Nearly two years ago, Detroit's organic doughnut crew, Dilla's Delights, signed the lease corner suite in The Ashley with plans to open a brick-and-mortar shop. Today, the space is making some small headway as painting and electrical work inches along in the building. Herman Hayes (aka Uncle Herm), the shop's founder and uncle of the late influential hip-hop artist J Dilla, tells Eater he and partner Mike Vanover are finally ready to move forward with the shop.
The retail-only space will offer Dilla's Delight's full selection of fried treats, as well as espresso drinks and merchandise from a white counter. Seating in the 800-square-foot space will be minimal, but will include booths near the windows. For Hayes, choosing The Ashley (formerly the Milner Hotel) location was a "spiritual" decision. Dilla's mother had a restaurant in the Milner, he explains. "They actually lived in one of the rooms." Before the building was gutted and remodeled, Hayes was able to save some pieces of the Milner including door knockers and room numbers. He plans to incorporate them into the flagship retail shop's design alongside other memorabilia.
Hayes takes great pride in his nephew's legacy and recalls bringing Dilla donuts as a toddler. Later, when he was informed that Dilla was naming his final album Donuts, Hayes he felt honored. "For the kid to be such a genius and a humble human being it humbles me to actually be somebody that he looked up to."
Dilla's Delights is by no means a big operation; Hayes, who works for Avalon International Breads, says he only produces between six and seven dozen doughnuts per day. However, the company is already planning to expand its production and presence. Dilla's first mobile cart made its debut outing at opening of artist Robert Sestok's Cass Corridor sculpture park, complete with lights and a sound system. Once the build-out is underway at The Ashley, Hayes would like to begin serving doughnuts near the building. Hayes and his partner are also planning a commercial kitchen space near Eastern Market. While Vanover only recently secured a building through a land auction and the back wall already features the shop's icon in an enormous mural.
After Dilla's passing, his mother and daughters struggled to gain access to the royalties from his estate. By building Dilla's Delights, Hayes says he wants to create a lasting source of income and opportunity that he can pass on to his nephew's teenage daughters. "They deserve to have a part of his legacy and if the music is eluding them, [and], until they can get a grasp on that or create their own music, I feel like they should have this."
Dilla's Delights brick-and-mortar location is expected to open sometime this fall. In the meantime, check them out at Alley Taco, Rubbed, Red Hook Detroit, Café Con Leche, and Goodwells.