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1464 Gratiot
Detroit, Michigan 48207

Joel Peterson

By MJ Galbraith
July 25, 2013

When the occasional old customer of Butcher and Packer Supply comes to 1464 Gratiot to get their knives sharpened, they're quick to realize that things have changed at the former spice distribution, sausage casing, and knife sharpening shop. The old spice processor moved to a suburb, leaving behind an enormous space that takes up three storefronts on what is often called Service Street, named after the brick alley that runs behind this particular block of Gratiot across from Eastern Market.
It's a block that Joel Peterson knows well, already having years of experience here. In high school, Joel would watch the fireworks from the roof of a nearby building. Later, that same building hosted his band Immigrant Suns as they recorded their first demo to cassette in 1992. From 1999 to 2003, they had a loft/studio there. So when Joel was searching for his ideal location to open Trinosophes and found 1464 Gratiot, he and his fiancé Rebecca Mazzei knew that this was it.
Trinosophes is a cafe, performance venue, and art gallery that is constantly evolving. Soon the Detroit institution People's Records will move in, so the only reason to ever leave Joel's space would be to go home and listen to the records you purchased. Where else will you be able to shop for music, have coffee and homemade vegan items for lunch and dinner, check out some art, and catch a show by acts as varied as American hardcore musician Ian MacKaye or the Instant Composer's Pool Orchestra from the Netherlands? For Joel, eclecticism is key.
"The stuff we book is in demand in other places—some of it—but also some of it, we're the only place for it," says Joel. "It's very curated. It's genre-less. The thing that we balance is being curated and selecting top tier stuff, regardless of its status. Balancing that with being inclusive and not being just for music hipsters but fairly reliable on level of quality."
That eclecticism can be risky for a place like Joel's, but he realizes that and embraces it. In fact, it's what drives him. "We try to aim for something a little magical, outside of the box." He has a history of taking risks and making them work. His band Immigrant Suns is a self-described "Balkan and Middle Eastern-influenced original music and a little bit of the village folkloric music also, kind of rocked out Detroit style."
From 2004 to 2008, he ran and booked bands at the Bohemian National Home at Tillman and Butternut in north Corktown, turning the building into an internationally-renowned event space. Much of what Trinosophes is doing musically is a natural extension of what he accomplished at the old social hall. The main difference being that the previous venue was event-based, while Trinosophes is an operating cafe with set, if not always "traditional," hours – they honor the Spanish tradition of the siesta, closing for a few hours every afternoon.
Joel was in the process of purchasing the Bohemian National Home on a land contract but the deal went sour after his attempts to negotiate with the owner of the building failed. Rather than spend thousands of dollars in court, Joel took his show on the road, so to speak, and booked bands that would have played at the Bohemian National Home at Detroit venues such as Cliff Bell's, the Old Miami, Detroit Evolution Laboratory, and the Trumbullplex. As he searched for a new permanent location, Detroit's various neighborhood development corporations tried to lure him into their open spaces. Joel patiently kept searching and eventually found his spot on Gratiot four years later.
Trinosophes will evolve over time. Joel mentions a rooftop garden or patio, perhaps, and maybe an Art Prize-style competition of their own. Even a house for touring musicians is on the table.
Rebecca is the only other person who works at Trinosophes on a regular basis, also curating the artwork on display. She's highly esteemed in the city's art world, having previously worked as art editor for the Metro Times, Assistant Dean at the College for Creative Studies, and Deputy Director of MOCAD. A recent exhibition was a selection of Mary Ann Aitken's art, a little-known Cass Corridor artist who recently passed away. Joel says, "I always say our thing is disproportionately geared towards historically important people, regardless of what their profile is – people who really have done super-interesting work." Shows rotate about every six weeks.
The pair make for a well-established couple in the worlds of music and art locally, nationally, and internationally. Their reputation is what helps draw the high quality of artists and performers, but the thoughtfulness of the space itself and all of the products on offer – whether that be pour-over coffee or esoteric punk – is what keeps drawing the curious in and the converted back for more. 

All photos by Doug Coombe.

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