DETROIT-A Detroiter is rebuilding his former hometown with retail projects in areas where few national chains want to go. There isn’t much retail in the inner city, and stores that can afford to stayopen get robbed and vandalized.

Retail vacancies in Detroit aren’t really counted, as it doesn’t much exist due to crime or poor neighbors. Sam Yono, 52, knows about this trouble firsthand. A Catholic Iraqi, he moved to Detroit in the late 1960s, and started a large family. The family helped out running various businesses he started, including party stores.

However, this trade turned deadly for two family members. Sam’s cousinYousif Yono and his son Jack were shot and killed in December 2001 at the Detroit party store they owned.

However, Sam and his family have continued on through the tragedy, andrefused to stop building in Detroit. They live in the affluent suburbs of Oakland County, but the family has kept ownership of three hardware stores in the city, have built one 30,000-sf strip center for $10 million and are building another. The family also owns a Ramada Inn in Southfield.

Randy Yono, Sam’s son, says Detroit residents shouldn’t be deprived of goods, regardless of the danger. He was the construction manager on La Plaza Mercado, the 30,000-sf center, which will have its official grandopening Dec. 5.

Included in the strip’s offerings are a Foot Locker shoe store, threerestaurants, a gift and candy store, a tax service and other small stores, all anchored by a Do It hardware store, Randy Yono says. Sam Yono is the owner and financial arm of the developments.

“We feel the Detroit people are getting neglected,” Randy Yono tells “Out in the suburbs, you can find just about anything if you want to go out and shop. There’s nothing in the city.”

Randy Yono handled the entire construction on the project, located on West Vernor Street near Lansing Street, through his firm Rayo Development. He says the family focused on using local store owners instead of national names.

“We could have brought national retailers, but we wanted to give smallbusiness owners a chance,” Randy Yono explains.

The neighborhood has been extremely positive about the new center, Randy Yono says. “And nothing was stolen from the site the whole nine months during building. I do a job in Birmingham, a rich area, and get stuff stolen all the time. The neighbors were looking out for us,” he says.

Randy Yono said his company is beginning a similar $10-million project at Livernois and Joy Road.

“We just want to give back to the city,” Randy Yono says.

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