Will Adler, whose company, Will Leather Goods just opened a 9000-square-foot "experience" store in midtown, says he wants the store to help build community in Detroit. As part of that aim, Will Leather Goods will donate 50 thousand backpacks to Detroit Public Schools students over the next two years. The initiative is part of the company's Give Will program, which will give half a million backpacks to underprivileged children nationwide. Adler, the company's founder and a native Detroiter, told Curbed that he wants all children to have "a bag to carry their dreams."
"We want to give 500 thousand backpacks to underprivileged children in America, including 50 thousand in Detroit, so every kid has a quality backpack within the first 24 months we're open," he said, adding that he sees the charity program as "Helping the city grow, helping bring people into the city, and supporting our public schools."
Despite criticism that the new store displaced a grocery, and that items there may be priced beyond many neighborhood residents' reach, Adler insists that store is all about building community in Detroit. "It was the old Tomboy Market, kind of a rundown market on the verge of bankruptcy," Adler explained. "We paid them well for it and totally redid it. We polished the terrazzo floors and put in tender loving care with the building and made it the home of Will Leather Goods. The space looks beautiful and really adds a lot to the community," He added. He also hopes the store's coffee shop and free WiFi will benefit students at nearby Wayne State University.
"We put in a great WiFi system so people can come in," Adler said. "People come in and study in our cafe. It's a very warm and welcoming place. You find people coming in and learning about leather. So there's almost a museum-like feeling of the store." The shop also contains an in-house art gallery currently devoted to photographs from Life Magazine focusing on American subjects including the Kennedy family. Adler also said that there are items in the store at good "entry points" for people on a budget, but that all goods come with a full 100% lifetime guarantee, so that anything sold in the store, even a key fob or a $40 backpack, can be refurbished free of charge for the lifetime of the product.
Will Leather Goods will host a grand opening celebration sometime in December. Until then, Adler hopes Detroiters will come in and get to know the new space. He says local artists, craftspeople and bakers haven't been shy about visiting Will Leather and asking about placing their wares in the store. He says the shop plans to draw on local talent for product ideas and objects to sell, as well as for art for the in-house gallery. Will Leather Goods opened Nov 2. The store is open daily from 7 a.m. -9 p.m.
·Give Will [Will Leather Goods]
·Will Leather Goods Opens in Historic Tomboy Grocery Building [Curbed Detroit]