By: Sara E. Teller

EARLIER THIS YEAR, THE MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF TALENT AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT created a new pilot program to help refugees successfully transition to American life. In May 2017, the Department stated in its official policy issuance: “The recent influx of immigrants (refugees and persons granted asylum, or ‘asylees’) and other persons granted legal authorization to work in the United States from distressed locations outside of North America creates a unique workforce challenge as many of the impacted individuals cannot document their prior educational and employment history. In addition, these individuals may face significant language and cultural barriers and difficulties finding adequate housing and transportation. Providing additional support and access to resources to this population via the workforce system is critical to ensuring their successful transition into Michigan’s workforce.”

The Refugee Navigator Pilot Program was born, and over half a million dollars was allocated toward its development. The program is being offered at all eight Oakland County Michigan Works offices, including Ferndale’s. It is also available in Kent, Macomb and Wayne Counties. These four counties were chosen because they are currently experiencing the largest influx of new American citizens.

The May official policy issuance further states, “The intent of [the] pilot is to assist all work-authorized immigrants, with overcoming language barriers, lack of a documented educational and employment history, and other barriers to employment and their successful integration into Michigan’s economy.” Navigators (as the pilot offices are called) “shall operate with a degree of autonomy within the Michigan Works! One-Stop Service Centers within each of the four designated counties. They shall have specific training in dealing with the refugee population.”

“WE BEGAN SERVICES in June 2017,”explains Pamela Bellaver, Supervisor of the Ferndale Michigan Works location. “We feel this program is important in assisting work authorized immigrants and legal refugees in their transition.”

With such great diversity in Oakland County, the Ferndale Michigan Works office specifically received a wealth of community support in establishing the pilot program. “We have experienced an outpouring of support in our community for this program and look forward to assisting as many individuals as possible,” Pamela said.

So far, everything has gone off without a hitch, and the program is operating as anticipated. “We have not experienced any challenges to date as we continue to spread the word about this excellent program,” she adds proudly. The pilot offers a wide variety of services to its participants, assisting with everything from pre-employment information sharing to post-employment professional licensure services and career advancement training.

WHEN A NEW CITIZEN enters a MichiganWorks pilot office, its employees will first determine whether he or she is eligible to receive assistance from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) adult, dislocated worker, or youth programs. A one-stop delivery system assists with outreach, intake and orientation to the program’s information. “Work-authorized immigrants referred for navigator-facilitated career services will be pre-screened to ensure that they have legal authorization to work in the United States and that they possess documentation to support their status,” according to the official issuance.

Officials clarify that the program is only for legal, documented American citizens, stating, “It is not the intent of this program to serve undocumented immigrants or anyone who does not have legal authorization to work in the United States.”

Once citizenship is determined, the office will conduct an initial skills assessment designed to enable career counselors to garner a better picture of each participant’s specific needs. These assessments include literacy, numeracy, and English language proficiency testing, as well as aptitudes and abilities (including skills gaps) assessments, and determinations of supportive service requirements.

After the center has an idea of what will benefit a particular individual, a list of available job openings will be provided and he or she will undergo job searches and placement assistance, as well as career counseling as needed. Information regarding in-demand industries and occupations will be offered, as well as tips regarding needed skills to obtain vacant positions, industry earnings, opportunities for advancement, and workforce and labor market employment statistics.

If necessary, referrals to other programs will be offered, including additional workforce development programs the individual may be eligible for. Upon request, participants will receive assistance and referrals to various other services that will help in his or her transition, including language acquisition or English as a Second Language (ESL) programs, housing, health care and child care assistance, transportation options, opportunities to receive a high school diploma or professional licensure, public assistance, legal and financial services, and civil rights information. According to the policy, “Each navigator will be required to maintain a robust network of federal, state, local, philanthropic and faith-based organizations.”

Ferndale residents who know of any refugees or “asylees” who may benefit from pilot program can contact their local Michigan Works office at 248-545-0222.

STORY BY: Sara E. Teller
Photo By: Bernie LaFramboise

OAK PARK CITY MANAGER ERIK TUNGATE ALWAYS WANTED HIS CAREER to be about more than just titles and financial rewards. “Money has never been a motivating factor for me; people are,” he explains. “I wanted to have a career that focused on improving people’s lives. Human beings come first, and  consideration for their safety and general welfare is always my top priority. We – myself, my staff and our public safety officers – all share the same position.”

Originally from Southwestern Michigan near Kalamazoo, he relocated to Detroit in 1999. “At the time, I didn’t know anyone here,” he said. “But it was the best decision I ever made.” His areas of expertise include community and economic development at the state level with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and strong financial management as a Senior Financial Credit Analyst in the banking industry, as well as positions within local, county, and state levels of government. Prior to accepting the position of Oak Park City Manager in 2012, he held the same role in Hamtramck.

Tungate was attracted to Oak Park, because he sincerely believes “…the potential for dramatic improvement in this city is tremendous. Oak Park is a new frontier for economic development. On top of that we have the ability to provide superior public amenities in a culture of excellence. Oak Park was a diamond in the rough when I came here. I was shocked by the incredible opportunity that lies within this community.”

Shortly after his arrival in Oak Park, he made a few departmental additions. “We instituted a Human Resources Department and an economic development function back then,” he explains, adding, “You know, when cities are financially struggling, the natural reaction is to bunker down. Finding cost-efficiencies in every nook and cranny should always be a part of the operation, but I believe you also need to deploy a plan to grow the tax base. And you do this through building an economic development machine like the one we now have in Oak Park.”

Under Tungate’s leadership, FedEx Ground also decided to open a distribution center in Oak Park, the largest land deal in the city’s history. “There was so much vacant land where the old armory once stood. The shipping company was attracted to Oak Park’s easy access to freeways and proximity to major transportation thoroughfares,” Tungate said. “The city also has the ability to attract and meet the housing demand of new employees with its affordable housing stock. This one development alone increased jobs, spurred small business development (trucking contractors), and helped us grow our tax base.”

Although he believes Oak Park has already changed dramatically, there is one thing Tungate would like to see: The push for more mixed-use development. Tungate credits the hard work of Economic Development and Communications Director Kimberly Marrone whom he hired in 2014, for the growth the city has seen in this area over the last few years with the Jefferson Oaks redevelopment and Coolidge Place projects among others. He adds, “Millennials and seniors are being priced out of housing in other suburbs and in parts of the City of Detroit. Oak Park is still able to provide great, affordable housing opportunities. Oak Park has taken a front row seat in pushing for these kinds of developments.”

Not only is Tungate invested in Oak Park, but he holds high hopes for the Detroit region, “Having the cross-state familiarity that I do, and with the economic climate that we now face, it’s what motivates me and makes me want to get the entire state of Michigan running on all cylinders. There’s a formula we have to find to bring our unique interests together for the welfare of all of us. Unfortunately, right now there’s too much division.” Working with other communities on projects or to make change promotes the regionalism in the area and allows the entire region to prosper.

Tungate realizes the value in connecting with Oak Park’s other adjoining communities. Speaking specifically of the Nine Mile Redesign, which Tungate credits Ferndale for starting the trend, he says it offers an excellent opportunity to create an interconnectedness. “Working with our friends in Ferndale, who led the charge with their own redesign, we’ve been able to plan for wonderful public amenities in our own plan. We’re an inner ring suburb that borders Detroit, so we have unique population density. Creating pocket parks and providing bike trails with tremendous amenities is what Oak Park should be looking at doing.”

He says that rather than secluding the city from the other side of 8 Mile Rd., there has been a push to open it up. “Turning away from our southern border with Detroit would be a tremendous mistake. Let’s open the door to all of the possibilities a strong partnership with Detroit can provide.”

With this in mind, new restaurant owners are able to secure a liquor license in the once-dry city. This new economic development tool that enables new restaurants to secure a Class “C” liquor license for under $2,000 helped us to attract a new destination restaurant, “8MK.” “8MK” is a restaurant currently under development by the Union Joints Restaurant Group which also owns The Clarkston Union, Union General, Union Woodshop, Woodshop Shop, Vinsetta Garage, Fenton Fire Hall, Pumphouse and Honcho. “When the opportunity for 8MK came to us, we pounced on it for two reasons – we were able to preserve a historic building, and it helped open us up to 8 Mile Rd.” 8MK occupies space once held by the WWJ transmitter building and 8MK is a reference to the station’s original call letters.

Tungate is focused on maintaining the city’s diversity. “Oak Park is the eighth-most diverse city in Michigan, and it is a perfect example of a diverse community that gets along and works together. What I would like to see is us continuing to attract new residents who appreciate what we have to offer.

As for future endeavors, he notes, “We will be unveiling some very important development projects soon. As we continue to build the city’s pipeline, we’re attracting quality retailers and restaurants, both locally-owned and national retail chains.”

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By Jenn Goeddeke

MICHAEL SHEPPARD, OWNER OF NORTHERN TV & VACUUM in Madison Heights, has been repairing electronics since the tender age of seven. During the World Series of 1968, Sheppard’s father was having problems with his radio, “So I took the back off and saw a loose wire hanging. It seemed an obvious fix, but it got me started, and I have been hooked ever since!”

His strong work ethic, outgoing nature and enthusiasm for repairs has remained strong, and his store continues to thrive. His educational back-ground in applied science and electronics enables him to understand the complex nature of repairs. With seven specialized workstations set up in the store and a highly trained staff, Sheppard ensures that he keeps up with ever-changing technological advances and evolving customer needs.

The store has a vibrant history. It was founded in 1940 by Clay Walker, who worked in the 1930s for Jamison (Jam) Handy, a motion picture company in Detroit. Walker predicted that television was going to be much bigger than radio, which turned out to be accurate. The first Northern TV store was located in Detroit, and a second store opened shortly afterwards in Royal Oak. At the time, bar owners were the main clientele, purchasing TVs for their popular bar room daily broadcasts.

Despite the fact that during World War II all commercial production of television equipment was banned and TV broadcasting was limited, Clay opened a third store in Port Huron. He anticipated the big surge in TV sales post-wartime, which did occur (and is still occurring). Clay eventually bought out his two partners, and kept open only the Royal Oak location. In 1962, the lucrative company was sold to Ray Olson, Joe Boginski and Archie Bartley, and it continued to prosper and grow.

Meanwhile, Sheppard had set up his own service stores at the young age of 24: Sheppard Electronics, with locations in Troy and Warren. Unafraid of hard work, he supplemented his income in the early years with other jobs, including teaching both college and high-school level courses. “I still have the first dollar I ever made!” Sheppard told me with a smile.

In the late ‘80s, Sheppard began repairing camcorders and VCRs at Northern TV. By the early ‘90’s, Olson, Boginski and Bartley were preparing to retire, and on October 1, 1993 Sheppard bought the business. Between ’94 and ’95 he closed his other stores, and gathered everything under one roof. Then in 2012, the store moved to its present location in Madison Heights, starting year number 72 of business.

Northern TV is diverse. The staff can fix almost any electronic device, antique or newer, including any TV, radio, turntable, vacuum cleaner, etc. An impressive ar-ray of accessories are always kept in stock. In addition, other services are available, such as audio and video transfers from older media types (all formats) to modern digital storage. Reel-to-reel conversions are also in big demand, as the tape softens and deteriorates.

One popular service offered is the installation of a Blue-tooth system into vintage stereos or radios, turning it into a sort of soundbar speaker. Sheppard further ex-plained, “Even a cheap, antique model will outperform a regular soundbar!” Customers with some knowledge of electronics can also buy a kit and install it themselves.

Sheppard gives back to the community by staying involved with the Madison Heights DDA board. Additionally he plans on starting a program with schools in Madison Heights using radio kits. He aims to “create a spark and re-establish a connection” in younger age groups, as the skilled trades industry in general is having problems retaining young people.

I asked Sheppard for a most memorable customer moment. He immediately recalled the time where he was visited by Bobby Jr., the son of composer Robert Bateman, who helped write the hit song, “Please Mr. Post-man.” As it happened, the sound engineer who had worked on the hit (Ed Wolfram) was working in the store that day. Then in walked Lee Allen, a legendary broad-caster from the ‘50s and ‘60s, who had been the first DJ to play Bateman’s hit song on air. Naturally, all three had plenty to talk about, and Sheppard described it as a magical moment.

Certainly, Sheppard and his staff have created a business with great ambience and where customer satisfaction is the priority. Many more magical moments will no doubt follow!

Northern TV and Vacuum is located at: 27633 John R Rd in Madison Heights in the Farnum Plaza; 248.545.1800, or check out their website: M-F, 9am-6pm; Sat, 9am-Noon; Sun, Closed.

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. 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

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:
OPEN Wednesday – Saturday 12-6
860 Livernois, Ferndale, MI 48220


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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

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 To contact Sara for a speaking engagement, you can reach her directly at You can also contact Gia Cilento at


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.”