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Ferndale restaurateur and DDA chief not content to rest on laurels: Dean Bach of Dino's, M-Brew

They told him that it couldn't be done. They said he was crazy for building a nice bar in turn-of-the-century downtown Ferndale. And to the naysayers' credit, when Dean Bach opened Dino's Lounge in August 2002, Ferndale didn't anywhere nearly resemble the trendy hub that it's become today. Bach says that downtown was more known for empty storefronts than it was condos, more for busted "massage parlors" than hip nightspots.

But with Dino's, Bach took an if-you-build-it-they-will-come approach. A patron of the nearby Post Bar, he was starting to age out of the "plastic cups and sweaty bodies bumping into each other" phase of his nightlife. As he transitioned out of his early 30s, Bach wanted to build a bar where you could feel like a grown-up but still young, too; a place that was upscale but not uptight.

It's fifteen years later and Bach has been proven right on his gamble on the old Rialto Cafe building on Woodward Avenue. His enthusiasm for the community early on, like appearing on local TV spots and acting as a booster for the city as much as for his restaurant, helped establish Ferndale's downtown as a destination. So it's no wonder he's since become chairperson of the Ferndale Downtown Development Association. 
 
Today, development in Ferndale is going both up and out, with taller buildings being built and downtown's fashionable footprint beginning to stretch east of Woodward and down Nine Mile Road toward I-75.

"There's nothing wrong with putting a nice place somewhere that doesn't have many nice places. I thought, It'll catch up to me. And the next thing you know, people were passing me by and now there's a lot nicer places all around me," says Bach. "That's why we've done all these renovations. Because now I have to go back and catch up to the people that have passed me up while I sat here for fifteen years enjoying the fruits of the original labor."

Bach recently shut down his restaurant for a two-week-long renovation blitza risky move for any business owner. Most of the work was performed by Bach, his wife, family, friends, and employees, determined to re-open as soon as possible.

Garage doors open up to the city sidewalk. The mustard yellow walls have been painted over in shades of grey and white, with most of the posters and knick knacks removed for a cleaner, modern look. Reclaimed wood covers many of the walls and pillars. Bach hired a former employee with her own furniture business to build tables and chairs out of reclaimed wood from a 300 year old Grosse Ile building. The giant mirror has been refurbished, and Edison bulbs punctuate the room.

Rebuilt bathrooms, new kitchen equipment, and more gives Dino's a fresh feel, one Bach contends is necessary after fifteen years in businesswhich is 50 years in restaurant years, he says. Bach even got rid of three of the five TVs and, he says proudly, not a single person has complained.

The menu, too, has been updated. It's smaller with more focus, centering on foods that don't require a fork but lend themselves to creative and easily modifiable recipes, including sandwiches, loaded fries and poutine, mini-shish kabobs, and chicken wings. One thing that has remained, of course, is the famous Dino's brunch.

In 2014, Bach partnered on another bar in town, M-Brew. It's a Michigan-themed bar in an old VFW hall converted to feel like a northern Michigan lake house, complete with a fireplace and wrap-around porch. Bach personally drives around northern Michigan, happily searching out hard-to-find small batch beers to bring back to Ferndale.

Bach's enjoyed that last pursuit so much that he's ready to announce yet another restaurant: the Belle Iron Grill in the northern Michigan town of Gaylord, tentatively scheduled to open in July 2018. Bach is bringing the Dino's "Funday" Brunch concept to Gaylord, a trend they've yet to catch on to, he says. If M-Brew is his chance to bring northern Michigan to Ferndale, than the Belle Iron Grill will be his chance to bring Ferndale to northern Michigan.

"This has become a kind of utopia of friendliness," says Bach. "Ferndale is a very special city. It's become this bright and shiny piece of Woodward where everybody says hello to you when you're walking down the street."

"This is a special town."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

April Wagner's epiphany studios opens downtown Detroit pop-up, plans Pontiac headquarters expansion

April Wagner's epiphany studios, the Pontiac-based hot glass studio and gallery is growing.

Since Sept. 15, Wagner has been selling pieces from her line of functional and decorative glasswork art at the historic Guardian Building in downtown Detroit. It's a perfect fit for a company that's in the business of art and craftsmanship; the Guardian Building is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of Art Deco skyscraper architecture in the world.

"Being in the Guardian has been inspirational. I feel like the role of the craftsperson hasn't changed over the years, even with technology," says Wagner. "Well-crafted things will always be important."

For now, the epiphany studios gallery at the Guardian is a pop-up, though Wagner says that if things go well enough, she'll consider keeping a permanent space there. She'll stay open at least through next year's North American International Auto Show in January.

She currently occupies a 300 sq. ft. gallery-type space in the building's promenade level. The downtown Detroit epiphany studios offer a good representation of Wagner's pieces, from the functional bowls and cups to the more decorative and artistic sculptures. Holiday pieces, too, are a theme, including glass pumpkins for the fall and planned Christmas ornaments for later in the season.

In addition to Wagner's newfound presence in downtown Detroit, the artist is also preparing to expand her Pontiac studio, nearly doubling its size. Wagner's 4,000 sq. ft. Pontiac headquarters serves mainly as a studio, with 3,000 sq. ft. dedicated to machinery, workspace, and shipping. She's planning on building a 3,000 sq. ft. addition on the building, and expects to complete it within the next three years.

One of the things that spurred on the expansion is a current project, a chandelier that is 9.5 ft. tall. Constricted by space, Wagner has to work on the chandelier in pieces. The new expansion will feature a two-story open space that will allow the artist to work on such large projects as one piece.

The epiphany studios gallery at the Guardian Building is open Thursday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and also by appointment.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Continental in Auburn Hills develops control element for automated driving

Excerpt

As autonomous and connected vehicles move closer to commercialization, Auburn Hills-based global automotive supplier Continental announced The Smart Control, an input device that is transparently and intuitively designed to aid the driver’s transition from operator to user of automated driving functions.

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ArborOakland Group celebrates 50 years

1967 was a quite a memorable year in which to start a company. Things were heating up in a little known place called Vietnam with 475,000 troops serving in the remote country. The first Super Bowl was played between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs (Packers won). Thurgood Marshall became the first black justice on the Supreme Court. The first issue of Rolling Stone magazine was released. Race riots broke out in a number of cities across the United States. Detroit, being one of the cities, made for a particularly tense summer. Unfazed, brothers, Ralph and Ed Garabedian, started Arbor Press in Detroit on October 1st of 1967.

For an industry so greatly impacted by the digital age, it is instructive to look at a company which has grown during a time when many printing companies have gotten smaller or closed. President of ArborOakand Group, Don Kirkland said "In many ways the company encapsulates the history of an industry through its many acquisitions and mergers. In the past 5 years alone, ArborOakland Group has acquired North American Reproductions, Tri-Color, Nu-Tech Graphics, Muir Print & Marketing and most recently, Utley Brothers Printing which itself brought recently acquired companies, Atlantic Press, Sterling Printing and Graphics Factory. While evolving through acquisitions, we have also grown organically through expanded sales initiatives and capabilities."

ArborOakland Group really is a group. Over the years, with each merger and acquisition, ArborOakland Group has enriched the company's legacy and reach into new markets and capabilities. For example, the acquisition of Tri-Color 5 years ago, catapulted the company into the world of large format printing. The acquisition of North American Reproductions a month later helped round out finishing capabilities for a fast-growing on-demand digital production department. The recent acquisition of Utley Brothers Printing brought ArborOakland into a production world that exceeds 2.5 million business cards per week.

As printing companies have closed over the years, the flexibility and stability that ArborOakland Group has provided has proven to be a place for companies and individuals to safely "land", get their feet under them, and begin again in a competitive industry.  More recently, the company has made additionally investments in new technology and facilities with the build out of its Specialty Print Center and installation of the Oce VarioPrint i300 inkjet press.

"Looking ahead, we remain excited for the future and the opportunities for both our customers and our organization. We will continue to invest in new capabilities, our facilities, and acquisitions as part of our larger goal of being a valuable partner to our growing customer base.  It is our privilege to pause and celebrate the history and legacy of so many different people and companies that got us to our 50th anniversary!" remarked Kirkland. http://arboroakland.com

ArborOakland Group, one of Southeast Michigan's leading printing companies since 1967, is proud to call the Motor City its home, and with wide-ranging print capability help the world Speak Visually!

Medical Main Street to debut expanded supply chain directory

Medical Main Street has doubled the size of its medical device directory to help global manufacturers find suppliers in Oakland County and Michigan.

The 50-page Michigan Medical Device Manufacturers Directory will be distributed to attendees at the Medical Main Street annual meeting and networking event Nov. 3 at Oakland Community College’s Highland Lake Campus student center.

“We make things here: cars, products for the defense industry and a range of consumer products,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “The infrastructure to support that manufacturing and the supply chain is all here. If you’re in the medical device industry, you need to be here designing and making those products. We can help you do that.”

The free directory will also be made available Nov. 3 online at MedicalMainStreet.com. It includes an alphabetical listing of 136 companies, with websites for each company. Sixty of the companies have locations in Oakland County. County staff can connect interested people directly to those companies. It has easy-to-read charts that identify companies by manufacturing processes such as injection molding, machining, engineering or precision cutting. It follows the inaugural directory that was created seven years ago. It was compiled with research done by the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center and is the only directory of its kind in the state, said Irene Spanos, the county’s director of economic development.

The event will be held at OCC’s Highland Lakes Campus is at 7350 Cooley Lake Road in Waterford and runs from 8:30 a.m. to noon. There is no charge to attend but registration is required at MedicalMainStreet.com. A panel will discuss “Insights into the Health Care/Life Science Ecosystem.”

Medical Main Street is an alliance of world-class hospitals and health systems, universities, medical device, biopharma companies and some of the country’s leading medical professionals creating a global center of innovation in health care, research and development, education and commercialization in the life science industry.

Restaurant veterans to open southern-inspired Menagerie Lounge in Pontiac

A new restaurant is being planned for downtown Pontiac, and it comes from a few familiar faces in the city's dining scene.

James and April Forbes, the couple responsible for the pop-up kitchen and incubator Menagerie, are planning on opening a restaurant of their own. Dubbed Menagerie Lounge, the restaurant will feature southern-inspired fare, live entertainment, and design work and art from local Pontiac artists. The couple, who won the Food Network's Cupcake Wars in 2012, will also carry their own award-winning desserts.

Scheduled for a February 2018 opening, Menagerie Lounge will be located at 155 N. Saginaw St. in downtown Pontiac.

"When we go out to eat, we've been in the service industry for so long that we have a different lens that we view the experience through. We're more forgiving, but we also know how we want our staff to treat our customers," April says. "The customer service will be top notch because people work hard for their money."

The build-out of the restaurant is being funded, in part, by a recently announced $25,000 grant from Flagstar Bank and a $35,000 Small Business Administration (SBA) loan from Center for Empowerment and Economic Development (CEED). The grant is part of $2.5 million that Flagstar is scheduled to invest in small business development in Pontiac.

"We're super excited about the loan and grant opportunity. It's not often that a small restaurant gets this type of opportunity at all," says James. "We're excited about the direction the city is heading in."

April recommends that businesses interested in applying for the loans and grants be prepared and have their business plans ready. Oakland County's One Stop Shop Business Center, she says, was a big help in preparing Menagerie's business plan.

Menagerie, which got its start as a pop-up kitchen in 2015, moved to Lafayette Market earlier this year, where they facilitate the pop-up kitchen and restaurant incubator programs. The couple says that they will continue to work on the incubator program, even after their own restaurant opens.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Flagstar Bank launches small business development funding in Pontiac

Excerpt

Flagstar Bank announced the first disbursement—$500,000—of its $2.5 million investment in small business development in Pontiac. This small business initiative is part of Flagstar’s five-year, $10 million commitment to help revitalize the city.

“We’re happy to have partnered with Flagstar to bring this $10 million commitment to Pontiac,” said Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman. “Small businesses are the backbone of any economic revitalization, and this funding from Flagstar gives a welcome boost to our community.”

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Pentastar Aviation collaborates on co-ownership solution for business aircraft owners

Excerpt: 

Waterford Township-based Pentastar Aviation and Partners in Aviation (PIA) announced they will offer a comprehensive management program with a cost-effective solution to owning and operating a business aircraft.

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Huge At Home decor store stocks 50,000 items

Excerpt

At Home is all about variety. 

The home décor superstore’s new Wixom location sells more than 50,000 items, including 100 Christmas tree varieties, seven aisles worth of rugs and many rows of mirrors, wall art, towels, window treatments, tableware, cookware, furniture, pet beds, mattresses, pillows, patio umbrellas, Halloween decorations and even artificial turf. 

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Downtown Pontiac's newest business boasts 100 percent American-made outdoor sports apparel

Bill Ludwig and his business partners, a group of avid fishers, boaters, and golfers, noticed something as they were walking around ICAST, an annual fishing trade show. In terms of apparel, the fishing and resort apparel industry had grown complacent. While there was plenty to choose from, the offerings were leaving the group unimpressed.

"We walked through and started discussing starting our own brand," says Ludwig. "One of my partners lamented that there was no need for another performance brand. But I said, yeah, but look at the labels. There isn't one manufacturer here with a label that says Made in USA."

So they started one.

American Made Performance is a fishing and resort apparel company based in downtown Pontiac. Ludwig, the CEO of the company, says that all of its products are 100 percent made in the United States. The cotton is grown here, and the fabrics are woven and sewn here. He contends that they're the only ones in the fishing and resort apparel industry to be able to make that claim.

The notion that people want 100 percent American-made products seems to have so far worked out for AMP. The company employs two dozen people at its downtown Pontiac manufacturing facility, an old bank at the corner of Saginaw and Huron streets. And Ludwig says that current revenue projections indicate that AMP will double that number within the next twelve months.

The company has partnered with Ryan Keene as its exclusive artist, which is another selling point for the brand, says Ludwig. Absent are the muted browns and greens one might expect to find in fishing apparel, instead replaced with bright colors and lively illustrations.

"It's rare for a company to have unique selling propositions," says Ludwig. "We have two. The United States and Ryan Keene."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Meet Royal Oak's new Downtown Manager

It’s mid-morning at The Office coffee shop in downtown Royal Oak, and Sean Kammer has not yet had his breakfast.
 
It’s par for the course, he explains, as he digs into a bagel and cream cheese. As the city’s first Downtown Manager in many years, he has a full schedule getting to know the local business owners, associations, and elected officials.
 
The restaurant scene on Main Street is thriving. But retail, especially along Washington, is faltering. Royal Oak has lost two major retail anchors in recent years; American Apparel in 2016, which is now vacant, and Barnes and Noble, which left in 2014 and is now a Buffalo Wild Wings. And with new office developments taking shape, the city faces a sort of identity crisis—is it fated to develop an upscale character, or can it retain some if its funky bohemian past?
 
Four weeks into the new job, Kammer, who prior served as Assistant City Administrator in Lathrup Village, took some time to sit with Metromode to share his thoughts about what’s next for one of metro Detroit’s oldest downtowns.
 
The conversation is edited for clarity.
 
Metromode: Tell us about your new role. What are your responsibilities?
 
Kammer: The prior person in this role was focusing mostly on events, When I was hired on, they wanted me to focus more on things like retail attraction, retention, to function as the eyes and the ears of the DDA. I think what they mean by that is to build relationships with the business community and all of the stakeholders down here just so the DDA is more informed of how their projects and programs are affecting the downtown. I'm tasked to try to try to build some consensus and work together and move forward in one direction.
 
Metromode: Royal Oak’s Downtown Manager position has been vacant for some years. Why fill that role now? What's the current need the city sees?
 

Kammer: A few years ago there was a downtown task force that was created. They came up with a number of objectives. One of those was to get more economic diversity here in the downtown. They knew that it was thriving in terms of restaurants, but retail was struggling and still is. They wanted to get more office users here in the downtown. They wanted to diversify that to add some resiliency to the economy.
 
Metromode: Is there adequate office space in downtown?
 
Kammer: They're building it right now. There are two projects. One is currently in construction, and one has just been approved. Those two projects alone actually met their goal of 180,000 square feet of office space.
 
One is the Etkin project. That is next to the post office on 11 Mile. You can see it right now; it's that big steel frame that's going up currently. The next one is going to be the Royal Oak City Center project. That's got a lot of facets to it, and it includes an office building that will be constructed in the parking lot in front of city hall.
 
Metromode: What's your vision for retail? How can it be revived?
 
Kammer: I think a lot of the retail is trying to change, to downsize and focus on experience, to stay relevant. For example, Barnes and Noble is working on a concept store right now. They're smaller stores; I think they're only like 15 percent of the original footprint. It's more experiential. They give you wine. There's the Amazon Go stores that aren't online yet. Nordstrom's is in this same kind of theme; making it more experiential. What kind of things can't you deliver online? It's nice to see that they're down-scaling the stores. In downtown Royal Oak most of our available sites are 5,000 square feet or less.
 
Metromode: How do you compete with what's happening in Detroit? Do you try to?
 
Kammer: It's difficult. I think there are two schools of thought. I'm still trying to make up my mind. I think they both have some merit.
 
There’s the regional perspective of Detroit's doing well, so all of the suburbs are inevitably going to be doing better. I think it's going to make the region more competitive on a global scale.
 
Then you get down into the micro-scale of where's everybody going on a Friday and Saturday night. Are they going to go to Royal Oak or are they going to go to Midtown? I think that's where you start to see some competition.
 
Metromode: What about residential in downtown? What's happening with that?
 
Kammer: That has been happening for some years when they build the Fifth building and then all of the other lofts on 11 Mile. There's an additional project that's going to be residential and that's going to be the 696 / 10 Mile and Main Street area on the south side of the downtown.
 
Metromode: What do you hope to be able to accomplish in your first 6-12 months in this job?
 
Kammer: I'd like to bring in a retail anchor, something that would catalyze additional smaller retail.
 
Metromode: What are your thoughts about the old Royal Oak vibe being more of a funky, bohemian type of place? Can it retain that character as it develops?
 
Kammer: I'd love to recapture a lot of that innovation and imagination that it had back when I was in high school, back in the early 2000s. I was in Clarkston, but on weekends we drove all the way from Clarkston to Royal Oak just because of the concentration of the thrift stores and the record stores. There wasn't a community around that had all of that stuff in Oakland County. We came all the way down here for it.
 
Over the years as Royal Oak has gotten trendier and trendier, and attracted more and more investment dollars, it priced a lot of that DIY entrepreneurial spirit out of the market. I'd like to recapture a lot of that.
 
Metromode: How do you do that in this higher-rent environment? Is it possible?
 
Kammer: I think so. I don't know if you could locate them exactly in the urban core. That's why I was thinking about how there should be a little Midtown in Royal Oak to encourage entrepreneurs where the rent's a little lower. It would be along 10 Mile, maybe Fourth Street. I think at some point it could end up being outside the DDA district. It would be outside my jurisdiction, but I'd like to see something like that come back to recapture a lot of that soul that Royal Oak had. We still have some holdouts; Lost and Found Vintage, Rail and Anchor, and UHF, the record shop.
 
Metromode: You have an interesting challenge. You want to try to recapture some of that cool downtown Royal Oak that you remember, but based on the reality that rents are higher, you're sort of stuck between Ferndale and Birmingham. Which way is is the city going to go?
 
Kammer: Right. In fact, it's been described to me that right now Royal Oak is trying to find its identity. We have this office building being constructed, so it's definitely bringing in larger companies. We're gonna get a daytime office crowd. There's a hotel being built. A lot of investment is coming into the community But it still has that cool, trendy, DIY thrift shop vibe that a lot of people still want to maintain. The construction is pulling it in the other direction. Is it gonna be more of like a Birmingham? Maybe. Is there room for that? Is there a third way?
 
I like to believe there's a third way. I think there’s some sort of synthesis that can be achieved. And I think the DDA can maybe help with that. We talked about incentives and trying to foster a lot of these businesses that you wouldn't ordinarily see heavily invested in an urban core.
 
Could you very intelligently recruit businesses into certain sections of the downtown where you could help balance out some of those rents? The higher rents area where you could bring in retail anchors, and then garden entrepreneurs in one section of the downtown that would be more affordable? I think it's uncharted territory right now.

Nina Misuraca Ignaczak is Metromode's managing editor. Follow her on Twitter @ninaignaczak or on Instagram at ninaignaczak.

Old theater to be transformed into comedy club, music venue

Excerpt

Residents are curious about the renovation Bill Nannoshi is doing at the old Union Lake Twin Cinemas to transform it into a comedy club, music venue, restaurant and gaming room.

“There are between five to 10 people a day who stop and say they can’t believe how nice the building looks,” he said.

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Birmingham Starbucks first in Michigan to have Reserve bar

Excerpt

The countdown is on for a new Starbucks to open in downtown Birmingham.

The location at 101 N. Old Woodward is set to open Sept. 29, according to a Starbucks spokesperson. At 3,400 square feet, the store is more than twice the size of the existing Starbucks in Birmingham and promises to offer some premium selections that are sure to please local coffee lovers.

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Innovation Park receives Brooksie Way $30K grant

Excerpt:

A section of the trail at Innovation Hills Park in Rochester Hills will now be known as the Brooksie Way. The city recently received a $30,000 grant from the organization, which held its annual half-marathon and other racing events in Rochester Hills last weekend.

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Oakland University offering automotive contractor safety course

Oakland University is now offering a Lockout of Hazardous Energy Control Course (Green Lock Training). This is a safety training course for first, second and third tier automotive industry contractors. 

The course provides the knowledge and skills needed to safely perform lockout for energy sources while working in a typical modern automotive manufacturing facility. It includes a hands-on lab scenario and student manual.

Attendees can select from several dates to take the one-day course throughout the fall.  The next two available dates are Thursday, October 12, 2017 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday, November 9, 2017.  Courses will be held in room 1053 of the Human Health Building located at 433 Meadow Brook Road, Rochester, MI 48309. The course is offered at a fee of $250.   

“We developed this course to meet the training requirements of OSHA, MIOSHA and other state programs,” said Patrick Frazee, M.S., M.A., CIH, CSP, director of Environmental Health and Safety program. “We also built it with automotive industry input and collaboration to fulfill the contractor training requirements for automotive companies.”
 
Highlights of the program include: 
 
•       A six-hour course developed to meet the needs of engineers, contractors, technicians who perform lockout during work activities.
•       Course materials that cover OSHA requirements as well as specific requirements and methods used at General Motors including Safety Control Systems and MPS.
•       Upon completion of the course, students will receive a certificate and Green safety locks will be provided upon request. 
•       Course instructor(s) have extensive real world experience in automotive and construction/contractor activity.
•       The course is delivered on OU’s campus and includes lab exercises at an MPS robot cell. 
 
To register for either course date, visit the website.
 
For questions about the course, email the instructor, Rob Hart at rhart@oakland.edu.
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