The Newmans’ story represents the larger spirit of can-do entrepreneurialism that, over the past decade and a half, has begun to breathe new life into pockets of notoriously depressed Detroit. Urban farms and community gardens are one outgrowth of this energy, and local businesses — especially food businesses, like the pioneering Avalon International Breads, which opened in 1997, and the brand-new Astro Coffee in Corktown — are another. “Even in the time since I moved here, I’ve noticed a big influx of new places,” Ben Newman said.
Meanwhile, Detroit’s Jewish life has enjoyed a parallel uptick, as young Jews — many of whom, like the Newmans, grew up in the suburbs and then moved away — have begun to relocate to the city in unprecedented numbers. Moishe House, a network of communal Jewish houses set in urban areas, launched a space in Detroit this past summer. Meanwhile, the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue has transitioned its identity from the city’s last and barely surviving synagogue to a newly renovated, emerging hub of Jewish life and activity. On the Jewish foods front, Suddenly Sauer, an artisanal pickle company run by fellow suburb-to-city transplant Blair Nosan, joins the Detroit Institute of Bagels. And Avalon sells braided challah on Fridays in honor of co-owner Jackie Victor’s Jewish heritage.
In that passage are many of the themes threading through my blog. I see Rust Belt Chic. I also notice the dominant migration pattern. Rust Belt suburbanites move away, usually ending up in a global city. The urban experience makes a positive impression. When the economic refugees return to the homeland, they settle in the sparsely populated urban core.
Janko (i will shout youngstown) gets credit for finding this Wall Street Journal article about return migration to Scranton, PA. Scranton is the archetype of how brain drain is saving the Rust Belt. The return migrants bring back their Big City experience with them. If you need that authentic bagel fix that you developed in New York or Chicago, then you better make them yourself. That's why you can find Little Brooklyn in Detroit. It's the repat ghetto, the part of the shrinking city that is growing and getting younger.