When stepping into Hugh, a design shop in burgeoning Midtown Detroit, a slew of objects vie for your attention—the vintage Kalmar bar tools on a shelf laden with Tapio Wirkkala glassware, the George Nelson Bubble lamps overhead, and the library of books ranging from a monograph on Saul Bass to a tome on surfing at Echo Beach, to name a few.
Posch earned his retail stripes at Mezzanine, a shop he opened in the late 1990s in Ann Arbor. Mezzanine initially offered vintage goods and then moved to new pieces from Knoll, Herman Miller, and Modernica. Posch then relocated to Detroit in 2006. After the economy nosedived and the demand for high-end furniture waned, Posch dabbled in pop-up shops, a strategy he advocates for enterprising small businesses interested in operating in cities that face similar challenges as Detroit. "If your city has areas that are emerging but untested for retail, consider trying things out as a pop-up, if you can," he says. "Locate near friends or other people who are doing similar businesses. When it comes to community retail, two stores don't split the pot, they double it."
Hugh first began as a pop-up in 2009 and became the brick-and-mortar shop it is today after Posch won the first-ever Hatch Detroit Prize. One of the handful of initiatives and organizations that seek to advance local businesses and entrepreneurs in the city—such as Culture Lab Detroit and the Detroit Creative Corridor Center—Hatch awards grants to spur local redevelopment.
"There are many areas ripe for resurgence in the city and neighborhood businesses are the core elements in making these places great," Posch says. "Hatch Detroit does an amazing job promoting that ethos. Like most people who grew up here, moved away and then came back, I have a complicated relationship with the city, but the older I got the more I realized that's what I like about it. I have roots here. Aside from that, people here are very open and friendly and it was easy to make new friends. Those things, combined with the low barrier to entry and the boot-strappiness of the small biz community, are what drew me back to Detroit ten years ago and what make me want to stay today."
Next up for Posch: an online shop specializing in rare and vintage design books.
Founder: Joe Posch
Opening Date: First as a pop-up in 2009 then as a permanent storefront in 2011
Address: 4240 Cass Avenue in Midtown Detroit
What It's All About: Hugh is a lifestyle and design store inspired by midcentury bachelor-pad style. Find new and vintage barware, personal accessories, grooming implements, books, gifts, home decor, furniture and lighting—all with a classic masculine vibe—within the shop.
Philosophy: "Have the right tool for the job, don't scrimp on details and at the end of the day it's all about making a good impression," Posch says.
First Piece Sold: "In this permanent location the first thing we sold was a big stack of postcards from our postcard rack," Posch says. "The coolest thing we sold our first day was a pretty glam vintage swivel-top ice bucket designed by Charles Hollis Jones."
Weirdest Question From a Customer: "Whenever a news item appears about the store in the local press and the fact we sell vintage Playboy magazines is mentioned, we always get a handful of phone calls from people wanting to unload their late uncle's collection," Posch says. "But one caller wanted to know if we were interested in a full run of 1970s and 1980s High Society magazines. I had to explain that we really do read Playboy for the articles."
Local Recommendations: "La Feria, the winner of Hatch Detroit the year after Hugh, is a wonderful authentic Spanish tapas restaurant just down the street," Posch says. "Nora is a design-oriented housewares and gift store just next to Hugh and it is absolutely lovely. Blue Pointe restaurant in the city's East English Village neighborhood is old school and the perfect place for a steak and a martini. And on nights when there is no Tigers game the bars along Park Avenue downtown are great fun: a cocktail at Centaur, a beer and a shot at the Park Bar, or live jazz music at Cliff Bell's—featuring one of the best rooms in the city. Come to Detroit, you'll be glad you did."