Incubator Spaces, Farmer's Markets, Coffee & Beer - Exploring Flint, MI
Flint’s economic history is not unique. A once booming, middle-class city riding on the waves of Chevy and Buick car production was left writhing at the loss of manufacturing, much like every other “rust-belt” city in the Northeastern United States, Syracuse included. ...when the jobs left, people left with them. Those left behind were residents with little resources, skills, or education to pick themselves up and start over in a new place. The water crisis only exacerbated these conditions.
Most people wouldn't think of Flint, Michigan as a "travel destination." I certainly didn't either, but that wasn't going to keep my travel-loving team from doing some exploring while there for a work trip. And there were some pretty surprisingly amazing little spots in this city that we got an insider look at.
(The traditional #CityHallSelfie)
Productive Mornings at The Ferris Wheel
This spot was pretty "work-related," but it was an awesome glimpse into the revitalization of Flint. The Ferris Wheel is an incubator space in Downtown Flint for entrepreneurs. When we were there it was still under renovation, but since we were with some City Hall staff we got to take a peak inside. Now the building is fully open and operational, with 7 floors of coworking space and a coffee shop, a print shop, and nonprofit organization 100K Ideas on the ground floor.
"Not only are we coming through the troubles that we've been through, but we're aiming really high," Congressman Kildee said at the building's ribbon cutting. "That sends a message not just to people around the world about what kind of a town this is, but it sends a message to kids growing up in the neighborhoods of Flint that this community is, and will always be, a great place when we believe in ourselves enough to invest in ourselves."
Lunch at the Flint Farmer's Market
This is a must visit if you're in Flint. We stopped over twice in the week we were there for lunch. The Flint Farmer's Market is a unique establishment, with over 50 year-round vendors and a mission "To provide a supportive and profitable place for small farms and businesses, both rural and urban, to earn a secure living. To continue to be a vibrant center of community life that is welcoming to everyone. To remain a recognized leader in providing support and dignified access to healthy food for nutritional assistance recipients."
Walking into the market, you are greeted with an overwhelming number of options for fresh and local meats and veggies, cheese and chocolate, and all kinds of restaurants. If you go at lunch time you'll have to patiently weave through the crowds of people, but it's worth it. One of the days we were there I braved the line for the Beirut Restaurant, where I had Shawarma as good as in Israel and Baklava with a perfect syrup ratio.
Coffee Break at Cafe Rhema
We stopped into this little coffee shop between meetings one day by chance because we happened to park nearby. And what a find it was. As we walked through the door, we entered into the 1920s. It had an elegant yet comfortable feel, and was a fun atmosphere to sit and drink a very good cappuccino.
Happy Hour at Tenacity Brewing
On recommendation from one of the community organizers we met with, we unwound from a day of meetings at Tenacity Brewing, the only brewing company in Flint. Set in a historic firehouse, the atmosphere of the brewery was fun and welcoming. We happened to be there on their trivia night, so the place was full and tables were packed. The brewery had a rustic vibe, with natural wooden accents and writing all over the walls. I don't drink beer, but they had a couple of ciders on tap. I can attest that the honey cider was very good, and my colleagues seemed to enjoy their flights of craft beer. After surviving the water crisis, the brewery has certainly earned its name.
Flint, Michigan might not be on your bucket list, but if you do find yourself there, be sure to explore some of these local highlights. The attitude of growth, recovery, and moving forward in this community is strong and it shows. I'll end with a few more of my favorite photos from our trip to Flint.