A foreclosed building might either be viewed as a fiscal setback or future opportunity. In Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, a once vacant 30,000-square-foot warehouse has been turned into a cooperative workspace focusing on locally-driven economic growth. It’s called Ponyride.
Founded by Detroit restaurateur Phillip Cooley and overseen by a board of entrepreneurs and urban developers, Ponyride provides studios and co-working spaces at inexpensive rents to small business owners (it also has an artist residency program) that give back to the area through products and opportunities.
Ponyride’s tenants are as diverse in expertise and skill sets as their goods and services are: designers, blacksmiths, roasters, musicians. During a visit to Detroit, I took a tour of Ponyride and got to see the various studios and workshops and catch their tenants at work. Here, I’ll spotlight some of the occupants that particularly touched me.
Smith Shop produces decorative and functional works of metal and iron. Photo via Smith Shop’s Facebook page
1. Smith Shop
Full on metal work that’s both ornamental and functional is being assembled here. Materials such as steel, brass and coper are used to create jewelry, belt buckles and household items such as kitchenware and furniture in this space. Plus, its place inside Ponyride becomes a classroom where seasonal beginner/intermediate or weekend courses in becoming a blacksmith or making rings or even hammers are held.
Anthology Coffee sources and brews single-origin coffee. Photo via Anthology Coffee’s Facebook page
2. Anthology Coffee
With a café and tasting room, this specialty roasting company can serve its ground single-origin coffee as a drip or espresso. Even bottled ice brews are available. Along with pouring fresh cups, Anthology offers various coffee classes to teach homebrewers a barista trick or two.
The prototype coat that would serve as the basis for The Empowerment Plan’s philanthropic mission. Author’s photo
3. The Empowerment Plan
Founded by Veronika Scott, a Ponyride board member and graduate of Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, this nonprofit hires homeless single parents as full-time seamstresses to assemble an innovative piece of clothing – a coat that can be turned into a sleeping bag and then reassembled into a shoulder bag. Scott’s prototype coat was originally for a class project and has led to a well-run distribution of coats to those in need in Detroit and through partnerships with outreach organizations across the country — at no cost.
Beard Balm produces a conditioning salve to soothe facial hair. Photo via Beard Balm’s Facebook page
4. Beard Balm
This small-run company puts out a line of conditioning salves and styling/softening balms to keep facial hair looking fine. Their products are made to give smoothness and shape to any look from a little stubble to a full-on ZZ Top resemblance. Ingredients extend to various worldwide single-sourced natural oils like coconut and grapeseed plus U.S.-origin lanolin and beeswax.
The Dirt Label provides a line of artistic edgy casual wear. Photo via The Dirt Label’s Facebook page.
5. The Dirt Label
This contemporary casual clothing line infuses an artistic edge in producing men’s and women’s attire that is meant to be edgy and expressive. Ladies get limited edition t-shirts and sweatshirts featuring a hip teddy bear, while guys’ choices extend to hoodies, bottoms and caps — plus various hip iPhone cases. While keeping their space at Ponyride, The Dirt Label has been said to have built up a A list of celebrity customers, including rapper Lil Wayne. Plus they’ve been reported to have had a special guest. Music icon Madonna, a Detroit native, came to visit The Dirt Label’s space at Ponyride in 2014. The following February, Madonna’s son, Rocco Ritchie, collaborated with The Dirt Label on a limited edition line of shirts.
Floyd builds furniture and household objects that suit city living. Photo via Floyd’s Facebook page.
Floyd focuses on furniture specifically designed for city living, but with durability and simplicity. Based on the idea that moving from place to place in a metropolis can involve parting with cheaply-made goods, Floyd’s founders started off their company with a simple product: a clamp-on leg that can turn any flat surface material into a table. Today, its inventory extends to a table utility set, coat rack, bench, and a platform bed, plus home decor like bookends. While using various manufacturers based in Detroit and Akron, Ohio, Floyd has its office headquarters in Ponyride.
Contributed by Michele Herrmann