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Nature's Playhouse opens playspace and wellness center in Ferndale

Two moms have created what they see as a dream place for their own children and the community at large to come and play and learn.

Michelle McEvoy and Lisa Ball describe their recently opened Nature's Playhouse in downtown Ferndale as "an all-natural family enrichment center." Both know the craving to find a redeeming place to take their children, and what they wanted to build was a place that's good for children and their families.

Nature's Playhouse is located at 318 W. Nine Mile Road. The pair previously ran a smaller Nature' s Playhouse in the Hunter Community Center in Clawson.

Their mom-driven entrepreneurship grew out of desire to provide the entire family with enriching experiences in environmentally safe, conscious surroundings.

And while playhouse is in the business name, it's not just about kids running around having fun. Nature's Playhouse is a wellness center, a classroom, yoga studio and more.

Open playtime is a part of Nature's Playhouse. Families can drop in or buy a membership. And besides the play area of yesteryear, they will find toys made of wood and cloth and by hand. One rule: no phones. The idea is to be involved with the kids, and the surroundings are meant to be peaceful and calming.

Nature's Playhouse also has aligned itself with likeminded teachers, artists and crafters who will lead workshops and classes.  Classes in natural child-birth, prenatal, family and therapeutic yoga, workshops in belly painting, puppet making and much, more are on the menu.

Nature's Playhouse will also be home to several free support groups for breastfeeding, postpartum care, and baby-weaning, and host workshops and special events emphasizing family wellness. Handcrafted items made by Michigan families will be for sale.

Ball and McEvoy will teach as will other instructors, experts and specialists. McEvoy, a certified schoolteacher in Michigan and California, will be the lead instructor.

"One of the things I love the most about Nature's Playhouse is that the environment and the class offerings provide the opportunity for our kids to observe and participate with us while we do some things to take care of ourselves," says McEvoy, a University of Michigan graduate who has traveled the world and taught Kindergarten and fifth grade before becoming a mom.

Ball, a veteran entrepreneur and owner of Joseph K Publications, director of Clawson's Arts & Authors Festival, project coordinator for The Formation of Motherhood Project, and founder of the My Glass is Full consultancy, says the emphasis is actually on keeping moms in shape emotionally and physically so they can be the best they can be.

‘Women are still the heart of families today, which is why our programs focus on family wellness through physical health, enriching classes to help bond with your child and free support groups to help women on their new journey through motherhood.”

Source: Lisa Ball & Michelle McEvoy, owners, Nature's Playhouse
Writer: Kim North Shine

Giuseppe's International Oils & Vinegars opens Grosse Pointe store

Stainless steel dispensers, ceramic decanters, and glass bottles make up much of the decor of Giuseppe's International Oils & Vinegars, but it's what's inside the containers and what will go inside them that is the lifeblood of the business that has opened a second location in metro Detroit.

The first store, at Partridge Creek Mall in Clinton Township, has found enough success selling olive oils, aged vinegars and accessories that the owners decided to open a store in Grosse Pointe this week.

The newest Giuseppe's is located in the Village business district at 16841 Kercheval Avenue, on the second floor of the Dawood Building. The second floor retail location is a rarity for the Village, but may become more common as rules on building uses ease up and become more welcoming to businesses.

Besides its olive oils in flavored, regional, organic and specialty varieties dispensed from stainless steel canisters, and its vinegars imported from Modena, Italy that come in dark and white balsamic and wine varieties, Giuseppe's sells herbs and spices, olive oil skin products, handmade ceramic decanters and dishes, and other home products.

Giuseppe's also works with chefs who visit the store to share food and recipes that use oils, vinegars and other spices, including many that focus on health benefits.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce

Scavolini by Cucina Moda to host Art of Giving fundraiser



Scavolini by Cucina Moda in downtown Birmingham is first and foremost a high-end kitchen and bathroom design business, but several times a year it becomes an art gallery, party space and multi-purpose backdrop for special events that support all sorts of causes while also promoting Scavolini's business.

On May 22, about 250 guests will come to Niki and Alisha Serras's store at 202 E. Maple for the Art of Giving Fundraiser. It'll be Scavolini's fourth year of hosting Art of Giving, the brainchild of Tom Maniaci, senior VP and creative director of advertising at the Sussman Agency in Southfied. He is also an artist and painter who started Frame Your Face in 2005 as a way to use his celebrity pop art to raise money for small charities. Since it began, Frame Your Face has been invited to more than 40 non-profit fundraisers and has helped raise more than $175,000, says Maniaci.

At Art of Giving at Scavolini, Maniaci's 50-by-50 paint by number of Albert Einstein (John Lennon and Frank Sinatra have been featured in previous years) will take its place near sleek, modern kitchens. Guests can buy a square and paint it . When the night is done the work is complete, and a small Southeast Michigan charity walks away with $10,000 or $15,000. "For a small charity that can be very impactful," says Maniaci.

He is grateful to Scavolini for hosting the event, which was at capacity last year. Instead of moving to a larger space, ticket prices went up to $75. Proceeds go to a different charity each year. This year the recipient is SOUL, Support Our Unique Learners, a cause dear to Kim Adams, a former Detroit meteorologist who is the master of ceremonies at this year's Art of Giving.

"It's a great way to promote their store and also be a part of the community," says Maniaci, who also gives thanks to Sussman agency president Alan Sussman. " There are art openings, charity events. It's a smart way to show the beautiful work they do and also do some good."

Source: Tom Maniaci, creative director of Sussman Agency and founder of Frame Your Face
Writer: Kim North Shine

Peace Pedalers offers pedi-cab rides in downtown Plymouth

There's a new way to get around downtown Plymouth. Peace Pedalars, a pedicab business started by Diane and Andy Webster, is the latest and most energy efficient way to get to and fro.

The first rides in the white and black tricycle cabs that come with convertible covers started on St. Patrick's Day weekend. In recent weeks as weather has started to warm, families are taking rides around the square, late night crowds are getting from restaurant to bar or to their cars with a ride on the leather seat of the pedicab.

Besides providing a taxi service, Peace Pedalers is also an advertising service. The Websters, who completed a special drivers' training and expect other pedicab drivers to do the same, want it to be a regular part of the downtown Plymouth scene, and get to know locals as they show them around town.

Source: Plymouth Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Walsh College campus to get $15M addition, renovation

An expansion of space and a refinement of business programs is coming to Walsh College in Troy as part of $15 million in renovations, additions and improvements.

The changes include a two-story, 27,000-square-foot renovation and addition to Walsh's original 1970s-era campus building and the redesign and modernization of 28,000 square feet of interior spaces on campus.

Construction will begin in late summer and is expected to be completed within 18 months. When finished, distinct pavilions will offer a business communication-focused student success center, a student lounge and a student services center.

The project will be guided by Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, the renovator of Walsh's Barry Center that opened in 2007.

The student success center will offer technologically advanced services and equipment meant to respond to the demand of employers and students for more business communication skills and leadership training.

Inside the center, students can work on presentations in various digital and electronic formats at new work stations, practice presentations and other projects in simulated workplace environments and have access to videoconferencing.

The new student lounge will have interactive meeting spaces and additional study areas and the new student services center will house all the departments of Walsh College, making taking care of college business faster and easier. There will also be more private meeting space for students and advisors.

Source: Lateshia Dowell, Airfoil PR
Writer: Kim North Shine

Village Workshop maker space to open in Northville this summer

Get in here and make something! The invitation and mantra comes from the founders of The Village Workshop, a new business under construction in downtown Northville that is seeking inventors, artists and people with ideas for its affordable workspace.

The Village Workshop is scheduled to open this summer in a space being renovated at 455 E. Cady Street inside the abandoned Belanger. Members will have access to "the latest and greatest equipment, tools, software, and skilled staff" that can take their skills and ideas to market, says Brian Donovan, one of the co-founders along with Chris McDonald, who brings experience from a career in steel and autos.

The maker space movement is bubbling up across the country, giving budding entrepreneurs, builders, techies, artists and more a place to work without the burden of major overhead.

TechShop, a maker space believed to be the first nationwide open access public workshop, has a location in Allen Park.

Source: The Village Workshop
Writer: Kim North Shine

Birmingham Wine retailer opens in downtown Birmingham

Parking, the puzzler for so many downtowns, has sent one Ferndale business owner to downtown Birmingham to run his wine business.

Ed Bosse, the owner of the now-closed Winezilla in downtown Ferndale, has reopened as Birmingham Wine in a downtown he sees as barrier-free when it comes to parking for his customers.

"I feel the meter stations are a great disservice to retailers, landlords and in the end the citizens," Bosse says. "I wasn't fully aware of how quickly and drastically it had affected our business until I looked at sales figures," he says. Winezilla was in business about 18 months.

Bosse's wine business is focused on making wine accessible to all by offering affordable, quality wines and a free wine education to his customers. He prides himself on stocking an eclectic mix of wines and seeks out chemical-free, organic and rare finds. He also sells higher-priced wines for those looking for rare varietals.

Birmingham Wine is located in the city's Market area at 588 North Old Woodward and offers plentiful, easy-to-use parking. He says he hopes Ferndale will rethink the system before other retailers follows in his footsteps.

Source: Ed Bosse, owner, Birmingham Wine
Writer: Kim North Shine

Downtown Birmingham attracts national retailer West Elm

West Elm, the national furniture retailer based in Brooklyn, New York, is opening its first Michigan store in Birmingham in the fall of 2014.

At the same time, the nearly 12-year-old company that's owned by Williams Sonoma and is a sister to Pottery Barn will open its first European store in London.

West Elm's move to a prominent 10,000-square-foot spot on Maple in Birmingham is another score for the city's Principal Shopping District and its recruiters who are looking for the sweet spot mix of big nationals and small business to fill out downtown.

The new store will replace the space that years ago was Harmony House, then the men's store, Structure, and most recently, upscale women's boutique Lexi Drew.

West Elm, known for modern and natural furnishings and home decor at  mid-line price points, has about 60 stores in the U.S., Canada and Australia.

West Elm's move into Birmingham would bring the downtown's retail occupancy to 98 percent, says John Heiney, executive director of the Principal Shopping District.

Source: Principal Shopping District
Writer: Kim North Shine

Arab-American youth focus of Oakland U nursing school grant

A grant awarded to Oakland University's School of Nursing will test the effectiveness of community health education of Arab-American youth.

A nearly $80,000 grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation will pay for a program that will pair Arab-American students from Dearborn with teen mentors who guide them through healthy eating and lifestyles. The students' responses, lifestyle changes and health will be compared to the effects of similar lessons given to them by teachers in a classroom setting. The effect of parental involvement will also be measured.

The grant is part of BCBS Foundation's program called Improving Health Behaviors in Arab American Youth.

“This project has a special emphasis on obesity prevention and is targeted at reducing the number of chronic illnesses for young Arab Americans,” says Dr. Suha Kridli, the grant’s principal investigator. “We are going to offer specific guidance and provide practical tools that can improve students' overall health while lowering health care costs."

Dr. Kridl says Type 2 diabetes and obesity in Arab-American youth is increasing, while preventive programs are not.

The program begins this month in Dearborn, where the largest concentration of Arab-Americans in the U.S. live, and will be administered in partnership with Wayne State University, Dearborn Public Schools and the Dearborn Board of Education.

Sources: Brian Bierley and Suha Kridli, Oakland University
Writer: Kim North Shine

The Rendezvous With Tea opens in Grosse Pointe Woods

Jars and jars of tea leaves and all sorts of tea accoutrements make up the aromatic and colorful decor and merchandise at The Rendezvous With Tea in Grosse Pointe Woods.

The store opened several weeks ago on busy Mack Avenue near Vernier (8 Mile  Raod) and is seeing locals and destination shoppers looking for a taste of teas from around the world and closer to home.

The tea-loving owner, Naszreen Gibson, sells nearly 200 varieties of loose teas mostly from Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Indonesia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and the Far East and more then 50 flavors of tea bags in sachets, pyramids and cloth bags. Tea pots and tea ware made of porcelain, cast iron, stainless steal and ceramic are also available.

One thing not for sale is the owner's signed copy of the New Tea Lovers' Treasury. Author and tea authority James Norwood Pratt visited The Rendezvous With Tea recently and says the shop is "a dream come true brought to Grosse Pointe Woods by a tea visionary to challenge and inspire any seeker of excellence. Be wise and stay healthy: Let Naszreen make you love tea too."

Source: Naszreen Gibson, owner, The Rendezvous With Tea
Writer: Kim North Shine

Lincoln Park plans public space, pavilion downtown

Vacant land in downtown Lincoln Park, the subject of debate and discussion now for at least five years, may become a public event space and pavilion.

The Lincoln Park Downtown Development Authority plans to hire a consultant to draw up a blueprint for a re-use of the spot on Fort Street. The location is seen as a prime one for attracting visitors to downtown for fun, eating and shopping.

The DDA owns the vacant land, part of it occupied by the Dorsey Building at 1673 Fort Street. The building is in disrepair and needs to be demolished. The vacant lots next the building are also owned by the DDA, which had that land cleared when the historic Mellus Newspapers Building could not be saved. The other building has also been demolished.

This long process has paved the way for a park and public gathering space. The DDA's executive director, Madhu Oberoi, says a meeting held this week to discuss a public use plan for the property was well attended by residents and business owners.

"We got great responses. The consensus was that the public space was a great idea and the covered pavilion/gazebo is definitely needed downtown for events," she says. "It was felt this would be a catalyst for new development. The level of excitement was definitely there."

Source: Madhu Oberoi, executive director, Lincoln Park Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Kercheval Dance studio to open in Grosse Pointe's Village



East siders will have a new dance studio to add to their repertoire when Kercheval Dance opens in Grosse Pointe's Village business district this summer.

Tracy Halso Gap and her husband, Adam Gap, will own and operate the business, which is being renovated inside a space in the block-long building that previously housed a Borders bookstore and an Ace Hardware. Their 3,500-square-foot space will come with two studios -- one with a stage, high ceilings (The husband-wife dance partners know the pitfalls of dance spaces with low ones). The studio will also be built with special shock-absorbing, bone-protecting sprung floors like the ones used on Dancing With the Stars, professional lighting and sound systems, and a large lobby.

Kercheval Dance will be next door to the offices of St. John Health System, which leased the space for the studio and has plans to bring in other tenants. The studio faces a public parking lot behind the building, which fronts Kercheval Avenue. Its entrance is on the alley for easy drop-off and pick-up, and, if needed, convenient access to nearby businesses, says Tracy Halso Gap.

The couple bring with them years of experience in performance dance, dance instruction and competition dance coaching. They've lived and worked in cities around the country.

After graduating from Oklahoma City University, which specializes in dance and musical theater majors, Gap, a Grosse Pointe native and University Liggett graduate, "bounced around like a gypsy," including years spent in New York studying dance and auditioning. That was followed by work as a dancer at theme parks in Virginia, where she and her husband were dance partners, and in Pennsylvania and at Disney World before moving to Boston. There they led a master's program and directed a competition dance team. Adam Gap also danced for Royal Caribbean International, the Bellagio in Las Vegas and the American Spirit Dance Company. During their time in Boston, he received his business degree.

"After living in so many places we really found out what we wanted to do. It really gave us a taste of what's out there. And we both knew we have a mutual love for children and dance," she says.

They also have a love for Grosse Pointe, she says, and after they moved back from Boston last summer, they started looking for a studio location.

"There were a lot of times we contemplated starting a dance school out there. It could be great. Boston is a big supporter of the arts,"  she says. "But the feel of the community in Grosse Pointe is so special and unique… Parents really research what their kids are involved in, and they want high quality. We hope we produce a high quality dance education and a fun place to study for children and the parents as well."

The Gaps will lead classes in ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, lyrical and contemporary dance to students as young as age two. Adults will be offered the same courses plus fitness fusion, a workout for dancers or non-dancers, and ballroom dance. Advanced ballerinas will find pointe classes, and there will be special classes in tumbling and stretching and leaps and turns to build on gymnastics' influence on dance.

Initially, the Gaps will teach all classes. As enrollment builds they will hire other instructors and expand courses. She says their dance school will be set apart by the quality of the studio construction and its performance space as well as its syllabus-guided instruction that lets students and parents track progress, milestones, set goals, etc.

"We want children to develop and learn and grow with us," she says. "We are just so excited to be here, in the Village and to be a part of bringing back this part of the Village that has been open and empty for so long. We are so grateful for this opportunity."

Check out this video of O'Mara Sprung Floors, the Flint company that's building the studio floors, and this one of the Gaps dancing.

Source: Tracy Halso Gap
Writer: Kim North Shine
 

Clawson Business Resource Center to open in library downtown

During the cold depths of winter, business was heating up in downtown Clawson.

In that time seven new businesses opened, and now that spring has sprung the city's downtown development authority is coming out to celebrate with a mass ribbon cutting.

The DDA and the Clawson Chamber of Commerce are hoping to stoke the economic flames by opening a business resource center where prospective and current small business owners can come for information and support.

The Clawson Business Resource Center is located in the Blair Memorial Library and "provides easy access to materials and expertise. Although open to everyone, the program targets entrepreneurs and small businesses whether their status is pre-startup, startup or growth and expansion," says Joan Horton, executive director of the Clawson DDA.

The library and the Oakland County Small Business Center are partners as well, and the resource center is opening this week.

The resource center will be stocked with computers, business-related books, magazines, periodicals and other hard copy resources as well as internet-based resources. Business counseling and business seminars will also be offered. Twice a month on Wednesdays, members of SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) and Michigan Works will offer their expertise and advice. The center will be open day and evening hours.

Source: Joan Horton, executive director, Clawson Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Detroit Dogs serves specialty hot dogs in Royal Oak

Detroit Dogs, a new hot dog restaurant in downtown Royal Oak, pays homage to the Motor City while tipping a hat to other locales with its Virginia Dog, Chicago Dog, American Dog, Russian Dog and several other specially topped and sauced dogs.

Detroit Dogs opened in March at 200 W. Fifth Avenue and is hiring to keep up with the demand for its specialties and more straightforward classics.

The Detroit emphasis is tied to the owners' decision to sell Detroit-made products from the dogs down to chips and drinks, all from a simple menu that's drawing families for lunch and dinner and late-night post-bar and restaurant crowds.

Source: Detroit Dogs
Writer: Kim North Shine

Ferndale to add bike lanes on Livernois Road

A one-mile stretch of Livernois Road in Ferndale is shrinking in size as part of a "road diet" that will reduce the street to two lanes and make room for bicycle travel.

A $118,092 Transportation Alternatives Grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation  is helping cover the cost of the project that stretches from 8 to 9 Mile Road.

Lanes will be repainted, buffered bike lanes constructed, bike racks added and a mid-block crosswalk built.

The rebuild of the road also includes the addition of on-street parking.

Altogether, city officials see changes as building on Ferndale's efforts to promote all forms of transportation and to design roads that promote businesses by making it easier for customers to reach them.

Source: Ferndale Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine
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