A crush of reporters and photographers crowded around retail rock star John Varvatos Thursday, March 12, during media day at his brand-new downtown Detroit store. Varvatos was joined by Dan Gilbert, founding partner of Bedrock Real Estate Services, Dan Mullen, Bedrock’s vice president of leasing and development, and Nate Forbes, managing partner of the Forbes Company (which owns Somerset Collection), to greet members of the media and celebrate the return of upscale retail to Woodward Avenue. The store is located at 1500 Woodward Avenue in an 1891 brownstone, which has been impressively restored with a rock ’n’ roll edge and attention to every last detail.
“This is the beginning of what we hope will become an incredible shopping district for at least several blocks around,” Gilbert said. “It’s very, very exciting.”
Varvatos, a Detroit native, spent the day on a whirlwind media tour, visiting local television stations, chatting with Detroit radio personalities and driving back to some of his favorite childhood spots with a reporter from the New York Times. Along the way, he talked about why this homecoming is so meaningful and why his first Midwest store is so close to his heart.
“This is an unbelievably exciting day,” he told reporters. “To walk up Woodward Avenue and see your name on a store – it’s been a dream since I formed my company in 2000.”
Varvatos, known for his edgy leather jackets, boots, belts and ultra-soft T-shirts and scarves, has 21 stores across the globe. He is famous for dressing rock stars and stylish men everywhere. The store itself makes a striking statement. The exterior features cast-iron columns, black-leaded glass, and a half-round marquee made of metal and glass that reads “John Varvatos” in simple white lettering. Inside, a dramatic black-jeweled chandelier made from about two dozen smaller ones hangs above the entranceway. The two-story, 4,600-square-foot space also features a large stage for concerts and a lounge-style seating area where visitors can listen to vinyl records. Fender guitars adorn the walls, and vintage music memorabilia and artwork is displayed everywhere surrounding the spring 2015 menswear collection.
“The arrival of John Varvatos in Detroit signals the start of a new era of exciting downtown retail,” Gilbert told the crowd. “Varvatos has an unwavering passion for his hometown, but his decision to open his first Midwest location in Detroit is also a significant business endorsement – one that illustrates the confidence that nationally-acclaimed specialty retailers have in the city’s future.”
No Place Like Home
Varvatos grew up in Allen Park and attended Allen Park High School. He once worked at a Chrysler Plant before starting his fashion career at Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. He has stores in New York City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, London, Bangkok, Germany and now downtown Detroit. The Woodward Avenue store officially opens to the public at 11:00 a.m. on Friday the 13, which also happens to be 3/13 – or “313 Detroit day” – a day people celebrate and express love for the city.
“There’s something very special going on. I’ve been following it,” Varvatos said about his hometown. “I see the energy and sense the energy.”
He hopes other retailers will follow his lead and open up shop in downtown Detroit. Just above the new store, the Wright & Company restaurant is known for its trendy small plates and craft cocktails, a perfect compliment to its new downstairs neighbor. Since opening last summer, it has become a wildly successful hotspot.
Following his day with the media, Varvatos cheered on the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, where he sported a customized “Varvatos” Red Wings jersey and addressed the crowd with excitement. A #JVDetroit promotional video played up on the scoreboard, and a row of lucky fans received limited-edition Varvatos T-shirts. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day of new beginnings.
“It’s with honor, passion and pride that I open my newest store in my hometown of Detroit,” said John. “This is a dream come true.”
John Varvatos Detroit is located at 1500 Woodward Avenue. Hours are Monday – Saturday, 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., and Sunday, 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. For more information, visit www.JohnVarvatos.com. Share your thoughts and photos of Detroit’s newest retail destination on social media using the hashtag #JVDetroit.