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New Briarwood Bravo! Cucino Italiana now hiring for 75 new jobs

A new option for "polished casual" Italian dining and more than 75 new jobs are coming to Briarwood with the forthcoming Bravo! Cucina Italiana. With locations in Dearborn, Lansing, Livonia and Rochester Hills, Ann Arbor will be the newest of the restaurant's many locations. 

"Ann Arbor is the perfect mix of professionals, families and students," says William Kirby, GM for the Briarwood/Ann Arbor Bravo! "[It's] a great fit for us and very close to the type of community we are successful in amidst our Lansing location."

Hiring for both front of the house and back of the house employees has already begun, though Bravo! is still looking to hire up to 40 more staff members. Applicants may apply at Courtyard Ann Arbor at 3205 Boardwalk Drive, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. until all positions are filled.

The new, freestanding 6,551 square foot building at Briarwood includes a semi-private banquet room and a 1,242 square foot patio, which will include seating for 55 and fire pit. The restaurant will include 40 tables in the restaurant, and 41 seats in the bar. The grand opening will be celebrated on December 11. 

"The new Ann Arbor location is part of our expansion project in Michigan," says Chief Executive Officer of Bravo Brio Restaurant Group, Inc., Saed Mohseni. "We have a great reputation within the community and want to continue to expand and provide high quality of food and service within the market. For 2014 we opened 6 new restaurants inclusive of the Ann Arbor location."

Source: William Kirby, Briarwood/Ann Arbor Bravo! Cucina Italiana
Writer: Natalie Burg

The Dixson Agency is a new player in Ann Arbor insurance scene

After a decade working in insurance repair, Mark Dixson says he understands a side of the insurance business many agents haven't experienced firsthand: clients who are not properly covered. Now that he's an agent himself, and opening his first Ann Arbor office, he says that is a quality that sets him apart. 

"I've dealt with so many clients in the past who were under-insured. I wanted to think about those clients and bring the the kind of policy they need," says Dixson, whose The Dixson Agency is slated to open by the end of December. "When a client is paying a premium, they want to make sure all of their property is covered."

Often, he says, people don't realize until after a flood or sewage break that they didn't have the coverage they thought they had. That is something he hopes to address when opening his office, which is tentatively planned for a 500 square foot space in South State Street Commons. 

"We're here to stay in the Ann Arbor area, and we're bringing some value for clients," Dixson say "We're just happy to be in Ann Arbor."

The Dixson Agency has been operating for about a year from a location in Canton. Dixson plans to hire two staff members to help operate his new Ann Arbor office. 

Source: Mark Dixson, The Dixson Agency
Writer: Natalie Burg

Yeo & Yeo more than doubles staff, expands into new, 10,000 sq ft location

The Ann Arbor branch of Saginaw-based accounting, audit, tax and business consulting firm Yeo & Yeo is now the company's second largest with about 25 employees and a brand new office that is 2.5 times the size of their original location. 

"We are outgrowing our previous location," says Kimberlee Kelley, director of marketing for Yeo & Yeo. "Last year we merged with a firm in Southgate, Hungerford & Co. We wanted to bring some staff from that office into one office so we could make a stronger foundation of resources for our clients." 

Between the merger with the Southgate company and their own growth, the Ann Arbor staff has more than doubled in size over the past year, even as some Southgate employees remained in a satellite office in the metro Detroit office. Such growth attracted the firm to a 10,000 square foot space less than a mile from their former location on E. Eisenhower. 

"It's not too far from our current office, so it's convenient for our clients," Kelley says. "We're happy to be able to grow and expand in the Ann Arbor area. It's been an ideal location for us."

Construction began on the new space in July and included a complete remodel of the office. The firm moved in on Oct. 31. 

Source: Kimberlee Kelley, Yeo & Yeo
Writer: Natalie Burg

B Young B Fit expands into 4,200 sq. ft location

Ann Arbor native and personal trainer Brian Young's B Young B Fit began in a 900-square foot location in 2006 and has been beefing up ever since. In 2010, the member-focused gym grew into a 3,500 square foot location in Glencoe Crossings, and then continued its growth this year by moving to a 4,200 square foot space on Washtenaw Ave. 

"This new studio is designed with field turf, state of the art equipment, a private yoga studio and all the necessary tools for us to train everyone from the elite athlete to the beginner fitness enthusiast.

A former Snap Fitness, the space was ideally suited to BYBF's needs. It also includes outdoor studio space for boot camp classes and other training classes. The BYBF concept is intended focus on personalized fitness and individual progress. In addition to serving individual members, BYBF also works with local businesses on their corporate wellness programs, an initiative Young plans to expand upon in his new space. 

"We also are growing our Sports Performance programs to work with local high schools for boys and girls in sports," he says. "This is a big passion of mine working directly with athletes as I was once in their shoes."

Source: Brian Young, B Young B Fit
Writer: Natalie Burg

New State St. Area men's barber spa aims for December opening

If men in Ann Arbor's State Street Area start looking a little more dapper in 2015, there's a reason why. Toronto-based men's barber spa Taylor & Colt is bringing its grooming services south of the border, and Ann Arbor will host its first U.S. location. 

"We’re beginning to see men have an appreciation for the precise grooming techniques of their fathers and grandfathers," says Taylor & Colt's Birdie White. "We also want men to enjoy taking a bit of time for themselves in a space exclusively designed for them, rather than in a salon designed for women."

White says Ann Arbor was chosen as the first U.S. Taylor & Colt for its unique, bustling downtown vibe. The shop's buildout is now underway in their 1,100 space on E. Liberty.

"The physical space will be completely renovated, right down to the studs. Ann Arbor will be our flagship location, so we didn’t hold back," says White. 

From here, Taylor & Colt plans to open a shop in Rochester Hills next year, followed by Birmingham, Grand Rapids, Lansing and then on to other states. 

White hopes to finish renovations by mid-December and open in time for the holiday rush. They are currently hiring 7 to 8 barbers, as well as support staff and managers. 

Source: Birdie White, Taylor & Colt
Writer: Natalie Burg

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
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