Thanks. I hope these people can turn the neighborhood around, but I don't see how opening a tattoo parlor returns the place to "Chinatown." I'm not saying he has to, but I just don't think he's being straight forward. Its like the way he is kicking out the Showcase Collectible owners with just 30 days notice.
Curio shop in old Chinatown forced to move out
Building one of two purchased in historic Cass Corridor area
BY LOUIS AGUILAR The Detroit News
Detroit — On Friday afternoon, the founders of Showcase Collectible in the Cass Corridor received an official 30-day notice to vacate their charming retail space, ending a decades-long run for the business. It’s also the latest chapter in the rapid gentrification of the gritty neighborhood.
Two separate buyers have bought the two buildings on the western corner of Cass Avenue and Peterboro Street. The corner was once the heart of the city’s small, long-gone Chinatown. The building that housed Showcase Collectible, a vintage and curio shop, was bought by someone who vows to return the 8,000-plus-square-foot building to its glory.
“I’m going to renovate it and restore it to the Chinatown era,” said new owner Matt Hessler, a Detroit resident who owns a tattoo shop in Rochester. “I’m really happy to have a business in Detroit.” The first step is opening a tattoo shop in one section of the building, the corner storefront once housing the retailer Mantra.
The other purchased building was the home of Chung’s restaurant. It was bought by Midtown Inc., the influential nonprofit that steers much development in the Midtown area. “We don’t know our plans for it yet,” said Sue Mosey, president of Midtown Inc.
The roots of Detroit’s Chinatown began near Third Avenue and Porter Street in 1872, according to the Detroit Historical Museum. A wave of immigrants led by five Chinese families opened restaurants, grocery stores and a Chinese school between 1910 and the late1950s. In1963, Chinatown was forcibly relocated to Cass and Peterboro as part of a city-wide housing demolition project. The neighborhood experienced some success before political and social changes led to its demise in 1987.
Cass Corridor has been on the decline for years, marked by dens of prostitution and crack, and pock-marked with junk-strewn patches of land. But the area has seen a flurry of property deals since last year’s announcement of the planned 45-block entertainment district. That district will be anchored by a new home for the Detroit Red Wings and is expected to spark $200 million in other development. Already there is a stream of sales for properties that have gone unwanted for years. The old Chinatown area is one block beyond the northern border of the entertainment district.
Hessler said it was “heartbreaking” he had to give Showcase Collectible just 30 days to leave the building.
“I really have a lot of respect for those guys,” Hessler said, referring to founders Gary Frundel and Patrick McNames.
“I’m taking on a lot of debt to restore the property, and I’m hoping to start renovations as soon as I can, and I can’t charge dirt-cheap rent to pay for it,” he said. Hessler said also in order to qualify for certain tax breaks, he’s been legally advised the building has to be vacant.
Showcase pays $550 a month in rent, a price that hasn’t changed since the store opened in 1999. Frundel and McNames ran other Cass Corridor shops that date back even longer, including the former Bird Town pet shop.
Showcase has nine different vendors who operate in the quaint, well-kept retail space. “It’s going to be impossible to move everything in time,” McNames said. On Friday afternoon, several long-time customers gathered, drank a few beers and swapped stories of the shop. They talked of the chickens kept by Frundel and McNames on the side of the store. They talked of the time the actress Eva Mendes became a frequent customer as she filmed nearby.
“She would just sit right there on the floor in her cashmere coat and buy the most interesting things,” McNames said. “I think she loved it here because we treated her just like anyone else.”
Both men said they knew they eventually had to leave. “We don’t want to stop progress. Everyone wants to see the neighborhood get more development,” Frundel said. “But we didn’t want to be kicked out on the street, either, in the dead of winter.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel Mears / The Detroit News
From left, Showcase Collectibles co-founders Patrick McNames and Gary Frundel discuss the store’s notice to vacate Friday with Karen Becoskey, Bruce Foster and Larry Dion.
Daniel Mears / The Detroit News
An old Chinatown sign marks the street between the former Chung’s restaurant and Showcase Collectibles in Detroit’s Cass Corridor.
I lived at 443 Peterboro when Chung's was built. Chung's backed up to the alley and then the first house across the alley was an Asian family and we lived next door to them. I lived there to around 1974.
One thing that could improve that area is the removal of those inner trees and their encasements. That extra space could be used for outdoor seating for restaurants. What were city planners thinking back then? Compared to the way they think today, it's a different world.
Yeah, those potters became perfect hangouts for prostitutes and drug dealers, in addition to removing all the free parking we used to have.
Hey FWrudedog, the red Victorian that was just beyond the alley used to be owned by some famous politician. Do you remember who it was? Was it the Mayor?
My Grandfather ate there all the time. He sold men's clothing at Crowley's and knew all the wait staff. They called him Chuck (as a little kid I was very impressed that he was so famous). Every other Sunday my Mom made us pot roast, his favorite meal (he was an Iowa farm boy), and as payment he'd take all of us to Chung's on the other Sundays. I remember the almond chicken and those huge almond cookies under the glass counter by the cash register. I cried the last time we came to home for a visit and showed my little girl where her parents had one of their first dates, and where her grand and great-grand parents all ate together.
My parents used to take my sister and me to Chung’s restaurant in downtown Detroit in the early 1940’s. My sister remembers the place quite well and describes it as follows: 2 rooms, big deep sink in the rear of the back room on left, door to kitchen on the right, round tables, wire back chairs, bare wood floors, pressed metal ceiling, parking on the left, metal on the outside. What I remember is the battered deep fried shrimp with dipping sauce. I loved that shrimp and have had nothing like it since. How I wish I knew how to make that shrimp.
Threads like this is the reason I love detroityes.com! Thanks everyone!
Thanks for the memories, Jaykay. I wish I had a picture, but that was pretty close.
Ate there many times when coleman young was there Coleman had the no parking signs removed from the front of Chungs unfortunately I watched a neighbor in Brush Park steal the CHUNGS Sign
I have the light fixtures from Chungs I purchased when they closed some were in the recent historical museum exhibit It was sad the museum ignored the 80's chinese gambling busts by the feds all over the country and as their major income caused the failure of many chinese restaurants told to me by former owner now decease
are you talking about the little lanterns that hung above the booths? Or the big lanterns that hung in the middle of the dining room floor?
remember Chung's also Jade Palace on Third And Bagley, south of Michigan , China Town
Here are those menu pics I promised ages ago.
Dinner for six- $17.35? WOW.
Talk about a bygone era. Hell, it costs that much for one entree now at swankier places... not that Chung's wasn't swanky.
Wow, thanks. Don't ever throw those away. If you do, I'll buy them from you! Those were before my time as I don't recognize the designs.
The real Detroit (area) Chinatown (and Vietnamtown) lies now along John R and Dequindre between 12 and 14 Mile. Chung, if you want to find a really good Chinese bakery, there is one halfway between 13 and 14 Mile along John R.
First menus, now a placemat
I used to go there when I worked at the DMC in the 80s. Great old school Chinese food.
Thanks Smogboy for posting that menu. Just looking at it I can hear my father now, hungry and ordering too much food ("let's see, egg rolls, egg foo yung, subgum chow mein, almond chicken, beef with peapods, and hey, how about some shrimp, kids?") while my mother tries, in vain, to slow him down.
Thanks for keeping this thread alive. I was recently contacted by a reporter in China who wants to do an article on Detroit, including the local Chinese American community. She's going to talk about our restaurant!