Exclusive Interview: Detroit’s Eastern Market Manager LONNI THOMAS!

Exclusive Interview: Detroit’s Eastern Market Manager LONNI THOMAS!


*Detroit Bookfest would not have been possible at Eastern Market without the love and support of Eastern Market Manager Lonni Thomas*


Detroit is a great American city and the Eastern Market Neighborhood is one of the top retail districts in Detroit and one of the top food hubs in the USA.

The Eastern Market District has been around since 1891 and contains over 250 businesses and the entire neighborhood is growing at a rapid rate.


Eastern Market (c. 1930’s) photo courtesy of Wayne State University


Eastern Market is a phenomenal resource and destination spot. I cannot imagine the City of Detroit without Eastern Market, that’s how important the Eastern Market District is to the entire Greater Detroit community.

The five Sheds at Eastern Market are large consumer buildings and total around 165,000 square feet of space, which is used as both wholesale food market on some days and rented out for a wide variety of public & private events on other days.

Eastern Market Manager, Lonni Thomas, has been a pivotal figure at the Market over the past few years and this is her tale.



Lonni Thomas, Eastern Market Manager


“I was born and raised in Detroit. I love working at Eastern Market! I also like to read, write, dance, etc. I also love going to poetry slams. To me, poetry is so emotional and effective and listening to different poetry live can really have an impact on you by making you think differently about things.”


Aerial View of Detroit, Michigan USA


Lonni Arrives at Eastern Market

“I was adopted into the Eastern Market Corporation family in 2010 as a Farm Stand Fellow. I used to do the food assistance tokens program here, which is designed to help people have greater access to fresh produce. Through that I gained several great relationships, including Dan Carmody and Doshia Barton.”

“I used to volunteer at the EMC office on weekends. Then in 2011, I graduated from Wayne State University and needed a job. The woman who used to design t-shirts for Eastern Market was in transition and before she did, she helped get me into her position and I started designing Eastern Market gear and apparel. Progressively, I started creating relationships with Eastern Market vendors.  And as the variety of my responsibilities increased, I started spending more and more time at the Market.”

“I had office experience from my days working as a WSU Student Assistant, so I began shadowing the Sunday Market Manager at Eastern Market in 2014 because she needed an assistant. A few years later, through a series of gradual internal promotions, I was given the Sunday Market Manager position in 2016. Since then we have increased our footprint significantly and sustainably.”

“I also coordinate the Tuesday Market Community Programs and the Thursday Night Market.”


Eastern Market 101

Map of Eastern Market SHEDS


“Eastern Market is a historic urban public market. Overall, the Market is robust and vivacious and can get real busy. The Market is a great, safe atmosphere, no matter what day you come visit. We attract a very diverse group of people and the Eastern Market District has a wide variety of merchants.”

“Eastern Market is run by the EMC. The Eastern Market Corporation is a non-profit that was started in 2006 to manage Eastern Market. The City of Detroit owns the land and used to run the Market prior to the formation of the EMC. A group of urban planners pitched the idea of revitalizing the Eastern Market District. The city loved it and let them take over the Market.”

“Our 150-acre expansion plan is in the works. Building on our food hub nickname, the plan is designed to help build the food innovation mission we have and create over 3,000 jobs by 2025.”


Map of Eastern Market District


“We also have a brewery in our neighborhood now, the Eastern Market Brewing Company. And recently, Henry the Hatter moved from Broadway to Riopelle, just down the street from the EMBC.”

“One thing I love too is that artwork has become very prevalent throughout the District, especially the Murals in the Market series.”

“Murals in the Market has helped create over 100 murals in the district, making us as we say an ‘international public arts destination, while creating a world-class outdoor gallery of art’.”

“Many people want to know how they can open a brick-and-mortar storefront here in the district. I always tell them to contact the owners of the building they are interested in.”


The Legendary Dan Carmody

Dan Carmody, President of Eastern Market Corporation


Dan Carmody is the President of the EMC. Working with Dan is fun! He’s been responsible for my growth and helping to push me to get certain projects done. He doesn’t burn you for failing, he burns you for not trying.”

“In that 1999 movie ‘Life’, there’s a scene where two guys are standing on coke bottles, trying to keep their balance. That’s what it’s like working with Dan, he’s unpredictable daily, constantly and you appreciate the sense of unexpectedness.”

“Having Dan here is like having some zen monk here at Eastern Market who makes you think about things differently. Watching him give speeches about the Market and how he delivers our mission, it’s remarkable.”


Eastern Market’s Largest Events

Eastern Market Flower Day @ 6 a.m.


Eastern Market Flower Day started in 1967. The event is only one day long but averages 150,000-200,000 people. We do it in conjunction with the Metro Detroit Flower Growers Association. Flower Day opens everything, it’s the start of our season, the market starts blooming.”

Eastern Market After Dark started in 2010. It’s a creative arts event that we do in conjunction with the Detroit Design Festival. We get about 25,000 people for it.”


Detroit Festival of Books (aka: Detroit Bookfest)


The Detroit Festival of Books, also known as Detroit Bookfest, is an incredibly positive and popular event. The very first year, there were well over 10,000 attendees, which is just wild for a first-time event to have that many people there.”

“People are excited and curious about Bookfest. Everybody wants to sell books and records and other stuff at it. I get asked almost daily if Bookfest is still accepting vendors, it’s crazy how many people are interested in the event. Bookfest is one of the top vendor events we’ve ever seen in the city, everyone wants to be a vendor. It’s a true phenomenon.”

“Detroit Bookfest this year might have over 20,000 people.”


Lonni’s Favorites

Burger @ Cutters Bar (photo courtesy of Yelp)


Here are some of Lonni’s favorite go-to eateries in Detroit:

Basement Burger Bar (1326 Brush St) for the turkey burger and the mambo burger

Cutters (2638 Orleans st) and Café D’Mongo’s (1439 Griswold St) are her favorite bars

Stache International (1416 E. Fisher Service Dr) for the Southern Belle sandwich

Andiamo’s (400 Renaissance Center) Italian food inside the RenCen while overlooking the Detroit River

2941 Street Food (4219 Woodward) Fantastic Mediterranean food from a world-class chef


Lonni’s Final Thoughts

Lonni Thomas


I love Detroit. I was born here, raised here, still live here. I’m here until my cup runneth over. Detroit’s revitalization has been in the making for at least 10 years.”

“We’re witnessing a tremendous transformation right now stemming from a plan created by people who have been business owners for a few decades here.”

“Detroit is often called “the city that grew from ashes” a few yeas ago but in actuality our house never burned down fully because we have such a strong foundation.”



Eastern Market Weekly Market Days

Tuesday Market



Thursday Night Market



Saturday Market


225 vendors; 40,000 guests


Sunday Market



Lonni Thomas clownin’


Eastern Market Homepage



Maps of Eastern Market



List of Businesses in Eastern Market



4th International Mural Fest with 1xRUN in September 2018



Dan Carmody’s article on the Market 



Eastern Market’s 2025 Strategy Plan



E & B Brewery Lofts (Located in the Eastern Market District inside the old Eckhardt & Becker Brewery which brewed beer here 1891-1969) 



Eastern Market (c. 1930’s) photo courtesy of Wayne State University

Eastern Market (c. 1930’s) photo courtesy of Wayne State University

Win a FREE Personalized Autographed Copy of ‘Prisoner of War: The Story of White Boy Rick and the War on Drugs’!

Win a FREE Personalized Autographed Copy of ‘Prisoner of War: The Story of White Boy Rick and the War on Drugs’!

White Boy Rick


*3 winners will be selected at random. Enter now for your chance to win!*


The raffle will run from Monday, June 18 to Sunday, June 24.


We are raffling off 3 personalized autographed copies of Vince Wade’s new book ‘Prisoner of War: The Story of White Boy Rick and the War on Drugs‘!


Vince Wade


Vince Wade is an investigative reporter in Los Angeles.

“My first national crime story was in July 1975, when I broke the news that former Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa had disappeared,” says Vince.

However, back in the 1980’s, Vince worked the crime beat in Detroit.

Vince started covering the White Boy Rick story but was reassigned elsewhere and Chris Hansen took over for him.

White Boy Rick has been incarcerated since he was 17 years old in 1988. He spent the bulk of that time in Michigan prisons and was recently transferred to a prison in Florida. He is scheduled to be released from prison on April 20th, 2021.


*3 winners will be selected at random. Enter now for your chance to win!*


The raffle will run from Monday, June 18 to Sunday, June 24.


White Boy Rick (Richard Wershe Jr.)



In 2014, Vince decided to write a book about the case, especially looking at Rick in the context of the War on Drugs.

Vince says:

“The astonishing but true story of White Boy Rick Wershe is a vivid example of why the War on Drugs has been a trillion-dollar policy failure for nearly half a century.”

The book falls into 3 Categories:

True Crime, Politics & Government, Social Policy


There has been a tremendous amount of interest in White Boy Rick lately. Seth Ferranti co-wrote and produced an incredible documentary about him entitled ‘White Boy‘.


White Boy Documentary Trailer 



Later this year, in September 2018, Sony Pictures is releasing a Hollywood movie about White Boy Rick, entitled ‘White Boy Rick‘.


White Boy Rick (Hollywood movie trailer) 


The below information is an extract from Vince Wade’s personal website and is written by Vince:


Prisoner of War: The Story of White Boy Rick and the War on Drugs began with one of those out-of-the-blue phone calls.

It was a late afternoon in 2014 when spring was giving way to summer. I live in balmy, sunny Southern California where the seasons are often difficult to discern.

I had not spoken to Gregg in a long time. After the usual, ‘Hey. How ya been?’ exchange, Schwarz stated the reason for his call.Before I could place the voice, my caller identified himself. Gregg Schwarz, retired FBI agent who had worked narcotics in Detroit when I was a crime beat reporter there.

“Do you remember White Boy Rick Wershe? He asked. “Well, yeah, vaguely,” I replied. He was a drug figure from the late 1980s. “Why?”

Schwarz wanted to know if I had a DVD copy of a series of TV investigative reports I did in 1989 called “Who Killed Damion Lucas?”

Schwarz explained Wershe was still in prison after being sentenced in 1988 at the age of 18. Schwarz said White Boy Rick Wershe had been a helpful and important confidential informant for the FBI and he, Schwarz, was on a mission to get him out of prison. I did not know about Wershe’s role as an FBI snitch. Most people didn’t.

In the Detroit media, he was routinely—and falsely—described over the years as a drug kingpin or dope lord. The journalistic smear went on for years, as explained in the book.

A TV Report on a Killing White Boy Rick Knew About

My series showed how the FBI tried to point the Detroit Police investigation in the right direction based on secret wiretap information they had gathered, but the cops were determined to avoid questioning or charging the Curry gang because Johnny Curry, the leader, was married to the niece of Detroit’s powerful mayor, Coleman Young.

It was a series that exposed police corruption in the handling of the murder of a 13-year old Detroit boy. Damion Lucas had been killed inadvertently by members of the Johnny Curry drug gang. They shot up the boy’s uncle’s house in an attempt to frighten the uncle in to paying money he owed in a drug dispute. The uncle wasn’t home at the time of the shooting, but his nephews were there, alone as bullets from automatic weapons tore through the front of the house. Damion died on the

Unknown to me at the time of the series, White Boy Rick had provided vital intelligence to the FBI about the gang’s involvement in the killing.

That initial phone call piqued my reporter’s curiosity. Schwarz and I spoke again. And again.

Before long, I was hooked. I had to know more about this sad, bizarre story I had worked on for months in 1988. And I had to know more about White Boy Rick.

I reached out to Rick Wershe in prison. In response to a letter, he said he would be willing to help me by telling me the details of his story.

Soon we were corresponding regularly and talking by phone and I was reaching out to key people who knew things about the War on Drugs in Detroit in the 1980s and White Boy Rick’s part in it.

Blogging to Help Rick Win His Freedom

By the spring of 2015 I was writing regular columns for Informant America, a blog I developed about the travails of White Boy Rick Wershe. About that same time, I realized this crazy story ought to be told in a book.

Prisoner of War: The Story of White Boy Rick and the War on Drugs is the result of several years of extensive research. I did interviews with Rick Wershe and others. I traveled to Detroit several times and spent days researching and copying court records, trial transcripts and police investigative files. I filed numerous Freedom of Information Act requests with federal and state law enforcement for documents related to Richard J. Wershe, Jr.

The history of the War on Drugs is recounted and decades of failed policy initiatives, such as First Lady Nancy Reagan’s ludicrous Just Say No campaign, are noted. I also realized his story was part of the bigger story of the colossal policy failure we call the War on Drugs; a trillion-dollar struggle that’s lasted nearly half a century.

I decided Rick Wershe Jr. would be the central figure in a book about a war this country hasn’t won and has no hope of winning.


*3 winners will be selected at random. Enter now for your chance to win!*


The raffle will run from Monday, June 18 to Sunday, June 24.

Exclusive PHOTOS: Brut IPA, the Official Beer of Detroit Bookfest being co-brewed in Detroit by Downey Brewing Company and Eastern Market Brewing Company!

Exclusive PHOTOS: Brut IPA, the Official Beer of Detroit Bookfest being co-brewed in Detroit by Downey Brewing Company and Eastern Market Brewing Company!

Jesse Ho-on & Devin Drowley


Detroit Festival of Books (aka: Detroit Bookfest)



Official Detroit Bookfest Afterparty @ EMBC



John Downey, Jesse Ho-on, Dan Downey

This is where the magic happens.

I’m here in Detroit’s Eastern Market District at Eastern Market Brewing Company with our Bookfest beer vendors, Downey Brewing Company and EMBC brew crews.

Present are Downey brothers Dan & John and EMBC brewers Jesse Ho-On and Alex Sebastian.

In addition to the several great beers they’re bringing to Bookfest, the Downey-EMBC team is co-brewing a special, exclusive beer for Detroit Bookfest called Et Tu Brute, which is a Brut IPA, a dry champagne-like beer.

Et Tu, Brute?” is the line “Even you, Brutus?” from Shakespeare’s 1599 play, ‘Julius Caesar’.

Brut IPA is a new beer style which started in San Francisco a few months ago. Nicknamed “Hop Champagne,” the Brut IPA has a ‘pale color, light body, highly carbonated, champagne taste.’

Jesse Ho-on, head brewer @ Eastern Market Brewing Company in Detroit

Jesse Ho-On, the head brewer at Eastern Market Brewing Company, says “We’re using Galaxy hops and an enzyme that will dry it out even more, for a nice dry, champagne-like taste. It’s really interesting!”

In between being a hanger-on’er and vulture observing the brewing process, I’m drinking a delicious Detroit Black IPA (6.5%) and a nifty Blueberry Hefeweizen, where the beer color itself is blue.

EMBC Blueberry Hefeweizen,

Jesse tells me his path to EMBC, “I’m from Chicago, then started brewing in Traverse City at Right Brain, then Terra Firma, then did some baking at 9 Bean Rows Bakery where they have some killer croissants. I moved down to Detroit and was working at Avalon Bakery as a baker, then I transferred here to the Eastern Market Brewery.”

Meanwhile, the Downey Brothers are keenly observing and inquiring.

Downey is a family brewery located in their grandfather’s old warehouse in East Dearborn. Father Dean and sons Dan (marketing) and John (head brewer) crank out some tasty brews.

Dan and John

I’m really excited for Bookfest,” says Dan who is looking at the beer and smiling, “it’s going to be a great day and we’re gonna have some great beers there.”

Jesse, our beer guide for the day, explains more about the Brut IPA, “this dry champagne IPA has an enzyme that’ll drop it lower, but it’s hopped up on the backside with floral tones from the Galaxy Hops and very carbonated. By adding an enzyme, it takes the sweetness out, so it’s dry and tastes like champagne.”

Galaxy Hops from New Zealand

“For this Brut IPA, we’re using Southern Hemisphere hops and wine. The Galaxy Hops are from New Zealand. The wine is in the form of grape must flavors Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. Grape must just means crushed grapes.”

John tells us about his path to the beer kettles, “My dad Dean started homebrewing in the 1990’s. I picked it up in college when I worked in a homebrew store. For the most part, I’m self-taught, like most brewers, although several aspiring brewers will typically shadow a Master Brewer as an apprentice until they learn the ropes.”

Alex, the assistant brewer, is carrying massive 55-lb. bags of grain up a ladder and pouring them into the mash tun, which is a large stainless-steel vat. Alex explains, “We got pre-milled grain from Germany and we’re pouring it in here to mix it with hot water in order to pull out the enzymes.”

“It converts the starches into sugars for fermentation,” adds Jesse, who is now holding a clear plastic pitcher and mixing around salts and water with a silver ladle.

Alex Sebastian & Jesse Ho-On

He sees me looking weirdly at it and elaborates, “I’m stirring the calcium chloride and gypsum. Detroit water is ‘soft’, which means it’s low in minerals. Every type of water has its own profile and might need to be treated depending on the beer. Water chemistry is critical.”

Both Downey and EMBC brew about two times per week.

EMBC has a 5-barrel system and Downey has a 3-barrel system. Conversely, John says “MillerCoors in Milwaukee has a 3,000-barrel system. They brew more in one day than we do in five years! In terms of craft breweries, Sierra Nevada has a 300-barrel system, which is a huge system for craft beer.”

We’re all staring intensely at the Brew Home Controls box Jesse just opened. This is a wall-mounted box from Brewmation in Memphis, it’s full of circuitry and gizmos, and includes a touchscreen panel for temperature control, timers, all types of monitoring and adjusting.

Mash temperature and the length of mashing determines the sweetness or bitterness of beer,” says Dan.

After 60-90 minutes in the mash tun, we’ll transfer the wort to the boil kettle,” exclaims Jesse, “That’s where we start to balance it with hops. Hops give beer aroma and Galaxy is ‘high alpha’ which means it has some bitterness. Hops are like the spice of beer, they help balance the sweetness.”

In 3-4 weeks, we’ll have a finished product. There’s 31 gallons in a barrel. We’ll have 4 barrels of finished product, so 124 gallons of Et Tu Brute, the Brut IPA Detroit style.”

Definitely be sure to try this amazing new beer at Detroit Bookfest! Thank you Downey and EMBC for the brew-a-thon.

Cheers! Drink up.

Detroit Festival of Books (aka: Detroit Bookfest)



Official Detroit Bookfest Afterparty @ EMBC