Business

The City of Oak Park has evolved tremendously since City Manager, Erik Tungate, took office in 2012. “The City government operation has been fully modernized, and there is a new spirit among our residents and business owners. There is also a greater awareness for the role our community plays in the greater Metropolitan Detroit area,” Tungate explained. Much of this is due to his view that “You can’t cut your way out of a bad situation. You have to grow your way out,” a quote referenced in last year’s State of the City Address. Tungate is a proponent of sustainable growth.

Tungate explained, “For a city that is almost entirely built-out like Oak Park here in the inner ring suburbs of a major city like Detroit, there are only so many ways you can find new sources of revenue and maintain vibrancy. In local government, we have to make sure we are as fiscally responsible with our taxpayer’s hard-earned tax dollars as possible while staying focused on investing in quality of life amenities, attracting new development, and seeking strategic partnerships in our region in addition to finding cost savings. There is no question a proactive approach like this has proven to be more successful than simply cutting city expenditures and expecting the market to come to us.”

The theme of Oak Park’s 2017 State of the City Address was “Bridging the Past, Present and Future.” Tungate offered some insight. “At the address, we unveiled our bridge overpass project on the overpass at I-696 and Coolidge. We wanted to tie in all of the things we’ve been doing with that, since it is an infrastructure that most people in the State of Michigan will know us by once it’s installed.” He said over the course of the next year and looking even further ahead, “I want the City of Oak Park to be able to maintain its fiscally sound financial practices, and I would like to see us moving in the direction of even more walkability.”

Tungate is hopeful that the 2018 State of the City Address will bring even more exciting news. “We may be able to unveil some great new projects during our 2018 State of the City Address. In any event, when these projects are ready for prime time, we will be releasing information to promote the positive impact they will have on our growing community. I can safely say we are actively pursuing multiple mixed-use developments. In fact, this is one of our prime goals for 2018.”

As far as other goals for the city, “We are pursuing new housing developments through our economic development arm as well as investing in our infrastructure to build the kind of quality of life amenities that attract new residents from other areas. While it may seem counter-intuitive given how communities have dealt with attracting new development and residents in the past, we strongly believe that our investments will pay off versus the traditional mindset of giving tax incentives only,” Tungate explained. “This is a fairly new approach for Oak Park and there is no doubt we’ve seen this approach work in communities like Detroit, Ferndale, and Birmingham, who have invested heavily in creating one-of-a-kind places where people want to live and work.”

Tungate said his favorite thing about Oak Park, in general, is its residents and business owners. “I’ve worked in many other communities throughout my career and there is no question we have one of the most supportive groups of residents and business owners anywhere. Whether it’s Public Safety or economic development, they are always there for us and ready to provide a helping hand. It’s amazing to witness each and every instance. When you combine that with the amazing and talented team we have at the City, it is something truly special.”

Tungate said residents should know, “We are ready to lead and are not waiting for things to happen to us. Rather, we are shaping the future for ourselves and making things happen. Our city government is setting new standards and aggressively pursuing excellence in every way.”

Story by Mary Meldrum
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

Marian McLellan, Mayor of the City of Oak Park since 2011, is part of an enthusiastic municipal team that is focused on creating a vibrant and progressive future for Oak Park.

Two big strides that the City made that contributed to the progress, according to Mayor McClellan, have been establishing an Economic Development Department and jump-starting the City’s communications department. New infrastructure projects, business development, affordable housing options, clear and upbeat City messaging and exciting activities have all strengthened the quality of life that Oak Park offers. And all of this is turning heads.

The housing market is robust and gaining momentum, with market trends showing a 23 per cent increase in median home sales over last year. The commercial real estate market is following this trend. With many properties available at a good value, businesses are shopping the selection.

“Our population is going up and we have multi-family housing moving in. Oak Park is still the last good bargain for wonderfully built homes,” says McClellan. “We see more and more young people deciding to make Oak Park their home. I see retail getting renovated. And, as we finish the renovation on the Nine Mile Redesign project, we’ll attract more and that will bring people from other cities in.”

One other piece of big news that will give Oak Park an economic boost: after 60 dry years, licensed Oak Park restaurants can now sell beer, wine and mixed drinks. Under the Michigan Liquor Control Commission guidelines, a liquor license can be issued to one business for every 1,500 residents. This gives Oak Park the ability to issue approximately 20 licenses. Only two licenses have been issued out of the 20, with a third in consideration at the time of this writing. This will catch the attention of restaurant chains that previously would not consider Oak Park as a viable location for their business. Liquor licenses uncap potential in Oak Park and will bring in more jobs, tax dollars, more traffic and revenue from residents inside and outside the City.

Mayor Marian McClellan says, “This allows family restaurants to serve beer, wine and mixed drinks with meals, and shows promise in attracting the type of commerce that can spur economic development within our city while serving the citizens who would love to patronize businesses close to home.”

The economic profile of Oak Park has a great foundation with sidewalks on all the roads, LED street lights, a mature tree canopy, and three public school districts in the city–Ferndale, Berkley and Oak Park schools. Additionally, the housing stock is beautiful, solid mid-century modern brick homes that are in high demand.

“Oak Park has always maintained infrastructure,” Mayor McClellan describes. “We have the best city services in the area. Our Public Works employees take a lot of pride in what they do. There is a lot of good will in the city. Police officers do triple-duty in Oak Park; the same officer is police, fire and medical first-response.”

One noteworthy thing that separates Oak Park from many other communities in the area is their very stable diverse population. There is a lot of attention paid and energy put into supporting and promoting its valuable diversity. This is reflected in their events as well as the private Montessori and Jewish schools located in the city. There is also an accredited Rabbinical college where people all over the world come to study.

Economic development is on a breakneck pace and gaining steam. People are waking up to the City’s blooming potential, its great location and the value of the City’s real estate.

Mayor McClellan is excited when she envisions the city’s future: “I see new energy and excitement. There will be businesses right up to the sidewalk – not behind a parking lot. There will be many storefronts that are mixed-use construction with a place to eat, a place to live, a place to shop and a place to play,” envisions McClellan. “They will have two and three stories, all within walking and biking distance. There will be boulevards, green spaces and parks.”

Story by Sara E. Teller
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

Forgotten Harvest was founded 27 years ago by Dr. Nancy Fishman, who knew firsthand what it felt like to go to bed hungry. “She had suffered the indignity of hunger herself and vowed to dedicate herself to relieving hunger in Metro Detroit,” explained Tim Hudson, the organization’s Chief Development Officer. “Nancy started Forgotten Harvest from the back of her own vehicle and began to rescue food from restaurants in the area.”

Fishman’s venture has since branched out substantially and, today, Forgotten Harvest employs over 70 people and has a fleet of 35 trucks that rescue food from grocery stores, restaurants, caterers, dairies, farmers, wholesale food distributors, and other Health Department-approved sources in and around its headquarters in Oak Park. In it’s 2016-2017 fiscal year alone, the effort’s Rescue Team has received over 45.8 million pounds of food by collecting surplus, prepared, and perishable items.

The food that is collected is redistributed to those in need, fulfilling Forgotten Harvest’s mission of relieving hunger in metro Detroit and preventing nutritious food waste. “We deliver that food free of charge to over 250 agencies in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties,” Hudson said. He added that those who need food can visit pantrynet.org directly, contact Forgotten Harvest at (248) 967-1500 or send the organization a message on any of its social media channels.

Forgotten Harvest offers volunteer opportunities at its headquarters in Oak Park, as well as at Forgotten Harvest Farms and is actively seeking participants. “Last year over 16,000 people volunteered at our Oak Park headquarters and at Forgotten Harvest Farms” Hudson said. “Interested parties can register to volunteer online. It’s easy. There are two sessions held six days a week. Morning and afternoon sessions are available.”

Recent notable donations to the cause include 16,200 pounds of frozen poultry contributed by Miller Amish Country Poultry on behalf of The Kroger Co. of Michigan this past December. The Miller Poultry contribution included 300 40-pound cases of frozen bagged drumsticks, representing approximately 36,000 meal portions; 300 12-pound cases of fully cooked chicken sausage, representing approximately 10,800 meal portions; and 100 cases of ground chicken, representing approximately 1,800 meal portions. Little Caesars Pizza also donated $30,000 toward the cause during the holiday season.

Hudson said that operating in Oak Park is ideal because, “It is a central location for our trucks and was chosen due to access to all major freeways.” This allows volunteers to quickly and easily collect and redistribute items. He added, “One in six people face hunger or food insecurity in the Tri-County area,” which makes being positioned in Oak Park important for readily providing hunger-relief services to those in need.

Forgotten Harvest is a member of Feeding America, a nonprofit organization that includes a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks which feed more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based agencies. Feeding America works to educate the general public about hunger. The national office produces educational and research papers spotlighting this issue, and its public policy staff works with legislators to advocate for changes in public attitudes and laws geared toward hunger issues to aid in nationwide hunger elimination and prevention.

Forgotten Harvest is creative with the ways in which it raises contributions to support its efforts. Twenty-six years ago, comedian Tim Allen co-founded Forgotten Harvest Comedy Night, and the Detroit-area comedian will return this year to host the event at the Fox Theatre on April 20 at 8:30 P.M. The annual event benefits and gives the organization’s supporters a chance to showcase their achievements in the community. Past presenters have included Jay Leno and Martin Short, among other notable celebrities.

Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com, 313Presents.com, and ForgottenHarvest.org.

Story by Ingrid Sjostrand

One of the most anticipated additions to the City of Oak Park in 2018 will be the revitalization of the WWJ Transmitter building into a restaurant. Why the hype? The American comfort-food-style restaurant tentatively named 8MK will be the ninth venture for restaurant group Union Joints – joining The Clarkston Union, The Union Woodshop and Vinsetta Garage, among other eateries throughout Metro Detroit.

The art deco structure, located east of Coolidge Hwy. on 8 Mile Rd., has occupied the lot since 1936 when the Scripps family built the transmitter building as a full-service radio station for WWJ-AM (950). Designed by famed Detroit architect Albert Kahn, the building contains a lot of art and Detroit history, which Union Joints plans to preserve.

“Maintaining the original design and character of the building was extremely important to the City,” says Kimberly Marrone, Community and Economic Development Director for the City of Oak Park. “With past experience on projects with this developer, we knew we were leaving the building in good hands with Union Joints.”

The company is almost as famous for their repurposing of historic buildings as they are for their Union mac and cheese. Several of their existing restaurants are based out of unique locations, like turning an old automotive shop into Vinsetta Garage in Berkley and revitalizing a volunteer fire station into Fenton Fire Hall.

“Part of our purpose is repurposing. We’re drawn to buildings that have always served one purpose and are destined to serve another,” Union Joints co-owner Curt Catallo said at Oak Park’s State of the City address in February of 2016, when the project was announced. Ann Stevenson, wife of Catallo and co-owner/head designer for Union Joints, will work with Von Staden Architects on the design of 8MK.

“Our approach is to really just simply…let it be. We’re working hard to honor the building by not introducing a drastic change. It’s such a grandly handsome space with such a commanding presence—one which doesn’t require a tremendous amount of adjustment to its footprint,” Stevenson said. “The architect on this project, Tamas Von Staden, has a really wonderful way of working with the building and not against it.”

Construction will begin this summer on the 5,228 square-foot building that has been vacant since WWJ shut their doors in 1995, but planning has been in the works since 2014 when the City of Oak Park decided to attempt to purchase the building.

“We started working on this project in the Fall of 2014 when we tried to envision what could be done to the long vacant building. We began working with the property owner to see if they would sell the building to the City. We came to an agreement that they would,” Marrone says. “In the meantime, we reached out to Ron Campbell, Principal Planner and Preservation Architect for Oakland County’s Economic Development and Community Affairs Department, to see if he had any ideas or leads. As it turns out, he worked with Ann and Curt before on their other restaurant projects and set a meeting for them to meet with us on site.”

Plans for expansion on the five-acre lot include an addition of a 5,103 square-foot space for a kitchen. The restaurant will have approximately 140 seats, two outdoor spaces, and a large parking lot with a 160-car capacity.

“The restaurant is creating a destination restaurant in our community that will draw people far-and-wide to visit Oak Park,” Marrone says. “It gives us the opportunity to showcase what a great community we are and hopefully see some additional economic development activities because of it.”

The Union Joints team is just as excited as the City to highlight the great community of Oak Park, and has benefited from the involvement of the economic development team.

“The City of Oak Park has a dynamic vision for their future and we are so honored that they’ve entrusted us with its gem. Happily for us, they have a keen understanding of how bogged down and unnecessarily complicated a project like this can be, and they’ve duly paved the way to make everything smoother and more efficient,” Stevenson says. “A warmer, more accommodating group than Oak Park does not exist. It’s been a joy.”

Story by Sara E. Teller

FedEx Ground, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp., recently opened a 304 thousand square foot distribution center in Oak Park, as part of a larger, nationwide expansion plan. The facility took about 18 months to build. The primary purpose for expanding was to accommodate a growing need for FedEx Ground services, which has doubled in volume over the past ten years. The new site offered a boost to Oak Park’s commerce and career opportunities for its residents.

FedEx is a leader in cost-effective package ground shipping, offering service to businesses and residential customers throughout the U.S. and Canada. “All shipments move via trucks across the country to and from a network of 590 facilities,” explained David Westrick of the FedEx Ground Media Relations team. Westrick explained the strategic process that went into selecting the perfect location for the center and why the site of the former Detroit Artillery Armory was eventually chosen.

“As we always do for projects of this size, we conducted an exhaustive search for the right location. The site [of the former Detroit Artillery Armory] was chosen because of its ease of access to major highways, proximity to customers’ distribution centers and a strong local community workforce for recruiting employees,” Westrick said. “The new facility is part of a nationwide network expansion to boost daily package volume capacity and further enhance the speed and service capabilities of the FedEx Ground network. Since 2005, the company has opened 15 new hubs featuring advanced material-handling systems, and expanded or relocated more than 500 local facilities.”

Keyon Laws is the senior manager of the Oak Park FedEx Ground distribution center, which covers 54 of the former Artillery site’s 100 acres. Laws loves the warm and welcoming façade of Oak Park. He said, “The Oak Park community has been exceptionally welcoming to us. I have become involved with the Tri-Community Coalition, an organization that provides preventative substance abuse programs for at-risk teens. One of the reasons FedEx is one of the world’s most admired companies is that we are encouraged to give back to the communities where we work and live. I do it and I encourage all of our employees to do the same.”

The Oak Park location opened with 235 employees, and leadership continues to add positions as demand for FedEx service grows. “FedEx is proud to be recognized as one of the world’s most admired companies, and we take seriously our commitment to be a safe and responsible neighbor. Our operations will create jobs for local citizens, many of whom will benefit from our company’s promote-from-within philosophy, and additional benefits in terms of financial investment, volunteerism and other community support,” Westrick explained. “Consistently ranked among the world’s most admired and trusted employers, FedEx inspires its more than 400,000 team members to remain ‘absolutely, positively’ focused on safety, the highest ethical and professional standards and the needs of their customers and communities.”

He added, “We are frequently hiring, but just coming off our busiest time of the year we do not have many positions open at this time.” There are, however, a few open opportunities in various departments for interested candidates.

For more information, interested parties can visit the company’s site at
www.fedex.com. For career opportunities, job seekers should navigate to careers.fedex.com.

 

 

Story by Sara E. Teller
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

Marty Babyov, owner of The Suit Depot, became an entrepreneur in his teens after watching his older brother sell items on eBay. “I opened my eBay account when I was 12-years-old. I initially opened it to purchase, and I didn’t get serious about selling on eBay until I was 16,” he explained.

“Before that, I watched my brother list random items that the previous owners of our home had left behind. It amazed me that items which had no value when we were limited to a local market sold immediately once offered to a global market. I started off selling whatever was laying around: electronics, apparel, etc.”

Then, he made the fateful decision to start marketing mens wear. “At one point, my cousin heard I was selling on eBay and gave me some of his out-grown high-end dress shirts to sell. I was shocked when they sold for over$25 a piece. It got me thinking about apparel and mens wear in particular.” Marty was drawn, specifically, to the timelessness of the wear. “It retains its value, and it’s a niche market in which I could become an expert and cement a business reputation around that.”

He started off small, in his parents’ basement, but soon needed more space. “I quickly outgrew it, so in 2009, I moved to our first warehouse in Oak Park,” he explained. “In 2015, we decided to open a pilot retail store to test the local retail market. It was well received, so we expanded our mini-store and added on another 8,000 square feet making up the full 11,000 square-foot store we have now.”

Selecting Oak Park for the brick and mortar was a no-brainer. “I chose Oak Park for a few reasons. I live right across the street in Southfield, so it’s convenient. Real estate prices in Oak Park were amazing compared to some other areas. It might not be the biggest city, but it’s safe and right off the major freeways so people can easily get to us from surrounding cities. I figured if the store isn’t worth driving 15-20 minutes for, then I haven’t created a business. While locals support us, we also have customers coming from as far as Flint, Lansing, Ann Arbor, Battle Creek, and even Ohio and Toronto. It’s a destination store.”

He also appreciates the close-knit community Oak Park has to offer. “It’s amazing how easily you can contact the Mayor or City Manager, whether by calling them or messaging them on social media. The city services are some of the best in the area, and they really do a great job of keeping it small and friendly.”

The Suit Depot, Marty said, is both a discount and luxury retailer. “Our motto is ‘Style. Value. Service.’ When it comes to mens wear, customers are used to having to choose between discount prices or full-service,” he explained. “We pride ourselves on combining the two. We’re a discount store but stock a larger inventory and offer service and expertise usually only found at luxury retailers.”

When he’s not busy running his company, Marty is out and about in Oak Park. “I enjoy roller-blading and biking. As an Orthodox Jew I only eat kosher, so Oak Park is definitely the place to be. There are a few great kosher restaurants and a bakery on Greenfield Road so I can always run out for a quick bite in the middle of the day.” He also helps out local charities, saying, “I enjoy the opportunity The Suit Depot gives me to assist local charities in dressing the needy.”

As far as future store plans, Marty has a new venture in the works. “While we have no immediate plans for expansion of the retail store, we are launching a side business independent of The Suit Depot that will make custom suits,” he said. “The service will also be available in The Suit Depot’s Oak Park location.”

Story by Sara E. Teller
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

Mopec is a global company headquartered in Oak Park that provides equipment and products to a wide variety of specialized industries, including pathology, animal research, anatomy lab, mortuary, and necropsy. The company’s top-notch design and manufacturing engineering teams have the expertise and experience to customize laboratory solutions to fit just about any business needs. Mopec also prides itself in its innovative work stations and equipment, as well as employee commitment to customer satisfaction.

“Mopec was established in 1992 by Rick Bell and George Hallman. Mopec services over 80 countries, but we’re proud to call Oak Park our headquarters, home,” explained Director of Marketing Heidi Bodell, adding, “We provide cadaver refrigeration and other stainless-steel equipment to morgues, anatomy labs, pathology departments, medical examiner facilities, and animal research labs.”

Bodell started with Mopec in March of 2016 as a Digital Marketing Specialist, and was promoted within the same year to a position in which she was responsible for revitalizing the company’s marketing strategies. She has a lengthy professional marketing background, and is experienced in web marketing campaigns, digital analytics, content development and creative design. Bodell is happy to put her skills to work at a company that has been on the forefront of the industry for decades and is seen as a go-to provider of specialized equipment. “We’ve produced equipment for top medical facilities and universities across the country,” Bodell said.

Mopec is proudly positioned in the diverse, centralized, up-and-coming suburb of Oak Park. Bodell explained, “We are so happy to be a part of the growing Metro Detroit area. The city has so much to be appreciative of and an incredible amount of potential for the future. Mopec is delighted to contribute to this growth. Oak Park’s outstanding combination of business facilities and residential communities is something we’re quite fond of. It doesn’t hurt that we’re neighbors with the unique, diverse town of Ferndale either.”

The company has been able to offer consistent support services to local businesses for decades, and the team works hard to keep Oak Park in the spotlight by continually advertising its headquarter’s location. “Although Mopec isn’t a walk-in retailer or service facility, we often support local businesses for printing needs, material suppliers and other services,” Bodell said. “We also advertise our headquarters quite frequently to help put Oak Park on the map.”

Mopec has a wealth of talent employed at its Oak Park facility who are actively making a difference in the community. “We have a very talented group of customer service representatives and engineers located at our Oak Park offices. There are also approximately 50 sales representatives throughout the U.S. and several international dealers to ensure a face-to-face conversation is possible with every customer. Every Mopec individual is dedicated to providing superior consultation tailored to each facility’s specific needs. We’re known for our flexibility in customizing equipment to fit any space or requested feature.”

Recently, the company took advantage of opportunity to highlight their philanthropic side by making new equipment for the Detroit Zoo’s Aquarium. They also make equipment for the morgue and crime processing labs.

The company has also been able to consistently reach out to Oak Park and neighboring residents interested in employment, and leadership is always looking to take on more talent with the necessary skills and background to serve Oak Park. “Resumés of driven, hard-working individuals are always welcomed,” Heidi said. She added that “Mopec is continually striving to produce and offer industry leading products equipped with advanced technology and safety features.”

For more information on products and services, or to apply for a position readers can visit www.mopec.com or stop by during normal business hours.

Story by Sara E. Teller
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

The Oak Park E-Z Roll, a popular bike-riding event, began three years ago. But the concept came to founder Aaron Tobin well before the first ride. “Four or five years ago, I wanted to start a weekly bike ride. A group of my friends said they were interested. But when it came down to it, we never actually got out,” he said. “So I decided to start a Facebook group. The first time we rode, there were probably 25 people. Now we get 150-200 riders each time.”

The E-Z Rollers meet on a weekly basis, every Tuesday evening at 6:30 P.M., at the Oak Park Library, when the weather is nice. “We ride from the beginning of summer sometimes through Halloween, or whenever it gets too cold,” Tobin said. “We have a hard-core group that is out with us every week, and many others who drop in when they can.”

The E-Z Roll is family-oriented, and the group considers safety first and foremost. “The environment is entirely family-friendly,” Tobin explained. “That means no drinking, no smoking, no loud or offensive music. You can’t wear anything offensive, either. We go out for about an hour, and we just ask that riders leave that stuff behind. We have handheld radios, and we direct bikers along the path. We’re always focused on safety.”

The E-Z Roll was organized as an entirely free event to promote community togetherness. “It’s just a great way to get people off their couches and kids away from their games and devices. The ride promotes comradery, a sense of neighborhood and friendship,” Tobin said. The rides are open to cyclists of all ages. “We have riders who originally brought their kids in carriers on the back of their bikes, and now the kids are riding their own attached bikes. They’ve participated for years. We also have college professors, father-son and mother-daughter pairs, business owners and fast-food employees. Even City Manager Erik Tungate rode with us.”

There’s a different route for riders each week. “Paul Levine maps out our path. He even considers elevations to ensure all riders can come out. We have a different route each time: riding in Oak Park as well as in neighboring cities, including Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge, Ferndale, and Berkley,” Tobin explained.

“We promote the event on our Facebook page. We also have a text messaging network that alerts bikers who don’t have Facebook about upcoming rides,” Tobin said.

The E-Z Rollers are not affiliated with any political party, or third-party business or organization, and do not intend on monetizing in any way. Yet, Tobin said, “We do sell t-shirts for just a couple of bucks if riders are interested. And, ‘Ken the light man’ is always around to sell bike lights. We also work with local bike shops, like D&D Bicycles in Berkley, to offer riders discounts on purchases or repairs.”

As interest in the group grew, Tobin also began to print off business cards to direct people to the Facebook page. “People see this massive group of cyclists riding by and they come out on their front porches, waving and cheering us on. They want to know who we are and what it’s all about. So I pass out the cards.”

The E-Z Roll offers a few special events throughout the year, too, including after-ride dinners and a Fourth of July ride. “Chef Cari’s Street Eats offered a fish ‘n chips dinner after one of our rides last year. We’re hoping to do this again this year,” Tobin said. “It offered more of a social atmosphere for riders where we could have more in-depth conversations. The E-Z Roll has helped neighbors meet for the first time, even if they’ve lived next door to each other for years.”

The E-Z Roll team is looking for sponsors for a free helmet giveaway. Business are encouraged to email: oakparkE-Zoll@gmail.com.

By Ingrid Sjostrand
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

Love and community are the reasons that Ernie’s Market has been successful for the last 63 years, according to owner Ernie Hassan.

“It’s a community store, rather than an individual store. I don’t own this, the community does. I’m just doing my part and you’re doing your part by coming in,” Hassan says. “It’s not about money; it’s a love that we have for you. It’s the love that they have for me that makes me stay here.”

The sandwich shop, nestled between homes and businesses bordering Ferndale and Oak Park at 8500 Capital St., regularly sees lines of people waiting up to an hour for a famous Ernie’s sandwich and the charismatic energy of Hassan.

“Famous” isn’t an understatement, either. The list of accolades range from winning Channel 4 Click-On-Detroit’s Best Sandwich Shop for ten years in a row to being featured nationally on Travel Channel’s show, Food Paradise.

To ensure all ingredients are of the best quality, Hassan wakes at 5:30 A.M. to get the freshest meats, cheeses and vegetables, which are then sliced before opening. Sandwiches are customized into colossal sandwiches –one called the “monster” is comprised of seven different meats – and topped with Ernie’s signature “Love Spice.”

But, the sandwiches aren’t the only draw of Ernie’s Market. Many come as much for Hassan’s uplifting, caring personality as they do for the food. “Who loves ya’, Baby!” is affectionately uttered to every customer that comes through the door and is Hassan’s most famous phrase. It’s clear he genuinely cares about his customers and they care for him, too.

“It’s a very unique scenario. This is a safe haven. The mothers, when I was a kid, would come and sit on the bread rack and watch me when my father left. It’s not Ernie’s store, it’s everyone’s,” he says. “They were here as much as I was. It’s nice we’ve had a lot of friends and we still do.”

The sandwich shop started in 1955 with Hassan’s father, the namesake of the market. However, the business has been in the family since the 1920s when Hassan’s grandparents opened their grocery store and meat market. Currently, Hassan’s wife Lois and his daughter both help run the market.

Hassan says he couldn’t pick a better community than Oak Park either, he’s even the Goodwill Ambassador for the city.

“Basically, we are part of a community. I try to be every-thing within the community and, in return, the community helps us. The mayor, the police…everyone involved in the city is wonderful and helps us.”

By: David Ryals

Detroit’s own Gail Perry-Mason has come a long way, from foster care to caring for others. She is a respected authority in the financial industry, and best-selling author. Her years of experience, coupled with her “down-to-earth” but also “down-to-business” style, has made her a sought-after speaker and presenter.

Regularly addressing capacity crowds, she educates people on financial literacy conducting financial training sessions and workshops for companies such as Chrysler, IBM, MGM, Blue Cross and Wells Fargo.

Recently, she took top-performing Oak Park and Detroit area high school and middle school students on a trip to the Chicago Board Options Exchange. She said of the experience, “My intentions about taking the students on the first trading day of the year was so they could learn how the Exchange works. The trip was just part of the lesson, and they also attended a luncheon at 5/3 Bank and learned the importance of banking, credit and savings. This trip had such a great impact on our young investors. Some of our youth now want to become investors.”

While juggling her demanding financial career and public appearances, Gail found the time to write and publish her first book, Money Matters for Families, which served as a manual for the employees at DaimlerChrysler on managing finances. The book is geared toward families and focuses on the critical elements for building a strong financial foundation Gail’s second book, Girl, Make Your Money Grow, written with co-author Glinda Bridgforth, was a national best-seller. This guide, featured on Oprah’s Debt Diet helped build Gail a national following.

Despite her eons-long career of achievements, she told Ferndale Friends, “My proudest accomplishment is seeing our youth walk across the stage and receive something no one can take away from them: Degrees, business owners, skill trade certificates, etc.. My biggest accomplishment is when all of my youth are better than me…that is all I want out of life.” It’s such a blessing to see many of the youth from years ago that attended the money camp volunteer and mentor others.