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Vodka, gin distillery, tastng room planned for Royal Oak

Royal Oak may soon be home to small distillery and tasting room. Five Lakes Distillery received a small distiller license from the city commission this week, paving the way for owners Craig Schlicht and Keith Reid to make vodka, initially, and then, eventually, gin from a small space at 4320 Rochester Road.

The plan is to produce vodka on site, 90 percent of it for distribution, 10 percent on site for the weekend-only tasting room, which will take up 190 square feet of the 855-square-foot facility.

The owners have a permit to produce up to 60,000 gallons of spirits per year, says Todd Fenton, the city's manager of economic development, but as of now they expect to produce closer to 6,000 gallons.

No opening date has been set as other city permits are still required. If successful, Five Lakes could join metro-Detroit-made spirits success stories such as Valentine Vodka in Ferndale, Hard Luck Candy Vodka in St. Clair Shores, Griffin Claw Brewing Co. in Birmingham and Zim's Vodka based in Warren.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Todd Fenton, economic development manager, city of Royal Oak


Institution of Dance Arts opens in Ferndale

The new Institution of Dance Arts, Ferndale's only traditional dance class studio, is building a following of customers who want to learn dance as well as the skills it imparts imparts in their lives outside the studio.

Owner Ida Lowback opened the studio several weeks ago at 701 Woodward Heights, Ste. 130. She and her four instructors and occasional staff guest artist teach several genres of dance and pilots to all ages.

"Can you believe that the city of Ferndale has not had a studio offering traditional dance classes up until now?  Well, we are here now and excited to fill the void and share our passion for dance," says Lowback.

The business inside a renovated office building, which looks like a former school. The cheery yellow paint on the inside opens onto a studio that was built with a sprung sub floor and a Marley floor covering, both of which make dance more comfortable, effective and safe than regular flooring.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Ida Lowback, founder, The Institution of Dance Arts


Taylor & Colt barberspas coming to metro Detroit

Two brothers from Birmingham will be importing Canadian-based Taylor & Colt barberspas to the U.S., starting with two metro Detroit locations.

John and Tom White are the U.S. franchisees for the chain of Toronto spas that combine old-fashioned barber shop services and more modern grooming treatments in high-end surroundings.

The first Taylor & Colt barberspas will open in the Villages in Rochester and on Liberty Street in Ann Arbor. They are seeking a location in Birmingham, says John White.

Renovations are underway on the first two spas, and they are expected to open in January.

"We're bringing this to Michigan first, and hopefully as we open new locations and expand, we'll bring it to a number of different states. We'd like Boston, Charleston, Austin."

The spas have an old-fashioned meets contemporary feel with rough woods and stone in the interior and traditional barber shop chairs. There are iPads at each chair and big-screen TVs throughout. There will be a reception bar with coffee, tea, juice, and newspapers. Services will include haircuts, hot towel shaves, laser hair removal, massage and more.

After seeing Taylor & Colt in Toronto, "We kind of thought, 'You know what this makes a lot of sense.' When you visit men's barber shops, a lot of them have been there forever. They're old, they're tired. They're a basic place to get a haircut, but not much more," says John White. "We've seen this whole movement that younger men are indulging in more careful grooming and more attention to their appearance. We think there will be much interest in this."

Source: John White, Taylor & Colt U.S.
Writer: Kim North Shine

Riley Park ice rink opens in downtown Farmington

The Riley Park Ice Rink in downtown Farmington is seen as keeping winter from putting a freeze on business and keeping the heart of the city pumping when temps plunge.

Barring too-warm temps, the 4,800-square-foot, refrigerated rink opens this weekend as a fundraising campaign to maintain and market the volunteer-run rink.

During warmer months, Riley Park hosts the Farmington Farmers & Artisans Market, Rhythmz in Riley Park and the Harvest Moon Celebration.

As the rink opens for its second year the hope is to keep Riley Park and the businesses that surround it thriving all year long and to foster the feeling of a quaint, downtown park and ice rink as a place to have fun before or after dinner, a coffee, or shopping. Annette Knowles, executive director of the city's downtown development authority, describes the vibe of the park and downtown in winter as "Currier and Ives-like."

"The Riley Park Ice Rink creates a winter destination in downtown Farmington. Until the rink came, the programming in the park was for three seasons, not four," says Knowles. "Now, we have a cool, fun place for families to connect and play.  And the rink is surrounded by restaurants where skaters can warm up and get a snack or inviting boutiques and stores to purchase accessories to keep you warm on the ice."

The ice rink opened in 2013 thanks to a major contribution of $100,000 from the Riley Foundation. Local businesses such as Wright Beamer, Dagwood’s Deli, S3 Architecture, John Cowley and Sons Irish Pub, and OHM Advisors contributed to the project as did the community, with Farmington residents chipping in $10,000.

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

Royal Oak formulates downtown retail development plan

A national retail consultant has looked at the city of Royal Oak and what's wrong and right with its retail situation as the city works to "confirm its position as a retail and entertainment destination."

The city hired The Retail Coach out of Mississippi in September. The company has worked with dozens of local governments, chambers of commerce and economic development corporations in more than 250 cities, guiding them through development and redevelopment of their retail offerings.

The assessment for Royal Oak was expected to be presented to the City Council this week. The assessment will gauge consumer demand and analyze retail trade areas and retail gaps and opportunities. The analysis will target 52 retail categories that are weak or underperforming in Royal Oak.

“Royal Oak has always enjoyed a reputation as one of Michigan’s most exciting cities with several award-winning boutiques and galleries, and a bustling nightlife,” Royal Oak Economic Development Manager Todd  Fenton says in a statement from The Retail Coach.

“By bringing The Retail Coach on board to assist with our retail business attraction efforts, Royal Oak aims to be a showcase of distinct retailers that provide an unparalleled shopping experience...People and businesses are increasingly relocating to walkable urban environments, and Royal Oak boasts one of Michigan’s most dynamic and desirable downtowns," Fenton says. "As foot traffic continues to increase during the day with the addition of new residents and office users, the time is right for a coordinated retail attraction initiative to attract retailers who fit into our unique city.”

Source: The Retail Coach
Writer: Kim North Shine

Michigan & Eastpointe partner on redevelopment & investment strategy

Eastpointe is the third Michigan city to enter a partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. in an effort to promote cities that are easy for businesses and developers to work with.

By being designated as a Redevelopment Ready Community -- the first two in Michigan were nearby Roseville and Allegan -- Eastpointe is provided with guidance and advice on best practices on how to remove hurdles to development and assist small and large businesses that want to move into the aging inner-ring suburb. The advice includes identifying and preparing developable sites, marketing and recruiting potential users for the sites, assisting in city, county and state requirements and informing the public of what the buildings and land will be used for -- and, overall, bringing in companies that meet the needs of the public and the vision of city leaders.

“We are pleased to be part of our region and state and to partner with public service agencies such as MEDC focusing on community economic health with transparency and accountability," says Eastpointe City Manager Steve Duchane.

The Macomb County city has a population of about 32,000 and quick access to I-94 and I-696 There are more than 800 commercial, industrial and service businesses and 60-some major companies within its five square miles, which includes the major thoroughfare of Gratiot Avenue.

The city is marketing property and is prepared to offer incentives and streamline its approvals process so that redevelopment of unused property can move along quickly.

Source: City of Eastpointe
Writer: Kim North Shine

Slow's Bar-B-Q to expand to downtown Pontiac

Detroit's celebrated Slows Bar-B-Q, which hit restaurant gold in Detroit years before today's restaurant boom rolled in, will open a location in downtown Pontiac, where reinvestment and rebirth are once again becoming part of the local lexicon.

The Pontiac Slows will be connected to the Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts, a $20-million redevelopment of a historic building that will bring national shows and live theater and stage acts back to the city.

With Slows as its exclusive partner, the theater will offer the unusual combo of arts and culture and barbecue joint.

Slows Pontiac, on Saginaw St., will be 6,500 square feet and have a street-side entrance for the public and a theater entrance for show-goers. Slows will also cater events at the theater, which will be run by the nonprofit Encore Performing Arts Center and Bill Lee, former vice president of Celebrity Events Group and vice president of sales and marketing at Olympia Entertainment, Inc.

Construction will begin in early 2015. Opening date will coincide with the theater opening in late 2015.

Slows has an exclusivity agreement with the theater so that it will be the only Slows location in Oakland County, says Kyle Westberg, CEO of West Construction Services, one of Pontiac's main developers with projects such as the at-capacity Lafayette Place Lofts and Lafayette Market.

Slow's owners want to be a part of a Pontiac's comeback. They see it, as they did their first restaurant in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood, as a way to run a business and also help the community.

“We chose Pontiac as the site of our first metro Detroit expansion for the same reasons we chose Corktown. It’s an underserved community with a defined identity and potential for an exciting evolution,” Slows Bar-B-Q co-owner Phil Cooley says. “We are excited to become part of the neighborhood and serve up great tasting Slows Bar-B-Q to the folks who live, work in, and visit Pontiac.”

Westberg says Slows, along with numerous large and small projects, from the opening of small tech businesses to multi-million-dollar improvements by GM and St. Joseph's Hospital, may be the tipping point to making downtown Pontiac become a destination again.

"I've been watching Slows's business model for quite a few years, and what was fascinating to me was their thought processes on economic development and working with the community and helping the community prosper and move forward," Westberg says. "That philosophy meets right up with the philosophies we have here in Pontiac."

Source: Kyle Westberg, CEO, West Construction Services; Phil Cooley, Slows Bar-B-Q co-owner
Writer: Kim North Shine

Ypsi fave Rocket Candy bringing sweets & fun to downtown Ferndale

After eight years of selling candy -- and fun, really -- from its downtown Ypsilanti store, The Rocket is expanding to Ferndale and opening a second location.

The Rocket Candy & Novelties opens at 23147 Woodward Ave. this Friday, and the store will be stocked with confections, packaged and bulk, and colorful, crazy, funky and retro toys, cards, t-shirts and other novelties like Archie McFee collection from Seattle and Lip Shit lip balm.

The locally-made t-shirts, like the Ypsi store, will include designs that give a shout out to Ferndale, Detroit and Michigan.

The 2,600-square-foot store is located in a new building near 9 Mile and the owners, Eli Morrissey and Paul Balcom, see Ferndale's fun and eclectic mix of businesses as a good fit for their bacon toys, wasabi gum balls, popsicle and Sharknado ornaments.

There's an eddy entrepreneurial mix here," he says. "We feel it's very similar to Ypsi, and this is just a good place for us to be."

They opened the Ypsi store in 2006 as a way to "bring life to downtown. We wanted to open a store that would draw people in," says Morrissey.

"I guess it started off as an idealistic notion, and it's worked out," he says. "The nice thing about expanding is it creates new jobs here and at our Ypsi store."

Source: Eli Morrissey, co-owner, The Rocket
Writer: Kim North Shine

Highest bidder to push demolition button on OCC building in Southfield

Oakland Community College's investment in property in Southfield is kicking off with an unusual fundraiser.

The college's foundation, which raises money to support students and school projects, is offering the highest bidder the opportunity to push the button on the demolition of a 17-story building, North Park Plaza.

OCC purchased the 42-year-old, 340,000-square-foot property earlier this year. As of Wednesday the bidding was at $8,000.

No date has been set for construction of a future site nor any firm plans made of what will replace the building, but Southfield is the fastest growing of OCC's five campuses. OCC is the largest community college campus in Michigan and the 25th largest in the nation.

Source: Margarita Wagerson, spokesperson Oakland Community College
Writer: Kim North Shine

Birmingham's Griffin Claw Brewing adds bottle spirit sales

Griffin Claw Brewing Company is now in the business of selling bottled vodka, gin and rum from its taproom in Birmingham.

Earlier this year the brewery, which has made its name in craft beer, added liquors to the menu. Bottled sales were the next step.

The lineup: Griffin Claw Grain Vodka, Griffin Claw Potato Vodka, Griffin Claw Botanical Gin and Griffin Claw Black Strap Rum sell for $20 each and can be purchased inside the taproom. The brewery will also be releasing KRUPNIK, a polish style honey liqueur in a 750ml bottle, for $20, for the holiday season as well as its popular Oblivious Wheat Wine in a 22-oz. wax-dipped bomber bottle for $17.

Griffin Claw biergarten and taproom are at 575 S. Eton St. The 12,000-square-foot operation in the city's Rail District includes a brewing system, distillery, and distribution operation.

Source, Jaclyn Robinson, JT Marketing Group
Writer: Kim North Shine

Dragonmead Brewery expands with new brewing system

Dragonmead Microbrewery has expanded its brewing system, filling up the entire 11,000-square foot facility where it brews award-winning beers -- and ales and mead -- in Warren.

The facility at 14600 E. 11 Mile Road includes a 1,000-square-foot tap room that sells dozens of beers on tap and serves food from nearby Lazybones Smokehouse.

By installing a smaller batch brewing system, the expansion allows the brewery to not only keep up with overall demand but to offer the variety Dragonmead faithfuls expect, says Larry Channel, a founding member of the microbrewery, which began in 1997.

“Having the variety system in place and producing again will allow us to once again offer over 40 different styles of beer on tap at our taproom here in Warren,” says Jennifer Locher, pub manager for Dragonmead. “The variety will be in place in time for the holidays.”

The latest expansion follows the addition last year of a 20-barrel brew house. This year the company is introducing a seasonal line of products in both bottles and draught: Oktoberfest, Devil’s Knight Pumpkin Ale, Jul Øl, a Norwegian Spiced Christmas Ale and St. Nicole’s Weizenbock. Sin Eater, a high-gravity Dark Belgian Ale, is soon to be released in bottles as a year-round product. Sin Eater is currently available in the Tap Room in Warren.

Source: Larry Channel, founding member of Dragonmead Microbrewery
Writer: Kim North Shine

Construction starts in Dearborn for state's first Artspace community

AConstruction on City Hall Artspace Lofts, a live, work & sell artists community in Dearborn, will begin this month. The sale of the property, the former Dearborn City Hall, will be complete this week after closing.

Artspace is a national organization that builds residential-retail community, art-based developments around the country. The Dearborn Artspace is the first in Michigan. Supporters of the project, from city officials to private developers, see it as a positive economic development locally. And they see it potentially as a regional draw for art-seekers and artists from any artistic genre to hone and sell the things they make or services they offer.

The nearly $17 million development at 13615 Michigan Ave. will include about 45 residential lofts with commercial spaces and public spaces -- indoors and out.

Painters, dancers, and furniture makers could set up shop or home at City Hall Artspace Lofts. Artspace's motto is "Building better communities through the arts."

The Monahan Company is the general contractor on the project and the first phase of construction will include the demolition this month of the parking garage behind the old City Hall. Dearborn's city offices have been consolidated in a building down the street from the older, more historic city hall. Construction will be fully underway in January, says Heidi Kurtze, vice president of property development for the Minneapolis-based Artspace. During construction there will be information sessions and meetings to inform artists and commercial retailers about the project, she says.

"Artspace is thrilled to be working in Dearborn and converting the iconic City Hall into a thriving creative center for the arts," says Kurtze.

Source: Heidi Kurtze, vice president of property development, Artspace
Writer: Kim North Shine

Dye & Dash express haircolor salon opens in Troy

The owners of two successful metro Detroit hair salons are the creators of a new specialized salon that's dedicated to quick and affordable hair coloring.

Dye & Dash opened Dec. 2 at 3296 Rochester Road in Troy. Industry veterans Tomy Lulgjuraj and George and Johnny Nikollaj, co-owners of 6 Salon in Birmingham and Royal Oak, partnered with longtime employee Constance Abro to oversee a trained, experienced staff that specializes in matching, formulating and applying hair color.

With the tagline, "We Dye, You Dry," the 2,000-square-foot salon includes a blow-dry bar where customers can use blow dryers, flat irons, hairbrushes and hair products at no extra charge after a color. Dye & Dash is likely the first salon of its kind in metro Detroit, and the concept has taken root in other states.

Dye & Dash offers color for men and women with services such as touch-ups (the Take Root service is $30), highlights (the Bombshell's full head of foils is $65, and the Lucky 7 with seven foils is $30), Bump the Base for $30 and low lights for $5. A sweet treat conditioning is $15.  

“Two things inspired us to create the Dye & Dash concept, with the first being the continued demand for salon service segmentation,” says Abro, a co-owner and manager of Dye & Dash.  “Not everyone has the need, time, desire or budget for a full-service salon experience every time, and we understand that."

The color salon is the latest evolution of beauty salons, he says.

"First came blow-out bars, then eyebrow bars, and we see color bars as the next logical step…,"he says.

The owners also see potential to attract the at-home colorers.

It is "our mission to get both men and women to move away from the pitfalls of home hair coloring,” Abro says. “There are endless reasons why hair coloring should be left to professionals. Hopefully by lowering the cost barrier to color treatments, we can convince some DIY hair dye enthusiasts to see what a difference a salon can make.”

Source: Monica Cheick, PublicCityPR
Writer: Kim North Shine

ShareSpace Rochester revives downtown co-working spot

Plans for a co-working space in downtown Rochester are back on after the investor/owner's decision to return to full-time living in Rochester.

Doug Van Slembrouck, founder of ShareSpace Rochester and owner of digital strategy company Red Pawn Creative, plans to open the shared work space, which would be outfitted with desks, WIFI, conference tables, and other office amenities, at 150 S. Elizabeth St., just a few feet away from the Clinton River Trail and directly behind Rochester Play, an indoor activity center for children and families.

For a fee, ShareSpace will give independents, freelancers, and office-less employees all the perks of an office, including meeting space, people to talk to, and no coffee shop or home office distractions.

"It's perfect for access to downtown, a brief stretch of the legs or bike ride, and great if you need to parent and work at the same time. We're now accepting memberships and visitors," Van Slembrouck says.

The plan was put on hold after Van Slembrouck's work had him commuting to Chicago throughout the week, and "I quickly realized that ShareSpace would require significantly much more attention."

In addition, a Kickstarter fundraising campaign for ShareSpace fell short. Projects that fail to meet their fundraising goal get no money.

"We did learn the community of freelance and mobile professionals in the greater-Rochester area is quite large," he says. "The supporters of our campaign were so interested in bringing co-working to the area that they still offered their original donations, essentially prepaid two-month memberships, regardless of the overall Kickstarter results. In the end however, I didn't feel comfortable accepting funds if I couldn't be there full-time to be involved in the day-to-day operations."

He says he's excited to make it work this time. His own company, Red Pawn Creative, will have its office at ShareSpace.

"I believe Oakland County needs a place for people with the flexibility to work anywhere, anytime to call home."

Source: Doug Van Slembrouck, founder, ShareSpace Rochester
Writer: Kim North Shine

Emagine Entertainment to open luxury movie theater in Macomb Co.

Troy-based Emagine Entertainment is opening its first movie theater in Macomb County in December, bringing movie-goers a new upscale and luxurious experience that comes with amenities galore.

The opening of a theater on 23 Mile Road near Hayes in Macomb Township will bring to eight the company's number of metro Detroit theaters. A theater is also in the works for downtown Birmingham.

The new Emagine Macomb is being built inside a closed Kroger grocery store that will be transformed into nine theaters, a restaurant and bar with onyx countertop and seating areas with sofas, high-top tables, chairs and stone fireplaces for a living-room feel.

When it opens Dec. 19, visitors will find full-service and comfort amenities not found in older theaters.

There will be 100-percent reserved seating in power recliners and service by a chef from the Ironwood Grill in Plymouth. A full-service bar, a self-serve soda fountain and dessert bar, and gourmet popcorn healthy snacks for kids will be part of the theater. It will have nine auditoriums with floor-to-ceiling screens and seating that provides a good view from any spot.

Source: Dawn Kelly, spokesperson, Emagine Entertainment
Writer: Kim North Shine
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