Oakland Avenue Urban Farm to Build a Civic Commons Through Red’s Jazz Shoe Shine Parlor Restoration Project

Historic Red’s Jazz Shoe Shine will be restored and used by the community around 2022.

Photo courtesy of Oakland Avenue Urban Farm


A historic shoe parlor in Detroit’s North End is getting a bit of a shoeshine itself through a restoration project coming soon. 

Red’s Jazz Shoe Shine Parlor located at 9148 Oakland Avenue in Detroit is on tap to get a facelift by next year.  

Founded in 1950 by Willie D. Thomas, the parlor is a notable place on Oakland Avenue. For more than half a century, the space was a premiere cultural and commercial destination where people like Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder stopped by the well-known speakeasy. 

Red’s Jazz Shoe Shine served the city’s top performers, politicians, and luminaries, according to a press release. Shortened to Red’s, the establishment provided a storefront cover for a speakeasy with a small stage, which still is there to this day.  

Spring 2022 Northend Christian CDC (NECCDC) will reopen the space as a hybrid urban attractor combining services as a; commercial incubator space, event space, outdoor community shared space and a monument to the cultural history and legacy of the shoeshine. A fundraiser is being held to raise money to help bring the restoration project to fruition. 

The funds will contribute to activating the commercial corridor of Oakland Ave. by establishing anchor businesses, creating open public space for the community, and being a platform for events, business incubation, and creativity to continue the legacy of African American culture and economic generation in the North End. 

Oakland Avenue Urban Farm (OAUF) and North End community members have been leading discussions about the type of businesses community residents want to see in the community today, according to the release. This inspired the Oakland Avenue Corridor Initiative (a community effort, to bring commercial businesses back to the Oakland Avenue Corridor) — in partnership with the Detroit Community Wealth Fund and the Detroit Justice Center — to form the Northend Co-Op Academy.

The Co-Op Academy took 26 Black Detroit residents who were interested in becoming cooperative worker-owners, trained and equipped them to become cooperative business owners to bring community-inspired local business back to the Northend Community. 

One of the businesses produced out of the co-op academy is the Black Bottom Garden Center (read more on them here).  

The funds from this campaign will help allow the Black Bottom Garden Center to preserve the cultural heritage of the historical Red’s Jazz Shoe Shine Parlor, reactivate this commercial space into the brick and mortar home of the Black Bottom Garden Center, and enhance their shared vision of a community green space.  

Djenaba Ali, one of four co-owners of the Black Bottom Garden Center, a co-op business located in the city of Detroit, (which opened in May) spoke to the Michigan Chronicle about the space, which she described as “famous” and “legendary.” 

“Our main goal is to restore the building to be structurally sound,” Ali said, adding that the campaign fundraiser encompasses multilayered elements to bring the community’s cherished building to life. “We want to honor that space and have a retail space in the front; in the middle of the building will be like sort of a small warehouse where we will have our inventory.” 

Ali added that at the back of the space would pay homage to the speakeasy history where the small stage would be a gathering space. 

“If people wanted to do open mike poetry — have some sort of event,” she said. 

Construction will start spring of 2022 with a soft opening by mid-2022. 

Ali added that even though the campaign closes officially at the end of September, donations are still being collected. 

“Anybody interested in giving or learning more information can reach out to us on our social media,” she said. 

The North End was once Detroit’s premier cultural destination, a predominantly African American neighborhood, that attracted new artists from across the country. Today, that cultural influence has been described as a shell of its former self – the restoration project hopes to change all of that. 

Contact Natosha Tallman at natosha@oaklandurbanfarm.org for more information. To give offline by cash or check make/mail/drop donations to Northend Christian Community Development Corporation at 9227 Goodwin, Detroit, MI 48211. Northend Christian CDC is a non-profit organization. All contributions are tax-deductible. 

For more information on the fundraiser visit here

For more information, on the Black Bottom Garden Center find them on Facebook here, email them at blackbottomgardencenter@gmail.com or call the Black Bottom Garden Center at 313-903-0049. 



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