Detroit’s Faithful Series – Green’s Variety Store

When I drove past the little storefront, a brick wall building with second floor apartments, on S. Solvay St. near Fort Wayne in Detroit, what caught my eye were the plants in the window. The building sat on a block nearly empty of any life and architecture. 

Next door sits one remaining home, neatly painted green with a storefront add-on. Opposite, an apartment building and the last of the residential homes, now in ruins.

It was just afternoon on a cold November Sunday. I was with photographer Janice Milhem. We had stopped to look at the sparse location, when a truck pulled up behind my parked car. Out jumped a man who entered the store, flipped the sign in the door window from closed to open and welcomed us in. Mr. Albert Green, owner, was opening Green’s Variety Store for the day.

The store had been a Confectionery when he bought it in 1959. The neighborhood was prosperous. A good future. He has lived in the neighborhood his whole life.

“My wife used to run the lunch counter. She cooked breakfast and lunch daily. We had a good business”. Good enough to raise four children, three of which attended University of Michigan.

At age 86, Mr. Green has watched his neighborhood dissolve. Now he barely keeps Green’s Variety open, catering to the few local residents with essentials: toilet paper, candy, milk, Wild Irish Rose and tobacco.

Four teenage boys enter the store. “Hi Mr. Green”, they nearly all say in unison. The teenagers huddle over the choices of candy. They pay, then smoothly leave the store. “I never have had any trouble, the youngsters have my back”, Mr. Green comments from behind the counter.

A trickle of older people come in. Each making small talk, purchasing can goods and liquor for the Sunday afternoon. “I have had a good life. My wife and I still live in the neighborhood. It is just going away, just like the good paying jobs”.


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