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Book enthusiasts open Black Stone Bookstore as literary hub for Ypsilanti

Carlos Franklin and Kip Johnson love books. Both men were finding ways to sell books independently before coming together to open Black Stone Bookstore & Cultural Center in Ypsilanti. 

"I like to read and I always feel like when you read something really good, you always want to share it with your friends," says Franklin. 

More than giving the Ypsilanti community a place to buy books, Franklin says the aim of Black Stone Bookstore is to give locals a place to celebrate reading, learning and sharing. The 800 square foot location includes an area to study and for events such as poetry readings and book clubs. 

"This is about creating something and being a motivation for others," Franklin says. "We have a bunch of barbershops and car washes here, but I wanted to do something different to build the community up."

Franklin says he'd like Black Stone to help Ypsilanti feel more like the college town it is. Though the shop is distinguishing itself as a destination for African American literature, the shop carries books representing all cultures, and Franklin says their intention is to reach out to everyone in the community. 

Black Stone Bookstore & Cultural Center opened at the beginning of Nov. with Johnson and Franklin on staff. They hope to grow the store to eventually include a full-service cafe and larger events space. 

Source: Carlos Franklin, Black Stone Bookstore and Cultural Center
Writer: Natalie Burg

Manchester adds $2.9M bridge project to recent rush of development

A much-needed $2.9 million rebuilding project on Manchester's Main Street Bridge is an exciting enough investment for the village, but as it comes on the heels of two other recent development projects, Manchester is set to look and feel like a rejuvenated community. 

"We have a number of projects that are moving foward," says Manchester Village Manager Jeff Wallace. "We're hoping they will make it attractive for people to come shop here and come visit."

The recently announced MDOT grant will replace the critical bridge at the center of downtown Manchester. Though the village has applied for the grant in previous years, deterioration that has caused the village to limit use of the key bridge gave the project urgency. Though the grant is approved for 2016, Wallace says he will appeal to the state for a 2015 start date, armed with an expedited construction schedule from their engineer. 

"[The bridge is] very important because river bisects the village through the middle," Wallace says. "It's important for transportation, but also health and safety, and economic commerce." 

The new bridge will follow a $750,000 streetscape improvement project last year, which resulted in new sidewalks, bump-outs, seating areas and LED streetlights in Manchester's downtown. After the streetscape, but before the bridge project, Mancheter has a $500,000 maintenance project scheduled for 2014 that will replace ramps to enable ADA accessibility in downtown intersections. 

Wallace says the village doesn't plan to end their revitalization efforts there. They are working with community partners to create a trail through the village, invest in the millpond and create a Safe Routes to Schools program. 

Source: Jeffery Wallace, Village of Manchester
Writer: Natalie Burg

GFS Marketplace celebrates opening of second area location

Ann Arbor's west side has become a destination for food shopping, and now GFS Marketplace is offering the community another option. The Gordon Food Service retailer opened earlier this month in a renovated retail space near the corner of Liberty and Stadium Blvd.
 
"We were just looking for a location that would make us convenient to additional customers and that happened to be a property that became available," says GFS Marketplace spokesperson Mark Dempsey. "It was an existing building that we could convert to our needs."
 
The 1,400 square foot building underwent a number of renovations, including opening the ceiling to expose wood dome trusses, facade improvements, new HVAC and lighting as well as a new receiving dock. 
 
Though GFS Marketplace sells restaurant quality foodservice products, Dempsey says the retailer is open to the general public without a membership. 
 
"Customers are enjoying the grand opening festivities," he says. "We've had some terrific events in the store since it’s opened. We’re having a lot of fun in Ann Arbor."
 
The Ann Arbor location is the second area GFS Marketplace store, joining a Carpenter Rd. outlet in Ypsilanti. About 35 employees work at the new store. 

Source: Mark Dempsey, GFS Marketplace
Writer: Natalie Burg

Local developer plans near-downtown condo project with Liberty Landings

With so much momentum in downtown Ann Arbor toward increasing walkability, biking and public transit, a car wash seated on a valuable, near-downtown property makes a decreasing amount of sense. Local developer Alex de Parry has proposed an idea to replace the Liberty Car Wash that he says makes much better use of the land. 
 
"The site was a bit underutilized," says de Parry of Ann Arbor Builders. "It looked like a good site for a condominium.
 
De Parry's proposal is to build a eight-condominium housing development on the Liberty St. property. Though the project is still in its earliest stages, he hopes to get started on by spring of 2014. 
 
Thus far, de Parry has been holding neighborhood meetings to gather feedback from citizens about the project. The reception his project has received, he says, has been positive – not only from the neighbors, but also from prospective residents. 
 
"There is definitely interest," de Parry says. "Everybody wants to live downtown."
 
Though everybody may want to live near downtown Ann Arbor, de Parry says his semi-customizable, market rate condos will attract permanent residents, as opposed to students. The three-story building will include three two-bedroom units on the first and second floors ranging between 1,100 and 1,300 square feet each. The top floor will include two larger units at 2,100 square feet each.

Source: Alex de Parry, Ann Arbor Builders
Writer: Natalie Burg

Ophir Crafts brings the art of crafting to Westgate with kits and classes

Hosting international students and residents is often a learning experience, but something a Korean undergraduate student mentioned to Kate Ernsting was particularly enlightening. With all the time students spend in front of screens, they were getting together to do crafts on evenings and weeks. It was something they had experienced with their own daughter. Light bulb moment! Ernsting and her husband Gary saw a business opportunity they'd never considered before: crafting. 
 
Ophir Crafts opened in Westgate Shopping Center in early Sept., offering fair trade crafts for sale, but focusing primarily on inspiring and teaching others to craft. 
 
"We want to have people interact with culture and with other people through their craft creations," Ernsting says. "We sell products that are gifts, but we also sponsor local artists to come in and do trunk shows."
 
Ophir Crafts also sells crafting kits and offers classes on everything from knitting to greeting cards to candy making. The 1,350 square foot store is located between Nicola's Books and the Ann Arbor District Library in Westgate. 
 
The family business employs Ernsting and her husband, as well as their daughter and three other part-time workers. Ernsting plans to expand Ophir Crafts' offerings to include more crafting demonstrations in the future. 

Source: Kate Ernsting, Ophir Crafts
Writer: Natalie Burg

Chelsea dermatologist opens in Clocktower Commons

When Dr. Anil Singal wanted to open a dermatology practice of his own closer to his family in Southeast Michigan than the Chicago-area practice where he got his start, he started looking around at waiting lists. In Chelsea, he found, some patients wait three months to see a dermatologist, and that was a statistic he hoped to change. 
 
"When I did my dermatology rotations, I just fell in love with the field," says the University of Michigan graduate. "If someone has a severe rash, it changes the way they feel about themselves. If you can change them for that, it can make such a profound difference for people." 
 
Singal recently celebrated the grand opening of Adult and Pediatric Dermatology, which opened in the renovated Clocktower Commons in Chelsea. The location, within a short walk of downtown, was exactly what he was looking for. 
 
The 2,000 square foot space was in white box condition when Singal arrived, allowing him to customize the office to his needs. The office includes four exam rooms and an esthetician room. 
 
Adult and Pediatric Dermatology currently employs Singal, a medical assistant, esthetician and his wife as office manager. After working in a large practice, his aim is to keep the practice small and accessible. 
 
"I'm aiming to keep it small to keep that close, personal touch," says Singal. "Access is a huge thing for me." 
 
Singal says response to the new dermatology practice has been positive thus far, with appointments increasing weekly. He says patients have been particularly receptive of his online appointment system, as well as the quick availability of appointments. 

Source: Anil Singal, Adult & Pediatric Dermatology
Writer: Natalie Burg

Main Street Coins & Collectibles brings antiquities to Saline

It was never Bill Ortell's plan to own a rare coin and collectibles store, but after he met Ralph Leffler, the owner of D&R Coins in Milan, a plan was made for him. 
 
"He was a wealth of knowledge," Ortell says of Leffler. " He and I hit it off real good. He didn't want everyone else to buy the business out. Some people don't know how to talk to people about coins." 
 
It was a good instinct. After all Ortell has been collecting coins for more than four decades and loves to talk about the antiquities for hours. When he was offered a great deal on the business, he took it, and when Leffler recently passed away, he decided it was time to relocate and rebrand the business as his own, opening up Main Street Coins and Collectibles in downtown Saline. 
 
"On Main St. [in Milan], I could count a hundred cars go by in a day," says Ortell. "In Saline, I have more on than that go by in one hour."
 
It's a good sign for downtown Saline that Ortell says his new 3,000 square foot storefront was chosen because it was the only available space he could find in the district to fit his needs. 
 
Main Street Coins and Collectables employs Ortell and one employee. Ortell says his goal is to be as fair as possible to customers and offer in-depth knowledge. While Ortell specializes in American currency, his employee has experience with foreign coins, as well as extensive knowledge of antique jewelry. 

Source: Bill Ortell, Main Street Coins & Collectibles
Writer: Natalie Burg

Pie it Forward sets down local roots in Dexter

Last year, Sarah Fertig and Chris Kovac started giving away pies. The just wanted be kind and inspire others to think about kindness. They kept giving away pies in Liberty Plaza, and 18 weeks later, they knew they were on to something, even if it wasn't clear what that something was yet. 
 
"I realized this wasn't going to be a little side project," says Fertig. "I had accidently stumbled across something really great. I just didn't know if I was going to be a travelling pie evangelist, or would be in one location." 
 
So they took their show on the road. After giving away 251 free pies from San Francisco to Washington D.C., Pie it Forward has returned to Ann Arbor, set down roots in Dexter, and is preparing to get official as a non-profit.  
 
Pie it Forward makes pies and trades them for any amount between 10 cents and 10 dollars. In addition to apple pies, shepherd's pies have been added to the menu, and pasties may soon join the mix. The newly incorporated non-profit's mission isn't to feed the hungry or raise money, but simply to demonstrate kindness, and that no one does anything without a community. 
 
"I may have made a pie, but I didn't plant the wheat field. I didn't plant the orchard," says Fertig. "The hope is when people hear about our mission, they think about what they can do. What can I do to improve my own neighborhood? What skills do I have to offer?"
 
After traveling all over the nation with their concept Fertig and Kovac have decided to keep the Ann Arbor area as the home of Pie it Forward. They are currently seeking out commercial kitchen space and can now accept tax-exempt donations. Fertig says she hopes to grow the organization into a fleet of food trucks to expand Pie it Forward to Flint and Detroit, as well as have a disaster relief truck that can go anywhere in the nation with pies when a tragedy occurs. 

Source: Sarah Fertig, Pie it Forward
Writer: Natalie Burg

Chelsea dealership celebrates opening of new facility, services and jobs

When the Chelsea Chevrolet Buick dealership underwent an ownership change about six years ago, the new management was surprised to learn how few people knew Chelsea even had a Chevy dealership. Their efforts to change that trend have now been amplified by a brand new dealership with higher visibility. 
 
"The location was everything for us," says General Sales Manager Lance Underwood. "We're maybe a quarter of a mile from our other location, but now we're just off the exit." 
 
Construction on the new, larger dealership took place over the last year, and a grand opening celebration took place in mid-October. Along with the expanded space, Underwood says the service to their customers has grown as well. 
 
"The difference is day and night," Underwood says. "We are open Saturdays for full service repairs, and we're offering what we're calling a pit stop. I don't care if you're driving a Ford or Toyota, we'll check you fluids and top them off for free." 
 
The new dealership includes an expanded service department, upscale lounge area and children's play area. Everything from the service area to the area where paperwork is completed has been designed to maximize efficiency, says Underwood. 
 
The staff of Chelsea Chevrolet Buick has grown as well. Underwood estimates that ten new employees have been hired. Additional grand opening celebrations will take place over the next few months to introduce even more people to the new facility. 
 

Source: Lance Underwood, Chelsea Chevrolet Buick
Writer: Natalie Burg

Detroit Dog Co. to feed the foodies with gourmet hot dogs in Saline

Catrina Vlisides' Detroit Dog Co. won't open for another couple of weeks in Saline, but she already has plans to expand into Ann Arbor. She's not alone in her high expectation for the hot dog shop for foodies. Before tasting a single dog, she's received franchising inquiries from entrepreneurs wanting to get on board.
 
But one thing at a time, Vlisides says.
 
"I want to build a reputation and a staff and make sure everything is running well first," she says. "But I'm so happy it's so appealing and people have responded well already."
 
Vlisides comes from a family of restaurateurs, and was inspired to jump into the business herself after living in Chicago. The amount of high quality, modern fast casual cuisine available in the Windy City seemed ripe to replicate in the Ann Arbor area.
 
"Saline has had a lot of growth," she says. "There are a lot of people who are involved in Ann Arbor, and there are a lot of foodies here. I wanted to bring something modern and cool here for them."
 
Detroit Dog Co. will open in mid- to late November in a 500 square foot downtown Saline space. Vlisides has been hard at work renovating the small space with reclaimed wood from Detroit to make the décor match the locally-sourced hot dogs.
 
Vlisides says the menu will include a fun variety of Michigan foods, beginning with Dearborn sausages and including McClure's pickles and homemade chili. Options will include a Detroit Dog, with chili and pickles, a Boblo Island
Barbeque Dog with deep friend onion rings and coleslaw, and a Rock City Dog wrapped in bacon and deep-fried.
 
Detroit Dog Co. will initially employ a staff of up to three, in addition to Vlisides. She hopes to expand with an Ann Arbor location in six months. 

Source: Catrina Vlisides, Detroit Dog Co.
Writer: Natalie Burg

A new sense of style and community come to N. Main with Legion

A new retailer coming to N. Main is about more than clothes. According to owner Michael Kao, Legion will be many things – a place for art, collaboration, culture and fashion, and above all, a destination. 
 
"The store we're opening up is geared toward a whole lifestyle," Kao says. "So there are people who seek out stores like this."
 
Renovations are now underway in the 1,500 square food N. Main storefront that Kao hopes to open as Legion in mid-November. The store will carry Kao's own fashion brand, Chief, as well as number of apparel brands he calls "American heritage brands," including Pendleton and Red Wings Shoes.
 
"We're kind of focusing on brand and quality," says Kao. "We hope to educate the people around here about the difference between clothing and fashion. Fashion is you expressing yourself as a person." 
 
In addition to elevating the level of fashion in downtown Ann Arbor, Kao plans to carry local art and photography. He hopes the store will store will become the first of many new fashion retailers in the neighborhood, believing the city is ripe to be come a hub for collaborative fashion businesses. 
 
Kao owns Legion along with two silent partners. He plans to open the store with one additional employee and an intern who will work into full employment. 

Source: Michael Kao, Legion
Writer: Natalie Burg

Orange Leaf aims for February opening with frozen treats, community values

A new kind of frozen yogurt experience is "coming spoon" to Plymouth Rd. in Ann Arbor. The growing national franchise Orange Leaf combines healthy frozen treats with a commitment to the community, and by Feb. of next year, the Traver Village Shopping Center will be the next community to reap the delicious benefits.
 
"Orange Leaf likes to put their mission out there," says Jason Zalewski, who owns the forthcoming Ann Arbor location along with his partner, Scott McLean. "The want to promote community and families. We'll be heavily involved in the community." 
 
Zalewski and McLean opened a location in Macomb County in June, and are looking forward to growing the business in Michigan. About 300 Orange Leaf Yogurt Stores are now open in the US, and the Ann Arbor location is among 110 stores that will soon be added to the ranks. 
 
"We had a good summer in Macomb, and we're looking forward to moving to the Ann Arbor market," says Zalewski. "We'll be bringing a healthier option for frozen yogurt and custard than is currently available." 
 
Orange Leaf offers 18 different flavors of store-made frozen yogurt every day, including sugar free, peanut free and gluten free options, and more than 50 topping choices. Zalewski says the store will be active in the community, facilitating school fundraisers and donating to local charities. 
 
The 2,600 square foot location is now under renovation and is expect to open in Feb. 2014 with approximately 20 employees. 
 
Source: Jason Zalewski, Orange Leaf
Writer: Natalie Burg

At double the size and staff, Lily Grace blooms on Main St.

As Lily Grace Cosmetics approaches its second anniversary, the small business has twice as much to celebrate as it did a few months ago. In response to feedback from her customers, owner Cyndi Clark has doubled Lily Grace's footprint and added spa services to her cosmetics offerings.
 
"It was the clients," says Clark. "Our clients wanted something like this downtown. We have a lot of great hair stylists who do cuts and color, but no one just does a blow-dry. And some people just want to pop in and get their nails done."
 
Lily Grace formerly took up about 1,000 square feet on Main St. Now, the business has expanded to include the suite's downstairs space for a total of 2,100 square feet. The new space includes areas for massage, hair styling, facials, manicures and pedicures. But these are your ordinary spa services. Clark travelled the world and connected with spa treatment innovators to bring the best of the best to Lily Grace. 
 
"I just wanted it to be special. We're in Ann Arbor for goodness sake," says Clark. "We all travel all over the world, so I wanted to get the best in my profession. It's important that I bring something new to Ann Arbor. That's what my clients want." 
 
The expanded Lily Grace quietly opened for business last week. The staff has grown along with the physical upgrades. Clark has already added four new staff employees to her original five-person staff, and expects to add an additional four spa employees soon. 
 
Clark's eyes continue to be on growth as Lily Grace enters its third year. Her connections in the health and beauty industry have helped her bring a number of exclusive brand names to the Ann Arbor market, and she intends to expand upon those exclusive offerings by Jan. of 2014. 
 

Source: Cyndi Clark, Lily Grace Cosmetics
Writer: Natalie Burg

Grand Rapids' Vertical Media Solution expands into A2 with satellite office

Few things can be more stressful than hunting for a new job. Between the résumé writing and the interview preparation, there are a number of questions job seekers may feel only a clairvoyant could answer. Namely: what does this company want to see from me?
 
Vertical Media Solutions is a small, Grand Rapids based résumé, cv and cover letter preparation company that may not have a crystal ball, but with years in the employment recruitment world, they know better than most what employers are looking for. Now, their services have expanded into Ann Arbor with the opening of a new satellite office on S. State St. 
 
"We're in the recruitment market every day. We're not using things that were taught in college or are simple, cookie cutter ideas, but we're adapting to a changing job market," says Joel Marotti, Vertical Media Solutions. "It's not the most qualified candidate who gets the job, it's the most prepared."
 
Vertical Media Solutions has been helping clients in the Ann Arbor area for some time via phone and online, but growth in the economy has led to growth in the need for their services in the city more frequently. The recently opened satellite office is currently appointment-only, and Vertical Media Solutions staff will frequent the space. 
 
Source: Joel Marotti, Vertical Media Solutions
Writer: Natalie Burg

Samsara Wellness Center to celebrate grand opening in new Ann Arbor studio

After a brief stint as Peaceful Garden Wellness Center, a group of wellness practitioners has grown, moved to a larger space and unveiled their new business under a name meaning "rebirth." Samsara Wellness Center is celebrating their grand opening on Sunday in their new Pauline St. studio. 
 
"It's only about three months since we've been Samsara," says Kelli Sinta, a massage therapist with Samsara. " We've been learning how to work together and have been troubleshooting everyday."
 
The collective of massage therapists, yoga instructors and estheticians began in a smaller office in the same building earlier in 2013. As the group grew to their current size of seven practitioners, they decided to expand into a 1,700 space, to include additional treatment rooms, a yoga studio and childcare space for clients to leave their kids during their appointments. The new space opened on Aug. 1. 
 
"There are a lot of yoga studios around, we've been trying to do some yoga that isn't done in the Ann Arbor area," says Sinta. "We're thinking of offering classes for people with multiple sclerosis, and prenatal and baby yoga. We want to set ourselves apart from the competitive, student serving yoga studios." 
 
The grand opening on Sunday will feature practitioner demonstration, live music by Willo Collective and refreshments. 

Source: Kelli Sinta, Samsara Wellness Center
Writer: Natalie Burg
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