Sara E. Teller

THE HAZEL PARK LIBRARY HAS BEEN IN BUSINESS FOR OVER 80 years, and has a rich history. It occupied two different locations before the City of Hazel Park constructed the current building on 9 Mile and
John R in 1970.

In May 1936, the Hazel Park Parent Teacher Association Council invited representatives from all religious, fraternal, business, social, and community groups to meet at the High School and discuss establishing a public library in Hazel Park. On November 4 of that year, a permanent library organization was established, a constitution adopted, and officers elected. The Library was formally opened on December 12, 1936, in a room loaned by the Board of Education in the basement of the Lacey School.

The Library operated in the basement until two lots were eventually purchased at the corner of Pearl and Rhodes in 1937, at a net cost of $368.89, for the purpose of providing a permanent site for the building. Current Hazel Park Library Director Corrine Stocker said, “As a true community project, more than 1,000 Hazel Park residents contributed either money or labor toward the building and equipment. Hazel Park pioneered in this field and proved that no community need be without a library.” The official opening of the new building was January 6, 1941, and that site is currently the home of the Hazel Park Historical Museum.

The Library’s present location was designed by Machida and Associates, who also designed the Hazel Park City Hall and Fire Station. The new building was constructed to replace the former Erickson Library, which was overcrowded.

“As the years passed, the Library took on a greater role, not only as a source for reading material but also as a center of the Hazel Park community,” said Stocker. “Services increased and changed with our increasingly technological times. Computers were installed in the 1980s, and WI-Fl access was installed in 2010, so patrons could bring their own computers and connected devices to the library to access the Internet as well. We now have 19 computers available for our patrons to use.”

The Hazel Park Library subscribes to Overdrive and RBDigital to offer its visitors access to thousands of books, audio books, and magazines. A whole host of programming is also offered, including regular book clubs, children’s story hours, Fun Fridays for Teens, movie nights, craft programs, Detroit Institute of Arts programs, and outreach services to senior citizens in the area.

“Every day, we generally offer one or more free programs to the public,” said Stocker. “For adults, regular monthly programs include stitch & Knit Night, a Make & Take Craft Club, and Book Club. For children, regular monthly programs include Family Fun Night with free pizza from Nick’s and Lego Club. We also offer weekly baby and preschool story times, weekly yoga, and computer tutoring. Once a month, we hold a Pop-Up Farmer’s Market with locally-sourced food.”

THE HAZEL PARK LIBRARY FRIENDS (HPLF) is a charitable organization serving the Hazel Park District Library, and helping provide many programs and services. The HPLF organizes and runs fundraisers to benefit the Library, including selling snacks, candy, baked goods, plants, books and other items. Occasionally, the HPLF also raffles off gift baskets. Much of the money raised by the HPLF also gets donated back to the Library to pay for things that ii could not otherwise afford, such as perform­ers throughout the year, summer reading prizes, promotional banners, new folding tables, a scanner, and professional development conferences for Library staff.

“The organization donates thousands of service hours to the Library every year,” Stocker said. ‘Volunteer activities include cleaning and painting the windows, seasonal decorating, organizing the library’s storage areas, sorting donations, grooming the grounds, shelving materials, and assisting with programs. The Friends also promote Library programs and services via social media and represent the Library at community engagement events.”

The HPLF stocks the Library’s Little Free Libraries (LFL). LFL is an international program in which communities put out boxes, usually with the help of volunteers, and fill them with free books for residents to borrow and return. ‘We offer four,” Stocker said. “They’re located at Tuski Park, Scout Park (soon lo be moved near the fire department), the Rec Center, and the art park. These are full of donated books.”

“Thanks to the support of our tireless volunteers, our elected Library Board, as well as the help and assistance of the Hazel Park Library Friends, the Hazel Park District Library continues to grow and develop its resources to adapt to the needs of its patrons,” Stocker said.

CORRINE STOCKER HAS BEEN EMPLOYED at the Hazel Park Library for 14 years. She assumed her current role after Hazel Park’s former Director, Jessica Keyser, left her position to take on the directorship role at the Ferndale Library.

Leading up to that point, Stocker explained, “I started as a half-time adult services librarian in March of 2004. Then they created a full-time position for me, and I worked in that capacity until I was promoted to Library Director in 2013.”

Stocker earned a four-year degree in English from Michigan State University and took a position at Gale Research following graduation, where she was employed for several years. The company paid for her to return to obtain a post­graduate degree in library sciences from Wayne State University. She eventually left Gale to be a corporate librarian for Arthur Anderson before heading to Hazel Park’s library.

She said to be successful in her position, “you have to like helping people.” She added, “I love being able to help people in a meaningful way.” She also enjoys the ability to be constantly learning. ”You learn something new every day. When someone comes to the reference desk to ask a question, you may not always have a ready answer, so you have to try a bunch of things and learn together.”

Stocker loves to read but doesn’t necessarily have a favorite book or author. “It’s constantly changing,” she explained. “It just depends on the day. I love to read, of course. I read every night and prefer this to watching television. I also love to garden, go hiking, and just be outdoors.”

The Hazel Park Library offers a unique opportunity for her to provide a variety of resources and activities to patrons while getting to know each and every one of them. “Our library has a reputation as the little library that does a lot,” said Stocker. “And, everyone knows everyone – it’s kind of like Cheers!’

LITTLE FREE LIBRARIES ARE A TREND, AND POP­PING UP IN YARDS ALL OVER THE COUNTRY. And, thanks to Neighborhood Enrichment, Hazel Park has a few LFLs of our own to promote reading and access to books for kids.

Started in 2009 by Wisconsin resident Todd Bol, Little Free Libraries are small wooden containers mounted on a post in a public place and filled with books. Bobby McDermott, a member of Neighborhood Enrichment, spearheaded the Hazel Park initiative, and already they have helped create four Little Free Librar­ies around the city.

“The goal is to encourage kids to read. And adults too, with children, and to have conversations about books with kids. That conversation may be more important than the number of words a child knows entering school,” McDermott says. “Let kids experience the joy and adventure of reading, the book you ‘don’t want to put down’ with a flashlight under the blanket!”

The containers used for the project are recycled newspaper stands built by resi­dent artist Richard Gage, and books for the libraries have been donated by Neighborhood Enrichment President, Lois Reithel.

“Richard Gage built the structure designed to look like a library that sits on top. He donated his time, materials and creativity,” McDermott says. “Susan Fried­man, now a retired art teacher who taught here in Hazel Park, did the artwork to transform Richard’s wonderful construction into a library.”

Friedman describes how she dressed up the newsstands, using inspiration from a Beverly Cleary book for the one located in front of Hoover Elementary School.

“I used the images of her childhood experiences as inspiration for the four sides of the little library form. The roof is patterned with a quaint shingle design. Each side represents a season and three of the sides are painted with windows that reveal the activity inside the library,” she says. “There are shelves of books with children, a dog, a librarian helping a little girl, and a cat in an upper window. Hand imprints of kindergartners cover the old newspaper base.”

These libraries have added creativi­ty to the landscape of Hazel Park, and are seeing interest among chil­dren.

“I was pleased to be a part of something that supports reading and the experience of holding books rather than electronic devices,” Friedman says. “I thought it unlikely that they would get much use, but have since learned that they are visited fre­quently, and children love the idea.”

McDermott says the groups plan to add another Little Free Library to the city in the future, and that the benefits of the project are endless.

“They improve literacy, strengthen our neighborhoods and schools, bring families and kids together, build trust and community,” he says.

By Mary Meldrum

EXLTERRA IS AN INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE COMPANY located on 10 Mile Road in Hazel Park with strong business contacts in Switzerland, India and Japan.

They are mostly known for their HAZL drill rig, but they are a little bit of a mystery since their web site doesn’t give viewers a clear understanding of exactly what they are doing.

That’s sort of intentional.

In short, Exlterra uses innovation, technology and experience to create reliable, long-lasting solutions to environmental industry problems.

Frank Muller, CEO of Exlterra, explains that maintaining some mystery to their business is necessary right now. They are in the process of completing two new technologies that they will announce later in 2018. These are just the first two in a substantial pipeline of currently classified revolutionary environmental technologies that will come online in the near future. For now, the two new technologies as well as the pipeline must remain a secret for a little longer, but Muller is extremely excited about the direction of their innovation and the future of Exlterra.

Muller is very quick to give credit for Exlterra’s innovations to Chairman, CTO, and inventor Andrew Niemczyk.

“Andrew was born in Poland in 1960 under communism,” Muller explains. “He has a gift for understanding the systems of the world, the environment. It was a prison for him growing up in communism. There, you are capped and your knowledge is not valued.” Niemczyk eventually escaped, and came to the United States where his long-stifled creativity has been erupting into breakout discoveries.

An established businessman searching for more meaning in his life, Muller moved to the U.S. in 2011 from Switzerland. He was introduced to Niemczyk, and it was the beginning of their close relationship. Muller sees it as his purpose and duty to protect Niemczyk and help him bring his remarkable products to market. Niemczyk develops the technologies, and Muller – with his understanding of business and professional connections — brings them to market.

“The more time I spend with Andrew, I realize how much this man went through,” Muller says. “We have not seen even one percent of what he can achieve.” By all of Muller’s accounts, Andrew Niemczyk is a gifted creator, a renaissance man, someone to watch.

THE SMALL TEAM AT EXLTERRA INCLUDES NIEMCZYK’S TWO SONS – both engineers – Robert and Patrick Niemczyk. Together, they are working on building more technology that will equip humans with the tools to prosper and help the earth to heal.

Explosive growth of modern civilization has put tremendous pressure on the environment causing imbalances. Exlterra recognizes that many standard systems used today that address environmental issues lack sustainability and often result in unintended consequences and unnecessary costs.

Exlterra’s mission is to invent better ways to combat major challenges affecting the environment and civilization. Their focus is on developing technologies that generate significant economic, environmental, and social value.

In 2010, Exlterra invented and patented a passive groundwater recharging system. This product revolutionized the way to address certain water issues.

In 2017, HAZL was born; a versatile drilling machine to accelerate the installation of their soil moisture management system, and for other drilling applications.

Exlterra realizes that nature works in systems. Awareness, appreciation and deep knowledge of how to work within natural systems is the key to Exlterra’s success. The concept of a circular economy presents a unique opportunity to build greater value through our world’s abundant yet finite resources.

TODAY, EXLTERRA IS WORKING ON IMPROVING ITS EXISTING DRILL TECHNOLOGY while continuing to pursue new projects and ideas. It is in the DNA of Exlterra to invent and market powerful technologies that will benefit humans and improve the way we treat the earth.

“The only way people will adopt a new way of doing something is if they experience a benefit,” Muller says. “Find a way that people will see the benefit, and they will adopt it.”

As a business professional, Muller clarifies, “If you try to impose change through sanctions or in a way that is inefficient, that will never succeed. If you want to achieve things on this planet for the environment, you have to do it in a way that there will be a benefit and a profit. And it is my job to make sure that message is heard for Exlterra.”

Muller values Exlterra’s strong relationship with Hazel Park.

“Exlterra came to the city in 2013, and we identified this place as a great area to start manufacturing,” Muller says. “We got a good price with our building and solid support and understanding from the city. We have a happy and harmonious relationship with the city of Hazel Park.”

Stay tuned to Exlterra to discover what new technology they will be unveiling in Hazel Park in the coming months!

By Ingrid Sjostrand

WHEN ICE THAWS AND THE SNOW MELTS, Metro Detroit streets start to fill with the dusted-off motorcycles previously hibernating all winter. Oftentimes after a harsh season, these bikes could use a little love – or maybe an extreme makeover – and that’s where Bad Pig Customs takes pride.

“We service and build motorcycles; we do anything from A to Z as far as customization goes. And we’ve got a storeroom that has parts, so we can do part sales,” co-owner Dave Foster says. “We can’t sell motorcycles because we don’t have a dealer’s license, but we do everything that needs to be done on American motorcycles only.”

Located at 1806 E. Nine Mile, Foster and his partner Mark Zagacki opened their Hazel Park shop in 2012 when they saw a growth in the industry and a lack of shops like theirs.

“There was a need – not just in the city, but in the motorcycle industry. It is getting larger because of gas mileage and stuff,” Foster says. “It’s a shame that in Michigan it’s not a necessity to have a motorcycle because of our weather – real short season – and the state considers it a recreational vehicle.” Foster says.

ONE THING THAT MAKES BAD PIG CUSTOMS unique is that they have an in house parts shop, so there’s no waiting for parts to be ordered and shipped in. Zagacki is actually well-known in the community for his parts knowledge and accessibility.

“We’re actually two businesses in one. We have Oak Park Mark — he sells parts — and then Bad Pig Customs is about service and custom builds,” Foster says. “We’re partners but I try to run this side and he tries to run that side. He’s been known as Oak Park Mark for many years, so we threw the second business in there.”

Being located in Hazel Park has served the business fairly well too, and they are hoping to add a local bike night but are still searching for the right location.

“It’s actually a really good location, we’re right on the edge of Macomb County, Wayne County and the Southeast corner of Oakland,” Zagacki says. “We’re kind of positioned in between the little four corners, and we’re far enough away from Harley dealers that we shouldn’t really take away from any of their business.” “There aren’t too many bike shops in our ten-mile radius,” Foster adds.

By Ingrid Sjostrand

ONE SIGN OF A STRONG BUSINESS COMMUNITY is longevity – when many companies thrive and expand, it’s proof that the city and its residents care about supporting local endeavors. Hazel Park has many staple businesses that have grown with the city and helped support and build a stronger community. Capital Sales Company is one such venture leading that pack.

In business for over 30 years, Capital Sales Company has been essential to the success of Hazel Park and has also received help from the City. The wholesale distributor, located at 1471 E. Nine Mile Rd., sells to businesses in more than 20 states.

ON THEIR WEB SITE they describe themselves as a “full-line distributor of grocery, candy, tobacco, health, beauty care, dry goods, meat snacks, restaurant supplies, automotive and dollar store items. We provide shoppers with unmatched customer service and are committed to meeting our customers’ high expectations for service and product selection.”

Many of Capital Sales Company’s customers include convenience stores, dollar stores, restaurant suppliers, and other retail outlets.

The business expanded their Nine Mile Rd. location after receiving a Brownfield Single Business Tax Credit of $200,000 from the city of Hazel Park in 2005. The money was used to grow their warehouse and distribution center by 38,000 ft. It also created 30 new jobs and generated $2 million in private investment.

The support Capital Sales Company received from the city has not gone unnoticed, and the business has not shied away from returning the favor. Sam Haddad, President of Capital Sales Company, donated over $10,000 to the Hazel Park Recreation Department to help with the construction of a playscape in Scout Park.

This is just one example of how businesses and cities support each other, and how everyone in the community can benefit.

ESTABLISHED IN 1993, THE EIGHT MILE BOULEVARD ASSOCIATION (8MBA) is composed of 13 communities and three counties along Eight Mile Road. In conjunction with the Michigan Department of Transportation, businesses, neighborhood groups and corporations like DTE and ITC, they facilitate collaboration between
these stakeholders toward the revitalization of Eight Mile Road, with a focus on a span of 27 miles of the corridor.

An IRS-designated 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization, 8MBA and its partners employ projects to unlock Eight Mile’s socioeconomic potential, including business assistance, community development, beautification projects and more.

The Mission Statement: “The Eight Mile Boulevard Association (8MBA) revitalizes and promotes the Eight Mile transportation, business and residential corridor be-tween I-94 and I-275 by linking the efforts of the public and private sectors.” It’s great, but it doesn’t cover everything going on in this dynamic and progressive organization.

Many jurisdictions begin, end and overlap on Eight Mile, complicating services such as public transit. Eight Mile’s reputation as a divider between Detroiters and subur-banites also fuels socio-economic inequality. The 8MBA seeks to change this.

ENTER BETHANY HOLLAND, HAZEL PARK’S 8MBA REPRESENTATIVE and meteoric fire-starter. Although Hazel Park borders only roughly one mile of Eight Mile Road with I-75 cutting through the city’s section, Holland’s energy for the 8MBA could light up the entire 27-mile span. Holland, of course, also serves on the Hazel Park City Council.

She was quick to volunteer her time for the representative position, and sees the 8MBA as a great platform for change. With a large, spirited membership, 8MBA has been focused on beautification and economic development of the Eight Mile corridor.

Hazel Park has hosted the 8MBA board meetings twice in the past year. Holland indicated that it is her highest priority to improve pedestrian safety with a proper crossing at Eight Mile and Dequindre Roads. The Belmont Shopping Center is working with the city planner on making a safer pedestrian crossing at this Tri-County corner where Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties converge.

While Hazel Park is a founding member of the 8MBA, Holland reports that the City hasn’t been an active participant in recent years due to financial and other constraints during the economic downturn. That is all changing. Cities are emphasizing art and walkable communities. And right now, Eight Mile is not walkable, but there are some colorful murals being painted on buildings along the corridor. Holland would like to continue to create those opportunities for local artists.

Another challenge that Holland and the 8MBA are ad-dressing is the public transit along the corridor. Eight Mile is one of the busiest transit routes in the Metro area, and they need improved transit opportunities. Right now, most bus stops are simply signs on a pole that indicate where riders need to stand in order to catch their bus. She would like to see more covered waiting areas for riders that will protect them from rain, snow, wind, and road debris.

HOLLAND SEES THE 8MBA AS A GOOD ORGANIZATION to rebrand Eight Mile. “Everyone in the
8MBA is passionate about making this a road you want to drive. If you’ve had the opportunity to drive Eight Mile recently due to the I-696 construction, you may have seen the economy percolating along the boulevard. Vacant buildings are filling up. Signage tells you what city you are in as you travel the corridor, and drivers will notice a ton of new development in the Tri-County area of Eight Mile Road.”

Holland recognizes the huge economic opportunities that are opening up for Hazel Park and surrounding cities. She believes that Hazel Park needs to jump on those opportunities now and build on the momentum. 8MBA is a perfect partner for that.

8MBA has played a big role in supporting the business-es and communities bordering Eight Mile Road for 25 years. 8MBA provides it membership with a voice and serves as a conduit for regional collaboration. For more information about 8MBA, its work in the community, and how you can be a part of the revitalization of this historic Boulevard, go to

By Maggie Boleyn
IF YOU’VE NEVER SEEN AN EPISODE OF TruTV’s reality show, “Hardcore Pawn,” you may not know that pawn shops are a quick way to obtain cash, either by taking a loan against valuable items or by selling those items. Low interest loans are made by the shop, holding the item as security. When the customer repays the loan, the item is redeemed.

American Jewelry and Loan (AJL), featured in “Hardcore Pawn,” opened in 1978. The 50-thousand-square-foot main location in Detroit serves more than 250 customers every hour. AJL has also opened branch locations, launching a Hazel Park shop in June of 2016.

“Hazel Park is a great community of closely-connected people, and we’re thrilled to be a part of the exciting things happening here,” says Les Gold, founder and president of AJL. He is the author of the book, “For What It’s Worth: Business Wisdom from a Pawnbroker.”

“Our Hazel Park customers know that they can come to us for the cash they need when they need it,” adds Seth Gold, AJL’s Vice President. “Our core business is writing loans against gold, coins, jewelry, tools, game systems, equipment, and other items of value.”

Essentially, pawnbrokers are lenders. “Pawnshops provide access to quick cash for individuals who use their property as collateral,” continues Seth. “Of all of the alternative lending options available, pawnshops are the only ‘non-recourse choice’; meaning that pawn loans do not impact the borrower’s credit score or ability to borrow in the future,” he explained.

ACCORDING TO THE NATIONAL PAWNBROKERS ASSOCIATION (NPA), customers come from every part of society, and have an unexpected need for short-term cash. Pawn loans typically range from 30-90 days. Approximately 80 percent of pawn customers repay their loans and redeem their collateral. NPA says about three-quarters of pawn customers take out a pawn shop loan two or more times a year. NPA says, “Pawn loans keep the electricity on, rent paid, and cars running.”

“Most of our customers pay the interest, and return to pick up their merchandise,” Seth Gold said. “Sometimes items are forfeited and become available to sell.” As a result, he says a pawnshop is also “a great place to shop.” He says, “You never know what you’ll find at American Jewelry and Loan.”

There’s no guarantee, but you could find one of the Golds in the store. As third and fourth generation pawnbrokers, the Gold family still manages AJL’s day-to-day operations, working at the stores nearly every day. They do work at the Hazel Park store occasionally, which is located one block north of 8 Mile and John R, at the northeast corner of Muir and John R, in the former home of Joey’s Pawn Shop.

AJL is celebrating their 40th Anniversary by partnering with Junior Achievement of Southeast Michigan. Through the “Gold Bank,” young people can obtain low-interest loans to set up their businesses. “The hardest part of getting a business off the ground is finding start-up capital,”  said Les Gold. “With the Gold Bank, I am pleased that these young entrepreneurs will have one more options to build their companies and their futures.”

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 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


“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!”