Business

By Sara E. Teller

Businessman, Family Man & Visionary

JACK ARONSON, FOUNDER OF GARDEN FRESH IN FERNDALE AND A MAN WHO GAVE FIERCELY TO THE COMMUNITY HE LOVED, died peacefully in his sleep at age 68 after a battle with cancer. His heart of gold and love for his family will long outlive him.

Aronson was first and foremost a go-getter. He poured passion into everything he did. Son Daniel Aronson, the youngest of five now-grown children, said “I couldn’t have asked for a better role model and father. He was determined and hard-working, and yet he always made time to be with his kids.”

Daniel said of his father’s business mindset that he was always innovative and on the cutting edge. “He was the heart and soul of Garden Fresh,” he said. “He created the recipes. My mom helped make it come together while my dad would go out and sell it. He partnered with business-minded people. When he discovered that some of the products, like onions, were exploding, he researched high-pressure pasteurization vessels; water pressure which kills pathogens extending the shelf life and keeping everything fresh. It was a game-changer.”

Brett Tillander, CEO of Metro Detroit Youth Club, echoed these sentiments, saying of Aronson, “He saw the things that go unseen and heard the things that go unheard.” For the Youth Club, “He was a coach for people who needed it.”

ARONSON DID MUCH FOR THE KIDS INVOLVED WITH THE CLUB. Tillander remembers Aronson set one of the members up to throw a first pitch at a Comerica Park game. Aronson was inspired by her tenacity, Tillander said, and mentored her until, as an adult, she began to work with autistic youth herself. He recalled, “Jack had the ability to seed and inspire others to take action.”

He also added that Jack and wife Annette made a great team, saying, “Throughout their time at Garden Fresh, they both did so much. I remember Annette wouldn’t let the sale of Pepsi go through so that employees wouldn’t lose their jobs.” He chucked and recalled, “One day, Annette came in and some of the employees were anxious about it, wondering why she was there. Turns out, she just came in to wash the windows.”

Daniel and Tillander both agreed some of their favorite memories with Aronson involved food. Daniel called his dad a “foodie” and said he was a “phenomenal cook” who would feed a crowd by coming up with “seven different things that would somehow all come together in the end.” He added, “My favorite memories were driving around finding new places to eat.”

TILLANDER SHARED A STORY OF ARONSON RANDOMLY DRIVING HIM out to Red Hots Coney Island in Highland Park (now closed), putting four coney dogs in front of him and leaving him with a to-go bag of twenty. He didn’t have the heart to tell his friend he had just switched to being a vegetarian. He knew Aronson had a love for food, and Tillander ended up just eating them all. He said, “Whenever Jack was driving, it was an adventure. You had no idea where you were going and yet it was all okay.”

Daniel found his dad’s willingness to go above and beyond and get involved in as many charitable organizations as possible incredibly inspiring. He recalled, “He was involved in lots of charities, not only the Youth Club, he did a lot with the Salvation Army and the Beyond Basics Reading Program.” He added, “Above all, my dad was passionate, compassionate and strong.”

Tillander hopes that “when the silence comes, when the flowers stop, when the cards stop, others remember to connect with Annette and the family. They’ve done so much for the community.”

Jack is survived by his loving wife and devoted partner,  Annette (known as Vitamin A), his children Trevor (Angela), Melissa (Davey), Melanie (Dave), Jack (Bridget) and Daniel (Shantel) as well as 16 beautiful grandchildren, Tyler A, Tyler, Marlie, Janet, Katie, Jayson, Landon, Ryan, Lily, Katie, Emily, Mya, Lea, Hannah, Olivia and Drea, and siblings Kenneth (Joan), Virginia (Gordon), Diana (Roger), David (Lynn). Predeceased by his parents and his brother, Sonny.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to Metro Detroit Youth Clubs (www.miclubs.org), Say Detroit (saydetroit.org), Salvation Army of South-Eastern Michigan (centralusa.salvationarmy.org/emi) or Beyond Basics (www.beyondbasics.org).


JACK WAS A PROUD GRADUATE OF FERNDALE HIGH SCHOOL, a restauranteur, and founder of Garden Fresh Gourmet. But, more than that, Jack and his beloved wife Annette, were committed to helping our community and our children achieve a better future. As a part of that commitment, the Aronsons made an incredible investment in Ferndale Public Schools to help improve literacy.

Jack knew that success for any student is built on a strong foundation of literacy. Due to the incredible generosity of the Aronsons, Ferndale Schools was able to hire a full-time reading specialist and purchase flexible learning furniture, computers, and licenses for READ 180 curriculum. READ 180 is a researched-based reading tool that blends reading comprehension, academic vocabulary and writing skills for students. Thanks to the Aronsons, Ferndale High School has been able to provide vital reading intervention and tutoring for hundreds of students.

Jack’s commitment was much more than just financial. In addition to being involved in the reading program at FHS, he and Annette regularly took the students on culturally diverse field trips and brought them lunch so that they could talk and get to know each other. Jack was committed to establishing personal relationships with our students and school community.

Jack’s engagement traveled far beyond the boundaries of Ferndale. He served on the board of Beyond Basics (an organization promoting youth literacy), as well as the national board of the Salvation Army. Through their foundation, Jack and Annette were also significant contributors to Boys and Girls Clubs of South Oakland County, as well as other charitable causes focusing on bettering the lives of children and young adults.

WHILE MANY WILL REMEMBER JACK for his incredible success in the business world. We in Ferndale have been blessed to know Jack personally and to witness the truly life changing impact of his generosity. The greatest legacy any of us can hope to leave behind is one where through our actions in life others benefit when we are gone. Jack has truly left a legacy that will positively impact our community for generations to come.

On behalf of the entire Ferndale Schools family, I want to send my deepest condolences to Annette and the entire Aronson family.

Thank you Jack.

Dania H. Bazzi, PhD
Superintendent, Ferndale Schools

 


THERE ARE MANY FOND MEMORIES OF THE TIMES I SPENT WITH JACK. I know I don’t stick out as anyone special in any particular way but that’s completely appropriate. Jack was a larger-than-life person to probably everyone he knew.

We met when I was running AJ’S Cafe in downtown Ferndale. AJ’s was a beloved “living room” of Ferndale that achieved a lot of local, even national and global attention for the many grassroots activities that happened there. Jack once told me that when he traveled around, people knew two things about Ferndale, him and AJ’s Cafe! That was pretty cool.

When the time came to leave AJ’s Cafe, I was kind of like a fish out of water. I had no idea that the social capital we had achieved at AJ’s could be translated into working capital somehow. I put my chips down on a coffee company and we called it Detroit Bold, because the city of Detroit and all of its people, despite all we had endured throughout the ages, was bold. It was the best word to describe us.

THERE WAS NO ONE I COULD HAVE IMAGINED ASKING FOR ADVICE OTHER THAN JACK. He basically took me under his wing and took me in. I’ll never forget that first meeting on 9 Mile at his headquarters in Ferndale. He sat me down at this super-long executive meeting table with he, Dave Zilko, and Mike Griffin, his trusted cohorts. They began to lay out a plan for me to follow and gave me the necessary roadmap towards success. Detroit Bold is sold in hundreds of stores today and it would never have happened were it not for Jack.

It was not all work, though. I played in his charity softball games because he asked me to be one of the celebrities. I could not imagine myself as a celebrity but hey – if he wanted me to play I was glad to, no questions asked. I knew the cause was good. We had a lot of lunches together, mostly at Red Hot’s Coney in Highland Park. We both were originally from around there and loved to go back. Our roasting operation is there, too. Jack made sure to stop in and see the facilities and lend his name to ours.

In 2016, we lost our mom. Throughout the year, Jack always made sure that I went back home with hummus, chips and salsa. Our mother was bedridden and had a hard time eating, but she sure loved that hummus. I Face-Timed Jack for my mom so she could say hello and, of course, Jack was gracious enough to chat with her.

Jack and Annette (that was our mom’s name too!) attended the funeral and took me off to the side of the room where they gifted our family a check to help with the funeral costs. I was so flabbergasted, it was completely unexpected and quite helpful. Jack and Annette knew that my coffee business was still a fledgling business.

JACK NEVER SOUGHT ATTENTION FOR THAT KIND OF STUFF. I think Jack knew that happiness did not come from the attainment of things. It came for Jack by giving, and quietly so. I think that of all the gifts he has given to me, that is the one that I cherish the most.

If you knew Jack, you know what I mean. If you didn’t know him, rest assured you

would have liked him. He gave his time and talents to me as he would to anyone who crossed his path.

Rest, dear friend. We will carry on and your memory will live on for generations to come.

AJ O’Neil
Detroit Bold Coffee & AJ’s Cafe

 


I KNEW JACK ARONSON SINCE THE ’70S, THROUGH A MUTUAL FRIEND. But I really got to know him and his wife Annette in the early ’90s, working for him at Clubhouse BBQ. Then, in August of 1998, I started working for them making salsa in the back of the restaurant. That’s when the real story began.

As the salsa business grew over the years, so did their love for helping others. Through their humble struggle building a business, so did their humanitarianism grow. They became involved with the Bed & Breakfast Club, Salvation Army, The Boys & Girls Club and many other great giving foundations. They started their own Artichoke Garlic Foundation. They help fund Beyond Basics and many more. They have been there for countless organizations and thousands of individuals over the years.

I love these people who also helped me in my time of need. I can’t express my deep sadness for the loss of my friend. Jack who lost a three-year struggle with cancer. Through his struggle, he learned so much about this horrific disease, traveling to Switzerland, Austria and lastly Hungary in June/July of this year searching for alternative cures. Through his travels, much was learned for future cancer victims.

His memory will live on throughout the world forever. R.I.P. my dear friend and boss in Heaven with all of the other Earth’s Angels.

Sincerely, your Cherbot 2000!
Cher Mitchell


I’D HEARD HIS NAME IN MY HOUSE EVERY DAY FOR YEARS. My mom was always going to work at his house, or she would hang with his wife, Annette (one of her best friends). Jack was my first boss at Clubhouse BBQ in Ferndale. Now I know the whole family, and am sorry for their loss of such a creative and generous man! He loved helping his community.

I was already working at the restaurant when he created Garden Fresh Salsa. I worked at a few different positions for that company too. On one trip in Chicago, Jack told a waiter it was my birthday. It was not, but they didn’t know that, and the staff came with a cake and song. It’s funny to look back on now! He made a pig for my luau graduation party and an employee put the pig’s head on my living room table! (I had just become a vegetarian.)

Jack sent me food often through my mom. He knew I love salmon. He loved me, and called me Amy Lou. (“Jack, like you know that is not my middle name right?”) I used that name on a voice text telling him that I loved him about eight hours before he died. I am very grateful that I knew to tell him that then.

He made his dreams come true and did what he was sent here to do, which is to help people! I could never forget him even if I wanted to. He has been such a big part of my life.

Amy Mitchell


ONE THING ABOUT JACK ARONSON (there are too many to list) is that each relationship he had was unique to that individual. He always made you feel important, no matter if you were a student trying to build your own brand or the CEO of a major company. I never saw any ego in any of my time with him over the years.

When I was in treatment for cancer, he made sure I had food prepared each week, and when it was over he and Annette offered me a job with the Ferndale Literacy Project. He saved my life in ways he and Annette never knew. Heartbroken that I will never hear that booming voice again or have to struggle to keep up with his speed-talking. Love you,  Jack.

Carol Jackson
Ferndale Literacy Project
SouthEast Oakland Coalition

IT IS ALWAYS DIFFICULT SAYING GOODBYE TO SOMEONE WE LOVE AND CHERISH. Family and friends must say goodbye to their beloved Joshua S. Urban of Ferndale, Michigan, who passed away at the age of 38 on May 9, 2021.

He was loved and cherished by many people including his parents Stephen Urban of Ferndale and Marie Cardona (Joseph) of Hazel Park; his brother Jeremy Urban of Ferndale; his girlfriend Dawn Porter of Hazel Park; and his sons, Trevor and Hunter.

In lieu of flowers, memorial tributes may be made to the charity of choice.


JUST THINKING ABOUT YOU,  WONDERING IF YOU ARE WATCHING ME,  thinking about us, or maybe hanging with our past loved ones. I miss you already, planned to stop at the donut shop before the airport, like in the past, to say goodbye and grab a coffee, but had to stop myself in tears and make my Keurig. No one is there.

When I saw you Saturday, you were in great spirits, felt great, I asked you to come with me to Vegas. We would have had the best time, but I guess you had other plans. It’s not the same out here, knowing what I have to come home to.

My heart hurts. I stop myself from looking at Facebook, because I don’t want to cry out here. Gotta’ keep a game face.

Remember when we would go to the casino to play poker together? I just keep waiting to wake up from this nightmare. After mom and dad, it’s just me. I am always gonna wonder what could have been. I love you Joshua… Rest tight little bro…


IT’S AN UNBELIEVABLE LOSS. JOSH WAS THE CENTERPIECE,  the driving force and the reason we woke up every day. He was the staple, the cornerstone. He made it the way it was. We want to fulfill everything we talked about with him (such as the donut ideas)! We are literally “in his shoes” back there (inside the store) and even seeing his chair brings back memories.

It’s hard sometimes to come here every day, but we do it anyway. Joshua worked hard, seven days a week. He was here from the moment the store opened until it closed, typically by himself, until we walked in to help. We were the “Three Amigos,” the “A-Team!”

Joshua knew everybody, and he had worked here since he was six or seven-years-old. From around 2008, Josh helped his dad bake the donuts. Then in 2013 he took over more. We could count on him for everything because he was a loyal friend. And kind to everyone, from the smallest baby to the oldest customers. Josh took the time to get to know people; he would even deliver donuts himself to the older ladies. For example, a lady named Guinevere would come in on Tuesdays and Josh would immediately stop what he was doing and take her items out to her car.

Josh was great at finding ways to build the businesses by expanding our vendor accounts with gas stations and different stores. Josh loved making donations of donuts for many worthy causes, and he really cared about the community of Ferndale. He did everything with such passion! Some customers still don’t know that he is gone. Others share memories so we still get to talk about him while we work.

He had many interests, such as football and history. He enjoyed watching Ancient Aliens, The Goldbergs and The Golden Girls on TV. Music was also a big part of his life; he would dance around in the back to his favorite songs. It was hard hearing those songs after he was gone, but now we enjoy hearing them because of the memories they bring back. Traveling up North to a family home way his favorite way to re-energize before returning back to work. Also, he loved spending time out boating with his brother, Jeremy.

Josh’s father,  Steve, now trusts us to keep it going, which we truly appreciate. That took a lot of courage and he trusts our judgement, but it’s hard to fill Josh’s shoes. Steve had a vision of Josh taking over the business; now he has a bunch of women to deal with! We can’t make things run like he did, and the speciality Joshua Donut is gone forever. But we will always try hard to do it his way, the way he showed us. His presence is with each of us, every day. We see little signs of him all the time. We were privileged to have him in our lives.”

Memories of Dawn Porter, Colleen Pank & Cyndi Heys
Transcribed by Jean Goeddeke


Happy Heavenly Birthday to my dear best friend Joshua. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you or speak your name. I truly, deeply miss you every single day. I wish you were here so you would be able to celebrate your birthday and us having a house soon, and Shaylyn’s sweet 16th birthday. I know you will be watching and we will feel your presence. I love you with all my heart. Til we meet again…
– Cyndi Heys


We love The Apple Fritter and Josh would always treat us the kindest every time we went to The Apple Fritter and nobody can ever make better donuts than him.
– Abby, age 11


I’ll miss you Cousin. I’ll miss our adventures and working together and having a riot. You were the best friend a cuz could have. You would do anything for anyone. That was your kind heart. I love you, Joshua. R.I.P., my cuz.
– Martin Downs


Steve and Jeremy; my heart goes out to you and your family. Josh had a good heart. Like many others in the community I’ll miss him.
– Kris Lieber


Oh my. This is incredibly sad. His family and the whole community have suffered a terrible loss. I celebrate his life and the joy he brought to everyone who knew him. Hugs to his family.
– Merri Busch


Josh was always so nice and took great care of us. Very sad. Keeping Dawn and the rest of Josh’s family in our thoughts and prayers.
– Mike Hickey


The last time I saw Josh at the shop, he remembered that I worked for the Fisher Theater, and asked me how we were doing and we chatted for a bit. It lifted me up that he remembered. Back when we had The Book of Mormon at the Fisher, Josh helped us give away a bunch of maple-glazed donuts for a promotion (if you know the show, you know the connection.) He was always so very nice. My heart goes out to the staff, family and friends. I feel like this is a big loss for all of Ferndale.
– Scott Myers


My sincerest sympathies to your entire family. I believe it was Josh I gave the original artwork for my Vern Dale of Ferndale comic that featured The Apple Fritter. He and Colleen helped us out quite a few times. Great people.
– Josh Ryals


I am sad about this news. I saw him Saturday morning and only had a chance to wave hello. Our old pastor used to say: “We all are on the same path, and some will be there first and will just wait for the rest of us.”
– Laurie N Charles DeNoyer


My grandma and Josh used to talk all the time about football, and she would often go to The Apple Fritter only to see him and Dawn. She loved him and it was very obvious he had a good heart. My heart goes out to everyone working at The Apple Fritter and to Josh’ family and loved ones.
– Karly Natin


I went to The Apple Fritter donut shop on Tuesday morning at 7:30 AM. I then saw the wreath and the flowers on the door and said to myself “Oh no… not Josh!” I was very sad. I did not know what was going on. After being completely shocked for a few minutes, God put a peace over my heart and made me remember. The last time I saw Josh was last month, when I came to get a donut all the way from Eastpointe. I told him that I loved him and I would see him soon. He knew my favorite donut when I walked in the store. He would have it ready for me with a smile. I miss you guys and love you all! Steve, stay strong and stay safe. Apple Fritter has the best donuts in Michigan. Josh made every donut better. He will really be missed!
– Taleisha Jones


R.I.P. Joshua Urban, you and I have been through so much together. Our friendship was so strong. You tried to teach me how to cook smothered pork chops and then kicked me out of the kitchen. You have made me smile, you have made me sad, I always said I would always be by your side through anything. You had a rough time with stuff. I was always there for you, now you will be our guardian angel. I will forever be your best friend. Til we meet again, love and miss you so much.
– Cyndi Heys

By Kevin Lamb

The words “Jazz” and “Cats” have long been synonymous, but these days, it’s being taken to a whole ‘nother level. Mostly started in Korea and South Asian countries, cat cafes have been a popular trend throughout the world for some time.

“Jazz. What cat doesn’t like jazz? It’s as though jazz was created as a soundtrack for a cat’s life: John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, the usual suspects. We also play a lot of Brazilian jazz from the 1960’s and the cats seem to dig it,” Executive Director of Ferndale Cat Shelter, Deanne Iovan says.

But don’t be fooled, you can’t actually bring your cat to the Catfe Lounge, enjoy a coffee, and groove to some Coltrane while contemplating your mutual place in the cosmos.

“Many people don’t realize that we have been open for six years on Livernois in Ferndale. Some people also think they can bring their cats there to play with other cats, like a dog park. Not a good idea! Cats are very different from dogs and all of our cats are rescues who need forever homes. We are a part of Ferndale Cat Shelter and as such, licensed with the Michigan Department of Agriculture as a cat shelter.”

Turns out, it’s jazz for cats who need homes! Can you dig?

“WE KNEW WE COULDN’T AFFORD to build out a proper coffee shop right away since we were just in our first year as a non-profit. So we decided to offer self-serve coffee and tea instead. I pitched the idea to our very small board of directors and they surprisingly agreed. We did a small kickstarter fundraiser and opened on a shoestring. Since then, we have grown and taken over the space next door.”

Since I don’t believe in coincidence, it’s probably not one that Catfe Lounge on Livernois is just a half-a-mile away from the longest continually running Jazz establishment in these United States, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge.

“We always need dedicated volunteers. Animal rescue work succeeds on the backs of people who volunteer their time and energy to helping animals in need. Without volunteers, most rescues would not exist.”

YouTube alone assures me y’all are cat crazy…while history itself speaks for jazz, making this a classic “twenty nine or two-for-fifty” (Mr. Alan’s commercial) type of volunteering opportunity, people! Have I mentioned how healthy helping others and Ferndale felines is for an anxious mind?

“Our biggest obstacle right now is finding the space, time and veterinary care for all of the animals who need it. The pandemic quarantine brought many new fosters into rescue since they were staying home. Now that number has dwindled because everyone wants to get out and get back some normalcy in their lives. Veterinarians have been scrambling to catch up with the demand for spaying and neutering since many clinics closed or could only perform emergency surgeries during the pandemic. The veterinary profession is a hard road and requires an enormous amount of education and training. The financial payoff is meager compared to human doctors, yet veterinarians have to learn the physiology of so many species. It’s a thankless job most days. I feel their struggle.”

THE CATFE LOUNGE IS EXCITED to start having events again! “We have yoga classes twice a month and will be bringing back the ever-popular Cat Bingo in September. As always, we are looking to expand our footprint in the community and that means finding a larger facility to move forward with a coffee shop to create a sustainable non-profit business model. It’s always better when you don’t have to beg people for money!”

Each of us has an opportunity to show up for community in a unique way; different gifts bring different passion but indifference always ends the same. Perhaps you’re looking to show up in your cat’s pajamas to connect and engage with Ferndale in your way, maybe this could be it.

“Our volunteers and fosters! There are so many to be grateful for. And our veterinarians who step up to help even when they are overworked. We are very lucky to have so many good people helping our organization. On that note, building relationships in the community and fostering those relationships is so important to succeed in our mission. Each one of us plays a vital role.”

WHEN CUSTOMERS ENTER A CLOTHING STORE, they can be full of expectations. They want gloves that compliment a coat, or shirt or blouse that matches a pair of pants. Or their mission is bigger, to come across an array of suitable patterns and styles for a wardrobe calling out for new selections.

No matter, owner Je Donna Dinges of the resale boutique Margaux & Max “has you covered.” Her shop offers a variety of “previously-loved fine women’s contemporary and vintage clothing, shoes, and accessories” at prices only a fraction of their original cost. The shop carries classic, casual, and formal wear available in sizes that range from 00-24W. Top brands include J Crew, Ann Taylor, BCBG, Banana Republic, Talbots, and many others.

An equally impressive find in Dinges herself. When customers talk to her, they may get a chance to hear her story full of several challenges. Her courage and business savvy have seen her through tough times. These traits exemplify her status as a leader, mentor, and activist in the community.

How did you get interested in fashion?

I have a background in retail, about 30 years of it to be exact. Most of my retail experience has been in management. I have always loved fashion. As a kid, I would make color swatches using pieces of cardboard and my Crayola crayons. I’d often mix the colors together to get the perfect shade; then my mom and I would shop for tights, shoes, etc. from the swatches. I read Vogue, Glamour, and Harper’s Bazaar. Fashion makes me happy!

With eBay, Etsy, and other online markets for buying and reselling clothing, why did you decide to open a brick-and-mortar store?

Online shopping is great! We offer an online shopping component with our Facebook live, but it is different from eBay, Amazon, and the like. We provide a high level of customer service, even when we are working with our clients online. People can buy clothing and accessories anywhere. Shopping at Margaux & Max is not about buying stuff; we offer our clientele a full-service shopping experience. I work with clients one-on-one to help them find the perfect pieces to fit their body types, skin tones as well as their budgets. People keep saying, “Retail is dead!” Retail isn’t dead. Bad retail is dead!

How long has Margaux & Max been in business? How did you come up with the name? How did you find the location for it in downtown Ferndale?

Margaux & Max has been in business for seven years. I started it at my dining room table with one pair of earrings and a Facebook page. The name comes from two beloved pets. Margo was a German shepherd / husky mix that my parents had when I was growing up. I liked the French spelling better, so I used that. Max was a cat that my ex-husband and I had for 15 years. They have both crossed the rainbow bridge. I’m friends with Heatherleigh Navarre, the owner of the Boston Tea Room. When she moved out of the space, she suggested that my realtor (Rachele Downs) and I look at it, and the rest is history.

Some people dread shopping. How do you attract them to your store? What sets you apart from other retailers?

I work to first earn each client’s trust. I have a knack for looking at someone and knowing what size and style works for them. I am a student of my business/industry, so that means that I present myself as a trusted advisor, a stylist. Fabrics, colors, styles, trends are what I pay attention to so that I can help every client find amazing pieces every time they visit our showroom. I offer clients an opportunity to shop with me one-on-one, so the angst some women feel when shopping in large stores is not an issue. I pull pieces that I know will fit them well. The biggest challenge our clients have is deciding what to leave behind!

How do you feel about your space? Any longterm goals for it?

I love Ferndale. The people are so friendly and supportive of small businesses. We painted the space when we moved in. We just finished painting the outside as well. I love updating window displays to keep the store looking fresh, and to keep people excited about what we have to offer.

You were featured in March on the radio about your neighbor in Grosse Pointe Park using racial intimidation tactics against you. What can be done to help others in your circumstances?

My neighbor put a KKK flag in his window, facing my home, in February. The prosecutor could not charge him, and the Grosse Pointe Park Police Department seemed to be running interference for him. I was very vocal in speaking out against him and the Department (which was all-white). I started a letter-writing campaign to demand that the Department become diverse to reflect the community that it serves. In June, they swore in a new chief who is committed to diversity and inclusion. They also hired their first Black officer. Last week, I was invited to sit on the G.P.P. Police Department’s citizen’s advisory board. I would tell people who are dealing with discrimination to make noise! Don’t stop fighting until they see changes!

Any advice for those wishing to follow in your career path?

Be prepared to work harder than you ever thought possible! I work very hard, but I absolutely love it.

Located at 224 West Nine Mile Road, Margaux & Max is open for virtual appointments.
To schedule an appointment, call 313-221-6434.
Check out its Facebook live events each Friday at 8 P.M.
The web address is www.facebook.com/margauxandmax.
For more information on store events and displays, you may also follow margauxandmax on Instagram.

Melanie Williams and Nicole Duffey, lifelong best friends, are celebrating 14 years in business as co-owners of Regeneration, a resale clothing store at 23700 Woodward Ave. in Pleasant Ridge, just blocks away from Ferndale and I-696.

DESPITE A TOUGH YEAR DURING THE PANDEMIC, they are expanding the size of their store with the addition of a new space called The Annex, and looking forward to the future.

Williams and Duffey expressed deep gratitude that their store managed to survive the difficult circumstances brought about by COVID-19.

“We are appreciative that most of our customers feel safe to shop and sell clothing with us during such an uneasy time,” Duffey said.

The duo’s history as business owners goes back to 2007, when a desire for new careers led them to shift gears and open Regeneration.

“We were both in a stagnant place, job-wise and life-wise; craved a change and wanted a challenge,” Williams said. “We both adored vintage clothing and had been avid thrift store shoppers, so it made sense to try our hand at a business we loved.”

Regeneration had expanded to two stores when a second store opened in Clawson in 2011. But the Clawson store did not survive the pandemic, allowing Williams and Duffey to focus on growing their main location in Pleasant Ridge.

“Deciding to close our Clawson store wasn’t difficult, as we knew that managing both stores, especially amid a pandemic, would be too much to handle financially and emotionally,” Duffey said. “Last Summer, we rented the space next door to our main location to help manage the overflow of inventory.

“Eventually we will break down the main wall and refigure our dressing rooms. But in the meantime, The Annex houses the bulk of our accessories for men and women,” said Williams. “While the front room has a cozy boutique feel, the Annex is an intimate space that is a revolving/evolving room dedicated to local artists and sustainable products.”

LIKE MOST SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS, Williams and Duffey got creative during the pandemic and went outside of their normal methods of engaging customers, and much of their efforts to stay connected to customers focused on social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram.

“We’ve used Instagram the past few years to highlight exceptional items we buy for the store, but now we’re using Instagram to make connections. Just before we reopened in May 2020, we invited our staff to share Instagram videos of what they’d been up to during quarantine. We’ve since transitioned into hosting a weekly live sale on Instagram at 2:00 P.M. on Saturdays. It’s important to share highlights of our inventory with folks that aren’t one hundred percent comfortable shopping during the pandemic. We cultivated a big family of customers prior to the pandemic shutdown, and our activity on Facebook and Instagram helped us stay in touch with people and connect to other businesses.”

One trend the two women have noticed is that career-oriented items aren’t selling as much as they once did. Working from home has changed career-wear culture. They said the great thing about resale is that you don’t have to spend a lot to wear fashionable clothing, and shopping secondhand is beneficial for one’s budget, as well as the environment.

“When we do shift back to school full-time, being social, or heading back to the workplace, our store will be a fantastic option for families who don’t want to spend full price on apparel,” Williams said. “Also, having a significant amount of down time has inspired folks to clean out their closets and purge unneeded things. This is beneficial to the world of resale, because we are seeing an influx of amazing items that people are casting off in exchange for cash or store credit.”

By Kevin Alan Lamb

SUMMERS WERE SPENT PLAYING BASEBALL in the front yard by day, and running through neighborhood streets, playing Capture-The-Flag by night. In those brief moments we took respite inside my childhood home for PBJ’s and hydration, we could always depend on my mom busy at work painting in the kitchen (her studio), listening to Julio Iglesias. Our home was decorated with her water-color and mixed media creations, while her positive energy and creativity still tell a story today.

All those years ago, she was a member of the Lawrence Street Gallery, which first made its home in Pontiac, before finding its way to Ferndale. Little did I know then, but some 25 years later I would call Ferndale home, and be given the opportunity to write about Lawrence Street Gallery, connecting with Laura Host, its Director and my mom’s old friend.

“Your mom, Kris, was always a very enthusiastic member. She was a great artist and was willing to attempt anything!” Host says.

“Our first location was on Lawrence Street in the old Salvation Army building in Pontiac. The space had been an art gallery but a new owner bought the building and wanted to have it continue as a gallery. So she decided to turn it into an artist cooperative gallery. The original members set it up legally as a cooperative and Lawrence St. Gallery started in 1987.”

Despite being closed from mid-March until July, Host was quick to identify a silver lining in the pandemic; citing increased foot traffic downtown as a result of people having less to do, and receiving the Oakland Together Small Business Recovery Grant.

“We received the grant in October 2020,” thanks to Treasurer Dennis Montville, who is also a wood turner and wood sculptor. “We’ve been able to purchase air-purifying machines and hand-sanitizer machines to help our members and visitors feel safer,” Host says.

Closing also prompted a needed shift in emphasis toward the Gallery’s online presence. “Cindy Parsons (painter) spearheaded the project of making the Gallery capable of having virtual exhibits online.”

WHILE SHE WASN’T LOOKING FORWARD TO COMING BACK, HOST QUICKLY REALIZED how much she missed it. “What could be better than sipping coffee while looking at art?”

Open the first Friday of every month, ten people are allowed in the gallery at a time. Even after being in Ferndale for 18 years, they are exploring ways to better let neighbors know they are there.

“We joined the Chamber of Commerce and have tried to create events that get people into the gallery, like Meet-the-Artist Sundays. We stress that we have a brand-new exhibit at the gallery every month.”

Grateful for this serendipitous entanglement of past and present, I asked Host to paint us a picture of the gallery’s early days.

“The space had high ceilings, beautiful tall windows and wood floors. Downtown Pontiac was waking up after a time of empty buildings and the City offered buildings for very little, hoping to have the new owners refurbish the buildings and downtown. We were the first gallery in the 1987 version of downtown Pontiac, and the last one to leave in 2003.

Finding a spot on Woodward Ave. in Ferndale seemed like a great idea. We kept the name Lawrence Street Gallery as we had been known as a place for artists to display their work, and we wanted to keep a connection to all the history of the gallery.”

Artists are their best customers, and Host is grateful that people are learning more about the community, that they might not have had time for in the past.

“We have affordable, original, all-media art by area artists. Those who love buying art can always find something at the gallery, and those who are just starting out buying artwork for their homes can find amazing art, at affordable prices. We even donated a percentage of sales for a couple of months when we reopened last July to the Renaissance Vineyard Food Pantry in Ferndale.”

By Kevin Alan Lamb

WHILE MUCH OF THE WORLD IS BETTER FAMILIAR with the comforts of working from home after 2020, I would similarly wager there is a greater appreciation for quiet, distraction-free, office space.

Founded in 2018 to be just that, Ben Long says PatchWork Collective was opened as a result of a lack of small office space in Ferndale, particularly for solo entrepreneurs and start-ups.

“The goal was to have something unique, and different from the large coworking sites like WeWork,” Long says.

Located at 22007 Woodward Ave., PatchWork Collective invites you to work the way you want, offering safe and adaptable office space with private offices, conference rooms, and special event/presentation space when permitted.

“Networking groups, weddings/wedding showers, birthdays, ballroom/ tango dance events, social events, book signings, animal adoption events, retirement parties, painting classes, and art auctions” are all examples of the events held in the space thus far.

PatchWork Collective is open to its members 24/7, and otherwise by appointment only.

“Ferndale has always been very inclusive and welcoming, and has a nice community and neighborly feel. PatchWork has a diverse member population. PatchWork has been well-received by the community with several members and occasional users being Ferndale residents and/or Ferndale business workers. Additionally, PatchWork won the Ferndale New Project of the Year in 2019 at the Mayor’s Business Council Award Ceremony,” Long says.

The Mayor’s Business Council gave out five awards to local businesses and business people who truly represented the heart of Ferndale. Mayor Coulter introduced former PatchWork CEO, Lisa Schmidt, and told everyone how the PatchWork Collective was an idea born right here in Ferndale. He talked about how Lisa and her co-founder Long had worked with the Build Institute in Ferndale to create their business plan and develop the company from concept to concrete. He shared how PatchWork is a great space for small business owners, remote workers, and entrepreneurs to work together.

A RECENT ROLLOUT AT THE COLLECTIVE IS THEIR TABLETOP MARKETPLACE, which is a way for vendors who might usually be at festivals like Pride, or those merchants with side gigs making products like candles, to sell their products.

“We currently feature homemade candles from Ferndale’s own Solas Candles, a local artist’s production, Waxing Cara (homemade goods using natural ingredients from bees), and products from Bedazzled Ballroom Dress Rental. The marketplace is open Saturday and Sunday from 2:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M., or by appointment. We’re always looking for additional vendors, so contact us if anyone is interested in learning more.”

Long hopes that once vaccines are fully rolled out and we are in the clear, they can get back to being a co-working, incubator space.

To inquire about renting space or about services offered, visit PatchWorkCollective.net or email info@patchworkcollective.net.

By Jenn Goeddeke

FOR NEARLY SEVEN DECADES, METRO DETROIT’S PRIMARY DESTINATION for great contemporary and mid-century modern home decor has been Living Modes. Located at 23535 Woodward in Ferndale, and owned by Richard Sherman, Living Modes has gathered an extensive clientele over the years.

Along with his high energy manager of 34 years, Rick Lakomy, Sherman prides himself on dedication to his loyal customers. Sherman and Lakomy enjoy getting to know everyone. Even though the Covid19 pandemic has hit Ferndale hard, Sherman continues to work diligently to keep up with the demand for his products and services.

We sat on a gorgeous, white leather reclining couch, next to a large and brightly-colored coffee table. I was already sold! Sherman put me at ease, with his laid-back conversational style. After chatting, Sherman took me on a tour of the entire two-level store, quite an eye-opening experience for art lovers such as myself.

Sherman’s background in horticulture and interior design clearly served him well in forming these stunning showrooms and the whole ensemble is spot-on. All items are displayed in a highly color-coordinated and integral way; it’s a lively, Cirque du Soleil arrangement of furniture, art, lighting, mirrors, florals and accessories where all items are vying for attention! Sherman takes great pride in his selection of merchandise, and buys items from all over the world.

SHERMAN STARTED OUT SMALLER, WITH JUST 3000 SQUARE FEET. The store has evolved greatly over the decades. In 1953, his father, Bernard “Barney” Sherman opened the first incarnation of Living Modes, on the old James Couzens highway. Gradually over the years, Richard Sherman started to handle the nuts and bolts of the business. Then in 1995, the store moved to its current location at 23535 Woodward Ave in Ferndale

Due to the Covid19 pandemic, Sherman had to close the store for a couple of months, like most others in Michigan. However, he considers himself fortunate, as sales have remained strong. Teaming up with his son, Ian, Sherman retains a prominent online presence, through both FaceBook and their web site. Naturally, Sherman has been saddened by the effect of the pandemic on many of his neighbors’ lives and businesses, and he is “waiting for the ‘new normal’ – I want to see Ferndale return to its former bustling vibrancy.”

248.544.1711
www.livingmodesonline.com
www.facebook.com/livingmodes
Mon. 11:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.
Tues 11:00 A.M. – 6:00 P.M.
Weds-Thurs Closed
Fri 11:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.
Sat 11:00 A.M. – 6:00 P.M.
Sun Closed

By Kevin Lamb

“HUMBLED AND LUCKY TO BE GIVEN the opportunity to give others an opportunity,” Chris Best says.

When it comes down to it, isn’t that what we should all be striving for? A series of fortuitous happenings, propelled by hard work, and community support which create the space, time and mechanism to help others experience the same.

“In 2011 we set out to create an environment where everyone wins,” and they’ve done just that at The Rust Belt Market.

“The patrons get an authentic human experience which is the antithesis of online shopping. The vendors get to practice and hone their skills turning their passion and dreams into a business they can rely on to bring in steady income. We as the owners get to increase our own business acumen including starting our own events business with a full bar and a plant shop. Practice makes more perfect and we all learn from each other while lifting each other,” Best says.

It is a tremendous gift, and business model to help lift others; not so different from a community garden where space is shared, nurtured, and cultivated for a common good.

“I cherish our time at Rustbelt: the friendships we have made, and the unique shopping experience it gave our customers. It was a great way for us to expand our brands. Tiffany and Chris Best do a great job managing the market and listening to vendors. All the vendors look out for each other and the sense of community is very strong there as well. The Rust Belt Market is the best business incubator in all of the Metro Detroit area,” Paul Marcial of Ink Detroit and The Great Lakes State says.

Best has a deep sense of gratitude towards the brave group of business owners who have been with them since the beginning.

“That list is: C Cooper Designs, Ida Belle Soaps, Tooth And Nail Oddities, Painted Lady Trashions, Attack Hunger and Detroit GT. They did two things that we’ll never forget. They took a chance on a strange business model ten years ago when we needed a vote of confidence most. And they stuck with us through good times and bad. That kind of loyalty is rare and never forgotten. There are other shops like 248 Studio, Outer Spaceways and Speedcult that have been with us almost nine years and we have gratitude towards them as well. We have a lot of gratitude towards our shops in general.”

THAT SEEMING SENSE OF ETERNAL GRATITUDE IS VIBRANTLY RECIPROCATED, coming full circle, back around from the small business owners within The Rustbelt.

“It can’t be overstated how important our partnership with Rustbelt has been since our inception,” says Jeremy Olstyn, Board Member and Production Director of Ferndale Radio.

“Back when we were ramping up to apply for our construction permit with the FCC, we weren’t even sure where we could house our little station. Part of my day job is running WPHS-FM (a small high school radio station in Warren) and Chris Best invited my students and I to broadcast live from the Rustbelt one weekend. So, when we were looking for a home for Ferndale Radio, Chris and Tiffany were really enthusiastic about having us onboard. From what I recall, having an in-market radio station was part of their original business plan. It’s not hyperbole to say that without Chris and Tiffany, we would not be on air in Ferndale.”

Making possible what might have previously been otherwise; like planting seeds in rich soil, creating an opportunity for life itself. Best credits the City government of Ferndale for their customer service orientation, taking a public/private partnership stance when approaching their small requests/needs.

“We’ve heard horror stories from business owners in other cities, and we feel like the city government is our ally. The community of good humans who appreciate the goods made and carried by our shops are way up on that list of gratitude as well! They have been the ones who have made the dream a reality for all of us Rust Belters. Their votes via dollars are the reason we are making it through this awful pandemic.”

IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO TRANSFORM DREAMS INTO REALITIES, and each of us possess unique abilities to help another’s garden grow.

“I think the idea of small shops coming together in a unique, collective space fits perfectly with our community and DIY aesthetic. The Rustbelt is one of those purely Ferndale destinations that has become synonymous with the type of business people want to support and see thrive and grow in the city. For many of the Rustbelt vendors, you’re seeing people investing in their dreams through sweat and hard work every weekend; our volunteer DJs are doing the same thing in supporting Ferndale Radio,” Olstyn says.

Plants need water; dreams insist sweat equity. The closer a dream aligns with another, the more magnanimous and possible it grows. Like plants, dreams must adapt to ever-changing conditions if they are to blossom.

“Our events business has been shut down for one year. This has been devastating because events brought in 70 percent of our revenue and helped keep rent affordable for our retail tenants. We’ve had to adapt by scheduling a rent increase for our tenants to help offset this loss. Also, my business partner has been able to spend more time focused on The Plant House which is located inside The Rust Belt. She has also added an online sales cart during the shutdown. We eliminated Friday hours also as a way to cut costs and lower risk.”

Nestled within the heart and foundation of Ferndale, The Rustbelt continues to evolve its offerings, preparing for recently approved City ordinances, and their 10th birthday!

“Our wonderful DDA and City Council just approved social districts! That means open adult beverages will be allowed in most of the Downtown’s pedestrian walkways and parklets. We plan to take advantage of this by setting up an inviting, outdoor hangout area behind our building with an attractive tent, good lighting and plants. Follow us on social media to stay updated.”

By Rose Carver

RIFINO VALENTINE WAS INSPIRED TO START HIS VALENTINE DISTILLING COMPANY in direct rebellion of the manufacturing standards by big alcohol companies. Coming from a background on Wall Street, he saw big players making big moves in what he considered to be the wrong direction.

IT ALL STARTED WITH THE DIRTY MARTINI. Valentine would frequent different swanky bars to enjoy this beloved drink after a long day at work. He would try vodkas with labels that said “handcrafted” but, upon further inspection, proved to be just another mass-produced liquor.

“Put simply, profits became the chief goal instead of the quality of the product,” Valentine explained. This prompted him to create a business model that focused on quality.

Valentine Distilling is located in 965 Wanda Street in Ferndale, just down the street from their cocktail bar, on 161 Vester Avenue. Valentine claims the small cocktail bar serves the “best stuff in the world.” You can find this “stuff” all over the Midwest, as it is distributed in 12 states, spanning the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

These spirits are award-winning, and have won best-vodka-in-the-world two years in a row. Their gin has also been named the best-American gin, and their cask gin has won a world’s-best award as well. That doesn’t begin to cover all of the awards won over the years.

Which one is Rifino’s favorite? He says choosing a favorite liquor is like choosing a favorite kid.

“IN THE FALL MONTHS I ENJOY OUR BARREL-AGED GIN OR OUR BOURBON. In the spring and summer time, I go for our White Blossom vodka,” he says, boasting the quality of their flavored vodkas. “Nothing is better than sitting on a sunny patio with a White Blossom cocktail.”

Like many businesses in the area, Valentine has been hit really hard by the pandemic. Forty-five percent of their distribution is to bars and restaurants, and the shutdown has been devastating. “It’s been horrible, a really tough year,” Valentine said. “We are still trying to build back our business, but we are going to be okay.” Early on in the pandemic, the distillery also made a Valentine brand hand-sanitizing liquid. A sincere thanks goes to the customers who bought those and their “to-go” cocktails last year, as he says it helped them out a lot.

The City of Ferndale also gets a special Valentine thank you, as they allowed the cocktail lounge to expand their patio seating to a couple street parking spots when indoor seating was restricted. The lounge is now back to 50 percent occupancy, and outdoor seating is also available.

ANOTHER WAY THAT VALENTINE DISTILLING goes above and beyond for their customers and community is their commitment to what they call their “Clean Green Initiative.” The business is in their third year of a ten-year sustainability initiative, which includes making their 20,000 square feet manufacturing facility completely sustainable. They installed a system that will allow them to reuse up to 98 percent of their water. Being from a Great Lakes state, Valentine says they take their water usage seriously. Their green initiative has also allowed for the installation of LED lighting in the facility, and an ambient temperature chilling system that uses much less energy.

“Large liquor companies are making billions of dollars off of Michigan consumers,” Valentine said. “We want to influence customers to demand more from those companies to be responsible when it comes to energy efficiency.” Valentine claims that because these larger liquor companies have no tie to the region in which they sell their product, they don’t make decisions that are responsible for the community.

Get the good stuff from Valentine Distilling, and support regional manufacturing companies who have your best interests in mind. It’s good to know what goes on behind the scenes, and their product speaks for itself.