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Deck Art celebrates skateboards as art in downtown Rochester

Skateboarders and downtown shops have had a rocky relationship through the years, but downtown Rochester is celebrating skateboarding -- and art -- with Deck Art 2013.

Deck Art invites anyone to buy a blank board -- the canvas -- for $20, decorate it and have it displayed in local businesses for special public exhibitions.

Deck Art is May 16 and 17 and starts with an art crawl beginning at the South Street Skateshop. It takes visitors in and out of businesses, which will offer special promotions. They can see more than 200 pieces of skateboard art spread throughout downtown.

The South Street Skateshop is the host. The city and the Rochester Downtown Development Authority supports and helps promote it as Deck Art nights are a way to fill downtown, bring in business and give the community something to do just as the weather turns nice. There will be food trucks each day, and entertainment.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Rochester Downtown Development Authority

Grosse Pointe Athletic Club expanding space, adding classes

The Grosse Pointe Athletic Club is adding 2,000 square feet of space and introducing classes at the 18-year-old business that maintains a loyal following of locals who gravitate toward hometown entrepreneurs.

Dr. Carlos Borrego, a lifelong Grosse Pointer who left radiation oncology several years ago to earn a master's degree in public health and become a consultant, was first an investing partner in the private club. In 2006 he took over as owner operator.

"I was between jobs and took over the job of streamlining the club, making it paperless, building in efficiencies," he says. "I was enjoying it so much."

It gave him the opportunity to offer trainers who could specialize in clients' needs, depending on age, activities, and injuries, as well as tie their training and workout to healthy lifestyles.

"This was never really on my radar," he says, "but it's been a wonderful thing. The thing about GPAC is it's really a neighborhood business and with a very loyal customer base who see it as a part of the community, which was all the more reason to expand and become a bigger part of the community."

The club at the corner of Fisher Road and Maumee in the Fisher Road shops will increase from 3,500 to 5,500 feet by taking over a former hair salon.

Borrego is replacing most equipment with new models in the the current space and using the new space for classes, most likely spinning, yoga, zumba and pilots, he says. The new club will open late September. There will be additional trainers and instructors in the new space, a former hair salon.

The building's owners are redoing the facade, the streetscape and landscape and there will be more parking and free parking in front and in back.

"It will be new inside and outside," he says.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Dr. Carlos Borrego, owner/operator, Grosse Pointe Athletic Club

Commercial Progression moves to larger office in downtown Northville

A Northville website design and development company that's just turning five is celebrating its success with a move into a larger office in downtown Northville.

Commercial Progression's new office at 115 North Center Street, Suite 203, brings together the company's team of web developers, graphic designers and freelancers who specialize in Drupal, a content management system for mobile or desktop uses. The firm calls itself The Drupal Experts.

A motto of Commercial Progression is to "help you leverage and turn great ideas into reality."

Alex Fisher founded the company in 2008 and not only helps businesses and entrepreneurs build websites they can manage but guides them through digital strategy that speaks to long term goals and success.

"We're a full-service Drupal shop, providing assistance at every step," Fisher says, "from before there's even a test site to many years hence."

Clients include National Geographic Ad Sales, TRW micosites event platform, the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology and School of Nursing, Motawi Tileworks and many others.

The company is hiring as more clients sign on.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Alex Fisher, founder, Commercial Progression

Snogo mixes up self-serve ice cream concept

A new self-serve, self-top ice cream bar with a smorgasbord of choices has opened on Fisher Road in Grosse Pointe Farms.

Serving your own ice cream from a wall of different flavors and picking out the toppings, from cookies to fruit to sauces and nuts, is trendy but not so new.

Snogo, however, is taking some of the bite out of the concept, which usually has consumers paying by weight and paying a pretty penny for it. At Snogo there is no weighing, just a set price per cup, to keep it more affordable and fun, says owner David Cracchiolo.

Snogo seems to be in an ideal location, across from a high school with a swimming pool and athletic facilities that go seven days a week at all hours.

Snogo opened a few weeks ago and has been so busy more employees are already being hired.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: David Cracchiolo, owner, Snogo

Downtown Birmingham's First Thursdays offer nighttime shopping

Birmingham's business development officials have been studying shoppers and retail trends for many months now, trying to figure out how to improve on downtown Birmingham as a shopping and free-time destination.

One question asked: When do you want to shop? The answer: evenings, after work or school.

That's when many downtown shops are closed. So in the interest of finding out if nighttime shopping will actually generate traffic, about 45 downtown stores will stay open until 9 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month, says John Heiney, director of Birmingham's Principal Shopping District.

The response will show if a mostly daytime downtown -- other than restaurants and movies -- will fly.

First Thursdays will run through September during the summer months, when strolling store to store at night is more likely. There will be a theme each month along with sales and special events and activities in stores and around downtown to promote First Thursdays.

Birmingham's Principal Shopping District, which is made up of downtown businesses and employs a retail consultant to keep downtown thriving, is hosting the event and "wants to get shoppers thinking about shopping in the evening," Heiney says.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: John Heiney, director, Birmingham Principal Shopping District

Grove Street to get $1.1M makeover in downtown Farmington

Construction started this week on a project to turn a beat up, outdated main street in downtown Farmington into a boulevard streetscape of greenery, decorative lighting and stamped walkways.

The $1.1-million Grove Street Reconstruction Project will also add parking to downtown and make over a tired strip retail center as well as connect it to a major pedestrian crosswalk that will lead to another shopping center.

Water mains will also be replaced and a plaza space with seating will be part of the new downtown layout.

The goal of city officials and the Downtown Development Authority is to make downtown more attractive, walkable, and busy as well as match it to a streetscape already redone. The plans call for turning a swath of pavement into a boulevard separated by a center island with angled parking along parts of it.

Mayor Tom Buck says the project is as much about attracting families to downtown as it is attracting small businesses and boosting the local economy.

The project will completely remove and replace Grove Street from Grand River to Main Street. The work was delayed in 2009 due to the costs. It is expected to be completed in two phases over a 10-week period and ready to use sometime in July.

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

New dance school goes back to basics in downtown Rochester



A former professional dancer and classically-trained dance teacher is opening a studio this month in downtown Rochester with hopes of replacing the competitive, reality TV twist of some dance studios with one that's focused on classical education and performance.

Cindy Raffel, 27, will bring her experience as a dancer and choreographer with companies around the country and as a certified K-12 dance instructor to her 2nd Street Studio of Dance. It will open with a ribbon-cutting on May 17th, with three days of free classes that day through the 19th. By July, classes for ballet, tap, jazz, modern dance and hip hop and other forms of dance will begins.

The studio at 100 E. 2nd Street is 5,600 square feet of space with three dance studios and classes for children and adults.

She plans to keep prices low, partly by eliminating the competitive dance aspect that can come with so many costs. Classes themselves will be affordable, she says.

Raffel, who's danced with ballet and theater companies in places such as Virginia, where she is from, and Florida, where she was with the Tampa Ballet, moved to Michigan in September after her husband, Tom, received a tenure-track position at Oakland University. They bought their home in Rochester and really dug downtown, she says. They loved Rochester and after hearing about the vacant RARA building -- Rochester Avon Recreation Authority -- she decided to open the studio she's dreamed about for years.

"Obviously with dance I started as a kid and I always wanted to have a dance studio…As an elementary schooler I was making up a show, picking out a costumes and showing my parents my choreography," she says. "It was always in the back of mind because I didn't know how far my professional career would go. When we decided to move here, we bought a house really quickly. I thought, this is going to be where we're settling down. I should for it. Lo and behold there was this vacant building waiting for me.

The studio "is literally steps away from Main Street," she says. "For me it's a great location only because it is a great area…but for all that's going on. You can walk out the door and be at a parade. Amazingly enough the house that we bought in August is exactly halfway between the university and the studio."

Before finding a place to open, she had been researching what was missing in the local dance scene.

"It's kind of hard as an outsider looking in…The dance world is so much word of mouth," she says, "But I think people are looking for something kind of different. something that's not competitive…I want dance to be a fun, happy experience. I want it to be enjoyable for everyone, including the parents."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Cindy Raffel, owner/instructor, 2nd Street Studio of Dance

Painting With a Twist expands in Ferndale

Painting With a Twist, where customers are encouraged to BYOB and pick up a brush to learn from artists how to paint, is expanding, moving into a new space in downtown Ferndale.

The move down the road on 9 Mile will almost double the space for Painting With a Twist Ferndale, which is a franchise of Corks n Canvas.

The new 3,000-square-foot space is being renovated inside the former Dollar Castle on 9 Mile. Dollar Castle closed in October and is being divided for three tenants. Modern Natural Baby is moving is moving into 5,000 square feet of the building, adding to its inventory and building parts of the business it previously didn't have the space to do.

At Painting With A Twist Ferndale, birthday parties are celebrated, charity events are held, and girls' nights out are common, as are outings for artists just wanting to paint.

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

Craft Beer Expo in Lake Orion a shout out to Michigan's craft beer industry

A metro Detroit distributor of craft beers and other alcoholic beverages is hosting a Craft Beer Expo May 15 as a celebration of American Craft Beer Week and Michigan's standing as a state that's home to accomplished craft brewers.

The hope is to make the expo an annual event. Host Power Distributors, an Orion Township company that employs over 200 people, will feature beers from 17 breweries, including six from Michigan, as well as a strolling dinner and raffles at the expo, which runs from 6 - 9 p.m. at Canterbury Village in Lake Orion.

“Craft beer is exploding in popularity,” says Gary Thompson, chief operating officer of Powers Distributing. “Michigan is the fifth-largest craft beer state in the country. Our breweries are experiencing fantastic development and the state offers an amazing selection of both local and national beers to craft beer drinkers. To celebrate this, we created a local beer event. American Craft Beer Week seemed to be the perfect time to invite the public to learn more about this 4,000-year-old beverage and how wonderfully it pairs with cuisine.”

The expo also has a philanthropic angle with $5 of each $15 ticket purchased going to Rock STAR Warriors, a Michigan nonprofit that helps Michigan veterans find work and land careers. The STAR in the name stands for Sustainable Talent And Retention.

The breweries represented at the expo: Cheboygan Brewing Company, Dragonmead Brewing Company, Kuhnhenn Brewing Company, North Peak Brewing Company, Saugatuck Brewing Company, Uncle John's Cider, Oskar Blues Brewery, Blue Moon Brewing Company, Tenth & Blake Beer Company, Samuel Adams – The Boston Beer Company, Magic Hat Brewing Company, Vermont Hard Cider Company (Woodchuck), Brooklyn Brewery, Boulder Beer Company, Tommyknocker Brewing Company, Spoetzl Brewery (Shiner), and Anchor Brewing Company.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Jim Miller, publicist, Franco Public Relations Group; and Gary Thompson, COO, Powers Distributing


Oakland County opens business center for entrepreneurs

Oakland County is trying to make starting a business or taking it to the next level easier for entrepreneurs by offering free, walk-in business counseling.

The One Stop Shop Business Center at the Oakland County Executive Office building, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road, in Waterford will open May 9 and offer regular walk-in hours after that. The hours for May 9 are 9:30-noon and 1:30-4:30. The business center is on the first floor of Building 41W.

“We usually operate on an appointment-only basis but many entrepreneurs walk into our One Stop Shop with questions on how to get started with their business idea,” says Greg Doyle, supervisor of the One Stop Shop Business Center. “By designating special walk-in days, we hope to reach more entrepreneurs and help them understand their next steps as well as present the resources we can make available to them. Our aim is to get them started quickly in a way that makes the most sense to their unique situation.”

Counselors at the business center can answer specific questions, suggest planning tools and give direction on where to go to solve problems or achieve goals. All sessions are confidential. The counselors have expertise in business development, community planning, financing and market research.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Greg Doyle, supervisor, One Stop Shop Business Center

Macomb Children's Hands-On Museum moves forward

With architectural plans drawn up and the first round of fundraising done, the Macomb Children's Hands-On Museum is closer to opening its doors.

The target date for opening what would be Macomb County's first children's museum -- and a metro Detroit region tourist attraction -- is early 2015, in Mount Clemens.

The project was announced in 2010 and has the support of benefactors Gebran and Suzanne Anton, who donated a two-story downtown building with a rooftop garden and parking.

During a fundraising phase that lasted a little more than a year, nearly $60,000 was raised, almost $20,000 more than the target. As much as $14 million will be needed to build and open it.

Virginia Beach Architects iN Design completed a proposed design. The project leader is William Greaves, who brings a record of designing children's museums and creative art centers around the U.S.

"As Macomb County looks to educate its children, attract and retain an educated workforce, and promote travel and tourism," says Monika Rittner, a board member for the proposed museum, "the establishment of the Macomb Children’s Hands-On Museum is a must for the region to remain competitive in the 21st century."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Arthur Mullen, spokesperson, and Monika Rittner, board member, Macomb Children's Hands-On Museum

Bozeman Watch Company coming to downtown Birmingham

The Bozeman Watch Company's speciality, limited edition watches and accessories will soon fill a downtown Birmingham store, importing a Michigan native's high-end goods from the Montana and Wyoming showrooms where they're now sold.

Its handmade time pieces are known for their rugged styling -- the B1 Hellcat, Smokejumper GMT and Sidewinder are a few styles that convey manly man adventure. The company is also known for its hand-tooled leather luggage and handbags.

Christopher Wardle, a former Michigan resident started the company in Montana and is expanding from three stores in Bozeman and Whitefish, Montana and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The Birmingham store opens May 1 on Pierce Street in the spot formerly occupied by Stacy Leuliette home accessories, says Ed Nakfoor, spokesman for the Birmingham Principal Shopping District.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Ed Nakfoor, spokesman, Birmingham Principal Shopping District

Oakland County adds fresh foods market to downtown Pontiac

An effort to increase Pontiac residents' access to fresh, healthy foods is spreading in Oakland County with the opening of a third goverment-run market.

The newest market will operate one day a week on Tuesdays and sell fresh fruits and vegetables at a low cost.

The markets are a project of the Healthy Pontiac We Can! Coalition and the Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency.

Two other markets sell on Fridays and Saturdays, and all three share recipes for meals using fresh foods, lead cooking demonstrations and offer free samples.

"This market is a part of Oakland County's strategy to improve the quality of life of our residents through healthier lifestyles," says Kathy Forzley, Oakland County Health Division manager and health officer. "Consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables decreases the risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and some cancers."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Kathy Forzley, Oakland County Health Division

Local 212 spotlights local foods options in downtown Royal Oak

The menu at a new restaurant in Royal Oak is striving to show that what it serves can come from close to home and not from a box.

Local 212 -- the 212 comes from its address on Fifth Avenue in downtown Royal Oak -- opened just over a week ago and the reception to the shrimp from Okemos (there's a farm there), the Northern Michigan boar, Michigan chestnuts on a baby spinach salad and grilled cheese on Detroit Avalon bread has been hearty.

When the Royal Oak Farmers Market opens veggies will come from there and other farmers. All the sausage and bacon is made in house at Local 212 and the slider patties are ground in the kitchen too.

The meats served at Local 212 come from local farmers through Sparrow's Market in Ann Arbor. Local 212 also serves beer and wine, many made locally and around the state, as well as from places around the world.

While there are plenty of ingredients not from Michigan, none are processed.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Jenna Goudrea, general manager, Local 212

500-plus student housing complex coming to OU

Oakland University broke ground today on a $30-million student housing complex that is expected to open by August 2014 and sleep more than 500 students, a development that will further the school's move away from commuter-based to full-time campus life experience.

The freshmen and sophomore living spaces will come with a cafe, meeting rooms and study areas as well as be home to OU's Honors College.

"By investing in our students' academic and campus experience with projects like the new housing complex, we are creating a total campus community," OU president Gary Russi says, "a community that our students will remember as their home and their foundation for success."

The complex, which will be built to LEED energy efficiency standards, is the most significant of several developments changing the Auburn Hills campus, which has seen a 37-percent increase in enrollment during the last 15 years and an increasing demand for on-campus housing.

Also this week, ground will be broken for construction of a 151-foot carillon tower that's being paid for by longtime benefactors of the school, Hugh and Nancy Elliott.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: David Groves, spokesperson, Oakland University and OU president Gary Russi
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