As of last month, fast-expanding gourmet burger giant Shake Shack is dropping its first Michigan location in downtown Detroit next year. The company is even starting to search for key staff members, posting an ad for a management position to Craigslist last week. Now, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, the "anti-chain" chain’s CEO Randy Garutti uses some very familiar chain-y rhetoric (and some incumbent back-patting flattery of one Quicken founder) in a chat about the new Campus Martius-adjacent project.
That's a big deal because of the renaissance of Detroit. We've been talking to Dan Gilbert who basically owns downtown Detroit, and has been the key rejuvenator of the whole thing. We are going to be right smack on Woodward Avenue, near Campus Martius Park, in a great community gathering spot. And if you think back to the history of Shake Shack, it all started in a park, and now, here we are.
So we want to keep doing those, and especially in a place like Detroit. We feel like it's so important to that city to give it another place for people to gather in a safe place downtown with a great price point that everybody can afford. So that's going to be huge. We see ourselves as part of urban renewal when we can.
Frankly, the remarks aren’t particularly surprising. Companies are, after all, designed to make money and opening up shop in Detroit has become a rather lucrative PR move for companies (though not always a silver bullet). It’s part of the reason why chains like Applebee’s, Calexico, Wahlburgers, and Nike, have parked locations in the city in recent years (and for better or worse Bedrock deserves quite a bit of the credit for it).
Maybe we're reading too much into this, but the suggestion that downtown is in need of more "safe" spaces is pretty absurd. Sure, there are vacancies that should be filled, but as anyone who's actually visited Detroit recently knows the Campus Martius area is already bustling with restaurants and businesses.
As a personal plea from one reporter to businesses everywhere, Detroit needs businesses of all kinds. If you're product is great, all the better. Come on down. But let’s not act like we’re saving the world. It's exhausting.