By Dan Nielsen
The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Shawn Santo and her husband, Kevin Borsay, launched Pure Detroit in 1998 with the goal of celebrating Detroit’s local culture. Since that time the company which sells merchandise made in Michigan has expanded to four locations.
Local culture is the driving force behind the new Enjoy Michigan shop at 118 S. Union St.
Shawn Santo and her husband, Kevin Borsay, launched Pure Detroit in 1998 with the goal of celebrating Detroit’s local culture.
“We started in an old building in an old cigar shop,” said Ryan Hooper, creative director for Pure Detroit.
Nearly two decades later, the two entrepreneurs employ 15 people in four shops in Detroit, two people in Northport and two people in Traverse City. The couple opened their Northport location, branded as Enjoy Michigan, on July 4 last year. On Friday it opened the doors to a new Traverse City location. The couple felt a bit more financially comfortable opening the Traverse City store than they did when they launched their first Detroit location 18 years ago.
“Opening before, with 14 shirts … this is really luxurious,” Santo said, comparing the two opening days.
Shirts are the mainstay of the four Detroit shops and of both Enjoy Michigan shops. Santo said she and her husband take pains to offer top-quality T-shirts and sweatshirts that express local pride.
The walls of the Traverse City shop are covered with garments. Shelves are piled high with merchandise including pillows, beard balm, jewelry, stickers, wood drink coasters and handmade wooden canoe paddles. Everything the shops sell is made in Michigan, Santo said.
“In Detroit, we tend to be the place where locals go,” she said.
“We’re a culture shop,” Hooper said. “We celebrate cultural items that make up a city. We think it’s critical to be in brick-and-mortar. It was critical for us to be in a community — not just online.”
The four Detroit shops were performing solidly after 17 years in business, so Santo and Borsay last year began thinking about expansion.
“We’ve never really ventured out of Detroit,” Santo said.
That changed in 2015.
“We found ourselves in Northport last year,” Hooper said. “We saw a building and signed a lease the same day.”
The Northport store, 104 W. Nagonaba St., opened just three weeks later. Sales there have been solid. It opened on weekends — at least on Saturdays — through most of the winter. Santo said the Traverse City store could well maintain nearly full-time hours all year round. Both shops now are operating on long summer hours.
Last Friday, Santo was in Traverse City to put the finishing touches on the shop. Her sister, Mel Nabozny, worked beside her stocking shelves and hanging decorations. Santo said she and Borsay will take turns staying in the area this summer to oversee operations at the two area stores. They held a soft opening on Friday in Traverse City.
“We were quiet about it,” Santo said. “It was such a new world for us.”
She and Borsay want to make their shop on Union Street a local mainstay. They plan to plant a flower garden in the strip of dirt between the shop and the alley. They are confident the foot traffic on Union will get them off to a solid start.