Way back in 1991 I was into gift basket making - I even attended a national gift basket symposium in Chicago. I still make gift baskets occasionally [especially tea themed ones], but my passion for tea drastically sidelined my interest in gift baskets.
It was in 1991 that I discovered R. Hirt Jr. Co. in Detroit's Eastern Market. The first floor had every kind of specialty food that you can imagine, including a fabulous gourmet cheese area. The third floor had baskets galore, shred, cellophane and all types of unique giftware. It was a one-stop shop for my gift basket needs and I loved going there.
After my hubby and I traveled to England in 2001, and I discovered the rough cut brown sugar cubes they served with their tea, granulated white sugar would no longer suffice. I found the brown cubes at Hirt, imported from Paris, France no less!
When my gift baskets waned, so did my visits to Eastern Market. I was able to purchase a different brand of brown sugar cubes at Cost Plus / World Market - until they closed all their stores in my area.
Then Hirt closed their doors in 2011! The store that was founded in 1887 and still operating in its 1893 building, ceased doing business due to a family disagreement between third and fourth generation family members. How could that be? Hirt was an Eastern Market icon!
Imagine my delight when I read my on-line Free Press news recently stating that the uncle and nephew settled their differences. The nephew kept the Hirt business name, but opened a wholesale distribution center in a different part of Eastern market, while the uncle kept the original building, opening under a new name - De Vries & Company.
So my hubby and I headed off to Eastern Market to get our supply of brown sugar cubes and see the building's renovated interior. Here's the newly named, "old" store that everybody loves!
They have an impressive expanded tea section at the front of the store [as opposed to the previous smaller section towards the back of the store]. They sell a huge selection of Harney & Sons Fine Teas, Elmwood Inn Teas [which they never carried before], Taylors of Harrogate, Twinings of London, Lifeboat Tea, Typhoo, PG Tips, Teas from a Michigan blender - Great Lakes Tea & Spice Co., and Tulsi teas. I asked permission to take photos and they graciously granted it.
Since they're a specialty food retailer, I have to share another product that we purchased while we were there...
Hand cooked English Potato Chips, directly from Herefordshire, England. I LOVE the unique packaging, and the chips are delicious - similar to our Kettle Chips.
Here's a paragraph that was printed on the back the bag. I think it's priceless. Without tasting a single chip, I would have bought the product just because of it's fun packaging. "Do you have English ancestors? If so, have a rummage around at home, and if you find any eccentric old photos of them get in touch. You never know, old Auntie Ivy could be the next face of Tyrrells. Pop along to upload your piccies!"
Here's a bit of Eastern Market history:
Every Saturday as many as 40,000 people flock to Eastern Market's vibrant marketplace for one of the most authentic urban adventures in the United States. The market covers 43 acres with more than 250 independent vendors, in open-air stalls. It's the largest historic public market in the United States [being on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places; a U.S. Historic District; and a Michigan State Historic Site]. Vendors and patrons have been coming here since 1891.
Below is a section of the market across from De Vries [Hirt]. Since we were there on a weekday it wasn't bustling with activity, but it was a fun visit none-the-less.
Thanks for visiting Detroit's Eastern Market with me!