Business

By Mary Meldrum

JACK ARONSON, WELL-KNOWN FOUNDER OF GARDEN FRESH GOURMET in Ferndale, remembers people who would come into his shop to apply for a job, and had to bring their sister or their mother or a friend because they could not read, write or comprehend the application. They needed help with the very fundamentals of securing a job. That stuck with him.

Now, after both growing and selling their business, Jack and Annette Aronson have formed a foundation of their own and they are throwing a large amount of their money, almost all of their time, and a colossal amount of energy toward local literacy programs. Their level of giving back to Ferndale and the surrounding area is stunning.

Jack is chairman of the board for the non-profit Beyond Basics, which is a 501(c)(3) student-centered, literacy non-profit, serving students in Detroit public schools since 2002. Jack and Annette are also the driving force behind the younger program, The Ferndale Literacy Project, in Ferndale High School.
With as much as 60 per cent of Ferndale High School’s student population migrating from surrounding communities, Ferndale has been overwhelmed with students who arrive reading several grade levels below where they are supposed to be. The Ferndale Literacy Project is designed to address that.

“Reading is the springboard for everything,” contends Jack. He is passionate about helping kids to get on the right track early. Speaking to the skill levels in our country, he adds, “Reading in the United States is a catastrophe right now.”

He is right. In a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, it was estimated in 2013 that approximately 32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read, and 21 per cent of adults read below a fifth grade level. And worse, 19 per cent of high school graduates cannot read. It has not improved since
2013.

Locally, the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund reports that 47 per cent of people in Detroit are illiterate. In nearby suburbs, up to one-third are functionally illiterate. That 47 per cent represents approximately 200,000 souls who have significant trouble with reading, speaking, writing and computational skills – everything a person needs to function in this world as a productive adult.

Within the tri-county region, there are a number of municipalities with illiteracy rates rivaling Detroit: Southfield at 24 per cent, Warren at 17 per cent and Pontiac at 34 per cent.

Nationwide, as much as 85 per cent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, and over 70 per cent of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level. That means a full two-thirds or more of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of fourth grade will end up in jail, in continuous conflict with the law, and/or on welfare. They can’t get jobs; they can’t get mortgages or cars and are mostly doomed to remain under-educated and flounder in poverty.

It is thought that low literary costs $73 million per year in terms of direct health care costs, but a recent study by Pfizer put the cost much higher. Factors that contribute to illiteracy include poverty, parental involvement (or lack thereof), domestic violence and other overarching life crises that are out of the control of the student.

This is not about stupidity. This is about circumstances, and often those circumstances include a multi-generational problem – a legacy of illiteracy. Parents who cannot read themselves cannot teach their children to read, or help them with homework, or demonstrate to them what a life of literacy would look like. Many are children who grow up without a single book in their house; nobody has ever read to them; nobody has ever read them a bedtime story.

But most of these students want help. They ache for success, and they realize that they can never achieve it without the basic skill of reading.

In the report from the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund, they place a particular focus on the lack of resources available to those hoping to better educate themselves, and that fewer than 10 per cent of those in need of help are actually receiving it.

If you can connect the dots, all this highlights in a dramatic way that this is not a problem . . . this is The Problem. This is the national crisis at the crux of everything that is going wrong in our country. Those who cannot read are screwed — and so are we if we don’t step up and help them.

Recovery of literacy in our youth is paramount to a better community and a better life for everyone. Jack Aronson understands the enormous burden illiteracy places on society, and the costly repercussions of standing by and not pitching in to change outcomes for the children in our community.

Ferndale Literacy Project
Stephanie Scobie is the reading specialist who has been hired to run the Ferndale Literacy Project which is embedded inside Ferndale High School and funded through the Ferndale school system. As they approach the end of their maiden year with 50 students enrolled in the program, she expresses that there has been some great progress and success so far.

“One student tested at the third-grade reading level at the beginning of the year, and in March of this year he is now reading at the eighth-grade level,” she smiles. That same tenth-grade student will be tested again before school lets out for the summer, and there is reason to believe he will be reading at the ninth-grade level by June. Stephanie goes on to describe how his progress in reading has changed this young man’s outlook, his self-confidence, and his actual physical presentation.
“He actually walks taller now and doesn’t hunch over anymore.”

People who can read generally take it for granted, but for those who cannot read or who struggle, illiteracy amounts to being ashamed of your mind. That shame is exquisitely painful for children in school when they are asked to read in front of the class, or when they bring home failing grades semester after semester, while their classmates can brag about getting As and Bs.

Children who are ashamed of their inability to read tend to avoid reading because it makes them feel terrible and embarrassed. There is a real fear in these children that they are not smart. Fear, shame, embarrassment, frustration and confusion all inhibit the ability for students to learn under normal circumstances. Add to this the other burdens of poverty, possible poor health and maybe not knowing where their next meal is coming from, and it is little wonder these kids can’t concentrate on a pop quiz or finish homework. Many are just navigating life by the seat of their pants every day with little security and nobody coming to their rescue.

The Ferndale Literacy program researched and invested in Vanderbuilt University’s computerized reading program, Read 180, which allows students to choose a topic they are interested in and it individualizes the stories to the child’s reading level.

Ferndale High School has dedicated a large room for its literacy project. Jack and Annette Aronson put up the money, and hired a team that has come in and painted and organized and stocked the space. They made it a clean, updated the room with new chairs and desks, shelves, books, white boards and markers. Part of the room is designed as a coffee and lounging space with several new armchairs. Once a month Jack and Annette bring in lunch for the kids, and several times a month snacks are available in the coffee and lounge area. Today the lunch consists of pizza, chicken, subs, cookies, chips and water bottles.

Children can relax and listen to their Read 180 program. This room is their haven and represents an amazing opportunity for these students to transform their lives and their future. The ability to read will not only impact their families, but also the trajectory of their lives, and they seem to know it.

Boots on the Ground . . . Your Boots
This program is young and, although they are experiencing good progress after only one year, it needs a lot of support. Jack and Annette Aronson’s foundation has contributed $100,000 to the Ferndale School System to launch and support this program, and to date, it has only 50 children enrolled. This Fall they hope to enroll 100 high school students into the literacy project. To handle that increase, more funding must be secured. Jack and Annette are asking for your help. Please contact Carol Jackson at cjackson0205@gmail.com to find out how you can get involved and make a difference. Goals can be reached if many contribute at least a little. The money donated to the Ferndale Literacy Project is passed through entirely. There are no administration costs involved, so every dollar has a direct impact. They are in the process of putting together a system where donors can make a smaller monthly contribution of $5 or $10 or $25 with an automatic withdrawal. In the meantime, please also consider making a larger donation, or ask about how you can volunteer your time to become a book buddy, a tutor or a mentor.

Another way you can help is to go to the Ferndale Literacy Project Facebook Page and like and share the heck out of the posts that come across your newsfeed. Help to spread awareness of the program. If you have some free time and any skills that might be of use to this organization, please contact Carol Jackson at the email address above.

This program is not only advancing the reading skills of students today, but helping the students to experience the joy of reading. With our help, they can break the cycle of multi-generational illiteracy and will ‘pay forward’ what they have learned to their children and community in the years to come.

These students are the pathway to successful futures in business, education, politics and community. Please help fund this project so it will continue for years to come. Any and all donations, no matter the size, are graciously accepted.

Story By Jenn Geddeke

RIFINO VALENTINE IS THE ULTIMATE ENTREPRENEUR. PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF VALENTINE DISTILLING COMPANY, HE HAS A STEADY FOCUS ON HIGH-QUALITY CRAFT DISTILLING, AND A BURNING DRIVE TO PROVE THAT THE MIDWEST CAN GENERATE THE BEST LIQUOR IN THE WORLD.
Highly dissatisfied with imported and mass-produced goods, Valentine decided to go ‘back to basics’ and use the Midwest as his manufacturing base. Currently, Valentine Vodka is beating much of its worldwide competition; for example, the brand was awarded the coveted title of “World’s Best Vodka” in 2016, by the World Vodka Awards in London. The Valentine brand gins and bourbons have also won multiple awards. According to Valentine, this momentum won’t stop until the Grey Goose brand is no longer on the shelf!

Valentine grew up on farmland, with the classic Michigan example of John Deere making the best tractors. He realized that somehow as a culture, we developed the notion of local not being the best, and he has a strong desire to change that perception. In Valentine’s view, large corporations are mainly concerned about profit, where the consumer gets the short end of the stick but has to settle regardless. His original philosophy was to step back, and to take no short cuts; as he explained, “Profit, of course, is still important…but, it’s a balancing act.”

At the point where Valentine was forming his business plan, there were only a handful of micro-distilleries in the country (at time of writing, there are over 2,000 in the US.) It was a brand-new type of business, in terms of both local and state economics; inspectors and landlords were not even sure how to classify or handle a micro-distillery. Public perception at the time was also limited, including that of liquor store and bar owners. Therefore, a large part of Valentine’s task in developing his brand was in educating others
on micro-distilling.

How did Valentine choose Ferndale as a location? He recalls, “It was a happy accident! Detroit was actually my first choice, but at the time in 2007 there was too much red tape involved. The owners of B. Nektar Meadery –Brad & Kerri Dahlhofer — suggested Ferndale as a potential alternate locale.” Valentine called the city, and spoke to the planner, Marsha Sheer, who gave him an enthusiastic response. He added, “The City worked with us, and looked for ways to help. Ferndale has the type of culture where new ideas are embraced.” And so the Valentine Distilling Company Cocktail Lounge/original distillery was born. In addition, there is a new production facility at 965 Wanda (the largest in the country), boasting over 15,000 square feet of distillery space.

Naturally, all this growth is helping the local economy – Valentine is buying a lot of grain – plus, secondary and tertiary-level businesses are also benefiting. While developing his brand, Valentine did not consider that the local impact would be as profound; essentially, he set out to compete with the larger companies. Now, as a world-renowned distillery, his main focus is drawn back to MI, where he claims a lot of work still has to be done. Valentine’s growth strategy is to keep expanding in the Midwest. His vision is, “…a sustainable pace, not explosive growth, so that quality issues do not occur.”

Just released this year is a special bourbon whiskey line, named after Detroit Mayor Hazen S. Pingree (in office from 1890-1897, and considered to be one of the greatest mayors in U.S. history for breaking up monopolies and standing for regular workers). Two of these bourbons (the Blue and Black labels) have already won a prestigious ‘Double Gold’ award in the San Francisco World Spirits Championship. Regarding these new awards, Valentine says, “We only enter international spirits competitions to show the world what Detroit has to offer. To be awarded these highest honors meaåns so much to us.” Surely no other distiller deserves these accolades more than Valentine, considering his dedication to the craft. Meanwhile, his brands keep on expanding; watch for a new addition to the Mayor Pingree family to be added in June: the ‘Orange Label’ rye whiskey. Certainly, this is one of the many Valentine brand drinks to look forward to this Summer!

For further information, please visit:
www.ValentineDistilling.com
www.facebook.com/ValentineVodka
www.twitter.com/ValentineVodka

Valentine Distilling Co. is located at:
965 Wanda Street, Ferndale, Michigan.

The Valentine Distilling Co. Cocktail Lounge is at:
161 Vester St., Ferndale, MI,
Hours: Tues.-Thurs. 4:30 P.M. – 11 P.M.; Fri. & Sat. 4:30 P.M. – 1 A.M.; Sun. 12:00 P.M. – 6 P.M.
Closed Mondays.

 

TEMPERS ARE FLARING ONCE AGAIN, with all manner of charges and accusations flying, as Ferndale residents debate the pros and cons of the proposed new parking/mixed-used structure for the corner of Allen and Troy. Below, we present two-and-a-half perspectives with the hopes of sorting out a little bit of the fact and fiction:

By Clint Hubbell

MY NAME IS CLINT HUBBELL, AND I AM A HOMEOWNER IN FERNDALE. People love to be in Ferndale. They love the energy, they love the diversity, and they which is why it’s fun to be here.

There is an issue with everyone wanting to be here, though: Parking. As optimistic as I am about public transit, including the SMART system, the potential for light rail making its way up Wood-ward Avenue into Ferndale and beyond, and our fantastic new bike-friendly attitude, the fact remains that for shoppers, entertainment-seekers, eaters and drinkers and learners, the primary mode of transportation is the car. I love our walk-able city — I live within walking distance of our downtown, and we take advantage of it. We love to bike and, having lived in Seattle and Chicago, I know the true value and power of robust public transit.

But what if you don’t live within walking or biking distance, and you want to be here? The bus?Sure, you can take the bus. But by-and-large, the option is the car. Cars give a flexibility that people value — they come and go at the driver’s whim, which means they fit the driver’s need whether that need is a ten-minute shopping trip or a two-hour dinner. Until that reality is cured by a serious investment in public transportation, the car will remain the primary mode of transportation in and out of Ferndale for out-of-towners who want to be here. And it shows. Although admittedly anecdotal, anyone who wants to come down-town in a car on Saturday knows that is always a losing proposition, and many people who want to spend their money here end up going elsewhere. The city’s natural reaction is to balance additional parking for cars and catering to the car culture on one hand with making our city livable, workable, and playable on the other.

The result: A “mixed-use” parking/commercial/residential development. But problems come when we try to be everything to everyone. Here are what I see as the cons to the pro-posed mixed-use development currently being advanced by the City of Ferndale for the Lot 6 location at W. Troy St. and Allen Road, where there is an existing street-level parking lot operated by the City:

• The Mixed-Use Development is Expensive. The City anticipates issuing bonds in the amount of 15 million dollars to cover the costs involved with the project. The current mixed-use plan involves a cast-in-place structure with footings sunk far down as 130 feet (because Ferndale is built on a swampy area). Fifteen million dollars is, objectively, a lot of money, and it is guaranteed by Ferndale’s taxpayers, in spite of the City’s best intentions of repaying the bonds with fees gathered from the parking system. This is putting a lot of Ferndale’s financial eggs in one parking basket.

• People Don’t Want to Walk or Bike for five Months of the Year in Michigan. Let’s face it: from November to March, people want to drive into a snow-plowed lot, do their business, get back in their car and go home — usually with as little time spent outside as possible. They don’t care about walk-ability, bike-ability, or atmosphere when there is a foot of snow on the ground. Mostly, people are doing what they can to keep it together until the sun emerges once again. The atmosphere generated by a fancy parking development won’t matter.

• The Mixed Use Development Creates a Long-Term Parking Solution at the Expense of the Short-Term/drop-off and pick-up user. There are only going to be a very small number of spaces on the first floor of the mixed-use structure, adding parking time, and walking time in and out of the lot. Also, as it is, there is only one proposed entrance/exit from the mixed-use structure. While the City assures us that this will not cause an increase in traffic on W. Troy, there is a natural bottleneck that occurs when there is only one way in and out of the structure.

• The Public/Private Partnership May Create Unnecessary Entanglements. Aside from the City getting its information from the firms who stand to benefit financially from a relationship with the City, one idea for the mixed-use development is to derive rents from first floor commercial spaces and possibly property tax revenue from residential units, and from possible high-end commercial or residential space above the top level of the parking structure. Who’s the management company?

Who’s going to lease the commercial spaces when there are no chain-stores or liquor licenses permitted? This revenue stream is less than clear.

• There is No Meaningful Parking Mitigation Plan. The City projects that “Phase 1” of the mixed-use development will take between 12 and 15 months to complete. This means that for as many as 15 months the shoppers and business owners will not have the benefit of the 130+ spots in Lot 6. The simple fact is that the City does not know what to tell the folks who want to come and spend their money, drop off and pick up their children, eat breakfast, grab lunch, have a beer, munch on a cupcake, or pick up some take-out. There are plans, but the plans put peoples cars far away from businesses and are not well-conceived.

• Does not keep the character of Ferndale. In spite of the best intentions of the City to keep this project in tune with Ferndale’s vibe, the proposal for a transfer floor on the fourth floor of this structure leaves the option open to use the space above the fourth floor, potentially to five or six stories, directly adjacent to a residential neighbor-hood and single or two-story commercial spaces between Troy and 9 Mile Rd. There is nothing, except for the Ferndale Center Building or Credit Union One that rivals that height. Also, the generic mod architecture does nothing to maintain our funky rep; it makes us look like everyone else.

There are many more problems with the mixed-use proposal. There is an alternative, however, which is a precast structure that addresses many of the concerns above.

• Less Expensive. The precast, single-use, parking structure is less expensive because the construction is largely prefabricated. It is unclear how much less, but the City of Rochester, for example, added about 550 spots for approximately $12 million dollars in 2015-16.
(www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/oakland/county/2015/01/18/rochester-parking-plan/21953215/) By contrast, the proposed mixed-use plan nets only about 200 additional spots at an estimated cost of $15 million.

• Accessibility in the Winter. The precast, single-use, parking structure gives people an easy-in-easy-out option for patronizing local businesses, eliminating walking around a first floor of commercial space or taking an elevator to get to the 9 Mile businesses.

In addition to being less expensive and easier to use, a single-use structure means that the City doesn’t need to be a landlord, won’t need a management company taking a cut of the revenue received from renters, can continue (but not expand) relationships with its existing parking vendor, and doesn’t need to worry about contracts for air rights and residential units.

Because of the issues with a mixed-use development and the simplicity offered by a single-use pre-cast parking structure, I favor the latter, leaving the “space-making” developments for other projects better suited for space-making.

Name Withheld

FERNDALE HAS THE CHANCE TO TAKE A BOLD STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION — by building a sorely needed parking deck that would help alleviate our city’s parking crunch in a way that enhances the vibrancy of downtown. The proposed four-story garage would create nearly 400 parking spaces out of a parking lot that now holds 139. It would feature ground-floor retail and office space, a design that would expand the city’s tax base, make the deck more financially viable and add to the street life that Ferndale has worked so hard to nurture over the years.

It also would come with green-space buffers and walls to minimize the impact on homeowners immediately adjacent to the structure. And it would be paid for not with taxes, but with revenue from the city’s parking system.

What’s not to like about it? You would have thought the idea would have brought the end of downtown Ferndale, the way opponents lashed out at it, creating a petition and hiring a professional company to gather signatures to put the issue to a city-wide vote. To this day, the business owner who financed the canvassing hasn’t identified himself or herself publicly, but the professional signature gatherers told residents that signing the petition was “to support the parking deck” or to force a choice between the four-story deck or a smaller, three-story deck with no first-floor commercial space. I heard from at least a dozen people who, they were embarrassed to admit, had signed the petition not realizing what it would do.

The canvassers didn’t tell the truth: that the city-wide vote only would have been on whether to allow the city to seek bonds to pay for a parking deck; there was no choice between one or another, and rejecting the bond issue would have meant starting over at square one. I can’t count how many times the city has had to do that in the nearly 20 years I’ve lived in Ferndale. Other residents and I co-founded the Support the Ferndale Parking Deck page on Facebook to fight back and interject some truth into the debate to counter the misinformation opponents were spreading.

They claimed:

• Taxpayers would be on the hook for $20 million in bonds for the deck. Well, sure, in the same way a bank is on the hook for a home mortgage. The $20 million figure, it should be noted, is the maximum the city could seek in bonds to build the deck, which likely would cost several million dollars less than that. The bonds would be repaid not by taxes, on property or otherwise, but by revenue from parking fees and violations. Ferndale now brings in about $1 million a year from its parking system, a figure expected to grow once the deck is built. And it’s quite reasonable to assume that parking revenue will remain steady, short of some catastrophic event that stops people from visiting downtown and paying to park.

• The four-story deck would take up to two years to build, while a parking-only, three-story deck would only take six months. Both claims were untrue. Expert construction projections are that the four-story deck would take 12-15 months to complete, with parking available in as little as 11 months, while a three-story deck would take 9-12 months. The reason is that no matter which deck is built, construction requires excavating to reach bed-rock that supports the weight of the deck — about 130 feet deep in Ferndale — adding months to construction.

• The City would become a “landlord” for the commercial space in the deck. Again, untrue. “The City has no intention of becoming a landlord,” Assistant City Manager Joe Gacioch, who is spearheading the project, told me. He said the city might sell the commercial space to a private comp-any or pursue options including a long-term lease with a property management company or a public-private partnership. In that case, primary day-to-day management of the commercial space would be up to the private sector, although the city would retain say in what sorts of businesses could locate there to make sure they fit in with the city’s vision for downtown.

There were more claims, and I could go on, but at this point we are all better off coming together to determine as a community how to best build this parking deck and to minimize the impact construction will have on downtown businesses.

There will be disruption, no doubt. I hope residents hold city officials to their pledges to do as much as they can to minimize the harm to down-town businesses by providing shuttles for workers, free valet service for customers and a well-publicized campaign to remind visitors that downtown Ferndale will be open for business throughout.

What we’ll get in return is a parking deck that will make it easier for the residents and visitors who love our downtown to be able to find a parking space when they get there— instead of driving in circles endlessly looking for a spot, or avoiding going there altogether.

By stephanie loveless

APPARENTLY, MANY OF YOU ARE HAVING A PARKING PROBLEM. I am sorry to hear it. I have lived in Ferndale for 33 years, and never once had a parking problem – there has always been a handy tree or signpost to lock my bike.

Out of every 100 days, there are generally one or two when the weather is bad enough to feel sorry for myself, on the bike. But most of the time, I feel sorry for what you are missing! It’s a whole different world, living at 12-miles-per-hour, and you might really love it.

People have been trying to build this damn parking structure here in Ferndale for as long as I can remember, and it looks like they are going to get it this time. But I want you to know that lots of us have given a big cheer every time these plans have gone unfulfilled. I want to speak up for those of us who hate the thought of ANY kind of immense cement structure dominating our beloved home town! We like Ferndale just the way it is, and the less you change the better. How many others feel the same? We’ll never know, and it would have been better to put the matter to a vote. If this thing goes badly, the people who resisted a vote will take a lot of heat for it.

There are plenty of cement mountains to the south of us, and to the north, east and west. We came to Ferndale because we love our small-town lifestyle in the greater metropolitan setting. We’ve really enjoyed the last 20 years while this whole parking structure debacle has remained nothing more than a debate over blueprints.

I guess it’s coming this time, though! That’s okay. This is your town too. Just please understand that we’re not in love with the idea of having our paradise paved over just so you can have another place to park your car.

 

Story By Maggie Boleyn
Photos By Bernie LaFramboise

SAY “FOOD TRUCK” TO PEOPLE OF A CERTAIN AGE, AND IT WILL PROBABLY CONJURE UP VISIONS OF TIGHTLY-WRAPPED MYSTERY SANDWICHES, OR CORN DOGS AND COTTON CANDY AT THE STATE FAIR. THAT IS SO LAST CENTURY. TODAY’S FOOD TRUCKS ARE MORE OF A “MOVEABLE FEAST,” AND DEFINITELY NOT YOUR GRANDFATHER’S FOOD TRUCK.

Food trucks are a growing trend. In fact, according to the Food Liability Insurance Program (FLIP), an online insurance program which caters to the insurance needs of the food distributing industries,“food trucks are driving a healthy trend and steering people towards local, sustainable, and organic foods.”

FLIP reports that mobile food businesses report a 9.3 per cent increase in revenue since 2010. In 2015, the mobile food industry was valued at $856.7 million and that number is expected to increase another $130 million by 2019.

And, it looks very promising that, come this summer, the East Side of Ferndale will be helping to fuel that trend. “Detroit Fleat,” a food-truck-themed eatery, will launch on the site at 1820 E. Nine Mile near Wanda Street, which originally housed Wing Hing Inn.

“We are moving along nicely, and the place is looking great,” says Aaron Tye, owner of Delectabowl Food Truck and Catering, and the driving force behind Detroit Fleat. Tye said construction started “the day we closed on the property,” back in February of 2017.

“We are excited to bring some great food to the East Side of Ferndale,” Tye says of his plans for Detroit Fleat. “We know that the options are limited on that side of town and by bringing in private owned food trucks that specialize in respected cuisines, we are confident that everyone can find something they like.”

The Detroit Fleat concept envisions several food trucks at the Nine Mile location. Tye explains, “We will have a few of the top food trucks in Metro Detroit on a semi-permanent basis, and also a rotating truck slot to keep things interesting.”

Having several food trucks means that customers will be able to enjoy a variety of choices, Tye says. “The great thing about eating from gourmet food trucks is that they keep their menus limited to a few items to what they do best. Rarely do you find a restaurant that specializes at everything on their menu. But you are able to do that by having multiple food trucks. Tacos, BBQ, comfort food, Mediterranean, burgers are just a few menu items that you will see between the trucks at Detroit Fleat.”
Tye, a former Ferndale resident, had been looking for a spot for a food truck court for some time before selecting the Nine Mile location.

“We started looking for a more permanent location for food trucks a few years back when we launched our food truck, Delectabowl,” he said. “We have always kept our eye on properties in Ferndale due to the community and the city’s willingness to work with food trucks and try new concepts.”

Tye adds, “We will have a year-round house menu featuring some street food favorites along with a full craft cocktail and beer bar. Our space will be great for private events and pop ups. Detroit Fleat will also be a great resource for anyone looking for info on booking food trucks for private events which has been a growing need between event organizers and food trucks.”

By David Wesley

SINCE FERNDALE FRIENDS LAST SPOKE TO DAVE PHILLIPS of Ferndale Community Radio (FCR), there has been an outpouring of support for the station, in particular from local businesses. The future is optimistic for FCR. The Rust Belt Market, in downtown Ferndale has been their anchor in keeping them going and providing a base for their work. Dave Phillips spoke to me about the current happenings of FCR and where they are at now with their goals.

DW: Since we last spoke a couple months ago, how much progress has there been in getting Ferndale Community Radio off the ground?
DP: We’ve seen an outpouring of support from the community, local businesses in particular. We’re over the moon about the number of local businesses who have pledged money, and we hope to recruit a few more in the near future. If all goes well, we should be on the air by the end of Summer, but there are still a few hurdles to jump.

DW: What will it take for FCR to finally reach its goal and how can people help make it happen?
DP: There are three main ways people can help:
Donate. Any little bit helps.
Spread the word. There are many more people out there who would support this project but just don’t know about it yet. The more people who know about it, the more donations we get.
Inform local businesses and connect them to us. We offer generous underwriting packages that are perfect for local businesses to spread the word.

We could reach our goal if we get five to ten more businesses to sign on.

DW: What will be the biggest perks to FCR and how will it affect the city and community?
DP: It’s similar to the difference between eating at a Chili’s or Imperial. Commercial radio stations are bland, and designed to appeal to as many people as possible. This station is unique and targeted toward a specific demographic – the Ferndale resident.

Local bands will be played extensively. Local stories will be covered in depth. In the event of an emergency, we’ll be focusing specifically on the Ferndale aspect. We’ll be playing songs that you won’t be able to hear anywhere else on the FM dial.

DW: How will the FCR impact the Rust Belt and vice versa, since the Rust Belt will be the broadcast center?
DP: In short, this project would have been dead in the water without the Rust Belt. We can’t thank them enough for giving us a space and really breathing life back into Ferndale Radio. We’re excited about having an impact on the Rust Belt, too. Shoppers will be able to hear our signal inside and they’ll be able to see us. It probably exists somewhere, but I can’t think of many radio stations where the DJs are as visible as we will be. It should create a unique shopping experience.

DW: We here at Ferndale Friends encourage residents and business owners to support FCR any way they can, preferably with donations. This is a project that will benefit the entire city and add so much more to our lives here. More about Ferndale Community Radio can found at facebook.com/FerndaleRadio or ferndaleradio@gmail.com

Just before going to press, project organizer Michelle Mirowski announced that they are working out the final details with the City. Our fingers are crossed…

www.Ferndaleradio.com

 

By Jill Lorie Hurst

What does it take to follow your dream?” This is the question asked every week by Gary Bredow, Jenny Feterovich and the team of Start Up, a TV show that’s required-viewing in our house.

“Start Up” travels the country, talking to small business owners about how they made their dream a reality. Gary introduces the project, steps back to let them tell their story, then poses the practical questions. Where did you get financing? Are you operating in the black yet? Their goal? That we the audience will understand the challenges but see the possibilities.

I first met Bredow, the creator and host of the popular national PBS show, when he unlocked the door of his Corktown studio so that I could come inside for a meeting. Learning that he and his family live in Ferndale (wife Rebecca owns Fern & Dale’s salon on Woodward), I asked if he’d talk to me for Ferndale Friends. A year later, here we are.

A lot happens in a year. Start Up will air its fifth season this Fall, available in over 96% of the U.S. They have filmed over 150 small business stories from coast-to-coast. The show is featured on PBS, World Channel, Create Network and, as of June 1st, Amazon Prime.

Start Up is an ongoing learning experience for Bredow. “It’s like college, but way more valuable,” lessons that helped when he and Rebecca opened Fern and Dale’s. Bredow is excited to see his wife back in the salon business, which she left to raise their two kids, now nine and six. They struggled through financially tough times. The struggle was “humbling and motivating.” When a big-money offer to work for someone else came along, Rebecca told him to hold out, don’t take the money so you can end up making somebody else’s dream come true. Finally, things clicked with PBS and Start Up. Now, both pursue their projects and love their life in Ferndale.

Bredow, who grew up in Carleton Michigan, talks about Ferndale. “I love this community. The festivals, the forums. The balance of good restaurants and nightlife with family. People here are engaged with each other.” He laughs. “Ferndalians are up in each other’s business. In a good way. There’s nowhere else I would live.”

Bredow was a production assistant in the film industry until directing the critically-acclaimed documentary about techno music, “High Tech Soul.” Bredow likes the process of creating television content. Film, he says,
especially documentary, is an extremely long process and tends to have a shorter shelf life. You have to really love the content.

Start Up was, in his own words, GB’s first successful start up, but there’s more in the works. He and Feterovich pitched the show to PBS, brought American Express on as a major sponsor and Start Up quickly acquired a national presence. Now writing a bi-monthly column for Entrepreneur Magazine, Bredow has acquired a unique insight into the world of entrepreneurship, and has a book called “Start Up Stories” scheduled for release in early 2018. He and Feterovich also started Arcadius Productions, a production company repped by William Morris Endeavor.  They have a pilot greenlit on a major cable network, and are in pre-production on a show set at Pontiac’s M1 Concourse. There’s no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

The Start Up team gets thousands of submissions. Bredow gives partner Feterovich all the credit for doing the heavy lifting with casting and production. There are practical considerations like geography, a background check. And one rule from the beginning. No trust fund or inheritance “start ups.” It’s “cool, but not interesting.” One day is spent taping a segment, getting to know the people, having dinner, meeting their families. Bredow doesn’t prep questions before taping. “I know nothing about the business when I walk in. I just go with my natural curiosity. Engaged conversation, but with the cameras rolling.”

The production team learned a lot from just traveling together from location to location. There are highs and lows; such as the time all their equipment was stolen in Atlanta. They had to go out and rent cameras and lights. And then there was Cleveland, when they were told distribution had fallen through. They were devastated, and almost didn’t go forward with their shoot. Luckily they did, because the segment caught the attention of start-up expert and Shark Tank panelist Daymond John, which changed everything for former Detroit Lion Al “Bubba” Baker and his “de-boned” ribs. A reminder that, no matter how tough things get, you gotta keep going. You don’t know what will happen.

Bredow: “Maybe your story is the next source of inspiration that’ll change someone’s life.”

Watch Start Up on PBS, World Channel, Create Network and Amazon Prime.

Story by David Wesley
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

Rossana Rea is local fitness trainer with a vibrant, philanthropic story to tell. he is the owner and head-trainer of his Ferndale-based gym body morph, and his achievements are numerous — not just for himself, but also for the people in the cities he’s lived in. we met at Java Hutt last week to discuss his origins, his mission in life, and the impact his work has had on the people he’s helped.

We sit across from each other at a side-wall table in the early afternoon. Rossano is a presence in himself: Tall, muscular, handsome, and his polite bass voice responds to my query, “I opened Body Morph in 2003. Originally, it was to be my next move from working in other gyms and training people out of my apartment in Royal Oak. I needed my own location; a spot that was big enough to house all the necessary equipment and get the job done, but not so large that it would lose the privacy aspect. I found a good piece of property, purchased it, and began to buy equipment and make changes to the existing structure. It started as personal training only, and grew into other things like boot camp classes. There wasn’t a Snap or LA Fitness or any other gyms for that matter at that time. Those who wanted a great workout, came to me. And we had, and still have, a great time. I believe weightlifting should be a part of everyone’s lives, no matter what age.”

Between sipping coffee and speaking over the gathering crowd of the afternoon rush, I ask him how it has affected him during his tenure as owner and trainer. “It changed my life. My boot camp is centered around weights, machines, outdoor conditioning exercises and a bunch of balance work for core. Too many gyms are trying to redesign the wheel. I know what works and I stand by my product. I’ve trained a range of folks from the Pontiac Fire Department to former Big 3 executives, to In-Sync’s Lance Bass when I lived in California. Military and police, athletes, to house moms and dads. My greatest pleasure is seeing the confidence spike from a client who has lost 120lbs, wouldn’t leave the house a year prior, and now is feeling great about herself. This is what makes training fun for me. Everyone is unique and has a reason to train.”

Before meeting Rossano, I had heard about his charity work with him dressed as Batman visiting various children in local hospitals. I asked him about this side: “My body was used as the mold to create the ‘batsuit’ Ben Affleck wore in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. After moving back to Detroit from Los Angeles, I created my own batsuit and began visiting hospitals such as Beaumont, Mott Children’s of Ann Arbor and charity events. I don’t like the way social media and society is making it easier for students to bully one another. So, aside from trying to put smiles on the faces of kids who are in the hospitals and feeling down, my other goal is to try and deliver a message that bullying is wrong. People can be cruel. Kids are mean to each other, and social media doesn’t help. Everyone likes Batman, and if Batman says that you should be kind to others, people will listen. Check us out on Facebook and Instagram at Batman Visits to let me know if you’d want Batman to show up at your event.”

He goes further to explain how this expanded into another aspect of Body Morph — starting a program specifically designed for children. “This notion got me to join forces with one of my staff members, Kristina Novichenko, and develop an after-school workout program for 9th-12th graders that not only conditions them physically but also teaches discipline and respect. Konfidence with Kristina meets Wednesdays and Fridays from 4:00-5:00 P.M. at the gym. We’re thinking about adding a couple more days, since the students are liking it so much and seeing such great results. A confident and physically fit student is a student who, we believe, will be more respectful to their fellow students. We encourage parents to bring their teen to try out one of our classes. The first one is always complimentary.”

I wind down the interview by asking him what the future holds for him and Body Morph. I’m satisfied with everything about Rossano: He’s a wonderful human being who’s given so much, and continues to give with his growing career. “Body Morph is always growing. I have a phenomenal staff of certified personal trainers who, along with myself, run my boot camp classes. We keep the classes fairly small and are truly like a family. Perhaps there may be a larger location in the near future or an addition built onto the current building. We’re excited to be neighbors with Livernois Tap, and foresee a lot of success for everyone. It’s been great being a part of the Ferndale community for such a long time and helping people awaken new potentials. Being able to show them that anything is possible is what Body Morph is all about. To “morph” is to change. Through solid workouts, education on proper nutrition, and good motivation, we can change your body safely and in a fairly quick amount of time. Large, impersonal gyms are fine for what they are. I sell accountability and privacy. We cater to those who want just a little more for their investment. It’s an honor being a part of this community, and we look forward to serving the Metro Detroit area for years to come.”

By David Stone
Photos by David Mcnair

YOU SAY YOU KNOW ALL THE BARS IN FERNDALE? READY FOR A SIMPLE TEST? WHICH BAR:
·    Was voted one of the best in the country?
·    Employs a bartender who has won both a national and a local bartending competition?

I’m talking about The Oakland : Art Novelty Company and master bartender Chas Williams.

So, let’s meet our mixologist. Chas grew up in Bloomfield Hills, graduating from Lahser High School in 2006. He often stopped by the bar after classes at WSU and was eventually offered a job. Since that time, he has competed regionally and in Las Vegas and recently won a national competition sponsored by Glenfiddich Scotch. It was a very unusual competition about getting inside the mind of the bartender. He also won a local competition sponsored by Detroit City Distillery. He was then asked to create a custom a gin for them, which they sell out of their tasting room.”

The Oakland is designed to resemble a “pre-Prohibition” bar. By this, Chas explains, “Bartending was more of a trade, you would apprentice under a bartender, like we do here. It was a much more respected profession. And when that job was turned into an illegal drug-dealer, all the good bartenders either quit or left the country. Then, when Prohibition was over, they were having fun living abroad, none of them came back. The ones who had quit had been too old. So there was no continuation of this job of bartender as apprentice and professional.”

Chas goes on to point out that when Prohibition was repealed, bartenders continued to use low-quality spirits. This continued till “about 20 or 30 years ago,” when the craft of bartending was revived according to Chas. And he likes to say that a large part of the craft is hospitality. This is also reflected in the decor, which their website describes as “early 20th century speakeasy elegance and contemporary design elements.”
The Oakland just recently started offering food. They still concentrate on cocktails, but they now offer a selection of high-quality appetizers or, as Chas calls them, “bar bites.” But he repeats that the main focus of The Oakland continues to be “hospitality, and making good drinks.”

I asked Chas what he liked about working in Ferndale. He began with an interesting bit of history, mentioning that The Oakland was “the first dedicated craft cocktail bar to open in the greater Detroit-area.” Then he told me how “Ferndale is more welcoming to different ideas…Ferndale covers a lot more than people expect. It’s a great place if you have an idea that you know someone will like, but you don’t know who. Because someone will like it here.” And if you are someone who likes expertly-crafted cocktails in elegant, pre-Prohibition surroundings, you need to check out The Oakland : Art Novelty Company.
The Oakland : Art Novelty Company 201 W. 9 Mile, Ferndale, MI 48220
(248) 291-5297 Theoaklandferndale.com

By Malissa Martin

BODYBUILDER AND PERSONAL TRAINER TERRY ULCH says 60 is the new 40! Terry and his wife Diane own fitness studio 359 Fit on Livernois in Ferndale. The Ulches are devoted to being physically active and living a healthy lifestyle.

Terry recently published his first book, “America More Than Average Income.” The book is approximately 150 pages, and is not the aver-age fitness book.

“America More Than Average Income” is about working on your body as well as your mind. The book is broken into four parts, for different age groups, with a very special ending. The first quarter of the book is for 12 to 70-year -olds, and begins by Ulch explaining that anyone can make $100,000 a year even without
a traditional education. The second quarter of the book focuses on 12 to 18-year-olds, and Ulch shares how important school is, having the best habits to present to a future employer, and how to get by in the working world without an education. In the third quarter, which is for 18 to 50-year-olds, Ulch gives tips on how to outwork every-one in the workplace, and how to get the attention you deserve. He also shares tips on saving money, and paying bills on time.

The fourth quarter of the book is for 50 to 70-year-olds living in their golden years. Ulch ex-plains how life is still filled with opportunities to make money, and how to safeguard yourself from catastrophic problems in your later years. The last part of the book is about experiential events that happen in people’s lives and how to handle them. Ulch conversed and consulted with Dr. Ted Naman of Ferndale’s Epic Medical for this particular section of the book.

“America More Than Average Income” should be available for purchase on Amazon by now.

Ulch hopes that his book will not only educate people, but inspire them to get involved in physical activities; especially people over 50-years-old. The aging process is something that happens to everyone. However, there is a way to slow down its onset, and that is to live a healthy lifestyle, according to Terry and Diane. This includes exercising, getting enough rest at night, and maintaining a balanced diet. “Let me give you a staggering number out of the Mayo Clinic: Seventy per cent of all death-related diseases are preventable,” Terry quotes. The Ulches urge people to not wait for bad health signs to start being physically active. “You lose ten per cent of your muscle each decade of your life. You’re losing so much muscle mass and your fat muscle proportion is changing. So in order to maintain the muscle mass you’re God-given when you’re young, you have to work harder,” Diane says.

The aging process is inevitable, but there’s a way to be healthy and strong in latter years too. “You’re aging right now, and everything goes on a decline. If you come into this gym now, ten years from now you’ll be more fit and stronger than you are today,” Terry says.

Terry says opening the gym has been a dream come true. “I love it. I love every person here. Most of my people have been with me five or more years. I have people who have been with me for 12 years,” Terry says. Diane says its Terry and the atmosphere of the 359 Fit that keep people coming back. “When you get older and you start getting out of shape, some people get a little intimidated to go into one of the big clubs.

Everybody’s wearing little outfits and jumping around, and that’s not it over here. This is about serious workouts, and people don’t worry about that. There’s a huge comfort in that as well,” Diane explains.

Terry trains one-on-one with clients for one hour; motivating and educating them on improving the body from the inside out. A little more than half Terry’s clients are women and 88% are over 50. He says “they’re the easiest. They want to lose weight, almost all, but they like the appearance. They also understand the aging process and they’re 50. They’re right in the middle of that aging process,” Terry says.

Terry turns 70 on July 6, and says he’s considering entering another bodybuilding contest since he can now enter the age 70 category. Competitions or not, Terry and Diane say they will always engage in some type of physical activity, live healthy, and reap its benefits.

Story by Sara E. Teller
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

It goes without saying that individuals with criminal offenses on their records find it more difficult to get a decent job. No matter their skills-set, they are often turned away because of past behavior, no matter what they’ve done to rectify the situation. However,Michigan Works! has instituted a program designed to help these individuals get back on their feet. Michigan Works! helps the unemployed build their marketing tools, including cover letters and resumes, and search for the most appropriate job opportunities. Unemployment pay is often offered during the job hunt, as well.

Ex-offenders are “provided with intensive one-on-one services,” says David A. Straka, Career Planner with Ferndale Michigan Works!. These are a bit more extensive, because those that have committed crimes need to know how to best approach being open and honest about their offenses while seeking employment. “We provide counseling on the best way to structure their resumes, how to approach the employment application and, also, how to handle the interview process and follow-up to the interview,” David says.

The ex-offenders program has been around for several years, almost since the employment service was established in the 1930s. “This was all part of the Employment Counseling program,” David explains. “Throughout the years, more attention was paid to providing services to ex-offenders through programs like Employment Service, the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), and now the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).”

The services are only as helpful as an individual’s own effort, however. As long as a person is willing to put in the work, Michigan Works! can help just about anyone get back on his or her feet. “The services we provide, if they are followed by the individual, can result in employment,” David says. The service can be very individualized, focusing on the exact skill or marketing tool needed by a particular person to be successful.”

“Sometimes, depending on their situation, retraining can be an option to assist them in gaining a marketable skill to help them be more competitive in the marketplace,” David explains. “We also give them information about the Federal Bonding Program, Work Opportunity Tax Credit Program, and if necessary, Michigan [Prisoner] Re-Entry Program (MPRI).” The Work Opportunity Tax Credit Program offers a federal tax credit to employers for hiring individuals with significant barriers to employment. And, the vision of MPRI is that every prisoner will return to the community prepared for success. Through this program, state departments work with local officials and human services agencies, such as Michigan Works!, to coordinate services and integrate support systems to aid the returning prisoner in finding employment.

The Federal Bonding Program serves as an insurance plan, more or less. It is in place to help an individual “sell an employer” by offering “an assurance that if they do anything that would cause damage due to their actions, [this] program can help cover any monetary damage,” says David. “Depending on their particular situation, we also provide [employment seekers] referrals to other partners in our program who can assist with other barriers we may not be able to provide.”

As far as how the Michigan Works! Ex-Offenders Program benefits the city of Ferndale, David explains, this “basically means that employers that hire individuals with a barrier are now contributing to the community, paying taxes and can invest in the local economy.” Employers willing to hire ex-offenders will receive the federal tax credit, and are aiding in the reduction of crime by keeping a large percentage of the population off the streets.

The Ferndale community is encouraged by members of Michigan Works!to get actively involved. “The main members of the community that can get involved would be businesses and organizations that hire these individuals,” David says. “A number of times individuals with barriers have needed skills, but are being turned away from employment because of the offense.”

This is a shame, because the individual has the talent to truly benefit
the community if he or she is just given a chance. “We hear a lot from employers about how they can’t find qualified employees, when individuals with barriers have the skills and a business or organization will not hire them” simply due to this fact.

For more information on all services offered:
The Ferndale Michigan Works! Office, located at 713 E 9 Mile Rd, Ferndale, MI, 48220, can be reached Monday through Friday, 10:00AM to 4:30PM, at 248-545-0222.