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Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers opens in Farmington Hills

Flint-based Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers has plans to take a bite out of the metro Detroit burger business with a new location in Farmington Hills.

It's the second location for the company, Spartan Pastabilities LLC, which opened the first Freakin' Unbelievable in May 2012. It quickly made plans to expand and franchise its "burger customization" concept in upscale casual settings.

The Farmington Hills outlet of Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers opened last week at 29206 Orchard Lake Road. The second location cost about $1 million to renovate and will create 10 full-time and 20 part-time jobs.

The new store is designed with digital menu boards so that the always-changing specialty burgers -- Upper Crust Burger, Down Under Burger, Ancho BBQ Burger and many others -- can easily be updated. Burgers also come with gluten-free buns or in vegetarian versions, and regional craft beers will be on tap and sold by the bottle. Create your own burger contests for a placement in the line-up is part of the restaurant's concept as well.

The interior is meant to be more inspiring than a typical burger chain. A monochromatic color scheme is mixed with corrugated metal, intricate tile work, pendant lighting and a  four-foot chandelier.

Company owner Brett Skaggs is optimistic his burger can compete with national biggies, which are located nearby.

"We believe our burger is better," he says, "and we believe that locals want to support a company that's based right here in Michigan."

Source: Megan Spencer and Brent Skaggs, Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers
Writer: Kim North Shine

Momentum builds for $50M multi-use development in downtown Royal Oak

A project dubbed Gateway for its location at the most prominent entry into Royal Oak is gathering steam since a group of real estate developers, architects and consultants presented a proposal for a residential-retail-medical-office development on Main Street near I-696.

The proposal, which still requires approvals of the Downtown Development Authority and other city commissions, calls for a massive project that would transform a section of Main Street at I-696 into a multistory building that will house nearly 10,000 square feet each of retail space, medical space, office space with a parking deck and a 160 apartments as the centerpiece.

The Gateway project would take up a city block and be bordered by I-696, Main Street and Woodward Avenue and also fill a void in apartment living options in the area, the developers say in their proposal.

The project could come in with a price tag of $50 million, according to the Royal Oak DDA. Assuming approvals are given to the project without extensive delays, ground could be broken in summer 2014. The same developers are proposing an eight-story, 114-room hotel project that will be part of a complex of apartment, retail and offices at the former Fresard car dealership at 400 N.Main Street.

Source: City of Royal Oak
Writer: Kim North Shine

Which Wich sandwich stores coming to Grosse Pointe, Southfield

A pair of longtime Grosse Pointe friends are channeling love of the city - and their desire to be business owners - into a new sandwich store in Grosse Pointe's Village business district.

Which Wich Superior Sandwiches, a franchise started in Dallas by a Michigan native, is moving into a 1,650-square-foot space at 17045 Kercheval  Avenue. Sweet Little Sheila's bakery and creperie previously occupied the spot. It relocated into a smaller store down the street.
Grosse Pointe Park natives Michael Berschback and Nabil Shurafa plan to open two Which Wiches, one in Grosse Pointe and the other in Southfield. They have been friends since first grade and love the place where they grew up. The Village was their stomping grounds, their destination when they wanted to add to their baseball card collections.  So it was especially exciting when an executive from Which Wich visited the Village and "fell in love with the territory," Berschback says.

Renovations on the Grosse Pointe store are starting this week and opening day is expected in mid- to late March, Berschback says. There will be space for 43 seats. Which Wich in Southfield will open by summer possibly as part of the second phase of City Center, which is under construction.

Berschback and Shurafa decided to become business partners when Shurafa was talking over the holidays about leaving his job with a hedge fund and moving back to metro Detroit from Princeton, New Jersey.

"He was thinking about Dunkin' Donuts," says Berschback. "About a week after he and I talked I went to a Which Wich in Petoskey and was blown away. The ordering was so unique, the quality of the food so good. I called him right then, from the parking lot and said, 'This is what we need to do.' "

In Grosse Pointe, where the Village is chock full of coffee shops and bagel stores and a busy Panera bakery, Berschback sees a ready market for a new and different kind of sandwich shop with its fun vibe, promotion of the color yellow and great food.

Which Wich's concept is based on the fun and the different. It uses an ordering system where customers are given a paper bag and red Sharpie to order a sandwich -- either a recommendation to build upon or a create-your-own. The sandwich is served in the same bag, which can be also be drawn on and displayed on the community wall, or used during special promotions for something like letters and pictures for the military.

Which Wich "also makes a fantastic milkshake," he says, a good offering for the locals who still lament the closing of a Burger & Shake restaurant in the same spot.

The two expect Southfield and metro Detroiters to welcome Which Wich as have other cities have. Which Wich's first store opened in Dallas in 2003. The chain has grown to 250 stores in 37 states. The Grosse Pointe store will be the first in metro Detroit and the second in Michigan. Southfield will make it three.

"He sees a lot of prospects in Michigan," Berschback says of his partner, Surafa. "He could start a business anywhere, but he wanted to bring it back to Michigan."

Source: Michael Berschback, co-owner, Grosse Pointe Which Wich
Writer: Kim North Shine

Longtime Grosse Pointe caterer opens Cabbage Patch Cafe

After plugging away for 14 years as a successful home-based caterer serving residential and corporate clients, Pam Dziedzic decided to go retail.

She bought a storefront space on Kercheval Avenue, an eclectic and re-emerging commercial stretch in Grosse Pointe Park, her hometown, and added cafe and bakery to the business plan.

She's calling it Cabbage Patch Cafe and after just six months in business - previously operating under the prior owner's name, Fou 'd Amour - she is expanding, doubling the space and channeling her endless energy and enthusiasm into a cafe that's more than a place to have a meal.

By spring the cafe, which now has four tables, a bakery display case and a refrigerator/freezer for the prepared take-out meals honed by the previous business and carried on by Dziedzic, will have 10-12 tables and space for 40-50 to eat.

"There's so much I want to do," says Dziedzic, a mother of twin high-school students whose passion for cooking and food is contagious. "I want to be be able to rent out the space for birthday parties and showers and do pop-up restaurants with a different theme each month. I want to be known for a place to pick up your prepared dinners, where you can find, heat, and serve healthier options for families, high protein meals for marathon runners and gluten-free meals."

She describes the cafe as "fresh, funky, friendly and fun."

What excites her almost as much as the food business is being a part of changes in Grosse Pointe Park - and the Pointes in general. Cabbage Patch Cafe - the name derived from a surrounding lower-rent neighborhood where Irish help brought their cultural affection for cabbage to their modest homes while working in more affluent residences in the Pointes  - is one of several businesses playing into a larger re-development plan of Kercheval Avenue. The commercial stretch known as The Park borders the city of Detroit, and is a stepchild to the more successful business districts on Kercheval: The Village in the city of Grosse Pointe and The Hill in Grosse Pointe Farms.

In The Park, there is Red Crown restaurant that opened in a renovated art deco gas station 10 months ago. Atwater Brewery is opening a brewpub and biergarten in a church a block away from Cabbage Patch, and other plans to bring new businesses and redesign the street to make it more walkable are unfolding.

"I feel like this might be perfect timing. This area truly feels more urban and I have something that is part of that urban feel," she says. "It's coming out of the comfort zone for Grosse Pointe, and it's needed here. I really want to try to do something that's different for Grosse Pointe."

In the meantime, she's focusing on the mainstay of her business, catering, as she takes on the new job duties that will make her business grow. She has hired a full-time chef, Brittany Swineford, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago and a chef at The Palm in the Windy City. She retained the baker, Brian Rentschler, from the previous business, which was also known for its scones. She and another full-time staffer run the business she's reinventing.

"This has really been a natural progression," she says. "It's a big transition, but it's exciting."

Source: Pam Dziedzic, caterer and owner, Cabbage Patch Cafe & Catering
Writer: Kim North Shine

Gluten-free pierogi biz thriving in St. Clair Shores

When Alicia Bemiss' son was diagnosed with diabetes nearly four years ago her focus went to his diet and how to keep him healthy.

His dramatic weight loss and change in appearance, which was taking place at the time her parents had died just two weeks apart, was a cause for alarm and the start of a new way of living and eating for her, her husband and two sons and daughter.

When she learned that her son's diabetes might be connected to Celiac's Disease - an intolerance of wheat and other gluten-related grains - her way of cooking changed dramatically as she searched for recipes that would keep him happy and healthy at the same time.

Her discovery of a tasty gluten-free pierogi for her "pierogi-aholic son", now 16, eventually became the recipe for a business that is growing so fast she can hardly keep up.

Her Old World Gluten Free Pierogi is based in St. Clair Shores, and the five frozen varieties - and growing - of pierogi is soon to go into cases at Westborn Market, which gave Old World its Product Placement Award at a Michigan foods exhibition.  Currently the pierogi can be ordered online or by phone by individuals, restaurants or stores.

The business started in September and was flooded with orders over the holidays. Her commercial kitchen is located on Harper Avenue in St. Clair Shores, not far coincidentally from a booming gluten-free bakery, Ethel's Edibles.

"My parents were born in Poland. I grew up very Polish. We loved our pierogi. All my kids loved them," Bemiss says. "Once I started making them we could see how many other people wanted the same thing. It just took off."

"Nobody was making pierogi," except a small company called Conte's, she says.

"I didn't want to have the empty starches. I wanted it to be healthy."

For nine months she worked to come up with a recipe based in garbanzo beans, which are high in protein and a good source of iron.

She started selling favorites: potato cheddar cheese, sauerkraut and mushroom, sweet farmers cheese, salmon and cheese and savory sweet potato and making them preservative-free, with butter and cheese with cultured milk so they're virtually lactose free, she says.

Demand was so great she was consumed with cooking and is now focusing on the business end as she prepares for wider distribution: UPC codes, ingredient labels and more.

"Gluten-free is here to stay," she says. "It is not a fad or a trend. It is a health issue and there is a demand that will not be going away."

Source: Alicia Bemiss, owner, Old World Gluten Free Pierogi
Writer: Kim North Shine

Farmington DDA readies for downtown residential living

The Farmington Downtown Development Authority is taking on the role of property redeveloper with the goal of increasing residential living options  downtown.

The DDA is seeking a private developer via a request for proposal to build a second phase of condominiums at The Orchards condos on Slocum Drive just off downtown's main thoroughfare, Grand River, and Farmington Road.

The first phase of the mixed-residential project was completed in 2006, but after the housing market collapsed the second phase was never completed, says Annette Knowles, executive director of the Farmington DDA.

When the market began to bounce back, the DDA board decided to purchase the property to retain control over what would happen with it, she says. The DDA purchased the property for $95,000 in October.

“Introducing more development that is appealing to those seeking to reside in a downtown environment will help create a more robust economic base to support the business community," she says. "All signs indicate that development of this nature will again meet market demand."

The RFPs are due by March 7 and two inspections for prospective bidders are set for Jan. 13 and 15.

Source: Annette Knowles, executive director, Farmigton Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Crittenton Hospital adds high-tech tower to Rochester campus

Crittenton Hospital has expanded its hospital campus in Rochester Hills by adding a six-story tower where patient care will come with the latest in medical technology, treatment and education wrapped in a building that took a non-traditional, money-saving approach to construction.

The 165,000-square-foot South Tower on University Drive near Oakland University opened Wednesday, Jan. 8. It has 87 private patient rooms outfitted with smart beds that monitor patients' vital signs and activity without being hooked to electrodes.

The pharmacy in the new tower is operated by an automation system with bar code technologies that can help eliminate prescription errors.

The tower houses a cardiac center for medicine, where Crittenton doctors work in an open heart program partnership with the University of Michigan. Other floors are dedicated to family and primary care medicine as well as orthopaedic, joint and spine medicine and musculoskeletal disorders and injuries.

Education is incorporated in the new tower with innovative nursing stations that support training and clinical instruction to nursing students. Crittenton South Tower is also a learning center for Wayne State University School of Medicine's graduate residents.

A sanctuary for all religions and an outdoor garden meant to support emotional and spiritual well-being round out the new facility.

The $65-million tower also comes with an energy-efficient design that includes recycled materials. The construction project used an approach called Integrated Project Delivery. Hospital leaders and construction company reps from Barton Malow Company and Frank Rewold & Son say the approach, which re-evaluates and reworks traditional, costly construction not only saves health care costs but should be a model for other construction projects. They also say it is the largest such IDP project in Michigan.

Source: Brian Birney, director of marketing and communications, Crittenton Hospital and Adela Piper, Push22
Writer: Kim North Shine

Oakland U tapping Chevron Energy Services for cheap, clean energy

Oakland University and Chevron Energy Solutions are partnering on the construction and operation of a clean, cost-saving energy source for electricity and hot water.

The Combined Heat & Power, or CHP, is an emerging and growing way to provide energy to large facilities. A natural gas turbine provides the energy rather than traditional electricity.

The university will lease and operate the system, and Chevron Energy Solutions, a division of Chevron Oil & Gas, will build the system at the campus' central heating plant.

Overall, says Siraj Khan, the director of engineering for OU Facilities Management, the new system will save money on energy costs, reduce OU's carbon footprint and also become a teaching tool for students.

"CHP is a proven technology, and is becoming more and more popular in the wake of sustainability culture on higher education campuses all around United States to reduce carbon footprint and to produce clean energy," Khan says. "The operation of the CHP, real-time energy monitoring, data for energy savings and reduction of emissions will be a learning tool for students and a valuable educational experience."

Source: Siraj Khan, director of engineering for OU Facilities Management
Writer: Kim North Shine

Stay Pure Juicery imports Cali juicing savvy to Ferndale

After two months in business, Stay Pure Juicery in Ferndale is moving from a pick-up and delivery operation to a retail and juice bar.

Juicery founders Kimberly and Eric Bruneau learned about the benefits of juicing while living in California for 13 years, and after deciding to move back to Michigan to be near family they continued their juicing and acted on a thirst for knowledge about the health benefits, especially after Eric's father died of cancer.

The Bruneaus officially launched in October after months of juicing for friends and family. They outfitted a production facility at 22020 Woodward Avenue in Ferndale with two-ton and four-ton presses and other equipment "to make the most nutritious juice we possibly could," says Eric. The juice can be ordered for pick-up at the production facility or for delivery.

Sales have convinced the couple that the business is ripe for a retail storefront, and in March a juice bar and store will open on 9 Mile in downtown Ferndale. Cleanses are also big sellers, and the Bruneaus are preparing for a major upswing in orders in the new year.

Their Stay Pure Juicery is an entrepreneurial endeavor based in personal beliefs rooted in a family history of cancer, a hockey player son's need for sugarless replenishment, and in revelations about how suspected damage from processed foods and environmental chemicals might be undone by coconut and wheat grass and other drinkable fruits, veggies, plants and spices.

The Bruneaus say their juice is different and better because it's cold-pressed, saving nutrients. It's also not pasteurized, another nutrient-saver, and bottled based on sound research and personal experience. It has a shelf life of only three days, while mainstream juices are pasteurized and can last for many weeks.

They're spreading their message and their product through shows such as the Health & Fitness Expo at the Detroit Marathon, through partnerships with fitness and yoga studios and at lunch-and- learn educational sessions at local business.

"We're all about education and that's the key for people to understand," Eric Bruneau says. "We're not saying we're doctors. What we're saying is all the studies have shown there are the health benefits, that this is what we need to be putting into our bodies."

"We believe any juicing is better than no juicing," he says. But their knowledge of how to make the juice -- cold, instead of typical blenders that can heat and remove nutrients, for one thing -- does make a more beneficial product.

Eric, who has worked for Sony Pictures and Dreamworks in visual effects and also headed studios in Michigan, is dedicating himself full-time to the business he says can make people feel better, have more energy, and perhaps prevent disease. Kimberly is working to perfect a cookie recipe that's protein-packed and tasty and can be sold at the new store.

The couple see this as a way to take care of themselves, people they love  and others and to make a living doing something meaningful.

"There are many facets to why we chose, many life-changing experiences that brought us here," he says. "We just want to do a small part to educate and help, if we can."

Source: Eric & Kimberly Bruneau, founders, Stay Pure Juicery
Writer: Kim North Shine

Plymouth's Mattress 4 U brings organic to the bedroom

In the 1980s, Mattress 4 U was into the waterbed craze and since then it's followed trends in sleeping, the latest being organic mattresses and a desire by consumers to know what's inside their mattress and what chemicals have been used to treat it.

The store started in Greenville in western Michigan and expanded to Plymouth in the summer of 2013, opening a store at 44717 5 Mile Road. It serves mostly Northville and Plymouth and calls itself Michigan's only certified organic mattress retailers.

Shoppers can find mattresses made from 100-percent organic cotton, natural rubber latex, renewable products, cruelty-free Eco Wool and with no chemicals.

It's a growing business, and unlike waterbeds of the 1980s, may be here to stay, says owner Billy Pennington.

Source: Billy Pennington, owner, Mattress 4U
Writer: Kim North Shine

Hear the sweet sound of success at Expressions Music Academy

The three-year-old Expressions Music Academy in Novi is taking its show to another road, this one a new studio and music lab in Troy.

The music school opened in 2010 and has built an enrollment of about 500 students in all sorts of music lessons, including show choir and and band. Growth happened so fast, with students from 6 to 66 coming for group and private lessons in voice and about a dozen instruments as well as other musical programs that owner Jessica Schatz expanded the Novi location into adjoining space after just two years. A year after that expansion there's such a demand from students across metro Detroit and Ann Arbor that she's adding the Troy location.

The new Expressions Music Academy will open in January at 4000 Livernois Road in Troy. The Novi academy is located at 43370 W. 10 Mile Road. The music lab is equipped with iPads and keyboards for music education programs.

"Our mission is to provide all students with the opportunity to enjoy a complete music education. While private lessons are the central focus of our educational approach, we also expose students to the big picture of music through additional programs such as Studio Class, early-childhood music classes, choral groups, an interactive music lab featuring iPads loaded with educational apps, access to our music library, a music appreciation program, and opportunities to participate in our mixed instrumental and vocal concerts and recitals," says Schatz, a pianist who once taught 30 students from a home school.

"Our students are inspired to master their own choice of instrument while we nurture in them a lifelong love for music in general. We truly believe in the power of a holistic approach to music education. We do not have a storefront or sell books or instruments. We are dedicated 100% to music education, and we are good at it."

Source: Jessica Schatz, founder and owner, Expressions Music Academy
Writer: Kim North Shine

Great Lakes Culinary Center opens in Southfield

The Great Lakes Culinary Center opened last month in Southfield and has already become a draw for chefs, food business entrepreneurs and party planners.

The 20,000-square-foot culinary center was designed to be a treat for the eyes -- and mouth and nose -- with its massive stainless steel kitchens surrounded by marble, natural wood, chic industrial light fixtures, all of it surrounding chefs and students that come here to hone their craft and test the latest in kitchen equipment and restaurant supplies.

The Great Lakes Culinary Center is on 9 Mile Road and connected to Great Lakes Supply Company, a provider to the restaurant and hospitality industry.

The idea is to be a launching pad for food business entrepreneurs as well as a spot for cooking classes for pros and non-pros. The center can also be rented for parties and events, and if founder Marc Israel's vision is successful it will lift up metro Detroit and Michigan's food and hospitality businesses.

Successful metro Detroit chefs are on board, creating a menu of classes for everyday folks and culinary students and connecting with the chefs and others food business entrepreneurs to connect them with the latest in kitchen design, supplies, resources, cooking methods and much more.

Source: Rachel Wolff, event coordinator, Great Lakes Culinary Center
Writer: Kim North Shine

Woodward Ave. transformation revealed

Plans to redesign Woodward Avenue between Detroit and Pontiac into a thoroughfare that will be prepared for mass transit as well as welcoming to bikers and walkers are being aired on public access cable channels in Oakland County.

Some of the organizations behind the plan, the Woodward Avenue Action Association, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and the municipalities that line the avenue, are looking for public feedback as local, county and state officials get behind the Complete Streets plan.

Steven Huber, a spokesperson for Oakland County, says the plan could transform Woodward into a scenic thoroughfare in ways to promote business and usability.

Engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff came up with a redesign of the 27-mile stretch of road in a master plan that's believed to be one of the largest of its kind in the nation.

The planning and public feedback are moving at a faster pace as Oakland County and several municipalities work to prepare for the arrival of light rail on Woodward Avenue in Detroit.

The idea is to unite metro Detroit through a major corridor that's easy to travel, to stimulate transit-oriented development, and to create jobs.

Source: Steve Huber, marketing and communications officer, Oakland County
Writer: Kim North Shine

Eco-minded cleaning co. in Plymouth expands

When Nicole Mezel-Bernath got into the organic cleaning business in 1996, organic was not nearly so mainstream.

As time went on and her customers wanted clean homes without the chemicals, her business, Nicole's TLC Cleaning, grew.

Nearly 20 years after expanding to five cities near her company's home base of Plymouth, she's now adding a South Lyon`office as her two-person cleaning teams take on more residential accounts. The office in downtown South Lyon opened in early November.

"There is a need out here," Mezel-Bernath says.

She says it's a desire to keep chemicals out of the home that's driving the business and creating jobs for her employees.

Instead of using toxic chemical products, Nicole's TLC Cleaning cleans with substances such as tea tree oil, citrus solvents and essential oils.

"We think simple choices in cleaning products can make a big difference in your family's health and our communities," she says.

Source: Nicole Mezel-Bernath, founder and president, Nicole's TLC Cleaning
Writer: Kim North Shine

Super heroes & Santa part of downtown Ferndale ice festival

Businesses in downtown Ferndale are celebrating the holidays and hoping to put some muscle in their sales by throwing an ice festival that showcases super heroes.

More than 50 ice sculptures will be on display outside of businesses throughout downtown for The Holiday Ice Festival Saturday, Dec. 14, and visitors can go to the North Pole at Schiffer Park on W. 9 Mile and meet reindeer, have hot chocolate, write letters to soldiers and more.

Santa will start the festival at 10 a.m. with an appearance on a fire engine and have lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings. A heated trolley will ferry riders to and from shops and restaurants throughout the day. There will ice carving demonstrations, carolers, pictures with Santa, and running at the same time as the festival will be the Saucy Social & Food Truck Rally on Vester Street.

Besides giving visitors a fun holiday outing, the festival is meant to stoke business activity by pulling in customers with holiday shopping lists, says Cristina Sheppard-Decius, executive director of the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority.

Source: Chris Hughes, Ferndale Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine
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