SINCE ITS INCEPTION IN 1840, THE BERKLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT HAS ENJOYED REMARKABLE SUPPORT from the community, including businesses and families outside of the District.

“The incredible success Berkley students experience is possible in part because of the overwhelming community support provided at every level to ensure they are provided with a state-of-the-art educational experience,” explains Director of Communications, Jessica Stilger.

SUPERINTENDENT DENNIS MCDAVID BEAMS ABOUT HIS STAFF. “WE ARE NOW WELL UNDERWAY into our 2020-21 school year. The year has started out with remote learning, and I am incredibly proud of all our students for their perseverance. I am also deeply proud of our educators for their willingness to try new things and be nimble during this online learning time. They have stretched themselves to make sure they can deliver content with fidelity and form meaningful relationships with their students. I have never been more proud of our team for putting students first and thinking of all the ways we can support our learners while learning remotely.

“While this school year does look and feel differently, some things are still the same. Over the Summer of 2020, we had quite a lot of Sinking Fund work completed. Roof work was completed at Rogers, BHS, Anderson, Building Blocks and Burton. Parking lots were re-paved and repaired at Norup and BHS. Media Center carpet was replaced at Angell, Burton, Rogers, Anderson and Norup. We have many more projects in the works for this coming year. We are grateful for the community’s ongoing support and investment in our schools.

“We prepare our students to be creative, curious, confident, and critical thinkers. This year, we will reinforce these principals with the notion of being flexible and adaptable to ever changing situations. We know our students are up to the challenge because they are always impressing us with their knowledge, growth mindset and their ability to adapt to ever changing situations.

“Our students enjoy the multitude of experiences and successes because of the overwhelming community support, the fantastic work of their great teachers and administrators and the rich and vibrant environments that parents create. We believe we are all in this together for the benefit of all our children.”

THERE ARE SEVERAL WAYS ONE CAN BECOME A PART of the Berkley School District. Residents who live within the District’s boundaries are welcome to register directly with the enrollment office. If a family is uncertain whether their residence is within the boundaries, there is a map available online or at the enrollment office.

Each year, the Board of Education also has the opportunity to approve School of Choice slots for a limited number of students in grades TK-5, and there are a set number of openings in 9th grade for the Berkley High School (BHS) Scholars program. Although the Board has approved the School of Choice slots the last several years, availability is reassessed on an annual basis and the continuation of this program is not guaranteed. Additionally, if the number of applications for School of Choice received after the program is approved exceed the number of openings, a lottery is held to place students. If a student’s name is drawn, they will be allowed into the District.

According to the District, Berkley students “are prepared to be creative, curious, confident, and well-rounded critical thinkers who are kind and caring and have a global perspective while understanding their communities.” The District has been named one of the state’s recipients of the Best Community for Music Education award nine years in a row.

BHS was named a Best High School by the U.S. News & World Report in 2020, among the top eight percent of high schools in the nation. In 2018, it was one of 175 schools in Michigan to be honored with the College Success award, demonstrating the District’s commitment to preparing its students for continued success after graduation. BHS was also named to the Washington Post’s 2017 Most Challenging High Schools list, ranking 21st in Michigan and 1,575 in the nation.

“Berkley School District is known for being dedicated to creating pathways for students to achieve their individual best, whatever that looks like for each student,” says Stilger. And Superintendent McDavid is leading the charge, ensuring students are supported not only while achieving their educational goals, but also while reaching their career goals after they move forward in their journey.

BHS CURRENTLY OFFERS 26 ADVANCED PLACEMENT COURSES and students are able to attend courses at the Oakland Schools Technical Centers. Outside-of-the-box courses include zoology, forensics, Encore! show choir, creative writing, film studies, history of the Holocaust, marketing, computer programming and many more. Students can also participate in the school’s newspaper, or learn robotics, foreign languages or video production while still in middle school. Many middle school students complete high school credits while attending Anderson or Norup.

Berkley’s elementary schools offer opportunities for children to excel at their own level and pace by utilizing the Cultures of Thinking & Writing Workshop models. This allows administrators to gage each student’s individual needs for furthering their academic growth.

Berkley offers a wealth of opportunities for middle school and high school students to join clubs and sports. Middle school sports include softball, base-ball, football, basketball, track and field, cross country, wrestling, swimming, volleyball, golf, tennis, and clubs include yearbook, robotics, and art and drama. BHS offers football, basketball, swimming, soccer, wrestling, and cheerleading, among others, as well as club sports including hockey, figure skating, the dance team, and rugby. At BHS, students can join over 60 clubs, including unique offerings such as the vine-and-cheese club, drama, and the future teachers club.

Berkley’s students have been named All-State and Academic All-State honorary recipients for activities such as swimming, track and field, baseball, golf, hockey, and soccer. Twelve student athletes signed with colleges and universities during the 2018-19 school year. The BHS Orchestra was also one of three high school orchestras nationwide invited to play at Carnegie Hall in 2019 for the World Stride Music Festival and Berkley High School was the first school in the state to adopt Sources of Strength, a peer-led wellness program that benefits all students.

By Jocelyn A. Davis, Communications & Public Information Director, City of Oak Park

THE CHALLENGING EVENTS OF 2020 WILL UNDOUBTEDLY STAY WITH US FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES. A relentless, global pandemic brought many of us closer to our loved ones, as we embraced “togetherness” while sheltering in place. At the same time it unjustly robbed too many of us of our family and friends.

We collectively experienced the tragedy of losing several national role models for our youth, such as Kobe Bryant, Chadwick Boseman and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. And we empathized with people around the world who marched for racial justice following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a corrupt Minneapolis police officer.

We felt all these events right here in our own tight-knit, Oak Park community.

Oak Park Public Safety Director Steve Cooper, a 30-year veteran of the Department, believes that in times like these, community engagement is critical. I recently sat down with him to discuss his views on the role and responsibilities of Public Safety in times of crisis and his vision for the relationship between the community and law enforcement.

Director Cooper, what is community policing?

Director Cooper: Community policing is relationship-building. It’s ensuring that officers are active and integral members of the community – not just when crimes are committed, but also when there are opportunities to engage with residents and create positive experiences. We’re committed to making and maintaining connections with our residents, which was the impetus for appointing two Community Resource Officers whose roles are to attend community events, establish presence in our schools, and bond authentically with residents.


Governor Whitmer issued a shelter-in-place order this Spring in an effort to save Michigan lives. How did Public Safety respond to the pandemic relative to maintaining the health and safety of residents and Public Safety Officers?

Of course, the Oak Park Public Safety Department was never shut down during the shelter-in-place order because we’re essential workers. Oak Park is unique in that each officer is highly trained in policing, firefighting, and emergency medical services. In fact, Oak Park was the first community in the State of Michigan to combine all three services into one department in the early 1950s.

Our first priority, before, during and after this pandemic, is to maintain the safety of our residents and staff. We immediately secured personal protective equipment such as N95 masks, rubber gloves and eyewear because we know a healthy officer is a responsive officer. During that time, we experienced a higher volume of calls for medical emergencies, so we relied heavily on our dispatch unit to conduct thorough phone interviews. And we were prepared to provide residents with PPE and on-site medical screenings for the virus, as needed.

You participated in the anti-racism protests held in Oak Park following the death of George Floyd. Why was it important for you to be there?

Every officer in the Oak Park Public Safety Department agrees that Mr. Floyd’s death was a senseless murder that placed additional strains on relationships between many communities and their law enforcement agencies across the country. But in Oak Park, it made our bonds stronger. I was honored to be asked to speak at our local rallies because I felt enraged as well. At that time, it was critical to assure the community that we stand with them and that nothing like that would happen in Oak Park.

The rallies were peaceful, and it was clear that they were not anti-police but protests. We distributed free refreshments and face masks from the Oak Park Public Safety Ice Cream Truck. Officers kneeled with residents in a moment of silence for the loss of Mr. Floyd.

I’ve since heard from numerous residents who want to assure our Public Safety Officers that the support is mutual. This is a great example of what results from community policing. Our residents know and trust us. As you can see, that can make all the difference in a crisis situation.

Have there been any recent changes in the Public Safety Department?

I’m pleased to welcome Public Safety Officer Evan Beauchamp to the Department. He was sworn into service with us this summer. And Officer Donald Hoffman, who’s served the Department for seven-and-a-half years, was recently recruited to serve concurrently on Oakland County’s Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team. I’m extremely proud of both officers and look forward to their contributions to law enforcement and supporting the Oak Park community.

By Mary Meldrum

IT ALL BEGAN WHEN THE OAK PARK LIBRARY ADMINISTRATION CALLED AND ASKED IF SHE WOULD LIKE TO INTERVIEW FOR THE JOB OF DIRECTOR. At the time, for Dr. Karen White-Owens, it seemed like a good change from her job as director at the Lennox Twp. Library in Macomb, not to mention being closer to home.

SHE BEGAN HER POSITION IN OAK PARK ON MARCH 2, AND ALMOST IMMEDIATELY the Library was forced to shut down because of the pandemic. She is happy that the Oak Park Public Library is one of the few that are now open – or, kind-of, anyway. They are only open for grab-and-go, 30-minute visits. You can come in, get what you need and leave. White-Owens explained that people can come and talk to a reference librarian.

White-Owens is an administrator; her role is to make sure that the Library runs properly and that people get in and get the service they need. She performs the scheduling and programming. White-Owens is passionate about programming, and wants to launch a parking-lot-decorating program for example.

“People think libraries are stiff and boring. We give them chalk and other things and they can draw or paint their parking space to reflect what they want to see in their library.” Karen is creative with programming.

She likes for the staff to enjoy programming too. “If you have job satisfaction you will enjoy your work. One member loved science, and we were able to offer many learning experiences around science. We called her “Kathy the Science Lassie,” and she loved it.”

WHITE-OWENS IS A WRITER AND HAS WRITTEN 15 fiction and one nonfiction book. You can find them on Amazon and Overdrive (eBooks).

I asked her if she had a favorite from her creations and she said, “I wrote one that earned a lot of awards; a story about a woman who was really a foster child. The lead character finds her family but they reject her. That book is called Circles of Love.

“When I started writing, I had a goal: First, a paperback, then a hardcover, then a movie deal. I came close to the movie deal. Lifetime Movie Network came calling once, but it didn’t work out.”

White-Owens shared, “I started writing when my mom was sick. Sadly, she passed and never saw any of my books. Writing gives me a place to go. You read to write and write to read. I used to love to read the Detroit Free Press.”

Spare time: “I like to read and go to the movies. October is anti-bullying month. I love to watch the original Karate Kid movie. I love movies; everything but horror. Suspense or thriller, I love that kind of stuff.”

“EVERY WEEK I HAVE A TOPIC RELATED TO WRITING your first novel. There are also stories for children. In November, we will have the children read to the Director of the Children’s Library.”

“We are all navigating this very unusual time. When it is over, I have plans for all types of fun things I want to do with the community.”

Karen encouraged me to go to the website for the Oak Park Public Library. There are many new things to do posted on the site. The Library is open for business! Make time for a visit.

By Eric Freeman – Strategic Communications Specialist, City of Oak Park

OAK PARK’S NINE MILE REDESIGN PROJECT BEGAN IN 2014 WITH THE GOAL of creating a vibrant streetscape, vigorous community culture, and additional opportunities for both businesses and consumers. The plan included projects such as a road-diet, back-in angle commercial parking, bike lanes, trailheads, and new public spaces.

THE CITY HOSTED A GRAND OPENING EVENT LAST FALL WITH A NUMBER OF ACTIVITIES for residents and visitors along Nine Mile Road at the Sherman and Seneca Pocket Parks, the Connector Park, and the Trailhead. We celebrated with free food, giveaways, demonstrations and a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by City Manager Erik Tungate, Mayor Marian McClellan, members of Oak Park City Council, and a host of residents.

The following is a breakdown of Oak Park’s Nine Mile Redesign strategies:


A road-diet is a tactic for improving driver and pedestrian safety by reducing the number of driving lanes on a street. Last year, Oak Park residents initiated a Facebook discussion about integrating pedestrian and bicycle access on the City’s main streets. The City conducted a traffic study and learned that there was no need for five driving lanes on Nine Mile Road, and that reducing the number of lanes would not significantly impact automobile travel times. As a result, the automobile lanes were reduced from five or four lanes (depending on the area) down to three lanes, creating a safe path for cyclists between the sidewalks and the road. This strategy also has the potential to lower auto accident statistics by 19-47 percent. The lane replacement project includes on-street parking, a walking area, and bicycle lanes.

Back-In Angle Commercial Parking

Instead of requiring standard parallel parking along Nine Mile Road, the City has implemented a safer, back-in angle method. Drivers have a clearer line of sight to detect oncoming traffic as they exit parking spots. The requirement also makes more room for additional parking spaces.


Trailheads are monuments that mark the center of bike lanes and walking paths. The display features a directional kiosk, public art, and information about bicycle-related amenities.

Bike Lanes

Bike lanes are essential in the redesign since statistics show that they help significantly lower accidents and injuries. Also, bike lanes are expected to help increase consumer activity at local businesses.

New Public Spaces

Another redesign strategy is to increase the number of leisure spots for public enjoyment, such as the two pocket parks on Seneca St. and Sherman St., and the linear park along the Nine Mile Road corridor. Due to their aesthetic appeal, pocket parks have the potential to boost home values by $10,000 for residential owners on nearby blocks. The City currently estimates close to 900 visits to Oak Park’s pocket parks per week based on WIFI logins. The second phase of the project will result in additional public spaces along Nine Mile Road westward to the border of Southfield.


For more information regarding the Nine Mile Redesign
project, visit the City’s website at
or like the City of Oak Park’s Nine Mile Redesign Facebook
page at


By Colton Dale

IF YOU EMERGED FROM YOUR HOME EARLY THIS SUMMER AFTER THE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN AND WONDERED what those new red bikes are that you see all over town, you’re not alone.

IN THE BEGINNING OF JUNE, A PLAN FROM CITY ADMINISTRATION, COMMUNITY LEADERS, AND TRANSPORTATION ADVOCATES finally came to fruition when MoGo Bike Share launched its expansion from Detroit northward into five communities in southeast Oakland County. Starting at 44 stations across 10 Detroit neighborhoods, mostly in the Greater Downtown area, to then adding 30 new stations spread out through Oak Park, Ferndale, Berkley, Huntington Woods, and Royal Oak, MoGo has expanded their footprint in a massive way. Now, thousands more Metro Detroiters have quick and easy access to an affordable, well-managed bike share system that can help them run errands, get to work, or simply get more exercise.“We are proud to be a partner with MoGo as they expand their reach into Oakland County,” said Oak Park City Manager Erik Tungate. “The expansion of the service area in our community has given our residents another public transportation resource to utilize for commuting and running errands. This is undoubtedly another huge step towards improving the quality of life throughout our community.”

Of the 30 new stations in Southeast Oakland County, there are a total of five in Oak Park:

OAK PARK BLVD. & PARKLAWN ST. (In front of the Community Center.)

NINE MILE RD. & MANISTEE ST. (Near the Seneca Pocket Park.)

COOLIDGE HWY. & LINCOLN ST. (On the border of Huntington Woods.)

• GREENFIELD RD. & LINCOLN ST. (Near the new Kroger location.)

ELEVEN MILE RD. & TYLER ST. (On the border of Berkley, near exciting new developments.)IF YOU’VE NEVER USED THE MOGO BIKE SHARE SYSTEM BEFORE, IT’S VERY SIMPLE. Riders can purchase one of the various passes online, on a smartphone with the Transit app, or at any one of the new stations. After you make your payment, you are provided a unique code to unlock a bike. Select a bike, type in your code to unlock it, and you’re on your way. When you’re done, simply find the nearest MoGo station to return your bike and lock it up. To lock it properly, slide the bike back into an empty dock and wait for the green light to appear. When the green light is displayed you know you’ve locked it up properly. If the bike isn’t properly docked back up, you may continue to be charged.

The expansion efforts came after two-plus years of meticulous planning, organizing, and decision-making. Of course, it helped tremendously that MoGo and the expansion communities received a $495,380 grant as part of the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG). This funding helped move the project from idea to reality. It helped pay for the stations, bikes, and construction involved in putting the expansion into action.

The new MoGo bikes come at a great time for Oak Park, too. As the Nine Mile Redesign finished up in the Fall, the MoGo station on Nine Mile Rd kitty corner from the new Seneca Pocket Park followed shortly after. With a new road diet, bike lanes, and bike parking, getting from A to B on two wheeled, man-powered transportation has never been easier.

So the next time you see a red MoGo bike riding around your neighborhood, think about hopping on one yourself. Not only are they affordable and environmentally-friendly, but they also can help you get to your job, visit a friend, run errands, get more exercise and much more!

To learn more about MoGo, visit

By Rose Carver

HER NAME IS YEMISI BAMISAYE, AND SHE IS THE OWNER AND DESIGNER at African Fashions by Classic Expressions. Bamisaye was born in Nigeria and has been a student of fabric and design since the age of seven, when she taught her tiny fingers how to sew.

BAMISAYE, WHO ALSO HAS A DEGREE IN MICROBIOLOGY, specializes in African fabrics. What started as a hobby grew into a profession when she migrated to the United States 29 years ago. With her, she brought a passion for fabrics and the story behind the design.

Vibrant colors, natural shapes, and luxurious textures are common among the artistry of the fabrics at Bamisaye’s store, but this wasn’t always the case. Bamisaye’s first store was located at Tel-Twelve Mall in Southfield. She sold everything from pant suits to dresses of the more common variety, with some African fabrics available. Her shop has since moved to Oak Park on 9 Mile, and it is now exclusively African fashions and accessories.

“Our customers rely on us for authentic African fashions and fabrics,” Bamisaye said.

AFRICAN FABRIC PATTERNS ARE USUALLY BRIGHTLY COLORED, AND REPRESENT STORIES OF POLITICAL OR RELIGIOUS RELEVANCE. Each color has a meaning, from red representing death, to blue signifying love and peace. Entering Bamisaye’s shop, you will learn the significance behind these patterns.

“Customers enjoy the fact that I can tell them the history behind some of the designs,” Bamisaye said.

Anyone can view the inventory of this Oak Park gem online at Dresses, head wraps, and skirts are available for purchase, as well as masks with African prints, for those looking to spice up their pandemic wardrobe.

African Fashions by Classic Expressions is
open to the public 11:00 A.M. – 6:00 P.M.,
Monday through Saturday 10820 West
9 Mile Road, in Oak Park.


By Sarah Teller
Photos by Bill Gemmell

JOYFUL TOTS CHILDCARE & LEARNING CENTER originally began as an in-home service for school-aged children in 1999.

Four years later, in 2003, when Director Tamara Jefferson decided to expand services to families with babies and toddlers, the business grew quickly and before long it was time to find a new space.

“I was living in Oak Park and knew I had to find a place that was close to home,” Jefferson explained. “We opened our first building in 2007 and a second in 2008. Now we have Joyful Babies, Joyful Tots and Joyful Scholars for children ages 3-5, all in separate buildings.”

Over the past 21 years the company has continued to grow, and most recently Jefferson opened Ology on W. 9 Mile in Oak Park, offering tutoring services and activities for home-schooled, unschooled, private and public school-aged children. Joyful Tots is also set to expand to Roseville in the near future.

WHAT TRULY MAKES THE COMPANY STAND OUT is the staff’s commitment to promoting health and wellness.

“I am a naturopathic doctor,” Jefferson said. “And what I’ve found is that eating a healthy diet really cuts down on illness. In the beginning, we were taking in children with a lot of health issues – everything from thyroid problems to pre-diabetes, some on dialysis. I wanted to do something to help.”

She fondly remembers one child who had significant thyroid problems. The staff gave him avocados and iodine, which he loved, and gradually the dosage of medication he was on was reduced until eventually eliminated altogether. “That was just amazing,” Jefferson recalled, and she credits her dedicated staff for standing behind her efforts.

“We adore our children,” she said. “When parents call and say, ‘We are so grateful to you for what you have taught our children,’ there’s no way to describe that feeling. Brain development, and social and emotional connection is so important. We work to help them become great compassionate leaders. They will one day be in charge of our food supply, our water, our agriculture. We really want to help develop bright young children who are compassionate givers, and we cater to the mind, body and spirit of every child. We even have a karate program here that teaches responsibility and discipline.”

JOYFUL TOTS IS A MEMBER OF THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE and supports many local activities and events through the year.

“We buy and donate gifts to families at the holidays, and the children love it,” Jefferson said. “We do a lot with the City of Oak Park. We help sponsor the Winterfest and Summerfest, daddy/ daughter dances and the BooFest. We were the 2018 Grand Marshal for the business district at the 4th of July parade, and we just sponsored a reading program with the Farmer’s Market.

She added, “We had our annual graduation ceremony this year at Shepherd Park where families are able to decorate and fly kites. It was a really great turn out.”

THE OUTDOOR CEREMONY ALLOWED FOR SOCIAL DISTANCING, which Joyful Tots has voluntarily instituted within the center as well in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Temperatures are now taken at the door and a virus vaporizer service cleanses the interior once a week. Jefferson said the facility is focusing on everyone’s safety while ensuring not to instill fear in the children.

Above all, she said the staff is dedicated to the carrying out the center’s mission statement, which is, in part, to “develop life-long learners by offering innovative, full day, year-round, educational early learning and primary programs that address the whole child…as providers of a creative learning environment, we help to instill confidence, self-worth, a healthy lifestyle and good morals.”

For more information on all of Joyful Tots’ programs, please visit or, email or call 248.399.4569.

By Jennifer Goeddeke

EDWARD STENCEL IS THE LIVELY, EXTROVERTED FOUNDER OF THE POPULAR RIVER ROUGE BREWING COMPANY, situated in Royal Oak and opened in May 2015. In 2019, Stencel was awarded a prestigious $100,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) to open a new brewery. Overall, the MDARD has awarded $1.8 million in grants to 20 projects, with the goal of encouraging private investment in Michigan. And now, before the new year, Stencel is set to open the highly-anticipated Unexpected Craft Brewing Company at 14401 W. 11 Mile Road, in Oak Park.

NATURALLY, STENCEL HAS BEEN HARD AT WORK ensuring the new brewery/tasting room will be ready for its launch!

Stencel has an interesting educational/career background. He attended the U of M in Dearborn, attaining a BA in economics. His initial career was within the automotive industry. Subsequently, Stencel studied to earn a masters in TV and film production and became involved with show/movie production in Hollywood for several years, “from Taco Bell to Star Trek…even Tim Burton movies!” Stencel’s work involved extensive worldwide travel; Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, to name a few.

From early on in his adult life, Stencel describes having a keen interest in beer and brewing. As a young man, he recalls forming a sizeable beer can collection. Throughout his time in the movie industry, Stencel describes, “frequenting quite a few different breweries,” with a particular fondness for darker beers. Back in his home-brewing days, he formulated a Guinness-inspired recipe named: Stencel Stout which became a huge favorite with his friends.

One of Stencel’s favorite breweries was the Intergalactic Brewery in San Diego, owned by a young gentleman called Alex Van Horn. Stencel and Van Horn quickly became good friends to the point where they would often brew together over the weekends, and Van Horn effectively became his hands-on instructor in the art of brewing. Another favorite brew locale was the AleSmith, also in San Diego and owned by Peter Zien. Both Zien and Van Horn became important mentors.

Brewing came naturally to Stencel. From selling some of his own brews through Intergalactic and trying out his own different recipes, he came to realize, “Maybe this is something I can do full-time!”

In the timespan of 2007 to 2010, the movie company Stencel represented struggled financially, so he made the big decision to move back to Michigan. Our governor at that time had created lucrative incentives for the movie industry. But, as Stencel recalls, that all changed fairly quickly.

IT WAS TIME TO MAKE A FULL COMMITMENT to his passion for brewing. So Stencel found a space in Royal Oak and, with the help of some friends and family, it became the River Rouge Brewing Company. But, due to the limited space, Stencel was soon searching for another local space to expand. Finally, in July 2018, Stencel found the current great locale in Oak Park.

With the grand opening any time now, I asked how a night out at Unexpected Craft BC might look. Stencel explained there will be various drinks to choose from, in addition to signature beers, including: wine, cider, hard seltzer and at least 30 different taps. Light snacks will be sold, and he also plans to keep the location “food-truck friendly” for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Additionally, Stencel mentioned he would like to partner-up with local restaurants, in order to provide a greater choice in food items. A further goal is to host some musical entertainment outside, on certain nights. He is a firm believer in the way a brew pub can bring people from all over the world together, as he has already witnessed at his River Rouge BC.

We are looking forward to the opening of this great addition to the city of Oak Park!

The River Rouge Brewing Company is located at 406 E 4th St, Royal Oak.,

The Unexpected Craft Brewing Company is located at
14401 W. 11 Mile Road, Oak Park and is
set to open before year-end

By Colton Dale


When the pandemic hit, we were all forced to stay home, effectively halting most commerce, big and small. This, in turn, stopped many prospective business owners from ever opening, putting their hopes and dreams on hold as well as slowing job creation. Other, somewhat luckier entrepreneurs were able to open their ventures just before the novel coronavirus reached American shores, not knowing what was to come.

ONE OF THOSE ENTREPRENEURS IS RANDY HERKOWITZ. In mid-Fall of 2019, before the term COVID-19 was on anyone’s radar, Randy opened up a cool and unique retail store called NerdOut Toys on Nine Mile Rd, near the City’s eastern border with Ferndale. By Christmastime, business was booming.

Randy’s toy shop originated as a hobby. Buying, selling, and collecting vintage and antique toys is a passion that began in his basement but eventually outgrew hobby status. That’s when he knew he needed to look for a brick-and-mortar location nearby that could service other collectors and hobbyists whom he’d built relationships with over the years. He settled on Oak Park because of the location and amenities, as well as his appreciation for the fact that the City has been investing in its commercial corridors. Herkowitz and other nearby business owners are primary beneficiaries of the recently completed Nine Mile Redesign project.

“I think it’s great. It’s centrally-located. It’s near Ferndale, Berkley, Southfield, Detroit. And it’s a very diverse area that’s growing,” Herkowitz said. “The whole transition to Oak Park was great. Everyone was great help. They let me know if there was anything I needed and helped me achieve the goals I wanted to achieve.”

MANY OF THE THINGS YOU FIND AT NERDOUT TOYS WILL BRING YOU FEELINGS of happiness, amusement, and especially nostalgia. From action figures to PEZ dispensers and even a few vinyl records, NerdOut has gained traction as being both a place to regain interest in old toys and hobbies, as well as a place to take a metaphorical walk down memory lane. According to NerdOut’s website, they nerd out on just about everything, including “witches, droids, star fighters, creatures, wizards, supervillains, robots, barbarians, aliens, cyborgs, warriors, monsters, superheroes, spaceships and all other things fantastical!”

On PEZ dispensers in particular, Herkowitz explains “Most of the ones I have are from the ‘90s to the early 2000s. The no-feet stuff from the ‘60s gets really expensive, really hard to get. If it comes in, it just flies off the shelf.” Like so many other items on his shelves, they range in age from several decades old to brand new. Kids and “kids” of any age will undoubtedly find something you like when you walk in.

If you have any familiarity with toy collecting, you probably have heard of Herkowitz. He has a reputation for being one of the most knowledgeable collectors around. He’s hosted several local toy shows and conventions in years past, including one at Go Comedy! Improv Theater in Ferndale.

As with so many others, the pandemic hit Randy and his store hard. Still, he has remained flexible and adaptable in order to weather this storm the best he can. Nevertheless, he and all of Oak Park’s small business owners rely on community members to patronize them in order to stay afloat and continue serving our city and region.

“You gotta shop local, there’s a lot of good stores here and the growth is incredible,” said Herkowitz in closing.

Shop local, support Oak Park’s small businesses, and help grow your local economy! Visit NerdOut Toys at 8106 W Nine Mile Rd, Oak Park, MI 48237. Learn more at

By Mary Meldrum


Her husband started the operation in 1980 in Ferndale at 9 Mile and Woodward. He was there for about three or four years before moving to 9 Mile and Coolidge in Oak Park, then moving again in 2010 to 10 Mile. Sahara has been in Oak Park for 36 years and their current location for the last ten years. That is the 40-year history of a local family-owned restaurant.

SAHARA IS VERY WELL-KNOWN IN THE COMMUNITY, especially among our Chaldean neighbors. Sahara’s menu features very traditional Mediterranean dishes. Some of the dishes are proprietary, like the stews and some soups.

Saad, his brother and his mom have all worked in the restaurant, and Zeana works there as well.

With a business finance degree, she handles bookkeeping and paperwork and also supervises the staff. After a fire in 2010, she took more of a hands-on role at the restaurant.

She also helped with a campaign to bring liquor licenses to Oak Park, working to get the matter on the ballot. Thanks to her efforts, Sahara now serves beer, wine and liquor, and now anyone can now apply for a liquor license.

This has opened up opportunities for Oak Park; now the city can attract hotels and other restaurants and venues.


Their carryout business is still strong. Sahara has restaurants in Oak Park, and one in Sterling Heights for 16 years, and now they are building one in Detroit at the Little Caesars world headquarters building. They used to have a facility in Farmington on 13 and Orchard Lake until 2015.

“Sahara is run off of our special recipes. We have a Sahara Market in Warren, and we go down to Eastern Market for some of our fresh foods.”

THE PANDEMIC HAS PUT A NEW STRAIN ON SAHARA. They have been forced to quickly transform their business. There is no more food-sharing.

Right now, the restaurant can only seat a maximum of ten people at a table.

“A lot of our food was served on trays, but not during COVID-19. Our restaurant took an 80 percent hit at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. A lot of servers have not come back. We have no more than 50 percent capacity right now.”

“I don’t think things will get back to normal until maybe next year.”

Zeana expressed some problems with acquiring coins from her bank, purchasing certain liquors, and hiring new staff. “We have made multiple attempts at ordering certain liquors, and there is a very limited amount of some, like expensive tequila. I am not sure why, but it is a problem.”

Now, they generously donate meals to hospitals, doctors offices, and other healthcare workers!

If you are interested in working at a Sahara restaurant, reach out to them for an interview.

24770 Coolidge Hwy, Oak Park | 248-399-7744