PAMELA: Welcome. This is your host Pamela Hilliard Owens. And on this podcast, you, our listeners are going to find out about some absolutely wonderful business owners in the City of Detroit. Our guests are not only long-timehardworking and successful entrepreneurs, but they have also made it through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. That is no small feat. In this episode, I am excited to introduce to you Deron Washington of Shops on Top in Eastern Market,and a couple of other businesses that you have in your site. So welcome and tell us all about yourself.
DERON: Thank you. Thank you for having me, Pamela. I appreciate you very much. Okay. My name is Deron and I’m a proud native Detroiter here in Detroit. Love my city. First of all, I’m proud of my city of what we do. If you haven’t visited Detroit, you got to come check it out. Cause it’s a great city. But anyway we have we have a, a lovely shop called Shops on Top here in Detroit Eastern Market. We’ve been here five years now. Have a wonderful space. We have about 8,000 square feet of retail space. Shops on Top includes Modell Dress, ladies clothing store, high street men’s wear, men’s clothing store. We have a coffee bar called Red Velvet Coffee. And also we have a brand is called Y Not Detroit, a fashion brand.
PAMELA: Exactly. And I have to go there because I have a Detroit versus Everybody t-shirt. And I also have on today my I Root for Black People t-shirt, but I’ve got to come back, but I got to come be to your shop cause I need a, Y Not Detroit t-shirt also.
DERON: I’m going to have a Y Not Detroit t- shirt and also the Pamela We also have, have a beautiful event space that holds around about 125 guests. And then we bring it out for different parties functions, weddings anniversary parties know, you name it. We, we have done all kinds of specialty events up there. So it’s a really specialty floor we don’t call ourself like a boutique. It’s more like a a special specialty store.
PAMELA: It’s almost like a little mall into itself because you have many different businesses in one place.
DERON: Yes. Yeah. A lot of people say that and you can say that’s fair enough. That’s a fair word to say a small, small mall and all on one floor, you got to see it is so unique. We have a fun up there too. Like I said, again, this is our fifth year there. And we started out in 2017.
PAMELA: Uh-hm 2017. And we, as we was going through we started the first year. We it wasn’t really, we weren’tlooking for no, no overnight success, but as we moved, going the first year 2018, we just got through 2018 2019, we was making progress. We was doing better 2019 we saw a saw increase in our sales. And then when, so what happened was.Ok. We said then “Man, 2020, it’s gonna be a better year.”
PAMELA: Right [chuckling]
DERON: 2020 came and the walls fell in literally. It was like, I couldn’t believe what was happening.
DERON: It was the worst. It was really a worst time for everyone. lot of people had lost so much
DERON: Not just a lot of people. I had customers. that I took care of personally, that was lost. Lost their lives due to COVID. And it was really a tough year for everyone, you know
PAMELA: Yeah. And we were really gobsmacked with COVID and I remember telling people those first couple of months Facebook was like an obituary page.
DERON: You just say that you definitely gonna say that
DERON: I had lost — personally I lost friends, myself and, and a lot of my customers. I lost a lot of my customers. I was at a point I was actually — some of the ladies, some of my customers came in for the men to buy suits and ties because they had a to bury a love one
PAMELA: Right, right
DERON: Pretty tough, but that 2020 — and unfortunately our sales went totally All the way down to almost nothing thatyear. We really wasn’t online that much. We was more so a brick and mortar. We used depending on and people would come in, but was what helped us get through it as entrepreneurs we know. We’ve been around for a long time. We’ve seen struggles before, but that was a tough struggle, in 2020
DERON: What we did was we, we try to stay unique. We try to stay aggressive. So, we got on Facebook Live. We did a lot of live Facebook. We let people know that we still — we still around. Come and shop with us. You need us need something for us. Come on in. Now, it was tragic. I couldn’t do any events cause COVID stopped all that. So —
PAMELA: Right, right
DERON: We got a little help from outside, but not much to talk about as far as grant money and things like that. We did get some help from Detroit Eastern Market Corporation, which bless them.
DERON: They really helped us out there. I, I love them and they really took the time out to, to want to help us. They were the first one that came on board. Try to give us some, some financial help.
PAMELA: That’s great.
DERON: So, I was thankful, very thankful for that part. So, we hung in there, we’ve hung in there. We got a chance to pay our bills. And we got through that, that, that that 20. And then, 21 came. Still, We still have some, some life strugglestrying to get through it, but we got through 2021, which pretty much, it was not, it was a little bit better. It wasn’t great, but it was. Again, we stayed on Facebook. We stayed on Instagram. We call our customer was doing a lot of calling. We was able to do a few events, a couple of events.
DERON: But, it wasn’t, like, it wasn’t like enough. So, here we are. We are. We’re in 2022 now.
DERON: Going into the third month. First quarter is almost gone. Can you believe that?
PAMELA: I know in a couple of weeks we’re going to be in the second quarter.
PAMELA: I can’t believe how the time has flown. We’re just having New Year’s Eve and here we are —
PAMELA: at the end of the first quarter.
DERON: End of the first quarter
PAMELA: And as entrepreneurs, it just flies by, it really does.
DERON: Flies by, man. Flies by. I’m telling you, I’m here to tell you. I’m like the first quarter is already almost over. So we have plans. We have planned this year to really bounce our way back. We see a — do see a light at the end of the tunnel.
DERON: Ours is getting back on track. So, yeah. It looks much better for us and the light looks much, so much better.We are getting more customers to come back into the store, now. You are getting out
DERON: You are starting to getting out again, which is good. And so, we get more visits up on the floor now, We’re located at 2362 Russell Street, right here in the heart of the Eastern Market
PAMELA: Right, right
DERON: We’re on the second level here overlooking the Eastern Market. If you come up on our floor, you can see the whole Eastern Market from my floor. It’s beautiful.
PAMELA: I bet that the beautiful view. I have been to a couple of events, pre-COVID at your place and it was beautiful.It was wonderful. Yes.
DERON: Thank you. So, if you have not visited Shops on Top in Detroit yet, please do so. We’re here to give you a greatservice, first-class service. We pride ourselves on giving you a great. Throughout all our different stores, we have very moderate price point. We not overpriced. People know you can get a good value for you for your merchandise.
PAMELA: And oh, could you go through each store one by one and explain each of the different stores that you have again. So that it’s very clear.
DERON: I got you. Ok. That’s good. The ladies store, I got to put the ladies store, Modele Dress. That’s the name of the store. Modele.
DERON: And, Modele carries really nice dresses, lingerie, casual, to sporty. It even have a makeup line in the store too, and also a bath and body line. So, we cover the ladies pretty well. We have beautiful accessories from handbags to scarves, jewelry. It’s really a one, almost not — I want to say a one stop shop. I don’t wanna. But it is like going to the mall, you can really find some really nice finds and shops and Modele. So next, we have High Street Men’s Wear. High Street Men’s Wear carries nice suits, sport coats, and we specialize in ties. We do a lot beautiful ties up there as well. It’s like a haberdashery. It’s like a men’s haberdashery.
DERON: It’s really nice. And then, next is Y Not Detroit casual. Y Not Detroit is a fashion brand. You come up there, you buy ladies and men. We have joggers, t-shirts, hoodies, caps, baseball caps. So, we have some really nice, cool things with the logo on it. So that’s what, that’s our brand. So, people, you see that brand, that’s a cool brand. We believe in our city. We love our city. We say, Y Not Detroit? We say, live, work , play, shop and serve in the D. You want people to be proud of our city as a native Detroiter And who was — I’m a, I call myself the quiet ambassador for the city,
PAMELA: [chuckling] Right.
DERON: I talk about Detroit all the time. So I, love my city, so I really believe it. So, that’s why we created the brand Y Not Detroit? So also, again, we have the — our Red Velvet Café. Oh, by the way, too. We have our own line of coffees.We, we, we get it roasted for ourselves, but also, too, on Saturdays, Pamela you can come up Saturday mornings from 8 to 11, and you get fresh donuts and and on the house, on us.
PAMELA: Oh, wow. Ok
DERON: On Saturdays mornings. So, tomorrow,
DERON: you in the area,
DERON: Stop in, from 8 to 11, you get fresh donuts and fresh coffee. On us!
PAMELA: Oh, that would be — That’s great. And, that’s great to know because a lot of people make a pilgrimage toEastern Market on Saturday so they can start out right, with you and get all fueled up. See, everything that you have to offer right there, and then go on and finish their pilgrimage for their flowers and fruits and vegetables and things that they get at Eastern Market.
DERON: Yes. Yeah. And then last but not least is our event space. You got to see the — it’s a cool space. You got to see it. It’s comfort. We’re always renting it out. We stayed busy with that now, starting to get better as far as people comingsince the COVID, it’s not behind us totally. But, it’s a lot better.
PAMELA: It’s getting there, yeah.
DERON: We couldn’t rent it out for a whole year and a half. We didn’t do anything with that event space
PAMELA: Right, right, right
DERON: But now, you know, I’ve started getting calls again for the event space for people to rent out. But yeah, Shops on Top. 2362 Russell Street in Detroit, Michigan. Right here in the heart of Eastern Market. We call ourselves theshopping destination, Detroit shopping destination. So that’s if anyone wants, who loves to shop, who likes a nice atmosphere Who like, who likes, wants great service, come and see us, come and see us.
PAMELA: Ok. Great. One quick question. With the men’s and women’s lines, do you offer tailoring? either onsite or somewhere we can go?
DERON: Yeah. I’m glad you mentioned that. We have a in-house tailoring, yeah. So, you can bring your merchandise.You can bring your suits, your skirts, your blouses, whatever you got. You can bring it to us and we can tighten it up for you.
PAMELA: Oh, that — that is so good enough because people who know me I always say that I’m one of those blessedly short people. [chuckles]
PAMELA: I am 5′1″ on a good day. So, all the clothes that I get are always too long and I have to have I need to have them altered and tailored. And when you buy a good outfit from shops like yours, they also need to be tailored for the right fit. So that’s excellent that you have in-house tailoring services.
DERON: I’m glad you mentioned that because that’s really important. We yeah, we offer that service and also too, by the way besides the tailoring we do custom suiting for the men, too. We do custom suits
PAMELA: Ok. Ok. Great. That’s good to know.
DERON: You come in and it takes only two and a half to three weeks to get your suit back to you. So, you come in. I show you a range of designs, patterns You can get it however you want. So we offer, we do offer custom suiting for men and ladies, by the way.
PAMELA: Oh, that’s so excellent to know right here in the city, right here at Eastern Market.
DERON: Yes. And then one last thing, we have a gift wrapping department, deluxe gift wrapping.
PAMELA: Oh, OK. OK
DERON: So, we try to we try to bring that service oriented flavor to the table. So, we offer, we also regarding the gift wrapping, it only costs $10 for any size
PAMELA: OK, OK
DERON: Any size box. But, we give you a range of designs that you can choose from.
PAMELA: Great, great
DERON: Yeah. So, gift wrapping is available. And, we, we have the, the coffee bar,
DERON: the event space, the men’s clothing, the women’s clothing, accessories. You gotta come see us.
PAMELA: Okay. That is excellent.
PAMELA: And, the fact that you were able to make it through the pandemic without — some people were able to get blessed that they got some of the government help some of the pandemic government help, but you were able to squeeze out through, without some of that help, except from Eastern Market. And that’s, how did you do that?
DERON: Just hard work. I’m just being honest.
PAMELA: Oh, and that’s what our listeners need to hear because our listeners are not only people who are already entrepreneurs, but people who are thinking of going into entrepreneurship and people need to know it’s wonderful to own your own, but it’s also a lot of hard work.
DERON: I tell folks you don’t have to have. passion and passion for your vision, but you gotta like it. You gotta like what you’re doing first.
PAMELA: Right, right
DERON: If you like what you’re doing, you have a chance to make it successful. You got to be, you know
DERON: passionate. If you’ve got passion like I do, And my wife do, we are passionate about what we do. If you have passion about it, it’s going to make it — It’s not going to be work.
PAMELA: Right, right
DERON: It’s going to be love. It’s going to be love doing what you do. But if you don’t have passion, at least like it, and then you’ll get through it. So,
PAMELA: Yeah. Right, right.
DERON: the reason why we got through the pandemic, cause we was determined to figure out some ways to make this thing work.
PAMELA: Right. The customers that we have, Pamela, we appreciate our customers. We love our customers, and our customers love us, too. We show love with our customers. That’s why we made it through the pandemic, cause the customers that we have — we don’t have a lot of customers — but the ones we have, we took care of them and they came back,
DERON: they supported
PAMELA: Right, right
DERON: We called them. We called them and we say, please, if you need something, let us know. Deron, we’re there for you. They — a lot of people came through knowing that we was having a tough time
PAMELA: Right, right
DERON: and they, they support us even though they didn’t need to buy anything. But because they love and their appreciation for us. They helped us. A lot of customers did that for us, a lot of customers. So To any entrepreneur take care of your customers.
DERON: Go over and beyond the call of duty to take care of your customers.
PAMELA: Exactly, exactly
DERON: That’s really important. So start there with great service, entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs, listen to me. Start with your service first. Having a good product is good. But, go over the top with your service, taking care of your customers.That’s the number one thing I could tell the customer
PAMELA: Exactly I’m telling the entrepreneur who’s trying to start a business make sure that you’ve got good skills and customers. And that is such excellent advice that and communicating, because I have to laugh. I’m talking about you being on Facebook and things like that. Last year, I saved in my Apple Reminders, a beautiful red outfit given you might not even have it in stock anymore because I saved it a year ago. But when I get down there, the next couple of weeks, I’m going to see if you still have that same red outfit, because you had a red outfit. It was a red, like overdress and then a white blouse. And that matches my sorority, of course. That’s why I saved it.
DERON: I might have something close to that. I may have some, I keep nice white blouses in, all the time
PAMELA: Okay great.
DERON: I have beautiful risk skirts and dresses. You’ll find something. Promise
PAMELA: Okay. That sound great. That sounds great. And when I come, I’ll have an arm full of things that I need altered. So, this has been absolutely wonderful. I’m so glad that we were able to do this. And like I said, you’re one of our first guests for the new podcast for BLAC magazine. And this will be published in April. So I’m, we’re so glad to have you because you’ve given us great inspiration. Entrepreneurs, either those who are thinking about it or those who arealready in business, exactly what you need to do to be, to stay successful. First of all, keep your head above water during some of the hardest times number one, and then just generally be successful and be supporting of your location and of your city. And we really appreciate it.
DERON: No, I appreciate your time and your, your beautiful podcast, you guys here. And, thank you for allowing me to talk about the story. OK. I appreciate you very much