Exclusive Interview: Detroit entrepreneur, self-made millionaire and author DAVE ZILKO recounts the wild adventures of helping to turn Garden Fresh Salsa into hundreds of millions of dollars!

Exclusive Interview: Detroit entrepreneur, self-made millionaire and author DAVE ZILKO recounts the wild adventures of helping to turn Garden Fresh Salsa into hundreds of millions of dollars!

Embrace what makes you special.”-Dave Zilko

Most people have heard of Garden Fresh Salsa. What many people don’t know is how difficult it was for former vice chairman Dave Zilko and founder Jack Aronson to grow Garden Fresh from a bankrupt startup into a $231 million-dollar business.

I’m sitting at Fuel Leadership headquarters in Downtown Birmingham with Dave Zilko.

Dave is now CEO of Fuel and graciously invited me to talk with him about his life. I read his amazing tale ‘Irrational Persistence’ and was very impressed by his uncompromising perseverance and it’s an honor to be here.

Dave is a Detroit entrepreneur and business veteran who helped grow Michigan’s own Garden Fresh Salsa into the dominant # 1 fresh salsa brand in the world. All the odds, however you look at them, were stacked against Garden Fresh but they prevailed over seemingly impossible odds.

Reading Irrational Persistence is akin to taking an MBA course. It’s an honest account of real-world experience and it doesn’t get any more authentic than personal experience as told from an entrepreneurial fighter’s perspective.

If you’re thinking of starting a business, you should read this book. It should be required reading for all MBA programs as a real-world case study.

Business can be warfare. Entrepreneurial Warriors need to suit up for battle, while forging an advanced morality, so you’re not heartless or slimey in your dealings with others. Business is the Art of Aligning Compatible Relationships for Mutual Profit.

When Dave and Jack pooled their resources together, they were millions of dollars in debt.

However, they were talented, hardworking, had great products and assembled a great team and they were able to grow Garden Fresh into a $231 million-dollar company, which they eventually sold to Campbell’s in 2015.

The success of Dave Zilko will change your conception of what is possible if you’re a hardworking and persistent entrepreneur.



Dave Zilko is an enterprising Detroiter. He received his B.S. in Finance from Michigan State University, and his MBA in Marketing from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

He’s an operating partner with Huron Capital and serves on various boards like Forgotten Harvest (USA’s largest food rescue organization), Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Enterprises charity arm Singing for Change, Grow Michigan venture fund, the WSU Ilitch School of Business and more.

Dave Zilko went thru hell to get where he is. In the early days, he was up to his eyeballs in student loan debt, selling marinades and life insurance and cracking hundreds of thousands of eggs by hand.

This is his tale.

“I was born and raised in Warren, Michigan, grew up at 11 ½ Mile Road and Van Dyke. I have wonderful parents and was the first one in my family to go to college. Worked my way through school. I used to be a bagger at Great Scott (now Kroger) for $2.14 an hour.”

In terms of money management, I’m self-taught. I saved money on my own because I really wanted to go to college. I had paper routes when I was 12.”

“Always been drawn to writing. I was even the editor of my high school newspaper. Putting my personal story on paper in book-form was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my entire life because it’s tough knowing what to include and not include.”

“My ultimate goal with the book is to help aspiring entrepreneurs understand just how hard it was and how long it took to build a successful business. We struggled hard for over a decade to build the company.”

“After MSU, I spent a life-changing summer in France and fell in love with the food and wine culture there. Came home, did an internship at GM in Downtown Detroit. Then went to Washington, D.C. for grad school. I lived in Georgetown and had a great time.”

“After graduating, I decided to follow my passion and start a specialty food company called American Connoisseur, where I started making marinades. My first order was for 96 cases. Only problem was I had nowhere to make them.”

“So, I found a spot in Sylvan Lake, Michigan, a tiny medieval dungeon of an office, and got right to work. The good people at Discover credit card company soon discovered that I couldn’t qualify for a loan, so I asked my girlfriend to help me out. She thankfully did and yes, we’re married now.”

“After that I bought Mucky Duck Mustard Company. The owner, Michelle Marshall, was retiring and she owned a forklift, which we badly needed, so I bought the company from her with an $108,000 loan from my dad. Michelle originally started the company in the 1980’s at her house in Franklin, Michigan.”

“Mucky Duck is a British pub-style mustard, so eggs are an ingredient. For years, every day at 5 a.m., I had to personally break eggs for the mustard. I estimate that I’ve broken over 800,000 eggs over the years. Mucky Duck won the world championship of mustard one year and I still own the company.”

“11 years later, after my lost decade, I met world softball champ and Detroit entrepreneur Jack Aronson in 2002 at a food industry show at the Javits Center in NYC. Jack and I were both in debt, both Detroiters, both food lovers and we became friends immediately.”

Jack is an amazing individual. He’s an energetic dreamer and unrepentant softball fanatic and I’m proud to be his friend. Together, we made Garden Fresh Salsa internationally popular.”



Garden Fresh Salsa: You get what you pay for

Salsa originated centuries ago among the Incas and Aztecs. It wasn’t called “salsa” until 1571 and it wasn’t brought to the United States until 1916 when they started making it in New Orleans. Jack started Garden Fresh in 1997.

Fans of Garden Fresh Salsa say, “it’s worth it, it’s like you made it yourself.” Garden Fresh uses all-natural, high-quality ingredients which creates a memorable and almost addictive flavor profile.

In June 2015, Campbell’s bought Garden Fresh for $231 million dollars.

$231 million dollars is a lot of money. Picture 231 piles. Each pile has $1 million dollars. What’s harder to imagine is how incredibly difficult it is to generate that kind of money. Especially from an originally bankrupt startup making salsa in the unlikely city of Ferndale, Michigan, which, being a small Midwestern city, had zero salsa street cred.

Garden Fresh Salsa was launched by Jack Aronson in the back of his now-closed restaurant, Clubhouse Bar-B-Q (22016 Woodward, Ferndale, MI). Jack was making the salsa in 38-lb. batches inside 5-gallon buckets and had $4.6 million dollars in annual sales when he met Dave.

In 2002, when Jack formed a partnership with Dave, their goal was to get to $10 million dollars in ten years. Instead, Dave helped get them to $110 million dollars. Garden Fresh became the #1 brand of fresh salsa in the United States, making up 31% of all US salsa sales.

Then they became the largest brand of tortilla chips sold in deli’s, and after purchasing Inkster-based Basha Hommus in 2007, they became the 3rd largest hummus manufacturer in the US.

“Jack Started making the salsa at Clubhouse. One day, Jim Hiller of Hiller Markets showed up, he tried the salsa, loved it and started carrying it at his 6-store grocery chain. That’s how it got started.”

“When I joined Jack in 2002, we did everything together. Jack and I were strategically in sync. For the first 5-years, I was in the plant daily. Then gradually, I handled deals and traveling, while Jack handled operations, which was getting the products made and to market.”

Our absolute uncompromising commitment to high-quality helped create an almost legendary brand loyalty among customers. For instance, some analysts told us that we could save $213,000 per year by not hand-peeling the onions. We didn’t listen to them because we refused to compromise the integrity of our flavor profile.”

“Also, to this day, 75 tons of Garden Fresh salsa are made daily in 5-gallon buckets. Back in the old days, it took us 20 minutes to make 6 pints of salsa. Now, assembly lines make 6 pints every 9 seconds. That’s 1,500 pints of salsa every 10 minutes.”



Garden Fresh: Turning Points

“Bringing in a Creative Director to get the branding right was essential, as was the strategic pivot to become a full-service deli supplier. We bought a tortilla company, a hummus company, we did the Margaritaville deal, etc. We were on a roll.”

“Another huge turning point was the introduction of the High Pressure Processing (HPP) machines. HPP helped Garden Fresh become the world’s largest fresh salsa company.”

“Jack has always loved fresh, natural ingredients and hated preservatives like sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate. However, we had a big problem.”

“Garden Fresh had managed to get into Costco, which is an enormously difficult thing to do in and of itself, and within 18 months, we were the #1 salsa. Costco was our largest customer, they were buying $20 million dollars’ worth of product annually.”

“Problem was that our products were literally exploding on the selves at Costco. We had to make larger 48oz. Costco club format bottles of Garden Fresh salsa and we couldn’t keep the salsa fresh for a long period of time, so gases would build up and they would explode.”

“HPP changed everything. HPP machines apply 87,000 pounds of pressure to food, killing all bacteria, which makes the food last 5x’s longer. No preservatives are needed. HPP machines are developed by Avure in Columbus, Ohio and manufactured in Sweden.”

“The machines are not cheap. They’re $2 million dollars each. And they weigh 105,000 pounds each! You have to have at least a 6-inch thick concrete floor just to support them.”

“In order to get the machines, we had to secure an Industrial Revenue Bond. When I showed up to sign the documents, I found myself in an office, staring at a large conference table. On the table were 43 stacks of paper, each stack about 6-inches high. It was worth it because HPP’ing the salsa changed everything.”


Garden Fresh: Sold to Campbell’s for $231 Million Dollars

“It was not easy to sell Garden Fresh to Campbell’s because we had worked so hard building our company over the years. Myself, Jack, his wife Annette and their 5 kids worked there. Jack grew the company from nothing. We were very attached to Garden Fresh.”

“However, we felt we had taken the company as far as we could. Competing for shelf space with giants like Nestle and other Fortune 500 companies is wicked. For instance, recently, Nestle, the world’s largest food & drinks company, paid Starbucks $7.2 billion dollars to sell its coffee. These are monster companies with inconceivably vast resources.”

“Campbell’s secret internal name for the deal was ‘Project Diamond’. It took awhile to finalize the arrangement and close the deal but eventually we signed the 104-page purchase agreement and Campbell’s added Garden Fresh to their product portfolio.”

In business, you try to create the best products you can and gain market share. You also have to know when to hold and when to fold and due to uncontrollable market forces, it was the right time for us to exit.”

“After the deal, I did consulting for Garden Fresh for 6 months. Jack still consults with them on occasion.  Jack’s big focus now is his company Clean Planet Foods in Clinton Township. Jack and I remain great friends and we still talk at least 2-3 times per week.”



Fuel Leadership

“After Garden Fresh, I joined Fuel Leadership as CEO. Fuel is a video-centric digital media company and we’re bringing a fresh perspective to leadership development. We target millennial professions ages 18-34 and storytelling is our preferred method of communication.”

“How it works is we sit down with an individual for 45 minutes and film them as they tell us about their life and work. We distill the final interview down to 2 minutes. We’ve interviewed over 50 people so far, including AOL co-founder Steve Case and clothing designer John Varvatos.”

“We’re also working on Fuel U. We’re reinventing the university newsletter model to make it more relevant, interesting and easily digestible for busy people. Launching this Fall, four University of Michigan Ross business students will make an UM specific newsletter at Fuel.”


Huron Capital

Located in the beautiful art deco Guardian Building in Downtown Detroit, Huron Capital is a private equity company. They have a “buy-and-build” investment model and have raised over $1.7 billion dollars by investing in 130+ companies through 6 private equity funds.

“Huron has a diverse portfolio. I’m an Operating Partner, which means I don’t have a formal association. They buy companies and they send me food deals and I analyze the deals for them.”

“For example, in 2011, they bought Brooklyn-based Victoria Pasta Sauce and I joined the board. They fixed up the company and sold it in 2016.”

“Huron Capital is a class act, both personally and professionally. I met Jim Mahoney, one of their senior partners. He introduced me to the founding partners and that’s how I came onboard.”



Dave’s Final Thoughts

Sometimes you have to be irrationally persistent to be successful in business.”

95 out of 100 new businesses fail. So, by definition, starting a new business is not rational, since it only has a 5% chance of succeeding. If you believe in it, you must persist. If you can make it to the 10-Year Mark, you’re doing good.”

“Fresh salsa was an emerging market at the time and we had the best flavor profile by far. Garden Fresh went from $4mil to over $100mil in a decade.”

“I look for the holy grail of American capitalism: emerging markets that are not yet saturated. My advice to you is look for the holy grail and build that company with strategic layers that your competitors can’t match.”

“I’m also a huge fan of higher education. The most valuable thing I got out of MSU was my social development skills. Being immersed in a university environment took me out of my shy protective shell. During my grad school years at George Washington, they had the Harvard Case Study format, where they presented cases that we had to solve. It was there that I truly learned how to trust my strategic instincts.”

“During my summer in France, I came to enjoy European “stealth service” at restaurants, where they don’t interrupt you. The European approach to food is fundamentally different than ours. Americans are optimistic by nature, Europeans are more pessimistic because their countries are older and more experienced. They think tomorrow will be worse than today, so they live more in the moment than we do. Americans are gradually becoming more European though, especially millennials.”

“My wife and I love Chardonnay, good conversation and good food. We also love Michigan. The Traverse City area is especially beautiful.”

“Never thought in my lifetime that Detroit would be where it’s at right now. I’m absolutely thrilled. Detroit was in decline for 50 years, now it’s coming back strong. During my travels, I’ve really cultivated a deep appreciation for the Detroit ethos, people, beauty, low cost of living and all of the amazing resources we have here.”

“I have a passion for business. I love food. I am driven largely by the intellectual stimulation of trying to create value. I love the art of business. There is definitely an underappreciated art to good business practices.

“Part of me is achievement-oriented, I need to be busy and creating value, so I don’t know if I’ll ever fully retire.”

“Whatever you do, in both your personal and professional life, commit to a standard and never deviate from it. It’s better to have clearly defined values and stick to them, rather than compromise your own personal integrity.”

Daily Fuel



Irrational Persistence



Huron Capital profile



Dave Zilko (circa 1992)

Exclusive Interview: Detroit music legend & founder of rock band The MC5, WAYNE KRAMER, on his new memoir ‘The Hard Stuff’!

Exclusive Interview: Detroit music legend & founder of rock band The MC5, WAYNE KRAMER, on his new memoir ‘The Hard Stuff’!

*Special thank you to Book Beat & Street Corner Music for allowing us in your stores*

Wayne Kramer probably shouldn’t be alive right now.

A normal human would’ve folded up and exploded decades ago from a pulverizing combination of “Hard Stuff,” like hard music, hard drugs, hard living and hard lessons. Thankfully, however, Wayne is here with us, alive and well enough to tell the ongoing tale of his fascinating existence.

Wayne Kramer and his Detroit rock band the MC5 changed rock music by cranking the dial to totally immersive no-holds-barred high-intensity levels of DNA-mutating volume and they’re also widely credited with inadvertently creating what was later labeled as the genre of ‘punk music’.

While the band itself disintegrated in 1972 in a cyclone of heroin, revolutionary Sinclair politics, disenchantment and becoming alienated and disconnected from each other, the MC5’s music has withstood the brutal and purifying test of time. They came, they saw, they melted faces with blistering full-body knockout attack music and helped forge Detroit’s enduring sobriquet, Detroit Rock City.

It has been said that listening to the MC5 live was like having an out-of-body experience, like exorcising daemonic barnacles and freeing your soul, like a psychedelic journey to pre-birth regression, a glorious stripping away while being thrashed to the point where you suddenly Wake Up, Fully Emerged.

I’m sitting here right now with Brother Wayne Kramer in the back room at Book Beat bookstore.

Wayne is in town from Los Angeles and bookstore owner Cary Loren, formerly of Ann Arbor arthouse band Destroy All Monsters, has kindly given us a fun space to chat.

We’re discussing Wayne’s life and memoir ‘The Hard Stuff,’ which will be published on August 14th by Da Capo Press.

Buy The Hard Stuff here 


Later this year, Wayne is going on a 35-city tour with his band MC50 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of MC5’s Kick Out The Jams. Their tour will culminate in an October 27th show at the newly renovated Fillmore Detroit.

Wayne is also a prominent solo recording artist and has done countless collaborations with people like David Peel, Johnny Thunders, Don Was, etc.

Parts of my life have been written about extensively, especially my time in the MC5. Less so my time in prison and my work with Jail Guitar Doors. Just wanted to have a record from my perspective, straight from the horse’s mouth.”

“I wanted to understand myself better and chronicle the realizations. To sort out the order that things happened in and review some of the stupendously terrible things I’ve done in my life. For years, my friends have prodded me to write a book but I could never figure out how to end it, since the story isn’t finished. The arrival of my son Francis, who is turning five soon, the whole life I’ve lived up to his arrival was one life, so now I can begin the other life. If I die tomorrow, I want my son to have a record of my life straight from me not vicariously from news articles.”

I started writing the book in 2006. Started just casually jotting down thoughts and memories in a notebook. A lot of stuff was in the front of my thoughts and therefore easily accessible. Then I got about forty 3 x 5 cards and put them on a corkboard and created a chronology of events.”

“After a while I had the shaping of what looked like an actual book on my hands, so we engaged an agent and secured a publisher. I’m a musician. Telling stories is my business and lifelong passion and it’s always a pleasure. The book was completed in November 2017.”

MC5: The Motor City 5

Born April 30th, 1948, Wayne Kramer was the founder and guitarist of rock band The Motor City Five, which was later shortened to MC5 in honor of being more in tune with the Detroit auto industry.

Wayne started the band in 1963 at Lincoln Park High School in Lincoln Park, Michigan, a Downriver suburb of Detroit.

At the time, Wayne was the band leader of The Bounty Hunters. He met Fred Smith of The Vibratones and Fred soon merged his band with Wayne’s band into The Bounty Hunters. They played venues like The Crystal Bar on Michigan Ave & Central in Southwest Detroit until changing their name to The Motor City 5 in the Fall 1964.

The MC5 consisted of:

Wayne Kramer guitar, Rob Tyner vocals, Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith guitar, Michael Davis bass, and Dennis ‘Machine Gun’ Thompson drums.

Wayne explains:

It started off innocently enough with ‘Hey, any kids want to be in a band with me?’ Ultimately, we ended up with the MC5.”

“The MC5 started at Helen and Gregory avenues in Lincoln Park, Michigan. Tyner lived 4 blocks away, Dennis lived 10 blocks, Fred lived 10 blocks in another direction. My Mom’s house was the center for all of us and she kindly let us practice in the basement.”

“Rob Tyner and I could draw. Rob’s friend Gary Grimshaw could draw chrome, the finish on hot rod cars. So, Gary and Rob ending up designing a lot of our handbills and posters, especially the Grande Ballroom ones. Rob was indeed a gifted artist and cartoonist, not many people know that.”

And yes, it’s true, Rob reinvented everything. He nicknamed Fred ‘Sonic’, shortened our name to the MC5, nicknamed Dennis ‘Machine Gun’, even renamed himself from Bob Derminer to Rob Tyner. He was a very creative man.”

“The MC5 used to play everywhere: school cafetoriums, dances, record hops, bars, clubs, outdoors, indoors, sideways, upside down, you name it, we were there. When you love to play music, it doesn’t matter where you play it. You just establish a good band and put your 10,000 hours in playing your asses off anywhere-anyway you can.”

The MC5 played 400-500 performances over the lifespan of the band. I was 16-20 years old when all this happened, my formative years. At 19 or 20, you’re pretty crazy since your brain isn’t done growing. You’re basically insane until 30.”

“We all have powerful experiences and changes at that age and to be in the center of larger forces at that time like the youth culture movement, government oppression, phonetaps, the FBI building a file on us (yes, I have a copy of the file), was just overwhelming. I remember when I caught my federal coke case, the officer said to me, ‘Kramer, we got shit on you going back to the Sixties’.

“What set the MC5 apart from our contemporaries is we addressed the audiences concerns directly. Since we all shared the same concerns, we felt it our responsibility to help voice these concerns and voice them LOUDLY.”

We were a rock band in a time when rock music came of age and we were a part of a community of young people in agreement to reject the established ideas of how life should be. The hypocrisy and corruption we saw was unbearable as a community. We were being forced to fight a war 30,000 miles away when there was no direct threat to the United States. It was illegal, it was immoral and America, which claimed to stand for equal rights, didn’t give equal rights to all citizens, only a chosen select few.”

“And even 50 years ago, we felt and knew that weed was less toxic than the government claimed. We were commenting directly on this stuff and we were the only band doing so heart to heart, face to face. You felt our music, boy, and you could never un-feel it. Hearing the MC5 live touched you deeply and forever.”

“In terms of people considering the MC5 and The Stooges as the “godfathers” of punk music, I can see where you can connect the dots. The Clash, The Damned, The Ramones, etc, when you asked all those early punk bands who they listened to and were inspired by, almost all of them say the MC5 and The Stooges. To me “punk” has always been around, we just didn’t use that expression. Beethoven, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, all those guys were punks in the sense that they had to reinvent music for their generations. It’s important to have your own sound and be original.”

“The MC5 was not frilly, not snobby, not elitist, it’s just in your face, grab you by the throat, rock and roll.”

MC5 played opening night at the Grande, Detroit’s psychedelic ballroom, thanks to Russ Gibb. The Grande was a magical place.”

We all lived together in the same house as a band. We lived in Detroit, then we moved to Ann Arbor to a place called the Hill Street House for a while, then we had a house in Hamburg, Michigan on Hall Road. It was not far from Hamburg Lake. Beautiful, remote spread in the middle of 10-acres of wooded land, just absolutely spectacular. We loved it. We were a bunch of maniac musicians. You could run around with no clothes on, shoot guns, smoke weed, do whatever you wanted to do, it was great.”

“Our bassist Mike Davis wrote a memoir about his life and MC5 and many stories in Mike’s book are consistent with mine, at least, the fundamental facts. I don’t blame Mike for some of the stuff that was written. I’m sure I was an absolute nightmare to be around. The bad behavior was rampant and eventually, the MC5’s shared creative vision had disintegrated into drugs. Heroin was all-pervasive in Detroit back then and we were young musicians, so everywhere we went, it was already there waiting for us, in our face, you couldn’t escape it.”

“Rob tried quitting the MC5 for 2-3 years. Every year, he’d make a declaration that he didn’t want to be in the band anymore, but he never left. Finally, he and Fred got into a fistfight, and he said he’d had enough. Our last show was New Year’s Eve 1972 at the Grande. I walked off stage mid-show and that was that. The end of an era.”


The MC5 Eat LSD with Timothy Leary at Tim’s House in California

“On March 23rd, 1969, we played a free concert in Provo Park. Timothy Leary was there, he liked our show and invited us back to his house in the Berkeley Hills.”

“He had all this liquid LSD that we poured into a big bottle of dark red wine and we drank LSD wine with him in front of a roaring fire in his living room, while his mother-in-law was there!

“The band wanted to go out carousing. I wanted to stay with Leary and have the total LSD experience with the guru and then the funniest thing happened.”

Machine Gun Thompson and I are sitting in front of the fire with Tim’s mother-in-law, Tim walks in with his wife Rosemary and announces “welp, we’re going to bed, you guys have a good night.” He walks away, Machine Gun and I look at each other and I’m thinking, ‘Whoaaaa. I’m tripping my brains out with Timothy Leary’s mother-in-law’. Then I say to Dennis, ‘Maybe we should go back to the hotel.’ Dennis agrees and he somehow drives us back to the hotel.”


Wayne’s Favorite Authors

“Dozens of favorites. I read a lot. They run the gamut: Philip Roth, Christopher Hitchens, Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Hemingway, Sam Harris, Luc Sante, etc. My son is going to be five soon and he’s reading some elemental stuff already. I told him that the whole world will open up to you through reading. Plus, you can travel in time through books.”


Wayne’s Parents

“The MC5 was formed during our teen years when we were young and trying to break out and establish our own identity beyond our parents, which is important.”

I had a father that abandoned our family when I was little. I was an angry little boy who grew into an even angrier young man. I thought changing my name to “Wayne Kramer” was the perfect revenge, since he would never share in my glory.”

“Later, in my 40’s, I met my father. He was a community activist in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania and he was in the hospital. We built a relationship, I mean you can’t dial it back and recover what was lost to time, but I got to have a more mature perspective on this man whom I was biologically connected to.”

“He had been a U.S. Marine in the South Pacific during WWII. He came back profoundly damaged and treated what we now called “PTSD” with alcohol, which he said kept the daemons at a distance. It didn’t stop the endless horrors, but it helped create a cloudy buffer.”

“The hole in my development as a boy, not having a model of what manhood is, being left to deal with challenges, responsibilities, dangers without a father was very difficult.”

My Mother did a great job as a single working mom. She’s my hero to this day. I also had 2 younger sisters. My Mom raised us three kids on her own. Single working mothers are the hardest working humans on planet earth.”


Wayne Helps Iggy & The Stooges Get Signed

“I was responsible for getting The Stooges a record contract with Elektra Records. Danny Fields asked me if I knew any other group like the MC5. I said ‘No Danny, there’s nobody like the MC5. But, you should see our brother band The Psychedelic Stooges.’”

“We loved Iggy and The Stooges, all of us hung out together, got high together, listened to the same free jazz music. Before then, Iggy was a drummer in a great blues band called The Prime Movers.”

I actually tried recruiting him into the MC5 one time but he left for a brief stay in Chicago with The Prime Movers. Iggy and I are still great friends to this day and I’m proud of how successful he is.”


Wayne Gets Arrested During the Detroit Riots

“In July 1967, we were living on Warren and Forest in Detroit by Wayne State University and we had a telescope in our upstairs window. The Riots kicked off and the cops saw the telescope and thought we were snipers.”

“Next thing I know, my doors being busted down and there’s a U.S. Army tank pointing its canon at our house! It’s in the street, right outside our front door! The cops swarmed in, slammed us down and took us to 1300 Beaubien Street, the Detroit Police HQ. They eventually let us go but it was an experience that stuck with me.”


On Being Incarcerated in America

From 1975-77, Wayne Kramer did time at Lexington Federal Prison in Lexington, KY for selling cocaine. The experience had a profound and negative impact on him.

MC5 bassist Mike Davis, Stooges roadie Hiawatha Bailey, writer William S. Burroughs, actor Peter Lorre, musicians Red Rodney, Sonny Rollins, Chet Baker, etc, all did drug time at Lexington.

Going to prison is a traumatic experience. You are discovering for the first time what it means to not have liberty, to not be free, to be totally under the control of systems and people.”

You never feel safe. You’re surrounded in very close quarters by dangerous people with mental health issues constantly. You have no power over your own life. The sort of helplessness and hopelessness you experience in prison is impossible to accurately communicate unless you yourself have experienced it directly.”

The prison experience is embarrassing and shameful and I don’t know anyone whose come out better. Prison has never helped anyone, myself included. It’s a medieval concept that just lives on and on and on and on. 90% of inmates can be held accountable for breaking the social contract in their communities but imprisoning people runs against a sense of fairness, which really doesn’t exist in America.”


Jail Guitar Doors USA

In 1978, London punk band The Clash wrote a song about Wayne Kramer called ‘Jail Guitar Doors’. That song title served as inspiration for Wayne Kramer, his wife Margaret Kramer and his friend Billy Bragg in naming his non-profit Jail Guitar Doors USA in 2008.

“Jail Guitar Doors is a non-profit with a mission to help rehabilitate prison inmates by teaching them to express themselves positively through music.”

“Since my release, I’ve watched the prison population rise for over 40 years. There were 350,000 people in state and federal prisons combined back then. Today, in the United States, we have 2.3 million people in prisons.”

“This tragedy has deeply affected every single community in the country. Sending people to prison is not a deterrent. You come out worse, not better. With Jail Guitar Doors, we try to mitigate the damage by helping the individual rehab through music and change for the better.”

“Just think about it: 600,000 prisoners are released every year. Who do you want standing in line with you at the store? Someone bitter, defeated, revengeful or somebody who has hope and music?

“Earlier today, we took some local musicians to the Ryan Reentry Center in Detroit to establish a songwriting workshop. Today we wore a song about freedom, we helped inmates there talk about childhood trauma and forgiveness. Doing the work itself is the reward.”

“I don’t ever expect to see true justice reform in my lifetime. It’s like turning the Titanic away from the iceberg. But we will continue doing what we can to help.”


Detroit to Los Angeles

I’ve been in L.A. for 25 years, it suits my activities. I pay the rent by writing film and TV music. You have to go where your job skills are marketable.”

“Most of the year the climate is spectacular, but it’s been very hot lately. Great community in L.A., lot of friends there.”

“Jail Guitar Doors is based there. We’re on 10 prison yards in California and we have acoustic guitars in 120 prisons in America.”

I visit Detroit often to see family and friends and play gigs and the city will always be in my heart forever.


Wayne Kramer Facebook



Wayne Kramer @ Industrial Amusement



Buy The Hard Stuff here 



MC5 Calendar of Shows



MC5: An Incomplete (But Interesting) Timeline

  • 1963-Wayne Kramer forms The Bounty Hunters. Fred Smith merges his band The Vibratones with Wayne’s band.
  • 1963-Gary Grimshaw moves to apartment building 633 Prentis St, Detroit. Michael Davis moves to the same building and Rob Tyner’s girlfriend lives across the hall from him. Mike meets Rob and gradually becomes the bassist for the MC5.
  • December 1963-The Bounty Hunters play The Crystal Bar (Michigan Ave & Central St, Detroit)
  • Fall 1964-The Bounty Hunters are re-named The Motor City 5
  • May 1965-Rob Tyner shortens the bands name to MC5
  • 1966-MC5 move to the Warren Forest neighborhood in Detroit’s Cass Corridor near Wayne State University at apartment (659 W. Canfield)
  • September 1966-Plum Street (Detroit’s Haight-Ashbury psychedelic district) opens
  • October 7th, 1966-Russ Gibb opens the Grande Ballroom. MC5 plays opening night.
  • October 1966-LSD made illegal
  • November 20th, 1966-MC5 & Velvet Underground play ‘Carnaby Street Fun Festival’ @ Michigan State Fairgrounds, Detroit

  • 1967-MC5 move to Detroit Artists Workshop building and live upstairs (1252 W. Forest) and The Lodge at Warren
  • 1967-John Sinclair morphs Artists Workshop into Trans-Love Energy Collective
  • April 30, 1967-Trans Love produces Love-In concert on Belle Isle @ Remick Music Shell. MC5 plays for 6,000 people. The Outlaws motorcycle gang starts riot.
  • Summer 1967-The Stooges live at first Stooge house (1324 Forest Ct, Ann Arbor)
  • June 9th, 1967-MC5 blow main act Cream offstage at the Grande.
  • July 1967-Detroit Riots
  • August 1967-John Sinclair becomes manager of the MC5
  • Halloween 1967-The Psychedelic Stooges first show ever @ UofM Student Union
  • November 22nd, 1967-The Who play Southfield High School
  • November 24-26, 1967-The Fugs & MC5 play the Grande
  • January 4th, 1968-Russ Gibb finances the MC5 recordings of Looking At You and Borderline @ United Sound System studios (5840 2nd Ave, Detroit). Gary Grimshaw designs the cover. Jeep Holland’s A-Square label releases only 500 copies.
  • February 23rd, 1968-Jimi Hendrix, MC5 & Soft Machine play the Masonic in Detroit
  • March 3rd, 1968-The Stooges first play the Grande
  • April 11th, 1968-MC5’s first-ever show with The Stooges @ UofM Union Ballroom
  • May 1968-Trans-Love move from Detroit to Ann Arbor’s Hill Street House (1510 and 1520 Hill Street). MC5 join the commune.
  • July 1968-MC5 play free concert at the West Park bandshell in Ann Arbor
  • August 25th, 1968-MC5 play Lincoln Park, Chicago during riot
  • September 7th, 1968-JC Crawford first introduces the MC5
  • September 21st, 1968-Danny Fields sees MC5 live at the Grande
  • September 22nd, 1968-Danny Fields sees The Stooges @ the Union Ballroom, Ann Arbor
  • September 1968-Danny Fields gets Elektra Records to sign both bands: MC5 sign to Elektra for $20,000 and The Stooges sign for $5,000. Elektra is known as the label of The Doors.
  • October 30-31, 1968-MC5 record debut live album ‘Kick Out the Jams’ at the Grande Ballroom. The Stooges were the kicker act. Free show.
  • November 1st, 1968-John Sinclair creates White Panther Party based on idea from Pun Plamondon
  • November 1968-The Stooges move to The Fun House (2666 Packard rd, Ann Arbor). MC5 hang out here frequently. Nico lives here for a bit.
  • December 12-14, 1968-MC5 plays on bill with Velvet Underground for 3 days in Boston
  • December 23rd, 1968-MC5 opens for The Crazy World of Arthur Brown @ Olympia
  • January 4th, 1969-MC5’s Rob Tyner is on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine
  • February 1969-Detroit’s famous Hudson’s department store refuses to stock MC5’s albums. In response to this, MC5 runs a full-page ad entitled ‘Fuck Hudson’s’ in local magazines The Fifth Estate, Ann Arbor Argus, The Sun. As a result, Hudson’s department stores pulls all Elektra Records albums from their shelves.

  • March 1969-Creem Magazine debuts
  • March 1969-Elektra Records drops the MC5
  • May 1969-John Cale brings The Stooges to NYC to produce their first album
  • June 1969-MC5 sign to Atlantic Records and get a hefty $65,000 advance
  • October 18th, 1969-Led Zeppelin, MC5, Grand Funk play Olympia in Detroit
  • January 15th, 1970-MC5 release their 2nd album ‘Back in the USA
  • May 1970-MC5 move from Hill Street House (Ann Arbor) out to Hamburg, Michigan
  • August 3rd, 1970-MC5 @ Mt. Clemens Pop Festival in Sportsman Park
  • August 7-9th, 1970-MC5 and The Stooges play Goose Lake Music Festival (200,000 people)
  • April 1971-White Panther Party dissolves
  • July 6th, 1971-MC5 release ‘High Time’ album
  • 1972-Rob Tyner and Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith get into a fistfight
  • December 31, 1972-MC5’s last show ever. Grande Ballroom. Wayne Kramer is so disgusted, he leaves mid-show.
  • MC5’s proposed 4th album, ‘Live on Saturn’ never comes to fruition.
  • 1975-Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith starts Sonic’s Rendezvous Band
  • 1975-77-Wayne Kramer does time at Lexington Federal Prison. Fellow inmates include Mike Davis and Hiawatha Bailey




Exclusive Interview:  Author, Lawyer & Former Detroit Mayor DENNIS ARCHER on his memoir ‘Let the Future Begin’!

Exclusive Interview: Author, Lawyer & Former Detroit Mayor DENNIS ARCHER on his memoir ‘Let the Future Begin’!

Photo Courtesy of Detroit Archives


“Ding!” the elevator door opens. I step inside. Whoosh! The marble-paneled elevator cruises fast up to the 40th floor of Ally Detroit Center, tallest office building in the State of Michigan and the 2nd tallest building in Detroit.

I spill out onto the 40th floor, immediately enraptured by the fantastic vantage of Detroit’s cityscape, including spectacular views of the Guardian Building, Detroit’s main US Post Office and the Ambassador Bridge.


Photo by Ryan M. Place


619 feet tall. 43 floors. I’m almost at the very top of the building, here inside the world headquarters of the Dickinson Wright law firm where Dennis Archer is Chairman Emeritus.

Dickinson Wright has 450 lawyers in over 20 offices in the United States, helping people in 40 different areas of law.

I’m here discussing Mr. Archer’s new memoir, Let The Future Begin’.



The title is based on the slogan his mayoral campaign manager, David Axelrod, created for him. Axelrod later became President Obama’s chief strategist, senior advisor and CNN commentator.

Mr. Archer’s memoir is a fascinating, thorough and riveting account of his incredible life and career.

Sitting here now with me, Dennis is soft spoken, careful, measured, brilliant, a natural tactician and we have an absorbing 2.5-hour long conversation, going well beyond the initial 45 minutes we originally intended.


Photo by Ryan M. Place


Dennis is a patient listener and thoughtful conversationist. Listening to people, rather than telling them what they want, has always been his leadership style.

Archer was a popular Mayor because he was perceived by most people, regardless of political affiliation, as someone who truly cares about the city of Detroit and its residents. Speaking with him, you can tell his concern is sincere and genuine and not some contrived act for the cameras.

Widely admired for his strong moral philosophy, Archer has spent his life relentlessly focused on the value of education and encouraging people to learn as much and as often as they can to help improve their lives and communities.



Having attended Wayne State University, Western Michigan University and Detroit College of Law, Dennis Archer went on to become:

A husband, father, teacher, Michigan Supreme Court Justice, partner at Dickinson Wright law firm, two-term Mayor of the City of Detroit, the first African American president of the Michigan Bar Association and of the 400,000-member American Bar Association, president of the National League of Cities and creator of the Dennis W. Archer Foundation, where he’s given out $1.5 million dollars in scholarships to students.

Dennis Archer is a hard-working, dedicated, no-nonsense, man of action and this is his tale.


Quick Biography

Photo by Ryan M. Place


Born New Year’s Day 1942 at Rogers Hospital in Detroit, Dennis Archer lived here until 1947, when he moved to Cassopolis, a rural village in Southwest Michigan.

Dennis grew up poor in a house with an outhouse and he bathed in a big metal tub every Saturday night.


Cassopolis Court House


His father’s family was from North Carolina and Logan County, Ohio and he had one arm, a 3rd grade education and was an extremely hard worker. His mother’s family was from Virginia and both were very influential in Dennis’ life.

Cassopolis was small town USA. Cat litter was invented here in 1947 by resident Ed Lowe. Dennis grew up here listening to doo wop, caddying & golfing and working at the local pickle factory. In 1959, he moved back to Detroit after high school graduation and enrolled at Wayne State University.


MLK in Detroit c. 1963 (photo courtesy of Detroit Archives)


He was a drummer in the school marching band when they played for President JFK in Washington, D.C. in 1961. Two years later, Dennis marched with 125,000 people led by Martin Luther King Jr. down Woodward Avenue in Downtown Detroit when he gave his first ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in 1963.

Dennis eventually transferred from Wayne State to Western Michigan University to become a teacher. He graduated and returned to Detroit where he met fellow teacher and future wife Trudy DunCombe, an EMU grad, in 1965.

After that, he enrolled in the Detroit College of Law, got married and became involved in the fields of law and politics in Detroit.


Kresge’s Department Store (photo courtesy of Detroit Archives)


“What do I like most about Detroit? Everything. I was born here. I remember my first five years on earth here. My dad sent my mother, who was pregnant with me, from Cassopolis to Detroit to be born in a hospital. Cassopolis had no hospital and our house didn’t have a telephone.”

“The first place I lived in Detroit was my Aunt Hattie’s on McDougall Street, a few blocks down from Joe Louis’ mother’s house, they lived at 2100 McDougall. Then we moved to my Grandma’s on Rivard and Lafayette in the Black Bottom neighborhood. We’d walk downtown to Kresge’s Department Store frequently. Detroit has always been a fascinating and wonderful place to me.”


Writing His Memoir

Photo by Ryan M. Place


“I did not keep diary or journal but my wife kept news articles. I wrote the book after having been encouraged by a number of  people who finally convinced me that it might be very helpful and enlightening to my sons and grandsons and the general public to have a record of my experiences.”

“My grandsons were 11 and 8 years old when I started writing the book in August 2015. Took me a while to figure out how best to write a book without a lot of emphasis on “I”. If you pass by a fencepost and happen to see a turtle sitting on top, you know it didn’t get there by itself.”


Eliabeth Ann Atkins (photo courtesy of Atkins Greenspan)


“By working with a co-author, Elizabeth Ann Atkins, she could interview the people who were a part of Detroit and my life and they could share their true feelings with her. The book was finally published in December 2017.”


People of Color

Dennis Archer playing golf (photo courtesy of Doug Ashley)


“People of color used to not be able to join the Detroit Golf Club until Coleman Young helped change that. Cardinal Szoka nominated Mayor Young and he became a Social Member in 1986, which paved the way for other people of color to join like Walt Watkins, Walt Douglas, S. Martin Taylor and myself, etc.”


The Detroit Riots

Detroit Riots 1967 (photo courtesy of Detroit Archives)


“The Rebellion of 1967 increased my motivation to be a lawyer. In Spring 1966, I started at Detroit College of Law. I taught school during the day and attended law school at night and graduated January 1970.”

“In 1967, I was a student law clerk at the firm of Damon J. Keith. I got married on June 17, 1967. My father-in-law and I liked to play golf, so I picked him up the morning of July 23rd . We were coming home, and we could see smoke in the air, hear sirens. A lot of sirens, more than usual. Distant yet deafening. I dropped him off and drove home to our apartment.  That’s when Trudy told me how things had started.”

Gov. Romney and Mayor Cavanagh asked for troops to come in. We lost 47 lives and over 7,000 people were arrested and were housed on Belle Isle.”

“Detroit Recorder’s Court judges put a call out for all lawyers to come out and help the people held in custody by explaining to them the legal process and what they were charged with. I watched Judge Keith’s firm participate in providing people legal assistance and I saw how important lawyers were in the process of protecting people’s rights and the whole experience really increased my motivation to be a lawyer.”


Being Mayor of Detroit

Mayor Dennis Archer (photo courtesy of Detroit)


On January 1st, 1994, Dennis Archer became the 67th Mayor of Detroit, which at the time was America’s 8th largest city. He served two terms and ended his service on December 31st, 2001.


Dennis inherited a monumental task of revitalizing the city. He experienced:

photo by Ryan M. Place


General Motors purchasing the Renaissance Center which changed the city in a very positive way.

The Nancy Kerrigan knee bashing at Joe Louis Arena.

The creation of 3 casino’s in Detroit: MGM, Motor City and Greektown.

Allowing Detroit Electronic Music Festival (aka: DEMF, Techfest) to start in Hart Plaza. This festival continues today and is known as Movement.

The creation and flourishing of Campus Martius.

Encouraging Peter Karmanos to move his Compuware Corporation from Farmington Hills to downtown Detroit.

And more.


Photo by Ryan M. Place


“Well, my motivation to run for Mayor was built up over several years and came from a broad spectrum of people who encouraged me to seriously consider running for Mayor.”

“For the longest time, I thought ‘Me run for Mayor? I’m just happy to be on the Supreme Court!’”

“I saw the businesses leaving the city, crime rate going up, city having fiscal problems, buses not running on time. People were taking 2-3 buses just to get to their jobs, which were outside the city. We’re the largest metropolitan area in the USA that did not have a rapid transit system.”


Loveland’s Detroit Map (image courtesy of Detroit Archives)


“Detroit in the 1990 U.S. Census was said to have 1,027,000 people and led the nation with the highest percentage of people living below the poverty line, 32.2%.”

“It was ironic that in the Motor City, 35% of our residents could not afford to own a car.”

“At its peak, 1953-54, Detroit had almost two million residents.”

“When you fast-forward to the early 1990’s and subtract over 800,000 people who were no longer living here, the same housing stock was not needed and, thus, we had many vacant homes and empty blocks.”


Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives


“Some blocks only had 1-2 houses on them and there was a lot of illegal dumping of trash and waste. Our residents didn’t have jobs. Businesses had left the city. We were having challenges with public schools. There’s was not a lot of optimism or hope here. But there was a deep yearning for change.”

“I was fortunate to be able to attract over 6,000 campaign volunteers who believed in our thoughts for a greater Detroit. I had asked the people directly what were their real problems and what did they want for their city, their children and what would make them excited? Together, we devised a plan of action.”


Inheriting a Deficit

Photo courtesy of Detroit Bail Bonds


“We had a big surprise after the election and I found out from the head of my financial transition team, Jay Alix, that the city of Detroit was anticipating an $88.5 million-dollar deficit.”

“We went to New York and met with the powerful ratings agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s. They knew every detail about the city of Detroit, it was incredible. We were at junk bond status. The city had to actually buy insurance in order to sell our bonds.”

We brought us back up to investment-grade status.”


Kevin Orr (Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives)


“When my successor Kwame Kilpatrick stepped down, Mayor Bing inherited a $315 million-dollar deficit. Governor Snyder tried working with the city of Detroit to avoid appointing an emergency manager, however, when the Consent Agreement failed, he had to appoint Kevyn Orr.”

“Kevyn ended up doing a masterful job and helped guide Detroit through the largest municipal bankruptcy in USA history. $18 billion dollars in debt was successfully restructured and a revitalization plan was implemented.”

“Back in the 1960’s, Mayor Cavanagh had predicted unless he had help, Detroit faced bankruptcy. One of the main reasons was population decline. Revenues in the form of income tax & real estate tax were not coming in to help fund the running of the city.”


Being a Big City Mayor is Tough

Photo by Ryan M. Place


“We had some very outstanding plans for the city but when you find out you’re facing a deficit and there’s no money to implement those plans, that money goes to balancing the budget.”

We had a modest surplus, a rainy-day fund and every single year I was in office, the budget was balanced and at one point the two pension funds were overfunded. The hardest part was not being able to live up to the citizens high expectations for the city of Detroit.”


Photo by Ryan M. Place


“By earning an Empowerment Zone designation, President Clinton’s urban renewal program gave us a hand up. Governor Engler’s Renaissance Zones helped us bring in new business. I convinced Vice President Al Gore to have an EZ (Empowerment Zone) meeting in Detroit. We had the most successful EZ out of all the EZ’s in the USA. The number of investments were staggering.”

While I was in office, we were able to attract $20.2 billion dollars in new investments to the city.”

Brenda Schneider documented the investments and number of projects that came in every year. Her findings are in the Appendix of my book.”


Dennis Helps Attract Investments to Detroit

Greektown Casino (Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives)


“In 1994, we had a ballot initiative for a riverboat casino at Atwater and putting an Indian-owned casino in Greektown.”

“The casino ballot passed for Greektown and Gov. Engler appointed a commission to study casino gaming. We convinced them we could have up to 4-5 casinos in the city of Detroit. We had several proposals.”


Trump Casino in Detroit rendering (Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives)


“Even Donald Trump wanted to build a Detroit-themed Trump Casino here. Another casino mogul, Don Barden, later tried getting pop singer Michael Jackson to be a casino partner with him here. Barden eventually went to Ohio to support a statewide ballot. The issue lost there and we won a statewide privilege of having up to 3 privately owned casinos in Detroit.”

MGM and Motor City opened in 1999, then Greektown in 2000. Without revenue from those casinos, the city of Detroit would’ve been bankrupt a long time ago.”


Ilitch’s, Gov. Engler, Mayor Archer (Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives)


Comerica Park, the new Tigers stadium, was on its way. Mike Ilitch had bought the Detroit Tigers from Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan.  Like Mayor Coleman Young, we wanted to help Ilitch keep the Tigers here in the city.  I investigated the feasibility of upgrading the stadium.  The upgrade could not be done to accomplish their goals and the fans’ needs. We were able to get funding from the state and city to help build a new stadium.”

“Then the Lions came to Detroit from Pontiac. Bill Ford Jr. of Ford Motor Company couldn’t work out a new deal with the city of Pontiac, so we worked with him to bring the Detroit Lions football stadium downtown. We were blessed to have the Ilitch and Ford Families to work together.”


Devil’s Night

Devil’s Night Detroit (Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives)


Devil’s Night in Detroit was the name for the night before Halloween. It was notorious because of the arson. In 1983, there were 650 fires on Devil’s Night.

In 1984, there were over 800 fires. After I became Mayor, I said this has to stop, especially since we had a problem in 1994.”

We created Angel’s Night after the idea was presented to us by John George. It took a few years, but it has been deemed a complete success. ”


Detroit Fire Department t-shirt (Photo courtesy of Detroit Fire Dept.)


Urban Renewal of the Sprawling Motor City

Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives


“New housing was being built in the city. Bob Larson (Vice Chairman of Taubman Co.) led a group that developed a zone concept to deal with vacant land in Detroit.”

“They divided the city into 10 zones. We invited representatives from each zone to Cobo Hall and we engaged them to elect people from each zone to talk to citizens in their zone to find out what they wanted done to help improve their lives.”

“Like I said in the book, when I was Mayor, the pace was frenetic, crisis management was constant, but the crime rate declined every single year I was in office.”

“We also helped beautify the parks. At the time, many were overgrown, dangerous, had no basketball nets. Bill Davidson, owner of the Detroit Pistons and his colleagues installed basketball courts and baseball diamonds. Then we helped to generate 30 more parks being cleaned and fully upgraded. Later they set up a $1 million-dollar endowment to help keep up the parks. The deal was that the City of Detroit Parks and Rec Department would keep it mowed and maintained.”

“Community organizers were painting houses, fixing porches, etc. Habitat led to a major effort within the city. ”


Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives


Edsel Ford II said yes to being our Champion to celebrate the 300th Anniversary of Detroit on July 24th, 2001. He raised millions of dollars for Detroit.  He also started the RiverWalk from Cobo to Ford Auditorium. We had tall ships, a 100-person choir singing. Part of the funds Edsel raised helped to build Campus Martius.”

Roger Penske got the Grand Prix to come back to Detroit, spent a lot of his own money to do so.”

“I remember I was looking at Belle Isle with the Parks & Rec Department, thinking what would it take to redo Belle Isle? Our bond rating had gone up and we could borrow up to $80 million to redevelop Belle Isle. I said, we could charge per car and that money would go toward the maintenance of the park and we could pay off the bond in 14 years.”

Had we done that, it would’ve already been paid off by now. But, as a result of Detroit’s bankruptcy, the state of Michigan has Belle Isle for 30 years and are upgrading the island.”


Advice from President Clinton


“A few weeks after I got elected in 1994, I spent the night at the White House in the Lincoln Bedroom. President Clinton lost his voice after the State of Union address that evening, but we still talked while watching the Arkansas basketball game.”

“At the time, I was doing 3-4 speeches per day, trying to promote the city of Detroit. I asked him ‘how do you do this all the time?’ He said, ‘never make an important decision when you’re tired.’”


Deciding Not to Run for Mayor Again

Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives


“I decided not to run again because I was physically tired. I was working 16-18 hour days 7 days per week. Religious entities have church on Sunday, so I attended multiple functions every single Sunday. I enjoyed being mayor but also felt a new person with new and different ideas could take us to the next level and would be more helpful.”

“A few years later, I became President of the American Bar Association and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Detroit’s Regional Chamber.”


What Makes a Great Mayor

Photo by Ryan M. Place


Caring more about the people they’re serving than about themselves makes a great mayor.”

“Someone who is not afraid to stand up and fight for what’s right for the citizens of the city, help those less fortunate, improve opportunities for everyone, improve the police and fire department, listen to people and help solve their problems, etc, there’s a lot of components. Treat everyone fairly and with respect.”


The Law firm of Dickinson Wright

Chairman Emeritus is a title of appreciation for my accomplishments on behalf of the Dickinson Wright firm while I was chairman.”

“When I left the Michigan Supreme Court in December 1990 and joined Dickinson Wright as equity partner in January 1991, I was trying cases, having meetings, and searching for solutions to the problems of the city of Detroit.”

“I was delighted that I could also help open doors for minority businesses and it allowed them to show that people of color can be successful.”


Some of Dennis’ Favorite Detroit Spots

Central Kitchen + Bar (photo courtesy of CKB)


Central Kitchen + Bar (“my son’s and his investors’ restaurant”)

London Chop House

The Caucus Club

Joe Muer’s Seafood

The Rattlesnake Club


Bakers Keyboard Lounge

Jimmy D’s Celebrity House (used to be on Livernois, it’s gone now)

Lafayette-Orleans Bar (also gone now)


Favorite Authors & Books


“I like John Grisham books. ‘Bobby Kennedy’ by Chris Matthews. Authors Charles Ogletree, Jesse Jackson, Robert Harris, and other Civil Rights leaders. ‘Dr. Martin Luther King’ by Taylor Branch.”

“Usually, I have to do a lot of required reading as a lawyer, so my reading-for-pleasure time is very limited.”


Eastern Market: A Detroit Gem

Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives


Eastern Market is an outstanding resource for the city. Go by and visit Father Norman Thomas at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. One of the things on my agenda was to try and have Eastern Market open seven days per week, not just Saturday.”

“I asked Fr. Thomas to chair the initiative and he became head of the Eastern Market Task Force to help make Eastern Market a more attractive destination. My family and I still go down to Eastern Market frequently. We buy real Christmas trees there and buy BBQ at Bert’s and we’ll be at Detroit Bookfest.”


The Legacy of Dennis Archer

Photo by Ryan M. Place


What do I want to be remembered for the most? I’ll leave that to historians.

Just remember, when you put people first, good things will happen. And yes, the small things in life do make a difference.”


Let the Future Begin



Dennis Archer profile 



Atkins & Greenspan



American Bar Association



Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives

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

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




Detroit’s Eastern Market Brewing Company GRAND OPENING! (Friday, October 20th, 2017)

Detroit’s Eastern Market Brewing Company GRAND OPENING! (Friday, October 20th, 2017)

Detroit’s Eastern Market Brewing Company!

We have been eagerly awaiting this exciting grand opening all year long!

We are proud to announce that the Eastern Market Brewing Company will have their Grand Opening kickoff party at 6pm on Friday, October 20th, 2017.

Exclusive Preview: Detroit’s new EASTERN MARKET BREWING COMPANY! An extremely collaborative group of visionaries are injecting new life into Eastern Market by bringing people together through beer!


Some highlights include:

  • Amazing building and staff!
  • GREAT BEER, especially their signature favorite Market Day IPA 
  • Elephant Shack foodtruck outside
  • They can actually can beers for you to take home with the Michigan-made Oktober Designs Mk16 Can Seamer!


Detroit’s Eastern Market Brewing Company!

Also, be sure to walk down the street and check out the new home of Henry the Hatter (2472 Riopelle, Detroit).

And if you go to the annual Detroit Fall Beer Festival at Eastern Market Shed 5 later this month, definitely make sure you walk down to Eastern Market Brewing Company!

Congrats to the crew at Eastern Market Brewing Company! Come join us for an amazing grand opening!

Friday, October 20th, 2017


Eastern Market Brewing Company

2515 Riopelle Street

Detroit, MI 48207

Exclusive Preview: Detroit’s new EASTERN MARKET BREWING COMPANY! An extremely collaborative group of visionaries are injecting new life into Eastern Market by bringing people together through beer!


EMBC Homepage


















Danny Jacobs graphic designer