop to accompany the ultra hip Snyx Sneaker Studio built in a strip mall this year dubbed Coleman’s Corner.
Next year he has plans for a farmer’s market, laundromat and dry cleaner across from the strip mall.
“People here have to go outside the city to spend their money,” Coleman said. “Hopefully in two or three years we won’t have to go across Eight Mile to get the things we need.”
City officials praise Coleman’s investment — which he has made without any tax breaks typically requested by companies moving back to the city — and say they hope it pushes other retailers to return. A recent city-sponsored report estimates that city residents spend roughly $1.7 billion outside Detroit every year.
His neighbors do everything from sell sneakers to paint walls to clear snow and even manage shops. Coleman said it is part of his efforts to get people living in the area to change their way of thinking.
“We are talking about setting a standard for what we do in the neighborhood,” Coleman said. “It is all about changing the perception of where we are and where we are going.”
Coleman wants his neighbors to expect quality products, good service and clean shops. Coleman said everything from crime to economics to dropout rates are impacted by the mindset of people in the area who do not yet believe the neighborhood can be better.
“It is a standard we accept,” Coleman said. “That has to change.”
To that end, Coleman has no bars or steel sheets to cover windows and doors at his businesses, unlike many other businesses, gas stations and shops in the neighborhood, because he said it makes people think the business is unsafe. Shoppers don’t have to pay clerks through bullet-resistant plastic windows and visitors are warmly greeted.
Coleman’s work is genuinely inspiring, and I remain hopeful other prominent ex-Nets will soon do their part to give something back to the community. Marcus Williams’ laptop repair center? A chain of John Calipari Mexican takeaways? How much longer need we await the opening of Jayson Williams’ rifle range?