After four and a half years in downtown Detroit’s Harmonie Park, Dilla’s Delights has officially departed its space in the flat iron section of the Ashley building. Owner Herman Hayes, better known as Uncle Herm, notified fans around the world of the closure in an Instagram Live post on Monday, January 11, but promised to eventually return.
“We don’t quite know which direction we’re going to go in and where we’re going to be, but, hey, we’re working on some things,” Hayes says. Dilla’s Delights has been closed since last March, around the time of the first in-person dining shutdown in Michigan. Several months prior, Hayes had begun a crowdfunding campaign to help keep the shop in business while he recovered from cancer treatments. “We struggle like everybody else,” Hayes says in Monday’s post, referring to the economic and health impact of the pandemic. “The lease was up in February anyway, and it didn’t make sense to open back up for a couple of months [only to close again],” he says.
Hayes is the uncle of the late Detroit hip hop legend J Dilla who died of complications from lupus in 2006. As the story goes, Hayes used to bring his nephew doughnuts as a kid and later was touched to learn that Dilla was naming his final album Donuts. Dilla’s mother at one time operated a restaurant inside the Ashley building, formerly known as the Milner, so the property also had personal significance. Several years prior to opening the storefront, Hayes began developing his organic doughnut recipes using skills learned at Avalon International Breads. The doughnut shop, itself, did not have a kitchen and the dough was fried offsite daily. Hayes told Eater in 2015 that the business was established as a tribute to his nephew and said he wanted to create a lasting source of income and opportunity that he could pass onto Dilla’s daughters.
When the shop finally opened in downtown in 2016, it was an instant hit, attracting national headlines and visitors from around the world. In his message on Monday, Hayes recalled a visitor and fan of J Dilla’s from Rome, Italy, who once made a trip through customs during a four-hour layover at Detroit Metropolitan Airport just to see the shop. Visits like that reinforced the significance of the artist’s legacy.
Hayes isn’t sure where Dilla’s will land next or in what form. “The possibilities are out there,” he says, adding that the art from the shop will be preserved as will the music. “First of all, we’ve got to stay alive.”
• Dilla’s Delights Doughnut Shop Permanently Closed in Detroit, but Owners Are Looking for a New Home [MT]
• Dilla’s Delights Is Crowdfunding to Stay In Business [ED]
• 8 Things to Know About Dilla’s Delights, Opening Tuesday in Downtown Detroit [ED]
• Inside Dilla’s Delights, a Hip Hop-Inspired Doughnut Emporium in Downtown Detroit [ED]
• All Dilla’s Delights Coverage [ED]
• All Closings Coverage [ED]