Hostel Detroit

Several weeks ago I contacted Emily Doerr, the redhaired UofD student who founded Hostel Detroit and near-instantly catapaulted to local celebrity.  While Doerr graciously agreed, she and her crew have been plenty busy not just getting the hostel up and running, but responding to press inquiries from all over the country, including the New York Post.  No wonder it took them a while to respond!   But respond they finally did this week.

While I doubt they need additional exposure from a D-lister like me, I wanted to share Hostel Detroit General Manager Michel Francois Soucisse’s responses to my questionnaire.  So without further ado:

Getting there/around

1. Do you anticipate your guests coming with or without cars? For those not driving:  how do you anticipate they will get there, & how will they get around?

Many of our guests so far have been international travelers without automobiles. Once they arrive, a few different options are available to them. There are a few nearby taxi-cab companies and bus routes, but the best way to see Detroit is by bicycle. Our city is enormous, so often walking isn’t feasible. Driving in a car, even as a passeger, often doesn’t give you the chance to appreciate all of the gorgeous details and textures Detroit has to offer, so to that end we have on-site bike rentals. They’ve been incredibly popular.

Basics

3.  Any guests yet?
We opened our doors for business April 15th and so far the bookings have been steady. We’ve been fully booked on several occasions. During Memorial Day/Movement  weekend, we created twelve plots in our big backyard for guests to camp out and they did. We sold out the yard, and I camped out with them. It was a blast.
4. How did you choose this particular site?
North Corktown is beautiful. It’s town & country. We’re just off downtown but we have so many trees and well maintained fields. We have a beautiful view of the Michigan Central Station, possibly our most iconic ruin. We have absolutely wonderful neighbors, a great landlord, and the building fit the bill, so it was a no-brainer.
5. Do you have a time frame in which you expect/hope to turn a profit?
Hostel Detroit is a non-profit organization, but we’ve been able to pay our bills so far! All jokes aside, we’re very fortunate to have people with such good heads on their shoulders running the financial side of things, and I can’t emphasize enough how much the community has contributed.

Amenities

6. Do you plan to provide food eventually?  A bar?
For the moment, we have no plan to expand into an area where we’d be serving food or alcohol. We like to think that our Hostel will actually be encouraging many of the businesses we love in the city. I think we’ll let our friends handle the food and drinks, and we’ll take care of the beds.

Collaborators

7. Are you partnering with any other businesses in this project? 
Yes. Often. We look forward to continuing our involvement with the many businesses that have shown us so much love. We’ve really had tremendous support within the Detroit business community and we can’t wait to embark upon more joint ventures with them, big or small.
8. How has your experience been with getting city permits & approvals? Lots of red tape or not too bad?
Whenever you start a business, be it a for-profit or a non-profit like us, there are eight hundred million hoops to jump through and papers to sign and inspections to be had; there’s always red-tape. But there are also wonderful, dedicated people working for the city who are as thrilled as we are about the Hostel and who are committed not only to its survival, but to its success. They’re the ones who made it bearable, they’re the ones who made the red-tape not seem so bad.
9. Are you getting much in the way of donations yet?
Absolutely. On all levels. From financial support to materials. The other day, we asked our Facebook community to borrow a lawn mower for the day as we didn’t have one yet. Within hours, a generous donor dropped off a brand new electric lawn mower; its wonderful. All you have to do is look at our donor plaque on the outside of our building to see the broad array of people and businesses who’ve helped us come into being, we’re very lucky.
10. Anything else I didn’t ask about you’d especially like to share?
We at Hostel Detroit are so excited to be a new, active part of our city and part of what I call molecular activism for it. The conversations around our dinner table have been wonderful, enlightening and very validating.These are conversations that perhaps wouldn’t be happening otherwise. I can’t tell you how terrific it is to see so many different kinds of people from all over the globe talk about what an exciting, mesmerizing city this is, and to see them begin to understand our history and our hearts.

For out-of-towners, or locals looking for a staycation, you can find a wealth of additional details on HostelDetroit.com.  There’s a superb and thorough FAQdetailed directions to the hostel from various points of origin, and an up to date events page.   I encourage everybody else to head over to Facebook and “Like” it.

For other Hostel Detroit coverage:

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