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Ann Arbor : Development News

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DFCU eyes Carpenter Rd. location for new branch in 2015

Ann Arbor is Dearborn-based DFCU Financial's fastest growing market. To keep up, the credit union is looking at Pittsfield Twp. site to replace an existing branch with a larger location that offers more amenities. 

"It’s a high-traffic intersection, and therefore current and potential members will pass by this corner every day," says DFCU Financial CEO Mark Shobe of the new Carpenter Rd. site. "Its proximity to our current branch is an added bonus for an easy transition for our membership."

The proposed branch would be built in place of the now vacant Great Lake Chinese Seafood Restaurant on Carpenter. The one-acre property would include a new 4,600 square foot branch, drive up window and ATM, and include services "to fit our brand promise," says Shobe. 

DFCU Financial hopes to move forward with the multi-million dollar project in mid- to late-summer next year. Seven to nine full-time employees are expected to work in the new location. 

Source: Mark Shobe, DFCU Financial
Writer: Natalie Burg

Neighborhood oriented Bake Me Crazy brings cookies and pizza to E. Madison

If there's such thing as the perfect resumé for a pizza and cookie bakery entrepreneur, Harold Solomon has it. He began his career working for a French bakery before spending a decade in research and development for Dominos, working for and being a franchisee for Cottage Inn and then bringing the Insomnia Cookie truck to town. Now, he's shed those big business names and has opened his very own twist on all of it: Bake Me Crazy on E. Madison. 

"I liked the Insomnia Cookie concept, but I'm a pizza guy," Solomon says. "We're, in effect, complicating their business model with other items we think people would like delivered." 

Though the menu is still under development, that will include pastries, shakes, lunches, breakfast sandwiches, and, of course, pizza. Both with his full pizzas and the pizza by the slice he sells now, he plans to follow through on the "crazy" part of his company name with such pies as pot roast pizza, spaghetti and meatball pizza, Asian fusion pizza and more. 

Solomon's experience in the food industry has taught him the importance of a good, long slow opening, during which he can perfect his menu and get everything up to snuff. He's been quietly serving to residents and workers in his neighborhood for a couple of months now, but is looking forward to a big roll out soon. 

"We're almost there now, at the final menu stage" he says. "I'm thinking a couple of weeks." 

Bake Me Crazy currently employs a staff of four in the 900 square foot location near the corner of Main and Madison. As his delivery services and grand opening gets underway, Solomon estimates he'll employ between 10 and 20 workers. 

Source: Harold Solomon, Bake Me Crazy
Writer: Natalie Burg

Collier Financial opens Ann Arbor office

In January, Collier Financial will celebrate 25 years in business in Fort Wayne, but here in Ann Arbor, they'll be fresh off the heels of another celebration: establishing a new office. Though Caleb Collier has been living in Ann Arbor and serving clients of his family's business here for several years, the new, 1,200 square foot office on E. Eisenhower will give the growing financial services company a permanent presence in the area. 

"The office space is beautiful. The back offices have floor-to-ceiling windows," Collier says. "I was going back and forth between downtown and Eisenhower, but I ended up here, because for those clients in Chelsea, Dexter or even in Novi, this would be easier access for them."

The new Collier Financial office opened on Sept. 22. Collier has already hired one new support staff member and plans to hire another financial adviser and two more support staff employees. 

"My goal is to become a recognizable name in the financial services industry here," says Collier. "What we do is unique to some of the national brokerage houses. We have a different approach, and for some folks, it's really what they're looking for."

The Ann Arbor office comes at a time of growth in general for Collier Financial. The family business has recently purchased and extensively renovated a building in Fort Wayne and will soon be moving their headquarters into the much larger location. 


Source: Caleb Collier, Collier Financial
Writer: Natalie Burg

Local fitness and tennis coach rallies support for new FitLife gym

Dominika Wozniak has already had a pretty impressive career, including playing tennis both in college and professionally, as well as being a tennis coach and personal trainer. Now, she's planning to add "business owner" to that list of titles with her own gym, FitLife. 

"I did a lot of independent training in the past," she says. "I just rented a gym and ran my class in different locations. Now I feel like I have a pretty good base of clients and want to spread the word to come and joint the studio."

Wozniak plans to open her fitness studio in a 3,500 square foot space near State St. in Ann Arbor, but first, she's planning to raise part of the funds to launch FitLife through the crowdfunding website Indigogo. Because she requires such a large space and commercial property can be difficult to come by locally, she's hoping her campaign will prove her business's viability to her prospective landlord. 

As far as plans for the business itself, she has a clear vision of what she's hoping to create.

"We want to do group classes, and we'll have a separate area for personal training. Or they can do a buddy session where two people share one training session," says Wozniak. "Variety is key. I want to make sure the people who are coming to class, can pick what would make them happy."

Though the campaign will run for 30 more days, Wozniak hopes to move as quickly as possible to open FitLife. She hopes to open in January, and plans to employ a minimum of five trainers at the facility. 

Source: Dominika Wozniak, FitLife
Writer: Natalie Burg

Midwestern Consulting continues growth spurt with four new jobs

The fact that residential and commercial development is on the rise is good news for a lot of folks, but perhaps few more than Midwestern Consulting, an engineering services firm. Though their staff dipped to 32 employees during the recession, that number has risen to 55 over the last 24 months, including four newly added positions. 

"The residential and commercial development is up about 40 percent of what it was last year," says Scott Betzoldt, a partner with Midwest Consulting. "These people we've added are directly involved in residential and commercial development."

Midwestern Consulting has provided engineering services such as civil, environmental and transportation engineering, as well as surveying, planning, information technology and landscape architecture to both private and public clients since 1967. The new positions include  a senior project manager, project engineer, project landscape architect, and engineering and ACAD Technician. Between them the four new employees have more than 60 years of experience in their fields — they don't represent the end of the Ann Arbor firm's growth. 

"We would like to increase our client base in Washtenaw County and Southeast Michigan and try to return to what we were before 2005 and 2006," says Betzoldt, referring to the company's pre-recession staff of 85, "and at that point, we'll then consider branching out into other parts of the state." 

Source: Scott Betzoldt, Midwestern Consulting
Writer: Natalie Burg

Mota Thai Yoga transitions from private practice to public studio

It used to be, the only way to benefit from Luiz Mota's Thai massage and yoga therapy was to either know him, or be referred by a current client. In fact, that's how he got his start, simply by working on fellow martial arts competitors in his early 20s. But the growth of his clientele and their demand for more access to his services has led to Mota Thai Yoga expanding into class offerings and opening to the public. 

"I've always been word of mouth," says Mota. "But the more clients I had the more it has been them demanding more."

Mota Thai Yoga's transition has been gradual, beginning with Mota's move to an 1,100 square foot studio on W. Huron about a year and a half ago. After slowly adding more offerings, he has now hired an additional instructor and declaring his studio open to the public. 

Mota says Thai yoga therapy means something different to different practitioners. He offers it as as an assisted yoga practice that helps clients with injuries, illnesses or physical disabilities. Though he has long offered this and Thai massage, he now offers classes in aerial yoga therapy, other yoga types, small group yoga therapy and male ballet class. 

"I'm all about anatomy," says Mota, who is also a certified mortician. "I'm about the energy work too, but I take it to a whole different level. Even after my clients leave, I'm still researching their injury."

With the recent hiring of a new instructor, he hopes to soon offer mediation classes as well. Mota's goals are to continue to work with more clients and help them work through their injuries. He plans to hire additional instructors in the future. 

Source: Luiz Mota, Mota Thai Yoga
Writer: Natalie Burg

Blimpy Burger reopens with more seats, new jobs and same legendary burgers

It's been about 13 months since the Ann Arbor landmark Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger closed it's doors, and burger lovers can once again breathe easy: Blimpy Burger is back. The business reopened last week in its new location on Ashely. 

"So far, I've seen a lot of familiar faces," says Emily Magner, whose family owns Blimpy Burger. And the customers weren't the only familiar part of the shop's reopening. "We were able to replicate the Blimpy experience and the ordering experience that makes us so unique."

Though the burgers, diners and experience may be picking up right where they left off, one change in the new Blimpy Burger location is additional seating. With seats for more than 50 diners, they're up between 10 to 15 seats from the original location. As early as Monday of last week, financial supporters of the restaurant's new space were treated to sneak preview dining experience that Magner says was well deserved. 

"They were the key to us being here today," she says. "Not only did they support us in just helping with our morale, but they gave us incentive to make this happen."

Though still hiring and training employees Magner estimates the new Blimpy Burger will employ about 20 workers. She says though getting up and running is their first goal — the restaurant is currently operating on limited hours — long term goals for the business could include adding a catering component. 

Source: Emily Magner, Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger
Writer: Natalie Burg

The Espresso Bar to grow into new home above Literati Bookstore

When The Espresso Bar first started, it was intended to fill a few months of Sanford Bledsoe's time before leaving town for a job in Houston. The pop-up cafe below The Bar at 327 Braun Court quickly became a neighborhood favorite, and Bledsoe decided to devote himself to the growing business. That growth will soon continue in a new space when The Espresso Bar moves to the new third floor of Literati Bookstore. 

Bledsoe had been acquainted with Literati owners Hilary and Mike Gustafson for some time. When their desire for a larger events space aligned with Bledsoe's thoughts on expanding and The Bar at Braun Court wanting to do more with with first floor, the idea of moving The Espresso Bar to an events/cafe/retail space above Literati was a win for everyone. 

"We've been talking with Literati for several months, and now we're moving forward and getting all our ducks in a row so we can move as quickly as possible," says Bledsoe. "We thought this was a great opportunity for everybody."

To prepare for the move, he recently hired one new employee, and intends to hire about three additional workers in the future. Though opening will be dependent on many factors including the time needed for the build-out, Bledsoe hopes to be open before Thanksgiving. 

Though in a new location, Bledsoe says his focus will always remain on serving excellent coffee and espresso drinks to customers with uniquely personal service.

"It frustrates me about the coffee shop industry is we treat our customers like they're spending three dollars," he says. "I think it's important to make people feel like they're spending a million dollars."?

Source: Sanford Bledsoe, The Espresso Bar
Writer: Natalie Burg

Affordable fashions come to State St. with Verbena boutique

If you asked Kate Duerksen what she might be doing in August of 2014 a year ago, she wouldn't have guessed opening a retail store in downtown Ann Arbor. But what began as a small idea mentioned last winter to her father, owner of the former All About Blue store on State St., quickly grew into a plan when M Den offered to buy out All About Blue. 

"Part of that deal was that I would keep 1,500  square feet to do my own thing," says Duerksen. "It all happened really fast." 

The result was Verbena, a women's retail shop that opened on Aug. 15, offering clothes, accessories and some apartment decor such as succulents. With the store right on State St., Duerksen chose to keep her prices student-friendly.

"Everyone is happily surprised by our price point," she says. "We definitely still cater to the students with prices."

That hasn't limited her customer base. Since opening a month ago, Duerksen has served women of all ages in the shop. She hopes to soon expand her operations with e-commerce, and currently employs eight workers.

Source: Kate Duerksen, Verbena
Writer: Natalie Burg

Authentic Greek olive oil company grows into Ann Arbor storefront

Having gallons of pure, authentic Greek extra virgin olive oil around the house never seemed out of place for Grigorios Stamatopoulos, whose family has been farming olives and making oil for centuries in Greece. After bringing over an extra large supply and sharing it with some friends, however, he realized just how rare such high quality olive oil was to others. 

"They said that there was something different about my olive oil," Stamatopoulos says. "They thought I should start selling it."

A few years later, he began to do just that. His family in Greece began supplying him with the oil, and after bottling it, he began to sell it at a farmers market in Pittsfield Twp. After finding success there, he had market managers from all over the area approaching him to be a part of their market as well. 

While he will continue to offer his Stamatopoulos and Sons olive oil at area markets, that demand inspired him to look for a more permanent place to sell his products. In a couple of weeks, Colonnade Mall on E. Eisenhower will become that place as the first Stamatopoulos and Sons store opens in a 1,700 square foot space. 

"My goal in the beginning was just to raise awareness that in order to get the good stuff you have to know where it comes from," says Stamatopoulos. But people wanted to know where they could get this olive oil all the time."

What makes his olive oil different, he says, is it's purity. Accoriding to Stamatopoulos, so much of what is sold as extra virgin olive oil in stores are in fact olive oil blends, some of which aren't actually extra virgin. His oil, coming from his family's farm in Greece, is superior in a way people can taste. 

Stamatopoulos will offer a variety of olive oils in his store, at which he plans to employ a staff of five. He hopes to continue to grow his wholesale operations as he becomes established in retail as well. 

Source: Grigorios Stamatopoulos, Stamatopoulos and Sons
Writer: Natalie Burg

Taste Kitchen to bring locally sourced yet global cuisine to Liberty

Though the owners of the new restaurant coming into the W. Liberty location vacated by sushi place Tamaki will be the same, that's about the only thing Taste Kitchen will have in common with its predecessor. The new, multi-faceted eatery will offer light breakfast, light lunch, afternoon tea service and fine dining in the evenings, all under the theme of thinking globally and acting locally. 

"We aren't pigeonholing ourselves into a certain kind of food," says Michelle Hinze, pastry chef and general manager for Taste Kitchen. "Our menu is going to be fresh and vegetarian and vegan friendly. If we feel like cooking Thai one day, we'll do that. If we want to cook  African the next week, we'll do that." 

The ever-changing menu will be sourced as locally as possible. According to Hinze, their priority is to use ingredients first from Michigan, and then within a 200 mile radius when possible. The ambiance of the restaurant will move from casual dining early in the day and during afternoon tea service, and then move into a more formal experience at night. 

"We want to hit as many target markets as we can," Hinz says. "Our location provides us great access to the college students, and we want to step things up for dinner service to draw in other clientele from the Ann Arbor area." 

The goal is to open Taste Kitchen in about two weeks. Hinze expects to hire 10-15 staff members to operate the restaurant. Future plans include getting involved with the community and partnering with local artists and musicians. 

Source: Michelle Hinze, Taste Kitchen
Writer: Natalie Burg

New Braun Ct. cafe to be whatever patrons make of it

The owners of the Bar at 327 Braun Court are about to launch a new offering at the same address. The Ground Floor Cafe, which will open this week in the location indicated by its name, will offer espresso drinks, wine and beer and light foods such as panini sandwiches and house-made pastries. 

"This will be much more like a cafe than the Espresso Bar," says owner Eric Farrell, referring to the pop-up business that recently relocated from the space. "We'll have people eating, having some drinks and hanging out - a place to linger and meet people. Hopefully people kind of make it their own and figure out what they want the space to be." 

In the two weeks since the Espresso Bar left, Farrell has been working on light cosmetic upgrades to the space to prepare it for its new purpose. 

"The room before was pretty spartan," he says. "It was always intended to be a pop up. We're just upping the aesthetics a little bit. I think it's going to be a welcoming space. I've added some color and texture to the room."

Farrell expects the Ground Floor Cafe to open this week. He's hired a staff of three, including the talents of former Zingerman's Next Door and Mighty Good barista Dana Blaisdell. He also anticipates the offerings of the cafe to evolve and grow with the business, just as the Bar at 327 Braun Court has evolved over the years. 

Source: Eric Farrell, Ground Floor Cafe
Writer: Natalie Burg

Coval Fitness expands into 4,500 sq ft Phoenix Dr. space

Coval Fitness and Sports Performance has been on a growth path for some time. After growing its staff last year, the semi-private fitness and sports performance facility has relocated to a new, 4,500 square foot location on Phoenix Dr. 

"We expanded due to a growing client base and because we wanted to have a space that fit with our vision," say owner Mike Coval. "In a nutshell, our vision is to have a high-end facility that clients can come to for their fitness and performance needs, massage therapy, physical therapy, and nutrition coaching."

Prior to opening in May, Coval renovated the new space to include a bathroom with a shower and two changing rooms, in addition to cosmetic renovations. His next step will to be to get rid of the drop ceiling. The new location he says, will allow Coval Fitness and Sports Performance to mode their vision. 

"Its also ideal because once this building is full, there will be so many other companies that we share the space with," he says. "This allows for more exposure and opportunities to connect with people."

Though his staff remains at four employees, the continued growth of the business has expanded their hours. Coval's three-year vision includes becoming go-to fitness and sports performance center in the Ann Arbor area. 

Source: Mike Coval, Coval Fitness & Sports Performance
Writer: Natalie Burg

Study finds demand for 1,800 more residential units in downtown Ann Arbor

The recent rush of new residential buildings in downtown Ann Arbor might lead some to believe that the 716 more units under development might overkill. Those folks might be surprised to learn that a new study commissioned by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority has found that not only are those apartments and condos needed, but by 2019, 1,800 more housing units will be needed to meet downtown demand. 

Not surprised by this is the DDA itself. According to DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay, they hear from people all the time who want to live downtown but found the number of available units to be low. A study like this, Pollay says, not only gives the DDA the ability to advocate for the kind of development needed downtown, but also demonstrates demand for future developers, such as the need for 90,000 to 100,000 square feet of additional office space. 

"It gets the numbers out there -  vacancy is lower all the time and office rents continue to rise," she says. "While we may not see a new office building immediately, these numbers help to communicate to developers and business owners to keep an eye on things, because there is a growing opportunity in downtown Ann Arbor."

Also mentioned in the report is an average price tag of $1,500 per month for a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Ann Arbor, which is out of reach for households earning between 50 and 80 percent of downtown's Area Median Income. Study author 4ward Planning attributes the elevated rents to the growing desirability of living there. Whether or not meeting the demand with additional units will result in more affordable options, Pollay says, is difficult to tell. A forthcoming Washtenaw County Housing Needs Assessment will hopefully shed more light on the topic later this year. 

Source: Susan Pollay, Ann Arbor DDA
Writer: Natalie Burg

Real Ryder Revolution relocates cycling studio, expands number of classes

Just five years old, Real Ryder Revolution indoor cycling studio has already grown to four locations in Birmingham, West Bloomfield, Chicago and Ann Arbor. After first operating on N. Main for three years, the Ann Arbor location will soon be even closer to its core clientele with a new studio on E. University. 

"We wanted to be as close to campus as possible," says Leslee Blatnikoff, owner of Real Ryder Revolution. "We just want to feature it more toward the students." 

The approximately 1,500 square foot E. University location will open next week. The new location will offer an expanded number of classes for the 18-bike studio. The business is now running a pre-grand opening special on classes. The goals of Real Ryder Revolution, says Blatnikoff, will remain the same in their new space.

"We just want to make sure it's busy and we can give the students the workouts they want, and continue to be good, healthy influence in the fitness arena," she says. 

Real Ryder Revolution operates with eight to ten instructors. Updates on the business and new studio can be found on the business's Ann Arbor Facebook page.

Source: Leslee Blatnikoff, Real Ryder Revolution
Writer: Natalie Burg
939 Ann Arbor Articles | Page: | Show All
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