Delray: Beyond Isolation

Officials from the state of Michigan and Canada are now working on plans to build the New International Trade Crossing (NITC), a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor that will land in the middle of the Delray neighborhood.

Photographer Karpov and and audio journalist Laura Herberg compiled an exhibition exploring daily life of normal people — business owners, laborers, families and children — living in this small, isolated neighborhood .

View the live exhibition at Galerie Camille in Detroit through November 29. Get the details here >>


Population: 3,866
Median Household Income: $26,844
Percentage of Population Foreign-Born: 34.4%

This Southwest Detroit neighborhood wedged between 1–75, Fort Wayne, Zug Island and the Wastewater Treatment Plant – has seen its population decline over the last 50 years. But those who remain have been waiting. Residents have put their lives on hold for the proposed bridge to Canada for the last five years. Many hope to be bought out. Then they can move to a neighborhood that’s less polluted and feels safer. Others hope the bridge will make their neighborhood a better place to live.

Click to view interactive map >>

Act One: Staying Afloat

List to audio:

On a mostly abandoned strip of Jefferson Avenue, near Zug Island, there’s a company that’s weathered the storm. Lockeman’s Hardware & Boats is one of the few non-industrial businesses still open in Delray.

The shop started as just a hardware store in 1918 and then expanded to include fishing boat repairs and part sales a few years later.

David Zammitt began working at the store in 1975. He liked it much he bought the business from the original owner’s grandson in 2001. Flash forward to today and that’s 97 years of business for this shop.

Zammitt says in some cases they’ve worked with four generations of customers.

Customer Lorene Cadman lives just a few blocks away. She came into the store to pick up a part for her furnace. It’s a size the shop keeps on hand especially for her.

During the transaction, Cadman tells Zammitt that her husband was recently killed in a hit and run accident. This is not your typical big-box hardware store exchange. These two people have a relationship because of these exchanges.

Zammitt recognizes the effect his shop has by just being here.

David Zammitt

“Hardware, is necessary for a good neighborhood,” he says.

Unfortunately, a good neighborhood might also be necessary for a hardware store. And with Delray’s population losses, it just doesn’t have the people to support that side of the shop.

Zammitt says there are only about about 15 – 20 customers who live in the vicinity and come in regularly. Mostly for plumbing and electrical supplies.

“I am working tremendously on scaling down just to have what we need to satisfy the people that are left in the neighborhood, but I can see a time that you know we’ll probably have to close the hardware side of the business,“ he says.

Which would make things a little less convenient for someone like Lorene Cadman, if she’s still living in the neighborhood. She, like many of her neighbors, can’t wait for her house to be bought out to make way for it. She says she’s ready to live in a safer place.

While Zammitt is clearly rooting for her, he’s happy that it looks like he’ll get to stay.

“I lived through the Gateway Project and my customers still found me so they’ll find me through this project here,” he says.

The Gateway Project — The rerouting of truck traffic to and from the Ambassador Bridge. It took so long, the man supposed to be responsible for it was thrown in jail. Zammitt says in the midst of that, customers still came in from as far away as Toledo, Howell and Mt. Clemens. Why? Lockeman’s is highly specialized in the type of motors they service and sell parts for. And, Zammitt says, they don’t really have any competition.

“The marine side is strong, we do very well. We’re coming up on 100 years being in business. So, as far as I’m concerned we’ll make it another hundred.”

Act Two: Here to Stay

Listen to audio:

At Detroit Tube Products, employees in this single floor warehouse are operating machinery to reshape and finish tubes. The resulting pieces are shipped to businesses to become parts of things like prison toilets, dishwashers, diesel engines and more.

“We don’t’ have an assembly line or anything like that because we have odd ball production. We’re a job shop,” says Therese Bellaimey, CEO of Detroit Tube Products.

This is Bellaimey’s family business. Her grandfather started it in 1911.

After Bellaimey’s grandfather, her dad took over.

“Basically what my dad did was he continued to buy property down the block until eventually he had bought all the houses on the block,” she says.

That was in the ‘70s. And it doesn’t look like all that much has changed around here since then. Most of the machinery is hand-operated and Bellaimey herself admits, it looks a little old-fashioned. But she says it’s a conscious decision. It would actually cost more to get the jobs done with high-tech robots.

“Because what we do is difficult and because what we do is small runsand it’s awfully expensive to tool up to do 15 pieces of something or 25 pieces of something, it’s more cost-effective for us to have well-trained, clever, intelligent, sympathetic craftspeople doing the work.”

It’s more cost-effective for us to have well-trained, clever, intelligent, sympathetic craftspeople doing the work.”

One of those craftspeople, is Larry Holmes. He grew up in the neighborhood, practically next door, he says.

“I ended up working here by coming down, asking if they had anything to do. And I did everything from cut down trees to cut up cardboard. Then I finally got in.”

That was 27 years ago. Today Holmes is in here at his own station, cleaning up the ends of the tubes.

Holmes no longer lives in Delray. He makes the drive from Farmington Hills.

Bellaimey says all of her 20 employees commute in from other neighborhoods or outside Detroit. Delray just doesn’t supply the industrial workers it once did. There was a migration to the suburbs in the second half of the last century. That’s when most of the industry in the area moved out. But Bellaimey says Detroit Tube Products never considered leaving.

“It’s really a good location. It’s easy to get here from anywhere, and that’s really critical for us. And, I don’t know… We never found a reason to leave.”

But the proposed bridge to Canada almost gave them a reason to leave. Bellaimey was worried when she first saw the Michigan Department of Transportation plans for the bridge.

“The original foot print came all the way over to our corner,” she says.

After appealing, she discovered the construction plans would only take a few feet of their backyard.

The news was a huge relief. The CEO of the company that spent the first century of its history in Delray knows where she expects to be for the

“Me? We’re staying. We’re here.”

Officials from the state of Michigan and Canada are now working on plans to build the New International Trade Crossing (NITC), a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor that will land in the middle of the Delray neighborhood.

In October 2014, WDET’s news team looked at the status of the New International Trade Crossing (NITC), how it came to be, what impacts it will have on Delray. View stories from WDET’s Bridge Series.

    WDET 101.9FM Detroit

    Written by

    Detroit's Public Radio Station