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John Varvatos grand opening rocks downtown Detroit

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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DETROIT -- "I have butterflies right now with all this going on here," John Varvatos said on Thursday night in front of his recently opened downtown Detroit store. "This is a true homecoming."

The Detroit-born, Allen Park-raised fashion designer and philanthropist lit up the town with a Chrysler-sponsored, invitation-only grand opening party, closing down the block of Woodward Avenue between Grand Circus Park and Grand River Blvd. and decking out the area with black carpeting and large walls for VIP pictures.

Alice Cooper, the Detroit-born Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and one of Varvatos' first endorsers during the early 00s, played a special concert, and the local celebrity turnout -- many sporting Varvatos attire -- included Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verslander and his girlfriend, model Kate Upton, Detroit Lions tight end Eric Ebron, graduated University of Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, Detroit real estate developer Dan Gilbert, musicians such as Michael Bolton, Dwele, Scott Morgan and Eddie Baranek of the Sights, WCSX radio personality Doug Podell, former Motown publicist Al Abrams and Oakland County commercial real estate developer David Schostack.

"This is great," Cooper said before his performance, "because Varvatos is pure Detroit, and this is the beginning of building this downtown area the right way. The restaurants are all here. People are coming into these old buildings and they're opening this really cool restaurants, which is going to draw people and they're gonna start drawing in the boutiques and everything, and pretty soon it's going to be a very hip city."

Cooper voiced a desire to bring some of his enterprises into his home town as well, including his sports-themed Cooper'stown restaurant and his Christian-themed Solid Rock Foundation.

Chrysler brand President and CEO Al Gardner also sang Varvatos' praises, noting the company's long working relationship with the clothier, including some car designs. "After the misery of 2009, John was there for us," Gardner said. "He's a great guy, a true Detroiter. We're so proud of him. He put his money where his mouth is" by opening a store in Detroit.

Varvatos himself introduced Cooper's hour-long set on a special stage constructed inside the crammed store. Sans his usual props such as guillotines and snakes -- Cooper and his band mixed hits such as "No More Mr. Nice Guy," "Eighteen" and the Detroit-referencing "Be My Lover" with covers of the Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar," the Doors' "Break on Through," Jimi Hendrix's "Foxey Lady" and the Who's My Generation," all slated for an upcoming covers album he's recorded.

Varvatos and Cooper's daughter Calico joined the ensemble for "School's Out," though Bolton, who's working on a documentary about Detroit, was a no-show when Cooper called him to the stage, too.

The store sold special commemorative T-shirts for the event, running $80 and $100 -- pricey, but a bargain compared to the $5,000 jackets the store carries.

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