Old bus scrolls brought to life in new products

Posted at 4:40 PM, Feb 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-16 13:24:55-05

The road to Patti Kay’s future is very much rooted in part of Detroit’s past. Back in the mid 1900s, when buses made their way around the city, the drivers would manually crank what’s called a bus scroll to indicate the next stop on the route.

Patti is a self-proclaimed picker, and when she found a couple of the old bus scrolls at a flea market back in 2010, her life was about to take a detour. Recently divorced and struggling personally and financially, she had a vision. And she brought it to life with her company Detroit Scroll

Leap of Faith

“I started with 400 dollars to my name. When I started this, this was jump off the edge and do it,” Patti explains.

Patti first had the original scrolls scanned by a professional printer. Using those digital copies, she now designs wall hangings, t-shirts, scarves, stationary and other gifts, all emblazoned with those iconic street names and stops along the bus routes.

“I’ve had people cry. For example, where it says ford rouge gate number 9, a woman told me she dropped her husband off every day at that gate for 30 years.”

Her biggest seller lately is not a scroll, but her "Cheers to Detroit" glasses. She designed those when Detroit emerged from bankruptcy in late 2014.

Driving her success

Scroll Detroit's tagline is History-Made, Detroit-Driven.

“I think last year I did close to $200,000 in sales, right out of my basement.”

Yes, the basement of her Grosse Pointe home serves as headquarters and warehouse for Detroit Scroll.

Like so many entrepreneurs, Patti wears all the hats for the business. Every weekend you’ll find her at Eastern Market, selling her merchandise…and her city.

“I’ve never been a naysayer, I’ve always believed. I knew we would…hence my new shirt.”

It says “told you so.” I can’t help but feel it fits Patti’s own journey. She’s also had plenty of naysayers, but today her company is being noticed. She was invited by the city to participate in last week’s D2D business conference in Detroit. And at the opening of the John Varvatos store in Detroit, Michael Bolton was wearing one of her scarves. Her message to others…

“No matter what your vision is, don’t listen to the naysayer, because if I had listened, I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m, doing. I would have doubted, I would have let fear get in the way.

Detroit Scroll products are sold in some 80 retailers. You can also find them online here