Stirred by the city’s “indescribable spirit … artist community and culinary scene,” Angela Rutherford made the move home to Michigan from New York City once her attention— and inspiration — shifted from the Big Apple back to the Motor City.
“All the artists and creativity left New York when it became unaffordable,” she says.
Originally from Lapeer, Rutherford relocated to open her first business. A wine bar and retail shop, the Royce is located on the ground floor of the Kales Building at the corner of Park Avenue and West Adams, directly across from Grand Circus Park in Downtown Detroit.
Recognizing a “lack of amenities other cities have in a downtown scene,” she intends her shop to be an inclusive addition to the local residents, rather than a “Downtown destination” for those who dwell outside of the city’s confines.
Stepping inside the bright space on a sunny afternoon evokes the feeling of entering someone’s spotless, welcoming and well-adorned home. The décor a nod to Detroit’s Art Deco and industrial past, as well as the era of “hedonism, philosophy, writing and telecommunication” from which they stem, the floor-to-ceiling shelves are filled with affordable bottles of wine as well as vintage “artifacts,” including a rotary phone, Underwood typewriter, Thomas Collector’s Edition Radio and stacks of books.
Its walls are adorned with black-and-white photographs, including one Rutherford proudly pulls down of her grandfather after whom the Royce was named. The shop’s mezzanine, which can accommodate 39, has a “loungier,” living room feel. With arrangements of rich leather-bound chairs and couches as well as a few bistro sets, it’s a suitable space for more intimate gatherings than those we imagine happening around the bar below.
“Wine is an everyday essential and should be priced accordingly,” Rutherford says. Save for one small, locked cabinet that houses the store’s most expensive “special occasion” offerings — including a very exclusive bottle of Continuum priced at $250 — everything else retails between $8 and $40.
Customers can take bottles home or, for a nominal $10 corkage fee, stay and enjoy them there. Rutherford’s focus is on small-batch wines made sustainably and with integrity. Her goal is to inspire people to make better choices and to show that it’s possible to do so without compromising on quality.
She pulls out a Mindo chocolate bar that boasts compostable packaging, organic ingredients and sustainable practices, one of the only artisan chocolates made in Michigan. It is available as a wine pairing along with an approachable assortment of meats, cheeses and snacks.
The wines along the walls are stocked in a most innovative and consumer-friendly manner. As opposed to an arrangement by region or even variety, the shelves are ordered by flavor, from full-bodied and dry to light-bodied and sweet. This makes it easier for customers to return and find a wine similar to another they enjoyed from a previous visit.
Pushing the service-industry envelope even further, Rutherford pays her employees a fair, livable wage. Referring to gratuity-based restaurants as a “broken model,” she believes this enables and empowers employees to feel an added sense of ownership.
Cash tips are accepted and, at the end of each month, half get split evenly amongst the staff. The other half is given to a charity of their choosing. In September, they donated just over $1,500 to Detroit Black Community Food Security Network.
On Sundays, the space hosts a weekly game night, or stop in any Tuesday from 5:30-7 p.m. for a free wine tasting.
For more information visit www.theroycedetroit.com.
By Reisa Shanaman | Special to the Jewish News
Photos By Justin Weiner | BWArchitects