American Pop is Going Out of Business 'Soon'
American Pop owner Wyll Lewis said there's too much emphasis on the bars and restaurants in Fendale.
Buying a whoopee cushion in downtown Ferndale could be a little harder in the future. American Pop owner, Wyll Lewis, said Ferndale's catchall retail novelty shop would "soon" be closed.
"Economy is part of it," he said. "But no one is parking and walking around. Simply no one is walking in anymore."
Even though Lewis, 49, said his business isn't hurting too much, he still is shuttering his doors.
"I sell affordable things to cheer people up. I do well in a bad economy," he said.
The problem for Lewis is more about a changing downtown than a slipping economy. He said Ferndale Downtown Development Authority puts too much emphasis on bars and restaurants.
However, the DDA adds that events like Merry Midnight Madness, which is part of Third Thursday where retailers stay open later, and the Ferndale Ice Festival are pure retail events set up specifically for merchants in the DDA district.
"These events are designed to help everybody," DDA Communications Director Chris Hughes said.
Hughes also added that the DDA offers group advertisement for downtown merchants such as the Downtown Ferndale Business Guide, seasonal advertisements and other special events.
"These events are juvenile at best. Third Thursdays was ineffective (for my business)," Lewis said. "Now that the Motor City Pride is moving downtown, that was the final nail in the coffin."
Lewis said he made more during the Motor City Pride weekend than he would on his best month. "They loved my store. I would physical prop my door open. Now (Motor City Pride) gone," he said.
American Pop joins Strawberry Moon Bakery, Percussion World, Rockin' Soul, Amore Fashion and House of Chants as businesses that have closed over the last few months.
"We never, ever want to see a business go out of business, no matter what the reasons. We don't like to see it," Hughes said. "It's tough, more difficult in this economy."
Before coming to the south side of West Nine Mile Road five years ago, he had operated a similar shop across the street before shutting that one down.
"I was waiting for the right spot to open up before starting again," Lewis said. "Then this place became available and it was a natural fit."
Lewis said the history of his shop was also a reason it drew him in. "It was Women's Prerogative" – one of the first gay-owned businesses in downtown Ferndale – "and a shoe shop. It had a tin ceiling. It just felt like one of those old, custom toy shops," he said.
His fascination with vintage and toys came from two different areas. His father was head of the refurbishing department of Hudson's and at a young age, Lewis said he learned how to restore vintage items. "That's where my love for vintage came from," he said.
Then, he said, growing up he'd also walk to a local shop for what he called "ammunition."
"I'd get black snakes, smoke bombs, x-ray glasses," he said. "This is all vintage retro stuff now." And American Pop is filled with it. From wall to wall, floor to ceiling, the store is packed with vintage toys, novelty gifts and Lewis' own artwork -- Lewis creates art from found objects and sells them online and in his store.
"This is one of our favorite shops in Ferndale," Doug Williams, Beverly Hills, MI, resident said. "It's a destination place. We like this place. We like Ferndale. … It's eclectic and more relaxed than Royal Oak."
"This is one of the most unique stores you'll ever come into," said Ferndale resident Jason Giarmo.
Lewis said he's not sure when he'll close. Friday was the first day of his "going out of business" sale where everything was up to 50 percent off. "We'll be closed soon," he said.
"Ferndale used to be a statement. My store represents the history and the DIY feel and the small ma and pa type shops," Lewis said. "There are 20 places to get pizza but not a rolling eyeball or an old fashioned pony ride."