This story originally appeared on Model D.
What does football have to do with shopping? Not much, it would seem. But on a recent afternoon, we had one of those "only in Detroit" experiences where everything comes together just right: an excursion to the Avenue of Fashion with Detroit Lions players (past and present) Mel Farr, Charlie Sanders, Cliff Avril and Rob Sims.
The occasion? The launch of a new neighborhood retail initiative led by the Lions' Living for the City program in partnership with local retail contest, Hatch Detroit. Together, they are gearing up for a citywide campaign to support storefront businesses throughout the city.
This is a pretty big deal for Hatch, expanding their scope from a single annual contest to six retail districts around Detroit. And it’s pretty personal for the Lions, whose alumni players shared fond memories of visiting destinations like the Avenue in their heydey.
"We used to hang out at Marvin Gaye’s house, and practice (pretending) to sing. Then we’d walk right down here and go shopping," remembers Sanders, who played for the Lions from 1968 to 1977.
The outing was not just a step back in time, but also a look into the future. Local entrepreneur Rufus Bartell led the tour of Livernois between 7 and 8 Mile, with stops at Simply Casual, 1917 American Bistro, and Times Square Men’s Clothing. Along the way, Bartell pointed out historic spots as well as future plans to bring more vitality to the area.
The trip concluded with lunch at the legendary Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, the world’s oldest jazz club.
It’s not every day you get to hang with professional athletes in their street clothes, and better still to do it by foot, in a city neighborhood with such rich history and opportunity.
Thanks to the Detroit Lions for inviting us along, and to DETROIT LIVES! for capturing the afternoon on film. Watch, share and stay tuned for more news and updates from Hatch Detroit in 2013.