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The Clem joins other Metro Detroit cities for summer festival season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Kim North Shine

Deck Art celebrates skateboards as art in downtown Rochester

Skateboarders and downtown shops have had a rocky relationship through the years, but downtown Rochester is celebrating skateboarding -- and art -- with Deck Art 2013.

Deck Art invites anyone to buy a blank board -- the canvas -- for $20, decorate it and have it displayed in local businesses for special public exhibitions.

Deck Art is May 16 and 17 and starts with an art crawl beginning at the South Street Skateshop. It takes visitors in and out of businesses, which will offer special promotions. They can see more than 200 pieces of skateboard art spread throughout downtown.

The South Street Skateshop is the host. The city and the Rochester Downtown Development Authority supports and helps promote it as Deck Art nights are a way to fill downtown, bring in business and give the community something to do just as the weather turns nice. There will be food trucks each day, and entertainment.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Rochester Downtown Development Authority

New dance school goes back to basics in downtown Rochester



A former professional dancer and classically-trained dance teacher is opening a studio this month in downtown Rochester with hopes of replacing the competitive, reality TV twist of some dance studios with one that's focused on classical education and performance.

Cindy Raffel, 27, will bring her experience as a dancer and choreographer with companies around the country and as a certified K-12 dance instructor to her 2nd Street Studio of Dance. It will open with a ribbon-cutting on May 17th, with three days of free classes that day through the 19th. By July, classes for ballet, tap, jazz, modern dance and hip hop and other forms of dance will begins.

The studio at 100 E. 2nd Street is 5,600 square feet of space with three dance studios and classes for children and adults.

She plans to keep prices low, partly by eliminating the competitive dance aspect that can come with so many costs. Classes themselves will be affordable, she says.

Raffel, who's danced with ballet and theater companies in places such as Virginia, where she is from, and Florida, where she was with the Tampa Ballet, moved to Michigan in September after her husband, Tom, received a tenure-track position at Oakland University. They bought their home in Rochester and really dug downtown, she says. They loved Rochester and after hearing about the vacant RARA building -- Rochester Avon Recreation Authority -- she decided to open the studio she's dreamed about for years.

"Obviously with dance I started as a kid and I always wanted to have a dance studio…As an elementary schooler I was making up a show, picking out a costumes and showing my parents my choreography," she says. "It was always in the back of mind because I didn't know how far my professional career would go. When we decided to move here, we bought a house really quickly. I thought, this is going to be where we're settling down. I should for it. Lo and behold there was this vacant building waiting for me.

The studio "is literally steps away from Main Street," she says. "For me it's a great location only because it is a great area…but for all that's going on. You can walk out the door and be at a parade. Amazingly enough the house that we bought in August is exactly halfway between the university and the studio."

Before finding a place to open, she had been researching what was missing in the local dance scene.

"It's kind of hard as an outsider looking in…The dance world is so much word of mouth," she says, "But I think people are looking for something kind of different. something that's not competitive…I want dance to be a fun, happy experience. I want it to be enjoyable for everyone, including the parents."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Cindy Raffel, owner/instructor, 2nd Street Studio of Dance

Oakland County opens business center for entrepreneurs

Oakland County is trying to make starting a business or taking it to the next level easier for entrepreneurs by offering free, walk-in business counseling.

The One Stop Shop Business Center at the Oakland County Executive Office building, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road, in Waterford will open May 9 and offer regular walk-in hours after that. The hours for May 9 are 9:30-noon and 1:30-4:30. The business center is on the first floor of Building 41W.

“We usually operate on an appointment-only basis but many entrepreneurs walk into our One Stop Shop with questions on how to get started with their business idea,” says Greg Doyle, supervisor of the One Stop Shop Business Center. “By designating special walk-in days, we hope to reach more entrepreneurs and help them understand their next steps as well as present the resources we can make available to them. Our aim is to get them started quickly in a way that makes the most sense to their unique situation.”

Counselors at the business center can answer specific questions, suggest planning tools and give direction on where to go to solve problems or achieve goals. All sessions are confidential. The counselors have expertise in business development, community planning, financing and market research.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Greg Doyle, supervisor, One Stop Shop Business Center

Downtown Rochester wins 2013 National Main Street award

Downtown Rochester is one of three cities in America to be named a Great American Main Street.

The 2013 Great American Main Street Award given by the National Trust For Historic Preservation recognized the Oakland County city for its success at preserving history while promoting economic revitalization and a strong relationship with the community. The announcement of the award, which was given in New Orleans April 11, described the Trust's reasoning for picking Rochester out of hundreds of historic Main Streets across the country.

"The Rochester DDA has succeeded in transforming a mill town that had fallen on hard times into a thriving suburb of Detroit built around a strong sense of place and community. A robust mix of public events, creative use of social media and a broad spectrum of volunteer involvement has attracted a loyal following to downtown Rochester," it says. "The DDA's Big Bright Light Show, for example draws 1 million visitors each holiday season to enjoy 1.5 million lights-lighting up merchants' cash registers in the process"

Other winners were H Street Main Street in Washington, D.C. and Ocean Springs Main Street in Mississippi.

In picking Rochester, Valecia Crisafulli, acting director at the National Main Street Center, says, "The Rochester DDA is a true innovator in marketing and small business assistance, and has the vibrant downtown to prove it. At a time when many municipalities are losing population, Rochester has experienced a 20-percent increase in population. With a 4-percent vacancy rate downtown and 132 new businesses since adopting the Main Street Approach, the DDA can take great pride in creating an inviting place for people to live, shop and open businesses."

Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority, says it goes without saying that it's an honor and recognition of much hard work and devotion from volunteers, business owners and city and county officials.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director, Rochester Downtown Development Authority and Erica Steward, spokesperson, National Trust For Historic Preservation

Holy expansion: Rochester-based Holy Cannoli's adds Berkley shop

The fifth-generation recipe for Holy Cannoli's cream-filled pastries has caught on so much that the downtown Rochester business has opened a second location in Berkley.

The new store is at 2752 Coolidge Highway. The first, which opened about a year ago, is at 415 South Main St. in Rochester. The business has been in the making since at least 2010, when owners Nicole Franey, her mother Cathy Schulte and grandmother Sharon Beheler decided to sell to friends, to their friends' friends, and at festivals and farmers markets, and then make the jump from family service to anonymous consumers.

Franey calls the expansion "an anniversary gift to ouselves."

Holy Cannoli's cannolis come filled with traditional creams and specialties such as key lime, pistachio, Michigan cherry, cookies and cream, and revolving choices. The creams are piped in after customers order.

Holy Cannoli's is also known for baked goods like its cassata cake.

Although it's moved into retail spaces, Holy Cannoli's hasn't abandoned farmer's markets. Every Saturday, Eastern Market shoppers will find Holy Cannoli's at Shed #5 in Eastern Market.

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

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
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