22,000 square foot Nike store celebrates grand opening in Detroit

Few moments in my life have provided the electricity and anticipation that was in the air during Thursday’s Nike store grand opening in downtown Detroit.

The ribbon cutting ceremony led by Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo took place at around 10:00 am and the line of people rushed in and snagged merchandise like they knew their direct deposit was going to hit tomorrow.

The store is located at 1261 Woodward Avenue in Detroit on the side of the F.W. Woolworth Co. building and the space is owned by billionaire entrepreneur and Michigan native, Dan Gilbert.

Unfortunately Gilbert was not able to attend the opening, but that didn’t make the day any less special.

For some, like 30-year-old Detroit resident Brandon Barber, being at the grand opening was about more than just being a Nike head.

“Everything in Detroit right now, since it’s in a revitalizing stage, it needs that support for opening day, opening week, and continuous support,” Barber said. “So if you want to be in the downtown area, if you want to support the revitalization of the new Detroit then you should be here. I’m here to show my support for anything new that happens in the Woodward Corridor, Midtown, New Center, anything.”

Barber is a Chicago native but cited the Woodward location and demand for the store as reasons he believes the Detroit Nike store could stack up well with the 50,000 square foot Nike store located along Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile.”

The revitalization sentiment Brandon showed was echoed by 31-year-old Detroit native Devon Mixon.

“A place like Detroit that’s been down for so long to have a spot like this, I think is pretty cool,” Mixon said. “I think it’ll draw more business. A lot of people from the suburbs make weekend trips… so I think it’s definitely a good addition to the downtown area. For a long time, Woodward was dead, I think it’s back now, it’s beginning.”

There were all walks of life at the grand opening, and the excitement was felt by everybody. A 63-year-old Texas native, who described himself as “More Detroiter than Texan”, was sporting green and white Michigan State gear said he’s been waiting for the store to open, and didn’t know Tom Izzo was going to be at the event until he was already in line.

Not only was the man who only referred to himself as Carlos excited about the Nike store, but he was quick to mention Detroit’s Electronic Music Festival “Movement” as an event that he’s looking forward to because it will bring people to the city.

Later as I was walking around the store I saw Carlos in line to get his picture taken with Coach Izzo, but before that I was able to catch up with the coach and ask him what kind of domino effect he thought the Nike store may have in drawing other major companies to the city.

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Izzo did interviews, posed for pictures, signed autographs, and was in a delightfully cheery mood throughout the event.

One of the reasons for Izzo’s happy demeanor could have been due to the high volume of Spartan gear at the store, with no maize and blue to be found. (Not yet anyway.) It may not have been there today, but as soon as Michigan’s $169 million Nike contract kicks in August, you can bet there will be trucks of Wolverine gear unloading into the Nike store.

Along with some A1 Spartan gear, the two-story building featured apparel from the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Lions, as well as general sports and training items.

Two of the coolest elements of the Nike store was the interactive touch screen that allows one to search for specific and custom apparel and the elevator that takes customers from one floor to the other. You read that right. There is an elevator in the store.

The main level of the building is where you will find the bulk of the merchandise: shoes, clothes, accessories, etc., and the basement level is strictly women’s apparel. It was funny watching men realize there were stairs in the corner and getting excited to extend their Nike store adventure only to come walking back up seconds later after realizing there was nothing down there that was for them.

Elsewhere, Nike did a great job hiring workers who were helpful, knowledgeable, and energetic. You could tell these people just weren’t applicants who were hired into a sales associate spot. They were genuine fans of the brand and would have been in that line of 200+ people had they not been employees. They were quick to explain the different benefits and drawbacks of each shoe, assisted customers with the interactive search screen, and made each individual feel welcomed among the packed house. Hats off to the staff on an excellent first impression.

The grand opening couldn’t have gone any better for Nike. Their celebrity guests, Tom Izzo and Sparty, seemed happy to be there and were very accessible to customers, the store looked great, and the staff, again, was fantastic. It was just an overall great show.

I left very impressed with the store and the prospects on what it could do for Detroit. The company slogan is “Just Do It” and they did do it. And they did a damn good job.

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