Business

By Lisa Howard

WHILE YOU WON’T FIND AN ARMADILLO IN THE WILD in Michigan, Berkley has its own version in the form of Armadillo Printwear, a screenprinting shop that has been serving residents of SouthEastern Michigan for nearly 30 years.

Owner Dave Lakatos initially started out producing custom tie-dye garments in 1992. Over the years, he and his staff have transitioned into a fulltime screen-printing shop, creating spiritwear, uniforms for sports teams, shirts for community events, and even gear for yacht clubs. “We do a lot for the School District, the Public Safety Department, the Parks & Recreation Department and the Chamber of Commerce,” says Jon Murrell, store manager. “We try to cater to everybody who comes through and we’re very community-focused.”

With four presses running in their tidy 2,000 square foot shop, the Armadillo team can print on anything that lies flat. They can also provide custom embroidery, which comes in particularly handy for restaurants and dispensaries and any business looking for employee uniforms. Occasionally, they print single-color posters, but 99.9 percent of their business is in clothing.

If you’ve attended Berkley annual events like the Berkley Street Art Fest or the Cruise Fest, you’ve seen T-shirts that were printed and designed by Armadillo – in addition to managing the store, Jon is also an artist, and is thrilled to work with the Berkley Area Chamber of Commerce to create the shirts. “Seeing as we’re the ones who print the shirts for these events, I want to make sure the design looks as good as it possibly can,” Jon says. He designed the logo for the first Street Art Fest in 2017 as well as the 25th anniversary Cruise Fest shirt in 2021. (He also painted murals for the 2017 and 2018 Street Fest events.)

IN THE 16 YEARS JON HAS SPENT WORKING AT ARMADILLO, he says they’re busier than ever, surprising given the past two years. “We’re trying to keep on truckin’! It’d be great to get to the point where we can take a break, but for now we need to keep our heads down and keep printing shirts,” he says.

That uptick in orders has meant that Jon does less design work than usual, focusing more on production, although he’s still happy to create artwork. “A customer can give me a simple sketch on a restaurant napkin, and I can turn that into something,” he says. With a degree in fine art from Wayne State University and specializations in photo-realistic charcoal art and pen-and-ink-drawings, designing images and logos is second nature for Jon. Although he’s worked on a variety of interesting design projects during his time at Armadillo, his favorite was the Port Huron-to-Mackinac Island Sailboat Race – one year, Armadillo created both the event’s merchandising gear and poster designs.

“We just try to have really good-quality prints and we make sure that everybody who sees it knows where it comes from – we put our stickers on every box of shirts we send out,” says Jon.

So if you’re hankering for the sight of an armadillo in the neighborhood, keep your eyes open! You just might catch a (two-dimensional) glimpse of the adorable long-snouted, armored critter around town.

Armadillo Printwear | 3861 12 Mile Rd., Berkley, MI 48072
(248) 547-0490 | www.goarmadillo.com | jon@goarmadillo.com

By Lisa Howard

LONGTIME BERKLEY RESIDENTS FONDLY REMEMBER AMICI’S PIZZA & LIVING ROOM…and they might not even know that the restaurant ever closed. That’s because the restaurant only shut its doors for one day: January 1, 2020.

On January 2, 2020, they reopened under new ownership as Amici’s Kitchen & Living Room. Tim and Laura Kenrick had been regulars at Amici’s for years – their favorite was the artichoke pizza – and when Tim decided to rethink his career in corporate restaurants, serendipity and googling “restaurants for sale in Berkley” led to buying Amici’s. “It was pretty much a love connection right from the start,” Tim says. “After over 20 years of working in corporate restaurants in this market, I wanted to get back into authentic hospitality. Owning this business allows me to do what got me into this industry in the first place.”

Of course, opening a restaurant in January of 2020 turned out to be an even bigger challenge than the couple had ever anticipated, when they had to revert to curbside-only service after just ten weeks. Tim, Laura and their staff spent the first six months in a hold-steady mode or, what Tim refers to as “no hard-lefts and no hard-rights.”

Gradually, they started making changes here and there, like scrapping paper plates in favor of standard plates and silverware, and renovating the sound system, interior lighting and bar. They also added heaters to the patio before winter hit, which led to parkaclad guests enjoying their dinners amidst a snowy landscape.

IN 2021, MENU CHANGES ARRIVED in the form of appetizers, Michigan beers on draft and new “Tim’s favorites” pizzas. (Don’t worry – the classic pizzas are still on the menu, plus you can still build your own pie.) Laura now makes Amici’s sole dessert: double-chocolate chip cookies. Not surprisingly, they sell out nearly every night. Tim and Laura have added more cocktails to the roster, too, including seasonal drinks like the wintery Brown Sugar Cinn made with house-cinnamon infused reposado tequila, Grand Marnier and lemon juice. While diners will still find plenty of martinis on the menu, the martinis now share the spotlight with margaritas, especially in the summer months when everyone wants fruity and spicy flavors like mango-habanero and strawberry-mint.

One key to the continued success of Amici’s, Tim says, is the staff. Due to the ownership transfer only taking a single day, he and Laura didn’t have to lay anybody off. Also, having worked in the corporate restaurant industry for so long, Tim already had established relationships with hospitality professionals. “Our success is 100 percent due to the staff we’ve been able to keep and cultivate,” he says. “Not being short-staffed right now is an absolute anomaly.” That said, they’ll be closed on Sundays during the winter months to avoid putting too much pressure on their loyal staff. Martini Sundays will become $7 Martini Mondays, followed by $4 Michigan craft beers on Tuesdays, half-off bottles of wine and sangrias on Wednesdays and Thirsty Thursdays with specialty cocktails on offer.

THROUGHOUT THE RESTAURANT’S EVOLUTION, Tim says he’s loved finally owning his own restaurant. And for her part, Laura is just as much a part of the action – Tim calls her the “morale booster and restaurant mom,” roles that she fulfills along with baking the sought-after cookies and being in charge of dough production for both the sourdough-fermented dough and the gluten-free dough.

“She’s the brakes and I’m the gas,” is how Tim describes their relationship. “We’ve been married for 28 years she knows me better than I know myself. It’s a great partnership.” All of the pizza lovers in Berkley would raise a slice to that!

Amici’s Kitchen & Living Room
3249 Twelve Mile Rd, Berkley MI 48072
248.544.4100
www.amiciskitchenandlivingroom.com

By Ingrid Sjostrand

MICHELLE ARMSTRONG HAS A CLEAR MISSION IN LIFE: to help the small businesses in and around the Berkley community. She is the owner of her own small business, TAG MultiMedia, but her journey didn’t start there.

“It’s been in my nature to help the small-business type-of-person since childhood because my mother and my father had a small business,” she said. “They are inspiring to me and have helped me set the tone for my definitions of success.”

Armstrong is a member of the Berkley, Clawson and Royal Oak Chambers of Commerce, Berkley High School DECA Advisory Committee and Royal Oak Women’s Club, and, in 2019, developed the BerkleyU series with a goal of helping local small businesses stay informed, network and remain a local value in the community.

As a self-proclaimed advocate for small businesses, it might be surprising that Armstrong spent 15 years working in a corporate setting. Having been on both sides of the fence has only further prepared her for her current venture.

“I’ve been in sales, management, training, insight marketing and performance management making sure advertising was performing at a level where our clients saw a return on their investment,” she said. “I moved from there into a business automation specialist role and was knee-deep in how software needed to be a part of the small business model.”

WHICH LEADS TO THE MISSION OF TAG MULTIMEDIA, LOCATED AT 642 S. MAIN ST. IN CLAWSON. Armstrong is using her corporate experience to make software and virtual and augmented reality more accessible to small businesses around Oakland County. But what does that mean?

“We are working on proprietary software that will change the way business is done online and how small to medium-sized businesses present themselves and be represented online,” she said.

This isn’t just your average website or social media profile. TAG is creating online avatars that shoppers can interact with and digital replications of local cities that users will be able to explore and shop in.

“The avatar can live on your website and your social media and is meant to interact with customers. The beauty of having an avatar is that once you train it, you don’t have to retrain it like you would a new employee,” Armstrong said. “In the digital cities, we’ve been able to merge gaming and social environments with a retail and interactive social aspect, all in one space.”

TAG HAS APPROACHED MULTIPLE CITY GOVERNMENTS, including Berkley, and local civic organizations to build these virtual cities. Like many newer technology concepts, it may be hard for some to picture these concepts in action. But Armstrong isn’t deterred by skeptics.

“Not everyone is going to understand the value of this, but those same people can’t deny that eyeballs are online and (businesses) will get lost in the matrix if they don’t present themselves a certain way – a new solution is needed,” Armstrong said. “Virtual and augmented realities aren’t going away. In fact, by the year 2030 it’s going to be a $1.6 trillion dollar industry.”

Several of TAG’s clients are already using avatars in billboards and commercials. Armstrong suggests watching some of their Digital Community Network videos, available on their YouTube channel, DCN Network, to get a better understanding of their product.

“If we don’t do something now, the idea of a brick-and-mortar environment where you can shop is going to diminish. We’re already seeing the impact of that and if those businesses had a way to compete in both spaces they would survive,” she said. “For the last 15 years, I have been helping small businesses bridge the understanding and functionality of software to help them run their business and get a return. I’m looking for more businesses that want to be showcased in this changing landscape.”

For more information and to get involved with TAG MultiMedia, visit TAGMultiMedia.net.

By Ingrid Sjostrand

FOR 22 YEARS, SHANBOM EYE SPECIALISTS HAS BEEN HELPING RESIDENTS OF BERKLEY and the Metro Detroit area see clearly. Led by Dr. Steven A. Shanbom and Dr. Amanda Salter, the practice specializes in cataracts and Lasik, but also offers a myriad of other eye care services.

“Our practice has been a center of excellence in cataract and Lasik surgery for over 30 years. We have extensive experience with premium implant lenses to minimize the need for glasses after surgery,” Shanbom said. “We also see patients for glaucoma, diabetes, macular degeneration, dry eyes and routine medical eye care.

For individuals wanting to know how to better care for their eyes, he recommends getting a vision exam every year and said there are certain signs of cataracts and dry eye to look out for.

“The annual exam will screen for glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration,” Shanbom said.

“Symptoms of cataracts are glare and halo – especially with night driving. Difficulty seeing far distance or reading are also common. Dry eye symptoms include the eyes feeling heavy, tired, and sandy with fluctuations in vision. Ironically, watery eyes can be a sign of dryness.”

BOARD-CERTIFIED IN BOTH OPHTHALMOLOGY AND INTERNAL MEDICINE, Shanbom attended Wayne State University School of Medicine and completed residencies at Detroit’s Sinai Hospital. As a patient of his own Lasik surgery in 1999, he still maintains perfect vision without glasses and is an advocate for the procedure. He has performed more than 30,000 corrective eye procedures.

Dr. Salter joined Shanbom Eye Specialists in 2021. Her specialties complement the practice, and she has even introduced some new procedures to their offerings.

“She is a native Detroiter who attended the University of Michigan before studies at NYU and the prestigious Brown University,” Shanbom said. “In addition to excellence in cataract surgery, Dr. Salter has a special interest in treating dry eyes. She has also added cosmetic treatments, such as Botox and fillers to the practice.”

Located at 28747 Woodward Ave., the building itself is a vision in architecture. Shanbom moved his practice into the arched, landscaped structure right off M-1 in 1999.

“We purchased the practice from Dr. Spiro, who built our impressive building on Woodward in 1985” he said of the space. “We also added a state-of-the-art ambulatory surgery center on the lower level of our building where we perform our cataract and cosmetic procedures. This is a convenience for the patients and allows them to avoid the hospital.”

BUILDING THEIR PRACTICE OUT TO ALLOW FOR IN-OFFICE PROCEDURES is one way that Shanbom Eye is always working to make vision care convenient and comfortable for their patients. But they also work hard to make life easier for their Berkley neighbors. One way they do that is through involvement in the Berkley Chamber of Commerce.

“We love being a part of the Berkley community and have supported Berkley high school events and sponsored the Dream Cruise. We’ve also sponsored many senior programs and have been involved with the Lion’s Club.” Shanbom said. “The Shanbom Eye Specialist family is proud to serve the Berkley community for their eye care needs.”

For more information or to schedule an eye care appointment, call 248.546.2133 or visit shanbomeye.com

By Ingrid Sjostrand

TOM BYARS HAS SPENT HIS CAREER WORKING TO PROTECT HIS NEIGHBORS IN BERKLEY and the surrounding Metro Detroit communities – but maybe not in the way you would think. Byars is president and owner of Eagle Rock Insurance, and for the last 24 years he’s been ensuring residents have protection from natural disaster, accidents and the unexpected in life.

“We take the time to get to know you, and that way we can figure out those specific situations that we need to apply insurance remedies to,” he said. “That’s the basis of our being. We’re just an old-school neighborhood agency.”

Byars has lived in Berkley since 1998 and to him that means more than just residing and working here. He acted on the Board of Directors for the Berkley Chamber of Commerce for eight years and currently sits on the Board of Review.

Byars is also dedicated to Eagle Rock contributing to the community, too. “We’ve supported the Berkley Education Foundation for years, participated in golf outings. One of our employees, Rebecca Theriault, is in the Junior Women’s Club,” he said. “We’re certainly invested in the community. We volunteer on various projects and boards and it’s important for us to give back.”

BYARS BELIEVES BEING INVESTED IN THE COMMUNITY also brings insight to his business and allows him and his team to better serve residents.

“There are certain types of losses that are very frequent in this area. Water backup is a big one. I would never sell a homeowners policy without a water backup coverage because it’s not ‘IF it’s going to happen to you,’ but rather ‘WHEN it’s going to happen’ here in Berkley and Huntington Woods,” he said. “We have the advantage over someone who isn’t necessarily local, a call-center somewhere basing your policy solely on price.”

Eagle Rock provides auto, business, home, life, flood and motorcycle insurance, as well as wealth management services. They are an independent insurance provider representing multiple carriers, including Progressive, AutoOwners and six others, which to Byars, is another benefit to his clients.

“We have the advantage over a provider that only has one carrier and – not to denigrate those – it’s just a different way to get the product out to market,” he said. “I’m not employed by any of my companies, I’m representing my client. So it gives me a little more flexibility in finding a good insurance solution for them.”

THERE ARE FOUR EMPLOYEES AT EAGLE ROCK, including Byars. All are licensed, accredited, and take regular classes, which Byars feels is important to provide the best for clients.

“That’s what we strive for, we make sure we position ourselves as professionals in our client’s toolkit. But this is not a high-pressure sales environment, a few moments of your time could save you a lot of heartache down the road,” he said. “Pick up the phone and call us, it’s always the same people. We know about your kids, your dogs, your pets – it’s that level of familiarity that also helps us place our coverage correctly.”

Eagle Rock Insurance
thomas@eaglerockinsurance.com | (248) 548-5530
1904 W Eleven Mile Rd, Berkley MI 48072

By Lisa Howard

These Neighborhood Pizza Pies Are Definitely Amore.

AS THE POPULARITY OF THE TV SHOW CHEERS AMPLY illustrated, sometimes you just want to go where everybody knows your name. And sometimes you really want pizza.

Those two desires dovetail in the form of Crispelli’s, where Manager Eric Hitchcock says he’s never worked at a restaurant with so many regulars before. Coming from a guy who has spent literally half his life in the restaurant business, that’s saying something. “We have so many regulars that sometimes I feel like I spend my entire day sitting down and chatting with customers,” Eric says. “It feels like family coming in to visit. Some people have been here since Day One, some come in once or twice a week every week and some people make Fridays or Saturdays their regular pizza night. When they come in, you get excited to see them.”

That level of loyalty kept Crispelli’s humming even when they suddenly had to switch to curbside-only in the spring of 2020. While that service model presented a host of challenges, Eric jokes that he felt like he had created the first drive-thru pizza place because so many people rolled up to grab pizzas. “People were very understanding and receptive,” he says. “Even though the dining conditions and carryout conditions may not have been the best when the pandemic first hit, customers kept coming back because they’re fans of our food and fans of our hospitality.” He says the positive community in Berkley has made Crispelli’s his favorite place to work.

The restaurant continues to shift with the times. The bakery area was recently renovated, and the plan is to be open for breakfast service starting in 2022. Crispelli’s will also be celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2022, a milestone Hitchcock looks forward to. Some new items will be popping up on the bakery and breakfast menus (cherry croissants, anyone?) even as the restaurant continues its tradition of making its pizza dough from scratch every day and letting it ferment for several days to create a richer flavor.

“We don’t buy a lot of processed stuff,” he explains. “We get vegetables six days a week and we hand-slice and make everything here. It costs more in labor and hours, but being able to offer great gourmet food at an affordable price makes our efforts worth it.”

THAT DEDICATION TO PUTTING FOOD AND customers first probably explains why the Berkley Crispelli’s is the busiest of all of the locations. They also have restaurants in West Bloomfield, Clarkston, and Troy, plus there’s a Crispelli’s Bakery in Royal Oak. And then there’s the Crispelli’s food truck, which roams Metro Detroit and dishes up their signature pizzas at events like the Berkley Street Art Fest. All of that plus donating to local teams, organizations, and causes is part of Crispelli’s commitment to being a vibrant part of the community.

Along with updating the interior of the restaurant, Crispelli’s equipped its two patios with heaters last year, making it possible for diners to enjoy the great outdoors pretty much year-round. Carryouts are still in demand, too, and the Club Room continues to be a go-to venue for hosting private events like birthdays and rehearsal dinners. “It’s great being part of moments like that in people’s lives,” Eric says. “We know we wouldn’t be here without our customers, and we love to put our best face forward and take care of them.”

Crispelli’s Bakery & Pizzeria | 28939 Woodward Ave., Berkley MI 48072
248.591.3300
www.crispellis.com

By Lisa Howard

REAL ESTATE INVOLVES A LOT MORE THAN SHOWING HOUSES, realtor Tim Murad points out – it’s a “relationships” business. On average, he works with clients for three to six months depending on how long it takes for them to find their dream home, do the closing, and move in.

“In almost four years of being a full-time Keller Williams realtor, I’ve made so many friends! Because that’s what my clients become,” he says. Whether their clients are buying or selling, realtors need to work closely with them to understand their wants and needs and how those factors fit in with the current market.

Last year was a particularly challenging time for anyone involved in real estate given that the traditional timeframe for selling homes was pushed back several months. “March and April are typically the hottest selling months because families want to move over the summer and be settled in before school starts, but that hot streak didn’t get started until midsummer of 2020.

Now we’re seeing more of the traditional market,” Tim explains. He anticipates the market to remain competitive, though, with sellers typically receiving multiple offers over their asking price if they price it right. “If you over-price a house, it’ll sit on the market forever even if the market is hot,” he warns. “Sometimes home-owners have a vision in their head of what they think their house is worth, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect the state of the market.”

Another factor in the upward trajectory of selling prices has been a shortage of new housing. Ever since the recession in the late 2000s led to fewer new homes being built, construction has not gone back to pre-recession levels. That puts more demand on existing houses. The trend was starting to reverse…and then the pandemic hit. Construction costs, in particular, have gone up in terms of both materials and labor. “And on top of that, the pandemic also changed where people want to live,” Tim says. “Because a lot of people can now work remotely, they no longer have to live so close to their place of employment.”

IT’S FAIR TO SAY THAT BEING A REALTOR THESE DAYS IS COMPLICATED! But that hasn’t dimmed Tim’s appreciation of real estate. As a kid, he loved drawing houses and buildings, an obsession that led him to become an architect. His work at an architecture firm eventually took him to the IT department, where he stayed for many years.

Ultimately, though, he wanted to get back to working with people, so he combined that with his architectural experience and became a realtor. “I can look at homes and help guide people to decide if they want to do renovations or additions,” he says, “and I can take what the inspector is trying to explain and put it in layperson terms for the buyer.”

Along with understanding the nuts and bolts of a home, over the years, he’s also acquired expertise in how cities interact with their residents; he has served on several City boards, including the Berkley Planning Commission, the Berkley Downtown Development Authority, and the Berkley Area Chamber of Commerce. As a longtime Berkley resident, he was also the chair of the committee that worked on the Berkley Public Library renovations back in 1998.

Despite having a strong Berkley base, Tim works with clients all over Metro Detroit. Still, he isn’t shy about his feelings regarding our city. “From a real estate standpoint, Berkley is one of the most desirable cities in this area right now,” he says. “I’ve always said to people that it feels like you’re in a small town in the middle of a big city. Everybody knows everybody and is welcoming, yet you’re minutes away from big art museums, sports teams, concert venues, you name it. It’s a great place to live and to raise a family.”

Tim Murad Realty | 423 S Washington Ave., Royal Oak, MI 48067 | (248) 288-3500
https://tjmurad.kw.com | Tim@TimMurad.com

By Lisa Howard

IF THE LAST TWO YEARS HAVE TAUGHT US ANYTHING, it’s that we need to find silver linings wherever we can, go with the flow and roll with the punches. Oh, and it helps if we’re eating good food while doing all of that!

Katie Kutscher, who co-owns Berkley Common with her sister Christine Gross, has become an expert in finding innovative, positive ways to run a restaurant through some pretty turbulent times.

“It’s been a roller-coaster of fun ideas and ups-and-downs,” Katie says. “We’ve really tried to capitalize on where people are in their lives and market to them in different ways, whether that’s offering take-out family dinners or getting an outdoor dining area up-and-running when people couldn’t eat inside restaurants. When the shutdown happened, we also partnered with a PR firm and raised $15,000 for restaurant workers in Berkley.”

Being nimble has meant that Berkley Common has been able to keep offering their perennially popular items – the Korean BBQ cauliflower wings with kimchee and sticky rice, the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, the BC burger – even while creating new dishes and dining experiences.

During the summer months, the restaurant hosts its outdoor Uncommon Beach Bar & Bungalow, featuring tiki drinks and summer fare like oysters and lobster rolls. When the weather turns chilly, the Uncommon Lodge & Igloo winter dining program kicks into gear, providing space for up to six diners in each igloo and a menu of hearty, warming dishes.

THE SPACIOUS OUTDOOR AREA IS WHY THE RESTAURANT saw so many diners come from an hour or more away last winter. Berkley Common was one of the few restaurants with outdoor dining capacity. “Regardless of the pandemic, people want more outdoor spaces,” Katie says.

“Whether Covid pushed us along or not – and I believe it did – it’s just good business to have more visual aspects in a city, and that includes outdoor dining spaces. It makes for a more vibrant city.”

She points out that Berkley’s master plan has always included a vision of robust outdoor public spaces. The idea has recently gained momentum, with the City, Schools and Downtown Development Authority teaming up to put in a plaza near the corner of Coolidge and Catalpa. Now Katie is working with the City to create a pocket park on Twelve Mile to allow people to visit restaurants and retail establishments and then enjoy their purchases in an outdoor park setting.

Along with continuing to emphasize their outdoor seating, Katie and Chris have plans to open a high-end weekend cocktail bar upstairs in what’s currently the private event space.

A BIG SILVER LINING FOR BERKLEY COMMON HAS BEEN THAT THE RESTAURANT was able to attract top talent after so many other establishments had to completely close for a good chunk of 2020. The bartenders who came to work at Berkley Common have an impressive knowledge of craft cocktails, Katie says, and she wanted to find a way to showcase those skills.

She’s been able to reopen the event space, too, albeit with much smaller groups than before. And, even though she has fewer seats in the main dining area, the restaurant’s total seating capacity has actually increased thanks to their outdoor tables.

“We’ve had to be pretty creative throughout the pandemic and look at the opportunities,” Katie says. “What’s different? How has the landscape changed, and how can we change and grow with it? We want to capitalize on the momentum of the positive things that have happened.”

As many satisfied BC diners would tell you, the restaurant has done just that.

Berkley Common | 3087 Twelve Mile, Berkley MI 48072
248.677.0795 | http://berkleycommon.com
info@berkleycommon.com

By Lisa Howard

BANKS AND BANKERS SOMETIMES HAVE A REPUTATION FOR BEING STUFFY, but Tamara Powell, manager of the Berkley branch of Vibe Credit Union, is the opposite.

So is the branch itself. Her 20-year anniversary of working at Vibe is just around the corner, and she’s been the manager for the past 12 years. One of her main jobs, she says, is to be the face of Vibe; to get out into the community and meet people. That’s why she also joined the Berkley Area Chamber and loves to volunteer at events around town like the annual Berkley Street Art Fest and the Berkley Art Bash.

“Being in Berkley is like being in a big city in a small town – everyone knows everyone,” Powell says. “The average person I meet who lives here has either lived here for 30 years or they were raised here and then moved away and now they’re back in the community with their new family. I feel like no one leaves Berkley.”

That kind of neighborly connection makes it all-the-more enjoyable to network within her roles as both a credit union manager and a Chamber member. Perhaps not surprisingly, she’s also the Treasurer of the Chamber.

TAMARA AND HER FAMILY ARE ACTIVE IN THE COMMUNITY IN MANY WAYS. Her kids attend Berkley schools and played for Berkley sports teams, among them the Berkley Steelers and Bears. The kids work in the community too. In other words, everyone in the family stays plenty busy, and Tamara’s days are full with work and family life.

Powell says life at the credit union keeps getting busier too, especially now that the renovations are complete. The branch got a complete overhaul starting in the Winter of 2020 and finishing in the Summer of 2021, even shutting down the drive-thru services for about two months while the parking lot was redone.

But now business is running at full tilt, with a record number of loans issued and a thriving membership. Ever since Vibe merged with Oakland County Credit Union – which doubled the number of Vibe branches – more and more people have been coming in to find out about the credit union’s services.

“MY FAVORITE PART ABOUT BEING THE MANAGER IS THE PEOPLE,” Powell says. “I love meeting the new members and helping the existing ones. And I have a great team here, which makes my job easy. Everyone at the branch understands the importance of providing excellent member service. We get referrals because our members brag about how well they’re treated.”

Some of the employees whom she originally hired are still there eight years later, a testament to the branch being a great place to work. In addition to Powell volunteering at Chamber events, the branch also sponsors community initiatives like the Berkley Public Library’s summer reading program.

As Powell points out, being a financial institution doesn’t mean being standoff-ish rather, it means being at the heart of the community.

3082 Coolidge Hwy, Berkley, MI 48072 | 248.735.9500
www.vibecreditunion.com/home/home

By Sara E. Teller
Photos by Ashley Poirer

THE BERKLEY AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE (BACC) IS DEDICATED TO CREATING A SPACE for business owners to come together to serve Berkley and our surrounding communities. The Chamber has organized many events and activities over the years, with this year being no exception despite the ongoing Covid pandemic.

Many great things have been happening around town in general, even as the world is faced with a ‘new normal.’ There are businesses continuing to come into Berkley, and the close-knit community has witnessed a growing number of people settling in, especially younger singles and families. Drawn to the area because of the ‘everyone-knows-everyone’ ambiance, free parking and many fun things to do, Berkley continues to be a go-to spot for newcomers.

BACC primarily supports small businesses by engaging in local events, organizing affordable marketing options, offering a high-volume social media presence, and initiating networking activities. In 2021, BACC was instrumental in supporting businesses through a grant from Oakland County. The Chamber offered PPE items for its members, as well as propane for outdoor heaters, hand sanitizer, wipes, and other items that weren’t in the budget before the pandemic hit. The Chamber ensured members were given as much online attention as possible, particularly regarding adjustments made to days and hours they were open, and the innovative ways owners came up with to continue serving residents.

“We organized very successful 2021 summer events that brought thousands of people to Berkley, in a strategic, safely-spaced manner,” explained BACC’s Executive Director, Darlene Rothman, adding, “We had beautiful days for these events, and everyone enjoyed being outside. You could feel the excitement in the air!”

BERKLEY ART BASH & STREET ART FEST: While the Berkley Art Bash is traditionally held annually during the second weekend in June, the event was postponed to September 11 this year to allow for more people to receive the Covid-19 vaccination. Pinspiration Berkley and Vibe Credit Union sponsored the Kids Zone. Nearly 100 vendors offered a diverse assortment of photographs, garden art, jewelry, pottery, wearables, paintings, and gourmet offerings.

“We expanded the footprint by a few more blocks to ensure more space between vendors and to allow for safer shopping,” said RoseAnn Nicolai, BACC Events & Operations Manager and owner of Nicolai Events & Communications. “A lot of the success of the event was due to April McCrumb, owner of Catching Fireflies and Yellow Door Art Market. She did such a great job curating the show and finding such talented artists to be vendors.”

The County Oakland Irish Fest group hosted the entertainment which included Doug Thompson, the Flanagan-O’Hare Irish Dancers and Michael O’Brian & the Distractions. Children who attended could either make a craft there or take a kit home. Pinspiration Berkley also had a splatter-paint tent where children could fling paint onto a small canvas, creating their own piece of artwork.

The Berkley Street Art Fest date was also postponed to August 7 this year due to the pandemic. Downtown Berkley was transformed with art as professional and aspiring chalk artists created colorful street art with chances to win prizes. Shop for Good Village, a newly-added component coordinated by VITRINE owner Susan Rogal, was a curated collection of handmade products made by sellers with a primary focus on ‘doing good’ on a local or global scale. A commissioned artist, Ed Irmen, created a mural at Folio Offices. People throughout Metro Detroit watched these artists as their masterpieces came to life. The event was presented by the MSU Federal Credit Union.

“We are looking forward to Berkley Art Bash returning back to its usual time of year in 2022, Nicolai said. “Mark your calendar for June 11, 2022. Berkley Street Art Fest date will be announced in 2022, and County Oakland Irish Fest, which the Chamber is a sponsor, will return on September 10, 2022.”

CRUISEFEST: The 2021 CruiseFest shirt, designed by Jon Murrell of Armadillo (owned by Dave Lakatos), was such a big hit that it sold out prior to the event for the first time in the CruiseFest’s history. The Chamber responded by adding a limited timeframe for residents to purchase them online.

The shirt was created to promote the 25th anniversary of the CruiseFest, which was held on August 20, 2021. The event draws car lovers from all over and includes a parade of classic vehicles for attendees to enjoy. Darron Moore & the 14th Floor provided the event’s entertainment. New for 2021, the Berkley Parks & Recreation hosted an outdoor movie experience in front of the Neighbor’s Shoppe. The film Grease was screened immediately following the parade.

RESTAURANT WEEKEND & NIGHT MARKET: BACC partnered with the Berkley DDA to bring, for the first time, a Restaurant Weekend to downtown Berkley the first weekend of October. Katie Kutscher and Christine Gross, sister owners of Berkley Common, also helped pulled together this amazing event.

“Berkley Common was the driving force behind this,” Rothman said. “Katie initiated the conversation, encouraging us to do something to help the restaurants.” The owners wanted everyone (BACC, DDA, and the participants) to join together as a team to bring extra attention to the restaurant community during an especially difficult time.

Those who participated included Berkley Common, 24 Seconds, Amici’s Kitchen & Living Room, Casa Amado Tacqueria, Coco Fairfield’s, Crispelli’s, Dog & Pony Show Brewing, Fresh Collective Kitchen & Market, Green Lantern, Oak Park Social and Republica. Each eatery had food and drink specials local foodies could retrieve online by scanning a QR code or simply take note of signs placed around town.

The same weekend, the DDA Night Market was held on October 2nd, giving residents the opportunity to visit their regular go-tos after hours and explore new businesses along the way. Retailers stayed open late to give visitors a magical night-time shopping experience. A complimentary downtown trolley sponsored by the Berkley DDA ran throughout the event and dozens of storefronts transformed with spooky décor.

The retailers who participated included Articipate, The Artsy Umbrella, Fresh Collective Market, GateKeeper Games, …Have You Any Wool?, June & December, Peninsulas, Pinspiration Berkley, PUCK HCKY, Red Arrow Tattoo Collective, Reware Vintage, Toadvine Books, Tootie & Tallulah’s, The Twisted Shamrock, Ullman’s Health & Beauty and VITRINE.

Rothman said, “The restaurants and retail stores were thrilled that the community supported them by eating and shopping locally, for as many items as possible and being gracious to their staff as many are understaffed. The holidays are approaching soon, so please consider buying local to support these businesses.”

STATE OF THE CITIES: The State of the Cities event, produced by CMNTv and sponsored by Beaumont Health, was held virtually on October 28, 2021. The purpose of the event is to provide an opportunity for local government entities including the City of Berkley, City of Huntington Woods, the Berkley School District, the Berkley Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the BACC, to report out to the community about the accomplishments and issues faced over the past year as well as talk about what is up-and-coming.

The Chamber honored local businesspeople and organizations during the State of the Cities that had been especially supportive of the Berkley community. Its Best of Berkley awards are traditionally given to Chamber members who exemplify leadership, have passion for the area, and go out of their way to support businesses with a commitment to making the community shine.

Rothman added, “This past year, with the pandemic, they had to be especially creative and think outside of the box.” The 2021 recipients focused largely on ensuring that the community flourished despite the Coronavirus.

THE 2021 CHAMBER HONOREES INCLUDED VITRINE, owned by Susan Rogal, as Business of the Year, and Robyn Cohen, owner of Sum Girls Boutique, as Businessperson of the Year.

VITRINE and Rogal have been instrumental in bringing attention to downtown Berkley businesses, especially along the Coolidge Corridor, where VITRINE is located.

“VITRINE is always coming up with new ways to promote Berkley, and Susan personally recruits businesses to participate in the downtown shopping events,” Nicolai said. “Susan is so willing to help new businesses on Coolidge succeed by offering them advice and connecting them with people who can help.”

“In particular, they were instrumental in growing this year’s Berkley Street Art Fest, using their summer marketing dollars usually allocated to promoting their business,” Nicolai said. “And their staff personally, on their own, promoted the event.”

The second honoree, Robyn Coden, “is a champion for downtown Berkley and its businesses,” Nicolai said. “At least once a month, she has an event that brings different vendors and businesses to town to promote at her store. She also consistently donates, both monetarily and of her time, to the community, civic groups, and Berkley Schools.”

Coden regularly employs students from Berkley High School and Anderson Middle School to work in the store and creates cross-promotional opportunities with other businesses. She has recruited new businesses to open their storefronts in Berkley, and through her social media presence, she is always drawing attention to these businesses.

Nicolai explained, “Both honorees are passionate about making sure everyone in downtown Berkley succeeds.”

Rothman and Nicolai are especially grateful to the “wonderful writers of this annual City Guide who all do a fantastic job.”

For more information on BACC activities and events, or to become a member, visit the Chamber’s newly launched site: www.berkleychamber.com