At one time, Detroit had a diverse ethnic base. In the early 20th century, people from all over the world migrated to the city to work in the quickly expanding car industry and many other types of manufacturing companies. Workers settled here from Germany, Poland, the Balkans, Ukraine, Mexico, Arabic countries and beyond before moving to the suburbs.
Currently there is an influx of Bengali people into the neighborhoods along Conant Avenue from Hamtramck into North Detroit. The people from Bangladesh are moving into that neighborhood from the New York City borough of Queens where they have been priced out because of gentrification. Plus, the housing costs in North Detroit are incredibly cheap. In addition to the affordable housing being scooped up by the Bengalis, they have opened interesting stores and services in that area.
I remember the first time I rode along Conant in that section of the city. Not only was I amazed at the array of stores and shops, but also the rich smells of spices that filled the air. It was like walking into a specialty spice store. Looking around at the business along the street, it made sense. There were numerous spice stores with their doors wide open and restaurants specializing in curry, cardamom, ginger, cumin and many other spicy flavored food dishes. It was truly a feast for the nose.
Conant, also know as Bangladesh Avenue, has more than restaurants and spice shops. Along that section of Conant that straddles Hamtramck and North Detroit are many other stores (with their names written in the Bengali native language). There are fabric and clothing stores that offer colorful, bright patterns and women’s Saris. Small, independent markets offering fresh halal meats and fish are also abundant. Other stores offer chicken (some live) and general groceries. There is also a large Mosque serving the community.
Some of the residential streets such as Moran and Klinger run parallel to Conant. They too have old world, small corner markets catering to those living nearby. Like those on Conant, they offer an assortment of meats, vegetables, poultry and imported grocery items.
That small section of Hamtramck and North Detroit is a culturally diverse, interesting and lively area. It’s a place where kids play on the streets and families walk hand in hand to the local stores and restaurants.