Eastern Market’s Cherished Black-Owned Businesses Vow to Rise from the Ruins

Just over a month ago, the heart of Detroit’s bustling Eastern Market was shattered by a devastating incident: a partial collapse of the nearly century-old building at 2501 Russell St. This historic edifice, a symbol of Detroit’s resilience and entrepreneurial prowess, was the proud home to two revered Black-owned businesses: Jabs Gym Eastern Market and Detroit vs. Everybody.

The collapse, which transpired on Saturday, Sept. 16, at around 11:30 a.m., sent tremors of distress throughout the community. However, in a testament to the spirit of Detroiters and the vigilance of Jabs Gym’s management, all staff and gym members were evacuated in time, escaping injury as the southern walls of the third and fourth floors plummeted.

The aftermath was bleak. The once-thriving landmark was declared uninhabitable by the City of Detroit, casting shadows of uncertainty over its future. Yet, in the resilient fashion for which Detroit is famed, recent revelations signal hope on the horizon. According to a statement on Sept. 22 from the city’s Buildings, Safety Engineering, and Environmental Department, an engineer appointed by the owner of the Del Bene building found it “safe to enter, stabilize, assess, and repair.”

Today, Armond Rashad, the heart and soul behind Jabs Gym Eastern Market, articulates a message of resilience and dedication. Despite the unforeseen damage to their physical establishment, their unwavering commitment to health and well-being in Detroit remains robust. Adapting swiftly to the circumstances, Rashad has seamlessly transitioned to hosting classes at Eastern Market’s Shed 3.

As anchors of the community, both businesses possess rich histories. Jabs Gym, functioning since 2015, is not just a place for physical training but is synonymous with community well-being. Rashad’s establishment is hailed as a transformative space that stands as a beacon for health and fitness, catering to Detroiters from every walk of life. Rashad’s dedication is reflected in his plans, sharing an outline that the renovations will span a period of six months. Once these are completed, he anticipates resuming business operations as usual and an ambitious reopening slated for April 2024.

However, the interim solution of holding classes at Shed 3 does not negate the financial implications borne from the building’s collapse, underscoring the inherent challenges businesses face amidst unexpected adversities. “Things are slow but we’re just hoping that we’ll still be around after six months of no revenue,” shared Rashad. “We just came through COVID not too long ago and we were hit pretty hard by COVID so many gyms went out of business, but we’re hoping to once again show up for Detroit and we hope that the city shows up for us.” Rashad continues to call on the city to lend a hand-up during these unforeseen circumstances. “Hopefully the city has some grants to keep us afloat during the six months we are down. The bottom-line is that we’re going to need some serious grant dollars from somewhere to keep us afloat.”

Meanwhile, Detroit vs. Everybody, helmed by the visionary Tommey Walker and CEO Sean Williams, had occupied the building’s ground floor. Its recent endeavors involved a stunning glass-enclosed mural by the prodigious Bakpak Durden, signifying the brand’s collaboration with luxury giant Gucci. The collapse, unfortunately, struck right when Walker was gearing up to announce plans for a November relaunch from this very location.

“We were planning on doing a reopening on Nov. 19 prior to the collapse. We were doing sidewalk sales every weekend to build up to that date and we had a full plan around the Lions tailgates where we planned to do those hand and hand sales,” shared Williams. “So, that has been our greatest hurdle. We weren’t able to do those sales that we planned to do, and it has impacted our financial bottom line significantly.”

Williams iterated that there has been mixed direction from both the Eastern Market Corporation and the landlord of the building that houses both Jabs Gym and Detroit Vs. Everybody. He says that the landlord has given the green light that DVE could have set up shop as early as Nov. 1, but the Eastern Market Corp. has given some pushback, citing that there are other steps that need to be taken. Williams says that the confusion has garnered mixed feelings.

“We have been in limbo for a while with getting mixed information from the landlord and Eastern Market Corp. that now has us trying to figure out if we want to continue being tenants at the building. We feel uncomfortable with how this whole process has been. So, we’re contemplating on just moving on and going somewhere else for our brick and mortar,” Williams said.

“We have the same exact landlord (as Jabs), but we’re in the basement, which makes us a tad bit uncomfortable because the foundation of the building is not sturdy and if everything comes down then we’ll have a greater impact. The landlord is saying that what happened doesn’t affect our space, but we don’t buy that, and our advisors are telling us to move on from the building all together.” Williams went on to mention that at this moment, he and Walker have not locked in on a new building just yet, but they plan to very soon, ahead of Black Friday.

Although the reality of heading back into the Eastern market location may be slim to none, the duo is looking forward to setting up shop in the city, most notably, a hotspot downtown. “It’s like the turning lemons into lemonade scenario,” said Williams. “We’ve gotten over the initial shock of everything happening the way it happened so we’re just moving forward now. We are a God-fearing brand and God-fearing men, so we feel that God has given us a reset and sometimes things are uncomfortable but it’s inevitable, so we take this as a moment of change. It’s sad to say, but we’ve settled in with the fact that the Eastern Market chapter just might be closed.”

It’s important to emphasize that Detroit’s heart is exemplified not just by its iconic structures but by its people. The indomitable spirit of business owners like Rashad, Williams, and Walker and the community’s undying support are a testament to Detroit’s character. As they rally to rebuild, the tale of Jabs Gym and Detroit vs. Everybody becomes emblematic of the larger story of Detroit’s resilience. Their businesses may have faced an unforeseen challenge, but with the determination of its people, it will rise – quite literally – from the ruins.


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