"The Vernor Cafe will be a space to provide free classes in the arts from filmmaking, visual art, graphic design and music lessons for free to Southwest students.”

In just over a year, El Club, located in southwest Detroit, has made a name for itself as an all ages artist venue and continues to expand its reach with a remodeling of an adjacent building into The Vernor Cafe.

The Kickstarter campaign to fund the remodel ended with 351 backers pledging $55,965, outpacing the original goal of $50,000.

Since the venue opened in May 2016, it has hosted an abundance of artists from local musicians such as LaBritney and Tunde Olaniran to better-known musicians like No Name and Girlpool.

Graeme Flegenheimer, the club owner, attributes the success of the facility and its respected reputation to persistent work ethic and setting large goals.

“Hard work, keeping the space clean and constantly raising the bar in terms of what artists are coming here and what type of bills we are producing [contributes to the success],” Flegenheimer said. “We [are] always thinking of how to enhance the customer's experience.”

The new business venture is planned to enhance a visitor’s experience and provide a space for the community. The $50,000 Kickstarter funded a project to utilize the former hardware store next door by transforming it into a multipurpose studio, gallery, retail and community space.

The Vernor Cafe will be a separate entity from El Club under the same management. The Kickstarter page created a detailed plan for the three-floor layout to include artist practice spaces for rent, café and retail space and a gallery. These additions will create a more interactive atmosphere.

“Long term, [we want] to have a space where art is not only consumed, but also nurtured and created,” Flegenheimer said. “We will incorporate a homage to the previous business Basala Hardware. It will be a simple design—very utilitarian.”

Donations from $5 to $2,500 are planned to be rewarded with gifts ranging from a thank you note and CD mixtape from upcoming artists at El Club to lifetime VIP and a party. Management says that $50,000 is “just the tip of the iceberg” for their vision, regardless they “will start construction hopefully by June and open in spring of 2018.”

Flegenheimer is determined to stay and grow in the southwest Detroit community.

“It is great here. People talk to one another and are open to ideas,” he said. “We host a lot of community events for free and also highlight Southwest artists like Awkward Theory.”

The club also invests in the community by donating some proceeds from the bar to organizations like Standing Rock, Doctors Without Borders in Syria and InsideOut Detroit. The Vernor Cafe will also enrich the community with the amenities it will provide.

“The Vernor Cafe will be a space to provide free classes in the arts from filmmaking, visual art, graphic design and music lessons for free to Southwest students,” Flegenheimer said. “Additionally hosting [Alcoholics Anonymous] and [Narcotics Anonymous] meetings, the space will have affordable practice spaces and a free silk screening studio.”

For more information, visit El Club’s Facebook page or check out the (now finished) Kickstarter campaign. 

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