Program helping thriving businesses improve curb appeal in jeopardy in Southwest Detroit

Without this program, some small business owners could be buried in city fines for compliance issues

DETROIT – Donut Villa employees have been working out of a temporary location for 18 months near their building on West Vernor Highway in Southwest Detroit, which is undergoing significant renovations.

“It is a total remodel of really the entire building, but especially the façade,” said Donut Villa owner Gabriel Gutierrez. “The front of the building is what you want to be most inviting to the public, to the community.”

Some of the exterior improvements are being funded by a $10,000 grant from the Southwest Detroit Business Association’s façade improvement program.

“After receiving the grant, I was able to then dedicate some resources to open up this roof,” Gutierrez said.

Laura Chavez heads the SDBA.

“Now, when you think of façade, a lot of people think, oh well, it’s just to make things beautiful or make them nice,” said Chavez. “Well, the reality is it’s sustainability and longevity and support for these businesses. Sometimes, you may have a 100-year-old building that needs maintenance, and a small business owner just doesn’t have the capacity to do that.”

Last March, the organization was told that its longtime corporate sponsors of the program are going in a different direction. Since then, the SDBA has been searching for new sponsors.

Chavez said funding for the program will last through next November.

“We’ve been able to do about $3.4 million in renovations in southwest Detroit and support these businesses for these last 17 years, but we definitely can’t stop,” Chavez said. “We need sustainable funding to continue to do this.”

Part of the issue, Chavez said, is getting donors to look beyond the surface.

Without this program, some small business owners could be buried in city fines for compliance issues, leading to closures and blight.

“There’s a lot of different aspects, not just the financial support that we provide them, but also, I don’t want to say hand-holding,” Chavez said. “I’m going to say the hand-up that we’re providing to these businesses to really make sure that they continue to thrive.”

Renovations are wrapping up at Donut Villa. Guterriez said plans are to reopen the location in December.

Email for more information about SDBA’s façade improvement program.

About the Author:

Will Jones rejoined the Local 4 News team in February 2023 as a weekend anchor and reporter. He previously worked as a general assignment reporter for the station from 2012 to 2015.