Detroit — Warick Richardson was sitting in a plastic chair in a storefront with a bashed-in window, trying without any notable success to sleep. He had just spent hours cleaning up broken panes. He was thinking about hungry people.
Richardson, 50, is not yet a success story, if you judge by what’s in the till at the menswear shop he named Tailored Detroit. Though his taste is impeccable and his confidence unshakeable, his timing was awful: he opened in Eastern Market on Feb. 28, only a few weeks before COVID-19 began to slap a padlock on the entire state.
But that old saying about what to do when life hands you lemons? He’s making his lemonade out of rubble and shards of glass, and the priest who runs the Pope Francis Center in Detroit calls what he’s doing “a holy thing.”
In the early morning gloom a few Saturdays ago, after the police left and before the first customer arrived, Richardson asked himself a question: “How can I turn this into a positive?”
The answer hit him the way the would-be intruder had hit the window with chunks of concrete and a wooden plank.
He would turn the concrete and glass into cufflinks and lapel pins, and he would turn the cufflinks and lapel pins into food for people who can’t afford groceries.
The same retail neighbor who helped chase off the 2:30 a.m. window-breaker is crafting the jewelry. The goal with the SIX13 collection, named for the June 13 date of the destruction and inspiration, is to raise $5,000 for the Pope Francis Center, and receipts have already passed the halfway point.
“We live in such a divided time. The us-against-them mentality is everywhere,” said the Rev. Tim McCabe, the center’s executive director. “To take an act of vandalism and make it into something good is what the world needs right now.”
As for Richardson, he’s just trying to make the world a better place with suits and accessories.
“I always feel that when people dress up, they feel better,” he said. “In their heart and soul, they feel better and more comfortable out in society.”
Richardson grew up in Ann Arbor, the youngest of four children of a single mother who worked in microfilm for Xerox.
At 18, he took a part-time job at the Bachrach store in Briarwood Mall. By the time the chain went under in 2018, he said, he had become a vice president — and also a tailor, thanks to lessons from the artisans in each outlet.
There’s a Singer sewing machine in the showroom of his 1,100-square-foot shop at 1410 Gratiot Ave., across from the former Busy Bee Hardware, and a smaller machine in back for hemming pants.
He can’t make your suit, he said, but he can make whatever you buy fit better. It’s $498 for off-the-rack suits, $78 for shirts, more for custom, all by appointment. For the jewelry made from mayhem, it’s $40 to $125 for natural or polished concrete or his favorite, bits of glass bordered in copper patina.
With a double-pane window, there’s no shortage of broken glass. He and managing director Brittany Galeas keep it in a carton near a rack of finished alterations. They’re actually running low on rubble, since they’re preserving the largest of the three pieces as a display, but it’s not as though chunks of concrete are hard to find in the neighborhood.
Like Richardson, Galeas, 31, is a Detroiter and a Bachrach refugee. She’s the more cautious of the two: The store stayed afloat in the spring selling PPE, an upside of having Chinese suppliers, and she’s the one who insisted they move the masks out of the front window at night.
She assumes the window smasher was in search of electronics. Richardson has decided he was just a vandal; with a streetlight glowing at curbside and a gated front door, “there are easier places to break in if you really want something.”
“It’s anything they can resell,” said Bethany Shorb, and whatever the goal, she recognized the sound of desperation.
Shorb, 44, owns Well Done Goods by Cyberoptix just up the block. She makes renowned neckties and other clothing, jewelry and gifts in her second-floor studio above the store, often at odd hours, and she has learned that “if there’s noise, generally it’s nothing good.”
Her front door has been broken out three times in the past 18 months, and the thud of rock on glass rang a bell. As she dropped the mask she was sewing and hollered out the window, her husband, Kip Ewing, hit the sidewalk at a dead sprint.
The basher bolted, headed southwest toward downtown in his white socks, sneakers and long shorts. Shorb, who had done some T-shirt work for her new neighbor, called Galeas.
“I felt like the Grim Reaper,” she said. “It’s hard enough to start a business, and then there’s a pandemic, and then you get broken into.”
And then, this time, there was something generous and admirable — as well as time-consuming.
Truth is, Richardson said, he asked two artists for samples of break-in fashion. He was relieved when he preferred the vision of the woman who had protected his business.
It’s painstaking work, Shorb said. Cut the stone, chisel out pieces, make them match, trim anything sharp. The glass pieces involve electroforming, a long, intricate method of fusing metal onto another medium using a low-voltage electrical charge.
She’s used to working with unusual materials. Her high-end line includes pendants made of coyote vertebrae and rings made of metal from meteorite craters.
Crime residue is new — and for Richardson, something of a salve.
His landlord’s insurance will cover the window. He was back in business the day it shattered; a customer had an appointment at 11 a.m., though Richardson went home to nap and let Galeas step in.
“You carry on,” he said. But you can carry on with a chip on your shoulder, or you can find a way to make that chip stylish and put it on someone’s wrist.