Business

By Sara E. Teller

MICHIGAN HAS the worst record in the nation for investing in local communities. Limiting funding at the state level greatly limits the ability of local governments to invest in the services needed to keep cities thriving. SaveMICity is an informational campaign of the Michigan Municipal League with the purpose of helping cities understand and reform municipal finance at the state level. The organization’s site boldly states, “The past is over, but we can create a new day, a new trajectory that will result in true economic growth.”

After years of working within the existing paradigms, Michigan Municipal League is undertaking a major legislative and policy push aimed at reforming the way finances are being handled with the direct purpose of encouraging renewed investment in communities. “The theme is that local units shouldn’t just be surviving, they should be thriving,” says Sheryl Stubblefield, Finance Director for the City of Ferndale. The League will be developing policy recommendations specifically around three themes: Cost Containment, Revenue Enhancement, and Structure of Government.

In partnership with the cities of Pleasant Ridge, Berkley, Ferndale, Oak Park, and Hazel Park, SaveMICity presentations are being conducted by the Michigan Municipal League throughout the month of August. Participants will find out why, as Michigan’s economy is recovering from the Great Recession, local communities continue to struggle financially. One of the major themes of the presentations is how Michigan has disinvested in local governments. “A major source of revenues for the local units is revenue-sharing from the state, and that continues to decline,” Stubblefield explains. Other themes include how the state is not appropriating funds to the local units, but diverting it to its own budget instead, and how the property tax system is broken. By using potential local funding for the statewide resources, local governments are left struggling.

“The way the Headlee Override and Proposal A have been set up, they are not working together,” Stubblefield claims, “The system was designed to cap tax growth, with no consideration for declines in tax revenues. There is no fix in the system for when property values dip as low as they have in the past ten years. Taxable values can only grow at the rate of inflation, as will the expenditures. There is no tool to get the taxes collected to where they were pre-recession. Local communities will never be able to catch up.”

SaveMICity presenters argue that current policies aimed at cutting costs and lowering services provided simply isn’t the answer. “As we systematically disinvest in our local communities, we are making our communities less attractive for people. If people don’t move to our communities, or as has been happening, move out of our communities and out of our state, we begin this downward spiral, that will be nearly impossible to recover from,” Stubblefield explains. Basically, the less communities are able to offer residents and those visiting, the less likely they are to remain populated, and the less revenue the cities generate in the long run. It’s a vicious cycle.

“We should be investing in our cities, providing communities with amenities that taxpayers are willing to support and utilize so we can create thriving communities. Increasing the tax base which will increase the tax revenues,” Stubblefield adds. If the appropriate services are provided and cities are kept desirable to live in, this will attract more residents and increase revenue. It’s a win-win.

Presenters also detail the need for tax reform at the state level. “We need informed legislators who understand the issues facing local governments and have the ability to give the local units more tools to increase investment in local communities,” says Stubblefield. The League says the answer is increasing revenues, not lowering expenditures, since local units are already operating effectively on very limited budgets. Communities need assistance from the state to continue providing desirable areas for residents to live and work. “More residents equals a higher tax base which translates to more revenues,” Stubblefield adds.

SaveMICity.com provides Michigan residents with a wealth of information regarding their local communities and the issues at hand. Inquiring minds are able to see just how much the state has taken from their specific locales via a revenue-sharing database. Sharing this information online and spreading the news to family and friends will help get the word out. “Information is power. The more people understand the process, the more involved they can become. The more legislators understand the challenges at the local level, hopefully the more involved they can become, helping foster the changes at the state level that are needed,” Stubblefield explains.

On the organization’s site, SaveMICity supporters encourage residents to “ask your legislator to rethink budget priorities and stay engaged on the broader issue of reforming our system.” The more support is garnered for initiatives designed to invest in communities for sustainable change, the more likely these changes will be made. SaveMICity is also looking for community members to help host future events. “We are taking this approach to break away from the historically limiting tactic of incremental change within the context of where we are today. We need new ideas, innovative approaches, and bold action to create a new future for communities around Michigan,” the site explains.

Sheryl says the message will be a “a continuous conversation until local units can get some relief by way of tax reform.” “By employing community-based placemaking strategies, we strengthen both our economic and social future.”

Story By: Jason Shubnell

Ferndale residents have been wondering about the “Fab Cab” trolley system for months now.

“Have been waiting. Is this happening or what?” wrote one Facebook user.

“We’ve been waiting for this all summer. What’s holding it up? Parking in Ferndale is tight, and Royal Oak is getting to be nearly impossible,” echoed another.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to keep waiting. The City told Ferndale Friends that there is no update at this time and to check back in during the Fall.

What Is A Fab Cab?
For those who may not know, the cities of Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak and Detroit are discussing plans to partner on a proposed trolley system that would make stops along Woodward Avenue. The pilot program would be a circular system modeled after the K-Line route in the Grosse Pointes and the trolley in Troy.

“We have this concept we call Fab Cab,” Jordan Twardy, Ferndale’s economic development director told the Detroit Free Press in March. The trolley “would link key destinations with free ridership on a rubber-tired trolley car, augmented if demand is strong by SMART’s small connector buses that seat 12 to 15 people. The new service would roll from 10 A.M. until Midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.”

Who Will Participate?
Pleasant Ridge officials voted to allocate $10,000 for the first year of the service. The Detroit Zoo is being asked to allocate $30,000. Detroit was pegged at $50,000.

Pleasant Ridge’s James Breuckman said, “We are ready to go, but we are a small partner. Ferndale is contributing much more to the project, so they have some larger issues to work out before the system is a go. There’s also the fact that this is a regional partnership with the Zoo and multiple Cities, so there are a number of governance, oversight, and funding issues that need to be resolved before the service can start. The last time I spoke with Ferndale about it, they were working through those issues.”

Royal Oak was asked to contribute $50,000 for the first year, but City elected officials want to see more details before putting up any money. Todd Fenton, Royal Oak’s economic development manager, said the Downtown Development Authority is taking a wait-and-see approach.

“They basically said come back in a year,” Fenton told the Daily Tribune in March. We checked back in with Todd in late July, and nothing has changed.

“There is no update from the City of Royal Oak with regard to the proposal,” Fenton told Ferndale Friends. “It is my understanding that Ferndale is continuing to work out the logistics and provide more detail for the plan. Once it has finished its diligence, we will meet again to discuss.”

Community Response
Fenton said it’s too early to say how this trolley system has been received by Royal Oak residents.

“I think it’s been overshadowed by a lot of other developments in the city.  Your question was the first I have received since April about ‘Fab Cab,’” he said.

The Free Press reported that “Grosse Pointe Park City Manager Dale Krajniak [said] the trolley pays off in hard dollars. As Grosse Pointe Park’s Kercheval dining and microbrewery district became a hot destination in the last several years, the City saved “a significant capital expense” by adding the trolley service instead of building parking lots, Krajniak said.”

Parking issues, huh? That’s one thing Ferndale could use some help with.

According to documents submitted to Royal Oak officials, the Free Press reported “dollars from local governments — including Detroit — would support the free rides, but after that the hope is for commercial sponsors and advertising on the buses to pick up the tab for Fab Cab.”

One Facebook user said, “I’m all for it. Getting picked up near my house and riding to Ferndale and back, bar-hopping, shopping, zoo trips, etc. This would be awesome. I’ve been waiting to see this start. The Livernois corridor would also be very worthy stops on the route. Fingers crossed!”

Looks like his fingers will be crossed a little while longer…

Story by Jeff Milo
Photos by Bernie LaFramboise

SHELBY HOLTZMAN GOT HOOKED BY A DRILL. THE FERNDALE RESIDENT WASN’T RAISED TO BE A WOODSMITH OR A CARPENTER, AND YET SHE IS NOW BUILDING CREATIVE AND STYLISH HARDWOOD FURNITURE FROM HER NEW SHOP/SHOWROOM ON LIVERNOIS. You see, she fatefully needed to borrow a power tool one day several years ago and it began mounting an appreciation for creating something by hand, particularly with a flume of sawdust.

“My dad was always a fixer, and a very crafty guy,” said Holtzman. “He got me into the idea of being able to make really beautiful things even if you didn’t necessarily have the background in it. But I laugh, cuz my high school didn’t even have a shop class; I wonder how sooner I would have gotten into this had I been exposed to it more.”

Holtzman co-founded Long White Beard in 2014 with fellow creator Daniel Erickson, starting out with a studio space inside the Russell Industrial Center in Detroit. Holtzman graduated college with a degree in anthropology, and was even getting knee-deep into some archaeological works just before she and Erickson got started. But, as she said, “the hobby (woodworking) started turning into a full time gig!”

Long White Beard’s new physical Ferndale space opened in late July; a retail/workshop space distinguished by artist Erin Brott’s dazzling mural of thick white whiskers flowing across the side, adorned with small verdant green ferns, trees and friendly woodland creatures. The showroom features their various home-enhancing creations, like coffee tables, dining tables, custom designed shelving, wooden housing for entertainment centers, and, one of their most popular items, custom hardwood cutting boards.

Holtzman and Erickson saw Long White Beard’s popularity steadily build over time, from their first spot in the Russell, to where they began filling more and more orders, not just locally and across the state , but nationwide over e-commerce site Etsy.com.

Both of them approached it as something that would just grow little by little. “Yeah, we didn’t do it start-up style,” Holtzman said. “We never went to the bank to ask for a loan, or anything. I hate to say ‘grassroots,’ but really, that’s how every single thing has been done, just getting to one point, or making and selling one thing, and then getting to the next. Dan calls it ‘the ratchet!’ We’ve always been trying to grow responsibly.”

Holtzman said she loves the craft, she thrives in the creation process, but that Erickson can handle the grittier business aspects, like accounting and what-not. She knew, from the start, that this company wasn’t going to be called any variation of “Shelby Holtzman Woodworks.” In fact, she admits a lifelong uneasiness with self-promotion of any kind, because she’s always just preferred the work, the focus she finds in creating something or learning how something works. That’s why she’s always been at home either in a lab (for anthropology research) or, now, in her shop (with their three busy/loud/industrial-grade lumber saws).

Holtzman, Erickson, and their “metal shop guy” Tim Umlah, are now settled in their new spot and already filling more orders for various furniture items and home-goods cut, sanded and treated from all locally-sourced lumber. The bigger shop space allows them to start working on more hardwood; that is, substantial blocks of hardwood lumber, from oak, sycamore and ash; and it allows them to invite their customers in and see the work, rather than clicking jpegs over etsy.

he name suggests a timeless wisdom of craftiness that gets passed down over ages. “The techniques and finishings are the same; lots of the tools are the same, just with new models. The ideas behind (woodworking) are the same. But if you come in the shop, you won’t see anyone with a long white beard.”
Glowing reviews poured in from Etsy customers over their first two years, and that attention and acclaim has only built after moving to Ferndale’s veritable second-downtown strip on Livernois. Pieces can be customized to fit your needs. If you’d like to customize something for your home’s dimensions, find Long White Beard online at:

etsy.com/shop/LongWhiteBeard
OPEN Wednesday – Saturday 12-6
860 Livernois, Ferndale, MI 48220

 

by Sara E. Teller

WATERWORK PLUMBING WAS ORIGINALLY STARTED BY OWNER DAVID GREYLEN back in 2006. He launched the company with just one truck. Since then, WaterWork has grown to include a team of 14 people who serve the entire Tri-County area.

David explains, “We go all over the place in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb. We do some commercial work, mostly residential.” David said he started out doing side jobs here and there 11 years ago, working from home. He was with a company in Berkley at the time, and would work all weekend to build up a customer base. “We’ve been in this building on Hilton since 2012,” he said. David says he’s passionate about what he does.

Plumbing is a skilled trade, and tradesmen are in high demand. “Not everybody needs to go to college to get a very well-paying job.” According to David, there’s a shortage of plumbers coming from the next generation. Currently, there is a specific need at WaterWork for journeymen and master plumbers. “If someone walks through my door with a lot of experience, they’re not leaving,” David laughs.

When hiring, David looks for local tradesmen with a certain personality type, in addition to experience, etc. “You’ll be going into people’s homes. Can I trust that you’ll represent us well? Do you have a solid understanding of the service? It’s all about building relationships,” he says. “On-the-job experience is your schooling, your training. Can you learn quickly?”

David says they also look for great personalities while out and about in the community. “There was a guy working at an oil-change place nearby. I talked to him and eventually agreed to give him a job. He was smart and had the personality I could send into homes.” He also looks for “a hard worker, willing to hustle.”

David said, “The recession did not affect me at all. Business is booming. Everyone needs plumbers, and we’ve been very successful. If your toilet doesn’t work, you need it fixed, right?” He said the industry especially has a need for more women. He has a female plumber on his staff, Kris, and she is great with house calls. “Everyone loves her,” he says.
WaterWork focuses mainly on fixes, rather than new construction, although the team has handled some remodels and additions. “I want to get in there and build long-term relationships. I have no desire to sell high-priced items once and never see someone again.”
David said their trucks are always fully stocked and ready to go. Employees hand in truck inventory lists daily to ensure they have the parts they need, enabling them to respond quickly when a job needs to be done. “Homeowners do not pay for extensive drive time,” David says. The team offers emergency service, too.

To inquire about employment, or for other information, call 248.327.4397
www.waterworkplumbing.com/hiring

Story by Jill Lorie Hurst
Photos by Bernie LaFramboise

AUTHOR SARA TELLER GENEROUSLY AGREED TO ANSWER SOME QUESTIONS AS SHE PREPARES TO RELEASE HER FOURTH BOOK, tentatively titled “Narcissistic Personality Disorder: No Band-Aid for the Wounded Soul,” it is her first self-help book, and it will be published by the Ferndale-based Mad Hatter Publishing Inc. (MHPI) owned by Gia Cilento. Sara found MHPI while reading Ferndale Friends! She researched the company, thought they’d be a good fit and “the rest is history.”

Sara’s life history began in Armada, Michigan. She graduated from Armada High School, then majored in General Management, graduating from Michigan State University’s Honor College. In college she had three publishing internships and a part-time writing position at The Romeo Observer. She got an MBA from Wayne State in 2012, concentrating in marketing, and is currently pursuing a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, concentrating in substance abuse and addictions. She plans to finish in 2020-21. Along the way she has also become certified in HTML coding, children’s book writing and social media marketing. She is busy marketing the new book right now and has made herself available for speaking engagements as well. I take a moment to catch my breath as I try to imagine actually completing all of these things!

And then we move on to Sara Teller’s top priority: her two children, Emma, seven and Carson, four. “They are wonderful, my whole life”.  Teller, 33, has lived in Berkley since 2016. She loves Berkley, but also spends time in Ferndale. “I love the restaurant scene.”

JLH: Mom, writer, student, speaker. Is there also a “day job?”
ST: For now, yes. I have a family so maintaining stability is crucial while I build my speaking and writing career. I’m the supervisor of a casting department at an entertainment company. We help models and actors get their start in the business. I have acted a bit! And I enjoy hearing from excited talent who’ve been booked, and knowing we’re helping our clients produce awesome projects. I definitely keep busy. I am doing things I love, so that keeps me motivated…I am very connected spiritually and carve out as much time as possible for prayer and meditation. I also make sure to find quality time for those I love…and I try to give back to the community whenever I can. I just try to stay proactive and organized.

JLH: How do you find time to write?
ST: I just write whenever possible, really. I make time in my schedule, because I find it to be almost therapeutic, a welcome release from the day to day.  It’s a passion of mine, so it’s easy for me to pick up a pen or my laptop and start a story whenever I’m inspired.

Sara credits her parents with setting a good example, when I comment on her ability to complete what she sets out to do. “I’ve had to do a lot of self-reflection lately, writing on this topic for my degree. We all have aspirations and things in our life we’d like to see changed. Having a plan is a great first step, but seeing it through is another story. As the saying goes, ‘you have to make a choice to take a chance’ or your life will never change, right? You only live once, might as well live life to the fullest.”

JLH: What’s next? Is there another book?
ST: Short answer, yes. I’m an advocate for creating awareness of the impact behavioral disorders can have on families and relationships in general. I foresee there being follow up and ancillary titles in the near future, although I am focused on the original right now. I would like to cover other mental health topics as well: substance abuse and addictions, post-traumatic stress and other behavioral disorders.

JLH: What do you read when you have time?
ST: I LOVE Virginia Woolf! I took an honors course at Michigan State and fell n love with her work. And the COO of the company I work for wrote a self help title “Divine Worth.” I found this to be a very inspiring read.

JLH: Do you think you’ll write fiction again?
ST: “Yes, I do. I have a myriad of interests and enjoy all types of writing.

Right now, I am focused mainly on mental health and legal topics. I also write poetry. I was published three times in poetry collections between 2015 and 2016. I fantasize about retiring in a small cottage in the country, writing fiction novels. But, life may have another plan! Only time will tell.”

For more about Sara Teller’s new book, check out her website sarateller.com. To contact Sara for a speaking engagement, you can reach her directly at sara@sarateller.com. You can also contact Gia Cilento at MadHatterPublishingInc.com.

 

Story By: Ingrid Sjostrand
Photos By: Bernie LaFramboise

PICTURE A RESTAURANT WITH A ROTATING MENU of exotic cuisine made mostly in a barbeque smoker, and to top it off it’s based out of a food truck. That’s just one of the twists that give Rogue Estate BBQ an edge over the trend of food trucks in Ferndale.

Another defining quality is that it’s a food truck that doesn’t travel. Owner Bob Perye got tired of moving between locations, the lack of a consistent crowd and the wear on his equipment, so when he parked his truck at the corner of Woodward Heights and Gainsboro St. two years ago he decided to never leave.

“It was right around the time that 9 Mile went under construction, so it was kind of good timing,” he says. “And it’s been great, I love this neighbor-hood. Everyone in this neighborhood has been supportive.”

The block seems to be growing around Rogue Estate too, with UrbanRest Brewing Company and butcher shop Farm Field Table opening in the last two years and bringing additional business to the area.
Perye doesn’t have the typical chef backstory either he didn’t go to culinary school or work in restaurants building his way up to opening Rogue Estate. Surprisingly, he spent the majority of his career as a computer engineer. “I did engineering for 20 years and was always on a call, always had multiple phones and pagers and I was getting burned out,” Perye says.

After trying a change in companies without relief, he knew it was time for a career switch, but it wasn’t as easy as trading in the computer for a smoker. Prior to leaving his job, he started the Rogue Estate cooking club with a few friends.

“We started cooking every week; that went for a while and it was a lot of fun,” he says. “We did a lot of cool stuff, and the gist of it was that you guys can do this too, anybody can tackle this complex stuff.”

Once word got around about Perye’s skills in the kitchen, he began catering events like B. Nektar Meadery’s annual party and various veterans benefits. As his reputation grew, Perye found the confidence to take the leap and open Rogue Estate BBQ.

While he doesn’t miss working in computer engineering, Perye says he is still using those skills every day, whether it’s troubleshooting the sales system in extreme weather or repairing the truck, and he’s happy to share his skills with his neighbors. “I don’t just cook, it’s fun and keeps it interesting,” he says.

After refining and perfecting the classics – like pulled pork, ribs and beef brisket – he set out to explore the fare of the world and seems to have found his creative calling.

“I started dabbling into the Rogue Estate premise that we’re cooking something from another part of the world every week,” Perye says. “It’s fun to do the research, I watch Anthony Bourdain and I’ll see a country I’ve never heard of or a combination of flavors, and I have to try that.”

The standard barbeque options are always on the menu and typically sell out as favorites among regulars, but Perye wanted to keep things interesting, so he began exploring international cuisine as a daily special.
“There’s this entire other group of people, new customers and repeat customers alike that are here for the special and they get that every day because it’s different every day,” he says. “It makes me a better cook and keeps the guests interested.”

The secret to knowing what culture is being featured each day are the flags Peyre has hanging around the fencing of his lot. He started by hanging flags of things he liked or had an affiliation to and it grew with the international menu.

“The flags were just a natural grab of attention. I thought I’m gonna get a flag for whatever the first culture was. Now Amazon gets about five or ten bucks from me buying new flags each week,” Perye says.
Currently Rogue Estate is open Thursday through Saturday from 3:00 P.M. to 7:30 P.M. year-round. Perye hopes to expand hours in the near future, but is working with a staff of only himself and two employees and understands the realities of cooking with a smoker.

“The brisket takes 12 hours minimum, sometimes 14, so when we’re out we are out,” he says. “We can only sell so many in a four-to-five-hour period.”

This isn’t stopping Perye from planning ahead though, and he has no intentions of leaving the space he parked in two years ago.

“I love this neighborhood – the regulars, my guests and my neighbors – The folks that have been here for 40 years and the new neighbors – it’s great to be part of this,” he says.
“The dream is to have our own restaurant and I think that’s when you’ve finally made it.

I’m not beholden to this giant box on wheels, I think I would like to get a building and then sell that on to the next guy that wants to get started.”

Story by Sara E Teller
Photos by Roche Photo Collective

THE AXLE BREWING CO. HAS BEEN BREWING, CANNING AND DISTRIBUTING THEIR CRAFT BEERS IN MICHIGAN SINCE SEPTEMBER 2015. Axle Brewing President Dan Riley (a Detroit native with over 20 years of experience in the media industry), along with his partners, sought to create a destination that would
embrace the neighborhood and elevate the typical craft brewery experience.

The company “began looking for the perfect spot for their public taproom shortly after,” according to Axle’s social media and marketing guru Jill Giacomino. Dan spotted a location on Livernois while doing one of his favorite things – biking riding from Ferndale to Downtown Detroit – and the rest is history, as they say.

Livernois Tap was established at 567 Livernois St and opened for business on June 3rd, acting as a family-friendly communal gather-ing space where patrons can enjoy a wide variety of craft beers and inspired beer food against a backdrop of great conversation and hand-selected tunes. “The space is our modern American interpretation of a classic European beer hall,” according to Jill. “It includes a sprawling outdoor beer garden, 30-seat bar, dining room, brewery, and the team’s offices.”

Livernois Tap’s menu includes specialty creations from Grey Ghost Detroit, a group of culinary experts committed to the art of butchery, refinement of crafting cocktails and unparalleled hospitality. The name stems from a notorious rum-running pirate fleet on the Detroit River during the prohibition era, members of which were never identified. The culinary copy includes food enthusiasts John Vermliglio, David Vermiglio, Joe Giacomino and Will Lee.

The Tap’s menu features over twenty items that pair perfectly with its extensive beer collection. Signature dishes include an eclectic mix of buffalo fried green tomatoes, a fried bologna corn dog and chicken shawarma wings. Guests can also enjoy a beer float in the restaurant’s porter. Weekend brunch is available on Saturday and Sundays from 11:00-2:00 PM, and includes a rotating selection of quiche bites, toaster strudel and other favorites along with a fleet of beer cocktails, of course, including a Shandy with our Noble Ghost and citrus oil. On the kid’s menu parents will find grilled cheese, popcorn chicken, mac ‘n cheese and corn dogs, along with a root beer float, cookies and pudding.

“The menu is currently being executed day-to-day by our Executive Chef, Elliot Patti,” Giacomino explains. Raised on the island of Maui in Hawaii, Patti graduated from the California School of Culinary Arts with a Diploma in Culinary Arts and certified in Le Cordon Bleu method of cooking. He was then fortunate enough to complete his externship training at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in the Four Seasons Resort in Wailea, Maui before relocating first to Los Angeles, then the Detroit area.

Livernois Tap prides itself on being family-friendly, catering to a wide range of restaurant-goers. “Our customer base is wide!” Giacomino exclaims. “We see families from the neighborhood, locals from Detroit, neighbors from University District and Green Acres, business people, bikers, and everything in between. We are very proud of the inclusive environment we’ve created and thrilled how the community has embraced us.”
The restaurant’s music selection is a combination of tunes selected by staff and those requested by guests. “Our team is comprised of huge music fans (okay, nerds),” Giacomino admits. “While we don’t have live music, we do feature curated playlists nightly of our favorite songs and requests from our friends and guests. We also feature themed nights such as ‘Throwback Thursday’ and ‘Soul Sunday’.”

Livernois Tap has already hosted a number of corporate events and social gatherings since its inception, Giacomino said, “We’re also planning to host group bike rides, yoga and other programming in the future. And of course, look for news about our inaugural Oktoberfest coming soon.”

Story By: Maggie Boleyn
Photos By: Bernie LaFramboise

HAVE YOU EVER COME HOME FROM A workout only to find yourself undoing all your effort by pigging out on junk food just because it was handy? Do you wish you could come home to a healthy meal prepared and waiting for you? If so, you will want to check out Clean Plates Detroit, a new meal-management option located at 149 West 9 Mile Road in Ferndale.

Clean Plates operates on the idea that a busy lifestyle does not always go hand-in-hand with healthy eating habits. Clean Plates Detroit aims to provide healthy, cost effective, meals for residents in the Metro Detroit delivery area. Manager Omario Matti said that the concept of healthy, clean eating on-the-go first originated in Toronto, at the sister company of Clean Plates Detroit. “It was not long before we saw an influx in the demand of healthy eating in the United States,” he said.

Ferndale was a natural fit for the concept, Matti said. “The city of Ferndale was an obvious decision,” he said. “Clean Plates represents a variety of things, one being diversity. Our menu offers clients an assortment of meal options including foods from various ethnic backgrounds and dietary restrictions. We cater to individuals who want to meet their goals and at the same time, offer a variety of meals that will accommodate their taste palate. The city of Ferndale is a direct reflection of that. We at Clean Plates believe our menu and motto replicates the demographics of Ferndale—multiplicity and full of energy.”

Matti is enthusiastic about his Ferndale location. “The energy here is a quality you cannot find elsewhere in Michigan. The city of Ferndale is exquisite in that the majority of residents are really in sync with the concept of health and wellness—something we promote so profoundly. Everything from our store design to our menu was a well-thought-out process, and we wanted to make sure our concept fit well with its surroundings.”

Clean Plates combines a passion for good food, and a commitment to the perfect balance between nutrition and taste. An assortment of meal choices were developed with this concept in mind. Also, Clean Plates offers to customize any of their meal plans to meet individual preferences. Popular menu items are always kept in rotation, and specialty meals change every 60 days.

According to the website, vegetarian customers can send an email to Info@Clean-Plates.com, and Clean Plates can work with any of your dietary needs.

Clean Plates promises a variety of high-quality foods delivered right to your door, giving you a leg up on a healthy lifestyle. Ingredients are sourced from Amish farms in Michigan and Indiana, and purchased at local markets. Poultry is all natural, cage-free and grain-fed, and free from hormones and steroids. Beef is grass-fed, also without using hormones and steroids. Meals are hand-delivered during a delivery time window. A text message or phone call is made approximately 15 minutes prior to delivery.

If you cannot be at home during your scheduled delivery window, place a cooler with ice by your door and Clean Plates will leave your delivery there. If you prefer, you can pick up your meals from the retail shop in Ferndale during business hours. However, if you miss your delivery, and you do not pick up your order at the retail store, a re-delivery fee will be charged.

Clean Plates Detroit meal management is on the web at www.CleanPlatesDetroit.com.

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.