Business

Story by Maggie Boleyn
Photos by Bernie LaFramboise

Hazel Park is poised to become the first city in the state of Michigan to require microchips for dogs in place of a regular license. In 2015, San Antonio, Texas, became the largest US city replacing standard pet licenses with the implanted chip.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of dogs found in Hazel Park,” Bethany (Beth) Holland said. “We know they’ve got people, and we want to increase the number of reunions with owners.” She noted that without identification, “It’s a miracle they get back home.”

Holland has served as Volunteer Team Leader at the Hazel Park Animal Control Shelter, and was recently named as a Councilperson for Hazel Park.

Holland said that the idea for the microchip requirement has been discussed since 2015. City ordinances will have to be changed to reflect the microchip mandate for dogs, but the rollout is planned for April 2017. Currently, there are no plans to require cats to have the rice-grain sized microchip device implanted. Holland promised that there will be ample advance notice given to residents regarding the new regulations.
Supporters of the implanted devices say that registered microchips increase the odds of your pet returning home. Microchips have unique numbers that function as your pet’s ID. If your pet becomes lost, most veterinarians and all animal shelters have special scanners that can “read” the microchip. Universal scanners provide the best chance of reading microchips.

The risk of an animal shelter or vet not being able to detect a microchip is very low. Rarely, microchips, which are designed to last for 25 years, can fail and become undetectable. Human error can also lead to a chip not being read as can faulty scanners, or struggling, aggressive or obese animals. According to the Humane Society, while universal scanners can detect a competing company’s chip, they may not be able to correctly read the data.

Collars with ID tags can fall off, thereby losing your contact information. “My dog loses them all the time,” Holland confided.

Holland said microchips can be obtained at vaccine clinics, veterinary offices and at Hazel Park Animal Control. The chips are inserted with a large needle between the shoulder blades, and the animal does not need to be anesthetized for the procedure.

Prices for implanting the device vary and generally range from $10-$20 dollars. Depending on the microchip model chosen, there may be an annual fee charged by the microchip company to maintain current registration information. These fees also vary; and some companies may charge a one-time fee, while others require annual maintenance fees. Some chip companies will register pets with any brand of chip. The American Microchip Advisory Council is working to develop a network of registry databases to streamline the return of pets to their families.

Holland acknowledged that potential fees of around $30 dollars per dog would hit some Hazel Park residents hard.

“We are expecting growing pains,” she said “We’re trying to figure it out. We’re basically creating the wheel.”

She said that plans are in the works to possibly vary the fee, depending on factors such as whether the dog has been altered, has lived in Hazel Park for more than six years, or already has a microchip device implanted.  Holland said that the City of Hazel Park has purchased 100 microchips, and is actively seeking corporate sponsorships to help defray additional costs.

The Humane Society says that microchips do provide an extra level of protection if your pet loses his collar and tags, and are a good back-up option for pet identification, but should never be the only identification method used.

The Humane Society recommends that owners who are concerned about pets having negative reactions to microchipping, or if you have questions about microchips in general, to check with your pet’s veterinarian.

Story by Sara Teller
Photo by David McNair

Frontier Promotions is an up-and-coming full service sales and marketing firm that established in downtown Ferndale in June 2014. The company works with Fortune 100 and 500 companies, and was named one of the Detroit Free Press’ Top Work Places in 2015 as well as one of 2015’s Best Businesses of Ferndale.

“We love that our office is located in a progressive city like Ferndale, and the community and environment is one of the main reasons that we initially decided to look for offices spaces here,” explains Frontier’s Human Resources Manager, Sarah McCarty. The company thrives in a highly team oriented atmosphere.” She says Frontier prides itself on its fun, interconnect-ed culture. “We focus on creating a positive environment. We empower our team members to take a hands on approach in their professional responsibilities and are constantly improving the morale of the entire crew. We have a very ‘work-hard, play-hard’ style of doing business.”

Frontier Promotions is also focused on giving back to the community, and hosts many charity events throughout the year. “We make it a priority to be involved with the community and philanthropic work,” Sarah explains. “We have provided community meals and Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless. We also have a tradition of adopting a family for Christmas to make sure that we are taking care of our local community and giving back.”

The team particularly enjoys working with Ferndale’s First United Methodist Church, located at 22331 Woodward Ave, at 9 Mile Rd. “We have done some volunteer work with First United Methodist Church and particularly like helping them because they have been so kind and welcoming to us since first moving into our Woodward location. Our office space is directly across from First United Methodist, and when we first moved into our space we struggled with parking since the lot here is shared by multiple businesses.” The church immediately stepped in to help. “Initially, we became involved with the church when they offered to let us use their parking lot. In exchange we did some volunteer work, including a Thanksgiving dinner.”

For the Thanksgiving event, Frontier Promotions had five of its team members take the day to prepare, cook, and serve a Thanksgiving meal at the church. “We prepared all of your traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green-bean casserole, rolls, etc. And, were able to service over 100 members of the local community that did not have the means to buy or cook their own dinner,” Sarah says. “It was really rewarding to see the appreciation of everyone involved, from the church staff, to the recipients of the dinner. Everyone came together, and for us it really made us feel thankful to be part of the Ferndale community.”

Frontier Promotions hosts a number of activities usually around the latter portion of the year and during the holidays, including providing a family with gifts during the Christmas season. “That is sort of a tradition for us now,” Sarah says, adding that “We pride ourselves on our work environment and office culture, so every Thursday we do some sort of team-building exercise.” Last year in December, Frontier also decided to attend the Be-a-Kid-for-a-Kid event at Dino’s Lounge. Proceeds from the event went to Blessings in Backpack, which Sarah says is “a really great organization that provides low-income students with meals for the weekend that they otherwise would not have.” The Frontier team has also planned local food drives, with the latest also held at the end of 2016.

Story by Andrea Grimaldi
Photos by Bernie LaFramboise

We are open to the public. We invite anyone to visit and walk around, walk their dogs,” Machpelah groundskeeper Paul Saville explained, looking around the park in his backyard. On this quiet fall day, the grounds crew worked on blowing away leaves and tending to the flowerbeds, as the sun came through the branches of the countless trees. And, had we been anywhere besides one of the oldest cemeteries in Metro Detroit, I would have wondered how no one took him up on his offer.

To Paul, a calming walk around the cemetery is nothing new. He has worked maintaining the cemetery since 1978 in what started as a summer job. By the mid-‘80s, he had worked his way to head groundskeeper and moved into the house on the property, hidden behind a garage of maintenance machines. Machpelah is one of the last cemeteries in America that has a groundskeeper living on the property, and the Saville family treats it with the care and pride of home.

Machpelah Cemetery is a gorgeous park, regardless if tombstones scare you or not. The history and depth in Machpelah Cemetery is worth a long, winding walk. The Jewish cemetery is located on Woodward, just south of Marshall road, across from a car dealership and surrounded by businesses. Despite the busy area, the cemetery is a very peaceful place, 24 acres of immaculate landscaping backed by the David Oppenheim Memorial park. The cemetery has 9000 garden beds and circling walking trails. Machpelah has won an America in Bloom award, as well as a Ferndale Beautification award, with good reason. There is a year-round crew that keeps Machpelah beautiful. Weeding and garden maintenance is a nonstop task, starting at one end of the park and restarting as soon as they reach the other. The crew also must level out between 300 and 500 graves and tombstones a year. Along with the tradition of having a groundskeeper on the property, Machpelah is also one of few cemeteries that hand digs each grave.

The Machpelah cemetery is integral to Detroit history. The first house on Woodward Avenue stood where the cemetery is now, when Woodward was a dirt trail. The two-bedroom house was on the Granger farm property, and the occupants paid $7 dollars per month for rent.

Machpelah has a very large veterans section. Alfred Levitt, a member of the Flying Tigers in World War II, is in internment here. A Congressional Medal of Honor awardee is also buried here. Members of the Purple Gang, Detroit’s Jewish mafia and Al Capone’s liquor supplier during the prohibition, rest here as well. According to rumors, one of Al Capone’s girlfriends is here, as well as a previous mayor of Las Vegas. Gilda Radner’s parents are here in a family plot. “Babeland” – a section of early 1900’s children – is the eeriest of them all.

While all internment records are available on the Machpelah website, the staff is also available to help with genealogy questions. The employees of the cemetery are very well-educated on the history of the cemetery and are happy to show guests around the graves. The main administration building has a chapel and a family room for guests. The guest gathering room has shelves of the interesting things found while digging; old medicine bottles, beer and soda bottles, broken glasses, rusted out horse shoes. A Congressional Medal of Honor from the Civil War was also found on the grounds.

The staff is accommodating to guests of Machpelah there out of both necessity and curiosity. Walk a mile somewhere you never thought you would, and walk away more intrigued because of it.

Story by Mary Meldrum
Photo David McNair

She walks in to meet with me, and immediately the room is lit. Bright and peppy, with a smile a mile wide, Teri Griffin Williams is glowing. She reminds me of a young girl, perhaps 14-years-old, with her curly hair, her immaculate complexion, and the bubbly personality to match. However, it is clear when we talk that she is an old soul with some pretty incredible wisdom. I am mesmerized.

Many know Teri as the Bliss Lady. Indeed, an apt description for this nymph of happiness, but before she became the Bliss Lady, Teri’s life was very different. It is hard to imagine that she began her professional career as the assistant to a bank president, but she did. She crunched numbers, which is about as far away from her professional reality now as the Earth is from Mars. She is good at math and numbers are predictable, so she put these talents to good use early on, and now occasionally has clients who hire her as their business consultant.

Through a series of tragedies, life challenges and revelations, Teri discovered her less tangible and powerful talents with energy work.

Born the youngest of six children in a traditional Catholic family, Teri was on a traditional religious path with her family as a young child. At a certain point, she realized that the traditional path didn’t satisfy her. Now, Teri openly talks about spirituality, but not from a religious perspective. Spirituality for her is about raising your higher self; connecting with something that sustains you in the name of love and compassion.

“My own quest for personal success, contentment and peace of mind led me down many paths, having taken more seminars, workshops and classes than I can possibly begin to list. Each of which has led me to believe that what we focus on multiplies.”
– Teri Griffin Williams

An avid practitioner of meditation for the last 25 years, Teri meditates every day. Weather permitting; her practice is done outside in nature to give her the full benefit of the sunshine and fresh air. Bringing her meditative knowledge to her clients, Teri is also a co-founder of the guided meditation series: I Meditation Project (iMeditationProject.com). This series of guided meditations has been created in the first person. Instead of hearing the guide’s voice say “You are…” in typical guided meditation vernacular, I Meditation Project has recorded its series to say “I am.” In a deep meditative state, this simple change is fluid and transformative because the brain does not need to translate the “you” to “I.”

Creator of the LEARN REIKI FROM HOME study program which is on the web page  (LearnReikifromHome.com), Teri reveals that her Certified Home Study Course is founded on the original Reiki Masters’ concepts from over 100 years ago. This course fits the needs of novice Reiki practitioners as well as more experienced practitioners or Reiki Masters.

For the last six years, Teri has hosted her Soulful Living radio show that features interviews with inspiring and some well-known guests. You can listen to Teri on Empower Radio every Monday at noon, or listen to her radio content via podcast. Teri’s busy professional career also now includes being a Certified Intuitive Practitioner, a Reiki Master, and a Shamanic Practitioner. With these skills, Teri practices Soul Retrieval and Soul Work.

There is a clear warning on her website, www.SoulPractices.com, that Teri Griffin Williams makes to her clients up front: Possible side effects of following her methods may include feelings of: joy, peace, calm, connection, flow, happiness, sexiness (yes, sexiness!), enthusiasm, creativity, etc.  Whatever she does, it is clearly working for her as she effortlessly maintains her bubbly conversation and her glow. She is walking testimony to the success of her work.

 “Teaching others how to expand their potential for living life to the fullest through creating a practice of impeccable soul care is my passion.”
– Teri Griffin Williams

Teri promotes the idea that ultimately everyone is their own healer. For those who are interested in experiencing more harmony, abundance, relaxation and rejuvenation in their lives, she can help guide you to discover those and more.

We could all use that glow!

Story by Sarah E. Teller
Photo By Bernie LaFramboise

George and Cecilia Grego purchased Como’s restaurant, on the corner of Nine Mile Rd and Woodward, on April 1, 1961, and since then the restaurant has been a staple in the Ferndale community. The Italian hot spot is best known for its pizza. “We have the best pizza anywhere around,” says Como’s manager, George Grego Jr.

Como’s has a full bar and regular entertainment, combining dining and drinks, great for any sized party. It will offer a fun-filled lineup for the upcoming Blues Festival, January 27th through February 4th. “We’ll have entertainment each night,” George says.

There is a banquet area that can accommodate up to 100 people, as well as a private dining room seating up to 40. In warmer months, the outside patio seats several hundred people. “It’s a simple phone call,” George says of how quickly a reservation for a special event can be made. Como’s also hosts birthday parties, wedding and baby showers and other celebratory events.

Como’s reopened in October 2016, after having been cited for several violations related to cleanliness and the safety of its food, including citations for its kitchen area and ultimately closed by the health department the previous month. A lot of it had to do with “noncompliance of staff,” according to George. “We have a lot of new staff now and have remodeled.” Of the original 20-plus employees, only six have been retained. “No money had been put into the restaurant in nearly 20 years,” George adds.

“We’ve taken this opportunity to put the funds in that were needed.” Most of the building has been gutted and the space has been completely transformed, with all violations properly addressed and eradicated.

“We’ve made some fantastic changes and additions, and have thoroughly addressed and resolved any outstanding issues with the Oakland County Health Division,” George also indicated in a press release following the restaurant’s reopening. “All current staff are ServSafe certified.” ServSafe is a program that uses FDA Food Code guidelines to provide safety education and training to anyone employed at a restaurant who handles food.

George credits much of the positive change to Como’s new award winning chef, Pete Lech, a graduate of Schoolcraft College who served as an executive chef at Andiamo Italian Restaurant for a number of years. “Pete is just great,” he says. “He comes with a wealth of knowledge and experience.”

The restaurant has instituted some great specials to make sure members of the community stop by and check out the changes. “We have the best specials earlier in the week,” George says. On Monday’s Como’s has half-off all pizzas. On Tuesdays, pasta is buy-one, get-one free. And, on Wednesdays, patrons can enjoy a strip steak dinner for just $20.  “It’s a little-known fact that Como’s delivers, too,” George says. “And we even deliver beer and wine.

Como’s Restaurant is located at 22812 Woodward Avenue.
Staff can be reached at 248-548-5005.

Story by Jeff Milo

Anthony Kasperek is “The Robin Hood of Finance…” At least that’s what his former colleagues from Wall Street have apprised of his current endeavor. The modus operandi behind his Ferndale-based company, Dig! Wealth, is to empower his clients with financial literacy. He’s also out to demystify and deflate the perceived complexities of money management.

But at the same time, Kasperek knows it’s an uphill battle because when most folks hear “financial advisor,” they may as well be thinking: “…root canal.” Still, many who have come to consult with Dig! Wealth have wound up disarmed by the down-to-earth-ness of this Ferndale-based biz-whiz. He’s not wearing a suit, even if he may have on a tie; he may casually discharge a cuss word amid his musings on mutual funds; there’s a guitar beside his desk from his punk rock days ready to be strummed; and he’s all-too-ready to filter-away that intimidating aura around intimidating stuff like 401ks.

“There’s not a lot of trust when it comes to financial planning,” Kasperek said, speaking from several years’ experience, including a stint with as a financial agent with a firm on Wall Street. The reason is that most work-shops, most seminars, most “luncheon-learns,” as Kasperek said, “are never presented in a way that makes sense to people.”

“I aim to help people realize that they don’t have to be afraid of money,” said Kasperek. “Just ‘Dig’ it! Financial planning is something we all have to do, but what I’m trying for is to understand and appreciate everyone’s lifestyles. And I knew that I had to create a sort of transparency in financial planning that just wasn’t there before.”

People use phrases like “adult-ing…” in a sort of self-aggrandizing way. We feel like we’re doing a good job at “adulting” when we get all their bills paid on our own. Kasperek realized that all of us could excel infinitely more as an “adult,” if we just dig in and develop the everyday basics needed to properly “grow-up” and grasp the fundamentals of financial literacy.

Kasperek had his revelation of reinforcing our “adulting” skills back on Wall Street a year ago. He decided that his former/current and assuredly future home of Ferndale was the best place, socially/culturally/economically, for him to start up this business, operating out of a collective of recent start-ups inside Renaissance Vineyard Church.  “I remember just after my second daughter was born, looking at her and her sister Jade and worrying that there may not even be 401ks when they grow up. What can I do for them?What can I do to help people?”

Much credit for his move to foster Dig! Wealth has to go to Kasperek’s wife, Alisha; once they moved back she basically put it to him that she could tell he was unhappy with his current tract in finance and challenged him to try something new.

“I have one script to write in my life and my life has always been fairly unique: I was abandoned at birth, adopted, raised in Sterling Heights, then Royal Oak, then Ferndale, and I never would have thought I’d get into finance and wear a suit. I was in punk bands and living with artists and skateboarding, I never saw myself in those suits.
“I saw some pretty crazy stuff when I was on Wall Street, and my heart and soul was just not in it. So, there’s gotta’ be a good side; there’s gotta’ be a reason I got into finance. I could go down a path and drive a nice car and work out of a skyscraper…or, I could come back to Ferndale, a place that I love to death, that’s helped me become the person I am, and I can raise my family here and be creative (with finance) and help people in the best way I know how…”

Raising a financially literate child is very important in today’s world. Kasperek relates a story about his daughter asking him how much money she would need to retire at the age of 25. “She was seven-and-a-half. My reply was, ‘Sweetheart, millions of dollars.’ The look on her face was of deflation. So even a seven-year-old can feel the same way a 65-year-old can feel about retirement.”

What Kasperek wants to do with Dig!, with financial advising, is to give back to this community. And that’s through empowerment. Oh, and another reason he’s “a real person…” is he’s not working on commission; he’s seeing you and your situation, and not a percentage.

“I’m driven to encourage people,” Kasperek said, plain and simple. “To encourage businesses, or prospective business owners, to encourage everyone to get into the basics of finance. That’s why I started the workshops, ‘Adulting for Beginners,’ and am starting up a social club soon called the Adulting Society Club. We are full service/full disclosure; we can manage your money or give financial advice, or just make a budget. It’s easier than you think, it’s just all these little things that no one has any idea about yet cuz they feel like they’re just throwing darts at the board.”

“Being an adult isn’t very sexy,” Kasperek said. “But we’re trying to make it sexy.”

More info:
akasperek@financialguide.com
twitter.com/Dig_Wealth
www.facebook.com/digwealth/

By: Christina Bournias, Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce

THE FERNDALE AREA CHAMBER (FAC) of Commerce’s mission is to champion the growth of business and community through leadership and collaboration. The Chamber serves as a guide by providing businesses the opportunities to collaborate with each other to improve the business climate in the Ferndale area.

By joining the Chamber, organizations are investing into a thriving business community. Members help establish the Ferndale community—and its surrounding boundary areas; Oak Park and Pleasant Ridge—as an economic leader within the Metro Detroit region. The Chamber’s vision is to make the region the community of choice to work, live, learn, and grow. FAC members receive tools to increase visibility and stay connected within the community; aiming to improve business practices. One of the most important tools is the community support 300+ active members give each other from referrals.

The FAC is now tucked inside of the Credit Union One (CUO) building at 400 E. 9 Mile. Positioned almost directly across the street from our previous facility, FAC can be found on the main floor, to the immediate right of the front lobby.

Professionalism and strong leadership are at the forefront of the FAC. The Chamber recently announced our new Executive Board of Director: Jerome Raska, owner of Blumz…by JRDesigns; Vice Chair, Lisa Schmidt of Schmidt & Long, PLLC; Treasurer, Blake Prewitt of Ferndale Schools; Sherry Kless of Oakland County Michigan Works! Oak Park. Our new elected Directors to our Board include Heather Coleman-Voss of Oakland County Michigan Works! Ferndale; Benjamin Long of Schimdt & Long, PLLC; Aaron Stone of STONE+TEAM Consulting; and Dale Vigliarolo of Lake-Pointe Construction. Attending programs and sharing terrific ideas, every Board Director provides valuable in-sight to the organization. Be sure to introduce yourself to them at our next Coffee Connection, Chamber Lunch Club, and/or Business After Five program.

The FAC hosts several programs and targeted events each year, including “Artist In You”, “Rainbow Run”, and the festive Annual “Gala.” With over ninety (90)+ donated silent auction items, and hundreds of people in the audience, the 2016 “Our Local Flavor” Gala evening was a night to remember.  As the ‘Biggest Event of the Year’, this event helps maintain the member-funded Chamber as a vital organization for its Members and for their businesses. Delightful and delicious, the Gala celebration is certainly flavorful. In addition, the tasty “Sip. Stroll. Roll!” event was added to the 2016 calendar and was also well received. Philanthropic FAC events are a fun way to highlight the community establishments and to give back to deserving organizations. The Chamber provides these events for the good of its community and looks forward to another successful 2017.
Email Kim Hart, Executive Director at director@ferndalechamber.com or call 248-542-6120 for detailed information.  Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce 400 E 9 Mile Rd, Ferndale MI 48220 http://ferndalechamber.com,
FB: @FerndaleAC

By Malissa Martin

Ferndale Friends, and the Underwood 5 team members working to bring a community radio station to Ferndale, hosted an emergency meeting on Thursday, January 26 to try to save the imperiled project.

The station must be on the air and broadcasting by August 7, 2017 to keep the construction permit issued by the Federal Communications Commission. In order to make that deadline, station representatives say they must raise another $8 to $10 thousand dollars by this March. Board members have had a challenging time raising the necessary $15 thousand dollars to launch the station. So far, they’ve raised $5 to $7 thousand. The most expensive item in the budget is the most important – the transmitter, which is $4,000 dollars. Without the transmitter, antenna and tower, the radio station cannot launch.

At the meeting, board members of the station presented the station’s vision, plans and updates to interested supporters. The presentation lasted 90 minutes, and ended with plans to keep meeting every two weeks until the station is on the air. Station President Michelle Mirowski says the event went well, and community members appeared to be excited again about the project. “I think it’s great that we had a meeting here and met a lot of people that really want to be involved and see it as a benefit, especially to the community,” says Michelle Mirowski.

According to the Underwood 5 materials, the station plans to offer “Hyperlocal programming, community engagement, promotion of community events, specialty broadcast, and more. Potential programming for the station include: on-air book club, interviews with local news makers, coverage of government and board meetings, Go Comedy hour, prep sports coverage, geek culture and LGBT programming involving Affirmations.”

Once broadcasting, annual expenses for the non-profit radio station are expected to be about $5,000 dollars. The owners of the Rust Belt Market, Chris and Tiffany Best, have offered space in their facility for the station. Station volunteers are on a tight deadline. Funding to help launch the station will come from local sponsors in exchange for on-air mentions once the station is up-and-running. At the meeting, one local businessman offered to donate $2,000 dollars.

Ferndale’s community radio station will broadcast on 100.7 FM, reaching a roughly three-mile radius from the Rust Belt (at Woodward and 9 Mile). It is extremely unlikely the F.C.C. will issue another such license in the Metro Detroit area in the foresee-able future. If this project fails, the dream of a community-owned radio station for Ferndale may be over forever.  “What we have is extremely rare, and I can’t express that enough to people,” says Mirowski. With the deadline fast approaching, Mirowski says she and her team are not giving up. Although they didn’t expect the fundraising to be this challenging, they will continue to work hard until the end.

“This is a passion project and we see benefit in it, and it’s just a great opportunity that doesn’t always come around.” says Mirowski. Board members for the Ferndale Community Radio include: Michelle Mirowski, president; Dave Phillips, secretary/social media; Dave Kim, treasurer/promotions; Jeremy Olystyn, program-ming/training; and Keith Fraley, radio engineer.

For information on donating to help fund the Ferndale Community Radio project email: ferndaleradio@gmail.com. Visit www.ferndaleradio.com any time for more updated information.

By Jenn Goeddeke

BLUMZ BY JR DESIGNS is certainly not your ‘average’ flower shop –they go above and beyond in providing a variety of services and, of course, outstanding product.

Co-owned by Jerome Raska and Robbin Yelverton, Blumz continues to thrive in two full-service retail locations: 1260 Library Street in Detroit, and also at 503 East Nine Mile Road in Ferndale. Raska and Yelverton continually strive to impress their customers with award-winning floral designs, all-occasion gifts, one-stop event planning, and tuxedo rentals. Additionally, this entrepreneurial team is driven to give back to the community through involvement in a host of activities, such as: charitable events, education, the Rotary Club and the DDA.

In a recent conversation with Raska, I learned more detail on the formation of Blumz 15 years ago, and its steady development since.

Raska grew up on a dairy farm in Armada, MI. He always had a passion for the outdoors, and was also creatively-inclined. Early classes taken by Raska include art and textiles, which led initially to work in the field of fashion and merchandise. Additionally, he worked at the Royal Oak Farmers’ Market on weekends, with some members of his extended family. “We were selling mostly vegetables, and some flowers. People began asking about floral arrangements for weddings. I saw this as an opportunity to start a retail flower business.”

Raska worked both “smart and hard,” opening small retail flower shops in country areas, plus traveling extensively as an educator in the floral industry. Prior to the birth of Blumz, Raska also worked as a general manager for large flower companies. On his travels in the industry, he met Yelverton, “…and the rest is history!” Raska added with a laugh.

The Raska-Yelverton connection was instantly strong, so before very long, Yelverton moved from Mississippi to work directly with Raska. Together, they purchased a location in the heart of Detroit. Raska added that this bold business move was made back before Detroit was considered ‘cool’, and many close friends were questioning their decision.

By way of a more in-depth explanation by Raska: “It was a ground-floor opportunity, and we were able to watch as the city was basically rebuilt…young families were moving in, and many of the ‘hottest properties’ now had waiting lists. It had become ‘electrifying’ in terms of events, festivals, live music, art, and so on. We worked there for the first year, and loved it, but we also needed more space to work on events. Ferndale was just starting to ‘turn around’ in terms of retail development. We found a location off 8 Mile Road, just across from the State Fairgrounds. Originally, we planned to open it as a full warehouse, with a space outside to pull up a truck.” Despite warnings from friends and family (such as: “the cars on Eight Mile go too fast!”), this location became not just a warehouse, but also a lucrative retail location.

Following their success on Library Street in Detroit, and then on Eight Mile road in Ferndale, Raska and Yelverton were encouraged to hear of a new space opening up, one owned at the time by another florist, Nature Nook. Raska immediately reached out to ask about a possible purchase, “…they already knew me from my work in the industry, and they liked our business model!” Within two weeks of negotiations the deal was sealed, and Blumz on Nine Mile became a reality.

Eleven years later, and the energetic duo are forging ahead with their typical enthusiasm! Having just won a coveted National “Best of Weddings” Award this year from Wedding Wire Couples’ Choice, Raska and Yelverton could not be happier. Although both have won many individual achievement awards in the past, plus previous awards for Blumz, this one was special. Raska commented, “…this was a complete surprise for us…we were nominated without even knowing it, so the actual award came as a wonderful recognition! We are not afraid of hard work, and have a real passion for what we do…that passion comes through, then people respond to it…we are very blessed.”

Regarding the future direction of Blumz, Raska said with a smile: “We never say no to opportunity!” Clearly, Raska and Yelverton share a love of both Detroit and Ferndale, with only positive things to say about the two cities.

What is the best part of Blumz? Without hesitation, Raska responded, “It is celebrating the special occasions in people’s lives, and making them more memorable and festive…whether or not the occasion is happy or sad, we can always provide beautiful product!”

Blumz is located at 1260 Library Street in Detroit, 48226 and at 503 East Nine Mile Road in Ferndale, 48220. Phone numbers for the two locations are (313) 964-5777 and (248) 398-5130 respectively.
Visit their website for more information, or to shop online: www.blumz.com.
For more about Blumz weddings, visit: www.Ourprettywedding.com.
Connect on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/Blumz.
Ferndale Store Hours are: M-F, 9am-7pm; Sat, 9am-5pm; Sun, 10am-3pm.
Detroit Store Hours are: M-F, 8am-6pm; Sat, 10am-3pm; Sun, Closed

Story by Ingrid Sjostrand
Photo Bernie LaFramboise

Much like any other starving artist, the career of a writer is associated with struggle and the luck of catching a big break. While there is no denying that becoming an established author takes hard work and commitment, Metro Detroit writers now have a little more than just luck on their side with Mad Hatter Publishing Inc. (MHPI).

“Our plan is to be a prominent boutique publisher catering mainly to women writers of genre fiction as well as non-fiction work,” Publisher Gia Cilento says. “We plan to grow our authors and projects over the next several years, creating a healthy portfolio of work.”

Started by Cilento in 2015, MHPI is Ferndale’s very own book and website publishing house. They will release their first works in 2017 and one of the authors you can expect to see is A.M. Paoletti. An Army veteran and the first LGBT author published by Mad Hatter will release her thriller Dark of Night in July of next year.

Cilento has worked in publishing for nearly 30 years and has a strong understanding of the struggles that come with the industry. In fact, her own writing led to the inspiration for the name Mad Hatter.

“In 2010, I was working on another online enterprise (Get Out And Live) and started a writing group based at Affirmations.” she says. “As a group we came up with the name – Mad Hatter Writing Group – established a Facebook group and met twice a month to discuss our writing endeavors, challenges, struggles, dreams, and other silliness that struck our fancy. The name felt like a natural when I decided it was time to pull the trigger on creating a publishing company.”

On top of MHPI, Cilento has been a life coach for 12 years, runs the website Greenify Nation, aimed at offering tips for living a environmentally-conscious life in memory of her stepfather and Minerva Press — a company guiding women interested in self-publishing.

“Minerva Press is the home for our publishing services for self-publishing Women Who Write. We provide coaching, editorial, creative and marketing services for those who wish to publish their work independent of a formal Author-Publisher relationship.” Cilento says.

For those looking for the help of a publisher, Mad Hatter is accepting new submissions but Cilento says preparation is key. This includes building an online presence and fan base, finding an agent and, most importantly, proving they are committed to the long process ahead.

“If a writer wants to have a career and be picked up by a publisher, the publisher will be looking for longevity,” she says. “In other words, we want to know that the author is committed to being around for a series of books and that their work is solid and deep enough to gather an audience.”
And for aspiring writers, she offers five pieces of advice:

First, Bravo! It’s not easy to pour yourself out onto a blank page.

Next, make sure your writing and story are done well. It’s okay for your first draft to be rough but be sure to polish it up before you present it professionally.

Network – online with other writers, writing groups, in-person if possible.

Research – find out which publishers and/or agents specialize in your particular type of writing, what’s working in the realm of author marketing, what kind
of cover would look best for your genre/type of book.

Market – everywhere you go, everyone you meet, there is a potential reader. Let them know what you do and what you’re working on in a personable,
engaging manner,”

And, most importantly, once you get started just keep going. “Keep going even when you feel like giving up,” Cilento says. “Keep going even if it feels like you’re slodging through knee-deep mud.”