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Buy it in Detroit

Every now and then, I see something original and think, “Why didn't I think of that?”

That is how I feel when I look at Bought in Detroit, a new Web site started by city resident Andrea Farhat.

What makes this site so envy-worthy is its simplicity. Its only purpose is to provide an online space where people can post pictures of things they purchased in the D.

“The idea behind the site is to raise awareness for local businesses and show the variety of things available IN the city,” Farhat said.

Users upload photos of everything and anything: dental floss, a blueberry muffin, old English D cuff links. There's a graphic novel about Johnny Cash from Leopold's Books. Stella Artois Beer from Palm Liquor. A red mug from the Bureau of Urban Living.

In the market for a new lid? Check out the sweet newsboy's cap from Henry the Hatter. I'm in lust with a light fixture with a Detroit map on it from City Bird.

And there's the genius of the site. Suddenly, I feel the urge to go shopping in Detroit. And that is a surprisingly interesting feeling for this (now) suburbanite.

Farhat, a student at the College for Creative Studies, launched Bought in Detroit last month. It actually grew out of a class project. She was studying where you could buy things locally and studying statistics about the amount of money leaving the city. So Farhat came up with the site to draw people to Detroit.

One of the most common misconceptions you'll hear about Detroit is there is no shopping in the city. In fact, one of the media's favorite stories (and that includes Assignment Detroit, thank you very much) is about how there is no grocery stores in Detroit. Not true – especially if you consider Eastern Market and dozens of smaller, independently owned grocery stores here.

But I digress. Back to my go-to girl Andrea.

Indeed, even Farhat struggled initially when she moved to Detroit from Ann Arbor by way of Lincoln Park to get a degree in graphic design from CCS. Getting to know a new city is challenging for anyone. She is still finding her way around, Farhat admits.

“I can't find everything I need, but the nice thing about doing this site is I might discover whatever it is was was there all along; I just didn't know where to look,” she said.

The site also is great because it is a collaboration among its users. They are creating the site, bit by bit.

“Being only one person, any guide to shopping in the city I created would be nowhere near complete so I decided to make a website where everyone could contribute,” Farhat said.

Each photo and cutline tells a story. There is the item, how much it cost and where it came from. But the viewer (namely, me) is left to wonder: What was going on when someone bought that salad from PJ's Lager House? Why did someone want a metal dog from the Detroit Artist Market for $65?

Every photo makes me think: There are interesting things happening in Detroit, and now I'm intrigued to find out more. (And I just love shameless plugs for Detroit businesses.)

One debate Farhat is still waging internally and on the site is whether people should be allowed to post illegal items purchased in Detroit. Yes, some smart-alecky guy asked if he could post pot or crack cocaine on the site. Uh, no. Farhat is all about personal freedom, but let's try to keep it clean. Detroit has enough problems without the jokers stepping in.

The site also has a Facebook fan page with about 75 members. Most are in Detroit, but there are others from Texas, Oregon, California and Arizona. There's even a Twitter site so you can find out what new items were posted.

It's just one little Web site. But it feels like it could be so much more.

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