Grosse Pointe News | February 22nd, 2018 | Business news
Dirty Dog celebrates 10 years By Melissa Walsh
GROSSE POINTE FARMS — A decade ago, Farms resident and The Hill business luminary Gretchen Valade turned a flower shop into a high-style meeting place for Detroit’s finest jazz.
Last week, Valade held a private party for family and friends to celebrate Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe’s first 10 years on The Hill. Since the venue’s opening Feb. 13, 2008, its stage has presented the area’s most prodigious jazz artists to fans in metro Detroit and the greatest patron of Detroit jazz, Valade.
A player in the jazz recording industry since founding Mack Avenue Records in 1998, Valade set her vision of building a jazz stage on The Hill in motion by bringing in Andre Neimanis as executive chef and Willie Jones as general manager as early as August 2007, for the venue’s planning and development.
Photos by Renee Landuyt Gene Dunlap performed during Dirty Dog’s 10th anniversary party.
Tom Robinson, Mack Avenue Records CEO, who also is a seasoned carpenter, managed the “hammer and nails” activity of converting the site from a former flower shop to a chic club, Jones explained. The decor presents Valade’s fondness both for jazz and dogs, with images of jazz greats and dignified canine paintings adorning the club’s walls. The Dirty Dog “hall of fame” showcases the artists who have performed there.
Serving cocktails since the cafe’s launch, Carl Williams attracts the bar’s regulars and gregariously welcomes performers in and out of the green room. Described as “extremely popular with the customers,” Robinson said Carl is “a staff member who gets double the applause.”
Valade, 93, attends most Dirty Dog performances, staying for the first set.
Kimmie Horn recently performed at Dirty Dog’s 10th anniversary party.
“She’s so personable, so intelligent, so sharp, so caring,” Jones said. “She’s just down to earth.”
Also a sharp business woman, Valade sets a high bar for the caliber of artists invited onto the Dirty Dog stage. Those who impress her might land a spot on the Detroit Jazz Festival stage, for which Valade has been the primary sponsor since 2005. Valade also will refer stand-out talent to Mack Avenue Records Product Manager Darrell Garrett for a recording deal on her imprint, Detroit Music Factory.
“When I first started watching the bands at the Dirty Dog I became a little nostalgic for the stage myself,” said Valade, who performed long ago and is on the credits of several Mack Avenue Records tracks as songwriter. “Eventually, I appreciated the talent we offered there and realized I could never have gotten that good.”