Located in The Ashley building in downtown Detroit, a hip hop-inspired doughnut shop Dilla's Delights debuted Tuesday. The opening was not only news for Detroiters but national news. Once again, owner Herman Hayes — uncle to the late, great hip hop music producer J Dilla — was drawn into the spotlight. Hayes, known to his friends as Uncle Herm, has worked in the baking and doughnut business for years. When Dilla was a child his uncle would bring him doughnuts as a special treat. Later on, Dilla would name his final album Donuts, something Hayes considers a great honor.
Hayes began developing the doughnut concept several years ago, taking skills and principles he learned at local Detroit bakery Avalon International Breads and applying them to his craft. His line of doughnuts is playful mixture of flavors that utilizes high-quality organic ingredients and has become a particular favorite around the city. With the brick-and-mortar shop, Hayes has said he hopes to not only pay tribute to Dilla but also to create a lasting source of income and security for his nephew's two teenage daughters. The name of the shop, in fact, is a reference not just to the fried pastries but also to Dilla's children. "They deserve to have a part of his legacy," he told Eater last July.
Hayes, a disabled veteran, spent several years raising the funds for his doughnut shop, while working nights frying up batches of his treats for delivery to vendors throughout the city. His partner Mike Vanover was also instrumental in helping Hayes develop the final concept and build-out the space. Designer Brian Dubois assisted in the manufacture of special lighting and custom counters.
At its heart, Dilla's Delights is a simple counter setup. There's no in-house fryer, no chairs. However, each decoration holds significance to the owners. Photos of old Detroit, portraits and posters of Dilla, and a model of one of Detroit's historically black east side neighborhoods Paradise Valley hang on the walls. Photographers Chris and Michelle Gerard visited the shop during its first week of operation. Explore the space in the images below.