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Rochester's historic Chapman House to be converted into a restaurant

The nearly 100-year-old Chapman House in Rochester is in the process of a renovation that will make the former family home turned longtime home furnishings store into a restaurant and elegant event site.

For now the renovation is overshadowing what the Chapman House as a restaurant will be. Besides the painstaking daily details of preserving the historic structure itself, all sorts of historic keepsakes and fun finds are being uncovered.

A decades old Hershey's candy bar wrapper. A 1917 newspaper. Photographs. Original tile. A 200-plus-year-old gas light fixture.

The grand home was built in 1917 by William Clark Chapman, a prominent business owner and politiican, and remained in the Chapman family until 1973, according to the Rochester-Avon Historical Society. Several businesses operated there, most recently a furniture and interior design store. The home also survived two fires.

The renovation could be complete by spring, but developer Geoff Dancik can't yet announce a date. Historic renovation is an uncertain, windy road.

What is known is that a French-inspired restaurant will take up much of the first floor and most of the second floor of the Italian Renaissance-style mansion.

A terrace overlooking Walnut Street, just a few blocks from downtown Rochester, will offer outdoor seating as will part of the grounds behind the home.

The grounds and formal gardens will be available for private events.

As the renovations inside and outside continue, parts of the home such as the iron balconies have been sent away for proper restoration. A centerpiece of one patio, a five-burner gas fixture that dates back to the reign of King George IV during the mid to early 1830s, is also being restored.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Geoff and Brenden Dancik, Chapman House

Downtown Rochester seeks public input on parking improvements

Downtown Rochester is coming off a complete rebuild of Main Street, and now city planners see this as an ideal time to determine if parking options downtown also need updating.

To figure it out, the Rochester City Council and the Rochester Downtown Development Authority have gone the survey route, asking anyone with an opinion on what's needed and what's not when it comes to parking. The survey, which also includes an open-ended question, is getting high responses and also yielding useful information not necessarily related to parking, says Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority.

"We're getting an insane response, over 100 surveys in the first 40 minutes. We're at almost 800 now," she says.

The Main Street makeover, which was completed in November and included a re-do of downtown sidewalks and the addition of amenities to make being in downtown easier and more convenient, took out all parking meters.

Before deciding whether to replace those and make any other parking changes, say structures, kiosks, or re-arranged lots, the survey was sent out. The city council, planning commission and the DDA will review the findings April 10.

"It's fast. We don't want this to be a long, drawn-out thing…We want it to be a working document," says Trevarrow.

The changes will affect not only immediate parking needs, but attempt to plan for the future. The last parking study was done in 2003 and determined that the parking as it was was adequate.

"If a big development were to come in, maybe residential with retail or a large company, we want to be prepared," Trevarrow says. "The economy is snapping back. At some point there will be a development. We want to be prepared and have that answer when the time comes."

Want to share your thoughts? See the survey here.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director, Rochester Downtown Development Authority

New $30M student housing, other upgrades for Oakland University

Oakland University's campus will take on big changes, millions of dollars in changes, by 2014.

The changes include a $30 million student housing development, a new recreation and athletic complex, a new facility and grounds maintenance building and 1,240 parking spaces to keep up with student growth.

On top of that, the 1,443-acre campus in Rochester Hills will build a carillon tower on campus. The housing complex will provide additional parking as well as businesses such as a cafe, classrooms, student gathering space and more. The new athletic facilities will be equipped to host NCAA Division 1 events.

The future changes follow several other improvements to the campus, including a new engineering center and a human health building.

The goal is to enrich the college experience for students and to build on a 37-percent increase in student enrollment over the last 15 years.

Benjamin Eveslage, student liaison to OU's Board of Trustees, says the changes are what students have asked for.

“These improvements will greatly contribute to student life, the growth of our university, and the value every graduate holds in their diploma, Eveslage says in a statement. "I am glad to be a student at OU, at a point where OU is changing its game and improving in so many new ways”

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Oakland University

Newer, larger Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters moves to Rochester's Main St.

After more than three years at its old Second Street location on the fringe of downtown Rochester, the Dessert Oasis has moved to middle of Main Street and changed its name to reflect its specialty of roasting coffee.

The opening this weekend of the newly-named Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters at 336 S. Main St. will double seating capacity and sport a stepped-up interior of wood floors and exposed brick. Manager Andy Vickers is excited about the prospects.

Besides seating more of the customers who come for coffee that's roasted right in the back, for after-dinner desserts made on site or who attend open mic, live music nights and other special events, the new location is "smack dab in the middle of downtown. It's just such a great place to be. We have a lot of great events coming up and we always have people strolling around town after dinner or going out," Vickers says.

Dessert Oasis also serves fondues and fresh fruit crepes and sandwiches. "We provide all the coffee and the desserts and we can seat up to 20," Vickers says.

The new shop has a larger private room for rental, and already book clubs, writing groups and a Bible study class use it.

This weekend and others owner Jamal Hamood's daughter, Stephanie Hamood, will perform. She just returned from touring with singer Anita Baker. Son Nate Hamood, only 17, is an award-winning coffee roaster and will do his thing with the beans. Monday nights are open mic nights and attract many promising singers.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Andy Vickers, manager, Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters

Downtown living options moving up in Rochester

A new residential living option for downtown Rochester is in the planning stages with a 62-unit, 5-7 story building for the corner of Walnut Boulevard and First Street.

The 112 Walnut residence would be designed in a cantilevered building giving each floor different views of the the city. The bottom two floors would be for parking, and the four floors above would each have 14 apartments. A penthouse floor would be devoted to six apartments.

The city's planning commission is working with Joe Latozas and Joe Lochirco with Designhaus Architects on the project that is seen as a way to up the urban living aspect of downtown Rochester, which recently underwent a major reconstruction of Main Street.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Nik Banda, economic development directory and deputy city manager, City of Rochester

Historic preservation and dream menu come together in Rochester

A much-watched restaurant project in downtown Rochester keeps going deeper into history as its owners build an new eatery that maintains ties to the building's past.

Owners Jason Mood and Chris Johnson had hoped to open The Meeting House in October, but they decided to go ahead with bigger plans to renovate both floors of the 1880s-era building at 301 S. Main Street rather than just the first. They are also seeing how painstaking preservation can be but expecting it to pay off as the historical features of the 1880s era building are uncovered and highlighted.

Construction began last summer, which was the start of a dream for the two former staffers of Beverly Hills Grill. Mood was a host, Johnson a chef.

Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority, says the renovation is impressive and "It's pretty phenomenal what they've found there and what they've worked through," she says. They've worked with historic committee people and discovered many interesting things. Its a really cool project. It's been challening, but it's been so good."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director, Rochester Downtown Development Authority


Rochester wraps up Main St. re-do with higher retail occupancy rate

The final touches are being put on the massive rebuild of Main Street in downtown Rochester.

Kristi Trevarrow says the project, which rebuild the road, the infrastructure under it, sidewalks and more, will be done Nov. 23 in time for the start of holiday shopping.

Currently, trees, decorative fencing, benches and street signs are going in - the last of the work.

While the project has been a headache and hassle for some business owners and locals, amazingly, Trevarrow says, downtown's occupancy rate is higher than before construction.

Although about four businesses closed during the project, she says, more have moved in or expanded, bringing the occupancy rate to 97 percent.

Pre-construction that number was 95 percent, she says.

"We've had a lot of people who came in saying they want to start a business. They say, 'We knew before that this is a great place to be, and now we with all the improvements we want to get in before anyone else.' "

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director Rochester Downtown Development Authority

Dessert Oasis expands in downtown Rochester

The three year old Dessert Oasis in downtown Rochester is moving into a larger space to bring its specialty in-house roasted coffees desserts and live music to more customers.

Renovations are happening now at the new location, 336 South Main, just down the street from its current store at the corner of Main and 2nd.

The new location should be open sometime this winter winter and will offer more seating, a larger stage and a larger roasting area for the business that prides itself on pulling in the high quality beans and roasting them the way they're meant to be. The beans come from only from farms that Dessert Oasis knows as respected and reputable and the desserts are baked daily. Live entertainment happens nightly.

The Dessert Oasis even has a director of quality control, and the staff of baristas, sales people and managers is growing.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Dessert Oasis

Luca's Chophouse serving steaks, family tradition and more in Rochester Hills

A Grand Blanc steakhouse establishment has opened a second location in Rochester Hills and because of the success is working on a third location in Dallas.

Luca's Chophouse opened last month on Rochester Road near Tienken, five years after the opening of the Grand Blanc location that launched the Luca's brand. The Rochester Hills location is in a former Mexican that's been turned into a posh restaurant and bar.The Luca's in Dallas will open in that city's Uptown neighborhood.

"It's going really well," says restaurant manager Viktor Krcaj, pointing out that more than 30 full-time jobs have resulted from the opening. "The community accepted us and welcomed us. They've been supporting us from day 1."

Luca's is a family affair started by patriarch Luca Gjonaj and run by sons Nik and Steve. To them, Krcaj says, family service equals hospitality, something Luca's wants to be known for.

"That's the backbone of our business. We pay so much attention to that. We do not forget about the hospitality," Krcaj says, "It's about hospitality and great food. Luca told us when we were planning the menu and the food to just bring the best cuts. Make it great food."

Luca's menu runs the gamut from Italian and comfort food to veal, seafood and, of course, steaks. It has a wine list of 160-plus wines.

The Rochester Hills location is in a former Mexican that's been turned into a posh restaurant and bar.The Luca's in Dallas will open in that city's Uptown neighborhood.

"The community in Grand Blanc and Rochester made us believe we can do it."

Source: Luca's Chophouse
Writer: Kim North Shine

Trekt outdoor store calls adventure seekers to downtown Rochester

A new apparel and outdoor outfitter has opened a store in downtown Rochester and aims to be an alternative to Moosejaw and REI.

Trekt opened Sept. 7 at 425 South Main St. and is launching a website today. The store sells footwear, clothing, eyewear, climbing and camping gear, and more. Stock for the store and for the website, which offers free shipping, comes from a warehouse down the road in Rochester Hills.

"We're brand new. We're on the ground floor. We'd like to be between Moosejaw and REI. We have the level of technical knowledge, but we're not as loud and in your face as Moosejaw and we're more personal than REI," says Kolin Karchon, internal operations manager for Trekt.

Michigan-grown outdoor outfitter, Moosejaw, is based in Madison Heights and started in Keego Harbor in 1992. It has six stores in Michigan and four in other states and has bred a loyal following. Karchon and his parnters believe there's room for a competitor.

Trekt is owned by Derek Gaskins, grandson of the late Joseph Gaskins, who lost his leg as a child and went on to open a health care and footware store in Pontiac in 1957. The store is still in business and part of a company that has grown into alevastores.com.

Karchon says "the buzz in Rochester has been great. We're very happy with the reception."

Already, the store will increase the selection of merchandise for children who are part of active families.

"We're catering to the 30-somethings who have children but are still looking to keep that fun outdoor aspect to their lives," he says.

Source: Kolin Karchon, internal operations manager, Trekt
Writer: Kim North Shine

Rochester's Main St. reconstruction is no barrier to entrepreneurs

The truism that road construction is a business killer may not be so true for downtown Rochester. Several businesses have recently opened or are about to despite a major rebuild of Main Street through the heart of downtown.

"It's like nothing we've ever seen. We are busier this year than all of last year," says Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority.

The project is expected to be finished July 20, Trevarrow says. The closure of Main Street started in early April and involves completely rebuilding the road, including unearthing the original brick road, and adding new amenities, decorative details, and energy efficient features. The decorative details such as planters won't be in until September, she says.

Some of the businesses coming to town:

The Meeting House, a restaurant owned by two guys with impressive restaurant backgrounds. Owners Jason Moon and Chris Johnson bought the whole building at 301 S. Main St. and will use the outdoor patio and first floor for dining and the upstairs for private events, Trevarrow says.

Carrie Lee's is expanding from its popular Lake Orion location to 227 Main St., former home of Fuse Lounge & Bar.

Mama Mia's will serve a Tuscan menu on the site of Fortesa, 543 Main St., which closed last year. It was approved for a liquor license this week, Trevarrow says.

Dublin Fish & Chips moved in about a month ago, she says, after deciding a downtown location was better than a shopping strip in Macomb Township.

The trend of self-serve yogurt with a buffet of toppings comes to Sweet Island Yogurt, which is at 404 Main and undergoing renovations.

Also recently opened, and getting lots of traffic (the good kind), is Moon River Soap Co., which purchased a building at 339 East St. to replace its location in New Baltimore.

"It's been absolutely wonderful," Trevarrow says, "even with the construction."

Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director, Rochester Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Downtown Rochester's reconstruction leads to cool historical finds

Downtown Rochester's big dig of 2012 is turning up some finds that may dull the pain of the Main Street rebuild that has disrupted business.

Two discoveries that were unearthed when the street was ripped up are already bringing more people into downtown and could result in new points of interest for visitors to downtown.

One major find was the original brick road that ran through town, some 600,000 bricks, from two brick-makers. One was a stamped brick called Hocking Block, the other comes from a company Speedway because it built the International Speedway in Indianapolis,

The masonry motherlode were put up for sale at a special event that pulled hundreds of visitors into downtown last week. They also came to buy lamp posts, parking meters and other items that are being replaced during the road rebuild and streetscape makeover.

About 15,000 of the bricks will go back into the streetscape, into planters and other parts, Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of Rochester Downtown Development Authority.

More are available to the public, and thousands have already been sold.

"People can get a couple or thousands," she says. "People want to build fireplaces with them, do driveways with them. It's great.

Another "very exciting, very cool thing" was a collection of papers shoved into an underground coal bin. They turned out to be operation and instruction sheets from a Kroger that few knew was once located downtown, Trevarrow says. The selling tip sheets and other explainers from 1931-1933 store "are hysterical," she says. Pictures can be seen on the Downtown Rochester's Facebook page.

Kroger officials were so excited about the find, she says, they donated $2,500 to help Rochester's Historical Commission preserve and display the papers.

"This is the most exciting thing so far…This is the one that stood out as a piece of Rochester," Trevarrow says. This is a very stressful project for everyone. Our biggest thing for us was we wanted people to have access to our history."

Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director, Rochester Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Dwtn Rochester music academy grows

Rochester Musician's Academy in downtown Rochester is expanding to keep up with local desire to strum guitar, beat a drum, play a piano, sing a song.

Some in the music education industry say TV shows like Glee, American Idol and the numerous, melodious Disney creations, are spurring the interest.

Rochester Musician's Academy, formerly J.C.'s Drum Store, moved to its 119 S. Main Street address about five years ago, and since then has added staff and students, up four instructors from one and adding more classes, lesson space and a studio. The remodel is expected to be completed in May.

The Academy calls itself the fastest growing music school in Oakland County and credits the growth to the fun classes it offers: Rock Band, Pee Wee Percussion, Steel Band Camp among them.

"We strive to be the most complete musical education in the greater Detroit area,"  onwer Joe Chila says on his website. "Our students come from as far away as Grosse Pointe on the east and Southfield on the west."

Source: Rochester Musician's Academy
Writer: Kim North Shine

Rochester Mills Beer Co. moves its microbrews to mass production

The last of the tanks, equipment and supplies that will be used to make barrels and barrels of beer by Rochester Mills Beer Co. at its new production facility in Auburn Hills are moving in this week.

The final move-in and finishing construction chores may even be happening as dignitaries and media come to RBMC's new production facility this Friday to see how the brewpub is preparing to sell its suds in bars, restaurants and stores. Rochester Mills Beer Co's. is planning to make the jump from microbrew to mass produced, putting its beers on menus and shelves that are increasingly being taken over by craft brews.

Initially, the new brewhouse will produce kegs to be served on draft, followed by canned beers. The kegging and canning, distributing and selling will create six to ten full-time jobs, including office staff, a controller, an accountant, marketing and sales people, says David Youngman, spokesman for Rochester Mills Beer Co.

"Our roll out plans include adding additional fermentation tanks every couple of months," Youngman says. "As we do that we'll staff up. Our initial capacity with the equipment on hand is 6,000 to 12,000 barrels of beer this year. The site itself, once filled with tanks, could hit 100,000 barrels a year. At that point we'll have 30-40 employees."

Rochester Mills Beer Co. was opened nearly 14 years ago by Mike Plesz in downtown Rochester. He started it - and its successful restaurant - after a three year run at the Royal Oak Brewery, believed to be Michigan's first brewpub in 1995.

RBMC's Cornerstone IPA, Rochester Red Ale and Milkshake Stout as well as seasonal selections made by award-winning beer masters have drawn a loyal following and folded into Plesz's "vision from the beginning to distribute craft beer statewide and beyond," Youngman says.

"This production facility was really 20 years in the making," Youngman says.

Youngman says Rochester Mills Beer Co. canned beer will be part of a growing number of beers that will be canned instead of bottled.

"We selected to go with cans because it was best for the packaged product. Two things that affect beer are light and oxygen…Think of the can as as a little keg. It's the best delivery system for craft beer. You'll see more and more high quality craft product in cans."

The new facility, at 3275 Lapeer West Road near I-75, is within view of the Palace of Auburn Hills and five miles door to door to the brewpub. The new production house is going into a renovated facility that's been home to a rockscape business, an automotive seat manufacturer and a leather bound book maker.

Inside is a "state of the art brewhouse," Youngman says.

A grand opening for the public is set for May 12 from 1-5 p.m. and will include tours and tastings.

Source: David Youngman, spokesman, Rochester Mills Beer Co.
Writer: Kim North Shine

Holy Cannoli's brings 5 generations of recipes to downtown Rochester

Holy Cannoli!

It would have been an appropriate expression, something said under pressure as the bakers at the newly opened Holy Cannoli's in downtown Rochester worked to keep up with demand for thousands of the little Italian pastries that were selling like hot cakes in the days leading up to Easter.

It was the debut holiday for Holy Cannoli's, a bambino of a family business that made the leap from farmers markets, festivals and private events to full-blown store at 415 S. Main St.

Holy Cannoli's "soft opening" over the Easter week - really a trial by fire - was preparation for the official grand opening still to be set. The family - wives, husbands, children, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends - were so busy making thousands of cannolis, which come in a variety of flavors, there was never time to have the new equipment delivered.

They improvised, turning out their orders without the new oven and other equipment.

Franey owns and runs the store with her sister, Christina Granger, mom, Cathy Schulte and grandmother Sharon Beheler, who also owns an antique store in Washington Township, about four miles outside downtown Rochester.

Franey left her full-time job last week to devote herself full-time to the business and its handmade, traditional cannolis made from a recipe that goes back five generations in the Pino family, which has bonded for decades while sitting around table, each person having their part in the making of the cream-filled, deep-friend sweet.

It was pretty much that scene in a downtown Rochester retail space that played out last week before Easter, Franey says. It's all been a whirlwind for the family that only turned the family tradition in to the beginnings of a business in January 2010.

"You do what you have to do," Franey says, laughing. "It was crazy, but we did it."

Source: Nicole Franey, co-owner, Holy Cannoli's
Writer: Kim North Shine
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