Modern seafood restaurant Mare Mediterranean opened this month at 115 Willits St.

Modern seafood restaurant Mare Mediterranean opened this month at 115 Willits St.

Photo provided by the Birmingham Shopping District


Birmingham bustles with new business

By: Mary Beth Almond | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published December 7, 2021

 National menswear retailer State & Liberty opened this month at 141 W. Maple Road in  Birmingham.

National menswear retailer State & Liberty opened this month at 141 W. Maple Road in Birmingham.

Photo provided by the Birmingham Shopping District

 Bakehouse 46 is relocating to 250 W. Maple Road in 2022.

Bakehouse 46 is relocating to 250 W. Maple Road in 2022.

Photo provided by the Birmingham Shopping District

 Women’s retailer Evereve recently expanded to a neighboring space along South Old Woodward.

Women’s retailer Evereve recently expanded to a neighboring space along South Old Woodward.

Photo provided by the Birmingham Shopping District

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BIRMINGHAM — The COVID-19 pandemic has brought much change to the business community the past few years.

While many retail centers and downtowns across the nation have been plagued with vacancies, Birmingham has remained a popular destination for new businesses, according to Birmingham Shopping District Executive Director Sean Kammer.

Throughout the pandemic, downtown Birmingham has been fortunate to maintain a steady and high retail occupancy rate.

This year, the shopping district welcomed over 20 new national and local businesses, with several business expansions and many high-profile developments underway.

In 2021, the city of Birmingham approved 31 new business license applications — 23 of those from businesses within the boundaries of the Birmingham Shopping District — up from 26 in 2020 and 20 in 2019.

Kammer said new business application growth is a leading indicator of recovery and is often observed after times of economic hardship.

“There have always been a lot of businesses that are trying to get into downtown Birmingham; COVID just put a pause on it,” he explained. “When we started to see a lot of the restrictions concerning the pandemic relax, we saw the floodgates open and all of those businesses that were waiting to do deals to come in started pouring into downtown.”    

In 2021 alone, more than 30,000 square feet of retail space was activated inside the shopping district — not including the 159,000 square feet of the Daxton Hotel, which opened in April at the corner of Brown Street and South Old Woodward. Kammer said the newly built Daxton Hotel, part of the luxury brand Aparium Hotel Group, has served as one of the largest developments along South Old Woodward Avenue.

While Birmingham has traditionally been a major shopping and dining destination, Kammer said the city is now getting national attention.

National chain Circa Lighting has advertised that it will be coming to Birmingham, going into a space at 250 E. Merrill St.

International retailer Restoration Hardware is expected to break ground on a new RH Gallery — the brand’s exclusive four-story concept with rooftop restaurant and other experiential features — adjacent to the new hotel’s location. A grand opening is tentatively slated for 2023.

“What’s surprising is how many businesses and the diversity of the businesses that are coming into downtown Birmingham after hearing that the new Daxton Hotel is open and the new Restoration Hardware is going to be built,” Kammer said. “There are a lot of businesses that find that really exciting and want to be around the foot traffic that those things generate. They find downtown Birmingham to be really attractive for those reasons.”

Cindy Ciura, the retail recruiting consultant for the BSD, said the recent development surge and announcement of the 50,000-square-foot Restoration Hardware store brought national attention from retailers across the board to Birmingham.

“We currently have a waiting list of prospective tenants,” she said.

Birmingham is also seeing growth from apparel retailers, with many recently expanding or opening their doors in the shopping district.

Craig Ryan Fine Clothing, a Michigan menswear retailer, opened last winter on Pierce Street.

This month, national menswear retailer State & Liberty opened its second Michigan location on West Maple Road in Birmingham. Their first store opened in Ann Arbor in 2015.

“We are excited about Birmingham as a vibrant downtown area with great foot traffic and a perfect customer base for our brand,” Steven Fisher, the owner of State and Liberty, said in a statement. “With a home base in Michigan, we already have a ton of customers in the area, and we are excited to have a place where they can come in person to see the product and engage with the brand.”

The Great Eros, a women’s luxury apparel brand with locations in New York and now Birmingham, also opened this month, along Maple Road.

Women’s retailer Evereve recently expanded to a neighboring space along South Old Woodward, becoming what Kammer said is one of only a few of the national retailer’s locations to house its new, modern design concept.

The Birmingham dining scene welcomed three new restaurants this year.

Birmingham Pub and Sushi Japan, both along South Old Woodward Avenue, began serving customers in late summer.

Modern seafood restaurant Mare Mediterranean opened this month on Willits street and will be the second Birmingham Restaurant for owner Nino Cutraro, who also owns Birmingham’s Bella Piatti.

“Birmingham is one of the best cities to be in,” said Cutraro. “Everything is walking distance, there’s a movie theater, and there’s all kinds of restaurants. Everybody is doing good — restaurant-wise.”

Paris Baguette, the first location in Michigan, is expected to go into 183 N. Old Woodward Ave.

Bakehouse 46 will be relocating to 250 W. Maple Road in downtown Birmingham in 2022.

Kammer said it’s phenomenal how well brick and mortar does in downtown Birmingham, both national chains and small businesses.

“I think there are a couple of reasons for that. It’s a very engaged community. There are very strong neighborhoods right near downtown Birmingham and it’s very connected to the community, so people find it really easy and convenient to access. Parking is also readily available, and the layout of downtown really prioritizes the pedestrian, so it makes it really easy to have a conducive shopping environment. It has a long history of being a retail destination as well. There’s a lot of factors that go into it but Birmingham is definitely well suited to sustain brick and mortar retail.”

For more information on the Birmingham Shopping District, visit www.ALLINBirmingham.com.

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