Emily Berger (eebergerphoto.com)

At Gold Cash Gold, both the flooring and wooden benches were reclaimed from nearby Detroit properties.

From Pawn Shop to Fine Dining

Gold Cash Gold ditched everything but the old tenant's name when it opened a charming eatery near downtown Detroit.

The exterior signage of restaurant Gold Cash Gold, including the name plastered above the door, is a cheeky reminder of the building’s days as a pawnshop. Now home to an eponymous restaurant that opened in December, the circa-1890 building in the Corktown neighborhood just west of downtown Detroit went from pawn shop to locally sourced, modern American dining spot in about 12 months.

To create the concept, the restaurant’s management team sought to retain the iconic building’s quirky personality but rid it of its metallic vibes to present an upscale environment. Eli Boyer, one of the managing partners, says the 3,000-square-foot, 80-seat restaurant incorporated materials repurposed from nearby buildings or created by local artists.

The tiles in the intricately crafted herringbone-pattern ceiling, for example, are made of wood reclaimed from within the building itself. Boyer notes it took two full-time workers four to six weeks to install it. Similarly, the wood board flooring, characterized by a gigantic American eagle painted on it, was rescued from a nearby Detroit elementary school. Reclaimed wooden benches further provide half of the restaurant’s seating, and even the doors to bathroom stalls are made from some of the pawnshop’s original exterior signage.

Of course, the makeover did not come easy. Boyer says the building was in horrible condition when the partners took it over. The bricks on the walls and the archways were covered with rotting plaster. “The pawn shop had a metal façade; it was like a fortress,” Boyer explains. “We wanted to make sure the space looks as good by day as it does by night.”

Now, earth tones in the woodwork and furnishings coalesce with the cleaned and exposed brick, which was painted white to create a fresh, inviting feeling. To enhance the welcoming atmosphere, the partners also added six 7-foot windows around the restaurant.

To further brighten up the space, a local artist, working with another of the restaurant’s managing partners, Phillip Cooley, fashioned and installed stained glass in the entryway and on the walls. During the day, the light pours in and hits the stained glass, making the room bright and airy. At night, Boyer says, the lights are turned down low while the music is turned up to create a “moodier, sexier” ambiance.

Day and night we wanted it to feel jovial, friendly, and young,” Boyer says. “We wanted to take the fine-dining mindset and extend it into a casual, comfortable atmosphere.”