Hot Sam’s men’s clothing store is celebrating its 100th anniversary with an event that will highlight 25 other Black-owned businesses.
Downtown Detroit’s Campus Martius and Cadillac Square parks will be live Saturday with a fashion show, live entertainment, food and a Black-owned business showcase during the store’s event called “A Century of History: Presenting Detroit’s Black Wall Street and Entertainment Extravaganza.”
The business showcase will take place at noon Saturday featuring Vibe Ride Detroit, Red Rose Florist, Detroit Popcorn Company, My T Fine Soul Sauce and more. The fashion show and entertainment will begin at 5 p.m. The store is located at 127 Monroe St., and the event will take place on the block of Monroe from Farmer to Randolph streets.
“It is our job now to reach back and make sure that we can help and bring other small businesses on this journey,” said Lauren Stovall, legacy preserver and business lead at Hot Sam’s.
“What has been great now is we’re a small business, but now we’re looking to big businesses. … How are you going to support small businesses like Hot Sam’s and like all of these 25 other vendors that we’re bringing? What is so beautiful is that these big businesses that we’ve reached out to, they understood the assignment and they signed up for it.”
The Downtown Detroit Partnership is hosting the event for Hot Sam’s and is joined by many other sponsors and partners like Bedrock Detroit, the city of Detroit, Fifth Third Bank, Detroit Development Fund, First Independence Bank, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance, Square and more.
“We are all about celebrating and helping our Detroit small businesses, artists, entrepreneurs — especially now and especially coming out of the pandemic in 2021,” said David Cowan, chief public spaces officer for the Downtown Detroit Partnership, which will also be celebrating its centennial. “This is such an important way for us to begin to come back together safely here outdoors at Campus Martius park this summer, and really appreciate the businesses that have been there for Detroit for a long time.”
The celebration is in line with the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre on Black Wall Street, where a white mob attacked Black businesses, residents and homes in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921, the same year that Hot Sam’s opened. During the Detroit event, there will be an educational experience with banners that will talk about Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, along with Detroit’s Black Bottom and Paradise Valley.
Serving Detroit for the last century
Hot Sam’s is the oldest men’s clothing store in downtown Detroit, and it was originally founded by Sam Freedman, a Jewish man. The current owners, Tony Stovall and Cliff Green, used to work as salesmen in the store starting in 1974. Once Freedman was ready to sell the store, the family asked Green and Stovall if they wanted to take it over. The store was purchased by the two in 1994, and the store became Black-owned.
“What’s so interesting in many downtown businesses, especially in that area, the 1920s, ’60s, ’70s, the customers downtown Detroit were majority Black,” said Lauren Stovall. “Detroit is majority Black. Yes, it’s a Jewish family that owned this business. The customer base though, was primarily always Black.”
Derrick Davis, 39, of Detroit has been shopping at Hot Sam’s since he was 16. His father would take him to the store, where Davis would see other distinguished Black men shopping, like judges and government officials. Over the years, Davis said he went from being a customer to feeling like family.
In 2007, a house fire caused Davis to lose everything. The store owners gave him a call and told him to take what he needed — from suits to everyday clothes. Davis now gives back in partnership with Hot Sam’s by giving graduating seniors scholarships, providing ties and bow ties to student athletes and dressing one student for prom or graduation.
“I do everything I can to steer our community toward Hot Sam’s because they’re so relevant,” Davis said. “I know how influential they’ve been throughout my life as a youngster, and I want to help push people toward them. Hopefully, it can be the same.”
Hot Sam’s has had a goal to provide options for all men young and old no matter what the trends are over the last 100 years. The store sells suits, shirts, jeans, accessories and casual and dressy shoes, with a goal to provide options that represent the true Detroit style.
“I think, for a moment, we were just looked at as the store for the other gentlemen,” Stovall said. “And to a certain extent, we are. But we had to figure out how do we attract that new modern man that is coming to downtown. So we’re in a position to make some changes in terms of our inventory.”
“When you get to be a 100-year-old business in a city like Detroit, you have an opportunity and an obligation to be of service in a way that is not just self-serving, but that serves the community and the people,” Stovall said.
In the last 100 years, Hot Sam’s hadn’t closed its doors until COVID-19 hit, which resulted in four months of a store closure. But it led to something new. The store created a website for the first time, and sales picked up 30%. The website, which is being updated by interns from the University of Michigan, has provided opportunities for shoppers to make purchases outside of city and state lines.
Hot Sam’s plans to continue its store for another 100 years to provide a community where people can shop and socialize.
“In the near future, I think we’ll continue being that community hub, being that place where whether you’re from the old school Detroit or the new school, you feel like you’re at home when you walk into our store,” Lauren Stovall said. “That’s what we want. We want to be almost like the welcoming community.”