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Wright-Kay building downtown Detroit
The Wright-Kay building in downtown Detroit, currently under renovation.

It’s both a story of a hometown boy returning to his roots and a high-end retailer opening their first location in the Midwest.

American menswear designer John Varvatos announced on CNBC that he will be opening a boutique in the heart of downtown Detroit in the Wright-Kay building.

The 4,000 square foot store will be located at 1500 Woodward Avenue. Built in 1891, the historic Gordon Lloyd-designed, Queen Anne-style mid-rise building is one of more than 60 properties owned and operated by Bedrock Real Estate Services. The boutique is slated to open in spring 2015, and could be a bellwether for the kind of stores Gilbert wants to bring in. John Varvatos as a concept is luxury meets rock ‘n roll. As a boutique, it follows along the lines of NoJo Kicks which is a high-end sneaker retailer that opened recently in the “Z” Garage.

“To have a world renowned designer like John Varvatos choose downtown Detroit for his first Midwest store shows the confidence that specialty retailers have in the future of the city,” said Quicken Loans owner Dan Gilbert. “The creative class has played an important role in Detroit’s history and we are excited to have Varvatos return to his hometown and play a significant role in igniting Detroit’s fashion community.”

One might suppose that Varvatos opening his store, which features t-shirts that can run $298 and jackets that cost more than $3,000 wouldn’t work in Detroit. However, despite the online criticism Shinola and other high-end brands have shown that there is a market for high-end goods and services in the city. One the flip side, one of the challenges is that the millennial generation, which makes up much of the influx of new downtown residents, can be tight with spending.

A John Varvatos Store in the SoHo Neighborhood of Detroit
A John Varvatos Store in the SoHo Neighborhood of New York, and could be a preview of what is to come. Photo from JohnVarvatos.com

Varvatos is from a Greek family and grew up in Allen Park, Michigan. His boutiques and brand has skyrocketed to success since 2000 when he opened his first location. He’s been on NBC’s Fashion Star and has a limited edition Chrysler 300 in his name. He also was the 2007 GQ designer of the year.

“I want to bring busloads of people there to show them what’s going on in Detroit,” said Varavatos.

As you can see in the picture at the top of the post taken a couple of nights ago, work has been ongoing on the bottom floor of 1500 Woodward. The second floor is home to Wright & Company, a gastropub that serves a seasonal menu as well as craft drinks, and overall is part of the “M@dison block” which is a tech startup center mostly occupied by Gilbert’s companies.