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Hamtramck – Offering the World in Two Square Miles

This City within a City Has it All


With a total of twenty-eight languages spoken by the school children, and 42% of its 28k+ residents being foreign-born, Hamtramck is the most diverse city in Michigan.

And this diversity is reflected in everything from the shops to the restaurants to the cultural institutions to the famous Polish Art Center. In fact, this small city within the city of Detroit is known as “The World in Two Square Miles.”

Hamtramck was named after Jean François Hamtramck, a French Revolutionary War hero who, in 1796, took possession of Detroit when British troops evacuated and remained there until his death in 1803. In 1798, the township of Hamtramck was established with his name, and settled by French people from Quebec.

In the early 1900’s it was a peace-loving German-American farming village with a population of 500.

On June 10, 1910, John and Horace Dodge broke ground for the Dodge Brothers Motor Car Company located on the South End near Joseph Campau and Conant, and by 1920 the population grew to 46,615 due to the influx of Polish immigrants coming to work in the factory. In 1922, Hamtramck was incorporated as a city to prevent annexation by Detroit.

In 1989 Polish immigration slowed dramatically, but then in came groups from Yemen Bangladesh, Albania, Bosnia, and more.

Today, the city is thriving – and growing – and diverse.

Says Alessandro Uribe-Rheinbolt, Deputy Director of the Hamtramck Downtown Development Authority, “Businesses are doing very well and new businesses are coming in. There are also a lot of infrastructure changes as the city is investing in roads, waterline reconstruction, banners for the light poles in the DDA district and more.”

Of the city itself, he says, “Hamtramck is the food capital of metro Detroit, it’s the most walkable city in Michigan and its residents come from all over the world.”

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Many of the businesses are owned by people who grew up in the area. A case in point is Festive Essentials, an Indian luxury jewelry store that’s been open now for four years, owned by Tahura Holly. She says “When I grew up there wasn’t as much walking traffic but that’s changed and now it’s a very walkable and busy city. There is a little of everything in this tiny pocket.”

Holly left the area to move to Bombay India but eventually returned to her home to open the store. “My clientele is here. My family owns businesses here. It’s safe and friendly and just a natural fit for me and my business.”

A 66-year-old staple of Hamtramck – The Polish Art Center is one of the country’s premier emporiums of Polish cultural and traditional goods. It is owned by Joan and Raymond Bittner, who moved to Hamtramck and bought the center from its original owner in 1973 when they were 23 years old.

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“I think Hamtramck is safer now than it was then, says Raymond. “It’s also much more diverse, so we are blessed with Middle Eastern restaurants, culture, retail stores with all different clothing representing all the different cultures.”

He also points to the younger generation that’s coming in, saying, “You can turn down any side street and it is crawling with kids. We also have a lot of Wayne State students renting here. It’s a magnet for younger folks.”

A much younger business – Dairy Fairies Café – opened in October of 2023. Its owner, Mahmood Mohamed has been living in Hamtramck since 2003 and says it is “One of the friendliest cities I’ve ever been to.”

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Serving freshly made deserts, mini pancakes, crepes, ice cream, coffee shakes, and more daily, Mohamed says he opened Dairy Fairies Café to offer something the city didn’t previously have. “Now people don’t have to go far to satisfy a sweet craving while being out amongst their community.”

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Another cultural and community cornerstone is the year-old Kitab Café and Bookstore, a unique environment to read, work, and meet people over specially curated coffee, pastries and sandwiches. Husband and wife owners Asma Almulaiki and Ahmed Alwhysee were born and raised in Hamtramck and say the community has shocked them by the amount of support it’s shown.

“The city and community have welcomed us with loving and welcome arms,” said Almulaiki.

“There are many new businesses opening and there’s great diversity among them as well,” said Alwhysee.

Jalyssa Smith, owner of The Fashion Station echos this statement, saying, “When I opened a year ago there were several vacant spaces that are now filled.”

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When asked why she chose Hamtramck as the location for her store, she says, “It’s diverse, peaceful, safe, calm but also busy, and it’s where people come to shop for clothes.”

These business owners describe Hamtramck as being walkable, friendly, entertaining, safe, affordable, clean, and traditional while offering quiet living and genuine support from the city and community.

Raymond Bittner sums it up best, by saying, “This is a place where you can find anything you want, and the diversity equates to no one being different because we are all different, and that works well.”


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