Vey, schmear!  Maybe it’s in the water. Or in the gene pool, itself. Those who lament the state of the “food desert” in Detroit can take heart.

The desert is blooming.

Food has become one of the keys to the new Detroit.

Just as in the late 1800s  the Detroit Eastern Market grew out of necessity to serve the numbers of Eastern European immigrants arriving to the city,  there is a new crop of entrepreneurial food purveyors, producers and restaurateurs building enterprises downtown.

Following in the footsteps of the Kaplans, the Plotnicks, the Rafals, the Lipsons, the Samuel Brothers – those “bubbes and zaydes” of our collective Eastern Market memories – many of the of the new ventures in food today are Jewish-owned businesses or connected to the Jewish community.

The biggest news

Whole Foods has broken ground in Detroit. The Texas-based upscale grocery chain is set to open its sixth Michigan store at John R and Mack Avenue in Midtown in early 2013. Playing a key role in bringing Whole Foods to the city are several Jewish companies including head of construction, Todd Sachse of Sachse Contruction and Development, Howard Schwartz of Howard Schwartz Real Estate and developer Peter Cummings of Ram Realty Services. Whole Foods isn’t the only player in the show: following the trend, Meijers plans a superstore at the new Gateway Marketplace, opening in spring 2013.

 Go fish

Kevin Sack, Sea Fare

Smokin’ Kevin Sack, 4th generation of MaCohen’s Sea Fare Foods

In search of young, single and Kosher?  Talk to Kevin Sack, fourth generation to carry the tradition of MaCohen’s Sea Fare Foods, an importer, processor and national distributor of fine fish products. “This is a business founded on herring and the expertise of my grandfather,” explains Kevin’s dad, Phil Sack. Phil’s father, Lincoln Sack, established the company in 1959,  and from day one, the star product has been the pickled herring, which is still hand-processed.  Bringing his youthful energy to the company, Kevin, 25, joined the family business in 2010 and immediately took on the expansion of the product line to include nova lox and a variety of smoked fish. And yes, it’s all delicious.

 Bagels and beyond

Detroit Institute of Bagels (DIB) opening soon in Corktown

What started off as a “condo industry,” boiling and baking bagels the old fashioned way in their Corktown residence, will soon be a new destination bagel shop at 1236 Michigan Avenue.  With enthusiastic fans and Facebook friends firmly established, the Newman brothers, Ben, 28, and Dan, 24, will open the Detroit Institute of Bagels later this year.  Envisioning the bagel as manna in the desert, the “quintessential Jewish food,” Ben explains, “Beyond blueberry bagels, this will be the place where people will connect and congregate.”

What’s with the pickles?

From the deli counter to big business, everyone knows the taste of  Topor’s Pickles, made in Detroit since 1960. Pure Jewish. Make way for new pickles, artisan pickles, born out of community urban farming. Meet Blair Nosan, gardener, educator, social activist . . . young Jewish pickler!   Blair launched Suddenly Sauer in 2010. While Michigan cottage industry laws limit the distribution of her products, she’s taken on the role of advocacy and education with the nonprofit group, Greening of Detroit. Watch for future developments.

Imagine all the people

Food guru and writer Mark Bittman, himself, declared Avalon International Breads on Willis in the Cass Corridor, the “unofficial meeting place of the Detroit food movement.”   Eat well. Do good. The Avalon motto says it all. Over a thousand customers stream through the doors daily from sunrise to sunset. “Imagine a city,” says co-owner Jackie Victor,“a world-class green city, rebuilt block by block, with a gorgeous riverfront, ready access to community gardens, working farms and fantastic local food.”

Hungry for more?

Ask the Hungry Dudes, “Sharing food one bite at a time.”

Check out Fresh Corner Cafe, Zingerman’s, Rochester Mills Beer Company, and Eskimo Jacks.

Put your feet on the street on an Eastern Market tour with a Jewish twist conducted by Linda Yellin.

Or connect. Share. Be heard right here.  Contact mjdeditor@jfmd.org.

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