Business

By Jenn Goeddeke

AVER SIGN COMPANY WAS FOUNDED IN 1998 BY THE ULCH FAMILY: Terry Sr., Diane, and their two sons: Terry Jr., and Vance.

They started with a great idea by Terry Jr., an older truck, and lots of hard work. Now in their 24th year of success, they humbly describe themselves as a “work in progress, with a lot of team effort – where we have learned to handle each situation as it comes up!”

Currently, they own a fleet of 20 trucks and manage 26 employees. They purchased the building at 359 Livernois (which they originally rented) 20 years ago. Additionally, they own another site across Hilton (at 1280 Wordsworth) which is about the same size, but with more yard space for storing signs.

MANY OF THE COMMERCIAL SIGNS THEY MANUFACTURE CAN BE TECHNICALLY COMPLEX; for example, the Toledo Mud Hen’s scoreboard, or a high-rise building sign, like Citizens Bank in Southfield.

“Everything is certified. It is imperative to get permits, and then there aren’t any problems. We have key people around us and we think of them all as family. These people are vital and they’re the reason we are still here,” said Terry.

Some signs, especially for corporate clients, are pre-manufactured, and then Aver Sign handles the details. Signs weigh up to 700-800 lbs, and often enormous machinery is needed. Sometimes, substantial holes are dug – 24 feet or even deeper!

The biggest challenges they have faced have been financial. For example, newer trucks cost around $150k each. “We started from dirt! Every dollar we made was reinvested for quite a while because it takes three-four years to get established for financing. The years 2008-2010 were particularly hard-going. Banks kept a tight cap on funds, and we had many fixed costs to pay. It was a tough two years.”

BUSINESS HAS FORTUNATELY FLOWED THEIR WAY since those difficult times. “We have since bought out three other smaller sign companies, and we have steadily grown. We have been blessed.”

“Our two sons are workhorses!” Terry emphasized. “There are no Saturdays and Sundays with them. For example, they have just been to Grand Rapids for a trade show. They had to prepare, set up, tear down and stay the night. The next day, they were right back to their regular work. We were very strict in raising the boys and it seems to have paid off!”

Overall, the business has brought huge rewards for the Ulchs and their loyal staff: “The upside to our business is growing from a tiny thought process and entity into a beautiful organization, with a great group of people! We frequently see our signs as we are driving in Michigan or Ohio, and story-telling within our social gatherings is always entertaining.”

Diane and Terry Ulch are also in the fitness industry together. They own the award-winning gym 359 Fit above Aver Sign. They have competed together in 11 bodybuilding shows for 11 years in a row! Terry’s last show was in Las Vegas at age 71. Their boys were introduced to the gym at 12 years old and both keep active in their home gyms.

I ASKED THE ULCHS FOR ANY SECRETS TO THEIR SUCCESS STORY. Firstly, Terry stated, is to treat others with respect. “I usually reflect on what I’m getting and I set firm boundaries. Overall I emphasize politeness.” Secondly, Diane mentioned joining forces with a good accountant and lawyer, as there can be some tough lessons to learn and a few growing pains along the way.

The Aver Sign Company is located at 359 Livernois St in Ferndale. Contact them at 248.542.0678 or visit their website at: www.aversign.com. For inquiries, email: info@aversign.com.
Check out their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/AverSignCompany.

By Lisa Howard

DURING HER 25 YEARS REHABBING PROPERTIES, Timika Keathley has transformed a lot of ugly ducklings into swans.

“The before-and-after is what drives me,” Timika says. “When I walk into a place that’s unattractive, in my mind, I can picture what I’m going to do with it—I can see what it will look like when my work is done.” Her passion for decorating and seeing possibilities has led her to rehab over 100 homes in Detroit, Southfield, and Inkster, and now she’s added a commercial property in Ferndale to that list. The Ivy Salon opened in October of last year and the elegant space offers a full menu of hairstyling, lash and makeup services.

Timika first got into real estate after a conversation with a broker who was the parent of one of her daughter’s schoolmates. The other parent suggested Timika get into real estate, telling her she thought she’d have a knack for it.

SHE RAN WITH THAT IDEA AND BOUGHT SIX HOUSES SIGHT UNSEEN but found they were in horrible shape. “I thought, ‘Okay, let me make them beautiful,” she says. “I believe that any property you buy, you should rehab it to the point where you’d want to live there yourself.”

Her commitment to high-level renovating led to an award from the Land Bank in Rosedale Park about four years ago, for increasing home values in Rosedale Park with her flips.

Last summer, she was only halfway through an intense rehab of a completely gutted home when a realtor insisted on showing the home to a prospective buyer. The realtor was so impressed with Timika’s vision for the house that she bought it for herself.

THAT KIND OF POSITIVE FORESIGHT IS WHAT PROMPTED TIMIKA to acquire the Ferndale property that she turned into The Ivy Salon. Timika used to frequent as a customer, when it had a different owner. Whenever she was having her hair done, she’d think, “Wow, this place could really use a makeover!”

Then opportunity knocked in March 2020. She threw herself into the role of designing and decorating, alongside her husband, Michael Green. Green has his own construction company and has done quite a bit of the remodeling for Timika’s projects. Together, they made the salon more state-of-the-art and updated it for the new generation.

AS IVY NEARS ITS FIRST ANNIVERSARY, Timika continues to grow the salon’s services and staff organically, approaching local cosmetology and esthetician schools to recruit licensed hair stylists, estheticians, makeup artists, and massage therapists. Although some stylists are looking for individual suites, Timika hopes her well-appointed, bright space will attract beauty industry professionals who prefer to work in a collegial atmosphere. In June, the salon will host a pop-up shop featuring a smorgasbord of beauty and haircare products, with more events to come in the future.

Timika would also like to expand her overall presence in Ferndale, both in terms of residential and commercial properties. “I want to make our state more beautiful,” she says. “It’s already a beautiful place, so why not take places that need some extra care and rehab them to make them even more beautiful locations where people can gather and visit?”

The Ivy Salon / 22446 Woodward Ave, Ferndale
https://theivysalon.business.site

By Lisa Howard

WHEN MICHIGAN-NATIVE MADONNA SANG ABOUT LIVING IN A MATERIAL WORLD, she could have just as easily been singing about living in a concrete world.

The ubiquitous building material is everywhere – driveways, porches, patios, foundations, roads, et cetera. “Concrete is really good ground covering here given our Michigan weather,” says Aaron Davis, owner of Cement Lab Studio. “If it’s laid properly, it can withstand freeze-thaw cycles and heavy winters without moving or shifting.”

It’s also affordable and surprisingly reusable – Aaron points out that when his crew rips out driveways, they take the concrete to a cement-crusher where it’s crushed back into aggregate that’s used again. (Quick vocab lesson: although people tend to use “cement” and “concrete” interchangeably, cement is an ingredient of concrete. Cement plus aggregate plus water equals concrete.)

AARON HAS BEEN WORKING WITH CEMENT AND TILE EVER SINCE HE APPRENTICED to a tile expert at the tender age of 17. Even though he attended college and eventually emerged with an MBA (which came after majoring in music), he decided to pursue a hands-on career instead. Not only does it feel good to do physical labor, he says, it’s rewarding to see the finished projects. Initially, he focused more on redoing kitchens and bathrooms – he has another company called the TileLab – but when Covid-19 hit, outdoor work got a lot more appealing and he started laying more patios and driveways.

Another in-demand concrete job is fixing porches. “I’d need three or four lifetimes to get to all the porches that need repair in Ferndale,” Aaron admits. Part of why porches are a perennial problem for many residents in the area is because houses in Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, and the east side of Ferndale were often built with root cellars that extend beyond the basement and underneath the porch. When that’s the case, extra skill is needed during a repair/rebuild to prevent the underside of the porch from caving into the basement proper.

Along with having the engineering savvy needed for handling finicky jobs, Aaron prides himself on having enough skilled workers on his crews to lay driveways in a single day. “We don’t leave you with a torn-out driveway that you can’t park on for a week. We come with enough manpower to do it in one day flat. Our crew of eight or nine guys shows up at 8:00 A.M. to tear out the old driveway, and then we’re pouring a new one by 11:00 A.M.” This quick turnaround, he says, is what customers tell him they most appreciate about his work.

ANOTHER SERVICE HE LIKES TO OFFER IS PERSONALIZING DRIVEWAYS and patios and whatever else people might want to imprint with their unique signature, whether that’s a handprint or a child’s name. Or a pet’s pawprint – even cats can be persuaded to meander across not-quite-set concrete to create indelible kitty tracks.

Summertime is high season for driveways, but that season vanishes once Michigan’s frost laws come into play in November, a legal aspect of cement work that’s not well known by the public. Frost laws govern seasonal load weight – the restrictions prevent roads already tenderized by frost from becoming more damaged. That means Aaron and his crews can’t haul the amount of cement or stone they’d need to lay a driveway in a single truckload. Translation: have your patio installed between November and April. Smaller jobs aren’t impacted by frost laws, plus lawns become a lot sturdier and it’s easier to get machinery around to the back of a home.

Turns out there is something to be said for Michigan winters!

www.tilelabstudio.com/cementlab-studio | 248.595.6555
tilelabstudio@gmail.com

By Lisa Howard

PETS AREN’T JUST ANIMALS THEY’RE FAMILY MEMBERS. And family deserves the best!

When Janet Platt first brought home a shih tzu named Maestro, she quickly realized that commercial dog treats were far from the best. Most weren’t even good. It didn’t take her long to start making Maestro treats from scratch, using fresh and mostly meat ingredients.

Other people wanted to feed their furry family members better too, so she opened her first store in Bloomfield Hills in 2012 and called it Maestro’s Dog Haus. Four years later, she opened a second location in Ferndale.

“We have people who stop in almost every day,” says Drew McLenon, the manager at the Ferndale store. “Especially people with puppies. They’ll be out for a walk and come in to get the puppies more socialized and used to being in stores. We love to see them!”

Four-legged visitors are offered treats, while their two-legged companions can browse the day’s freshly made offerings. The chicken chips are the most popular — they’re 100 percent chicken breast that has been dehydrated and baked, resulting in a potato-chip-like texture. For those picky eaters who may shun chicken, exotic choices like emu jerky and dehydrated ostrich necks are available. Drew says those are also excellent picks for pets with allergies or sensitive stomachs since emu and ostrich are hypoallergenic meats.

ONE INGREDIENT THAT YOU WON’T SEE in Maestro’s handcrafted treats are grains. The Maestro bakers do make a handful of items with veggies like sweet potatoes and lentils, but the vast majority of their products are 100 percent meats that have been alternatively baked, dehydrated, and/or freeze-dried.

Their freeze-dried salmon bites are another customer fave, and the bakers also make cupcakes that are also salmon-flavored. Chews and grain-free bones (including peanut, beef, and chicken varieties) are toothsome treats, while the cupcakes and freeze-dried options are soft. Maestro’s also offers four- and five-star commercial kibbles and wet foods.

Along with their edible treats, Maestro’s is stocked with pet toys for dogs and cats. Drew says that aside from getting to meet so many friendly faces (furry and otherwise), finding fun new toys is her favorite part of the job. She has a cat at home, so she’s well aware of how valuable intriguing toys can be.

She knows the cross appeal of Maestro’s treats, too – Kiki, her brown tabby, loves the chicken chips as much as her barking brethren do. And Kiki also gets to enjoy the filler-free cat food that Maestro’s has in the store. Commercial cat food tends to have even more fillers than commercial dog foods, which is all the more puzzling (and distressing) given that cats are obligate carnivores. Many of Maestro’s customers come into the store looking for foods that don’t contain fillers, byproducts or added colors, either because their dog or cat is experiencing chronic health issues like skin disorders or because they just want to improve their pet’s overall health and energy levels.

IN HER FIVE YEARS AT THE FERNDALE STORE, DREW HAS SEEN more and more pet owners come in to make the switch to better quality foods. Being on West Nine Mile just off Woodward, Maestro’s gets tons of foot traffic in their small but well-provisioned shop. (The Bloomfield Hills location is where the bakery is located; it’s more of a stock-up-here store.)

The three-person staff has their hands full, especially during the summertime months when their ever-popular frozen yogurt reappears. Made with raw goat’s milk and offered in an array of pet-favorite flavors like strawberry, beef bone broth, and peanut butter, Maestro’s is an essential stop for any dog and their human!

Maestro’s Dog Haus | 310 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale
248.632.1199 | https://maestrosdoghaus.com

By Lisa Howard

WITH A 20TH ANNIVERSARY COMING UP IN THE FALL and a grand opening happening on June 11, Luna Calley is one busy lady.

“I need ten of me,” she says. That’s no exaggeration: Luna runs Thru Luna’s Eyes Salon & Healing Arts on top of providing hairdressing services and teaching classes ranging from reiki to meditation. She changed the salon’s name to include Healing Arts two years ago after she had ramped up her class offerings.

And she just opened Luna’s Lemuria in Birmingham, where she sells everything from hair jewelry and wigs to crystals and gemstones. She sells those items in the salon, too, but when the opportunity to snag a new space popped up, she seized it. Now she has ample accommodations for her retail items, classes and hair services.

“We’re always growing and expanding,” Luna says. “New people come in with fresh ideas. We keep up with trends, and do continuing ed for our staff.”

Extensions have gotten really popular, she adds that’s her personal specialty — and that’s a service her salon has long offered. Dreadlocks and creative color are two more of their top niches. Luna has been providing the latter for almost 30 years, dating back to when she co-owned the Dungeon Hair Studio in Clawson.

SHE TOOK A YEAR OFF BETWEEN RUNNING THE DUNGEON and opening Thru Luna’s Eyes and re-immersing herself in the world of hair. Since then, she’s done several hair balls (winning a Best Of award in the process) and worked with designers at various venues to put on her own hair shows.

“The city has grown so much since I first opened!” she says. “There were only a few hair salons back then, and now there are what – 20? But I don’t mind, because we have a different kind of niche. Besides, one of the reasons people come to Ferndale now is because we do have so many salons.”

Although many of her clients are fellow Ferndalians, some come from other states. The reverse also happens — one of Luna’s staff was recently flown out to do dreadlocks. And, perhaps not surprisingly given the salon’s artistic bent, back when the film industry was hard at work in Michigan, her staff was in demand on sets. One actually went with the industry when it decamped and headed back west.

Most of her staff have come and gone throughout the years, Luna says, but her staff has always consisted of people who have created a fun, energetic environment for themselves and their clients. That atmosphere is one of the highlights of Luna’s multi-decade career.

ANOTHER IS SOCIETY’S GROWING ACCEPTANCE OF CREATIVE HAIR. “When I started doing those styles, sometimes certain cuts or colors would cause people to lose their jobs; sometimes schools wouldn’t let students have pink hair or attend prom with certain hair colors. Now, though, society has really embraced the more creative side of hair.”

She points out that even workplaces are more accepting, especially retail establishments and bars and restaurants. That said, she caters to everybody from all walks of life — her slogan is “conservative to alternative.” She caters to Ren Fest goers, too, offering fairy hair and mermaid braids.

That kind of hair art will be showcased during Luna’s 20 anniversary party on September 3rd. Fall will also see her offering crystal and gemstone classes in addition to her movement, meditation and mantra programs. While Luna will still be styling hair, she’s planning on moving more into teaching. Life is too short to not pursue passions! Even if there’s only one of her instead of ten.

513 W. Nine Mile Rd, Ferndale | 248.545.5413 | Facebook

By Jenn Goeddeke

TOM KATOULA IS THE OUTGOING AND AMBITIOUS OWNER OF PAPA ROMANO’S IN FERNDALE SINCE 2004.

The business has been in operation since 1995, but after taking over Katoula has been determined to keep improving its popularity. Katoula lived in Denmark for ten years and worked as a chef in his own restaurant. He certainly has the experience to run a successful pizzeria. Katoula is a family-oriented man, with all his family living in the USA. Katoula moved to Michigan in 1999.

As with many local businesses, the Covid-19 pandemic created some challenges. Katoula lost five of his long-term employees during the early phase of the pandemic and has had to bridge that gap.

Fortunately, many members of his family stepped in to help. For example, his nephew Kyle helps him manage the store, and his son Marcelo works there part-time. Additionally, some of his friends’ kids work for him also. Katoula commented, “I make them all feel like family – it’s not all about business!”

IMPRESSIVELY, KATOULA NOT ONLY STAYED IN BUSINESS, he also came close to doubling his business from early 2020! Katoula appreciates his staff for their part in the continued success of the Ferndale store. “My family cares about the business and they give the best service to customers.” Being professional at all times is key. Recently, Katoula’s daughter Marci and two nieces, Chanel and Chantel ran the store by themselves on a Sunday. With a smile, Katoula added, “they’re even better than me!”

Katoula loves to excel with fresh ingredients, including all the salads. “They are not the cheapest price, but they are the best quality, and we get great feedback from our customers.” Currently, the number-one seller on the menu is Papa’s Favorite, a combination of a large pizza and Bambino breadsticks. They also offer a full Mr. Pita menu too, and delivery is available to a wide radius.

A large part of Katoula’s business is catering, with favorites being mostaccioli and chicken wings. With his reliable staff and store capacity, he can cater to any group size.

TO GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY, KATOULA HELPS OUT various local organizations, schools, city staff, and charities with donations of food. He mentioned how much he enjoys working in Ferndale because of the “great mix” of people!

740 W Nine Mile Rd in Ferndale | 248.399.0011
M-Th 10:00AM-10:00PM; Fr-Sat 10:00AM-1:00PM; Sun Noon-9:00PM.

WWW.PAPAROMANOS.COM

By Lisa Howard

Photos by David McNair

WHEN IT COMES TO OPTIMIZING YOUR FURNACE, keep it simple and make sure you change the filter. “Your furnace is no different than your car – if you don’t maintain it, things will go wrong,” says Ari Beyer, owner of Beyer Heating & Cooling.

“When your furnace isn’t producing as much heat as it should be, that’s because you didn’t change the filter.” Aside from that, he warns against doing anything else, pointing out that furnaces aren’t made to be tinkered with by non-professionals. There’s a reason why the filter is on the exterior of the furnace and not nestled into its innards!

In a similar vein, if you have air conditioning, don’t start unscrewing panels and don’t spray it down – you could cause damage to its electrical components. Either sweep debris off of your outdoor unit or call a professional to make sure you’ll be cool and comfortable during the summer months.

HAVING WORKED IN THE HVAC FIELD FOR 26 YEARS, Ari has plenty of climate-control experience under his belt. He initially went to college and got a degree in construction management, but it didn’t take him long to decide to give up working for a builder and join the family business instead. He’s been installing, upgrading, and advising about heating and cooling needs ever since.

“I’m passionate about everything I do in life. I only have one gear, and that’s fifth gear, pedal-to-the-metal. And I like helping people and always being on the go.” He cannot possibly imagine sitting behind a desk, he says. He has 12 employees, some of whom have worked for him for over 20 years, and he loves the fact that no two days are the same.

One of Ari’s other big tips is to replace outdated and under-performing furnaces. If you have a 60-year-old furnace and you’re thinking, “Well, it’s not broken so I won’t fix it,’ know that the math doesn’t work in your favor – if you’re paying $400/month and running your heat for half the year, that’s $2,400 each year. If you spent $4,000 on a new furnace and then had a $100 bill each month, the new furnace would pay for itself in fewer than three years.

ALSO, STEP BACK AND TAKE A LOOK AT YOUR OVERALL HOUSEHOLD SETUP, particularly the trifecta of heat, windows, and insulation. If you can feel gusts of cold air coming in around the edges of your windows, then buying a new furnace isn’t going to do much. If your insulation is ancient (or nonexistent), again, your heating bills will take up a bigger and bigger chunk of your budget.

Now for the good news: The Oakland County Home Improvement Program offers qualified homeowners interest-free loans of up to $18,000 to make needed home repairs, including energy-saving upgrades. Eligible improvements include new windows (and roofs), heating systems, and insulation.

For his part, Ari offers various financing and payment options to help people afford their new furnaces.

WHEN IT COMES TO REPLACING YOUR FURNACE, Ari has two more words of wisdom: Do it. While some people are holding off making that purchase because they think prices will eventually drop back to pre-pandemic levels, that’s not going to happen, Ari says.

Also, know that if you’re shooting for the ‘Mercedes’ of furnaces, it might take a while to arrive. “The Mercedes-end of furnaces are hit-and-miss because they’ve been most affected by pandemic shortages,” he points out. “On the plus side, the ‘Cadillacs’ and ‘Ford Escapes’ are readily available.”

And remember: no matter what kind of furnace you have, change the filter!

1880 E. Nine Mile Road, Ferndale
www.beyerheating.com
248.398.4015

By Sara Teller

TOLY ASHKENAZI IMMIGRATED TO THE U.S. IN THE EARLY 2000s WHILE STILL IN HIGH SCHOOL. Always ambitious at heart, he immediately secured a job at a family diner, eventually working his way up to running two of Ferndale’s well-known businesses.

“I started waiting tables while attending high school,” Ashkenazi said. “The work was fairly straightforward, and I quickly realized that the pay was based on quality of service. I learned a lot at that job, and it motivated me to try working in other areas of customer service. I stayed at that same diner for a few years, until I got out of high school and heard that a nearby nightclub called Q was looking for a bar-back.”

He had no idea at the time that it would be his ‘big break.’ There, he met Tom Pearlman, of Pearlman Premier Properties, and the rest is history.

“I started working for Tom as a bar-back at Q in 2003,” he explained. “About a year later, Tom started building SOHO and I had the opportunity to work on the construction team. Afterwards, I was offered a position bartending at the newly built SOHO. As time passed, and I got more experience at various aspects of the business, Tom provided me opportunities for advancement and professional development as a leader.”

ASHKENAZI EVENTUALLY BECAME PEARLMAN’S PARTNER, and now he runs SOHO and the 215 West.

“Tom has been an incredible mentor and leader of the organization and I am truly grateful for his partnership,” Ashkenazi said. “He has shown me how to be a successful bar operator and given me a chance to build a career in this industry.”

The feelings are mutual. Pearlman said, “In 35 years in the bar and nightclub business I had never previously brought in a partner. Toly has earned my confidence and trust by his hard work, business sense and integrity.”

Ashkenazi called SOHO “a place where anyone can be themselves, a place of openness, connection and diversity. While the challenges of a busy bar setting can sometimes be overwhelming, it’s still a labor of love and a very fun place to work.”

Of 215 West, he said it would become a support structure for SOHO during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic with more space for social distancing indoors and out. Since that time, it has grown into a flexible community gathering space which, occasionally, hosts parties. Ashkenazi said, “This wasn’t what we set out to do with 215 West in the beginning, but I am happy with the changes and its current trajectory.”

HE IS ALSO A DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY (DDA) BOARD MEMBER and active with the Ferndale Community Foundation, saying, “The Ferndale community has been amazing. They have been supporting us for years, and especially during the pandemic. They come to our special events, parties, fundraisers, and often stop by just to chat at the bar. I can’t thank the Ferndale community enough for everything they do for all of us here.”

Pearlman said “I was a DDA board member for 12 years and a founding board member of the Ferndale Community Foundation. Toly brings common sense, fiscal responsibility and concern for the community to these organizations. At SOHO and now 215 West we have always felt the responsibility to make every effort to host and sponsor community events and fundraisers.”

Ashkenazi loves getting involved with local events and activities, explaining, “I have been working in Ferndale for close to 20 years. I love the city and sense of community. Serving on these boards gives me the chance to do my part to support the city and the people who live here.”

And, for this, Pearlman can’t thank Ashkenazi enough. He said, “Toly is much more attuned to the needs and requirements of our new generation of patrons and employees. He makes me proud every day to call him a friend and associate.”

For more information about Ashkenazi, SOHO and 215 West, visit @SohoFerndale and @215WestFerndale on Facebook or Instagram or Ferndalesoho.com and 215westferndale.com.

By Lisa Howard

MANY PEOPLE DREAM ABOUT MAKING A LIVING AS AN ARTIST, but Michelle Ouellette and Chad Thompson know exactly what it’s like. They created their animation studio, Yeah Haus, back in 2013 and have been artist-ing ever since.

“We thought, ‘We’ll just do this until we run out of jobs.’ And we still have jobs,” says Michelle. She and Chad were both working at ad agencies but wanted to forge their own path that would allow them to earn income as creatives and pursue their own artistic projects. “I’m most proud of our short films because you can watch them years later and they hold up,” Chad says. “They aren’t based on trends the way commercial work is.” Besides, purely personal projects are a chance to go outside of their usual lanes and learn something new.

Of course, building a successful small business – especially a creative studio takes time and determination. As Michelle and Chad point out, it’s easy to look at a finished product like a film or a book and not see all of the work that went into creating it. And it is work, even when it’s driven by passion and even when you can be choosy about who you work with. “I think a lot of being a creative comes down to how to not talk yourself out of continuing,” Chad says.

FORTUNATELY, HE AND MICHELLE HAVE ESTABLISHED A SOLID ROSTER of clients and also a go-to list of partners they can call whenever they need to work with a collaborator. In many cases, those clients and collaborators go back years. Likewise, Michelle and Chad are not only business partners but have been married for ten years, with two kids under the age of six. They know the nuances of how to best balance their personal and professional lives.

Michelle is the illustrator; in her previous life at the ad agency, she worked as a designer and 3D artist. Chad is the creative director. In BYH times (Before Yeah Haus), he worked in post-production doing motion graphics and editing.

Together, they’ve created mixed media projects, 2D and 3D animations, a swath of commercial works, and their own short films. “I love to draw! That’s all I want to do,” Michelle says. “If I can’t ever draw for myself, then what’s the point?” Chad agrees — every artist, he says, has “back-burner stuff,” the kind of projects that keep the fires of creativity burning bright. That’s why they purposely leave some space in their schedules to accommodate their filmmaking.

ONE OF THEIR SHORTS MADE IT INTO A FILM FESTIVAL IN CANNES! (Yes, they were able to see it screened live.) They count that along with their work for Adult Swim, Disney, and various LA film festivals as some of the highlights of their joint career.

Their tidy studio includes an audio room with all the tools Chad needs to do his sound design and editing while Michelle is busily sketching and illustrating in the adjoining room. They also tackle soundtracks – not only is Chad a musician, his brother was a touring musician and joins in the music-making.

Living in an inherently creative community like Ferndale also helps. “It’s easy to find a wizard guitarist on the other side of Woodward who’ll come over to record,” Chad says. But at the end of the day, what they treasure most is being able to collaborate and create with friendly, talented, and reciprocal partners. “It’s important to us that when we finish something, people are happy,” Michelle says. “We’ve found our little niche and we’re not stopping.”

https://yeahhaus.com | 248.835.0153 | hello@yeahhaus.com

By Kerry Lark

Trevor Johnson

TREVOR JOHNSON, THE FOUNDER OF NEW DAWN GARDENSCAPES LLC., is an energetic fellow with a genuine passion for plants and our planet, and a true educator at heart! His green industry education and experience is impressive and diverse, including:

• Student Teacher and Farmer at MSU’s Student Organic Farm 2003-2007

• Owner/Operator of New Dawn Gardenscapes LLC since 2006

• Awarded a Permaculture Design Certificate in 2006

• Earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Horticulture from Michigan State University in 2007

• Resident Farmer and Manager at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital since 2014

Oakland County Food Policy Council Member since 2014

• Earning a Masters of Public Health Degree from Oakland University in 2022

What is permaculture? The word comes from combining “permanent” and “agriculture.” It is credited to Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, two educators who observed how the unsustainable methods employed by modern industrialized humans were destroying our planet. They became inspired by studying how our indigenous ancestors lived in better harmony with the earth and climate around them, so they published their ground-breaking book, Permaculture One in 1978. According to Mr. Mollison; “Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature.”

The philosophy describes an approach of creating better designs for us to manage our land and resources, designs based on mimicking the successful ecosystems currently existing in nature. It starts with observing and understanding what makes nature succeed and then uses this knowledge as a template to implement a better way for humans to co-exist with the earth.

Permaculture doesn’t focus only on how human actions affect local air, water soil, animals and plants. Rather, it includes the effects our actions will have on ecosystems far away. Practitioners of permaculture call this “whole system thinking.”

Like all great ideas, permaculture has evolved and expanded drastically in the last 44 years, far beyond its rural roots to now including urban areas. It is urban areas that Trevor is focused on, using permacuture as his guide to improve the overall public health in local communities. Trevor embraces the importance of re-attaching the lost connections between people and plants, and the positive effect this has on human health.

We know that modern mega-farms waste precious non-renewable resources such as soil, water, minerals and nutrients. The short-term pain of the current high food prices and food shortages highlights this fact, but this is small potatoes compared to the long-term damage these negative practices are doing to the planet.

We can all help to restore our ecosystems, producing sustainable, self-reliant communities. Doing this will give future generations a better world, one that values and preserves its resources. The great Chief Seattle summed it up best long ago, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

IT’S NOT TOO LATE FOR A “NEW DAWN” AND A FRESH START FOR OUR PLANET. Sure, our local governments can help, but what are you going to do?

While you ponder that, keep in mind what Albert Einstein once said; “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything!”

To learn more about how permaculture can make a difference in your community, check out www.newdawngardens.org.