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Ann Arbor : Development News

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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

Black Pearl expansion to add events, up to 50 seats for diners

A perennial winner of Taste of Ann Arbor awards including "Best Entrée" and "Best of Show," it's no stretch to say Ann Arbor loves The Black Pearl. Beginning in early 2014, more diners will be able to get more of the food they crave as The Black Pearl expands by 50 percent, adding room for 40 to 50 new seats. 
 
"We do get a lot of calls for parties, and we're a little too small to accommodate more than 50 people without closing for the event," says The Black Pearl Bar Manager Matthew Pietryga. "It's not just going to be set up for private functions though, but also for busy nights, especially in the summer." 
 
The expansion will be into half of the former Seyfried Jewelers location. According to Pietryga, the bar considered expanding into the entire space, but was hesitant to over-expand. When the option became available to grow into half of the space, it became the perfect opportunity. 
 
"Otherwise we may have been a little oversized. The bigger you are doesn't mean the more people will come," says Pietryga. "Right now, everything is good; business is up from last year, which is good. But every few months or so there is more competition."
 
The new space in The Black Pearl will be used both for overflow and for private parties, and while it will have a similar feel to the main restaurant, it will have slightly different decor and amenities, including carpeting, different tables and a multi-media center for presentations and events. 
 
Pietryga says work on the space will begin in January. They hope to have work completed within  a couple of months, but have an April goal set to be ready in preparation for graduation season. With the extra diners Pietryga estimates three to four additional servers will be added to the staff. 
 
Source: Matthew Pietryga, The Black Pearl
Writer: Natalie Burg

Ginger Deli plans fresh take on Vietnamese food

Anyone used to eating Vietnamese food in a hole-in-the-wall type environment will soon get to experience the cuisine in a whole new light. The Ginger Deli plans to open on E. Liberty in the first or second week of January with a focus on chic design and fresh ingredients that aims to change perceptions and delight Ann Arbor eaters. 
 
"The Ginger Deli is an idea I have wanted to do for maybe five years," says owner Te Phan, who also owns Ann Arbor's Chair Cover Express. "The food will be more toward Vietnamese cooking because Vietnamese food is influenced by the French. If you're going to be influenced by any kind of food, French is a good place to start."
 
Fresh herbs will be a primary feature of the Ginger Deli cuisine, including basil, mint, cilantro and bean sprouts, which Phan says not only adds great flavor to the food, but balances out the dishes with health benefits. 
 
Phan's career began in industrial design, creating concept cars for Ford. He's now applying his design principles to make attractive, functional street food in downtown Ann Arbor. His designs will allow passersby to enjoy some hot soup on the go in convenient, disposable packaging.
 
"I want to put the value and money first in food and second into the packaging, where it will be marketing vehicle for the food," says Phan. "Instead of putting a lot of money in creating a environments an ambiance and tables, I want to be able to keep the price affordable for students and young professionals."
 
The approximately 200-foot Ginger Deli storefront will be take-out only, but will provide heated outdoor counter space under a canopy for diners on the go. Phan hopes to build on the concept of new neighbor Le Dog to create a hub for street food on Liberty. 
 
Ginger Deli will actually be a two-part operation, with about two kitchen staffers managing a kitchen two blocks away and two employees serving customers from the storefront. Phan hopes to see the concept grow into multiple locations in Ann Arbor, and plans to keep the community he loves involved and benefitting from his business as it grows. 

Sourc: Te Phan, Ginger Deli
Writer: Natalie Burg

Juicy Kitchen plans to expand catering part of growing biz

There is not much Juicy Kitchen Cafe doesn't do in the food business these days.

"We still do catering," says Susan Todoroff, owner of Juicy Kitchen Cafe. "We still do home-prepared meals except we don’t deliver them anymore. Our customers come and pick them up."

From Juicy Kitchen Cafe's new retail location on 1506 N. Maple Road that it has spent 2013 establishing. The Ann Arbor-based company went from no one knowing there any businesses in the forlorn strip mall to a vibrant business with a core group of regulars that eat there multiple times week.

"(Opening the cafe) was really more of a lifestyle choice than a business decision for me," Todoroff says. "I want to wait on the people I am cooking for."

That has allowed Juicy Kitchen Cafe to grow to a core team of four full-timers and a few part-time employees. The retail operation now makes up about two thirds of the company's revenue. Prepared meals make up another 20-some percent with catering taking up the rest.

"I want to grow the catering side of the business," Todoroff says.

Source: Susan Todoroff, owner of Juicy Kitchen
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

GFS Marketplace celebrates opening of second area location

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

Source: Mark Dempsey, GFS Marketplace
Writer: Natalie Burg

Local developer plans near-downtown condo project with Liberty Landings

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

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

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

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

Source: Kate Ernsting, Ophir Crafts
Writer: Natalie Burg

Pie it Forward sets down local roots in Dexter

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

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

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

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

Source: Michael Kao, Legion
Writer: Natalie Burg

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

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