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March 29, 2012 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-03-29

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Detroit in
Perfect Harmonie

By Ben Falik

t was an unforgettable, if be-
lated 30th birthday present to
be called up on stage to receive
the $30,000 grand prize on behalf
of Summer in the City at Detroit
Harmonie's International Experi-
In some ways, the night was
more like my bar mitzvah. I spoke,
palms sweating,
for a few minutes
that seemed like
an eternity. Then,
everyone was
me, facetiously of-
fering to buy me
a drink and telling
me to spend the
money wisely. My
sport coat was a little tight and
most of the people there were
taller than me.
In reflecting on a night that was
over a decade (not quite 13 years)
in the making, I am honored and
humbled to have shared the stage
with the four other finalists. Each
has sparked something incred-
ible, kindled through creativity
and collaboration, emitting almost
palpable warmth and shining
brighter day by day.
Noam Kimmelman started Fresh
Corner Cafe (freshcornercafe.com )
as a school project at the Univer-
sity of Michigan and now sells
healthy, affordable food at gas
stations, liquor stores and corner
stores throughout the city.
Amy Kaherl and the team at
Detroit Soup (detroitsoup.com )
have given thousands of dollars
in micro-grants, all funded by and
voted on by attendees paying $5
Bobby Smith got off the streets
of Newark and into college at
Wayne State through fencing and
stuck around to create En Garde
Detroit, so kids here would have
the same opportunities he did.
And Phil Cooley bought a
30,000-square-foot building out
of foreclosure and turned it into
Pony Ride, a Detroit home for the
entrepreneurially insane.
For broken molds and defied
expectations, look no further than
the rabbi's son turned citywide


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26 April 2012 I


food distrib-
utor, the visual
artist turned su-
per soup ladler, the
Jersey kid turned collegiate fencer,
the male model turned restaura-
teur turned real-estate madman.
And, in my case, the recovering
lawyer working to make volunteer
work work all over Detroit.
The evening wasn't all business,
of course. It boasted some of the
best hors d'oeuvres I've had since
my days as the food editor of
the Columbia Daily Spectator. My
professional recommendation?
Add Colors (www.colors-detroit.
com ) to the top of your weekday
lunchtime list and pray that they
expand their hours.
The power of food was on dis-
play beyond the trays. Fresh Cor-
ner Cafe, winner of the evening's
$5,000 People's Choice Award, has
used healthy food as a way to stop
criticizing and start leveraging
Detroit's abundant neighborhood
party stores, improving relation-
ships between owners and neigh-
bors in the process.
The universality of soup brings
people together to learn about
and support innovative initiatives,
including art and agriculture. And
Phil experienced the power of
creating a destination for hungry
hordes (willing to wait for a table)
at Slows Bar B Q before hang-
ing Pony Ride's shingle down the
The 600 people, diverse and dy-
namic, who filled the Virgil H. Carr
Cultural Arts Center Downtown,
represented a Detroit that both
never was and yet could be. The
building itself — like the Summer
in the City Collaboratory, Pony
Ride, Detroit Soup's new Corktown
venue, and En Garde's future Fenc-
ing Center — is a space that lets
you dream about that Detroit.
Sweet smells emanate from
Colors downstairs and art bounces
off most every wall. Upstairs, there
is an old auditorium, long moth-
balled and in need of renovation,
but brimming with potential to
bring people together and bring
out the best in them.
Could be great for bar mitzvahs.


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