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Detroit Sandals in production
Detroit Sandals in production

Sometimes, it’s the simple things that make the biggest impact. In this case, it’s sandals.

Detroit Treads are comfortable and durable. They are made from scrap tires that are picked up in empty lots around the city, which cleans up the environment. The production of them provides real jobs for Detroiters (homeless veterans and at-risk youth) that otherwise wouldn’t be able to find work in the city. So if you want to by some footwear that really does some good in the world, consider grabbing a pair of Detroit Treads.

Detroit Treads was an idea formulated by the venerable Rev. Faith Fowler, who runs Cass Community Social Services. Fowler invited us onsite, to the Cass Communities Green Industries building to see how the sandals everyone in Detroit is talking about are made, and to chat with us about the other things that Cass Community is doing.

Detroit Flip Flops
Stylish sandals! Photo credit: Nick Hagen

“It’s a triple bottom line business,” said Rev. Fowler, “it’s good for the environment, good for the local economy, and good for those who are involved. It’s also a good product.”

Actually, Detroit Treads is the fourth triple bottom line business that Rev. Fowler has created at Cass Community Green Industries. They also run a secure shredding business and they make coasters and mud mats. The coasters are made from repurposed materials, and the mud mats are made from the sidewalls of the tire. The sandals are a solution to the leftover tread, which was unusable for mat making.

Faith stresses that the jobs produced by these businesses are real and that they aren’t funded through foundation money or other subsidies, which says a lot about the quality of their products.There is some goodwill inherent in a purchase from Cass Community Green Industries but “It’s not an act of charity,” says Fowler.

The branding of Detroit Treads including tagline “leave your mark” was created with help from the University of Michigan. Steven Schock of the College for Creative Studies helped to create an original old English ‘D’ logo for the bottom of the Sandals.

While we spoke to Rev. Fowler and her interns, workers at the green industries were streaming in for their workday. Currently there are about 80 people are employed and the addition of Detroit Treads should provide another 20 jobs.

“Orders for the Sandals are stacking up,” said Rev. Fowler. “We’re going to be busy.”

Cass Community Social Services is an organization that changes people’s lives on the West Side of Detroit. They serve a diverse group of populations and provide basic needs, affordable housing, and they promote self-reliance and community improvement.

There are many ways to get involved with all the good things going on at Cass Community besides just grabbing a pair of their cool sandals. They source a lot of volunteers to get things done all year round, and they have some more exciting things in the works that we’ll continue to profile.

If you just can’t wait for the sandals, you can order a pair for $25 today by calling Sue Pethoud at 313-883-2277 ext. 203 or get in line for them online.

Photos by Nick Hagen.