Despite all evidence to the contrary, I haven’t abandoned designtripper. I’ve been incredibly busy doing other things, not entirely unrelated. For starters, Gold Cash Gold, which is on the same block as Honor & Folly, is a project many years and many people in the making, and it finally opened its doors last month. About six years ago, back when the only businesses on the block were Slows and LJs (our beloved neighborhood dive bar), the giant pawn shop on the corner went up for sale. The three-story, 9,000-square-foot behemoth was listed for $150,000 — a fraction of what you’d pay for a windowless, one-room studio in most major cities. Yet It sat there, empty and foreboding, an oversized example of how there wasn’t exactly a crush of folks clamoring to open businesses in Detroit. Let’s say the real estate market was lagging; I believe this was right around the time of the rise of the $100 house sensation. It was before this piece about the block came out in Food & Wine (at the bottom of the page, you can see how photographer Marcus Nilsson captured the building three years ago), before Honor & Folly was even a seed of an idea. Rumors began circulating that someone wanted to buy it and open another pawn shop. We already had issues with stolen cars, stolen tools, stolen everything, and the last thing anyone wanted was another incentive for stealing. So a handful of friends, my husband and I included, decided to pitch in what we could to secure the building until we could afford to contribute to the neighborhood in a meaningful way. Fast forward four years.
I’m not going to rattle on too much about the food (other than to tell you to order the pickle-brined fried chicken with dipping gravy and the buttermilk pie), because I wouldn’t do it justice. Our chef and partner, Josh Stockton, who spent time learning his trade all over the world, including a head butchery stint at Blackberry Farms, is a talented and humble genius who focuses on whole beast cooking, pickling and preserving, and making the kind of simple, delicious food inspired by the countryside “whether that countryside is in France or Tennessee.”
But the actual physical space, that’s my language. I helped out with the design (in limited, chirpy ways), while fellow co-owner Phil Cooley and Kaija Woullet of Lavvu Studios did the real work. A natural palette of whitewashed brick and wood, the interior gets its color from stained glass windows and colorful jars of pickled vegetables, both refracting light throughout the dining room by day, glowing by night. There are so many stories layered into the design, beyond the most obvious of repainting the original words from the building’s former life as a pawn shop–rifles, diamonds, art, coins–which is where we pulled the name, Gold Cash Gold. There’s also an old gymnasium floor with a giant eagle rescued from an abandoned elementary school; a wall of canned and pickled vegetables, many grown at our neighborhood urban farm, ACRE; and my favorite, the stained glass installations inspired by all the colorful, mismatched windows of the city. Phil is a big believer in recycling and reusing, and he did an amazing job sourcing salvaged wood (the tables, the benches, the shelves, the ceiling) and pushing to incorporate the old metal panels covered with hand-painted pawn shop signage, now serving as bathroom doors. Looking forward to spring, when the outdoor patio and take-away window will open — and maybe even another Honor & Folly upstairs.
[All photos by Emily Berger]