Business

By R. Ennis

GETTING A NEW BUSINESS OFF THE GROUND CAN BE CHALLENGING. You may face problems with finding a good location, remodeling that space to fit your needs, and securing the right staff to help you run it. Even after you have surpassed all those hurdles, you still may encounter another obstacle: Coming up with the appropriate signage and graphics for drawing in the public.

Meet J. D. Bayer—who, together with his ATS Signs Partner Steve Corby, can help you spread the word about your products and services. Bayer has been working in the fields of videography, photography, and graphic design for over 15 years. His more recent experiences as a sign designer brought him to the attention of Corby, who hired him to enhance the graphics for Corby’s Anything That Ships (ATS) Store. Impressed with Bayer’s work, Corby suggested that combining their know-how would benefit others.

“I designed the sign atop the building, the window and van logos, and the banner in front of the counter,” Bayer says about the Hazel Park site. During the time he set about those tasks, “Steve and I talked about how our businesses complement each other quite well. We saw how we can offer everything a new business needs to promote itself.”

Corby opened his Anything That Ships Store about a year ago. The expansion of the space to include ATS Signs occurred about two months ago. To let the community know about the broader range of ATS services, they literally took to the Hazel Park streets and
approached local business owners about working with them to find solutions for meeting their advertising goals.

BAYER AND CORBY HAVE ALSO FOUND WAYS to promote their services in-house.

When people come in to ship things,” Bayer says, “we might ask them whether (the packages) are for a business. If they answer ‘yes,’ the conversation moves forward from there.”

The strategies have helped to keep Bayer busy with many projects. His clients include Sneaker Pimp, a local high-end athletic wear company, and Robertson Custom Painting in Madison Heights, specializing in painting residential properties, for whom he created both its business cards and yard signs. Presently, he is making enticing graphics for Universal Jewelry & Loan in Hazel Park.

In the meantime, you can visit www.theatsstore.com for more information on ATS and its full line of printing, packaging, and shipping services:• Digital printing, copying, and finishing services:

• Mail box services
• Packaging, shipping & receiving
• Moving supplies & packaging materials
• Additional products & services – faxing, key cutting, notary, document design (such as invitations), etc.

If signage is what you want, Bayer encourages you to contact him, or stop in to his office at ATS and discuss how he can develop materials well-suited for marketing your business. Even if your advertisement ideas are beyond his immediate scope of expertise and cannot be produced at the shop — LED signs, for example, and other dynamic displays — he says he will do the research and collaborate with other designers to make them happen.

“Our goal is to be the place to go to for your media needs.”

By Maggie Boleyn

TONY’S ACE HARDWARE, ON THE NORTHWEST CORNER OF WOODWARD HEIGHTS AND JOHN R, IS A LONG-TIME COMMUNITY TREASURE.

“The store has such a long history, and many people feel connected to it,” says Matthew Abramsky, owner and operator. “I love when someone comes in the store and comments: ‘My dad worked here when he was in high school.’ That is why I opted to keep the name “Tony’s” even though no one named Tony has been involved in the business for many decades.”

Tony’s, which opened in the 1930s, is one of the city’s oldest continuously operating businesses. Abramsky managed the store from 2004 to 2010. In November of 2010, he and his wife Sharon bought the business.

“Having the opportunity to own Tony’s is a blessing,” Abramsky says. He considers it “a privilege” to serve Hazel Park, Ferndale, and surrounding communities.

TONY’S AFFILIATE, ACE HARDWARE, is the world’s largest home improvement company. However, each Ace Hardware store is independently owned and operated.

“I think many people believe Ace is a chain but, really, this is our ‘mom and pop’ hardware store,” Abramsky continued. “We buy much of our merchandise from Ace and collaborate with other local Ace owners on advertising,” he explains. “People often comment how they come to Tony’s for the hard things to find. Sharon and I have put a lot of effort into expanding every department in our store. We have had customers drive in from Canada for specialized merchandise!”

Tony’s offers services like key- cutting, paint-tinting, screen repair and glass-cutting. Currently, a wide election of Weber and Traeger grills are featured, along with Yeti products such as indestructible coolers and insulated mugs.

Abramsky recalls some unusual customer requests, such as an older man buying a large pair of metal snips to “trim his toe nails.” A dozen Dremel tools were snapped up by a woman — “for her nail salon.”

“I love owning this business,” Abramsky says. “I want to contribute as much as I can to the city and to my customers.”

Tony’s certainly contributed in 2014, selling flood-related items and cleaning supplies. “I hope we were able to make cleanup and recovery easier,” says Abramsky. He noted Ace “was a tremendous help”, quickly delivering extra supplies. “I remember selling people mops right out of the boxes as we were unpacking the truck.”

“It’s an exciting time to be in Hazel Park,” Abramsky concludes. “I believe in this community and value my loyal and hardworking customer base more than I can say.”

By Mary Meldrum

THE FORTHCOMING CANNABIS MUSEUM, on John R in Hazel Park is the creation of owner, Curtis Goure, who is also the owner of BDT Smoke Shop next door. Goure came up with the idea about six years ago, long before he really knew if the industry was going to be a viable business.

A long-time participant of the cannabis counter-culture, Goure began working at BDT Smoke Shop as a clerk many years ago.

“BDT started as a hippie head shop that sold roach clips, pipes, black light posters and, things of that nature,” Goure explains. After a few transitions and rubbing up against local, state and especially federal laws, BDTs Smoke Shop – and other head shops –have found more secure footing in a culture that is now less “counter.”

Medical marijuana is legal in Michigan, and legislators are watching states with legal recreational cannabis, like Colorado and California, with an eagle’s eye. A report from BDS Analytics, a cannabis industry research firm, estimates sales of cannabis to hit $3.7 billion by the end of 2018. Projections demonstrate that number will increase to $5.1 billion in 2019 as more dispensaries come online, making the marijuana industry bigger than beer in California. That’s big.

According to some expert projections, legalization of marijuana nationwide – medical as well as recreational – could conservatively create $132 billion in tax revenue and more than 1 million new jobs across the United States in the next decade.

These are not the numbers of a counter-culture. This is big business, and the growth is more like a wild fire. Legislators and regulators are working hard to keep up with the pressing demands the new industry is forcing on them.

AND IN LIGHT OF THE EXPLOSION OF THE CANNABIS INDUSTRY, all of a sudden, a Cannabis Museum is completely relevant and important.

Goure had formed a relationship with celebrity Tommy Chong, and developed a fascination for old hippie collectibles many years ago. He started collecting tickets, trinkets, memorabilia, old bongs, posters, roach clips and a myriad of other paraphernalia.

Goure thought it was important to have a venue, to educate people about the history of cannabis and hemp. He approached City Manager Ed Klobucher and the Director of Planning and Economic Development, Jeff Campbell, who were both open to the idea – a complete change from previous Hazel Park administrations.

Money is a big factor in the operation of a museum. Gaining a working knowledge of how to operate a museum has been a challenge for Goure, who enlisted the help of the U of M Museum Design group. They did some research, and found key people with museum director experience. They began the tedious tasks associated with categorizing, documenting, displaying and curating the collection, etc.

The Cannabis Museum is hoped one day to be a world-class tourist-attraction. It now has over 16 curatorial and research departments, including publications, films and artifacts. There are over 300 items in the museum’s collection, all carefully documented and illustrated to help the public understand all aspects of cannabis and hemp from a social, cultural, medical, legal, technological, historical and current perspective.

Visitors will be able to learn about the biochemistry of cannabis, chromosomes and genome, taxonomy, and its etymology. In addition, the museum examines the ancient and religious uses of cannabis; historical hemp, medical and recreational use through to present day.

The Cannabis Museum was set to open up in 2018, but Goure reveals that it all depends largely on funding and if Michigan votes to allow recreational cannabis.

BECAUSE OF THE RICH HISTORY OF CANNABIS, Goure would like to ensure that a certain part of the museum will be rotating displays.

“There was a lot of propaganda in the 1930s that demonized cannabis and eventually made it illegal; state-issued stamps, movies like “Reefer Madness,” news articles that demonized cannabis and took it out of circulation for accepted medicinal use,” Goure states. “Throughout the 1930s, ‘40s and beyond, news articles show how attitudes have changed. It was a socially-accepted medicinal item in the early 1900s, then persecuted in the 1930s. Right now, general public opinion of medicinal marijuana is polling in the high 70s, percentage-wise. That is a big change in perception.”

Many patients are looking for non-addicting pain and medicinal relief, asking physicians for scripts for cannabis rather than opioids. Doctors used to be against the use of cannabis, and that is changing. Information about the benefits of cannabis has been there for decades, but has been snuffed and squashed by competing interests.

All of this industry news results in an uptick for Curtis Goure, BDT Smoke Shops, and the Cannabis Museum, and demonstrates how Hazel Park’s forward-thinking will pay off in the near future.

By Maggie Boleyn

THE PHOENIX CAFÉ, FORMERLY LOCATED AT 24198 JOHN R RD., CLOSED ITS DOORS ON DECEMBER 23, 2017. While founder and co-owner Steve Gamburd says it wasn’t so well-known by Hazel Park
residents, it continues to hold a legacy among artists and musicians in the area.

“We created an art and music scene like no other, and it was never a bar! It was one of the few all-ages venues at the time, and now there are none in the area,” he says. “Unfortunately, I would guess that only five percent of the population of Hazel Park knew what we were.”

First opening in 2009, Gamburd, along with partners Hans Barbe and Michael Wiggins, successfully hosted themed art shows, concerts, community fundraisers and other events. The original goal was to create a community that supported sustainable living and held workshops; my goal was to have an art gallery, concert venue and community space,” Gamburd says. “Others that shared this vision made this place what it was.”

When The Phoenix Café hit a lull in late 2012, they decided to spend some time and money renovating. “I wanted a space free of old carpet, with matching furniture, an open stage, a solid cafe counter and a nice gallery. I wanted people to come in and buy art or enjoy a show in a clean space,” Gamburd says. “We completed renovation within six weeks and had our grand re-opening party on February 15th, 2013.”

After re-opening, some roles shifted with Wiggins leaving for other projects and Been Frank, a community organizer and music producer, joining the team. Been acted as sound engineer and helped coordinate events at The Phoenix Café, like Maybash – a popular, four-night concert series over Memorial Day weekend.

“Soon enough, our art events were huge, as well as many of our concerts. We had Tuesday figure drawing, Wednesday Open Jam Club, and Friday and Saturday shows on a regular basis,” Gamburd says. “Artist Steve Czapiewski became a major Phoenix associate with the figure drawing classes and art exhibits.” That success continued with local press attention for their festivals, involvement in the Hazel Park Arts Council and planning of the Hazel Park Art Fair, and a variety of themed art exhibits at The Phoenix – including Hallow Art, Steampunk Art Show, See What Stacey Started Art Show and a Nintendo Art Show. Musicians were thriving there too.

“Many bands got their start at The Phoenix, many musicians formed new bands out of the Phoenix, touring bands made The Phoenix an easy go-to for booking,” Gamburd says. “We were known on a national and regional level for booking in Detroit as a primary D.I.Y. space and resource.”

Despite success, in 2017 Gamburd made the decision to shift his career focus and close The Phoenix Café. “I wanted to be an artist again, create more and gig more with my bands. “We threw a huge, four-night closing party just before Christmas and invited all of the bands that frequented the place over the years.”

While the space has closed, pieces of its legacy remain. Several Hazel Park bars have started picking up where the Café left off: Joebar hosts occasional concerts and Cellarmens books bands and hosts monthly figure-drawing classes. Even its mural (hand-painted by Gamburd) still remains – for now – on the north wall of the barber shop and men’s clothing store that previously filled the space.

“My mural of the phoenix on the north wall of 24918 John R states the motto of Detroit, ‘We hope for better things. It shall rise from the ashes’,” Gamburd says. “As 2018 began, we already have spread our wings and are now both mobile and stationary at new venues!” Gamburd continues to hold figure-drawing classes around Metro Detroit at places like Scribblz in Utica and held a fundraiser in May for the Art Council with Hazel Park BDT. Frank still uses The Phoenix Cafe’s social media for booking concerts at Hamtramck Korner Bar and New Dodge Bar.

Gamburd sees this continued success as an extension of The Phoenix Café, and doesn’t expect it to change anytime soon.

“The Phoenix wasn’t just a space. It was and still is a strong community that will be in our hearts forever!”

By Becky Hammond

GENTRIFICATION SEEMS AN OVERUSED WORD THESE DAYS, AND IT NOW HAS SUCH MULTIPLE MEANINGS THAT IT’S MAYBE BEEN LEFT WITH NONE. But it’s a constant topic, a current running throughout news stories that seem to be about other subjects. If you’re reading the Free Press or People or listening to NPR, whether the topic is Ford buying the historic depot in SW Detroit or the Brady Bunch house selling, the accompanying multiple meanings that its maybe left with none. But it’s a constant topic, a current running throughout news stories that seem to be about other subjects. If you’re reading the Free Press or People or listening to NPR, whether the topic is Ford buying the historic depot in SW Detroit or the Brady Bunch house selling, the accompanying changes in the communities are an automatic and expected part of the story.

Ferndale was once called “the new Royal Oak,” with some excitement. Our downtown seemed empty. Royal Oak’s new popularity and higher rents were our gain. Now, “Don’t Royal Oak My Ferndale” is a new catchphrase. It was probably inevitable that Berkley and Clawson’s business districts were doomed to be called ‘New Ferndales,’ and it’s probably just as inevitable that Oak Park’s and Hazel Park’s residential districts seeing home prices shoot up as Ferndale out of reach for many. The changes any city goes through are constant. They have ripple effects.

When is enough enough? How much is too much? And who decides? Peter Werbe, a long-time Oak Park resident, told me, “Most of the Ferndal-ization of Oak Park is occurring on the city’s East Side. Young families and hipsters are taking advantage of the real estate prices that are lower than those in Ferndale and Royal Oak, but it also means that home prices are skyrocketing. Which is good; except the down side, like in all gentrification, is what happens to the poorer people who get displaced?”

Cities and neighborhoods nationwide face these challenges. The Highlands is a funky neighborhood in Louisville, KY, which shouts its indie character. After a visit, I contacted Carmichael’s Bookstore to find out if, given the appeal of what independent people achieved there, developers were in the wings. But the Highlands have been organized and prepared for a long time. “There is an association for businesses called
the Highland Commerce Guild and several neighborhood associations in the area that are very active about growth. There is also a committee one must apply to about any changes to zoning, signage, parking, etc., and most importantly we have a very active Buy Local organization in Louisville.”

There always seems to be a connection between bookstores and neighborhoods with character. Ferndale and Oak Park boast Book Beat, King Books, and The Library Bookstore on 9 Mile. Regarding a feared influx of chains in Ferndale, longtime Library Books owner Martha Sempliner said that chains “. . .destroy every bit of individualism. We get that effort in Ferndale. We have people that will provide it. That gumption, that stick-to-it-iveness impresses me. I don’t want chains that take over individual effort. You can get that anywhere. I want a walkable city where people can go to a number of kinds of businesses that are useful to them. We don’t need a zillion bars.”

Ferndale resident Jeannie Davis echoed Martha: “In the ‘70s, Ferndale’s downtown was filled with retail, and moms shopping for kids. The kids moved away, retail dried up, and our downtown was desolate. Because of innovative thinking, we reinvented ourselves, and became a destination for people looking to eat and drink. Suddenly Ferndale was cool, and property prices went up. Now, with the guidance of different innovative leaders, we are changing again. We are greatly expanding our number of places to live. Lots more rentals, and condos. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

CERTAIN RESIDENTS WANT SOME OF THE CHANGES, not others.

John Hardy said, “Yes, Royal Oak my Ferndale. The East side has no problem with it. Just spend some of the taxes on this side like they should be doing, and not putting new houses and apartments where they absolutely and positively do not belong!

An anonymous semi-newcomer told me, “There are a lot of people my age and younger (20s-to-mid 30s), and probably newer residents and homeowners, who see large building initiatives – which will turn Ferndale into more of an urban area – as ‘progress’ because they want to live in a cool, hip city without living in Detroit. They’re also people who might live here for five or so years before they move to a different suburb for a larger house in an area they perceive as having better schools. They kind of champion investment in a ‘good time’ instead of a ‘long time’, because they want to live in a cool, fun place while they’re young and move their families someplace they perceive as being more family-friendly later on. This seems to be in direct conflict with some people who have lived here longer and raised a family here when it was a sleepier suburb, and want to keep it that way.”

Does Royal Oak enjoy its reputation as the thing to imitate and yet not be? Comparisons abound no matter the city. Oak Park resident Ann-Marie Young said, “I don’t know about this ‘Royal-Oak-my-Oak-Park’ idea. An important distinction between the two cities is this: Oak Park is a community. We know our neighbors. We look out for each other. We celebrate birthdays and create meal trains during difficult times. If a driveway or sidewalk needs shoveling we keep going clearing the path across property lines.”

Vittoria Valenti is just as enthusiastic. “We moved to Oak Park almost a year ago and love it! We lived in Royal Oak previously, and were looking to buy in a city with more of a neighbor-hood vibe. We’re extremely happy with the city services offered and compared to neighboring cities they are exceptional. That said, I’d love to see the vacant store fronts on 9 Mile filled with a diversity of tenants. I’d prefer to spend my money within the city of Oak Park, but right now it’s hard. Royal Oak, Ferndale, or Berkley offer more variety and higher quality options. I’m not particularly interested in a nightlife scene in Oak Park, but affordable, quality restaurants would be a great addition. We don’t need to become mirrors of our neighboring cities, but we should find our niche to remain competitive and relevant. The last thing I think anyone wants to see is people moving into Oak Park for proximity to these other cities and not becoming part of our community.”

John Vavrek: “Oak Park needs a vibrant and attractive downtown area. Connecting to the Ferndale 9 Mile corridor with businesses and restaurants is also not a bad idea.”

SOME CITIES SUCCESSFULLY FOUGHT DEVELOPMENT DECADES AGO, and now are correcting their previous course. Yellow Springs, Ohio is a charming town near Dayton that took warnings about a potentially exploding population in the 1960s seriously. Executive Director Karen Wintrow’s descriptions of no-growth and no-sprawl policies make Yellow Springs sound like a small Vermont. But now a need for more housing density has resulted in a revamping of zoning laws. And successes like a thriving tourist industry give rise to fears that the walkable downtown with businesses residents actually need is leading to too many galleries and gift shops. Experiments like turning an old high school into community space worked until the private owner neglected the building to the point where now it can’t be sold.

Cities like Ferndale have similar concerns and successes. Lakewood, Ohio, is a suburb of Cleveland with a reputation like Ferndale’s. Resident Todd Flenner told me about “…all of the luxury condos going up in our city and who the hell is going to live there? Lakewood has always been a city with funky, cool, old buildings and local businesses. We try to fight the corporate chains opening up, sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. I think the city is still going in a good direction with a few speed bumps along the way. We still remain one of the most diverse cities.”

Diversity is a source of pride in Ferndale, too.

By Ingrid Sjostrand

NINE MILE AND WOODWARD MIGHT BE THE HOTSPOT IN THE FERNDALE AREA FOR SHOPPING, DINING AND SOCIALIZING, but there are other neighborhoods popping up and competing for attention. One is the newly developing Iron Ridge District, running along Bermuda Street between 10 Mile and 9 Mile Roads in Pleasant Ridge and the northeast corner of Ferndale.

At first glance, most of the space still resembles the industrial sector of its past. But it is quickly filling with tenants, and development company Iron Ridge Holdings LLC has plans to turn it into a more welcoming, community-centric space. Brooke Gieber, Iron Ridge Holdings Team Member, explains the goals for the area.

“We really are in the business of building community. It will truly be a mixed-use development, with plans for additional retail space, hospitality and residential,” she says. “Still staying true to the industrial and manufacturing heritage of the community, but also bringing some modern amenities and neighborhood services.”

Current businesses include Farm Field Table, a locally-sourced butcher, Provisions cheese shop and Urbanrest Brewery, all located off Woodward Heights and gaining popularity and acclaim among Ferndale and regional residents. Matt Romine, founder of Farm Field Table, says choosing the Iron Ridge District for his business made sense in a variety of ways.

“First of all, Iron Ridge is a great location logistically. Second, the lease rates were great which made the decision easy for a brand-new company,” Romine says. “Thirdly, and most importantly, the attitude and vision of the other tenants of Iron Ridge was very attractive for us. It’s a place for builders and entrepreneurs to operate independently, but as a tight knit group…there are several trusted professionals who are eager to help.”

At the other end of Bermuda near 10 Mile Rd and I-696, the district crosses into Pleasant Ridge. This area is referred to as the Iron Ridge Marketplace. The main marketplace “tower” has some history; originally built as Voigt/Oakman brewery in the late 1930s, it acted as the E-Prize headquarters in the early-mid 2000s before the vacant space was purchased by Iron Ridge Holdings.

Businesses in the Marketplace include the Iron Ridge Holdings offices, Urban Ridge Realty, web development company Loudbaby, furniture designer Alex Drew & No One, 3D engineering services Fisher Unitech, business incubator Excelerate America, advertising agency Driven Creative Supply Co. and newly-opened gym Pulse Fitness.

Alex Rosenhaus, co-owner of Alex Drew & No One, has seen a benefit of the district’s efforts to build relationships among businesses.

“Iron Ridge is building an excellent community for small businesses. Having relationships with fellow tenants like Provisions has even brought us work, like the cheese boards we make for their store,” he says. “We are excited to be a part of the Iron Ridge community as it continues to grow.”

AS THE SPACE IS RENOVATED, more tenants will move in, and plans for a beer garden, brewery and even residential space are in the works for the future.

“It’s a unique situation with adaptive reuse, as we have tenants moving in all the time and there are different types of activation happening concurrently with pop-up community events,” Gieber says.

While there won’t be a hard completion date, many tenants have found unique ways to keep interest piqued during construction. Prior to opening on June 23rd, Pulse Fitness held open house and workout events at Iron Ridge, and Drifter Coffee hosted pop ups and festivals throughout the spring and summer on the property as they wait for their permanent space to be constructed. Iron Ridge Holdings has held several of their own events too.

“We have a lot of things in the works that are really exciting in terms of community programming and how we want to help,” Gieber says. “We aren’t just real estate developers, we are place-makers and are able to help with adaptive reuse of space and find ways that actually enhance what’s already going on in these amazing communities.”

Some of these community programs included a tree lighting during the holiday season, Taco Tuesdays and Food Truck Fridays. Plans are also in the works for cinematic and live music events in the next few months. Current and future tenants all agree these events have helped their businesses.

“Food Truck Fridays brings a lot of foot traffic to our studio, and is an exciting event Iron Ridge has been organizing to bring more people to the area,” Rosenhaus says.

Cathy Koch of K-Tec Systems adds, “This is a unique area where businesses collaborate to help with each other’s success. The Iron Ridge area truly promotes a livable, walkable, working neighborhood.”

Gieber says many more things are in the works for the district and the best place to follow Iron Ridge developments are through Facebook and Instagram – @ironridgemarketplace.

“As a resident of Ferndale, I’m excited to see different portions of the city highlighted and gaining neighborhood services that make it a more walk-able area,” Gieber says. “As things get more activated and new tenants host their grand openings, we are excited to see how this space will play out –not only having these amenities for our building tenants but for the surrounding community too.”

By: Jessica L. Misch, Former Como’s Patron

FERNDALE, MICHIGAN COMPRISES PERHAPS THE LARGEST CONCENTRATION of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community members in the state of Michigan. And yet, in 1961, it was a young, heterosexual single mother who had the gumption to scratch out a safe space in Ferndale for Michigan’s social undesirables to dine over pizza, drink spirits and find love in the company of friends: Como’s Restaurant.

In the early days of the gay right’s movement, Como’s stood in stark contrast to other gay spaces in Michigan. Como’s wasn’t a hole-in-the-wall bar that required a secret knock on an obscure door in shadow-filled alleys. Gay patrons brought an extra pair of shoes to those cryptic locations — running shoes — in the event of a police raid or a bomb thrown. No, Como’s was different. The large, outdoor patio and spacious indoor setting exuded an ambiance of safety, even normality. GLBT patrons weren’t considered sinners or diseased lepers at Como’s. Patrons were out in the open on the corner of 9 Mile and Woodward, protected by a bright red canopy, while fresh air flowed through multiple entrances.

Beyond the inclusiveness, open layout and hot plates of Italian food, Como’s was a family business. However, most people knew there was a strong matriarch orchestrating things. This strong and focused woman was the engine behind Como’s life, growth and stability. She and her multi-service gay bar were the community saviors when there were few alternatives, when society wanted to erase people who didn’t conform to heterosexual gender norms.

Being an entrepreneur is challenging. Being a young-single woman with a child, while building a gay bar in bigot Michigan during the 1960s can only be described as monumental. Como’s stood the test of time in socially unfavorable environments. Decade after decade, Como’s helped give birth to an LGBTQ service industry, carving out paths, streets and sidewalks with an overflowing traffic of patrons for the trendy bars and restaurants bustling in Ferndale today.

Time passed. The landscape changed. Music drummed out a new rhythm. Como’s, like our very own grandmothers, aged; her energy slowed. And, still, the younger generation demanded more. Como’s struggled to keep the pulse, much like our own frail and beloved grandmothers. When our grandparents lose their ability to remain independent and are unable to meet the demands of society, they become frustrated, perhaps even cantankerous. But we should never abandon or forget those who have cared for us for so long when they are unable to carry on.

COMO’S IS CLOSED. THERE ARE NO SIZZLING PIZZAS BEING PULLED from its once steaming ovens. But, regardless of its successor, the spirit of Como’s will forever imbue Michigan’s LGBTQ history. Walk by Como’s, and ready your cameras to appreciate the six decades of rich history, a business that broke obstinate homophobic molds in the state of Michigan with a proverbial sledgehammer.

The closing of Como’s presents a historic opportunity for the community of Ferndale to define its values. For me, as a child of Michigan who witnessed Como’s thrive in its younger years, I contemplate my duty to this aged pillar in Michigan’s LGBTQ history, an establishment that gave me reason to believe in my own value in the 1980s when society offered me few.

Thank you, Como’s. Your spirit lives on, dear friend

By Mary Meldrum

THE RED AWNINGS, THE ICONIC SIGN WITH THE STAR ON THE TOP. . . SIGH. It closed last year and left a void in the heart of Ferndale and the hearts of many patrons and families. We all miss Como’s!

Opened in 1961 and family-owned for six decades, Como’s had never been publically listed for sale before. Suddenly, the once-popular and always busy Ferndale restaurant and bar was listed on the market for $4 million by the Grego family, after being forced to close in late 2017.

Michigan Restaurant Liquidations and Auctions posted sales of Como’s equipment online in early January 2018. Even the “Como’s Restaurant” sign was up for grabs with booths, pizza ovens, lighting fixtures and other items and decorations.

Closed for good in December of 2017 following a series of closings and health code violations, Como’s now has a new owner. The Peas & Carrots Hospitality group acquired the famed Como’s location in Ferndale at the corner of Woodward and Nine Mile for an undisclosed amount.

Details are few, but good news – the new restaurant group, consisting of Chef Zack Sklar, Jim Bellinson and Josh Humphrey, plan to retain the formerly family-owned Italian restaurant’s “Como’s” name and well-known pizza-centric cuisine.

Como’s will mark Peas & Carrots’ 13th restaurant opening in six years. You might recognize some of their other restaurants, such as Social Kitchen & Bar in Birmingham and Grand Rapids, and Mex in Bloomfield Hills and Great Lakes Crossing. Peas & Carrots Regional Manager Michael Gray is a Ferndale resident, and is looking forward to taking the lead in the newest venture for the busy restaurant group.

With an eye on Ferndale’s unique downtown profile, Peas & Carrots Hospitality is looking to create an upbeat restaurant with a lively bar crowd and thoughtful Italian comfort food. With the unrelenting crowds pulsing past the Woodward and Nine Mile corner, the new Como’s has a lot to look forward to when it opens its doors, and Ferndale visitors and residents will fill the restaurant once again.

Owner and Chef, Zack Sklar, who graduated from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, says “Ferndale is socially liberal, inviting, and aligns with our company’s mission of acting as a melting pot for an eclectic group of people. We love that Ferndale wants to remain Ferndale and values those family-owned style restaurants. Even as we have grown, we’ve managed to retain that sense of belonging, and we know that Peas & Carrots Hospitality is a great fit for the Ferndale neighborhood.”

Como’s 8,000 square foot location is slated to undergo a full renovation before its big debut sometime in 2019. Known for their large covered outdoor patio, they plan to preserve the ample indoor and outdoor seating space for the restaurant. The upper level of the building will serve as the Peas & Carrots Hospitality home office.

The new owners promise that when Como’s reopens, alongside the traditional Italian cuisine will be a generous offering of beers on tap. That sounds like a warm invitation to visit Como’s!

Nancy Mae Lennon,
September 15, 1936-May 24, 2018

STORY BY MARY MELDRUM

THERE IS NO TRIBUTE THAT CAN COMPLETELY CAPTURE THE LIFE OF Nancy Mae Lennon … who passed away on May 24, 2018 at the age of 81. She was the mother of seven children and grandmother to twelve. Nancy leaves behind a big family and many friends and Ferndale neighbors who feel fortunate to have had Mer in their lives.

She was the driving force behind her late husband, Bernard Lennon, who was mayor of Ferndale and then deputy director of the State Department of Labor under Governor Jim Blanchard. A master at running campaigns, she was also the quiet power behind two of her sons who were. on the Ferndale City Council.

Over the course of her professional life, Nancy worked at various positions, including judicial secretary, congressional staffer, secretary to a governor, and finally, the position from which she retired, Court Administrator at the 43rd District Court in Madison Heights. She also served as campaign treasurer for a number of political campaigns, and was a long-time member of the Ferndale Library Board.

“I have what I consider to be one of the best – if not the best – court staffs  in the state of Michigan. I think that is due in no small part to Nancy’s supervision,” said 43rd District Court Judge, Robert Turner Jr., of Nancy Lennon as she retired in 1998 after working nine years as his court administrator.

With two court officers and six clerks under her leadership, Nancy Lennon oversaw all operations outside the courtroom that handled an astounding 14,000 cases in 1997.

She was renowned for her ability to successfully multi-task- a skill honed while juggling the lives of her seven busy children, the logistical demands of a large household, and supporting the professional life of a husband who spent some years in political headlights.

With no formal education after high school, Nancy soon demonstrated her natural ability for a great grasp of numbers. This talent made her exceptionally good at being responsible for all the fines and costs collected by the 43rd District Court, which amounted to $1.5 million in 1997. Her mastery of account­ing also showed up every time Nancy would send her children to Farmer Jack’s with exact change for the groceries she requested. She always knew the prices of her selections. She expertly managed the family finances, and even Bernie was not allowed to possess the check book.

ENDOWED WITH A STRONG WORK ETHIC AND APTITUDE, one could  see how it was a gift as well as a curse for Nancy. The downside of her driving work ethic and competence was her legendary impatience. Probably every one of her children suffered trauma induced by Nancy not so politely instructing a retail employee that there was a better way for him or her to do the task they were attempting to accomplish under Nancys critical glare.

“More than once, one of us came home and told the others, Mom took down a salesperson at Hudson’s today,” shares her son, Michael Lennon. As she aged, this impatience haunted her. Michael reports that if she called and asked you to do something that you couldn’t do immediately, she would simply attempt to do it herself. “In the last few years and on two separate occasions, this impatience resulted in a TV and then a window air conditioner falling on this woman in her late ’70s who didn’t weigh 100 pounds.”

Most who knew her well remember Nancy Lennon as a lively, spirited women who, despite her growing brood of small children, found time to join golf and bowling leagues; a person who rode her bike through the streets of Ferndale after dinner for many years; a mother who knew how to keep a box score and was honored several years by the Ferndale Little League for keeping score every Monday through Friday of the baseball season; a tireless advocate for children and schools; a person who enjoyed reading romance novels and trashy magazines; a mother who helped all of her children when they moved into new houses, often serving as the lead painter; a women who enjoyed bingo, lottery tickets and trips to the casinos; a person who actually liked yard work; and a tireless campaign worker who coveted tasks but not a title.

Nancy loved her grandchildren fiercely, and she enjoyed and deserved the privileges that came with being a grandmother. Her life was not without its struggles. When she was still very active and fully and happily employed with the court, she chose to retire to care for her once-strong and imposing husband

When she got older, you could still find Nancy all over the city of Ferndale. She took great interest in her daughters-in-law and grandchildren, attending sporting events and school activities. Her sons are pretty sure that she came to take the sides of each of her daughters-in-law in any disputes with her sons.

In the time of her generation, Nancy Lennon – like so many unsung women heroes of past generations – was a quiet feminist force without declaring herself one. She exercised strength but felt no need to proclaim it. She was the glue that held her family together and ushered in some amazing community endeavors. Ferndale is all the better for her lifelong efforts and legacy.

By Sara Teller

THE CONGREGATION OF DRAYTON AVENUE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH RECENTLY RELOCATED from Ferndale to Berkley. The number of attendees had dwindled drastically in recent years. At the time of relocation, the church had less members than when it originally opened in the 1920s. The decision was based on limited funding and an inability to continue meeting in the original structure, a cherished Ferndale landmark for almost a century.

The move has affected the whole neighborhood. “We moved next door to the church four years ago,” said Ferndale resident Tina Towell. “The decision to move here was logical – our family is here, and we wanted to be close to our grandchildren.” Towell described how she and partner Richard Christensen knew they’d be in the neighborhood for many years and immediately started renovating, creating their dream home. “We’ve put a lot into our house, invested a lot,” she said.

They couldn’t believe it when the congregation quickly and quietly vacated the historical building. “We loved having the church next door,” she said. “We loved hearing the chimes that would play. There were actually two congregations, one LGBT, with a daycare, a school, and a catering business that used the kitchen. We got to know the caterer pretty well.” As she peered over at the lot, she added, “Looks like all the furniture and other items are gone now.”

The original church building was eventually purchased by a developer, Designhaus Architecture, and the company drew up plans to put in over three dozen apartments. “About six to eight months ago, the neighbors told us the church was for sale. Then, about two or three months ago, we heard someone was interested in turning it into apartments. The original plans called for 36 apartments, I believe, including a six-townhouse complex in the parking lot,” Towell explained, saying they couldn’t fathom where that many would even go. “The townhouses would be right behind us. And, there just wasn’t adequate parking, absolutely no green space,” she said.

“Parking is already at a premium in Ferndale. Then, you have to consider the additional traffic coming in and out.”

DURING THE TRANSITION, RESIDENTS BEGAN to notice dumpsters close to their homes. “My grandchildren spend a lot of time here,” Towell said. “I don’t want to have to worry about the smell, rats, flies. And what about our property value?

Many in the neighborhood would like to see the space preserved and used for the benefit of the entire community. “We’d like to see an art center, artists’ loft, or community swimming pool go in there,” Towell offered. “The City could buy and convert it.”

The latest planning commission meeting concerning the matter was held on July 11. According to Towell, “[A number of residents] attended…many of us got up to protest the current site plan presented by the Designhaus developers. On Tuesday evening prior…we met as a group to discuss what we wanted and how to present it. So we stood our ground.”

On August 1, Ferndale City Planning Manager Justin Lyons stated, “Regarding the current plans for the site, the applicant applied for a conditional rezoning and site plan to reuse the existing church building with 30 apartment units. The Planning Commission held a public hearing on July 11th and took no action on the item. The next steps are for the developer to consider if they wish to make revisions to their conditional rezoning agreement and site plan, which would require another public hearing at the Planning Commission.”