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Vibe Credit Union brings e-banking to Birmingham

Vibe Credit Union's online and handheld-technology-driven style of banking has come to a new branch in Birmingham.

Vibe's e-Center, or remote branch, at 163 W. Maple opened Sept. 25, adding to Vibe's other locations in Berkley, Canton, Livonia, Novi, South Lyon, Southfield and Sterling Heights. A downtown Royal Oak location will open later this year, says Tom Reagan, president and CEO of Vibe Credit Union.

Vibe's new e-Center is staffed with a customer service rep who will tell customers how to use Vibe's mobile and online services, which include banking apps, mobile deposits, quick online loans and other programs geared toward different audiences.

Vibe rounds out its banking services with rewards programs, lower fees and other offerings such as bill pay. An ATM is located at the e-Center, and Vibe has more than 30,000 fee-free ATMs. Vibe banking can also be completed by phone.

“We are very excited to grow our business and reach out to new communities," Reagan says. "The design of this new eCenter was built around technology and a way for more people to bank differently.”

Source: Vibe Credit Union
Writer: Kim North Shine

Ice ice baby! Downtown Farmington gets new rink

Downtown Farmington is complementing its growing retail scene and historic downtown gathering spaces with a new ice rink.

The rink is expected to be completed in December and will be located at Riley Park in the heart of downtown. It's being built by Serv Ice Refrigeration, the same company that laid the rink in Campus Martius in downtown Detroit, says Annette Knowles, director of the Farmington Downtown Development Authority.

The George F. Riley Foundation, for whom the park is named, donated $100,000 toward the construction of the rink,which sill cost about $300,000. Fundraisers continue to raise the rest of the money and engineering firm, Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment are donating services for the project.

“Our family is quite pleased at how Riley Park in downtown Farmington has become a hub for families and friends to gather together and has also become a center for key events in Farmington. The Riley Foundation’s commitment to create the Riley Ice Rink creates a fourth season for activity in downtown. We are excited to be able to support this worthwhile enhancement for families and friends enjoying the quality of life in our community," the Riley Foundation says in a letter.

Knowles says the community has expressed a desire for a downtown rink in visioning sessions and other public meetings and that she expects the rink to be a "cool" addition to the city.

"Job creation will be hard to measure at this point, but we do know that seasonal maintenance will be necessary. Spin off business opportunities exist," Knowles says. "For example, we would love for someone to come forward with skate rentals that we do not have to manage."

Source: Annette Knowles, executive director, Farmington Downtown Development Authority

Writer: Kim North Shine

Atwater Brewery turns Grosse Pointe Park church into beer hall

Come spring, Atwater Brewery will be brewing and serving its Detroit-born suds from a closed Grosse Pointe Park church that's being converted into a beer hall-style restaurant and outdoor biergarten.

The impending opening of Atwater in the Park will be celebrated at the just-completed biergarten at 1175 Lakepointe off of Kercheval Avenue this Friday, when Atwater hosts the GPP version of its annual Bloktoberfest with German beer, food and music by the Polish Muslims.

The renovations on the new brewpub are happening now at the church which fronts Kercheval and is a few blocks from the Detroit border at Alter Road. A sign at the construction site reads: Born in Detroit. Brewed in the Park.

Atwater's Detroit brewery in Rivertown will remain in operation. Atwater owner Mark Rieth is a Grosse Pointe Park resident who is excited to be part of a the revitalization of the Park's business district, led in large part by the local Cotton family, which has bought property and brought in business owners who can attract crowds and offer quality and creativity.

Rieth has said the church pews and other parts of the church will be re-used in the redesign. At 7,000 square feet it's a big space to re-do, but beer tanks take up a lot of room and Atwater has many fans, especially locally.

The beer hall will be in the basement.  On the main floor, the pews will be used as bench seating and there will be a circular bar. There will be separate rooms for seating and a merchandise area for beer and beer supplies.

Outside, long tables and other changes will make customers feel "just like you're in Munich," Rieth says.

There will be 40 beers on tap, and Atwater is currently hiring staff.

Atwater opened in March of 1997 in a 1919 factory warehouse on the Detroit riverfront and prides itself on carrying on the history of Detroit breweries and using malt and hops from Germany to turn out traditional German lagers.

Atwater previously ran a restaurant in Detroit and then converted it to brewing only. Recently, a tap room opened in Detroit, where 14 beers are on tap. The brewery also has tours and event space.

Atwater's annual Bloktoberfest at its Detroit facility this weekend from 4 p.m. to close at the tap room at 237 Joseph Campau St.

Source: Atwater in the Park
Writer: Kim North Shine

ROUGE MakeUp and Nail Salon expands in downtown Ferndale

The little red make-up and nail salon in Ferndale that built a customer base attracted to organic and vegan products and a creative staff is now a bigger space, still red in keeping with the name.

ROUGE MakeUp and Nail Studio expanded into a neighboring store on Woodward Avenue and into space about twice its original size two weeks ago.

Sisters Cheryl Salinas-Tucker, who worked as a make-up artist on shows and photo shoots in New York City and then traveled the country as an instructor for cosmetics lines, and Jeny Bulatovic, a manicurist who heads up a staff that has won Rouge Best Nail Salon honors for two years, opened Rouge in 2010.

The salon has made a name for itself by offering personal service, helping customers through skin and nail disasters, and running a business that's fun and welcoming.

They expanded their downtown Ferndale salon after they outgrew the first space in less two years.

Source: Jeny Bulatovic, co-owner, Rouge MakeUp and Nail Salon
Writer: Kim North Shine

Northvillle's Salvaged store does vintage furniture and home goods

A group of friends with a knack for spotting old furniture that's in need of a little TLC and an update have opened a store with their repurposed goods in downtown Northville.

Salvaged opened just over a month ago on the square at 133 N. Main St. in Suite 200.

Inside is home decor - furniture and accessories - in vintage, mid-century modern, industrial, shabby chic, electric, French provincial and French country styles.

The owners, two pairs of sisters, are pros at hunting far and wide for furniture that needs a little freshening to become a stylish centerpiece or an accent that's a conversation piece.

Source: Northville Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Boutique hotel moving in to downtown Wyandotte Sears store

The vacant Sears department store in downtown Wyandotte is on its way to becoming a boutique hotel.

The owners of The Hotel Sterling in Monroe plan to spend $2.5 million to renovate the inside and out of the three-story building on Biddle Avenue, keeping in tune with the historic, cosmopolitan style of this hotel in downtown Monroe, says Natalie Rankine, director of the Wyandotte Downtown Development Authority. The renovation began last month and will be completed in two phases. Opening day is expected in late 2014, she says.

The first phase will cover the exterior, the basement and the first and second floors of the building, turning them into 21 hotel suites, a lobby, business center, conference and banquet facility and hotel offices. The second phase will make over the third floor and add 12 suites as the market dictates.

City and state economic development officials see the hotel's potential to improve the business climate, increase commercial investment and create jobs. 

The Wyandotte DDA purchased the property in 2012 for $530,000 and sold it to The Hotel Sterling owners Ken and Rebecca Wickenheiser for $350,000. With donations from the Downriver Area Brownfield Consortium to help pay for property cleaning, the DDA will spend about $200,000 on the redevelopment.

"We are excited to embark upon this project with the Wickenheisers. Ken and Rebecca have an incredible knowledge of architectural design and understanding of historic preservation," says Rankine. "These traits combined with the great business model they've already developed for the Hotel Sterling Monroe will make this project a perfect fit for our downtown."

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. put in $445,000 toward the hotel to seal the deal with the hotel owners and bring investment and jobs to the city.

Rankine says construction will require 20 temporary jobs and running the hotel will create 5 permanent jobs.

Source: Natalie Rankine, director, Wyandotte Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers to open in Farmington Hills

Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers
, a Flint Township gourmet burger restaurant that has landed on best burger joint lists and been called one to watch in the fast-casual restaurant concept, is opening its first metro Detroit location in Farmington Hills in late November.

Founder and president Brent Skaggs, who operates two other separate restaurants besides the Flint Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers, says Farmington Hills was chosen for a foray into metro Detroit for a number of reasons.

"We are franchising the concept. We started that in July this year. We wanted to go into a metro market," says Skaggs, who opened the Flint Township store in 2012. "We felt like Detroit metro was a great place and as we started looking around we found that Farmington Hills had the traffic counts, the demographics and we just liked the feel of the city."

He is hoping to have a freakin' unbelievable experience by besting nearby national burger chains, including Five Guys and Smashburger, with his selection of Angus beef burgers that come with a selection of 43 toppings, served on a brioche bun.

"We definitely will have competition, but we are a Michigan-based company so we're excited," he says.

Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers is getting noticed nationally. It ranked 12th on fastcasual.com's Top 100 America's Top Movers & Shakers at the National Restaurant Association convention in Chicago, and industry publication, BurgerBusiness, called the restaurant one of the top new burger joints in 2012. The second Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers will move into a former Burger King on Orchard Lake Road and be renovated to fit the fast casual concept, an upscale version of fast food. Think Panera Bread, Skagg says, counter service in a sit-down arrangement.

"The materials we use in the booths are nicer; so is the type of lighting. It's really a place you can sit down, watch a game, get a cold beer, a glass of wine…There's china, real forks. There's no tipping," Skaggs says. "It's a place you can get a burger fast and to go if you want, or to stay and enjoy if you want."

Once opened, the restaurant will employ 20 full-time employees, Skaggs says, and 20-30 part-timers.

Source: Brent Skaggs, president and founder, Freakin Unbelievable Burgers
Writer: Kim North Shine

Grosse Pointe's El's Boutique and Village Palm swap storefronts

Two Grosse Pointe entrepreneurs, neighbors in the city's Village downtown district, have swapped stores, attempting to right-size their businesses by moving into spaces that better fit their sales.

El's Boutique, a teen and tween store selling girls' gifts, jewelry, accessories, room decor, and items for moms cut its floor space in half when it moved to the spot occupied by Village Palm, a four-year-old Lily Pulitzer Signature store and vendor of preppy brands such as Vineyard Vines and Vera Bradley.

The moves on Kercheval Avenue, the Village's main street, took place nearly three weeks ago and doubled Village Palm's space to about 2,000 square feet at 17110 Kercheval. El's swtiched to about 1,000 square feet next door.

"We've had a great response. I can't even tell you how perfectly it's working out," says Ellen Durand, owner of El's, which was formerly the Village Toy Co.

The new El's also has a party room in the basement for the older set, unlike its previous party room next door, which was ideal for 5- to 10-year-olds. The new party room can host later parties, has karaoke, a duct-tape crafting area and other tween-friendly activities.

Village Toy was a local institution for 25 years. It couldn't compete with big-box toy stores and online merchants, Durand says.  A few years ago it added the girls section for tweens and teens, and it became clear that toys would no longer be the family business, Durand says

"The market was going to tweens. We saw that. Everyone saw that," she says.

Village Palm, on the other hand, was busting out of the seams, finding an eager and loyal market for its pink and greens, plaid, floral and flamingo prints.

The goal of the right-sizing for El's and Village Palm, which doubled its space, is to put the businesses in their sweet spots, Durand says. Even if her business booms, she prefers the smaller space and thinks the swap is a mutually beneficial.

"The smaller store is more manageable, which I like," she says. "I think our stores complement each other. Our customers seem to shop at both, so being right next door works out very well."

Source: Ellen Durand, owner El's Boutique
Writer: Kim North Shine

Lawrence Tech's bio-robotics lab gets $50,000 boost

A new bio-robotics lab that will teach Lawrence Technological University students studying biomedical engineering and robotics engineering is the recipient of a $50,000 grant from the DENSO North American Foundation.

The new human-robotic interaction facility is expected to be ready for learning by the end of 2013, says Lawrence Tech spokesperson Eric Pope, and prepares students to work with robots capable of high levels of artificial intelligence.

The lab is expected to build a relationship between the Southfield-based university and the manufacturing and medical care industries.

The new lab, as well as an existing lab, which is being updated, will be outfitted with wireless sensors, 3D technology, navigation control and software capable of guiding medical and manufacturing feats by guiding robots and their artificial intelligence.

The mission of the DENSO foundation is to advance innovation in engineering technology.

Eric Meyer, an LTU assistant professor who teaches biomedical engineering and developed the grant proposal, says in a statement that the goal is to build robots that can interact with humans effectively and safely. It's crucial because of the expanding use of robotic technology.

Faculty from several departments in LTU’s College of Engineering are working together to build an innovative, multidisciplinary engineering program that can help develop next-generation robotic systems.  

Assistant professor Kun Hua works in LTU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and says in the same statement announcing the grant:  “The use of sensors has taken robots to the next level of innovation. Sensors have increased the performance of robots through adaptive multimedia signal processing techniques, which allow the robots to perform several human functions."

Pope says the strength of LTU’s robotics engineering program was recently cited in U.S. News & World Report's “Best Colleges 2014” guidebook.

Source: Eric Pope, spokesman, Lawrence Technological University
Writer: Kim North Shine

Holy Cannoli's expands to OU campus

The reach of Holy Cannoli's family recipe for sweet-filled Italian pastry is expanding once again.

The downtown Rochester bakery that opened in 2010 first expanded to a second store in Berkley in April, then started selling its goods last week on the campus of Oakland University.

Traditional cannoli and cannoli chips will be sold at the coffee shop inside OU's Human Health Building on Squirrel and Walton roads.

Holy Cannoli's, which come in several flavors, are also on the menu at D'Amato's in downtown Royal Oak, and can be found at Eastern Market on Saturdays and the Bank of Antiques store in Washington Township.

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

Branding Birmingham

Downtown Birmingham is taking on the indoor shopping malls and big box retailers by promoting its 70-plus home, home accessory stores and home design businesses in one easy-to-shop district that comes with better atmosphere.

The city's Principal Shopping District is working to capitalize on its home-related stores -- contemporary, rustic Italian, chic, and Northern Michigan styles among them -- with the branding campaign, BLUEPRINT: THE BIRMINGHAM HOME COLLECTION.

The first Blueprint event was in May in connection with spring and summer decor updates. The next is the weekend of Oct. 3-5, the Fashion Your Home for Fall 2013. It will feature stores with trunk shows, sales and promotions, how-to seminars and more during the weekend. Check out enjoybirmingham.com's website or Facebook page for details.

John Heiney, executive director of the Principal Shopping District that markets the downtown and downtown retailers, says the intent is not to say Birmingham is a better destination but an alternative seriously worth considering.

"I wouldn't take it upon myself to say better or worse. What we're really saying is people may not know what a great destination Birmingham is for home furnishings and home accessories and items for the home," he says.

"People may think of Birmingham more for its fashion or shopping and its restaurants," he says. "We have all that but when you think about home furnishings, gifts, dishware, kitchen items, cabinetry, and interior designers, we really do have quite a wide variety of stores and businesses that are all geared toward the home."

Plus, he says, on days when shopping may be time-consuming it's nice to have the downtown with the atmosphere and environment.

Like the May BLUEPRINT event Heiney and retailers expect a good turnout.

"We think this is something that's going to grow every year," he says. "More and more customers are becoming aware of what we're doing and what we have her. We're just getting started."

Source: John Heiney, executive director, Birmingham Principal Shopping District
Writer: Kim North Shine

Food Truck grants heat up business plans

Two metro Detroit food trucks are sharing in state economic development grants meant to support a burgeoning industry in Michigan.

The $77,775 in grants awarded by the Michigan Economic Development Corp., which predicts food truck businesses will be a $2.7-billion industry by 2017, went to Southfield-based Detroit Pommes Frites and Plain and Fancy Food from Pontiac.

With matching grants from each winner, a total of $144,246 is being invested in the 10 food trucks.

The grants are part of the 2013 Mobile Cuisine Startup Program, which is designed to help new or growing businesses that "offer easily accessible and unique food options to patrons in public spaces and contribute to the local economy by working with other local businesses and farms. The intent of this program is to assist with community and economic development by increasing pedestrian traffic in downtowns and traditional commercial cores," according to the MEDC announcement of the winners.

MEDC president and CEO Michael Finney says "today's grants will help food entrepreneurs from around the state launch their business ideas, grow, and create jobs in Michigan."

Other winners included MI Fresh Start in Traverse City, The Organic Gypsy in Kalamazoo, Roaming Harvest in Interlochen, Dia De Los Tacos in Marquette, Taco Now in Flint and Pure F2T in East Lansing.

Source: Kathy Fagan, Michigan Economic Development Corp.
Writer: Kim North Shine

Top metro Detroit chef brings Marais to Grosse Pointe

The soon-to-open Marais is transforming a corner in Grosse Pointe's Village business district into a little slice of France.

The restaurant is in the final prep stage before opening day, including painting, decorating and awaiting a health department inspection. Last week walls blocking the renovation work were taken down, revealing intricate woodwork painted in a chocolate brown, ornate copper lanterns and plenty of windows looking out on a dining room with rich dark woods and a neighboring bar with banquettes, tables and bar stools. The feel is French and the food will be influenced by the land of fine wine and cheese.

What's making Marais the next "it" restaurant is not necessarily the decor but the husband-wife team behind it: David and Monica Gilbert. He is the former chef at award-wining Forest Grill and she was the accomplished general manager of that Birmingham establishment.

The couple live in Grosse Pointe and are part of a restaurant renaissance for locals who have long bemoaned the limited options for a meal out.

City inspections on Marais are done, and once a health department inspection is complete Marais should open next week, Grosse Pointe City Manager Peter Dame says.

The opening is coupled with a new gated parking lot that has room for more cars and does away with meters. It opened this week.

Dame says the the credit or cash parking system will allow "visitors to the Village and to the new restaurant to stay as long as they like without any need to run out and add money to the meters or risk getting a ticket," Dame says.

The city has also made improvements to the district, which is weathering the closures of some of its largest storefronts, including Border's, Ace Hardware and the Gap.

The changes, decorative lighting, landscaping in alleys, brick-columned fencing and a brick trash enclosure to hide trash bins, are meant to make downtown attractive not only to customers but potential businesses.

Source: Peter Dame, Grosse Pointe City Manager
Writer: Kim North Shine

BoConcept brings Danish decor to downtown Birmingham

A husband-and-wife team opening a Danish furniture store in downtown Birmingham say they are speaking to locals' long-held love of simple, contemporary design.

Steve and Jane Szydek are opening BoConcept at 670 South Woodward this month in a 6,800-square-foot space filled with customizable, modular furniture and accessories that can be combined and assembled in numerous ways. A grand opening with sales and special events is set for Oct. 5.

The Szydeks describe their Danish franchise as a store that offers an affordable shopping experience in a unique environment that's unlike typical furniture showrooms.

“We decided to bring BoConcept to Michigan because for many years Danish furniture thrived in this area and it embraces the need for space, individuality, and great prices,” says Steve Szydek. “The designs feature clean, pure lines and are minimalist and modern. Most everything in the store can be customized in terms of color, style, material and size.”

The BoConcept Birmingham store opening brings the Denmark-based BoConcepts number of stores in North America to 30. It is the first in Michigan. The company has 230 franchise stores and 90 studios in more than 50 countries.

Source: Steve and Jane Szydek, owners, BoConcept Birmingham
Writer: Kim North Shine

Ink Detroit's new online store promotes Michigan-made goods


Ink Detroit
 started out as a company focused solely on making shirts and such that express Detroit love, and now the eight-year-old company is spreading its love to the whole of Michigan by turning out a new line of products that  show statewide pride.

The I Love Michigan line can be found at the newly launched I Love Michigan Shop, the newest addition to www.thegreatlakesstate.com, which was started several years ago by Ink Detroit co-founder Paul Marcial as a marketplace for Michigan businesses.

Marcial and Steven Mansour formed Ink Detroit in 2005 with the mission of creating hip and fun graphics for quality t-shirts and other garments and accessories that Motor City natives "can wear proudly like a badge of honor."

"It kind of started as a hobby. We were just doing shirts on the side for years. We weren't really pushing it. Then it started growing little by littler and it got to the point where one of us had to leave our job," Marcial recalls.

Mansour, who has a background in the garment industry, left his job and is full-time with the ventures. Marcial, a graphic designer and landscape architect, spends countless hours on the start-up. The company's offices and product development are handled from Marcial and Mansour's Royal Oak homes. They have a warehouse in Southfield.

After Ink Detroit got rolling, the Michigan pride vibe got stronger, Marcial says. It became clear the buyers were very different.

"We did a few Michigan designs before, and they did OK," Marcial says. "When we started a whole separate division that's where it took off."

He says a large number of sales are coming from Instagram posts, simple pics like one of his son in a I Love Michigan shirt at the apple orchard last weekend.

The next big step for Mansour and Marcial is the launch of a catalog, which is being printed and bound as the pair prepares to approach retailers about stocking their products. Currently about 10 stores sell their goods.

Source: Paul Marcial, co-founder Ink Detroit and I Love Michigan Shop
Writer: Kim North Shine
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