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State grants available for food trucks & farmers markets

Farmers market organizers and food truck operators have a chance to get some green -- $10,000 to $50,000 -- from the state if they can prove their business is unique, innovative and will be successful at making their communities a place with a special vibe and feel.

The state and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation wants to promote food entrepreneurship as a means to promote a sense of place in Michigan communities by awarding matching grants through the Farmers Market Grant Program and the Mobile Cuisine Start-Up Program.

“Farmers markets and food trucks improve our downtowns and bring vitality and economic growth to our communities,” says MEDC President and CEO Michael A. Finney in a statement announcing the grants. “These grants will support food entrepreneurs and local markets, strengthen communities and create jobs in our state.”  

The state will award up to $200,000 in grants to farmers' markets and up to $100,000 to food trucks.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Kathy Fagan, communication specialist at Michigan Deparment of Economic Development

Organic nail polish co. sprouts in metro Detroit

Cindis Naturals is a new nail polish company started by families from Grosse Pointe and Clarkston. The business plan is twofold: to develop a polish without harmful chemicals and to give nail professionals a product that their clients can only get from them.

The polish, which has been in salons in metro Detroit salons for about two months and will soon be sold in six locations of Windsor Beauty Supply, grew out of a relationship between husband and wife John and Melodie Scherer of Grosse Pointe Farms and brother and sister Cindy and Rick Lieder from Clarkston.

Cindy Lieder, a longtime manicurist who decided she wanted to create a safer artificial nail, one without chemicals linked to pulmonary, neurological and gynecological side effects, started her company CindiNails in 2005.

In the meantime, the Scherers, veterans of the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, saw an opportunity to sell nail polish exclusively to nail professionals who had lost their go-to brands, OPI and Esse, after they became available to all consumers, not just professionals. In doing research and interviews the Scherers also heard that manicurists wanted a product that was more organic, less chemical, John Scherer says.

The Scherers had been successful in nail polish in the 1990s but left the business when stores became too difficult to work with. It was a call from an industry consultant in California several months ago, telling them about a void in polishes sold only to nail pros that got the ball rolling on forming a new product.

During the research and development process they learned about the Liebers' low-chemical system for artificial nails and the top coats and base coats that came with it. The Scherers decided to approach them about their new polish formula that could be made minus five dangerous chemicals, including formaldehyde and toluene, and with an organic not synthetic plasticizer (hardener). They asked if the Lieders wanted to combine products. They did and the foursome formed Colors Cindi Nails Naturals LLC.

"We had our polish colors. The thing we didn't have was our top coat or base coat," says John Scherer.

"We thought we would find someone doing it in California, and it turned out we found someone doing it right here in Clarkston, Michigan. We wanted it to buy it in gallon cans from them initially, but they wanted to buy colors and it was perfect. It was a marriage made in heaven."

New salons and independent nail professionals are ordering Cindis Naturals every week, he says, salons in Grosse Pointe, West Bloomfield, St. Clair Shores.

While the business side is looking promising what's been most rewarding, he adds, is how the product has helped nail professionals not only avoid smelly, potentially harmful fumes but also boost their bottom line. The polishes are sold in full size bottles for manicures and pedicures and come with a Skinny Mini that can be sold to clients for touch-ups, etc. and in a bottle size that won't dry up before it's used up. It gives consumers a way to keep their nails fresh and the nail pro a small source of income.

"It's working like a charm," he says. "The pros are happy. Their clients are happy. A safer product is out there. It's working out just beautifully."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: John Scherer, co-founder Cindis Naturals

Repurposed parking meters raise money for more art in Ferndale

Parking meters, fixtures that are more nuisance than art, have been repurposed into artworks that will help pay for the installation of sculptures to grace the streets of downtown Ferndale, and the public is invited to vote on which sculptures to buy.

The Ferndale Downtown Development Authority wants to purchase two pieces that are currently on display in the city's ARTWN exhibit, which ends soon. To raise the money for the purchase, a party and live auction of artists' re-imagined expired parking meters was held June 21 at the Rust Belt Market.

The expired meter art is a way for the city to poke fun at itself over parking changes that have led to some complaints and ridicule. More than a dozen artists turned the old meters, which have been replaced by latest iteration of modern-day parking meters, into funny, whimsical, sarcastic, art. A final tally of the proceeds is still being taken, says DDA spokesman Chris Hughes, but somewhere between $3,500 and $18,000 is to purchase the sculptures that will leave Ferndale when the ARTWN exhibit ends.

The public can vote on which sculptures to keep by placing dollars in ballot boxes made out of paint cans with a picture of the sculpture of the top. The cans are located at businesses that were sponsors of the ARTWN exhibit. They will also be out at the Get Reel outdoor movie party Thursday July 18.

The top five vote-getters will go to a committee that will decide which pieces become permanent public art. The final picks will be made by December, Hughes says, as fundraising continues.

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

Dearborn transit station design moves along

While construction moves ahead on a new transit center in Dearborn, the focus is on how to develop the land in and around the station and how best to connect it to the community.

The station is scheduled to open in 2014 on Michigan Avenue in west Dearborn and, if all goes well, to be a stimulus for economic development and even a local attraction.

The station is multi-modal, a place where trains, buses, taxis will pick up and drop off passengers. It will be a stop on an Ann Arbor to Detroit Amtrak line which is also undergoing improvements to the tracks and the trains in preparation for high speed rail service between Detroit and Chicago. It can also be a spot for bikers and pedestrians to pick up public transit or carpools. In addition, the center is seen as a way to link Dearborn's neighborhoods to its commercial thoroughfares and landmarks such as The Henry Ford and the Ford Performing Arts Center and major employers and schools such as University of Michigan Dearborn and Henry Ford Community College.

The project is part of a federal transportation plan to stimulate transit-oriented development, which promotes public transit and transit centers as magnet for economic prosperity by leading to the creation of businesses, improvement of neighborhoods and quality of life and by connecting cities and bringing about a sense of place. Dearborn received the largest federal grant in Michigan, $28.2 million, to build the station.

 Focuses of the recent public input meetings included what parts or features of the city should connect to the transit station and how it should be designed.

One design could create pedestrian paths rich in landscape with a splash fountain for play, benches and other amenities that make the station a place for the community to come together.

Dearborn was chosen as one of five cities to receive planning and design assistance from the MIPlace Partnership.

The MIPlace Partnership is a collaborative effort of the Michigan Municipal League, Michigan State Housing Development Authority and Michigan State University.

For more information, click here to see the conceptual plan.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: City of Dearborn

New Shine On Yoga does downward dog in downtown Ferndale

After years of teaching yoga in studios around metro Detroit and seeing what inspired and motivated people, Linda Marchione has brought her experiences together in her own studio, Shine On Yoga in downtown Ferndale.

What she wants most out of Shine On is to offer comfort and community - on top of physical strength and peace of mind.

"I've designed it to be inviting so that everyone who comes in knows they're welcome to stay. I want it to feel like my home, like my living room," she says. "It's not designed to make people feel like you come in, take your class and leave, with nowhere to sit or spend time, talking to people, getting to know people," she says. "We're not a factory. We're not a huge money making machine. We're a small local business and and I want everyone to know who walks through the door that we'd like them to stay and have tea."

Shine On opened June 3 at 22751 Woodward Avenue, the southwest corner with 9 Mile, in the heart of downtown Ferndale. A grand opening celebration and ribbon cutting is set for 4:30 p.m. July 19, and there will be live music, refreshments and demonstrations.

Marchione's Shine On Studio has also been selected by yoga and running wear maker, Lululemon, to be it's local studio of the month in July and September. Shine On will lead free Sunday morning yoga sessions each Sunday of the month an hour before the stores open. Shine On will lead yoga at the Somerset in July and in downtown Birmingham in September.

Shine On will also regularly coordinate volunteer days at Gleaner's Community Food Bank, where Marchione is a volunteer coordinator.

"Our teachers do an awful lot of community work. We focus on practicing kindness not just toward ourselves but others" she says, "The body is meant to serve. Yogis teach you to get strong yourself and then give it away."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Linda Marchione, owner, Shine On Yoga

Soccer and lacrosse complex expanding in Pontiac

A regional soccer and lacrosse complex that includes the largest indoor soccer site in North America is expanding, adding indoor and outdoor fields on a piece of property in Pontiac that was once a General Motors Corp. workplace.

Ultimate Soccer Arenas will build on 14.6 acres along Centerpoint Parkway behind and next to the Ultimate Soccer Arenas complex on East South Boulevard an roll fields for lacrosse, a traditionally East Coast sport that's taken off in metro Detroit and Michigan.

The expansion will add nearly 70,000 square feet and a fourth field and seating to the indoor facility, making it the largest non-professional sports facility in the world, says George Derderian, co-owner of Ultimate Soccer Arenas along with Tom Korpela. Ultimate Soccer Arenas opened in 2007 and moves about 1 million people through in a year and about 20,000 people use it at a time 10 or more times a year.

In addition to youth soccer and lacrosse events, the facility is the site of high school and collegiate soccer and lacrosse, high school and college graduations, after-school education and various community and cultural activities. It also is the home field of the Michigan Bucks, a minor league amateur soccer team, and the Detroit Mechanics pro disc team.

Construction will begin this summer and be completed in time for the fall sports season. About 100 construction jobs will be created and 20 full-time jobs.

The outdoor portion of the former automotive-industry property, which has been cleaned up and developed by RACER Trust, will be turned into a synthetic turf fields for lacrosse and soccer and enough bleacher seating for 2,500 spectators and 600 parking spaces.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: George Derderian, co-owner, Ultimate Soccer Arenas

HAWK signals in Macomb County may make busy streets safer for walkers

A new kind of pedestrian crossing may be coming to Macomb County and making at least two busy streets there safer for pedestrians.

The crossings called HAWK otherwise knowns as High Intensity Activated Crosswalks - were first used in Ann Arbor in 2010 and have resulted in a fewer pedestrian car accidents, says Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Rob Morosi.

In Macomb County there will be public meetings to discuss the two proposed crossings at wide, busy intersections, both on Gratiot Avenue between Quinn and 15 Mile roads in Clinton Township.

The second meeting to discuss the proposal is set for 4-6 p.m. Tuesday June 25 at Parker Elementary School in Clinton Township.

A HAWK signal is controlled by the pedestrian and gives walkers more time to cross and clearer warnings and instructions about when and how quickly to cross.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Rob Morosi, spokesman, Michigan Department of Transportation

The Clem joins other Metro Detroit cities for summer festival season

With metro Detroit downtowns seeing economic opportunity in festivals, concerts, art shows and other special summer events, a calendar can fill up fast in no time with places to go all summer long.

There aren't many cities without a show to put on.

Mount Clemens is capitalizing on its success as a big party host with the All American Jam this weekend.

The county seat of Macomb County draws thousands to its festivals, carnivals, music shows and fireworks each year, bringing customers to downtown businesses and fun to the streets. The All American Jam, hosted by Powers Distributing, the Mount Clemens Downtown Development Authority and Watts Up, Inc - is a massive combination of them all.

It starts Thursday, June 20, and runs through Sunday, June 23, with a carnival, live music, food, beer, art and special exhibits, including a demonstration by the roller derby team, Bath City Roller Girls, fitness instructors and Cinderella, all with Main Street and Macomb Place in the center of downtown as the main drag. A fireworks show over the river happens on Friday.

There will be stages with live entertainment, musical and other artists. The event is billed as a family-friendly festival and will run from late afternoon to 11 p.m. each day.

Downtown Rochester packs in the crowds all year long with festivals and shows celebrating every season. This summers there's Music in the Park on Thursdays, the Big Bright Ball Aug. 4 and Movies in the Moonlight on Friday nights.

In Grosse Pointe Village district there's Thursday is the day for Music on the Plaza, and on July 26 the annual Sidewalk Sale and Street Festival pulls in deal-seekers and wanderers for the sales, music and food.

Royal Oak has a summer concert series on the lawn of the library every Thursday in July 11-Aug. 15. Each concert features multiple performers, either musicians or other artists. The city's Ford Arts, Beats & Eats is a metro-wide draw, taking over Main Street.

Dearborn’s Homecoming is 33-year-old, three-day festival that runs Aug. 2-4 and ends with fireworks and attracts about 150,000 visitors to the carnival, shows, picnics and other events.

Art fairs in Wyandotte and Plymouth are so popular that downtown Trenton moved the date of its 38-year-old annual summer festival to June 28, 29, 30.

The Wyandotte Street Art Fair is July 10-13. Art in the Park in downtown Plymouth is the July 12-14.

Writer: Kim North Shine

New Farmington bookstore wants to offer all things steampunk

Off the Beaten Path, a bookstore and way more, is moving onto the main drag in downtown Farmington, building on its reputation as a go-to for all things steampunk.

Steampunk is an an emerging and fascinating literary genre and subculture where the Victorian era meets Sci-fi. Steampunkers participate heavily by dressing up, taking on characters and by sharing their own skills and artisan know-how in making clothing and accessories, knitting, crocheting, leather-working and turning out other artwork during Thursday Night Craft Nights at Off the Beaten Path. The same community comes together at festivals, for movie-making, exhibitions and conventions.

Off the Beaten Path's owner, Salathiel Palland, is a steampunker and mother of two. She's moving Off the Beaten Path Bookstore and Emporium less than a mile from her former location down the street on Grand River. While her special event nights, crafting sessions, pop-ups, combat exhibitions, were a major draw for the store that opened in 2010, foot traffic was minimal. The new location in the heart of downtown Farmington should change that, she says.

Th new store at 33314 Grand River will open July 13th. The front half of the store will be a bookstore with new and used selections, including H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. The back half will be a stage, crafting area and emporium, she says.

"Steampunk is very DIY, Do It Yourself. "What I love about having the products in my store is they're not only from Michigan-based artisans, 80 percent of it, clothing and everything, is locally handmade. It's awesome. It's stuff you can't get with your normal mall experience or at your normal store," she says.

"My goal is to have the largest collection of steampunk clothing, accessories, and products in the state…I've i've had people come as far from Ohio, Indiana and Illinois…It's a one-stop shop for the steampunk experience."

Source: Salathiel Palland, Off the Beaten Path
Writer: Kim North Shine

Berkley's FoodTruck Cafe bringing food carts indoors

The FoodTruck Cafe is giving customers of rolling restaurants a place to sit down and eat indoors or out.

The cafe is opening June 24 in Berkley with three food trucks re-created inside the cafe: the Sideshow Sandwich Emporium, Nacho Ordinary Nacho and Airstream Espresso. The cafe is taking shape inside a closed Coffee Beanery at 28557 Woodward Ave.

FoodTruck Cafe will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and serve breakfast, including Airstream Espresso Illy coffee. Lunch and dinner feature the conundrum bacon sandwich with its applewood smoked bacon, avocado, tater tots, tomatoes, onion and mayo from Sideshow Sandwich, or Nacho Ordinary Nacho's barbecue pork nachos with pulled pork, Bermuda onions, Monterey Jack cheese, cole slaw and a dollop of crema de Sriracha sauce.

The founder, Kerry Johnson, wants "to bring street food indoors." There will also be outdoor seating, and the vibe inside and out will be casual with picnic tables and twinkly lights.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Kerry Johnson, owner, FoodTruck Cafe

$1 million in redevelopment grants coming to Macomb County

The Environmental Protection Agency is sending $1 million Macomb County's way so that local economic development officials can redevelop brownfield property that may be contaminated.

A brownfield is land that can be difficult to redevelop, reuse or expand because of  pollution or perceived pollution. The upside is that brownfields let developers use municipal infrastructure that's already in place and also preserve open space.

“Brownfield sites create special challenges due to the expense involved with environmental cleanup,” says Stephen Cassin, executive director of Macomb County Planning and Economic Development. “These funds will help put some of our vacant properties back into new use while creating investment and new jobs in our key industrial areas.”

Macomb County and one of 240 communities nationwide, and the only county chosen in Michigan, to receive the grant from the EPA's Revolving Loan Fund.

In coming weeks and months, county officials will begin to identify and prioritize sites that have the most redevelopment promise.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Stephen Cassin, executive director, Macomb County Planning and Economic Development

College HUNKS expands moving biz in Madison Heights

The local franchisees of College Hunks Hauling Junk have expanded their business in more than one way.

Dan Ryan and Patrick Lipa have moved the company into a larger space in Madison Heights and also added moving to their services.

Junk hauling has been lucrative for the pair who have seen growth every year since opening in 2009 and are hiring new employees to meet demand. College HUNKS, Honest, Uniformed, Nice, Knowledgable, Students, has 45 locations in the U.S.

The new Madison Heights facility includes pool tables and other amenities for a "work-happy atmosphere," says Jill Vanderpol, a spokeswoman for the company.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Jill Vanderpol, spokeswoman, College Hunks Hauling Junk and Moving

Stone Works opens on Grosse Pointe Woods' Mack Ave.

Stone Works is bringing interior design and masonry work for indoors and outdoors to a storefront in Grosse Pointe Woods.

The store can serve as showroom and planning site for home and commercial projects. Stone Works is scheduled to open mid-June on Mack Avenue in place of a closed Verizon store.

"We've had very vibrant activity along Mack Avenue," says the city's building department director, Gene Tutage.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Gene Tutag, director, Grosse Pointe Woods building department

Local leaders honored at 2nd annual Regional Transit Awards dinner

With southeast Michigan's Regional Transit Authority underway and M1-Rail about to break ground, a crowd of over 150 transit advocates had considerable cause for a buoyant mood as they strolled the stately gardens and ballroom of the Grosse Pointe War Memorial at Transit Riders United's second annual Regional Transit Awards dinner on May 21st.
"Developing a quality regional transit system is a marathon, not a sprint," said Megan Owens, TRU's Executive Director. "It's important to pause and recognize progress, and the people who are making a difference."
The Citizen Activist of the Year Award went to Neil Greenburg, whose Freshwater Railway website depicts a fictional Michigan rail system. Greenberg, a self-taught professional transit cartographer and operations consultant, developed the site to garner support for transit by offering a visual experience of the possibilities. Tools to rally public support are needed now more than ever, according to Greenberg.
"It's too early to say 'Mission Accomplished'," he said.  "We are at the beginning, not the end."
Michele Hodges, who until recently served as Executive Director of the Troy Chamber of Commerce, won the Corporate Transit Champion Award for engaging business, education, and labor leaders in the successful fight against former Troy mayor Janice Daniel's attempt to reject federal funding for the Troy Transit Center.
The Unsung Hero Award went to former legislator Marie Donigan, who worked to establish the RTA and make state laws and funding sources friendlier to transit. Donigan continues her transit advocacy work, recently helping to coordinate a 2-day Metro Detroit Transit Workshop.
Dennis Schornack, Senior Strategic Advisor to Governor Snyder, won Most Effective Public Servant Award for his work shepherding the RTA legislation through the political process.
A Transit Employee of the Year Award went to Detroit Department of Transportation bus driver Michael Childs, who was nominated by a rider for being on-time with a big, welcoming smile every day, despite an increased workload owing to recent cuts in DDOT funding and service.
Ann Arbor Transit Authority's new AirRide program, which now provides daily round-trip service between Ann Arbor and Detroit Metropolitan Airport, won the Exemplary Innovation Award.
The TRU board sprung two surprises: a Transit Opportunities Award for the entire RTA Board, and an Above and Beyond Award for Owens for her work at TRU.
Winners were selected by a panel of 4 judges, including Clark Harder, former legislator and Michigan Public Transit Association Executive Director, Heather Carmona, chief administrative officer of M1 Rail, Sue Zielinsli, managing director of Sustainable Mobility & Accessibility & Research & Transformation at the University of Michigan, and Polly Sedewa, transit activist and past TRU board member.

Writer: Nina Ignaczak 

Royal Oak's Monty's Beef Co. is where the healthier beef is

A beef from the Piedmonte region of Italy and prized there and in the U.S. for its quality is being sold from a new market in Royal Oak.

Monty's Beef Co. opened June 1 at 324 E. Fourth St. in downtown Royal Oak  and specializes in Piedmontese beef from a herd of cattle imported from Italy and raised humanely by a rancher in mid-Michigan.

It is sold at the store, online and by phone to customers -- whether for home use or by restaurants -- looking for cattle raised organically, fed well, not pumped with chemicals and known for producing meat that's as flavorful as prime, aged beef but with less cholesterol and fat.

The owners Jon and Rachel Leemis spent many months researching the beef industry, looking for purer, higher quality beef.

Their Monty's Beef Co. will sell directly or through orders that can be picked up in the store or delivered. Monty's has a Steak of the Month Club and gift packages as well as its regular menu of choice cuts.

In Italy, the Piedmonte breed of cattle graze in the Alps. The beef has been eaten there for centuries and is said to be tastier and healthier and considered superior to North American cattle breeds.

It can be found occasionally on menus in the U.S., but the owners of Monty's Beef Co. hope to make Piedmonte beef a menu staple.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Rachel Leemis, owner, Monty's Beef Co.
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