My On the Ground Farmington story about the Village Shoe Inn

Businesses come and go, but in downtown Farmington, a handful of merchants have weathered decades of economic and technological shifts, establishing themselves as tried-and-true anchors of this vibrant, small-town community.

To celebrate these beloved local institutions, Metromode’s On the Ground Farmington project has been publishing a Fixtures of Farmington series, whereby we shine a spotlight on these businesses’ owners; chronicle each venture’s origin story; and gather insights on how and why these businesses, after so many years, continue to thrive.

In the 1970s, Farmington’s Village Shoe Inn was the third of about a half-dozen stores by that name that opened the metro Detroit area, and now it’s one of three that remain. (The other two are in Eastpointe, where its office is also based, and Rochester.) Why does owner Chuck Thibault think the Farmington location is still open for business, after almost 50 years?
Photo by David Lewinski.

“It’s centrally located, there are lots of residential, and it’s just a beautiful area,” says Thibault. “And there’s a lot of traffic on Grand River, so we’re seen by people.”

When VSI first moved into its building – which had, at one time, been a car dealership – it shared the space with four other small stores. Then, 25 years ago, VSI bought the building outright and expanded to fill the whole space.

How did the Thibault family get into shoes?

“My mother, for some reason, was fixated on shoes,” says Thibault. “She likes to tell this story about how, when she was growing up in East Detroit, a girl in her class was supposed to hold the button on the drinking fountain for her for a count of ten seconds. She stopped at two, and my mom said, ‘Mary Lou, why’d you stop at two?’ and the girl said, ‘Because you’re wearing your brother’s shoes.’ They weren’t well off, so my mom wore a lot of hand-me-downs.”

When Chuck was in high school, his mother, Marianne Thibault, worked at B. Siegel, a Detroit department store, and learned as much as she could while plotting to open a shoe store. “She went to St. Louis and brought back the inventory for her first store in a suitcase,” said Thibault. “ … On the flight back, she was talking to the guy next to her. She explained that she was starting a shoe store, and he started telling her about how many businesses fail. She came home crying, telling my dad, ‘I just spent all of your money!’ … But that guy didn’t know who he was talking to. … My mom is someone who can’t be stopped, no matter what she’s doing. She’s got a ton of drive.”

Chuck Thibault tried a few different jobs, “but I always came back to this. In high school, I’d get up and help out at the store. In college, I was there. So at one point, I just never left. I was getting married, and then we had four kids in five years, so then it became a matter of, I better make this work.” READ THE REST HERE


REVIEW: The Clubhouse Theatre’s ‘Topdog/Underdog’ explores highly charged sibling rivalry

Screen Shot 2018-12-19 at 12.12.55 AM.pngSibling relationships are often fraught and complicated.

And in case the holidays aren’t doing quite enough to remind you of this fact, you could also see The Clubhouse Theatre’s gripping production of Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play,“Topdog/Underdog.”

The two-hander focuses on two brothers, pointedly named Booth (Nigel Tutt) and Lincoln (Brian Marable, also the show’s director). Their father reportedly cooked up these names as a joke, but Link, at the play’s start, holds a (surreal) job that requires him to impersonate his Presidential namesake, wearing whiteface, an artificial beard, and a stovepipe hat as arcade patrons shoot blanks at him. Booth, meanwhile, shoplifts everything he can get his hands on; pursues a local hottie named Grace; lets Link temporarily move in after his marriage falls apart; and longs to become the Three Card Monte master Link had once been, before his “right hand man” was killed and he left the con behind.

Link refuses to share his card secrets with Booth, though, and when Link loses his job, the two end up in a tense, winner-takes-all game that will forever alter their lives. Continue reading

My WDET segment w/ Jerome Vaughn: Farmington Residents Seek Sense of Community

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 1.59.40 PM.pngFrom WDET’s website: Farmington residents now have the opportunity to get more localized news.  Metromode is reporting on the city as part of its “On The Ground” project.  The website focuses on suburban communities around Metro Detroit.

Jenn McKee is the editor of the Farmington project.  She says the idea is to give more people insight into the community.

It’s an attempt to focus locally on the town itself,” says McKee, “to give not only the people who live there a stronger sense of the town’s identity.”

It’s kind of an eclectic, kind of interesting, quirky, little downtown.”

McKee both lives and works in Farmington.  That’s one of the reasons she decided to take the opportunity to write about her city. (CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO GO TO WDET’S PAGE AND HEAR THE FULL, 6 MINUTE SEGMENT.)

Farmington Residents Seek Sense of Community

My Metromode On the Ground story about 6 places to find holiday gifts in downtown Farmington

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 1.44.21 PM’Tis the season for finding unique gifts, and downtown Farmington happens to be chock full of places to find them – whether the folks on your list are young skater types, budding (or practicing) musicians, foodies, cosmopolitans, or, well, “flower people.”

So if you’re scrambling to find last-minute Hanukkah gifts, or wrapping up your Christmas shopping, consider parking your car at the Downtown Farmington Center and exploring these fun options on foot. READ THE REST HERE