24-Year-Old Entrepreneur Puts Paper Street on the Map
With 13 tenants and more space to rent, Andy Didorosi's small-business incubator is giving life to Ferndale companies.
Andy Didorosi is just back from Manhattan, NY, and full of real estate ideas. Not that it takes a trip to the Big Apple to get him inspired, but, he figured, why not check out what other businesses like his are doing?
That’s the kind of sharp thinking that has catapulted Didorosi, 24, to owner of the nearly 1-year-old Paper Street, a small-business incubator in Ferndale off East Nine Mile Road. Housed in a space that once was the Jarvis Property Restoration building, Paper Street rents office space to some 13 companies.
The idea to open an incubator was actually incubating in Didorosi’s mind for the past two years, yet it wasn’t until a fateful turn of events in his other job in the racing field that Didorosi was inspired to create Paper Street.
The entrepreneur was actually looking for a space for his racing vehicles and discovered the 22,000-square-foot facility on Craigslist. Based on earlier conversations, he was relatively confident his racing colleagues would want to rent there as well.
“I made the deal and then told them (his friends), ‘Hey, I’m here, it’s time to move in,’ and they bailed on me,” he recalled. “So basically, over some deep thought — and some good Chinese food — I came up with Paper Street.”
How It Works
Each of Didorosi’s tenants rent their space from him for about $250 and up per month. They pay a flat fee that includes utilities and enjoy the convenience of a card key, which allows 24-hour access. A commons area features lots of tables and chairs and boards to write on.
“We’ve had concerts in the commons, meetings, an app company often rents it for four of their employees,” Didorosi explained. For $25 per month, individuals can sign up for a key card and work in the commons.
Didorosi loves to talk about how Tommy Onyx (of techno music fame), whose web-design business Loudbaby is located at Paper Street, told Inner City band members they could hold their practices in the commons area before last year’s Detroit Electronic Movement festival. “We had a private concert,” Didorosi said. “Unbelievable!”
Paper Street people come to work and don’t need to worry about maintenance, upkeep, where they can keep their lunch cold or how to find space for visitors.
“There’s a community aspect, but not hard community responsibilities,” said Didorosi, who lives in Ferndale. “You can build a network here but focus on your own stuff, too.” Although all 13 office spaces are rented (and there’s a waiting list), there are still 23 industrial spaces available.
“This incubator ties new business folks with industry experts,” he said. “Our goal is to get you grown up and moved to new space.”
The name, Paper Street, was taken from the Brad Pitt movie, The Fighter. “A ‘paper street’ is a street that exists only in maps and planning documents,” he said, “and they’re not real. Here, we have sort of an intersection of people’s ideas that are conceptualized and made real.”
As for décor, each tenant paints their space however they’d like. Didorosi's, for example, is bright yellow and “the farthest from gray that I could conceive,” he said. His colleagues told him he was crazy to paint it such a bright color, but, Didorosi said, “it reflects a lot of light.”
While Didorosi basks in warm, sunshiny hues, neighbor Janelle Rogers, who runs Green Light Go Publicity, works amid the cool hues of teal and aqua.
Her company focuses on showcasing bands (local to international — The Handsome Family, Golden Bloom, Leopold and His Fiction, to name a few) in a major media arena.
“I love the energy of this place,” said Rogers, a Ferndale resident who learned about Paper Street at Ferndale’s DIY Street Fair. “It’s creative. And people here work together to help each other.” She is especially grateful for the design input she received from Acme Digital Designs, located down the hall. “My business card needed a redesign badly,” she said. “They did a great job.”
Rogers also likes to bounce ideas off Didorosi. “I get support, but not like it’s someone in your organization," she said. "He’ll help with finding companies for this or that, and he’s made it a place where it’s not just a building to rent an office.”
Just down the hall, Casey Thebolt, who runs CTV3 Enterprises, a masonry and brickwork company, considers his experience at Paper Street. “It’s peaceful and calm here,” Thebolt said. “And it’s respectful of the inhabitants as well as community focused.”
Other Paper Street members include Promote Inc., a print broker; Motor City Free Geek, a nonprofit outfit specializing in reusing technology to benefit the impoverished; Marcia Alther, a writer and journalist working on translating German fairy tales to English; Cantabarry Grills, a seasoning company; and B. Nektar Meadery.
Landlord Hits the Track
When he’s not focused on incubator duties, Didorosi is involved in rally racing (high-speed, off-road racing) and light motorcycle competitions. He helps run the former Detroit Dorais Velodrome, which was built in 1969, then was abandoned and now is being resurrected as the Thunderdrome. He’s proud that he played a major role in getting the course up and running once again. Today, mopeds, pit bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, scooters and more race there.
What fueled Didorosi’s passion for racing and entrepreneurial ventures? “Well,” he said with a shrug, “usually racers come from families who are involved in racing. My family had zero interest in motorized anything.”
Yet Didorosi, who grew up in Harper Woods and Grosse Pointe Woods, held tight to his passions. “I wasn’t a good student in high school, but not for lack of ability, even though that’s what the counselors told me,” he admitted. “I was brainy.”
Being on the robotics team his junior and senior years was a highlight for the Grosse Pointe North High School student. “I was off and running with that,” he said. After graduation, he enrolled at Lawrence Technological University with the idea of getting a mechanical engineering degree.
“But that was about dragging myself through the rituals and putting myself in a safe job,” he said. He's not into “safety,” per se – unless it’s the safety of his Paper Street tenants.
“Becoming an engineer is becoming an employee, and I’m a terrible employee. I guess I stand as a symbol of what you can accomplish without a degree, and, yeah ...” he said then paused. “I know I could regret that later.”
At first, his parents were very against Paper Street, Didorosi explained. “They thought it was another zany idea, but I’m disposed to zany ideas,” he said. The idea grew on them, though, and now Didorosi’s parents are investors in the company.
Incubating New Concepts
Ideas for new ventures constantly rev in Didorosi’s mind. These days, he’s talking about starting a line of mobile food trucks.
“That concept is so scarce here,” he said, recalling the pleasures of smoked salmon, avocado and prosciutto sandwiches that he purchased from street vendors during the wee hours of the morning in New York. “With all of the cultures in this area, this type of thing could offer some really great food. Here in our cities, when someone’s hungry at those hours, it’s bar food or Wendy’s.”
Then he sat back in an old chair behind his circa 1970s salvaged desk picked up at a medical company that was closing. “I’m in to reusing stuff, and hey, this was free,” he laughed, hitting the top of the sturdy desk. "I'll class it up with stickers."
“You know … I wish I had big, wingback chairs and mahogany shelving and all that,” he said. “Hey, some day, right?