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Detroit sushi business gets new home in a recycled shipping container

Jay Rayford

Jay Rayford

By MaLia Gaddy
Special to the Michigan Citizen

For the past few years Social Sushi Detroit has been a nomadic, bringing Japanese cuisine to Detroiters in a diverse array of venues, local businesses and offices.  Now, they will be getting a new permanent home thanks to a partnership with students from both Lawrence Technological University and Western International High, a Detroit Public School.

The restaurant will be constructed from a reclaimed shipping crate and recycled materials from Detroit homes and placed in Roosevelt Park, the wide open green space in front of Corktown’s Michigan Central Depot. The restaurant will seat 30-40 people.

Lawrence Tech Associate Professor Steven Coy created the Lawrence Tech class, which has designed and will fabricate the Social Sushi’s new home.

“We pitched to the Lawrence Tech students and Western International High students. They had a choice to choose from a couple other businesses as well,” explains Jay Rayford, co-founder of Social Sushi. “They felt that we were the best fit because they wanted a tenant in the space that would help with programming (public) events (in Roosevelt Park) and really be a part of the social experience in the park while additional drawing people to the park with our business.”

Rayford and his team have been focused on the social aspect that surrounds food since their inception. They specifically developed their concept to unite Detroit’s professional, creative and social communities, while providing networking opportunities for all.

“We felt sushi was a very social food unlike many of the others and popular enough to drive people together, even if they didn’t really care about the networking part,” Rayford told the Michigan Citizen. “When you think about it. How many other catering services can promote your event, increase attendance and bring a great sushi experience with it?”

The urban community as a whole is often stigmatized and stereotyped in ways that impact the perception of individual professional women and men. The opportunity to participate in the Social Sushi’s multi-cultural network provides a comfortable environment to expand, excel, and challenge those stereotypes.

“Considering we haven’t done any advertising or print(ed) flyers, it has been all by word of mouth, the success we’ve had has been nothing short of amazing,” Rayford says.  “We’ve been able to bring a very diverse group of professionals together, young and old, African American, Caucasian, Latino, Asian and other cultures and people from other countries that have moved here looking to get connected.”

Cross-cultural networking is only a part of Social Sushi’s success. Unity and support among city dwellers, Rayford says, is important for both the success of his business and his community.

Rayford believes in cooperation and building up the Black community from within. “Far too often, the successful among us have to gain support and approval from other races to have perceived value in within our own race,” Rayford says. “Another thing is having the opposite sex go to bat for us. There has to be a movement of Black males that lift up our sisters and get behind them in support.”

Social Sushi is open to all looking to develop relationships and socialize with other local professionals and creative minds. According to Jay Rayford, the secret to success is in their uniqueness.

“Of course, one thing that makes our sushi stand out is our twist on spicy mayo. It’s different than anything you can get around metro Detroit. So the connectivity, the thrill of visiting different places and great tasting sushi and a special sauce have all been ingredients to our success.”

For more information, email info@socialsushidetroit.com or visit facebook.com/socialsushidetroit and twitter.com/socialsushidet.

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