Reviving Detroit Through Locally Made Coffee
“All roads lead to Detroit,” says AJ O’Neill.
O’Neill’s enthusiasm is one that parallels many of Michigan’s residents who believe that the great motor city will thrive once again. Part of the revival efforts of Detroit stems from an unlikely place: coffee.
In 2007, O’Neill opened AJ’s Music Café in Ferndale, MI. The café soon catapulted to worldwide fame when the first Danny Boy Marathon was held in honor of O’Neill’s father. The marathon was held in 2008; over 1,000 musicians played their own renditions of the Irish song for 50 straight hours. The marathon was the subject of a book (“In Sunlight or in Shadow” by Karen Wilhem with a forward by the late Ernie Harwell) and was also mentioned on Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Later on for a different concert, they also broke the Guinness World Record for longest concert to worldwide media coverage.
With all of the attention, the café became known as the “little café that bailed out the automotive industry, one coffee cup at a time.” The coffee was called Detroit Bold, and when O’Neill closed the doors on the café in 2012, the coffee lived on.