A Mighty Mini Market

Old-fashioned corner store concept thrives in a West Village neighborhood
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Even with its newly added space, Parker Street Market surely qualifies as Detroit’s smallest food shop. The storefront at 1814 Parker St., just around the corner from Kercheval Avenue in West Village, now includes the 1816 address. Proprietor David Kirby broke through the neighboring wall and added beer and wine to the array of products in the store.

All told, Parker Street is smaller than a studio apartment, but its stock of rustic breads, jams, hot sauces, bagels, honey, and pies — all artfully displayed in wooden crates and on shelves and in refrigerated cases picked up on eBay — offers plenty of options. Kirby estimates that his mini-market stocks no less than 90 made-in-Detroit products, and the majority of the products are made in Michigan.

Considering that the market’s original 775-square-foot space opened less than a year ago, that’s moving pretty fast. But that seems to be the modus operandi of the grass-roots entrepreneur who pulled up stakes in Brooklyn and moved to Detroit in October of 2013 after meeting Detroiter Caitlin James three months earlier. The pair became a couple after only three dates, but Kirby says it really didn’t even take that long to know James was his soul mate.

“It was love at first sight,” he says when he met her at Shinola, where James and her sisters operated their raw juice company, Drought, at the time. (Drought has since moved to the Willys Detroit building on Canfield Street, with outposts in Plymouth, Royal Oak, and Birmingham). Kirby, working for Shinola in Brooklyn, had come to the Detroit store on company business.

Brooklyn was soon in his rearview mirror. Kirby took a job as a waiter at Craft Work to make ends meet. The couple spotted a for-rent sign on the building on Parker Street and opened the market in April 2014, doing the renovation work themselves.

Anyone searching for local products will find some of the better-known names, like McClure’s Pickles and Bloody Mary mixes, Detroit Institute of Bagels, and Zingerman’s breads on display. But there are plenty of obscure ones too, like Go Forever energy bars produced in Birmingham, kale chips from Charma’s Living Kitchen in Holt, spelt flour from the farm country of Hudson, Mich., and coffee from Red House Imports in Detroit’s Woodbridge neighborhood — which brings in shade-grown beans from an organic co-op of 24 family farms in Costa Rica.

As tiny as it is, Parker Street is a shopping mall for dedicated locavores, reminiscent of the old-fashioned corner store where the shopkeeper is friendly and involved with his customers.

Kirby professes not to miss Brooklyn at all, calling his new neighborhood “more magical.”

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