Story by Sara E. Teller
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story by Sara E. Teller
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Ingrid Sjostrand
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: David Ryals

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

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

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

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

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

By Mary Meldrum

Get ready for a brand-new Nine Mile! One of Oak Park’s major thoroughfares is about to undergo a major makeover.

The Nine Mile Redesign project was borne from the leadership change and a paradigm shift in the Oak Park City government’s focus that began in 2011, following an economic recession that almost bankrupted
the City. One big change came in 2014 when the City hired Kimberly Marrone, Economic Development &
Communications Director. Marrone explained the objectives and the progress of Oak Park’s Nine Mile Redesign project:

“My role in the City is for economic development, so we want to attract new businesses and retain the businesses we currently have in the city as well as help them grow and expand,” says Marrone. She is part of an Oak Park government leadership that has implemented service-oriented and pro-growth policies. These policies are gaining momentum – funding and creating an impact for the city’s future.

In 2014, a Strategic Economic Development Plan was adopted by the Oak Park City Council. The plan outlined action steps to assist in sparking additional economic development to Oak Park. Marrone discusses the growing evidence that providing places to walk and bicycle is a successful strategy for maintaining and restoring economic vitality. Indeed, there is solid research that supports the connection between pedestrian-friendly environments and economic viability.

Major firms around the country are beginning to loudly advocate for pedestrian, bike and transit-friendly development patterns. And they are voting for these changes with their walking boots on, relocating to city centers that are a better fit for their business, their ideals, and for their employees. Booming business centers like Atlanta and the Silicon Valley are showing how an over-dependence on the car can stall economic development. Businesses are increasingly concerned with lengthy commutes, gridlock, lack of transportation choices, air pollution, and the overall decline in quality of life that can make recruiting and retaining skilled workers difficult.

According to the 1997 Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, the number and location of open space/parks/recreation ranks high among factors used by small businesses in choosing a new business location. According to a 1998 analysis by ERE Yarmouth and Real Estate Research Corporation, real estate values over the next 25 years will rise fastest in “smart communities” that incorporate a pedestrian and bike-friendly configuration.

Road Diet
A study conducted for the City in 2015 with grant money showed it was feasible to redesign Nine Mile Road with a so-called “street diet.” The road will be reduced from five to three lanes, and the City will create linear parks, additional parking, bike lanes and streetscape amenities, a known formula to spur economic development.

“Businesses want to know if they can be successful here in Oak Park. They want to locate into a community that people are attracted to live in,” says Marrone. Oak Park and surrounding communities have seen a steady demand for homes and an uptick in median home prices over the past several years, making Oak Park an attractive place for businesses to settle in and grow.

Reducing traffic noise, traffic speeds, and vehicle-generated air pollution will increase property values. Adding green space, parks and public gathering places are multipliers in the property value equation. One study found that a five-to-ten mile-per-hour reduction in traffic speeds increased adjacent residential property values by roughly 20 per cent.

“We applied, jointly with Ferndale, for the grant from MDOT last spring and received notice in September of 2017 that they would partially fund the project. The total project cost is roughly $1.4 million. We received a grant award from SEMCOG and from MDOT in the amount of $983,826. This would require a 30 per cent match from the cities,” shares Marrone.

In 2018, The City of Oak Park will finalize road plans for Nine Mile, solicit bids this Spring. The City will add bike lanes and redesign the parking starting in late Spring or early Summer. The majority of the work is repainting of lines with minimal actual road construction.

Nine Mile Road was developed before I-696 was finished, and now carries much less traffic as it once did. In fact, the car count is roughly 17,000 cars per day now, making it a “tired” street with too many lanes. People drive past businesses on Nine Mile without noticing them. A road diet would slow the traffic and improve safety, allowing businesses to enjoy a spark of additional success, as well as fill vacant storefronts.

In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a push to move away from downtown areas, like Detroit. That movement has recently reversed, and there is a shift to embrace downtown density again in most communities. Oak Park’s Nine Mile Redesign project is quickly getting traction to promote a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly downtown area by addressing traffic issues, greenway development, and density.

Pocket Parks
Oak Park residents were interested in creating space where people could gather. As part of the Nine Mile Redesign project, a park was tested with the Sherman Summer Pop-Up Park in 2017. The City closed about 100 feet of Sherman Street.

In June, and put in tables, chairs, games, activities and programming. Sometimes they held scheduled musical entertainment, exercise classes, art and STEAM programs from the Oak Park Library and Recreation Department. Sherman Street residents were asked for input and invited to help create the space. In feedback following the pop-up park, 83 per cent of survey responses said they were in favor of the permanent park. The City applied for, and received, a grant from Oakland County.

“We went to great lengths to take into consideration the wishes of the community and to ensure that the needs of the residents were being met,” said City Manager Erik Tungate.

For the Nine Mile Redesign, the engineering firm suggested closing three streets at Nine Mile Road to create pocket parks. The City decided to close only two, Sherman and Seneca.

When people on Seneca were approached, most were happy about it. Of those with reservations, they expressed worry that emergency vehicle access would be impeded to homes and businesses; that school buses might not be able to travel the street; and questions on whether the park could invite crime to the area. Not one item went missing from the temporary pop-up park; creating more of a crowd typically creates less crime. The Public Safety Department reported that emergency vehicle and bus access was not impeded, and noise and vandalism was not an issue.

Bringing people together has long been known to produce economic value. Population density creates and increases social capital and economic opportunity. Social capital has value in fellowship, shared information and common goals; it thrives in communities that provide platforms and places for people to come together to shop and share their knowledge and information, while collaborating and socializing. Social capital allows people to become invested in the outcome of their neighborhoods, and economic capital to flourish.

“When talking to new potential businesses about locating in Oak Park, they become very excited about the vision and plans we have, specifically for the Nine Mile Redesign Project,” says Marrone.

Story by Sara E. Teller
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

The MI Works Oak Park office opened its doors over 40 years ago, working to connect job-seekers with steady employment and business owners with the help they need. The Oak Park School District has offered its support for the office’s various programs over the course of its existence. As part of Oakland County’s MI Works network, the Oak Park location is also funded by L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County Executive, Oakland County Workforce Development Board & Talent Investment Agency, and the State of Michigan.

“We service everyone, mainly businesses and job seekers,” said Laura Robb of the Oak Park office. Robb is involved with the center’s business services and social media, and is a career coach. “We offer training, re-employment, and recruitment assistance for businesses.”

The Oak Park Career Center truly is a one-stop shop for all things related to employment for both employers and job candidates. Career advisors are available for one-on-one consultations, resume assistance, personalized skills analysis, networking help, interview preparation, third-party resource referrals, early access to job postings in and around the Oak Park area, information regarding federally funded job training programs and personal branding assistance.

For businesses specifically, the Oak Park Career Center offers outplacement services, on-the-job training support, labor market information, social media services, grant opportunities, veteran services, tax credits for new hires and fidelity bonding.

Robb loves being in Oak Park, especially, “the support of the school district and the City of Oak Park, as well as the wonderful residents of this great area and the businesses we service with workforce services.” She said catering to the needs of Oak Park residents and businesses can be challenging, though, too, especially with limited means for the unemployed to visit the center and readily report to work. “The need [is obvious] for an effective and affordable regional transportation system to provide access to available jobs throughout the region” and would be very helpful, according to Robb.

Oak Park’s MI Works offers computer training every Tuesday from 9:00 – 11:00 A.M. for those interested in brushing up on their tech skills. They also offer weekly resumé workshops and interview training. Resumé workshops help candidates organize their work history and format their resumés in a way that is easily understandable, readable and professional. Career advisors also offer assistance with crafting an effective cover letter. Interview preparation includes methods for creating a job search plan and finding available positions, job application dos and don’ts, what to expect, and how to prepare for interviews, proper follow-ups, and salary negotiations.

The Oak Park Center also offers a “Job Club” on Fridays from 10:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M. During this time, visitors can drop in and learn about job search strategies, news ways to look for careers, and career websites and resources. They can get assistance with their resumés and general information regarding average salaries levels. LinkedIn profile creation services are also available by appointment as well as interviewing practice sessions. Appointments should be scheduled prior to visiting the center.

To inquire about Oak Park MI Works’ services, interested parties can “visit our center which is centrally located in the heart of the city, connect via our social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter and visit our website and LinkedIn page for more information,” Robb said.

Due to severe budget cuts, the Ferndale MI Works office, located at Hilton and 9 Mile, will be closing by the end of the Summer of 2018, and its services consolidated with the Oak Park office.

The Oak Park MI Works office is located just south of Nine Mile Rd, four streets west of Coolidge, in the north end of the Clinton Center. Parking is located at the south end of the complex.

Story by Ingrid Sjostrand

If you’re an Oak Park business owner – or aspiring to be – and you don’t know Kimberly Marrone, it’s time you should. As the Director of Economic

Development & Communications, she works to provide the tools businesses need to thrive and to promote Oak Park as a sustainable community.

“We work with new and current business owners from inception through development to meet business timelines, provide market research data, site selection, and site plan process. We provide the best customer service from beginning to end,” Marrone says. “We help connect business owners and entrepreneurs to resources and incentives to help their business startup, grow and expand.”

Oftentimes, these resources are free. There are opportunities on which businesses are missing out. As Economic Development & Communications Director, Marrone also oversees the Zoning Board of Appeals, Brownfield Authority, Corridor Improvement Authority, the Economic Development Authority, and Planning Commission for the City of Oak Park – where she is focused on creating a better business market.

“New this year, we will be adding all licensed businesses to an online database on our City web site, connect them to resources that are available, counsel businesses when needed, provide invitations to business seminars, and publish bi-monthly newsletters,” Marrone says.

Not only does she help businesses, she works with residents, property owners and surrounding communities to make sure that Oak Park continues to succeed. This includes following the City’s Strategic Development Plan and finding the best way to implement key initiatives and build a stronger tax base for the city.
Since 2014, she has led the Economic Development team in improving the economic outlook for the city of Oak Park. Marrone and her team have been instrumental in several recent projects totaling over $65 million in development since 2014 – including the FedEx Ground distribution center, the largest development deal in the city’s history. Oak Park also became a One Stop Ready Community through Oakland County’s program, and are working toward completion of Redevelopment Ready Certification through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

A Michigan native and graduate of Oakland University, Marrone previously worked as Executive Director of both Imlay City’s Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Development Authority. She has a background in local government and the private sector, including real estate. For her work, Marrone received the Rotarian of the Year Award in 2012 and the City’s prestigious Employee of the Year Award in 2015. She’s also been instrumental in the City being awarded the eCities lab Best Practices Community honor in 2015 (Marrone also received this award for Imlay City in 2012 and 2013); the Five and Four Star eCities Top Performing Community Award; and the Main Street Oakland County Vision Award in 2016.

Marrone is a member of the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce, International Council of Shopping Centers, Eight Mile Boulevard Association Board, Michigan Economic Development Association Board, and other organizations that are beneficial to the economic development of Oak Park.

2018 plans are already looking bright, with a variety of projects in the works. The much-anticipated 8MK restaurant rehabilitation of the historic WWJ building will include Oak Park’s first banquet space. The Jefferson Oaks mixed-income housing development offering 60 housing units will open in the Spring, and the 9 Mile Redesign Project will also begin this Spring. A portion of 11 Mile Road was recently rezoned from light industrial to mixed used. This new zoning allows for a variety of uses in one building.

Business and residents interested in taking advantage of the resources available through Oak Park’s Economic Development & Communications Department can reach out to 248-691-7404.

Story by Ingrid Sjostrand

It takes a village is a phrase originated in reference to raising children. But the principle can apply to many aspects of life, including – surprisingly – running a business.

Taking advantage of community knowledge and networking with other business owners can breed collaboration and lead to the exchange of resources, which in a city of nearly 700 businesses like Oak Park could create unimaginable results.

Luckily, an organization that promotes and facilitates these connections exists right in Oak Park’s backyard, through the Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce. Established in 1936 and expanded to include Oak Park and Pleasant Ridge in recent years, the chamber has over 250 member businesses that all work to improve the economic climate.

“A lot of people have ideas of what chambers are about but, ultimately, it’s a business association and a way for businesses to network and exchange ideas…and get involved in the community,” Matt Zook, executive director of the Ferndale Area Chamber says of the organization.

The chamber hosts events three to four times a month, including networking opportunities like their Business After 5, Chamber Lunch Club, and Coffee Connections programs. They host guest speaker events and ribbon cuttings for new, renovated and reopening businesses.

Any business can join the Ferndale Area Chamber and membership fees vary based on the number of employees. The benefits of membership include a listing in the Chamber online business directory, marketing opportunities, and social media call-outs to nearly 5,000 subscribers. Zook says they are always working to increase the benefits for businesses, too.

“I’m working on a few different things here – we offer discounts among members, discounts at OfficeMax, things like that. I’m working on one with an insurance company, so you can get a better rate on home, car and business insurance rates.”

Zook says one way the Ferndale Area Chamber focuses on building business relation-ships and networking is by keeping up on new trends and gaining the tools to educate members.

“I’m seeing a lot of changes happening in networking organizations and I’m trying to bring the chamber up,” he explains. “There’s other ways that people connect aside from the internet these days and I’m hoping to maybe even help facilitate those things.”

Another great way to create a prosperous trade is to pick the brains of those who have run successful businesses. SCORE, a resource partner of the Small Business Administration, is a nonprofit organization that offers just that, and often collaborates with the Ferndale Area Chamber.

“SCORE is [working and] retired people that are in the business community and they offer their services for free. It’s a really great organization,” Zook says. “I’m working on moving our offices to an incubator space, and one of the things I’m trying to do is get SCORE there too because that would be a great place for them to be, as well.”

Currently, the Ferndale Area Chamber resides in the Credit Union One building at 400 East Nine Mile, and their web site has a comprehensive list of upcoming events and member benefits. Ultimately, Zook says the members that get the most out of the Ferndale Area Chamber, and their business resources, are ones that engage.

“Most people find that the Chamber is something that works better when you have involvement; whether it’s reading the newsletter or getting out and doing things –it’s hard to see the value without effort,” he says.

Story by Sara E. Teller
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

Sudha Sekhar, a 40-year resident of Oak Park who began her passion for dance at the young age of three, has been teaching the art since 1958. Her desire to share her talent began in India, and she eventually took her expertise with her to Canada in 1967, then the United States. Sekhar is originally from Mumbai and came to Canada after her arranged marriage.

“It’s been a 60-year journey as a teacher, guru, and mentor for hundreds of students,” Sekhar said. “I teach the sacred, ancient, classical dance form called Bharata Natyam, which we consider a fifth Veda. I have also taught Kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh, as well as the Kathak form of North Indian classical dance and Indian folk dancing.”

Sekhar feels teaching dance to others is her life’s purpose. She explains, “It has been a deep dedication for me to promote, preserve, and share the ancient arts of Indian music, dance, poetry, and theater with the younger generation. I have been trained by bona fide gurus, and would like the world to know about the discipline, devotion, and greatness of these arts that enhance the quality of life through development of a strong character, mindfulness, and mind, body, and soul consciousness.”

The 77-year-old has also served with Oak Parks Arts & Cultural Diversity Commission since 2007, as well as being an active member and the Charter President of the Oak Park-Royal Oak Township Optimist Club. “We are a group of like-minded individuals with a variety of interests and accomplishments. We have annual spring and summer festivals, and an annual World Dance Day on April 29th which I started in 2010 to promote collaboration with the diverse dance groups in our city,” she explained.

Sekhar holds private dance lessons and group sessions in her home studio in Oak Park. “Finding a place is hard for our type of dances, as we dance barefoot,” she said. “It was easier for me to teach at home for some girls, and that way my daughters also made friends and learned about our traditional arts.” She also teaches in Farmington Hills, Canton, Ann Arbor and Troy, and will be starting a group in West Bloomfield soon.

Sekhar is used to traveling for the art. “My husband and I have driven with our daughters to Lansing, Dearborn Heights, and Westland, to name a few. I drove to Flint, and Saginaw for almost 20 years to teach students there. Before coming to Detroit, my family lived for 11 years in Windsor, Ontario, where my daughters were born. I was invited to teach in Windsor, Ontario, St. John, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Bar Harbor, Maine until the year 2000.”

All of those years spent dedicated to extending the art to her children paid off. “My oldest daughter, Vidya, is a two-time world record holder for solo classical dancing. She got her first world record in 1989 when she danced for 48 hours in aid of the American Cancer Society. She beat her record by dancing for 72 hours for the American Heart Association in 1996 in memory of her father. She contributed $10,000 to each of these organizations.”

Sekhar said her family has always been very much involved with charitable organizations. “We have always contributed to worthy causes for advancing education and health consciousness.” Sekhar loves Oak Park, especially the city’s diversity. “It’s a beautiful family city,” she said. “We made our home here because we felt welcome here. We have a great mayor who has put Oak Park on the map. So many people from different lands have made their home here, bringing with them the richness of their unique culture, talents, and mannerisms which has added to the colorful mosaic of this city.

I try to attend classes at our Oak Park Community Center, offered by our Department of Recreation, whenever time permits. This is a city of fine restaurants, shops, pharmacies, schools, parks, and admirable services.”

Students interested in connecting with Shekhar can visit her website at

By Ingrid Sjostrand
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

Be patient. Sometimes you have to sacrifice everything and weather the storm. Sacrifice equals success, it will pay off.”

Those are the words of Patrick Peteet, owner and founder of Peteet’s Famous Cheesecake, and it’s safe to say he knows a bit about success. Since opening in 2010 with no professional background in baking, Peteet has expanded his operation to selling wholesale in over 150 locations – including The Henry Ford Museum, Cliff Bells and the Fox Theatre – and was recently endorsed by comedian Steve Harvey.

But it hasn’t always been success and celebrity endorsements for Peteet. Before cheesecake, the family business was real estate. After his father tragically passed away in 1997, Patrick took over Peteet Realty and managed it successfully until 2010 when the recession forced them to close. The setback didn’t slow him down, though. Peteet used the opportunity as a fresh start to turn the hobby he began at 11-years-old into a new business.

“It’s all part of our story. When one door closes another one opens,” Peteet says. “You can’t look at it as negative because it might be the reason something better came along,”

He opened Peteet’s Famous Cheesecake at 13835 West Nine Mile Rd., and made sure to keep family a part of his business. Peteet works daily with his mother, brother, cousins and sometimes even his two children. Another important part of his business was staying in the community that gave him years of profitability in realty; Peteet thinks he even owes some of his cheesecake success to the City of Oak Park.

“I attended Oak Park school systems, and at that time they had home economics class at Roosevelt Middle School where we learned to bake,” Peteet says. “It inspired me to want to start baking, and I experimented with making my aunt’s cheesecake recipe.”

Peteet actually made a mistake with the family recipe, but everyone loved the flavor so he kept the change. Today, Peteet’s Famous Cheesecake makes their preservative-free cheesecakes fresh daily and they offer over 90 different flavors ranging from their widely acclaimed sweet potato cheesecake to more unique flavors like superman and strawberry shortcake vodka. Thirty of these flavors are offered on a regular basis.

“I look at what people like to eat in ice cream, cookies, cake, and other desserts and convert them into cheese-cake,” Peteet says. “I ask questions like ‘what’s good in the market? What are traditions in people’s houses?’ And I base recipes off of dessert trends that people like.”

Now Peteet is looking toward the future by expanding their location and working to grow their wholesale operation even more. He is working with the City of Oak Park to take advantage of their One Stop Ready status with Oakland County. He hopes to help the next generation gain some hands-on business and baking experience, just like he received.

“When we’ve completed expanding our facility, I hope to reach out to high school students and start a mentoring program where students can learn to run a business from baking to back-of-the-house operations.” Peteet says. “We’ve been in talks with the City to help with getting grants and initiating the program.”

“Oak Park is a good place to start a business. The City is behind you, and they have good public safety – the police and fire department are behind you.” he says. “It’s an up-and-coming community always working toward growing and helping their businesses.”