Bravely introducing retail projects to economically-challenged downtown Detroit, Joe Posch does it with style, most recently adding Hugh to his roster of successful ventures. The eastern Michigan native started with his design store Mezzanine and Hugh, conceptualized as a "retail happening" rather than a pop-up, marks his latest.
Offering masculine home, decorative and personal accessories with a swinging twist, Posch carefully curates the mixture of vintage and contemporary wares to reflect that hard-to-come-by but perpetually fashionable period of '60s high style. The interior, modeled after a chic bachelor pad, is replete with a vintage Cado wall system secured from the DIA (Detroit Institute of the Arts) board room post-Michael Graves renovation.
We took a moment to chat with Posch about short-term retail, a few of his favorite items and the creative spirit of Detroit.
Let's start with the obvious. Why would anyone open a pop-up shop—I mean, retail happening—in Detroit, the city hardest hit by this economic crisis?
There are two parts to that. The first is a refrain you'll hear often—there is plenty of space available here, and it is not that expensive. It's easy to get in and do something for fun or excitement here because of the minimal exposure.
But the flip side of that is people are the same here as they are in New York—you need to work hard to capture their attention, particularly as an independent retailer. And I've found one good way to do that is to threaten to take something away before they get a chance to see it.
How'd did you settle on the theme for Hugh?
I have been obsessed with the "high end" style of the '60s and '70s for some time, the stuff that gets overlooked in favor of dippy hippy or cheesy disco style in surveys of the period. My personal taste runs very much to a conservative classic modern and I wanted to find a way to mix that up and make it a little more accessible to the kind of guys I know—guys who will choose something well-designed if it is cool and the right price point.
So you're not just jumping on the Mad Men bandwagon?
You know, I have actually never seen Mad Men. I don't have TV. But if it helps people understand where this is coming from, then fantastic! If there is any bandwagon I'm jumping on it's the "Playboy After Dark" bandwagon.
Interview continues with more great items after the jump.
What's your current favorite item in the shop?
There are so many types of things, it's hard to single one thing out. I love the vintage Red Wing horse ashtray [$75]. It's from the 1950s and it's the real deal in terms of "menagerie" design. The library journals [$15 each] are also fantastic—useful and they look cool and smart and also made of repurposed items and handmade.
It's no secret that Detroit has suffered considerably in the past half-century, and yet it continues to both foster pioneers and harbor cultural emissaries such as yourself. Why do you think this is so and how do you think the city might regain its rightful place as a center of creative energy?
The creativity that emerges from Detroit currently is due in part, I think, to the state of the city after this long decline. There is an atmosphere where individual ideas matter and can be realized. At the same time everyone is connected, if not by acquaintance then certainly by the feeling that we are all in this together, and that makes it an incredibly nurturing environment.
Detroit is also, clearly, the red-headed stepchild of America's industrial cities, and it is going to take a lot for it to move out of the punchline status it's maintained for… well my whole life really. And that's the key—we need the country to see past the joke and get to know the city a little better. And admittedly, it takes time to psychologically get past the blight that you see in parts (but not all!) of the city.
But European visitors fall in love with Detroit and the great energy here—what are they seeing that Americans aren't? I think they don't compare Detroit to other American cities and see the shortcomings. I think the key is looking at what makes Detroit different from other cities.
Through 15 March 2010
2233 Park Avenue
Detroit, MI 48201 map
Tel +1 313 877 0900
Email hugh [at] thankhugh [dot] com
Left: Vintage "Aristocrat" decanter by Holmegaard of Denmark circa 1950s, $115.
Left: Vintage 1960s & 1970s Playboys, $7 each. Right: Inspector Gadget, $12.
Blank Greeting Cards by Offensive + Delightful, $3.75 each.
Kitchen Hammer (for ice, nuts, shellfish, etc.) by Nuance, Denmark, $36.
Titanium Crystal Beer Glasses by Schott Zweisel, Germany, $12-15 each.