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Veterans' housing foundation opens HQ in downtown Mount Clemens

An organization formed to prevent homelessness among veterans has opened an office in downtown Mount Clemens as it makes plans to become a Midwest advocate for military men, women and families

VCCF, Veterans Construction Communities Foundation,
offers housing assistance, whether it's building, remodeling or financial assistance, job training and lacemtn and other services that help veterans of all wars and their families not only assimilate post war but thrive and have a high quality of life, says Mark Diaz, VCCF founder and president. Diaz is also a  Marine and veteran of Vietnam and Desert Storm, a former Detroit Police Department detective and founder and executive vice president of Liberty Home Loans.

Diaz founded VCCF with Mary Beth Ryan, who has a background as a sales and marketing executive in radio and TV and is a fundraiser for some of metro Detroit's well-known events. Their connections and experience put them in a place to network with people and companies who can help veterans.

The foundation's new office opens Oct. 24 at 15 North Walnut, not far from the Macomb County Courthouse. The founders say they want to share with the Veterans Administration the overwhelming burden of needs of veterans trying to return to normalcy. Some 1.5 million veterans are at imminent risk of homelessness, says VCCF's founders.

Besides offering general assistance to veterans and their families, VCCF is project-based. Money will be raised, volunteers gathered and expertise and connections tapped for specific veterans.

The current project is the rehabilitation of the Mount Clemens home of an U.S. Army sergeant whose bank account was emptied and who had the ownership of his homes illegally transferred while he was on his third tour of duty in Iraq.

The goal of VCCF with its motto, One Soldier, One Home, One At A Time, is to "be a significant force in eradicating and prevention of veteran homelessness. The funds we raise through the foundation will supply housing options for veterans and their families," Diaz says. “Our vision is to also become the Midwest resource and advocacy center for the veteran population.”

Source: Mark Diaz and Mary Beth Ryan, founders, Veterans Constructing Communities Foundation
Writer: Kim North Shine



Lark & Co. revives the old general store in new Birmingham spot

The vision for Michael Collins and David Zawicki's new Lark & Co. in downtown Birmingham is modern day general store.

The pair who previously ran Oliver's Trendz, a women's accessories store, in the same storefront at 138 N. Maple.  After shutting down for renovations, they reopened nearly two weeks ago and have stocked the 1,100-square-foot space with products inspired by a 1940s general store.

Variety is the name of the game: handmade candy, furniture, foodstuffs, lighting, purses, speciality soaps, rugs, books.

Collins and Zawicki have lived in Birmingham 17 years and see a general store as a way to round out downtown Birmingham's retail offerings, a way to keep locals from leaving town to shop.

Next door to Lark & Co. is Suhm-thing, a gift store that is also owned and operated by Collins and Zawicki and has a a selection of Michigan goods and unusual items from artists and designers around the world.

Part of the their business plan is also to convey how much good supporting a local merchant can do for the economy and to set them themselves apart by providing a level of service that's harder to find at chains, malls and big box stores, Collins says.

Source: Ed Nakfoor, Birmingham PSD, and Michael Collins, owner, Lark&Co.
Writer: Kim North Shine

Ferndale-based Schramm's meets the need for mead

A decade since Ken Schramm started on the path to becoming one of Michigan's -- if not the country's -- mead authorities, he has opened his own meadery and bar.

Schramm's Mead served its first customers Sept. 26 and celebrated with a grand opening party last Friday. After some unexpected hurdles, there was all the more reason to whoop it up.

Schramm, whose day job is as manager of video services and manager of instructional technologies for Wayne County Schools, withstood delays brought on by the government sequester in April -- delays that caused crucial approvals from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to take several weeks or months longer than usual. Schramm says he's thrilled to see that his financial projections are being met. That's even after paying rent, building costs, salaries and going through refinancing to survive the delays.

Schramm is the author of the Compete Mead Maker, which was published in 2003 and has sold about 60,000 copies. He started making mead a decade ago, knows its history, the many forms it takes, and realizes that turning craft mead into the next craft beer is "somewhat of an uphill battle" even when at least four metro Detroit craft brewers are succeeding at making mead. B. Nektar Meadery, also in Ferndale, is a supporter of Schramm's. The two make different styles of mead and B. Nektar is making mead as fast it can to keep up with demand.

For Schramm the opening of his own establishment and the growing taste for mead is a dream come true.

"I've worked hard to build this industry...I'm working hard to promote this hobby and this industry," he says. "This is such an exciting time for me."

His daughter Allison is managing Schramm's Mead and "doing everything except making the mead," which is Ken Schramm's job. She has the help of several employees. Schramm's Mead will serve its fermented honey-based beverage with cheese plates and charcuterie. Schramm smokes meats too. It's located at 327 W. 9 Mile Road.

So far the customers coming for a glass are about half mead drinkers, half not.

"Some are familiar with it or know it well. They come from craft beer and wine circles," he says. "Some know who I am and were looking forward to the place opening. Others have never tried it, are interested in seeing what mead is."

Source: Ken Schramm, founder and mead-maker, Schramm's Mead
Writer: Kim North Shine

Lawrence Tech shows small biz the ways of digital manufacturing

A new partnership is forming at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield with the goal of making access to digital manufacturing more accessible to small- and medium-sized manufacturers.

The university has paired up with the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences to open a 1,200-square-foot facility where manufacturers will have access to software, hardware and training that teaches them how to incorporate typically cost-prohibitive digital manufacturing, modeling, simulation and visualization technology.

NCMS is described as the largest cross-industry collaborative research-and-development consortium in North America. It is dedicated to driving innovation in commercial, defense, robotics and environmentally sustainable manufacturing industries.

The new training facility is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2014 in LTU's General Services Building at 21301 Civic Center Drive.

"This collaboration will truly help Michigan SMMs become more competitive on a national and global scale,” says NCMS President Rick Jarman.

Organizations such as the Michigan Manufacturers Association, the Small Business Association of Michigan, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Aerospace Association of Michigan will identify manufacturers and publicize the program.

“As a nation, we suffered a great deal when we shifted away from manufacturing," LTU president Virinder Moudgil says in a statement. "Now we have an opportunity to make manufacturing strong once more by helping the small and mid-sized companies that are the backbone of the U.S. economy.”

Source: Eric Pope, spokesperson, Lawrence Technogical University
Writer: Kim North Shine

Barre workout & yoga unite in new Grosse Pointe Park studio

In just a few months' time a new yoga and barre studio in Grosse Pointe Park has built a strong following of fitness-focused customers looking for a new place and way to work out.

Above the Barre X at 15229 Kercheval Avenue in Grosse Pointe Park looks like a dance studio with a ballet barre, mirrors and wood floors in a big open space. Lightburst chandeliers, sliding, floor-to-ceiling doors and glistening floors give the studio a contemporary, upscale feel.

It's where co-owners Suzette Wilson and Christy Wood and a staff of nine instructors teach yoga, Pilates and Barre X, a workout that challenges the muscles, especially the smaller ones, through movements of constant contraction and tension. Movements are made in shorts bursts and holds. Shaking, quivering muscles are the norm. Barre has become go-to workout in larger cities and is gaining popularity locally.

Wood, who for years taught Pilates and yoga, was a partner in a studio in Grosse Pointe Woods and also taught in St. Clair Shores at Wilson's Real Results Training. About two years ago they learned about barre and introduced it to a handful of clients.

"We actually started doing the classes in another location during construction in January or February," Wood says. "We just wanted to get interest up. We started with one barre. We kept adding. I got trained. It took me a year to train the others. We knew people were ready for it."

Wood says barre originated in London and was a workout for the rich and famous. It migrated to the U.S. and by the '70s was an exclusive workout for women living on the Upper East Side of New York. Working on a barre in a nondescript gym, they saw amazing, quick results. Barre began to spread, and now barre studios are opening regularly, especially on the East Coast.

Wood has traveled to many cities learning about barre and was amazed by how it strengthened her body and her mindset, even as a longtime Pilates and yoga instructor.

"After traveling and seeing how happy people were with barre I'm not at all surprised to see the response we've had here," she says. "It's amazing. It's almost like people are on a high after a barre class.

"For me the best part is seeing the results, and people do see the results," she says. "What's beautiful about it is it allows them to look outside themselves and think about others, to think less about how they look or how their body feels."

More classes are being added, including a teen barre class on Thursdays, and special events such as Bring Your Man to the Barre are being planned.

"The more people see what a hard workout this is and how much they get out of it," Wood says, "they are hooked."

Source: Christy Wood, co-owner, Above the Barre X
Writer: Kim North Shine

Wanderlust Boutique brings affordable Euro fashion to Rochester

The women behind the new Wanderlust Boutique in downtown Rochester are bringing their love for European fashion to locals.

Ally and Denise Martin say they've figured out a way to make Euro style affordable by scouring hundreds of vendors, looking not only for good prices but original styles. Besides casual clothing, the store sells accessories such as jewelry, watches, belts and shoes.

Wanderlust opened Oct. 11 in a redone store painted in aqua blue mixed with exposed brick walls.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce is planned for Nov. 1.

Source: Ally Martin, co-owner, Wanderlust Boutique
Writer: Kim North Shine

Four new developments coming online in Auburn Hills

Auburn Hills -- and its developing downtown area -- is in a mini-construction boom with four new projects partially or mostly complete.

The developments are an outgrowth of increased enrollment and demands for housing and other services for students and staff at Oakland University, Oakland Community College, Baker College and Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

* The University Center will open in January and replace a restaurant and bar with a two-story building dedicated to educating local high school and college students. The first floor will have two classrooms in 4,800 square feet and host classes for colleges and universities located in Auburn Hills. The second floor will be home to the Avondale Academy run by Avondale Schools.

The University Center is a partnership between the city's TIFA, Avondale Schools, Oakland University, Oakland Community College, Baker College and Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

* The DEN, Downtown Education Nook, will be a relaxing hang-out for students to study individually or in groups and like the University Center open in January. The 1,564-square-foot facility is connected to a historic log cabin and will have two fireplaces and five study rooms.

* Auburn Square Apartments: 97 apartments consisting of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. The $9 million project will include 6,100 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, helping to increase foot traffic in the downtown area. Apartments are already leasing and move-in should begin in January.

* A public parking structure will be owned and operated by the city and its Tax Increment Financing Authority. It will have space for 233 vehicles, with spaces connected to common hallways that lead to each floor of apartments. It should be open for business in November.

All four projects are the result of work by the city's Tax Increment Financing Authority, which captures increases in the tax base in a designated zone and dedicates them to public improvement projects in partnership with private and other public investors.

Source: Barbara Fornasiero, spokesperson, city of Auburn Hills
Writer: Kim North Shine

C.A.Y.A Smokehouse Grill opens in Wolverine Lake

There is a lot to go on about with the C.A.Y.A Smokehouse Grill in Wolverine Lake, and customers are coming, from the nearby lake crowd to destination diners, to see what's it's all about.

There is the food -- a specially smoked and creative menu made up of locally sourced ingredients from farms within 100 miles and never treated with chemicals or artificial ingredients. For example, the pork is pink because it comes from farms that don't pump it up with solutions.

There is the building itself, a mix of rustic and industrial with copper, barn wood, iron, exposed cement-brick walls, exposed ceilings and an eye-catching, sleek black onyx bar. The bar serves specialty drinks and has six Michigan craft beers on tap.

Jeff Rose, co-owner and chef, comes from two of metro Detroit's top restaurants: Michael Symon's Roast in Detroit and Toast in Birmingham. Rose co-owns C.A.Y.A with Rachel Mandell. They have 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry. Rose has also manned kitchens at Tribute, Big Rock Chophouse and Iridescence.

Rose broke away to introduce his own restaurant concept -- a smokehouse bistro -- a casual restaurant that shows off what can be done with a smoker. Many of C.A.Y.A's meats are smoked for 10-14 hours over hickory, maple, oak, apple and cherry woods until they are tender. They emerge with a caramelized outside and are served by chefs specializing in sides and desserts.

"It's important for us to be able to provide our guests with not only a great dining experience," Rose says,"but also offer the highest quality and freshest food available."

There's room at the grill for 100 to eat inside and 60 on the covered patio. The restaurant is located at 1403 Commerce Road at Pontiac Trail.


Source: Jeff Rose, co-owner, C.A.Y.A. Smokehouse Grill and Jaclyn Robinson, spokesperson
Writer: Kim North Shine

Vibe Credit Union brings e-banking to Birmingham

Vibe Credit Union's online and handheld-technology-driven style of banking has come to a new branch in Birmingham.

Vibe's e-Center, or remote branch, at 163 W. Maple opened Sept. 25, adding to Vibe's other locations in Berkley, Canton, Livonia, Novi, South Lyon, Southfield and Sterling Heights. A downtown Royal Oak location will open later this year, says Tom Reagan, president and CEO of Vibe Credit Union.

Vibe's new e-Center is staffed with a customer service rep who will tell customers how to use Vibe's mobile and online services, which include banking apps, mobile deposits, quick online loans and other programs geared toward different audiences.

Vibe rounds out its banking services with rewards programs, lower fees and other offerings such as bill pay. An ATM is located at the e-Center, and Vibe has more than 30,000 fee-free ATMs. Vibe banking can also be completed by phone.

“We are very excited to grow our business and reach out to new communities," Reagan says. "The design of this new eCenter was built around technology and a way for more people to bank differently.”

Source: Vibe Credit Union
Writer: Kim North Shine

Ice ice baby! Downtown Farmington gets new rink

Downtown Farmington is complementing its growing retail scene and historic downtown gathering spaces with a new ice rink.

The rink is expected to be completed in December and will be located at Riley Park in the heart of downtown. It's being built by Serv Ice Refrigeration, the same company that laid the rink in Campus Martius in downtown Detroit, says Annette Knowles, director of the Farmington Downtown Development Authority.

The George F. Riley Foundation, for whom the park is named, donated $100,000 toward the construction of the rink,which sill cost about $300,000. Fundraisers continue to raise the rest of the money and engineering firm, Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment are donating services for the project.

“Our family is quite pleased at how Riley Park in downtown Farmington has become a hub for families and friends to gather together and has also become a center for key events in Farmington. The Riley Foundation’s commitment to create the Riley Ice Rink creates a fourth season for activity in downtown. We are excited to be able to support this worthwhile enhancement for families and friends enjoying the quality of life in our community," the Riley Foundation says in a letter.

Knowles says the community has expressed a desire for a downtown rink in visioning sessions and other public meetings and that she expects the rink to be a "cool" addition to the city.

"Job creation will be hard to measure at this point, but we do know that seasonal maintenance will be necessary. Spin off business opportunities exist," Knowles says. "For example, we would love for someone to come forward with skate rentals that we do not have to manage."

Source: Annette Knowles, executive director, Farmington Downtown Development Authority

Writer: Kim North Shine

Atwater Brewery turns Grosse Pointe Park church into beer hall

Come spring, Atwater Brewery will be brewing and serving its Detroit-born suds from a closed Grosse Pointe Park church that's being converted into a beer hall-style restaurant and outdoor biergarten.

The impending opening of Atwater in the Park will be celebrated at the just-completed biergarten at 1175 Lakepointe off of Kercheval Avenue this Friday, when Atwater hosts the GPP version of its annual Bloktoberfest with German beer, food and music by the Polish Muslims.

The renovations on the new brewpub are happening now at the church which fronts Kercheval and is a few blocks from the Detroit border at Alter Road. A sign at the construction site reads: Born in Detroit. Brewed in the Park.

Atwater's Detroit brewery in Rivertown will remain in operation. Atwater owner Mark Rieth is a Grosse Pointe Park resident who is excited to be part of a the revitalization of the Park's business district, led in large part by the local Cotton family, which has bought property and brought in business owners who can attract crowds and offer quality and creativity.

Rieth has said the church pews and other parts of the church will be re-used in the redesign. At 7,000 square feet it's a big space to re-do, but beer tanks take up a lot of room and Atwater has many fans, especially locally.

The beer hall will be in the basement.  On the main floor, the pews will be used as bench seating and there will be a circular bar. There will be separate rooms for seating and a merchandise area for beer and beer supplies.

Outside, long tables and other changes will make customers feel "just like you're in Munich," Rieth says.

There will be 40 beers on tap, and Atwater is currently hiring staff.

Atwater opened in March of 1997 in a 1919 factory warehouse on the Detroit riverfront and prides itself on carrying on the history of Detroit breweries and using malt and hops from Germany to turn out traditional German lagers.

Atwater previously ran a restaurant in Detroit and then converted it to brewing only. Recently, a tap room opened in Detroit, where 14 beers are on tap. The brewery also has tours and event space.

Atwater's annual Bloktoberfest at its Detroit facility this weekend from 4 p.m. to close at the tap room at 237 Joseph Campau St.

Source: Atwater in the Park
Writer: Kim North Shine

ROUGE MakeUp and Nail Salon expands in downtown Ferndale

The little red make-up and nail salon in Ferndale that built a customer base attracted to organic and vegan products and a creative staff is now a bigger space, still red in keeping with the name.

ROUGE MakeUp and Nail Studio expanded into a neighboring store on Woodward Avenue and into space about twice its original size two weeks ago.

Sisters Cheryl Salinas-Tucker, who worked as a make-up artist on shows and photo shoots in New York City and then traveled the country as an instructor for cosmetics lines, and Jeny Bulatovic, a manicurist who heads up a staff that has won Rouge Best Nail Salon honors for two years, opened Rouge in 2010.

The salon has made a name for itself by offering personal service, helping customers through skin and nail disasters, and running a business that's fun and welcoming.

They expanded their downtown Ferndale salon after they outgrew the first space in less two years.

Source: Jeny Bulatovic, co-owner, Rouge MakeUp and Nail Salon
Writer: Kim North Shine

Northvillle's Salvaged store does vintage furniture and home goods

A group of friends with a knack for spotting old furniture that's in need of a little TLC and an update have opened a store with their repurposed goods in downtown Northville.

Salvaged opened just over a month ago on the square at 133 N. Main St. in Suite 200.

Inside is home decor - furniture and accessories - in vintage, mid-century modern, industrial, shabby chic, electric, French provincial and French country styles.

The owners, two pairs of sisters, are pros at hunting far and wide for furniture that needs a little freshening to become a stylish centerpiece or an accent that's a conversation piece.

Source: Northville Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Boutique hotel moving in to downtown Wyandotte Sears store

The vacant Sears department store in downtown Wyandotte is on its way to becoming a boutique hotel.

The owners of The Hotel Sterling in Monroe plan to spend $2.5 million to renovate the inside and out of the three-story building on Biddle Avenue, keeping in tune with the historic, cosmopolitan style of this hotel in downtown Monroe, says Natalie Rankine, director of the Wyandotte Downtown Development Authority. The renovation began last month and will be completed in two phases. Opening day is expected in late 2014, she says.

The first phase will cover the exterior, the basement and the first and second floors of the building, turning them into 21 hotel suites, a lobby, business center, conference and banquet facility and hotel offices. The second phase will make over the third floor and add 12 suites as the market dictates.

City and state economic development officials see the hotel's potential to improve the business climate, increase commercial investment and create jobs. 

The Wyandotte DDA purchased the property in 2012 for $530,000 and sold it to The Hotel Sterling owners Ken and Rebecca Wickenheiser for $350,000. With donations from the Downriver Area Brownfield Consortium to help pay for property cleaning, the DDA will spend about $200,000 on the redevelopment.

"We are excited to embark upon this project with the Wickenheisers. Ken and Rebecca have an incredible knowledge of architectural design and understanding of historic preservation," says Rankine. "These traits combined with the great business model they've already developed for the Hotel Sterling Monroe will make this project a perfect fit for our downtown."

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. put in $445,000 toward the hotel to seal the deal with the hotel owners and bring investment and jobs to the city.

Rankine says construction will require 20 temporary jobs and running the hotel will create 5 permanent jobs.

Source: Natalie Rankine, director, Wyandotte Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers to open in Farmington Hills



Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers
, a Flint Township gourmet burger restaurant that has landed on best burger joint lists and been called one to watch in the fast-casual restaurant concept, is opening its first metro Detroit location in Farmington Hills in late November.

Founder and president Brent Skaggs, who operates two other separate restaurants besides the Flint Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers, says Farmington Hills was chosen for a foray into metro Detroit for a number of reasons.

"We are franchising the concept. We started that in July this year. We wanted to go into a metro market," says Skaggs, who opened the Flint Township store in 2012. "We felt like Detroit metro was a great place and as we started looking around we found that Farmington Hills had the traffic counts, the demographics and we just liked the feel of the city."

He is hoping to have a freakin' unbelievable experience by besting nearby national burger chains, including Five Guys and Smashburger, with his selection of Angus beef burgers that come with a selection of 43 toppings, served on a brioche bun.

"We definitely will have competition, but we are a Michigan-based company so we're excited," he says.

Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers is getting noticed nationally. It ranked 12th on fastcasual.com's Top 100 America's Top Movers & Shakers at the National Restaurant Association convention in Chicago, and industry publication, BurgerBusiness, called the restaurant one of the top new burger joints in 2012. The second Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers will move into a former Burger King on Orchard Lake Road and be renovated to fit the fast casual concept, an upscale version of fast food. Think Panera Bread, Skagg says, counter service in a sit-down arrangement.

"The materials we use in the booths are nicer; so is the type of lighting. It's really a place you can sit down, watch a game, get a cold beer, a glass of wine…There's china, real forks. There's no tipping," Skaggs says. "It's a place you can get a burger fast and to go if you want, or to stay and enjoy if you want."

Once opened, the restaurant will employ 20 full-time employees, Skaggs says, and 20-30 part-timers.

Source: Brent Skaggs, president and founder, Freakin Unbelievable Burgers
Writer: Kim North Shine
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