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Bank of Ann Arbor to grow with 8,300 sq ft addition

Should everything go according to the Bank of Ann Arbor's plans, the corner of S. Fifth and E. Washington could look very different in the not-too-distant future. The bank is planning an 8,300 square foot addition in the form of a third floor on a portion of the building, as well as interior and exterior renovations of the entire structure. 
"We've certainly created a lot of excitement internally because the building does need renovation," says Bank of Ann Arbor Senior Vice President Hans Maier. "Our staff is excited, and I think the community will be excited too."
The Bank of Ann Arbor's main office building currently employs about 95 staff members. The new space would allow for growth, as well as more space for existing employees to work. 
"It's a combination of providing additional space and providing more efficient space," Maier says."
Plans for the project have been presented to the Design Review Board. Maier hopes to present to the Planning Commission in April, City Council in May and begin construction in July. Construction is expected to take anywhere from one year to 18 months. 

Source: Hans Maier, Bank of Ann Arbor
Writer: Natalie Burg

The Little Seedling to sprout up in larger W. Stadium space

The Little Seedling is growing bigger. The maternity and baby retailer has outgrown its Zeeb Rd. location and will soon move to a new storefront on W. Stadium near Goldfish Swim School

"We're really excited," says owner Molly Ging. "Here, we have the store and warehouse, and we'll be able to combine them there, which will save us time and money."

The Little Seedling specializes in cloth diapers and unique maternity and baby gear. When Ging first opened, she says it was important to be so near the Zeeb Rd. exit because, as one of the only diapering retailers in the Midwest, many of her customers drove from out of town to see her. Though her clientele is more local now, she is still growing, running out of space in her 3,200 square foot location. The W. Stadium space will offer about 6,000 square feet of combined showroom and storage, which will provide plenty of space for her shoppers and their busy companions. 

"A lot of our customers enjoy that we're extremely family friendly," says Ging. "Our kids can touch things here. Moms can shop while their kids play. Sometimes it's like a built-in play date."

The larger space will also come with expanded hours and staff. In order to better serve the clients to Goldfish Swim School, she'll open an hour earlier and stay open an hour later each day, and anticipates hiring an additional two employees to grow her staff to ten. The Little Seedling will also expand the age range of her inventory to serve parents with older toddlers.

Work on the new location is now underway. After approximately eight years of vacancy, the space requires significant renovation. Ging hopes to open the new store on or before April 1. 

Source: Molly Ging, The Little Seedling
Writer: Natalie Burg

Mediterranean grocery store coming to Colonnade Shopping Center

It can't be a bad sign for a restaurant if customers love your food so much they are always asking where they can buy the ingredients to make it at home. Rather than continuing to send his customers elsewhere for grocery items Zamaan Cafe owner Ali Hijazi decided to cater to them himself. Beginning in early February, fans will be able to shop right next door at Reena Market. 

"They ask for some Mediterranean food items, and we thought this would be a great place for our customers and the neighbors to come and buy whatever they need," says Hijazi.

The pair of businesses in the Colonnade Shopping Center on Eisenhower aren't entirely unlike another pair of businesses Hijazi co-owns. The TMAZ Taqueria on Packard is also neighbors with a grocery market featuring ingredients used in its dishes. 

The 1,300 square foot Reena Market will also be stocked with convenience store items, such as refreshments and snacks that Hijazi says will come in handy for employees of nearby businesses and the neighboring apartment complexes. 

"The neighbors are so excited for us to be coming here," he says.  "We've started selling a few things when people come knocking, even though we're not quite open yet. 

Hijazi has been working to renovate the space, a former health food store, for about a month. The store is set to open in early February with a staff of about two employees. Hijazi owns a number of businesses in the area, and his next forthcoming project will be a Mexican and hamburger restaurant on Plymouth Rd. 

Source: Ali Hijazi, Reena Market
Writer: Natalie Burg

Boxwood Cottage and Home opens in Downtown Dexter

Downtown Dexter is now a little cozier. Boxwood Cottage and Home, a home goods retail and furniture renovation space opened in late November on Alpine St. Owners Gail Hauman and Mandy Pomo off customers home decor items, chalk-based furniture paint and furniture painting workshops. The shop is the only location in Washtenaw County now carrying the unique, eco-friendly paint

"If you haven't painted furniture before, there are so many techniques to learn," says Hauman. "We provide all of the supplies, and we just have a lot of fun. It's a really fun way to bring new life into the furniture you already have."

Hauman and Promo chose the homey, 550 square foot space for its proximity to downtown. After putting their personal touch on the interior, Hauman says customers are finding the show room cozy enough to call home. 

"We have a lot of support from people in Dexter," Hauman says. "They love the space. People just want to sit down and read. It's very homey and cozy." 

Boxwood Cottage and Home is currently staff by the owners. In the spring, they plan to invest in extensive landscaping and expand their inventory to include yard and gardening decor. They are currently celebrating the recent launch of their website, and hope to add ecommerce to the site in the future. 

Source: Gail Hauman, Boxwood Cottage and Home
Writer: Natalie Burg

Piata to be Main Street Ventures' "most exciting" new restaurant

Anyone disappointed by the recent closing of Kuroshio on E. Liberty won't have long to wait before another culinary adventure takes over the space. According to Main Street Venture's Dennis Serras, the Mediterranean-inspired Piata restaurant set to open May 8 will not disappoint. 
"I haven't been this excited about a concept since I opened Real Safood 38 years ago. I'm just really excited abouths place I think we're going to blow the doors off. 
Serras says Piata was inspired by an Italian eatery in Toronto featuring a youthful spirit and interactive dining experiences. The approximately 6,000 square foot restaurant will feature high-top dining, an open-air antipasto bar and portion sizes on both food and wines that encourage diners to try a variety of options during each meal. 
"When I saw this, it absolutely clicked," Serras says. "I knew what the restaurant had to be. I wasn't going to be one those old-style Greek restaurants with Caesar's head or busts on the wall and grapes everywhere."  
Piata is expected to seat about 150 diners inside, and Serras plans to create outdoor seating as well. The menu will include items from Italy, Greece, Morocco and Spain, such as braised chicken with figs, house-made yogurt cheese crustini and baked orzo.
Though all renovations on the recently updated space will be cosmetic, Serras says the look and feel will be entirely new. Piata is expected to open in May with a staff of about 75. Serras anticipates the restaurant will fit in well with some of the newer downtown restaurants he admires, such as Mani Osteria, Vellum and Aventura. 

Source: Dennis Serras, Main Street Ventures
Writer: Natalie Burg

Growing CRM firm Nutshell expands into 4,300 sq ft. Fifth Ave space

Web-based customer relationship management software company Nutshell is on the move. After outgrowing spaces on State St. and Depot St., the firm is moving from their a sublet space at Barracuda Networks into a 4,300 square foot space on S. Fifth Ave. 

"When we were on Depot St. we had about 1,400 square feet," says Nutshell partner Andy Fowler. "Subletting from Barracuta is more flexible, but we're looking forward to having a space of our own. The whole team is excited." 

It's shaping up to be a big year for Nutshell. After moving into their new, larger space in early February, the company is headed to their first appearance at SXSW, the famed music, film and tech conference in Austin, Texas in March. Nutshell is also introducing a new dashboard product for their clients early this year. 

"We're looking forward to really moving into the spotlight over the next year," Fowler says. 

The 12-member staff of Nutshell is growing on an as-needed basis, and Fowler expects the team to grow slowly as the right applicants come along for posted positions. The downtown location, which is an Oxford Company property, was a great fit for the company, as the many Nutshell staffers enjoy commuting to work via bike or by food. 

Source: Andy Fowler, Nutshell
Writer: Natalie Burg

Gym America to expand size, staff in new $2 million facility

Gym America is a pretty unique business, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that the growing gymnastics training facility couldn't quite find the right building to expand into among existing properties for sale in the area. Rather than settle, owner Claudia Kretschmer decided to not only build new in order to serve the 200 kids on the Gym America waiting list but to expand into new programming. 
"We currently hold 700 at capacity here," says Kretschmer. "We'll be able to take at least our waiting list, which has been pretty steady throughout the past year."
The $2 million, 19,000 square foot facility will be built on State St. and Hines Dr. in Pittsfield Twp. The location was perfect, says Kretschmer as it is near their current facility and will provide room for the numerous changes that will come along with the business' move. In addition to taking on students on her waiting list, she'll add dance classes, a pre-school activity area, retail space, a pre-school and more. 
"It will be a certified preschool, teaching movement, language and music," Kretschmer says. "They'll be using both sides of the brain. There won't be anything electronic, it will all be using creativity and using their minds in a different way." 
Work on the new Gym America building in the spring, and Kretschmer hopes to open the doors to the new facility by Thanksgiving. She expects the number of children served to jump from 700 to at least 1,000, and will hire 15 to 20 new staff members to accommodate the additional kids and programming.

Source: Claudia Kretschmer, Gym America
Writer: Natalie Burg

Jolly Pumkin gets new facility in Dexter, to add a taproom

The forthcoming null Taphouse at the Jolly Pumpkin facility in Dexter has been a long time coming. 
"Ever since Lori and I opened Jolly Pumpkin we wanted to have a tasting room in the brewery," says owner Ron Jeffries. "We opened with a ridiculous shoestring budget, and then we kind of went back and forth over the next ten years of having either not enough space or money at the time."
After moving into a new, 70,000 square foot facility last year, the time is finally right for that vision to be fulfilled. A 5,000 square foot space in the building will be dedicated to the taproom and tasting area, the plans for which are still under development. One thing Jeffries knows for sure is that it will come together with the input of their customers. 
"We always want to get our fans involved," Jeffries says. "We want them to have the opportunity to participate in building out the taproom."
To support the project, customers can join a number of "clubs" by donating funds in exchange for different ways to be a part of the project, such as sponsoring a booth or having their name included on a wall.
The null Taphouse will serve beer tastings, light snacks and possibly sandwiches, include seating, and will also host tours. Jeffries says customers often stop by the facility, and he's looking forward to being able to give them the opportunity to look around. An additional five to ten employees will initially be hired to staff the business. Though progress will depend on a number of factors, he hopes the taproom will be open to the public by early summer.

Source: Ron Jeffries, Jolly Pumpkin 
Writer: Natalie Burg

More than 170 homes included in Scio Twp. development proposal

More than 170 new houses could be built on a Scio Township property if a proposal is approved later this month. Property owner Mark Smith says the project would bring residential infill development that could help stave off suburban sprawl. 
"It's a great location," Smith says of the W. Liberty Rd. property. "You're five minutes to downtown, you're two minutes to the freeway and half an hour to the airport. Going all the way back to when Scio Twp. had a master plan, it always called for this area to be developed in low density housing."
Smith and his wife have been working to develop the 162-acre property for decades, with plans for golf course and single family housing falling through for various reasons. Now, however, he believes the time is right and the property well-suited for housing. 
"It's been in my wife's family for a long time," says Smith. "We live on this property, and it is near and dear to our hearts, and it's a great location relative to the city."
The proposed development would ultimately include 176 houses, though some of those homes already exist on the property. Plans include lots of various sizes, including space for what Smith calls "traditional suburban" homes, and others for transitional neighborhood developments, such as multi-generational and smaller homes. 
A developer has yet to be selected as the Smiths await approval from Scio Township to move forward later in January. He expects the total amount of investment in the project to be in the tens of millions of dollars, and hopes, should all approvals be given, to begin site work this fall and break ground on housing in 2015. 
Source: Mark Smith, property owner
Writer: Natalie Burg

Pierre Paul Design adds more art, services in new Washtenaw Ave. space

Pierre Paul Design has moved to a new home just a brief walk away from its former Washtenaw Ave. location. Though the distance may be small, in all other ways, the move was a big one. The new storefront, which was the former home of a PNC Bank branch in the Arlington Square Shopping Center, is 800 square feet larger than the previous Pierre Paul space, is on the first floor rather than second, and is much more visible to passersby. 
"We needed more room," says Pierre Paul owner Lee Gilles. "We were more a destination business before. We're now more of a standard retail store, but everything here is connected to original art." 
In addition to adding room, Pierre Paul Design has introduced new inventory, services and partnerships since the Dec. 21 move. The retail space now offers interior design services to the public, and includes a growing variety of original gifts under $100. Among the new inventory are wares from local organizations, such as the Arbor Opera Theater and Cleary University, that will be sold to support the non-profits. 
"It's a win-win situation," says Gilles. "We're reaching out to community organizations that are connected to the arts to raise money for them, and they bring us unique products to sell."
With a highly visible storefront and more traditional retail offerings, Gilles is expanding his hours and business days to mirror the nearby Arbor Hills Crossing. He plans to expand his four-person staff by at least three to accommodate the new seven-day schedule and later hours. 

Source: Lee Gilles, Pierre Paul Design
Writer: Natalie Burg

Traverwood Apartments to bring 216 new residential units to A2's northside

Local commercial real estate firm First Martin has long believed their 19.82 acre property on Traverwood Dr. near Plymouth Rd. and Huron Pkwy. would make a great place for Ann Arbor residents to live, and now, the firm's plans to build 216 apartment units there is moving forward. 
"This project has been in the back our minds for a long time," says First Martin Vice President Mike Martin. "We've had a sign on the property for close to two decades, but various other opportunities took our attention."
Martin says the Plymouth Rd. area has proven to be a popular place for Ann Arbor residents in general, and anticipates a strong market exists for the forthcoming apartments. The development will have a slight emphasis on one-bedroom units, which will average around 850 square feet each, and will also include two-bedroom apartments. Approximately two-thirds of the units will include attached garages.
"We feel confident we'll get the typical demographic for the Ann Arbor rental market," says Martin. "With the location being adjacent to the city golf course and near the library, there is a lot of public and private infrastructure that will be very attractive the the residents who will live there."
Martin expects construction to begin on the Traverwood Apartments in late spring or early summer of 2014 and continue for 18 to 24 months. Once completed, he anticipates about six jobs will be created to maintain the complex. 

Source: Mike Martin, First Martin
Writer: Natalie Burg

Old Carolina Barbecue to open first Michigan location in Ann Arbor

When people think about barbecue, they often think about slow cooking from the South. A new restaurant coming to Cranbrook Village Shopping Center confounds both ideas. Though Old Carolina Barbecue offers southern-inspired cuisine, the growing franchise began in Ohio and offers it up fast-casual style. With plans to open in mid- to late February, the Old Carolina Barbecue will be the chain's first in another state.
"Expanding into neighboring state is a logical move for Old Carolina, wherein we are able to use much of the existing supply chain," says local franchisee Nick Ferris. "The fact that I was a resident in the local market, familiar with the business community, coupled with Ann Arbor being the premier and preferred market location for most restaurateurs and retailers entering the Michigan market, made sense to focus our efforts here."
The 3,315-square foot restaurant will will share a building with Potbelly and Tony Sacco's Coal Oven Pizza on Eisenhower Pkway. Ferris says the location was ideal because it is in the Briarwood economic trade area with a number of complementary co-tenants nearby in the Cranbrook Village Shopping Center. He believes the tastes of local diners will be a great fit for the menu.
"The local consumer has a discerning…appetite," Ferris says. "While there are some places for barbecue in the local market, there is no fast casual environment. We believe the concept, and the exceptional food will be well received in this underserved category."
Ferris expects to employ 30 to 35 workers when the Old Carolina Barbecue opens early this year. He anticipates the restaurant becoming an active supporter of the Ann Arbor community. 

Source: Nick Ferris, Old Carolina Barbecue
Writer: Natalie Burg

Local CPA firm celebrates 66th year with new location and an eye on growth

Local firm Weidmayer, Schneider, & Raham CPAs, P.C. are starting the new year in a new, larger location in Scio Township. The business expanded from its former, 6,000 square foot home of 25 years into a 9,000 square foot space on Little Lake Dr. 
"We just had an opportunity to buy a larger and nicer building instead of renting," says Steven Schneider, managing principal for Weidmayer, Schneider, & Raham CPAs, P.C. "We decided to make the move, and it worked out well for us."
The larger location will allow Weidmayer, Schneider, & Raham to grow, though, after adding two new staff members over the last year, Schneider says he expects the 15-employee firm's growth to be slow and steady. He projects the firm will eventually grow to a staff of no more than 25.
"We'd like to be still be a small, local firm," says Schneider. "There are clients that can be well served by firms of our size. It's what our clients like, that contact with the principal."
After 66 years in business - and serving some of the same clients they began with - giving the same personal service to their clients has served Weidmayer, Schneider, & Raham well thus far.  The firm made the move on Dec. 31 and Jan. 2 and are now open for business in their new location.

Source: Steven Schneider, Weidmayer, Schneider, & Raham CPAs, P.C.
Writer: Natalie Burg

Growing Ypsilanti Food Co-op plans to expand bakery

At some point in the future, Ypsilanti Food Co-op shoppers will be able to get closer to their baked goods as they're being prepared. Growth and change have been underway at the co-op for some time now, and as the community grocer adjusts to recent renovations including a new checkout counter and point of sale technology, the business is looking toward a future with an expanded bakery area including customer seating. 
"Wanting to expand our bakery came from the idea that customers love the food that's being produced here," says Corinne Sikorski, general manager for the Ypsilanti Food Co-op. "We have our wood-fired oven that is pretty to look at, and fun to watch. That was kind of the push to open the bakery up so customers can see the bread baking."
The Ypsilanti Food Co-op currently operates in two-thirds of the first floors in a three-building group. The proposed expansion, which is still in early planning stages, would make use of the final third, bringing another 1,600 square feet of space into active use. 
In addition to increasing access to the bakery, Sikorski says the seating area will help the Food Co-op more fully meet its goal of being a true community hub. 
"We have a great selection of grab-and-go food, so expanding our area for them to sit down and eat is part of the intention," she says. "One of the draws of the Co-op is that it's more than just a grocery store. It's a community space. It's a place where people talk to their neighbors."
With visioning and planning still underway, Sikorski says no timeline is yet in place for the project, but she hopes to see the expansion move forward this year. She attributes the Co-op's growth and ability to keep growing, on the community's continued support of the member-owned business. 
Source: Corinne Sikorski, Ypsilanti Food Co-op
Writer: Natalie Burg

Ypsilanti Freighthouse moves $40,000 closer to renovation

Thanks to the commitments of some local organizations, the Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse (FOYF) are closer to their goal of restoring the historic facility to full use. The volunteer-run group has secured $40,000 in commitments from the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority, Eastern Leaders group and private donors, which will be used as matching funds for a hoped-for $60,000 grant from the State Historic Preservation Office. 
"This is a community building," says FOYF chair Corinne Sikorski. "It's the only and the best place in our community to have groups of people come together. It's a really fun space." 
The FOYF has been working for a number of years to renovate the historic Depot Town building that was once a  part of the Michigan Central Railroad Complex. With the potential $100,000 in funding, should the grant be awarded, they plan to install a required fire suppression system. After completing that project, other necessary renovations to the space include handicap-accessible bathrooms and upgrades to heat and plumbing. When all of those renovations could be completed is currently tentative.
"I'm hesitant to set a date," says Sikorski, who says changes in FOYF board members and volunteers has impacted the project's momentum over the years. "But we're hoping in a year to everything done."
The vision for the renovated Freighthouse is expanded use as a community space, events venue and indoor farmer's market. 

Source: Corinne Sikorski, Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse
Writer: Natalie Burg
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