If you've cruised around Trumbull and Elizabeth in Corktown lately, you may have noticed some strange changes being made to the old Hoot Robinson's building. The exterior of the building has been painted silver, with a black UFO logo spray-painted on it. It heralds the return of the UFO Factory, an arty DIY space that once existed in Eastern Market. According to longtime scenester Dion Fischer — who was part of the first UFO Factory and is one of the co-owners of its new incarnation — the new space hosts a variety of activities, from live music to art shows to artisanal hot dogs. We stopped by to speak with Fischer and get the scoop.
Metro Times: Who all is involved with the UFO Factory?
Dion Fischer: Dion D. Fischer (that's me), Aliccia Bollig-Fischer, and young Matthew Bihun are the owners and operators. Beren Ekine is heading up the upcoming Laika Dog kitchen — fancy hot dogs! Davin Brainard is working with me on art shows, and art and design in general. Also, we have lots of help from Party Store Productions on the music booking and promotion front.
MT: Why and when did the old UFO Factory close?
Fischer: The beta version of UFO Factory was located in a small all-silver loft space in the Eastern Market area. We opened in 2007 and closed a couple years later because we were too loud for the upstairs neighbors, and they were too loud for us. There was a second all-cardboard, all-silver installation version at MOCAD. Our new location is the old Hoot Robinson's building located in Corktown on Trumbull directly across from the ghost of Tiger Stadium.
MT: What was going on at Hoot's before you moved in?
Fischer: The building dates back to the 1930s. Hoot Robinson's was a popular watering hole for the likes of Babe Ruth, Bobby Layne, and Kirk Gibson. By all accounts, ol' Hoot was as stand-up a guy as there ever was. At some point it was purchased by different proprietors who allowed the classic Art Deco era building to fall into disrepair. According to folks who were there, this era of Hoot Robinson's is most famous for having the sewer backed up into the bathrooms. The building stood vacant for approximately 12 years. We purchased it a little while ago and have been renovating since February. Good news! We've fixed the plumbing!
MT: What are some of the renovations you've made?
Fischer: We made all of the changes. We have new electrical, heating and cooling, upholstery, and plumbing. We've returned the facade to something similar to its Art Deco heyday, built a stage, put in a nice backyard fence and patio, and added a sound-system, superstar jukebox, popcorn machine, disco ball, giant projection screen, and vintage arcade games. We are in the process of renovating the kitchen for Laika Dog in the back room of UFO Factory. Other than that, the place is exactly the same as it ever was. Oh, yeah, we painted everything silver.
MT: What sort of events will you have at the UFO Factory?
Fischer: Well, for the grand opening week we have live music from John Krautner, the Hentchmen, Mountains and Rainbows, Duane, Danny & the Darleans, Pretty Ghouls, Feelings, and Dick Diver from Australia. Expect live music spanning the entire Detroit underground, national and international music world, movie nights, disc jockeys, and dance parties on Thursday nights. There will be monthly art shows, the first of which is a group show titled Monster Movie. There will be outsider freak solo art shows by the likes of Nai Sammon, Thelonious Bone, Time Stereo, and many more in the upcoming months. On nights off from events, UFO Factory will serve as a good old-fashioned corner bar with cheap beer, good-timers, and good music on the jukebox.
Please note UFO Factory isn't just a place. It's also record label, graphic arts and sound production company, and "Jungian" state of mind.
MT: Right, got it. Where did the UFO Factory's tagline, "New Detroit," come from? It seems like you guys have been using it for a while, but now we've heard it used to pejoratively describe "Gilbertville" and gentrification.
Fischer: I knew this one was coming. I hate the capitalist system as much as the next guy, but here we are back in the USA, trying to put our little version of art and community out there sustainably while trying to maybe have some fun too. Believe me, opening this business has given us a healthy dislike of plump, over-perfumed, slick, cutthroat businessmen. It's true we started using "New Detroit" back in the mid-early 2000s as a cute little way to describe a diverse yet like-minded art and music scene that was always bubbling under. Think of it like "New Wave" or something, but you know, "New Detroit" instead.
Where does it really come from? "New Detroit, Inc." was started as a multi-cultural coalition in 1967 to help identify and ease social unrest. Conversely, it's also the locale for 1987 sci-fi flick RoboCop.
I suggest taking the term "New Detroit" back from the Internet trolls and the big business world, and instead using it as a term to describe any positive, forward-thinking movement in the city of Detroit. Less talking, more doing. Detroit isn't a blank canvas — it's a real city, a real continuum with a diverse population. It has always been ever-changing and always will be. Let's face it, Detroit does need some "new." Yes, there is so much wrong with the way millionaires get the red carpet, and low-income gets shafted in cities like Detroit. I have only been in the city for about 20 years, so I'm no expert, but seems to me most of the "New Detroit" criticism is pointless, misguided online chatter. The city is 142.9 square miles. Gentrification will take like 25 years at this rate. Neighborhood gentrification? Well, yeah, it is starting in a few neighborhoods. Your rent is going up? Serious total bummer. Get off Facebook. Consider buying a cheap house in some yet "undiscovered" location in the city. Fix up the house, paint over the graffiti, board up the abandoned homes, pick up the trash, volunteer at a locally minded community nonprofit organization. Get three of your friends to do the same. Voila! New neighborhood for the bad guys to target for gentrification. Maybe we'll build a new UFO Factory there? — mt
The UFO Factory opens with three days of festivities starting at 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 26, at 2110 Trumbull St, Detroit. Check Facebook for more information.