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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

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

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

Ann Arbor native to bring Life is Good store to Main St.

Saline Spanish teacher Mark Messmore took an indirect route into the clothing retail business, but the downtown Ann Arbor resident and business owner will have a pretty direct path from his loft to the new Life is Good shop he's opening below it. After his computer consultation business, MMSC Consultants started veering into retail, he got the bug to get deeper into the business, which led him to the Life is Good franchise. 
 
"Life is Good is a good fit for me because the brand focuses on the power of optimism," says Messmore. "The power of optimism is limitless; that message resonates with me, and I believe it represents the Ann Arbor community well."
 
Messmore also believes the merchandise will appeal to the Ann Arbor market with it's wide range of clothing meant for everyone from outdoorsy folks to businesspeople. The Life is Good Store will open in a portion of Seyfried Jewelers' former home, a neighborhood close to the local Messmore's heart. 
 
"Certainly, I am sad to see Seyfried Jewelers leave," he says. "My mom went to high school and was best friends with Pam Seyfried, and they spent their weekends and holiday vacations in the back room of Seyfried Jewelers wrapping presents and helping at the store some 40 years ago."
 
Messmore will take control of the 900 square foot Main St. space on Jan. 1 and hopes to be open for business in March. 
 
Source: Mark Messmore, Life is Good
Writer: Natalie Burg

School of Rock to open on Jackson Rd.

Ann Arbor has no lack of interest in the arts and creative expression. That's exactly why entrepreneur Dianna Wilson decided opening her own School of Rock business was a great fit for the area. 
 
"[I] went to a couple operating School of Rock locations and was hooked," Wilson says. "I enjoy kids and music. To be able to watch kids develop and be proud of themselves is awesome."  
 
The new business is set to open in January in a 2,400 square foot location at 6101 Jackson Rd. Originally developed as an office building, Wilson says the segmented layout made it perfect for music lessons. The location is also ideal, she adds, for parents who may need to run errands during their kids' lessons at the many nearby retail stores. 
 
"School of Rock is a performance-based program," Wilson says. "It's not just taking lessons; they are learning to perform. The national exposure of the company offers some awesome and unique opportunities for students."
 
As the business gets established locally, those opportunities will include recording their work. A planned recording studio in the space will give kids the chance to learn the technical side of recording as well. 
 
School of Rock will open with a staff of seven. Wilson hopes to increase her number of employees as enrollment numbers grow. The exact dates for opening, enrollment and an open house will soon be available on the business' Facebook page. 

Source: Dianna Wilson, School of Rock
Writer: Natalie Burg

Curated vintage shop Dear Golden to grow into Fourth Ave. storefront

Women in Ann Arbor will soon have a new way to feel lovely. The curated vintage shop Dear Golden is planning to open on Fourth Ave. in  downtown early next year with garments from the 1920s to 1970s personally selected by owner Lauren Naimola for modern women. 

"Each garment is selected for it's fashion relevancy and overall quality," she says. "I have built a great customer base in the US as well as other countries."

Dear Golden was born online five years ago, and Naimola operated the shop from her home until it grew into a business that required its own space. About two years ago, she moved into an appointment-only location in Ypsilanti, but her continued growth only allowed that model to work for so long. 

"The shop, even by appointment only seemed to attract attention and I started wanting to be able to be open to the public simply because there seemed to be a desire for that," says Naimola. "Fourth Ave. is such a great spot, it is situated nicely between the State St. area and the Main St. area and seems like one of the last parts of downtown that could foster new businesses. When I saw Today Clothing was there I knew that my shop would fit in nicely." 

Naimola will be transitioning into the Fourth Ave. space over the next few months with an eye on opening in March of 2014. Along with the new location and regular hours, Dear Golden will feature a small number of new clothing by small designers selected to complement her vintage offerings. 

Moving to the 1,400 square foot space while continuing her online sales will prompt Naimola to expand from a one-woman operation to a business with staff. She anticipates adding two to three employees over the next year as Dear Golden gets established in its new space. 

Source: Lauren Naimola, Dear Golden
Writer: Natalie Burg

Barre Bee Fit opening new studio in Plymouth Road Plaza

After spending ten years in the corporate world, Ann Arbor native Adrianne Madias was looking for a more satisfying career. She found it when she met some women in Chicago who were starting a new fitness business, Barre Bee Fit
 
"I was already doing to a ballet barre class at the time. It's very addictive and very effective," says Madias, who opened the city's first Barre Bee Fit on E. Washington in 2011. "They had just opened the year prior, and we decided to use Ann Arbor as a test market. We've expanded to about ten different locations now."
 
Ann Arbor will soon be added to that list of growing Barre Bee Fit locations a second time, when Madias opens a new location in the Plymouth Road Retail Plaza, which opened with names like Starbucks, Big Salad and DFCU Financial in March. The 2,500 square foot studio will take up about a third of the development's second floor.
 
"I noticed there's not anywhere for women, or anyone, to get a great workout on this side of town," Madias says. It's lacking in group fitness. When I saw the space being built, I knew immediately it was where I wanted to open another location." 
 
Barre Bee Fit is a workout concept that combines Pilates, dance and yoga with a ballet barre-based workout. New to the Plymouth Rd. location will be a high tech audio and lighting system that Madias says will turn the 60-minute workout into an experience. Music and lighting will automatically ebb and flow with the progression of the class. 
 
Madias is currently in the middle of building out the space and plans to open the new studio in January, and will soon announce a grand opening date. Initially, she plans to employ three to four instructors and two front desk employees.

Source: Adrianne Madias, Barre Bee Fit
Writer: Natalie Burg

Detroit-area event planner Blumz expands into Ann Arbor

With locations in Detroit and Ferndale, Blumz by JR Designs had been getting more and more Ann Arbor-area requests for work, so they made the choice to better serve those clients with a brand new store. On Nov. 1, Blumz opened their 1,000 square foot Avis Dr. location. According to co-owner Jerome Raska, the office complex environment gives clients easy access to their services with plenty of convenient parking. 
 
The full service event company offering clients as much or as little assistance as they need to coordinate their events with, as Raska says, "maximum 'wow' factor.
 
"Another thing our clients like about us is we are willing to provide ideas for any budget," he says. "Keeping in mind you can never get a Lexus for the price of and Focus, as professionals we are capable of giving you the most bang for the buck."
 
The new Ann Arbor Blumz is currently by appointment only, staffed by current employees of the business. Raska says they are taking their entrance into the area slowly, and are looking forward to introducing themselves to the business community.
 

Source: Jerome Raska, Blumz by JR Designs
Writer: Natalie Burg
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