Detroit is coming back. Every day that passes seems to bring something new to the city wide canvas of small businesses and restaurants. Now, during the pandemic and as the Black Lives Matter Movement continues to surge, Detroitisit has decided to take a closer look into the individual lives and stories of successful businesses that are black owned around the city and metro area. In this multi-part series, we hear from individuals well traveled, born and raised in Detroit, and everything in between, as well as each person’s beginnings, passions, and personal relationships to the Detroit community.
The first steps into a small business are telling. For ArtLoft in Midtown, they are warm and welcoming. Fashion and Lifestyle. Each collection ranges from their beloved bedsheets to pieces by the prestigious artist Michael Aram, to clothing sourced from all over the world. But how does it all come together? What is the common tie that intertwines seemingly opposing forms of art and culture? Well, the answer to that can be found simply by meeting the owner, Rachael Adedevoh-Woods.
Many people in her family, to whom Adedevoh-Woods attributes her love and an ingrained sense of hospitality, owned shops in her home country of Ghana. She speaks about how she was trained from a young age to make guests feel comfortable in her home. This is a trait she morphed and tweaked to fit her business.
Adedevoh-Woods began her journey as a dietician, and soon after, she decided that travel was in the cards for her. Journeying
to England and Santa Barbara she visited her cousins scattered around the world. From California, she decided to continue her journey by taking the Greyhound bus across the country to see another cousin in Michigan, who was then a student at Wayne State University. It was here, in Detroit, where she felt a sense of comfort and decided to stay.
She then decided to change her path, continuing her education, and focus on fashion merchandising. When she graduated, she worked as a buyer for a while, gaining experience from companies like Macy’s and boutiques at Somerset Mall. Around this time, a passion for real estate began to surface. “I took a crash course in real estate,” Adedevoh-Woods says. She continued by saying she worked as a realtor for five years until she became pregnant with her son.
Three years later, during which time Adedevoh-Woods stayed home with her son, her husband found a gallery for sale in Birmingham. For Adedevoh-Woods, the stars seemed to align, creating an ability to combine all she had learned into something she knew she would love to do as her son grew and her life moved forward. It was then ArtLoft began. For 23 years the shop grew and changed with the times, offering customers wares both beautiful and functional; a little something for everyone.
After 20 years of business, Adedevoh-Woods decided it was time for another change. She says,
“When I heard that Detroit was coming back, I thought, well, I think I can add a little flavor, a little craziness to it.”
And she was right. Five years later, and two years after transferring her entire business to the Midtown location and closing the Birmingham location, she is still happy she made the move.
Talking with Adedevoh-Woods is like a breath of fresh air, as she speaks with passion pertaining to the artist’s products she sells. “I like to share with my clients what spurs an artist to do what they do.” She says, “That’s the difference between a small shop. When you share that, it gives respect to the item and the customer feels great about buying the product.”
As someone really invested in the artists whose work she sells, she is able to talk about each piece and product with love as if it is her own creation. This is an amazing thing to witness. She knows the artist’s characteristics and styles and presents each piece in its own particular way. Beyond this, she wears her interest in each customer’s personal styles and interests that walks in through the door openly, creating an environment of ease in each customer.
Speaking to this, she says, “I love what I do. I love people. It’s not about making money out of this, it is satisfaction and the customer service.”
As someone so traveled and learned in so many areas, Adedevoh-Woods says she believes everyone should do what they love. “Not just retail,” she says, “whatever you want to do, make sure its something that you love so that it doesn’t’ become work. When I come here, I have to open boxes, sweep, price stuff, but to me it’s not work.”
She continues by saying she does these tasks so that she, her employees, and her customers can be comfortable in the artistic space she has made. “I don’t care what you sell,” says Adedevoh-Woods, “if you don’t treat people right and if you don’t show them the passion and what its all about, it’s not going to go anywhere. Kindness is the cheapest thing.” As the shop door opens, it is truly obvious that to Adedevoh-Woods, kindness is the most important thing.