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Troy-based Autobike partners with Grand Rapids TerraTrike

Autobike, the young company from Troy that's reworked and refined automatic shifting technology for bicycles, is going into business with TerraTrike, a Grand Rapids manufacturer of recumbent trikes.

The partnership gives Autobike a whole new market for its technology that appeals to both techies who love gadgets and cyclists who just want an easy ride.

Techies get a ride that's constantly being analyzed for when to shift by a tiny little electronic brain along with a smartphone app and bluetooth synching. Easy riders get a ride without ever having to shift a gear themselves.

TerraTrike's product combined with Autobike's technology adds up to the world's first smart trike, the companies say. The new high-tech model, part of the TerraTrike's Rover line, debuts within weeks.

TerraTrike and Autobike, which builds and sells its own bikes with its automatic shifters, have customers around the country, and they  expect sales to increase after the release of the smart trike.

Source: Autobike
Writer: Kim North Shine

Ferndale's Go Comedy! improv artists take stage as workplace consultants

Go Comedy! Improv Theater in Ferndale has found another stage for its performers' quick wits, teamwork, and senses of humor in workplace workshops.

It's a sideline to its main business of nightly, rotating shows and one of several ways that the theater's improv artists have added to their repertoire. The workshops, which can last an hour or two or a full day, can "train your group to function as a well-oiled machine," says Go! Comedy Improv Theater's Andy French.

The workshops can go to the workplace or the workers can come to the workshop at the Go! Comedy Improv Theater at 261 E. 9 Mile in downtown Ferndale.

“We use hilarious improv games to teach people how to be a crucial part of the team. Learn to cooperate and create together and have a great time doing it,” French says.

Skills to be learned through comedy, quick thinking, and performing include team building, listening and communication, and leadership skills. French says improvisation teaches listening, agreement, cooperation, supporting the ideas of others, give and take, and conflict resolution.

“We use hilarious improv games to teach people how to be a crucial part of the team, learn to cooperate and create together, and have a great time doing it."

Go Comedy! also teaches improv and other classes related to improvisational skills at its studio and rents its space for weddings and special events.

The team, which consists of 25 improvisers and writers, can also be hired to perform at special events. This week the team headlined the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority's monthly B2B Networking Meeting.

"The Go! experts know that the tenets of improv often parallel the ingredients of being solid in business," says the DDA's Chris Hughes. "By using what they teach to developing improvisers, the Go! team helps businesses owners and employers learn how to be better listeners, cooperate with each other, feel more comfortable on the sales floor and succeed, with a bonus of enjoying life."

Source: Ferndale Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Revival in the making for historic Hills Theatre in downtown Rochester

Local history lovers and civic boosters in Rochester are pushing a plan to bring back the 1940s-era Hills Theatre downtown, and the idea got a boost recently when a feasibility study showed it could well be economically viable.

If the idea moves forward, after a major fundraising campaign and renovation Rochester would join several Michigan cities who are turning to "theater-nomics" to add life and dollars to their downtown.

The 820-seat Hills Theatre is located in the heart of downtown at 412-416 S. Main Street, and a renovation could cost between $3-4 million.

The Rochester-Avon Historical Society started exploring the idea about two years ago, and along with the city's Historical Commission worked with a consultant, paying $15,000 to advise on the best use of the theater and how to proceed with a campaign and building plan.

While the crux of the project will rely on private donations, Mayor Jeffrey Cuthbertson has said the city could provide services, engineering and other professionals in the interest of building a downtown entertainment destination.

The supporters of theater revival also expect to ask the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to chip in on Rochester's project as it has in other cities.

Source: Rochester Avon Historical Society and city of Rochester
Writer: Kim North Shine

New and larger Park Grill fires up in Grosse Pointe Park

A look at Park Grill's  Facebook page makes it clear that its absence hasn't gone unnoticed, and since the Grosse Pointe Park Mediterranean eatery reopened Monday, posts of gratitude keep coming.

The family- and friend-run spot in the burgeoning Park business district re-opened this week after an eight-month renovation that enlarged the space and overhauled the aesthetics. The eatery also added to the menu, created an extensive beer list with four on tap, and a specialty cocktail menu with an endless Bloody Mary bar come summer.

"The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are excited to see so many loyal customers and new faces come through our doors during our first couple days," says general manager Brian Czerny.

Park Grill is located in a prominent corner spot at 15102 Kercheval Avenue and is one of several new developments joining solidly established businesses in the stretch of blocks with mostly 1920s-era architecture.

The renovated space is nearly twice the size of the old one and will have an outdoor patio. Park Grill, which is owned by the Kokoshi family, Albanian immigrants who turn out some their favorite recipes, can now seat 62 inside, 17 at an L-shaped bar, and 20-25 outdoors.

To keep up with demand, the restaurant has added staff and is still looking for more.

Source: Brian Czerny, general manager, Park Grill
Writer: Kim North Shine

Sea and lake creatures coming to Great Lakes Crossing Outlets

A London-based entertainment company is bringing its expertise in aquariums to the Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Auburn Hills, building an aquatic attraction inside the shopping and entertainment complex.

Sea Life, which has more than 40 aquarium attractions around the world and six in the U.S., will be built in what used to be a GameWorks. Demolition on the space started about two weeks ago. The complicated project will take more than a year with an opening date expected by April or May 2015, says Scott Berlow, general manager of Great Lakes Crossing Outlets.

Sea Life Michigan will give visitors up-close looks at more than 30 displays that are centered around a tropical ocean tank with a walkthrough underwater tunnel.

United Kingdom-headquartered Merlin Entertainments, owners of Sea Life, also build Legolands and numerous other themed attractions in 12 countries and three continents.

Berlow says the company chose Auburn Hills and Great Lakes because of its draw for tourists, including Canadians and because of its connection to international and national auto suppliers who bring families to Michigan to live permanently or on extended stays. He says 21 percent of visitors to Great Lakes Crossing are tourists that have traveled from more than 50 miles away.

"We know Sea Life draws from more than 100 miles," Berlow says. "This is going to be a great attraction. Certainly for a number of miles, there really is nothing that exists like this….They really ID'd the area for a variety of reasons. It's always location, location, location. The access to I-75 was important too."

Berlow says Sea Life builds on the "entertainment" in the Great Lakes motto: Shopping, Dining and Entertainment. Sea Life will be located across from Rainforest Cafe.

"You'd think they'd have a problem with that, but actually they're thrilled." Sea Life complements Rainforest Cafe as well as the Bass Pro Shop, which is also a draw for metro Detroiters and tourists alike. Field trips will be a regular part of Sea Life Michigan, which has a classroom and field-trip educators on staff and places an emphasis on conservation.

The aquarium at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets will, like the others, will be an immersive and educational experience that puts visitors up close to ocean life. But aquarium visitors will also learn about lake species. Sea Life is also  involved in rescue operations.

The plans for Sea Life Michigan call for more than 30 displays of shrimp, sharks, sea rays, sea horses and starfish. The unique Great Lakes element will feature creatures most associated with the Great Lakes region.

"The naysayers would say we've got a foreign company coming into the area…This creates jobs. This is good for business…It's all positive."

Source: Scott Berlow, general manager, Great Lakes Crossing Outlets
Writer: Kim North Shine

Gluten- and nut-free pizzeria opens in Troy

A dad frustrated by the challenge of taking his daughter out to eat without her getting sick from meals that came with nut-free and gluten-free claims has opened his own restaurant in Troy, and he's seeing a rush of grateful customers who share his desire to just enjoy a meal out without worry.

The dad, Gabe Hertz, and partner and pizza specialist, Ken Karapici, opened Renee's Gourmet Pizzeria in February in Troy. The word of mouth in the allergy community has attracted customers from across metro Detroit to Ann Arbor.  Renee's is located at 1937 W. Maple Road. There's room for 60 to eat and there's carryout.

Hertz named the restaurant after his daughter who was diagnosed with nut allergies and Celiac's Disease, a wheat intolerance, at age 5.

"My daughter can't have one speck of wheat or it can put her into two weeks of pain, and I love taking her out to eat," Hertz says. Nuts are life-threatening. She and most people with her carry an EpiPen. "Finally, she said, 'Dad, that's it, I'm not going anywhere else to eat with you. It was a month and a half before she walked in here."

Once he decided to open his own restaurant, Renee became the taste-tester for what the pizzeria would sell: a thin New York style pizza, calzones, soups, Hungarian dumplings, soups, cinnamon sticks and more.

"I've waited for a long time for someone to do this. Finally, I thought, you know if no one else is doing it, I'm going to do it. And no one is doing 100 percent gluten-free and nut-free like we are. Unless you are 100 percent free, you will have cross contamination."

He wanted to open a gluten- and nut-free restaurant that served food just as tasty as anywhere.

"I didn't want to build a gluten-free facility. I wanted to build a good gluten-free facility. Anybody can put out cardboard."

The reaction from parents has been as important as the bottom line, he says.

"It's not uncommon for someone to drive and hour, hour and a half to get here. Imagine there are parents who can finally open a menu and say, 'Wow, we can have anything on this menu!' The parents are in tears. I'm in tears. It's amazing to see, in my opinion, the comfort we give families. I know, if I could find one place my daughter could eat and not get sick, I would go three hours just to get that dinner with her."

Source: Gabe Hertz, co-owner, Renee's Gourmet Pizzeria
Writer: Kim North Shine

Donation boosts OU's industrial robotics and automation programs

Oakland University will build a four-year industrial robotics and automation program thanks to a donation from a leading supplier of industrial robots.

ABB Robotics' $50,000 gift to OU's School of Engineering and Computer Science will prepare future graduates for work in the industry and companies such as ABB. ABB will also offer an internship to OU students. Three members of the ABB Robotics executive team are OU grads.

One of them, Michael Mahfet, vice president and general manager for ABB, says "We might be a little biased, but we know OU is a highly regarded school in the engineering community. We're pleased to be able to play a part in advising the SECS on their new robotics curriculum. Ultimately, it's good for OU and it's good for companies like ours. The automation industry is changing so fast that it's important to have your finger on the pulse of what customers want.”

Dr. Louay M. Chamra, dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science, says OU's relationship with the industry strengthens its push to become a "premier research center in this area."

"There have been strong advances in manufacturing, both in southeast Michigan and across the United States," Chamra says, "and industrial robotics has been at the heart of much of that development."

Source: Automation Alley and Oakland University
Writer: Kim North Shine

Dark Room Photography shooting from new Mt. Clemens studio

Photographer Kelly Zatkoff's' skills have developed into such a solid customer base that she's opening a studio in downtown Mount Clemens.

She and partner Angie Schultz are opening The Darkroom Photography Studio on March 22 at 54 New Street.

"All the endless nights have finally paid off," Zatkoff says in her announcement of the studio grand opening.

The studio will allow her to get creative indoors, and she will continue her off-site shoots of babies, weddings, high schoolers and more.

Source: The Darkroom Photography Studio
Writer: Kim North Shine

Valentine Distilling to triple distillery space in Ferndale

Valentine Distilling's gin is taking a similar path as its vodka. It's winning awards, racking up orders in Michigan and several states, and is on the way to putting the Ferndale craft liquor maker on the world map.

Valentine's latest award, and probably the most significant, came last month when its Liberator Old Tom was named the World's Best Cask Gin by the World Gin Awards in London. Valentine makes a traditional gin, cask gin and whiskey, all released last year. Distribution of its original Valentine Vodka began in 2009.

"We've received many awards, many important ones, but this is a really big one…This came out of London, the home of gin," says founder Rifino Valentine. "I always have high expectations for our products. [We're] not just a local distillery, but this blew us away."

The award is one thing. Keeping up with demand is another. Valentine is in the process of renovating a 15,000-square-foot space in Ferndale into a distillery that will quadruple its output capacity. The new facility is expected to be ready for production in the fall of 2014, says Valentine. At about 5,000 square feet, the current distillery space, which is paired with an often-packed tasting room, will become the pilot distillery, the research and development area, he says.

Research and development is a slow and deliberate process and the reason, Valentine believes, for the success of Valentine Distilling's small-batch spirits.

"We were working on that gin for three or four years," he says. "I never just release stuff to get it out. I want to make sure it's competitive internationally and nationally…That's why it took us years…figuring out the botanicals and figuring out how the taste changed as it aged."

Even before the award, it became clear that Valentine needed to step up capacity.

"My distributors on the East Coast and in Chicago are calling, 'How much can we get and how soon?' "

Michigan is likely to follow suit.

"In Michigan vodka is still really big…The craft cocktail and craft spirit movement is just starting to hit Michigan right now and it's already been going on and is at full steam on the coasts and in cities like Chicago," he says. "So we get a large number of orders in Michigan for our vodka now, but the gin will come.

"The Liberator, we call it a new western gin or an American gin, because the flavor profile strays away from London dry or extra dry. It doesn't just smack you in the face with juniper…It's complex with a beginning, middle and end, with spices like cardamom, coriander and cinnamon."

Valentine, who left a successful career on Wall Street to launch a small-batch liquor company about six years ago, chose Michigan over Miami or other big cities, as a way to help the state by adding a small business to the books. He says the growth and the expansion in space and products was always part of the business plan, but the best part is seeing Michigan's distilleries and craft cocktails take off and make a significant contribution to the local and state economy.

"Looking back on it, it's pretty fun.. Probably five other distilleries have opened or are opening within five miles of us. It's funny to think back to 2008 and actually watch this industry grow. I mean just in the last couple of years alone we've generated a couple million dollars in tax revenue for the state," Valentine says. "It's so neat to see the industry thrive. It's so cool to help the state come back. It's one thing to talk about it, but to actually see it come to fruition is deeply meaningful."

Source: Rifino Valentine, owner, Valentine Distilling
Writer: Kim North Shine

Life Time Athletic bringing luxe workouts to Bloomfield

The national Life Time Fitness corporation will open its first Life Time Athletic in Michigan this summer, a high-end health club with an extra emphasis on service, luxury and exclusivity.

The state's first Life Time Athletic will open at 4106 Telegraph Road in Bloomfield, likely by the third week of June and earlier than the planned Fourth of July opening, says General Manager Beth Bock, a long-time Life Time Fitness employee who has hoped for a decade that a Life Time Athletic would come to metro Detroit. Life Time Fitness has seven clubs in Michigan and 109 around the country.

"This is our luxury brand, kind of our executive brand…This will be a diamond-level club, which is our highest level of membership," she says.

The building comes in at three floors, taking up nearly 75,000 square feet. The club includes higher-end fitness equipment, Bock says. "We have high-end equipment as it is, but this takes it to a whole new level."

At Life Time Athletic the staff-to-member ratio is lower: "We want to anticipate our members' needs," she says. The men's and women's dressing rooms are about luxury treatment with their own whirlpool spas, dry saunas and eucalyptus steam rooms and "every item you can think of. Don't bring a thing from home," Bock says.

There are adult fitness studios for yoga, barre and group workouts and studios for children, who are a crucial part of the Life Time Athletic membership. It includes three hours of daily programming, from yoga and zumba to arts and crafts and language arts for children. Child care can be arranged for different caregivers to do pick-ups or drop-offs.

Life Time Athletic also offers a testing lab, where registered dietitians measure overall health from vital signs to food sensitivity and hormone levels that dictate diets, best times to work out, and more.

Membership also comes with access to special programming and fitness destination trips. "We're not a gym with equipment and four walls," Bock says. "We really are a health club. Education and even entertainment is a part of that."

Life Time Athletic will be hiring 225-250 employees, about 70% of whom will be full-time. Usually just 30-40% of the staff is full-time, Bock says.

"We want full-time, dedicated, career-minded people here to serve the members," she says.

A preview center for the future Life Time Athletic is open at 4036 Telegraph, next door to the construction site for potential members who want to see renderings, plans and learn about membership.

Source: Beth Bock, general manager, Life Time Athletic, Bloomfield
Writer: Kim North Shine

Grosse Pointes get new breakfast & lunch option at Jagged Fork

After a major makeover, a former Biggby's coffee shop in Grosse Pointe Farms has reopened as a breakfast, lunch and brunch spot that's attracting east siders with its offbeat menu and fresh, cozy dining room.

The Jagged Fork opened March 3 on busy Mack Avenue, and after a slow build-up the restaurant was packed by the weekend with customers "who have been so wonderful, so supportive," says The Jagged Fork co-owner Francesco Adamopoulos.

"We're anticipating we'll have big crowds this week. So far I've loved the community. The reception has been nothing but warm. I swear after I talk to people, and I'm thinking about them after they leave, I just feel so good about them. They are just so salt of the earth."

Adamopoulos, who was born into the restaurant business as one of three children of Greek parents who spent every summer in Greece for years running a banquet hall, is a partner in the restaurant with his brother, Stavros Adamopoulos, and a business partner, Tom Teknos. The Jagged Fork is their third restaurant venture; the first being Zoe's House of Pancakes, which is in West Bloomfield and owned by Stavros, and the second, The Hudson Cafe in Detroit. The parents have owned The Hercules Family Restaurant in Farmington Hills since the mid-1980s, after having a restaurant and store in South Africa in the 1970s.

The Jagged Fork's menu borrows from its partner restaurants' menus -- including a Latin-influenced breakfast such as huevos rancheros, a popular turkey burger, and homemade corned beef and hash. Adamopoulos and his chefs make the salsa verde and salsa ranchero in house. The creative menu offers four different kinds of eggs benedict, a long list of unusual and classic omelets, skillet breakfast dishes, sweet and savory crepes, pancakes, waffles, and sandwiches and salads for lunch.

"We've always done chores for the restaurants: peeled potatoes, unloaded fish, set and bused tables. We were born into it."

The owners' decision to move into the vacant Biggby's brings back to life a block at 18480 Mack Avenue. It was quieted at the end of 2012 when the Michigan-based coffee shop failed to reach a lease agreement. The Biggby has since reopened at a new location on Mack Avenue in Grosse Pointe Woods.

Adamopoulos says the location "kind of found us" when the realtor who leased them The Hudson Cafe spot told them about a "great spot in Grosse Pointe" as the owners were contemplating whether to open their next restaurant in Grosse Pointe or Troy.

While all is going well so far, it's stressful being just 27 years old and responsible for the restaurant's success and the financial well-being of a dozen employees.

"When you open a new business you're stressed out, you're scared. There's a lot on the line. I'm a young guy. It's crazy doing something so big at this age," he says. "But the customers really make it fun. When you have customers like we've had this week, it's so much fun to come to work. I've been overwhelmed by the show of enthusiasm."

Source: Francesco Adamopoulos, owner, The Jagged Fork
Writer: Kim North Shine

Dearborn builds splash pad as family amenity

The city of Dearborn is installing a splash pad and spray park on the east side of the city, giving current residents a free and fun activity and potential residents an amenity that might make Dearborn a good place to call home.

Construction on the splash pad at Hemlock Park is expected to begin this spring and opening day will come this summer, no later than the Fourth of July.

The splash pad will have two dozen shooting, squirting and spraying water features from colorful shapes. A 20-foot umbrella will stand near the splash pad as will six park benches. A decorative iron fence will surround it all.

Vortex Midwest out of Williamston, MI will build the splash pad. The city plans to add a splash pad to west Dearborn in the future as planners look for ways to add aquatic recreation to city amenities.

"We’re pleased to add the splash pad to our recreational options," says in a statement announcing the splash pad construction, " and know that families, especially those with young children, will find it a perfect way to spend a summer afternoon."

Source: city of Dearborn
Writer: Kim North Shine

Revolver restaurant in Hamtramck thrives on revolving chef concept

The owners of revolver saw promise in melding the concept of table d'hôte -- a set, pre-selected menu at a fixed price - with up-and-coming chefs, a belief in using locally sourced food and a desire to build a community around it all. And in just under six months, they are seeing their vision catch on.

Tunde Wey, who with Peter Dalinowski opened revolver at 9737 Joseph Campau in Hamtramck in September, says revolver will be adding to its list of revolving chefs and opening more days for its reservation-only seatings.

Instead of serving dinner only on Fridays and every other Saturday, revolver will also be open every Saturday and some Sundays.

"We want to grow with demand naturally as opposed to trying to force it,"  says Wey, who describes revolver and the chefs he and Dalinowski select to prepare the day's meal as "artisanal fare, handmade, farm-to-table with attention to detail. Typically the food is new American, he says, but guest chefs have also served Japanese sushi and Indonesian food.

"We're open to all kinds of food genres. But we want food that's approachable and comfortable," says Wey, who like Dalinowski is a self-taught chef and entrepreneur.

The pair wanted to go into the restaurant business and do it in a way that it spoke to things they care about: nurturing the cooking community, bringing people who love different food experiences together and operating in a socially responsible way.

"We've gotten tons of requests from chefs recently and we sell out our dinners," Wey says. "There are so many talented chefs and caterers here waiting to be discovered, and so many people out there who want to try their food first."

The restaurant has room for 36 guests per seating, but can go up to 40. Tables -- the four six-tops and one 12-top -- are seated so that guests often make new acquaintances in their dining companions.

"We have people making friends, getting phone numbers," says Wey. "We're hoping to facilitate a marriage one day."

Want to hear more thoughts from Wey on revolver? Check out his November 2013 blog post on Metromode's sister publication, Model D.

Source: Tunde Wey, revolver
Writer: Kim North Shine

Nom Nom's Cupcake Factory to add third shop & pizzeria in Detroit

After building a successful bakery in Westland and then Northville, Nom Nom's Cupcake Factory & Sweets Shoppe is taking its baked goodies to a third location, this one in Midtown Detroit. It's also building a pizza restaurant next door.

Nom Nom's Midtown is expected to open in late spring or early summer at 15 E. Kirby in Midtown, says Michelle Meador, project manager for LA Wier, which owns Nom Nom's, Rockstarz Karaoke Bar in Garden City and the future Detroit Pizza Co., which has no opening date set as the owners want to go slow with their first pizza restaurant. It will be located next door to Nom Nom's, within walking distance of some of Detroit's largest institutions.

They chose to expand from the suburbs to the city to be a part of the Midtown business boom, Meador says.

"We got a really great opportunity to go into that location and Detroit is just buzzing with entrepreneurship and new small businesses," she says. "We are excited to be a part of it."

Midtown draws customers from two of the city's largest employers: Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University. Wayne State students and employees and visitors to the Detroit Institute of Arts are potential customers as well.

Detroit Pizza Co. will not "be just a fast food pizza. We want a slice of pizza that tastes great and is affordable, a good quality product at a great price…There's a little rumor we will have beer to go with your pizza."

"It's going to take us longer to do Detroit Pizza Co. because we've never done it before. The cupcake shop is pretty cookie cutter. We learned how to do it with our first location in Westland. The pizza place is very different and detailed…The amount of good, quality equipment, training a great staff, will be more intensive. We don't want to slap something together to make a quick buck. We want this to succeed just like Nom Nom's."

Nom Nom's is known for its fresh-baked favorites, such as booze cupcakes like Amaretto Sours and Irish Car Bomb, candy sweet treat cupcakes such as Butter Finger, Almond Joy and and Heath Bar, and soda pop and cheesecake flavors. It's a takeaway bakery as well as a thriving special-order business that makes different items, such as edible business cards.

Mother-daughter team Laura Wier and Jennifer Ryan have caught on in a short time with Nom Nom's. The Westland shop opened in April 2011. The Northville location launched in November 2013. In that time, it's also been voted "best cupcakes" for three years by readers of Real Detroit.

Source: Michelle Meador, project manager, LA Wier
Writer: Kim North Shine

The Bird & The Bread offers Euro-style, family-friendly eats in Birmingham

It was always a part of the plan for The Bird & The Bread to be a welcoming restaurant for families.

What was not as planned was the extent to which family would play into the charmingly-named, stunningly designed and decorated space where food described as modern Euro casual with an American twist is being brought to Birmingham by the owners and creators of Vinology in Ann Arbor and and Vinotecca in Royal Oak. The Bird & The Bread at 210 South Old Woodward opened for dinner Feb. 22 and will open for lunch March 25. It is connected to The ELM, a banquet room for about 150 guests that is under construction and will open March 18. Brunch will be served at The Bird & The Bread before Easter.

But back to the family ties. First, the restaurant name. It comes from the nicknames given to the twin 3-1/2-year-old children of the owners by their grandfather. One, the smaller girl with a cry more like a squawk, was dubbed The Bird. The heftier son was more like a dense loaf of bread and took his nickname from that.

Later, as the family thought up the name of their future restaurant that would serve more as a comfort food place than their wine-focused previous endeavors, the inclusion of bread, as in fresh-baked loaves, and bird, as in chicken, made sense. The whimsical nature of the name fit the family attitude and restaurant design, which includes an emphasis on environmentally sustainable construction and has a stave -- a room that feels like being inside a wine barrel.

"We agonized and agonized about the name of this restaurant because it's the first time for us not to do a vino concept," says co-owner Kristin Jonna, who grew up around good food and wine as the daughter of John Jonna, one of the founders of Merchant of Vino and former owner of Merchant's Fine Wine. She has traveled the world honing her craft -- wine and food -- and is known as one of Michigan's wine experts. The Jonnas also created Vinotecca inside the Bastone complex in downtown Royal Oak, and own and operate the successful Vinology in downtown Ann Arbor.

The departure from a fine-wine restaurant -- though the Bird & Bread will have a good selection -- was a response to something missing in Birmingham.

"Birmingham has done high end well. It didn't necessarily need more of that," Kristin Jonna says. "We felt what was untapped was a more a casual concept, more of an everyday family restaurant."

That should not imply that hot dogs and chicken fingers are on the menu, though executive chef Jim Leonardo, who is splitting his time between the new restaurant and Vinology, "is loving getting the chance to cook food he serves to his family," she says.

Further tying in the family connection, the grandfather's 30-year-old collection of cookbooks decorates The Bird & The Bread's walls and light fixtures in the space that's broken into comfy, homey rooms such as the nook and the stave and a restaurant entrance that welcomes diners with the warmth of a pizza oven and rotisserie.

The ELM banquet space, which has a simpler, elegant decor and a completely different food selection, is named after nephews Enzo and Luke and niece Maya, the children of Vincent Jonna, who's also in the family restaurant and wine business.

"We are just so excited and ready to go," says Jonna. "We want people to know, the families to know, we're here and want to share The Bird & The Bread with them."

Source: Kristin Jonna, co-owner, The Bird & The Bread
Writer: Kim North Shine
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