"The 8 Mile Trade Center was opened as a business incubator as a place for people to come in and learn how to run a business," says the center's General Manager Arthur Rosen. But between the 70,000-square feet of floor space, over 200 vendor booths, two anchored storefronts and rent that's impossible to beat, this 2-year-old trade center isn't just enticing new entrepreneurs to come back to Detroit, but shoppers as well.
With 452,000 square feet of retail heaven, the Bel-Air Mall is located on 8 Mile Road east of Van Dyke in Detroit proper. Making it, in our opinion, that much more worthy of both note and praise. Persevering as a shopping outlet in a city where not much is thriving outside of downtown and midtown, the center has flourished in the past couple of years as a Mecca for not just vendors, but those who'd like to spend their dollars in the city as well.
"We wanted to bring life back to the city," says Rosen. "Our mall is clean, bright and very safe. We have roving patrols of the building and we've never had any problems here."
Located in the old Target building at Bel-Air Mall, the center's roster includes a range of vendors unparalleled by their competitors. Offering everything from salon services to computer technicians to custom candy makers to marble craftsmen, the center is more than just your average bazaar packed with not much more than knock-off purse and perfume peddlers.
"Our vendors change all the time," says Rosen. "And this isn't a flea market. Less than ten-percent of our vendors are resale."
And though they're always looking for more merchants to add to their ever changing—and ever growing—roster, Rosen says he's keeping a special eye out for artists like painters, sculptors and leather craftsmen to fill up some booths.
Aside from retailers, the center is also looking to become the host of a year-round farmers market that will feature fresh produce, a fishmonger, a deli, homemade goods, a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker (seriously.)
"We're going to be focusing on food, produce, sauces, meat, fish, spices and coffee. It's going to be something similar to the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto or the Kerrytown Market in Ann Arbor. It's something we're looking forward to," he says.
Though there's not a specific date yet for when the market will have a full-fledged opening, Rosen says there are already a few farmers that sell fresh produce at the center on a weekly basis. When the 50-plus-vendor farmer's market finally does celebrate it's grand opening, however, it will be in a 30,000 square foot space complete with an anchored restaurant as it's hub and an event area holding up the rear.
"There's going to be a stage where we can feature local artists or maybe high school bands and other acts," says the GM.
As though hundreds of vendors, a farmer's market and live local talent weren't enough to make 8 Mile Trade Center nothing short of the place to be every Thursday through Sunday, they also have quarterly events that feature everything from barbeque competitions to model trains to fashion shows to impersonation contests. And more often than not, 93.9 The River is there to broadcast the entirety of the shows.
In addition to the booths located inside as well as the exciting entertainment that takes place there, the mall that anchors the center is home to a Detroit Neighborhood City Hall with onsite city services and even a police sub-station that adds to the security of the complex. There's also a DTE customer service center, a Secretary of State Office and even a U.S. Armed Forces Recruitment Center. Other storefronts like Cabinets To Go, Forman Mills and the Bel-Air 10 movie theater can be found here as well. | RDW
8500 E. 8 Mile Rd., Detroit • 866.323.3357 • bel-air8mile.com • Hours: Thursday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday, noon-6 p.m.