D:hive’s ambassadors are the first faces you see when walking into the welcome center. Whether it’s fielding questions about where to live, work, and play, or providing residents and visitors alike with insider tips and connections, our ambassadors definitely know a thing or two about Detroit. We chatted with Shawn to get a glimpse into the daily hustle and bustle of the welcome center.
What’s a typical day at the front desk like?
While every day is different, the one common denominator in all of them is that I get to spend the day talking about Detroit, which is one of my favorite things to do. Be it talking to a suburbanite who has come downtown to rediscover the city or to an out-of-towner who is curious to know what to explore, I have the pleasure of showcasing a side of Detroit that most people don’t expect.
What kinds of visitors stop by?
Visitors to the Welcome Center usually fall into three general categories. The first are visitors who come in from elsewhere in the world, wondering what to check out while they are in town. The second include people who are from the area and want to learn more about the cool things going on in the city. This includes people who are looking to move here or start a business in the city. The third is people who live in the area, but very seldom come downtown. These people have wandered back downtown to try to reconnect with their core city. Maybe they’ve read about the changes going on down here, and want to give their city another try.
What common questions do you get asked?
The most common question I’ve gotten since I’ve started working as an ambassador is “What is this place?” When I tell them that we’re Detroit’s welcome center, they look at me curiously, as if surprised such a thing could exist. I tell them that we’re here to engage ANYONE who is interested in living in the city, working in the city, starting a business in the city or just learning about what’s going on in the city. We’re happy to help tourists, but more often, we’re here to engage the people who are already in the area.
What’s a memorable front desk encounter you’ve had?
One day, a middle-aged couple from New Zealand came into the Welcome Center. They were taking an extended tour of the US, and they were going to be staying in Detroit for a few days. We sat for nearly a half hour talking about the city, and by the time we were done, we had worked out a rough agenda for their entire stay, including adding an extra day to the end to be able to see a Saturday at Eastern Market. When they were done, they thanked me profusely for spending so much time with them. Then the next day, they came into the welcome center to tell me that they took my Coney challenge—trying one from American and one from Lafayette—and that they had chosen American. Pfff! Wrong choice :)
What are your hobbies or other projects?
In addition to being an ambassador and a tour guide, I am an improvisor and performer. I also write plays and screenplays with my specialty being comedies. I am the Artistic Director of Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck.
Someone is only in Detroit for one day. What do you tell them to do?
My first recommendation is always the RiverWalk, which I feel is the most exciting project going on in the city right now. I direct people to Wheelhouse Detroit where they can rent bikes to maximize their riverfront experience. If they’re a little more daring, I raise the stakes a bit by suggesting they rent segways from Segway Detroit. Otherwise I am sure tell them to take the Dequindre Cut up to Eastern Market for lunch at the likes of Russell Street Deli or Supino Pizza or a drink at Vivio’s or my particular favorite—ice cream from Mootown Creamery. After so much bike riding, they’ve earned a little ice cream, right?