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Hatch Detroit

4470 Second Avenue
First Floor
Detroit, Michigan 48202

Vittoria Katanski

By MJ Galbraith
February 14, 2014

Since she became Marketing Director for the Southwest Detroit Business Association in 2005, Vittoria Katanski has made it her business to champion Detroit's neighborhoods and businesses. Though no longer with the SDBA, she continues to do so in her current roles as both the Executive Director of Hatch Detroit and the co-director of Tour de Troit. "I love finding new ways to show off the city and I really love taking people to places that they've never been," says Vittoria.
It's no stretch to say that at least part of Vittoria's enthusiasm for the city comes from her childhood. She grew up living above her father's bar, the old New Way Inn, in Detroit's Delray neighborhood. The family would split time between living above the neighborhood bar and their cottage in Sylan Lake. After moving away for school, Vittoria returned to the city in 1997, moving to Detroit's east side.
Since becoming co-director of the annual Tour de Troit bike ride, Vittoria and fellow co-director Kelli Kavanaugh have made the already popular ride even bigger, growing ridership from 1,000 to 6,600 registered cyclists. They've also expanded the event beyond the annual bike ride. The Tour de Troit now organizes four bike rides and two runs throughout the year. There's the MLK Memorial Ride, the Paczki Run, the Run du Nain Rouge, Cycle into Spring, Bike the Bridge, and, of course, the Tour de Troit. Each race is an opportunity for Vittoria to show off the city she loves.
"I'm really meticulous about the route choices. Not just how it goes through the neighborhoods but how it shows the city," says Vittoria. "The goal is to make it so that people who live here want to run it but also people who don't live here who want to see the city in a different light. The way the routes are chosen are not just for distance, they're chosen for how does it most beautifully show the city—and most accurately."
Vittoria has a history with organizing races, having developed the Run of the Dead while with the Southwest Detroit Business Association. The Dia de los Muertos-themed event is still running strong. So, too, is another of her SDBA creations, Savor Southwest Detroit.
In 2009, the state shut down the portion of I-75 that connects commuters to Southwest Detroit. Over 200 businesses stood to suffer from customers' lack of access to the neighborhoods. Vittoria launched Savor Southwest with the SDBA to draw people back in. She put together business passports, pub crawls, taqueria tours, social media campaigns, and a number of other events that put an emphasis on Southwest. Perhaps most impressive was organizing five different community development corporations to work together: Vittoria was able to get the SDBA and CDCs representing Corktown, Michigan Avenue, Mexicantown, and Oakwood Heights to work together to promote each other and the region as a whole.
"I think it's an example that it's better to work together on something than not because the impact is much larger," she says.
As Executive Director for Hatch Detroit, Vittoria continues to raise the profiles of Detroit businesses. Though the organization is well known for its annual contest awarding $50,000 to a local startup, Vittoria has expanded the focus of Hatch to include the city's many pre-existing businesses.
Under Vittoria's leadership, Hatch Detroit forged a partnership with the Detroit Lions to launch the Neighborhood Initiative. They've identified six neighborhoods in the city to help fund improvements to independent storefront retail. The first phase centered on improving signage for a group of storefronts on the Livernois Avenue of Fashion. A project in West Village will follow. The goal is to incorporate already-established businesses into the buzz of startup conversation.
"The contest is fun and it's really high profile. There's a lot happening and it's so exciting," says Vittoria. "But the work in the neighborhoods is super cool for me because Detroit is just so big and I think sometimes when you're sitting in your one neighborhood or your two neighborhoods that you're used to going to, you forget just how large the city is."

All photos by Doug Coombe. 

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