Story & Photos By Lisa Howard

TEN YEARS AGO, A SMALL SHOP CALLED BERKLEY EYEWEAR opened on Coolidge near Wiltshire. Lisa Gilbert was the driving force behind the store – she had worked in the optometry field for nearly three decades – but, soon after, her husband Andy found himself working there, too.

Seeing as his dad, cousin, and brother-in-law are optometrists, it wasn’t a stretch for him to join the family trend. The couple opened a separate shop called Local Sunglass Company just down the street by Dorothea to also offer sunglasses, and eventually they built out the second location and merged the two arms of their business. Today, they offer eye exams as well as a carefully curated collection of glasses and sunglasses.

“We can’t be everything to everybody, but we try to be everything we can to the local community,” Andy says. He and Lisa focus on offering high- quality lenses and frames for reasonable prices whether people have vision insurance or not. Unlike many of the bargain-basement glasses you find at big-box stores, at Berkley Eyewear their lenses are made with a protective scratch- resistant coating that makes them much more durable.

And Lisa is always on the lookout for stylish frames. “There are also big differences between single-vision lenses and progressive-lens technology,” Andy explains. “For one thing, you don’t see a line with high-quality, progressive lenses.”

As he and Lisa have tailored their collection over the years to suit their customers’ needs, they’ve come to specialize in frames for petite women. Andy points out that it can be difficult for small- framed women to find glasses that fit well and are age-appropriate. “They don’t want to have to shop in the kids section and wind up with glasses that don’t quite fit and aren’t the kind of patterns or colors they want,” he says. While bright blue frames with lime-green dots might be fun for kids to wear, it isn’t exactly a flattering look for an upscale night out on the town. Likewise, if you’re a man who finds himself shopping in the big-and- tall section, the standard glasses selection might not work for you, either.

NO MATTER WHAT KIND OF STYLE YOU’RE LOOKING FOR, you’ll find glasses ranging from $90 to $450. “Our meat-and-potatoes is within the $150 to $200 range because that’s a reasonable amount for a pair of good-quality, fashionable frames,” says Andy.

Their eye exams are equally reasonable – for those without insurance and paying in cash, an eyeglasses exam is $65 and an exam for contacts is $95. Either way, the exam includes looking at the eye health of the patient. A lot of people don’t realize it, but regular eye exams are greatly beneficial because optometrists can spot a lot of chronic problems early on (diabetes, high blood pressure), when it’s much easier to manage or correct the issue. Another bonus? Rather than using the dreaded “puff test,” the optometrist uses a tonometer to check for glaucoma.

ALONG WITH RUNNING THE SHOP WITH LISA, Andy is involved in many other aspects of Berkley life, from serving on the DDA Board and marketing committee to sponsoring the Berkley Street Art Fest. Andy thinks the art fest in particular has been an exciting event. It began in 2017 on Dorothea in the municipal lot right behind Andy and Lisa’s shop and then expanded onto Coolidge the following year, drawing several thousand attendees in the process.

“I still remember the first year the fest happened,” Andy recalls. “I walked out of my back door and saw people milling around and making and admiring art, and I just thought it was fantastic!” One attendee he talked to that day said that he had lived in Berkley for 20 years but had never noticed Berkley Eyewear before. A few weeks later, that same person became a customer. As Andy sees it, that’s the whole point of having events like the Street Art Fest: To introduce people to the shops along Coolidge.

After the Street Art Fest was established Andy rejoined the Berkley Area Chamber, and it’s also why he now participates in various other civic organizations in the city, too. He advises business owners and residents alike to get involved – it’s a fun way to help the city grow.

ASIDE FROM ATTRACTING MORE CUSTOMERS, another bonus of having a big annual event on Coolidge is the increased interactions between near-by business owners, from newcomers like Ullman’s Health & Beauty and Toadvine Books to established merchants like Nova Chiropractic. “The Street Art Fest has brought together businesses who may not have otherwise interacted much, especially as the event keeps growing and getting bigger and better,” says Andy.

That, plus increased support from the Chamber and the DDA, has led to a feeling of positive momentum along the Coolidge corridor, with several businesses using the DDA grant façade program to renovate and improve their storefronts (Andy is one; he’s hoping to get his new look before it snows). Ongoing regular events like Ladies Night Out also create buzz and lead to long-term customers.

“At the end of the day, Berkley is a fun little town,” says Andy, adding that he’s seen the area go from not exactly bustling when he opened in 2010 to now being one of the focal shopping districts in the city. “I like hanging out right smack in the middle of Coolidge – it feels like everybody is friends.”


2680 Coolidge Hwy, Berkley
(248) 629-6410
Monday – Friday: 10 AM – 6 PM Saturday: 11 AM – 4 PM
Sundays: Closed

Story: Ingrid Sjostrand | Photos: David McNair

THERE MUST BE SOMETHING IN THE WATER – or the food – that makes Berkley restaurants flourish. For a city of only 2.6 square miles it’s unusual to have so many successful restaurants, but the local eateries continue to defy the odds.

Two restaurants in particular have thrived in Berkley: Crispelli’s and Bagger Dave’s. Both source local product for their food, focus on adapting to their customer needs and have expanded to multiple locations due to their success in Berkley.


CRISPELLI’S, LOCATED AT 28939 WOODWARD AVE, has felt the support of city residents from the minute they opened their doors. Director of Operations Ron Nussbaum shares the story of their opening in February 2012.

“We had paper up in all the windows, we took it down at 4:30 P.M., and by 5:15 P.M. we had a wait – all we did was take the paper off,” he says. “We’re thinking ‘if someone comes in we can practice,’ but it turned into chaos within minutes. We thought no one would notice, but the first couple tables came in and started calling friends, telling them we were open.”

The fast-casual restaurant is best known for its gourmet pizza, but they also specialize in Italian classics and fresh-made artisanal bread. The style of “fast-casual” is somewhat unique to the area, allowing guests to order and watch their pizza made in front of them.

THE FAST-CASUAL PART REALLY SET US APART. And the speed – we still try to get food out in five minutes,” Nussbaum says. “When you order, by the time you’re done paying your pizza is almost ready. It’s good food, made from scratch in under five minutes.”

Due to the continued success of the Berkley location, the Crispelli’s brand has grown into a bakery in Royal Oak, restaurants in West Bloomfield and Troy, a food truck that made its first appearance at Berkley Street Art Fest this past summer and a new location in Clarkston, set to open in October 2020. All of this expansion hasn’t slowed the Berkley location one bit.

“This store continues to grow and it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” Nussbaum says. “Restaurants don’t grow for seven or eight years straight; it just isn’t normal. Every day I find someone that says they have never been here before.”

(248) 591-3300 | 28939 Woodward Ave, Berkley Sun 11a-9p | Mon-Thur 11a-10p | Fri-Sat 11a-11p


ORIGINALLY STARTED AS A FRANCHISEE OF BUFFALO WILD WINGS IN 2008, Bagger Dave’s Burger Tavern has matured into a restaurant truly focused on customer satisfaction. From where they source their food to the daily specials and discounts, Regional Managing Partner Aaron Van Kuren says it’s evolved into a much different experience.

“Three to four years ago we stabilized the menu, did some different things with our main items, expanded shareables, signature burgers and craft cocktails, and have gotten really good feedback,” he says. “Our mission statement is ‘Making regulars,’ and it’s really all about making every guest feel welcome.”

Located at 2972 Coolidge Hwy, one of the main ways Bagger Dave’s works to keep patrons coming back are their menu specials. On top of monthly specials like “buy-one-get-one burgers” and “two for $10 appetizers,” there are also everyday deals throughout the week. Matt Blankenship, owner/operator of the Berkley location, details some below.

“We have daily specials, like our $6.95 Great American cheeseburger Tuesday, and kids meals are half off on Wednesdays and Sundays,” Blankenship says. “Thursdays are all-day happy hour – we have a really aggressively-priced happy- hour menu. We have something pretty much every day.”

EVEN WITH DAILY DISCOUNTED PRICES, Bagger Dave’s doesn’t skimp on quality. Their ingredients are locally-sourced and fresh, including turkey burgers brought in from Grand Rapids.

“We don’t have walk-in freezers. We prep every day, we make our own sauces, we have local craft sodas, local draft beer,” Blankenship says. “I think that’s what separates us. We’re more local and in tune. We want to be the neighborhood go-to restaurant.”

“Eighty to 85 percent of the menu we get is from Michigan or the Midwest. We want to support the community by not only buying the products in the area but being one of those places that people want to go to get something fresh,” Van Kuren adds.

Bagger Dave’s has grown to include eight restaurants across the Midwest with five locations in Michigan, two in Ohio and one in Indiana. Although they’ve grown, they haven’t forgotten where they came from and appreciate the Berkley community, even offering discounts to local businesses.

“It’s a very tight-knit community. We’re just a small piece of the pie here and we enjoy taking part in it,” Van Kuren says. “It’s a very diverse area. We love each and every person that comes in.”

(248) 543-3283 | 2972 Coolidge Hwy, Berkley Sun-Tues 11a-10p | Wed-Thu 11a-11p | Fri-Sat 11a-12p

Photos By Ashley Poirer & Rich Young

The Berkley Street Art Fest started in 2017 and focuses on creating art in the streets of Berkley with chalk and murals. Bridget Mahrle, chair of the Berkley Street Art Fest committee, has worked with a committee of community volunteers, businesses and Chamber staff for the past three years to create this festival that takes place on the second Saturday in July.

On the second Saturday in June, the Art Bash shuts down 12 Mile Road between Kipling and Buckingham Avenues and over 150 artists and makers sell their products. April McCrumb, co- owner of Catching Fireflies and Yellow Door Market, founded the festival with photographer and former Chamber member Maureen Monte.

“Maureen did it for a few years and was moving on with her business, so she left me in charge. I was a good fit for the job. I did art fairs for many years and had connections with artists,” McCrumb says. “I took it on and grew it to what it is today. We started the first year with 50-to-70 artists and now are at 150.”

The free event attracts over 10,000 people each year and invites a variety of artists to appeal to visitors’ every interest, everything from jewelers and authors to candlemakers.

“WE TRY TO SEEK OUT DIFFERENT TALENT. WE GO TO A LOT OF ART FAIRS and find things that are appealing in price and style,” McCrumb says. “Everyone can come and bring a few treasures home without breaking the bank.”

The entertainment extends past art lovers to include fun for pets and kids too.

“We always want Art Bash to be family-friendly. We are very intentional about bringing in
inflatables, face painting, kids crafts – anything kids would enjoy,” McCrumb says. “We are pet- friendly too – you can bring your dog and vendors sell dog treats, collars, cat treats and infused catnip.”

McCrumb runs the Berkley Art Bash alongside RoseAnn Nicolai, events and operations manager for Berkley Area Chamber of Commerce, who is also involved in the Berkley Street Art Fest. Artists interested in participating can apply for the 2020 Art Bash starting January 1st at

“I presented the concept after discovering the West Michigan Chalk Art event. I felt it would be a wonderful event to bring to Berkley’s Coolidge Shopping District to bring more awareness to the new and established businesses,” Mahrle says. “Our first year was held in a newly-developed parking area behind Sugar Kisses, Peggendott Designs and Berkley Eyewear stores.” Darlene Rothman, Executive Director of the Berkley Area Chamber of Commerce, visited other chalk festivals in Michigan to discover the best format for the Berkley community.

THE STREET ART FEST NOW DRAWS CROWDS OF OVER 6,000 and that success has led to the City shutting down Coolidge Hwy. from Catalpa to Wiltshire for the event. More than 30 chalk artists of varying levels of aptitude compete, and muralists create permanent pieces on walls throughout the Berkley Business District.

“To date, we have installed 18 permanent murals located throughout the City,” Mahrle says. “The Berkley Street Art Fest also has artists and other vendor booths, food trucks and family activities where attendees can create art.”

Vibe Credit Union, a major sponsor, presented the 2019 event. Atomic Dawg hosted the beer tent, a first for 2019, and flame-eating jugglers and other street entertainers performed. The event attracts world- famous artists including David Zinn, Ann Arbor-based 3D chalk artist, who has presented at each event since 2017.

“This year’s event was even more special because Berkley became one of six cities worldwide that has permanent artwork created by Zinn on local buildings; Balanced Health & Wellness and the Berkley Public Library,” Mahrle says.

For information about the 2020 event, visit Both the Street Art Fest and the Berkley Art Bash have helped to highlight the creative talents of Berkley residents and increase business for retailers and restaurants along two main intersections in the City.

By Steve Cooper, Director of Public Safety

Photos By Bennie White

THE OAK PARK DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY has always taken pride in providing the city with the best public safety services possible. We believe in our partnership with the community through sharing and exchanging ideas, building relationships, and working together to address challenges.

These efforts have been demonstrated through a number of community initiatives, such as:

  • The Oak Park Public Safety Citizens Academy.
  • The Oak Park Public Safety Ice Cream Truck.
  • Coffee-With-A-Cop.
  • The addition of a second Community Resource Officer.

The Oak Park Public Safety Citizen Academy is entering its fourth year and the demand for enrollment remains high. The Academy is a fiveweek class for the public held on Wednesday evenings from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. The academy is held twice a year (spring and summer). The Citizen Academy provides an excellent opportunity for residents to gain a better understanding of the day-to-day operations of a Public Safety Department. It is free for Oak Park residents 18 years of age and older.

The classes cover a number of interesting topics such as patrol and traffic operations, detective bureau and case investigations, police and firefighting equipment, criminal law and procedures, use of force and officer safety, crime scene investigations and forensics, firefighting and firetruck operations, medical first-response, radio dispatch and 911 operations.

There are no physical fitness requirements to enroll and all participation is strictly voluntary. Upon completion of the Academy, students are awarded a diploma during a graduation ceremony.

THE OAK PARK PUBLIC SAFETY ICE CREAM TRUCK is entering its third season and has become one of the favorite Public Safety initiatives among both the youth and the adults in the community. On several days throughout the spring and summer, officers can be seen driving through the neighborhoods in our ice cream truck handing out free ice cream. This has provided an outstanding opportunity for our Officers to have positive interactions with many members in the community. It is amazing how a small gesture, such as sharing ice cream, can put a smile on a person’s face. The experience is truly priceless.

None of this would have been possible without the tremendous support from several of our vendors in Oak Park. I would again like to thank Prairie Farms for donating three hundred units of ice cream per week, Quality Restaurant Equipment Masters for donating a large deep freezer to house the ice cream, Salient Sign Studio for providing the graphics for the Ice Cream Truck, and Autobahn Collision for the restoration work they performed on the truck. Also, our City Manager, Erik Tungate, and the Department of Public Works for donating the truck.

If you are in Oak Park this Spring and Summer, watch for the Oak Park Public Safety Ice Cream Truck in your area. It is often known to make surprise visits at various schools throughout the City as well as some City-sponsored events.

“COFFEE WITH A COP” HAS BECOME A VERY POPULAR community outreach initiative. Although the concept is not new, it is still a very good one. For almost a year now, the Oak Park Public Safety Department has partnered with numerous restaurants throughout the City to host “Coffee with a Cop.” This has provided the community an opportunity to meet at different restaurants and have informal conversations discussing many topics (community issues, upcoming events, sports, etc.) while enjoying a free cup of coffee. The citizens and the officers have an opportunity to become personally acquainted while conversing in a relaxed atmosphere. This event takes place bi-monthly on either Saturday or Sunday morning usually between the hours of 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM.

THE PUBLIC SAFETY DEPARTMENT has recently added a second Community Resource Officer, Robert Koch, who will work in conjunction with Officer Devin Benson. With the additional Community Resource Officer, we have been able to significantly impact our relationships with the many schools and students in Oak Park, senior citizens, and Block Clubs while continuing to address important needs within the community. The positive effect of an additional Community Resource Officer has been obvious and mentioned by numerous members within the community.

The entire Public Safety Department would like to extend a very heartfelt thank you to the community for your unwavering love and support throughout the years. We continue our pledge to serve at the highest level the great citizens and businesses of Oak Park with honor and integrity.

WITH ENROLLMENT AROUND 5,000 STUDENTS, Oak Park is the largest district within the city. It serves the majority of Oak Park, half of Royal Oak Township and parts of Southfield.

There are seven schools within the district: Preschool, Einstein, Key and Pepper elementary schools, middle school Oak Park Preparatory Academy, a Freshman Institute and Oak Park High School. There are also two alternative education centers, NOVA and the Lessenger Campus.

Interim Superintendent Stan Trompeter says a commitment to building well-rounded students sets Oak Park School District apart.

“We are unique because we are a very caring district – we’re a professional, learning community and a district that caters to ‘the total child’,” he says. “We are very big into Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) and restorative practices: trying to take away harm and build community.”

Some of the ways the District has accomplished this is through conferencing with parents and students and reducing instances where students are removed from the classroom, like suspensions, tardiness and absences. They’ve also implemented new programming in their classrooms.

“We are looking at programming like Capturing Kids Hearts, building up our Positive Behavior Supports program,” Trompeter says. “We have hired a lot of new social workers and psychologists to assist us in all the schools with meeting the needs of the whole child. We are an at-risk school district; we have a lot of children with a lot of needs so we are trying to meet those needs by giving them the professional help they need every day.”

In addition to strengthening community and support, Oak Park also provides students with the opportunity to excel in athletics and extracurricular activities.

“We offer a wide variety of not only academic things, but things that will get students involved. We have robotics teams, a national honor society. We have an outstanding athletic program – state champions the last four out of five years in track – and an award-winning marching band known all over the country,” Trompeter says. “I could go on but I like to think we cater to the total child and everyone is here for one reason and that is to make sure every one of our students is successful in life and ready when they leave high school to have a lot of options to be successful.”

The District has seen that success materialize through scholarships awarded to their students.

“We have a lot of academic scholars here that do very well in the Wade McCree Incentive Scholarship program and the Gates Millennium scholarship,” Trompeter says. “The last three out of five years we’ve had winners of Gates Millennium from our schools and there are only a thousand winners total in the United States. It provides full tuition through their bachelors program all the way to their doctorate.”

The growing success of the District is only augmented by the support of the Oak Park City government.

“What we’ve built, in the last few years especially, is a great camaraderie with the City; we have a lot of programs we do with the Mayor and the City. We are very close with public safety. We have the police liaisons that come into the buildings and work with the kids to see police in a positive mode,” Trompeter says. “I’m proud of the fact that even though we are a small district – three square miles – we have a great relationship we’ve built with the community, with public safety and with the city.”

Overall, Oak Park Schools are using the resources they have available to ensure students entering their District leave well-rounded, prepared for their future and hopefully with an appreciation of their City.

“I just think that this is a great place. It’s a city, and especially a school district, where we like to be innovative, try new things, be very proactive in terms of education,” Trompeter says. “Our motto is ‘building bridges for success’ and that’s what we are doing with our students, hopefully providing them with bridges to be successful.”

ESTABLISHED IN 1840, BERKLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT CONTAINS EIGHT SCHOOLS, the most of the three districts. It includes Berkley Building Blocks early childhood center, four elementary schools serving K-5 (Angell, Burton, Pattengill and Rogers), Norup International school serving K-8, Anderson Middle School and Berkley High. Over 4,500 students are enrolled in the District, mostly residents from Berkley, Huntington Woods and the portion of Oak Park (north of Ten Mile Rd. between Greenfield and Coolidge) within the district. There are also a limited number of School of Choice students attending.

Both Norup International, a K-8 school, and Berkley Building Blocks early childhood center are within Oak Park city limits, as well as Berkley Schools Administrative Building. Jessica Stilger, Berkley Schools Director of Communications, says the academic opportunities available to students is what makes their District stand out, including 26 advanced placement courses at Berkley High and a vast array of extracurriculars throughout their schools.

“Berkley School District is known for being a district that creates pathways for students to achieve their individual best, whatever that looks like for each student,” she says.

With an enrollment of over 400 students annually, Berkley Building Blocks helps children as young as six-weeks-old build connections and social skills up to age five.

“Our center is known for being high-quality and accredited, and dedicated to nurturing, growing and loving each student,” Stilger says. “Building Blocks forms strong family connections, encourages family involvement, hosts two parent/teacher conference sessions each year with all age levels and hosts in-house field trips many times each year to bring the outside world in.”

This dedication and focus on growing strengths continues through elementary school with the implementation of workshops to build comprehension and help students learn at an individual level. In middle school, class options only expand further, Stilger says.

“In middle school, students can explore robotics, foreign languages, journalism, and various music options, just to name a few. In addition, many students complete high school credits while attending Norup and eighth grade students complete a year-long, in-depth community research project,” she says. “Norup, just like all schools in the Berkley School District, is known for reaching and empowering all learners.”


From Building Blocks to Berkley High, District students are afforded the opportunity to grow at their own pace through a diverse collection of classes and extracurriculars. This makes Berkley Schools stand out as a district in Oakland County.

“In the Berkley School District, students are prepared to be creative, curious, confident, well-rounded critical thinkers, kind and caring and have a global perspective while understanding their communities,” Stilger says. “Berkley Schools 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 families create.”

By Sara E. Teller

OAK PARK’S PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION WAS ESTABLISHED IN 1956, and the current Commission serves in an advisory capacity, assisting with the planning, promoting, executing, and evaluating of public recreation, parks, programs, and other Departmental special events. The City’s Recreation Department offers classes, services, and activities for people of all abilities, ages, socio-economic backgrounds, and ethnicities, and an Intergovernmental Agreement with the City of Hazel Park and the City of Ferndale allows residents in both cities to utilize Oak Park’s facilities, programs, and services at resident rates.

According to Oak Park’s Director of Recreation Laurie Stasiak, “We believe our parks and recreation programs help improve the health and well-being of Oak Park residents through many tailored programs and services while increasing a sense of pride and community through social interconnectedness.” She added, “Most of our events and activities take place within our Parks and Recreation complex: the Community Center, Shepherd Park, and our community pool at Oak Park Boulevard and Coolidge. Occasionally we sponsor off-site events and activities.”

Stasiak has spent her entire career in the recreation field and said she is a “lifelong advocate of the importance of recreation and parks to the well-being and quality of life of our community members.” She especially enjoys working in Oak Park, because of the area’s diversity, saying, “The wonderful ethnic and racial diversity makes it an interesting and inclusive community; and one with very different cultural needs. I love that we are small enough that we are able to listen to the needs of our community and provide recreation options for all residents.”

THE RECREATION DEPARTMENT’S TEAM consists of both Parks and Recreation and marketing professionals who have a combined 97 years of experience in therapeutics, athletics, aquatics, seniors, and community and school recreation and education programs. Stasiak explained, “While it is my responsibility to oversee the Department and programs, we have a talented and dedicated staff that coordinate the daily operations and activities and make sure we are providing excellent customer service for all of our participants.”

The Department also coordinates with residents and other city stakeholders, collaborating to ensure it offers a wide range of options. Stasiak said, “We celebrate and connect our community through ongoing dialogue with residents, city council members, city departments, boards and commissions, leaders in government at all levels, businesses, and community organizations who have the interest of making Oak Park a healthy and prosperous city.”

Stasiak is continually inspired by how active and engaged Oak Park’s residents are. “Our residents, especially our seniors, are very active. I see them walking, jogging, biking at the park and at the [high school] track,” Stasiak said. “I love that early in the morning, people are in the park, walking the track, playing basketball on our courts at Shepherd Park, enjoying the park facilities. We have our community pool that gets used a lot by our residents and the surrounding communities.”

THERE ARE A NUMBER OF PROGRAMS SPECIFICALLY GEARED towards area seniors who are energetic and eager to stay connected. Stasiak explained, “Our senior population is awesome! They are involved, they volunteer. We have record numbers of participants. We have classes ranging from diabetes prevention, cooking classes, nutrition classes, senior day trips, and lunch and theater trips that are filled to capacity.”

Some notable upcoming 2019 events include the Summer Blast on August 10, Dog Day at the Pool on August 25, Everything Animals and Pet Expo on September 22, and the Annual Boo Bash on October 26, as well as Oak Park’s Winterfest, Daddy Daughter Valentine Day Dance, and Mother and Son Dance with dates to be announced.

ONGOING SPECIAL EVENTS HOSTED BY THE DEPARTMENT include Oak Park’s Farmers Market held every Wednesday morning starting June 26 through September 25, 2019, 9:00 A.M.1:00 P.M. The Market provides fresh foods, health and wellness education, and activities and entertainment for all ages. “It has doubled in size for the year 2019 and now has more than 26 vendors,” Stasiak said.

A recently established partnership with Beaumont Community Health has allowed Oak Park to offer several new, free health programs, including Beaumont Gets Walking in Oak Park, Beaumont’s National Diabetes Prevention Program titled Diabetes PATH program (Personal Action Towards Health), Cooking Matters classes designed for adults and sessions specifically for families, and a Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring and Education program.

“Michigan State University Extension has also been an instrumental partner in offering such classes as Eat Smart Live Strong,” Stasiak said. “These classes are designed to help incomeeligible older adults adopt key behaviors to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption and the amount of physical activity they engage in.”

THE DEPARTMENT COLLABORATES with the area’s three school districts – Oak Park, Ferndale and Berkley – to offer youth development and after-school programming as well, and to expand programming options to all residents. Various youth and adult leagues and activities are offered, including softball, kickball, summer camp, exercise classes, karate classes, ballroom, hustle and belly dance classes, yoga, Tai Chi, and senior bingo, scrabble, pickle ball, and bid whist. Community pool programs water exercise, community swims, female only and men only swim lessons, and competitive swim classes.

Stasiak added, ‘We rent out our Community Center and the picnic shelters for community gatherings.”

All of the Department’s programming is offered based on resident input, feedback, and interest. The team creates a fiveyear master plan that’s developed via communications with individuals in the area, including word of mouth, surveys, event evaluations, community meetings, open houses, and focus groups.

For more information, visit the Recreation Department at 14300 Oak Park Blvd. Questions can also be directed to 248-691-7555 or

By Colton Dale

THE NINE MILE REDESIGN is a grant-funded public improvement project that will bring multiple new amenities to Nine Mile Road.

The first phase of the project is the one happening this Summer, in partnership with the City of Ferndale. It will cover the area on Nine Mile Road from McClain Drive to the eastern border of Oak Park, and will extend into Ferndale, thus connecting Oak Park and Ferndale via bike route. The subsequent two phases hope to continue the redesign of Nine Mile Road westward, all the way to the City’s border with Southfield. This project is expected to transform and revitalize the Nine Mile Road Corridor, and spark a new beginning for Oak Park.

The project is aimed at creating a new sense of place on the Corridor, increasing non-motorized transportation usage, and spurring business growth for the benefit of residents of all ages. By the time the project wraps up, new features on Nine Mile Road will include:

  • Road Diet – A decrease in motor vehicle traffic lanes.
  • Bike Lanes – Dedicated lanes for cyclists to utilize for travel.
  • Streetscape – Improved pavement and landscaping along the corridor.
  • Back-In Angle Parking – A new parking concept that is safer for all and easy to use.
  • Pocket Parks – Miniature public parks at the intersections of Nine Mile Road and Sherman Street and Seneca Street.

The process for the Nine Mile Redesign began in 2015 with a grant from the Project For Public Spaces and the Center For New Urbanism. After a week-long study analyzing traffic patterns and collaborative charrettes with the public over three days to gain community input, a report was created called the Nine Mile Redesign. The public input and professional consulting helped the City determine that there was a need and desire for the features listed above. Throughout the entire process, there have been a number of opportunities for the public to get involved in the planning and implementation of the Nine Mile Redesign. Such public outreach activities include:

  • Three community input meetings specifically on the Nine Mile Redesign (Summer 2015)
  • Three town halls regarding the City’s Master Plan (November 2015 – February 2016)
  • Door-to-door conversations with residents (March 2017)
  • Three community input meetings for the Sherman Pop-Up Park (Spring 2017)
  • A post-Sherman Summer Pop-Up Park Survey (August 2017)
  • Complete Streets Open House (May 2018)
  • Pre-Construction Open House (May 2019)
  • Social Media
  • City website and magazine


As more communities desire “complete streets” and more livable spaces, they look for opportunities to better integrate pedestrian and bicycle facilities along their corridors. After getting input from the community, the City conducted a traffic study to determine the feasibility of such facilities. We learned from the traffic study that the volume of traffic on Nine Mile Road does not justify a five-lane road and eliminating some of the lanes would not decrease the level of service. The road diet on Nine Mile will reduce the amount of motor vehicle lanes from five or four (depending on the specific area) down to three.

A road diet will not only create more room for cyclists and pedestrians, it also will create a safer road for everyone to travel on. Did you know that a road diet can decrease car accidents anywhere from 19 to 47 percent?

Further, the road diet will help boost local economic activity. For local businesses, a road diet can improve economic vitality by changing the corridor from a place that people “drive-through” to one that they “driveto.” Replacing automobile lanes with on-street parking, walking areas, and bicycle lanes will make the corridor a more attractive place for consumers.


With the implementation of the road diet, more room for commercial parking will become available along Nine Mile Road. Instead of putting in old-fashioned parallel parking, the City has decided to implement back-in angle parking.

Back-in angle parking uses the same process and motions as parallel parking but is much safer and allows for the creation of more parking spaces.

With a clearer line of sight and easier maneuverability than typical on-street parking, back-in angle parking provides motorists with a better vision of bicyclists, pedestrians, cars, and trucks as they exit their parking space and enter moving traffic. Back-in angle parking also eliminates the risk that is present in parallel parking situations of a motorist opening their car door into the path of a bicyclist. It allows safer access to trunk space and makes it easier for passengers to enter and exit the vehicle safely.


Bike lanes are a very important part of the Nine Mile Redesign as the City works towards accommodating all types of travel. Having a designated safe area for cyclists to travel via bike lanes causes significantly less accidents and injuries for everyone on the road. Creating an environment that cyclists feel safe in will also promote physical fitness and environmental sustainability. Further, experts say that the addition of bike lanes can help stimulate the local economy by increasing sales for local businesses.


Pocket parks are a great way to spruce up an area immediately adjacent to local businesses that otherwise would be underutilized. The two pocket parks that are considered a part of the Nine Mile Redesign plan are positioned at Sherman Street and Seneca Street.

An example of a pocket park is the temporary Sherman Pop-Up Park that the City installed in July of 2017. This new park involved closing off the street at the intersection of Sherman Street and Nine Mile Road to the alley.

The project was driven by the wants of nearby residents and businesses, which ended up benefiting the community more than anyone had imagined. It created a new vibrancy in the neighborhood, gave residents a new place for leisure, and spurred business activity. In tracking visitors to the pop-up park, the City was able to track an average of 900 people per week that visited the park and logged into the free Wi-Fi that was provided for them.

When all is said and done, the Nine Mile Redesign and all the fun amenities to come with it will transform the Corridor!

By Ingrid Sjostrand

OAK PARK IS ON THE RISE! Property values are skyrocketing in the city and throughout Oakland County; with Oak Park seeing an almost 16 percent increase in property values for 2019, according to the County’s Equalization Division.

Why such a big bump? Robert Wittenberg, State Representative for Oak Park – who also happens to be an Oak Park resident – says it’s an accumulation of several components that make the city an attractive place to live.

“There are three essential factors contributing to rising property values: the quality of our local schools, new employment opportunities, and our proximity to shopping, entertainment and recreational centers in other communities and being developed in Oak Park,” he says. “Oak Park is showing the rest of the state how to drive the economy forward by focusing on these critical factors.”

Area realtors Jim Shaffer, of Jim Shaffer and Associates Realty, and Kevin DeVergilio, of REAL Team Real Estate, offer more insight into why Oak Park is inspiring a housing boom, including the increasing appeal of surrounding communities.

“SUPPLY AND DEMAND – A SWELL OF FIRST TIME HOME BUYERS are choosing the Woodward Corridor because of our centralized downtown neighborhoods,” Shaffer says. “As communities like Ferndale and Royal Oak have become costprohibitive, buyers are discovering communities like Oak Park and Hazel Park.”

DeVergilio adds, “Oak Park is an appealing place to buyers for many reasons. A few features that stand out are the central location within the Metro area as well as the continued efforts from our City with improvements and a ton of first-time buyers being priced out of surrounding areas finding beautiful comparable homes in a great community, and simply, the thriving city of Detroit with more job opportunities and relocation allowing population to rise and desirability of the location to increase.”

For residents looking to sell, Shaffer says now is the perfect time.

“Sellers can expect to sell for top-dollar, often at and above asking price due to multiple offers and bidding wars,” he explains. “Most of our Oak Park listings are garnering multiple offers due to demand and our approach to marketing properties.”

This might make buyers nervous, but Shaffer says it’s a great time for them too. With the City’s low taxes, housing rates are still cheaper than nearby popular neighborhoods.

“First time buyers can purchase a three-bedroom here for under $175,000 which cannot be found in surrounding communities,” he says. “And Oak Park leaders have a clear vision for the city’s future, a welcoming community with diverse housing stock.”

“For buyers – they are purchasing in one of the fastest-growing markets where they see a great community and investment!” DeVergilio adds.

THE PROPERTY VALUE INCREASE IS ALSO AFFECTING RESIDENTS not interested in buying or selling by creating a strong community and bringing in more money for the City to continue to improve.

“In my tenure representing Oak Park, I have seen tremendous growth in the city. Even before my time in the House, I could already see the blossoming revitalization of Oak Park when I moved in to the community in 2012. These changes have made a positive impact on Oak Park residents and our city’s economy,” Rep. Wittenberg says. “The thriving economy has allowed the city to provide better services to its residents, leading to an overall increase in quality of life.”

While the increase sounds too good to be true, Wittenberg is aware of the potential adverse side effects of increased property values and is hoping he can help prevent them.

“One of the negative effects might be a lack of diversity in housing options. As property values rise, low-income families and seniors in particular might have trouble finding options that fit their needs,” he says. “That’s why I’m fighting to ensure fair housing laws govern our city and state, so that no Oak Park resident is priced out of their home.”

OVERALL, THE POPULARITY OF OAK PARK HOUSING should only help improve the city and add to the uniqueness and diversity of its culture.

“I love how diverse Oak Park is. As one of the most diverse cities in Oakland County and our state, Oak Park is home to countless cultures, community organizations, and cuisines that all coexist and uplift one another,” Wittenberg says. “”I am lucky to enjoy the good food, great friends, and familial atmosphere of Oak Park, and to represent this great city in the legislature.”

By Ingrid Sjostrand

SOUL FOOD HAS GROWN TO BE A FOUNDATION IN AFRICAN-AMERICAN COOKING and a staple of Southern meals. After moving to Michigan, George and Martha Clay saw a need – especially when friends urged Martha to cook for them – so they opened carryout-only Motor City Soul Food in March of 2001 on 7 Mile Rd. in Detroit.

 “My wife is a native of Mississippi and I was born in Alabama. Soul food was our everyday way of living. It is what we were raised on and what we prepared every day,” George Clay says. “Soul food has a generational, multi- cultural bond – it transcends age, ethnicity, race, socio- economic background, education, gender and time.”

 The couple had years of experience as entrepreneurs, running businesses ranging from custom casual clothing and real estate to an ice-cream shop and it was quickly obvious that Motor City Soul Food was going to be anoth- er successful venture. Everyone from Andrew Zimmern of the Travel Channel – who featured the restaurant on his show Bizarre Foods America in 2012 – to comedian DL Hughley have raved about Motor City Soul Food.

 “We were voted #1 fried chicken by Thrillist magazine earlier this year,” Clay says. “We were the only restaurant that represented the great state of Michigan on this list.”

 After more than ten years of success in Detroit and help running the business from their son Scott, Motor City Soul Food expanded in 2013 to a second location in Oak Park, located at 24790 Greenfield Rd. It is also cafeteria- style ordering and carryout-only.

 “One of the biggest reasons we chose Oak Park is because of the great location. We are near the I-696 freeway which brings customers from Eastside Detroit and Detroit suburbs as well as customers that live further west.” Clay says. “One of our favorite things about Oak Park are the diverse customers we encounter. We serve people from all walks of life and are inclusive of everyone.”

 On top of their nationwide-famous chicken wings, dinner options include turkey wings and pork chops. But the real soul food experience – and the items you aren’t going to find anywhere else – are in the food like Neck Bone, Ham Hocks and Ox tail. You couldn’t call Motor City a soul food restaurant without the side item choices of tender collard greens, okra, sweet black-eyed peas, candied yams and macaroni and cheese – which has a crisp, golden top coat and seasoned kick of paprika. Of course each dinner comes with a cornbread muffin too.

 “Our menu is literally anything that you could want for any holiday, any social event, when you need comforting or just want something delicious and homemade,” Clay says. “Soul food is a comfort, down home, good tast- ing meal – it includes a deliciously-seasoned meat and always includes a starch. Often, my wife will prepare items that aren’t on the menu because she has a taste for it. My wife is an awesome cook!”

 Other menu options include fish, like their crunchy, cornmeal-coated catfish, and hot sandwiches, including a meatloaf one. It may be hard to fathom eating more after such hearty dinners, but the dessert is worth it. In addition to banana pudding, Motor City Soul Food makes sweet potato pie, peach cobbler and 7-Up pound cake, a moist, delicious treat that brings back memories of childhood.

 Both locations are open seven days a week from 11:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. and offer in-store and off- site catering available through their website,

 “Our customers should expect to be served a quality-made product prepared fresh daily and served hot for their enjoyment,” Clay says. “We are a family owned-and-operated restaurant. We do our best to provide quality products and service to our custom- ers because we are all family.”