Ileke in Detroit: Inspiring Voices- Erin Gavle of Eldorado General Store
Last Wednesday on International Women's Day, I had the pleasure of visiting the eclectic and charming vintage general store, Eldorado, in Corktown Detroit, and speaking with the inspiring owner, Erin Gavle, a female entrepreneur who is using her store, and her influence to create a space for others to follow their dreams.
In July 2014, when Erin Gavle opened Eldorado General Store, she did not anticipate the success of her endeavor or the support she would receive from the community she now calls home.
Four years ago after leaving an advertising job in New York City, Erin moved to L.A. and was taking some personal time to recuperate from the hectic and fast-paced city life. She spent her time meditating, practicing yoga, and thinking about the next steps in her life and career. She eventually decided that she would start making jewelry. However, after sharing her plans with friends, she was met with the advice that to be truly successful as a jewelry designer she would have to mass-produce her pieces, and outsource production overseas. As a metro-Detroit native, raised in an area where the American industrial spirit is key, this did not sit well with Erin.
It was on a visit home to Michigan, that she had what she calls her "A-ha moment". She was cleaning out her room, and came across a list of accomplishments she had written at eighteen, which she hoped her future self would have accomplished by the age of forty. Listed were goals she had already accomplished, such as living abroad, and moving to New York City. There were also the plans most eighteen-year-olds think are definitely going to happen by the time they turn twenty-five, like getting married and having kids. One particular goal gave Erin pause and sparked the idea that would lead to opening Eldorado; It was that she should open her own store by the time she turned forty. That spark of wisdom from her eighteen-year-old self was just what she needed to get started, and from there she was on a mission to make this dream a reality.
Erin has always seen herself as a cheerleader for Detroit from afar. She shared good things about the city, and made sure to give others the best representations of all Detroit has to offer. For her, there was no better way to truly be an ambassador of the place she loves so much than to move into the neighborhood and have her store be part of Detroit.
Though she was determined to make her dream happen it wasn't always smooth sailing. Erin had to reintroduce herself to Detroit by coming down to the city and spending her days exploring and immersing herself in the city's culture. She visited art museums like MOCAD, and The Detroit Institute of Arts, and would spend her time in coffee shops developing her business plan. She had to figure out how Detroit operated and how she saw herself being a part of the city. Finding a building was difficult, because at the time development in many parts of the city, including Corktown, was still a work in progress. Many of the buildings were vacant, and it was hard to identify who owned the space that Eldorado now occupies. Once she got all of that in order it was full speed ahead.
What Erin loves the most about being part of the city is the amazing support of her neighbors, the community, and even the city at large. Erin has found that Detroit operates like a small town, where the stores in the area truly support one another, and don't suffer from a need to compete with one another. Businesses in the area often recommend one other to visitors and send customers to each other's bars, restaurants and shops.
It was this spirit of community that led Eldorado and other Corktown businesses to organize Corktown-A-Glow, this past December. Corktown-A-Glow is a Christmas market in which businesses in the area participate, treating visitors to all the dining and shopping the community has to offer. A similar event will take place this May 20th (more information to come), where visitors get a chance to experience the local fare, as well as participate in beautifying the city by witnessing the unveiling of a new sculpture, and planting flowers throughout the community.
Though Detroit has gone through difficult times, Erin knows it is a place that people root for both within the United States and abroad. She is proud that she gets to contribute to a positive representation of the city. She has found that suburbanites, who in years past may have been hesitant about spending their time in the city, are now coming down for the day and supporting many of the thriving small businesses in the area. They then go back home with nice things to say about Detroit.
Eldorado works with many local artists and makers in the area and Erin sees the store as a space where consumers have true purchasing power. A high percentage of the artisans are women and the items she sells are fair trade and one-of-a-kind. None of the unique items are mass-produced and many of the artisans whose items are sold in the store donate part of their proceeds to charity.
From her own journey of following her passion, Erin wants others to take away that whatever it is you want to do, it's possible!