Gina Reichert

On Caniff, in Hamtramck, sandwiched between the dark red-bricked buildings of Bozek's Market and Dudek Foods, is the new, cozy, two-story, white and weathered headquarters of Design 99. It's finally open, er, reopened, and Gina Reichert and husband Mitch Cope are ready to get their Swiss Army Knife of art and design rolling again.

Their recent closure was due to a relocation from their original spot on Jos. Campau, which they had occupied since the summer of 2007, to a smaller, cozier spot on Caniff bookended by two of the city's staple Polish names.

"This location seems to suit us so much more," Reichert says.

Design 99 is not just a retail shop or a gallery, and or even an affordable interior design firm (which it is all of those things), but, in the bigger sense of things, it's an all around art and design incubator for the metro Detroit area.

In the meantime, during the nearly two years that Design 99 have been around, she has also learned a lot about something else: Hamtramck.

Eating In Hamtramck

The city is just 2.2 square-miles from front to back and side to side. And packed inside the city are restaurants of all styles and flavors. There are Polish restaurants, of course, but also Bangladeshi, Mexican, Bosnian, Thai, Chinese, there is a deli, there are bakeries, a 24-hour hamburger joint, a 24-hour diner, a family restaurant, and on and on and on.

"The thing about Hamtramck, because it's so small, is that you tend to find your favorites and repeat," Reichert says. So, where does she go?

"Tripti, next door to Gandhi," she says right off the bat. Tripti is a little, white, inconspicuous building connected to the lager Bengali restaurant, Gandhi. "Gandhi has white linen table clothes, it's lowly lit. Tripti is more of a hangout, a social club. There are no table clothes. But they use the same kitchen as Gandhi and it's the same good food, but cheaper."

Hamtramck is synonymous throughout the land with Poland and Polish cuisine. On Yemans, two restaurants are separated between a parking lot and its meters. At one end of the parking lot is the Polish Village and at the other Polonia. Reichert likes them both, but…

"Polish Village is my favorite," she says. "However the sausage at Polonia is better."

For breakfast she says Maine Streets' grits are good.

"It's like a greasy little diner, but better than a greasy diner," she says. "Their omelets are good. And I like sitting in the big booths along the window and looking at the street. It's also a place where you can run into so many people you know."

She also suggests the soup at the newish Royal Kabob, on the corner of Gallagher and Caniff. Save room, though, for dessert at the connected gelato shop. Yum yum.

Shopping

"There is always this argument that there aren't enough grocery stores," Reichert says. "They must not know about Hamtramck, then. There is always a place to grocery shop here."

There are dozens of markets and grocery stores in Hamtramck, from the larger Glory market to the smaller specialty shops.

"Al-Haramain is right across from (Design 99) and Bozek's is right next door," she says. "We also go to Fresh Valley a lot. The produce there is good and cheap and they're nice inside."

Hamtramck also has a plethora of dollar stores. Reichert says that although there are so many she kind of likes them.

"It depends on how you look at them," she says. "They can be annoying since there are so many but I like them because they are filled with oddball stuff. The can be irritating or endearing. People go to Walgreen's or places like that and everything is the same, no character. These (dollar stores) have character."

Recycled Treasures is a non-profit store that sells "gently used" home ware and furniture and the items can be had on the cheap.

"I really like (Recycled Treasures)," Reichert says. "It's fun to walk through and they have some nice things, it's a good selection. And I tend to break things so, when I do, I go there and can pick up another cup for 25 cents."

Loose Ends

Through Reichert and husband Cope are home coffee drinkers, she says that Café 1923 is a great place.

"The atmosphere is very calm and relaxing. And they have great pre-wrapped sandwiches and muffins from Pinwheel bakery," she says. "It's just a really cool, relaxed place. And another great place to meet Hamtramckans."

One of Reichert's favorite things about Hamtramck, however, isn't a restaurant or a grocery store or a bar, but a simple drive.

"I like to drive up and down Conant, see all the sari stores, see their store windows. The colors are amazing," she says.

One last thing and a little advice from Reichert before you go.

"You have check out the small bakeries here, the baked goods are great," she says. "Try everything."

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