There is one word you can think of when you enter this space, the former Tomboy Grocery on Second Avenue.
On November 4, Will Leather Goods – an Oregon-based leather brand that specializes in Men’s and Women’s leather bags and accessories, will open its eighth U.S. location at 4120 Second Avenue in the booming Midtown area of Detroit.
On Monday we got a sneak peak inside the new 9,000-square-foot location and this beautiful and dynamic space truly sets a new standard for retail in the Midtown area.
Though he currently resides in Eugene, Oregon, Will Founder William Adler has deep roots in Detroit, which helped inspired him to create the ambitious new location.
Growing up on Detroit’s west side, Adler attended James Vernor Elementary School on Pembroke near Seven Mile and stayed in the area through college, attending Wayne State University, before ultimately earning a bachelor of arts in theater from the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago.
The inspiration for the Midtown location came by way of Will’s brother, Robert who passed away in 2014, who prompted Will to visit and consider Detroit for a new location. Bob, who resided in Oakland County, was also a presence in the retail community, serving as vice president of Spirit Leather Goods (SLW), parent company of Will Leather Goods.
“My family comes from the retail business in Michigan. My father was a merchandise manager of Hughes and Hatchers; my Grandfather had a store called Grossman’s department store in Muskegon, Michigan. And my brother had stores here in Detroit called Man Oh Man. And now we’re coming back to Detroit to be a part of the resurgence in greatness of the city.
Will Leather Goods, as is apparent from these photos, has created a one of a kind environment in Midtown, as retailers start to one up each other in this growing neighborhood. The store offers a unique retail experience that’s multifaceted with lots of comfortable, elegant leather couches, a full coffee bar and cafe space, an art gallery and more than enough high quality products to keep you busy for hours.
The location was made possible through the financial resources of IFF, Invest Detroit, the Detroit Development Fund, and support from the non-profit planning and development organization, Midtown Detroit, Inc, and its leader, the unofficial mayor of Midtown, Sue Mosey.
“These were people who believed in Will Leather Goods and wanted to get us down here,” says Adler. “We said we needed a space that can show the whole collection – men’s, outdoor, home goods, cafe; we have a gallery here, we make our hats here. So there’s this whole sense of coming into this sort of department store of gifts and leather goods.”
The retail collection is indeed vast. While the focus is heavy on highly functional, great looking and built to last bags, the store also has hats, belts and belt buckles, and other clothing and accessories. You’ll even find a few odds and ends like the gorgeous bikes, golf clubs, and more.
“Will makes products to inspire your journey,” Adler tells us. “These are products that are creative, innovative, and inspiring. There’s this real sense of detail and character. We use vintage leather and washed leather. It’s not funky, it’s all practical, and it’s guaranteed for life.”
The thoughtful planning that went into the space’s design is apparent throughout the location. Each and every product is displayed in an engaging way. Someone at the preview remarked that it’s like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory for retail, and I would have to agree.
Will, together with his daughter Shane, designed the store in partnership with Birmingham-based McIntosh Poris Associates, the lead architect of the store, and Micco Construction in Pontiac and Architectural Salvage Warehouse Detroit completed the build out.
The painstaking attention to detail in its design was met with a commitment to maintaining some of the original look of the space, and an effort to utilize locally sourced building materials.
“The design was inspired by the original elements of the building – tile, terrazzo floor, exposing the ceiling,” says Shane.
The store’s manager, Brandon Ayers, said that one of the primary goals of this location was to create an experience for visitors, rather than just another retail space.
“We want you to feel like it’s a warm, inviting place. So I think we’ve curated a team specifically for that. Will is such a charismatic, kind, and authentic person, and so welcoming – we wanted to create that experience in Midtown. Even if you’re not going to buy something, we want you to come to see the gallery, have some coffee and explore the product.”
In addition to a commitment to selling high quality leather goods, the company also works to give back to the community.
Will’s social initiative, Give Will, is designed to support students in underfunded public elementary schools across America through in-kind backpack donations. Adler, who says his philanthropic mission is central to the company’s culture, designed a collection of backpacks for the program. Each bag is colorful, and features a space for students to write their name and their dream which serves as a reminder to keep working toward their goals.
The company will donate 500,000 backpacks across the United States over the next 5 years.
Additionally, to mark the opening of the Detroit location, Give Will will make a donation to every student at Adler’s grade school alma mater, Vernor Elementary School, and to every student at all Cornerstone Schools in every grade, k-12.
Both Will and his daughter are champions of Detroit.
Shane, who spent many of her childhood summers here, told us “I like Detroit. It’s great to be a part of a community that wants to grow. We’ve been looking to do this for two years and my uncle was coaxing us for three.”
And while the entire team at Will is confident the store will thrive, it was still a calculated risk to open the store in a still growing community.
“I remember the doubts,” Shane tells us. “I remember the months and months of ‘what are we doing? 9,000 square feet? Never gonna happen.’ I felt that way a week ago. But my Dad said, “I never had a doubt. It’s a risk, but that’s what makes it fun.”