For many Michigan restaurateurs, the COVID-19 pandemic and its months of mandatory closures were disastrous. But Jeremy Sasson, founder and CEO of Heirloom Hospitality Group, saw it as an opportunity to evolve, rebrand, and grow.
His Townhouse Detroit restaurant — at the base of the 43-story Ally Detroit Center — originally opened in 2015. It was dark, rustic, and Motor City industrial.
By 2021, Sasson wanted to turn the 300-plus-seat restaurant into a more elevated, softer, comfier, and brighter space, so he contacted Parini, a Detroit-based boutique retail and residential interior design studio, and they teamed up for a fast and furious redo.
“We met in April and it opened in September,” recalls Christine Babini, co-founder and co-partner with Amy Pariser (they combined names to come up with Parini). “When Jeremy first came to us, we harkened back to the word ‘townhouse’ and drew inspiration from the sophisticated ambience of a posh pied-à-terre in the city.”
The existing U-shaped bar inspired all of the inviting soft curves that allow easy circulation and flow, and contrast with the L shape of the overall space. Unique lighting punctuates the ceilings and multilevel seating vignettes. All-natural materials include white oak flooring, velvet lounge sofas, tweed bar stools, and leather bar booths. Babini and Pariser point out that local vendors, makers, and installers were employed on the project.
“I love to support the local talents, creators, and fabricators who craft amazing furniture, light fixtures, décor, etc. from all over Michigan but most importantly, here in Detroit,” Sasson says. Of note is a gold-colored artwork by Detroiter Mike Han near the concierge area (read more on Han in this issue’s House Party). Sound quality was of particular importance to Sasson, who put a tremendous amount of attention into integrating sound-deadening materials and acoustic and musical engineering to achieve optimum audio and sound frequency.
“Jeremy is very sensitive to things like ambience, experience, quality of sound — he cares so much about the right amount,” Babini says.
Working through the pandemic brought many challenges — supply issues, materials, long lead times, and Sasson himself. “He definitely challenged us, making sure the interiors coincided with his branding, but we also challenged him in the design sense,” Babini says.
“A lot of the inspiration for the redesign came from my love for the food, dining, fashion, architecture, and art scene of London and Paris,” Sasson says. He agrees there was much negotiation during his tight timeline, but it all came together beautifully with a soft reopening in September 2021 and a full opening in January 2022 — and he adds that guest traffic and sales have exceeded pre-pandemic days.