Aug / Sept 2018
Ferndale Friends August / September 2018

By Becky Hammond

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

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

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

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

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

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

CERTAIN RESIDENTS WANT SOME OF THE CHANGES, not others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diversity is a source of pride in Ferndale, too.

By Ingrid Sjostrand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Mary Meldrum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STORY BY MARY MELDRUM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Sara Teller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Jill Lorie Hurst

RECENTLY, I WALKED THROUGH THE HEROES MEMORIAL GARDEN IN FERNDALE’S GEARY PARK WITH GORDON MATSON. Matson is a native Ferndalian, a newlywed and mascot of Ferndale Pride. Getting to know him was a bonus! He met up with me to explain a little bit of the history attached to the recently-refurbished garden.

Matson was a neighbor of the Mahan family, who lived across from the site of the garden. It wasn’t a garden then. There were actually two houses standing where the garden is now. Once the park was established, Joe and Barbara Mahan began gardening a small area. They’d bring out their wagon and garden tools, and little by little they developed what is now the Heroes Memorial Garden. They established it as a memorial garden in 2001, after 9/11.

When the Mahans passed away about four years ago, Matson promised their daughter Tracy he’d take responsibility for the upkeep of the garden – a tough project. When neighbor Carol Jackson got acquainted with the garden, she saw its potential and was sad to see it had fallen into disarray. She and Gordon reached out to the community. There were volunteers but more help was needed, so Jackson took it to the City Council. Once she connected to the Council’s Dan Martin she knew help was on the way, but the real moment of joy came when Carlos Kennedy of the Department of Public Works called to tell her they’d designated 10 workers to the project. One of the DPW team lived in the neighborhood and had seen her working in the garden, and mentioned to his co-workers that there was “a lady out there pulling weeds.” They were happy to help.

Along with DPW Director Kennedy, the team consists of supervisor Rocky Cooper, Ty Lewis, Zack Hreha, Charles Taube, Derek Radell, Carl Cartel, Jose Ramirez, Holly Hindley and Drake Hreha. Jackson was amazed by their great work. “They put so much thought into everything. Repurposed whatever they found” And she was grateful. “I thank you and my back thanks you”. When the first part of the job was finished, a delicious catered lunch from Christine’s Cuisine was delivered to the team.

The DPW will continue to do a large part of the planting and cleanup necessary to maintain the heroes Memorial Garden. There will be more benches, footpaths, and the small butterfly garden that exists near the street will be moved to the center of the garden and expanded. Next Memorial Day there will be a picnic to celebrate the work and remember the heroes honored by the words ”All Gave Some, Some Gave All.”

Matson and Jackson are relieved and delighted. Matson: “I want to keep it (the garden) going for Joe and Barbara and the Mahan family” Adds Jackson “The DPW worked so damn hard. The story is about them and the wonderful, collaborative city we live in.” We can still pitch in to help keep the Heroes Memorial Garden the serene and beautiful place it is today. Every little bit helps. Matson “If you walk by and see a weed, pull it up”. As Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” Look at what Joe and Barbara Mahan started with a wagon and a few garden tools.

Check out the Heroes Memorial Garden on Facebook, or in person, in the Northwest corner of Geary Park in Ferndale.

By Jon Szerlag

MUSIC, ESPECIALLY ON A WELL-CRAFTED INSTRUMENT, IS ONE OF THE FEW THINGS THAT INFLICTS EACH OF THE SENSES. It can stir emotions at a single strum of a guitar or stanza of lyrics. There are songs of romance and heart-ache; persecution and redemption; empowerment and admitting weakness. The thud of a beat you feel in your chest can make you want to move, and a three-chord song can stop you in your tracks.

Music is powerful, and the owners of a newly opened music store in Ferndale, Andrew Pursell and Joel VanderLinde, want musical instruments to be within reach for anyone, no matter their economic status or talent yet to be discovered.

Bayberry Music, located at 23420 Woodward Ave., primarily only stocks acoustic stringed instruments – from guitars to ukuleles, banjos to violins – but also carry accessories for acoustic and electric. The location also performs repairs on stringed instruments.

THE OWNERS DON’T NECESSARILY COME from a musical background, but life took them down a path where music became an integral part of their existence, including making and repairing stringed instruments from their basement before opening their store.

Pursell, who grew up and lived in Illinois before moving to Michigan, obtained a degree in engineering. He moved to Michigan with the thought of working for the Big Three in the early 2000s, but work in the auto industry was not easy to get into during that time. So, his brother, who was working at a violin store, offered him a job.

“[My brother] said, ‘You like woodworking, come work for us,’” said Pursell. “I happened into it, which led to here – I found a passion for it and I never looked back. I started making instruments out of my house 11 years ago, while I was working there.”

Pursell was talking with his friend VanderLinde about making ukuleles, and VanderLinde took an interest. From there, an online music store came to be with both working out of their basements.

VanderLinde, who has a degree in computer science, fell in love with music, and his sales and business expertise made it a perfect fit for the two to go into the stringed instrument business.

“I love playing guitar, and I built my first ukulele with Andy,” said VanderLinde. “After that I was hooked. [Before Bayberry Music] I had some office jobs and it didn’t feel right. With Bayberry Music, everything fell into place. I get to build a little and sell a little, and still do some computer science.

AFTER HAVING AN E-COMMERCE STORE for roughly five years, the demand they saw for instruments, repairs and accessories was growing. Moving to a brick-and-mortar location was natural. And Ferndale was a perfect for them.

“Ferndale is fantastic, and we love it here and we love the community,” said VanderLinde. “It is a big change from working in the basement by our-selves all day. We love seeing new faces walk through the door every day.”

With their mindset of music being powerful and important for everyone, they not only offer stringed instruments at different price points, but they also are giving back to the community by helping organizations, like Detroit Youth Volume, by performing repairs on their instruments.

“We love music. It bridges the gap of classes and culture and it is a peaceful thing that everyone can get behind,” said VanderLinde.

“Our sole mission is that music should be easily accessible to all people,” said Pursell. “People should be able to get a good, quality instrument for themselves, or for a child to learn to play on.”

To contact Bayberry Music, you can visit their location, call 248-439-0700 or visit their online store at www.bayberrymusic.com.

FERNDALE IS NOT YOUR CONVENTIONAL MIDWEST TOWN, and that is reflected in the unusual shops, eclectic restaurants and even its festivals.

For 15 years, The Funky Ferndale Art Fair has been bringing unexpected and edgy fine art to the city. A few years later, the DIY Street Fair began, adding music, beer and a selection of less traditional art mediums. Both shows return this year on September 21-23.

Presenting two fairs at the same time creates an opportunity for shoppers to see a greater variety of art. Those attending one fair may discover that there are also things that they love on the other side of Woodward. Each fair is separate, with different planning and visions, so they stay surprising.

In addition to over one hundred artists or vendor booths in each show, both offer hands on opportunities to explore the arts. Traditionally, DIY has had family-friendly projects adjacent to the library. Funky has introduced some unusual projects over the years, from the world’s longest comic strip to toilet-paper-mache. This year, participants will be able to work on the community mural, create take home art projects, visit selfie stations, have their caricature painted and more.

Both shows have their own distinctive personality. DIY has a strong focus on music, beer and food trucks. It celebrates the concept that peo-ple with a “Do It Yourself” outlook bring a passion to everything they do. Funky Ferndale is dedicated to juried artists from across the country. Many are represented in major museums and galleries. A difference between Funky Ferndale and other major art fairs is that the jurors look for artists that have an edgier touch. You may find some of them in other fairs, but to see over 100 in one place you must go to Funky Ferndale.

Funky Ferndale Art Fair has turned into a very competitive show, with over 300 applicants each year for about 120 spaces. The committee works to include both established favorites and great new artists. This year, more than 25 artists are coming for the first time. This includes established artists from as far away as California and some that work out of their Ferndale garages. A list of artists, with sample images of their work, is available on the FunkyFerndaleArtFair.com web site.

DIY has a wide selection of offerings, including items such as soaps, candles and t shirts. All show creativity and a dedication to quality. Their web site (www.Ferndalediy.com) includes lists and photos of what to expect on the East side of Woodward and Nine.

If you’re looking for a great time and some quality one-of-a-kind items, there’s no place better to go than art weekend in Ferndale featuring both the Funky Ferndale Art Fair and the DIY Street Fair.

Funky Ferndale Art Fair – Friday 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Saturday 10:00 AM until 7:00 PM and Sunday 11:00 AM until 6:00 PM. Nine Mile west of Wood-ward.

DIY Street Fair – Friday 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM, Saturday 11:00 AM until Midnight and Sunday 11:00 AM until 11:00 PM. Nine Mile and adjacent areas east of Woodward.

Parking – Ferndale’s many parking lots will be open. Street parking is permitted in many areas. The Credit Union One parking structure will also be available for a small donation for Fern Care.

FunkyFerndaleArtFair.com 

Ferndalediy.com

SENDS MUSICAL MESSAGES OF HOPE & CATHARSIS

Story by Jeff Milo
Interview with singer/songwriter Maggie Cocco

SINGER/SONGWRITER MAGGIE COCCO RECORDS AND PERFORMS UNDER THE MONIKER “SCIENCE FOR SOCIOPATHS,” and she realizes that hearing that phrase “…might scare some people.” But it’s an integral part of her story and she wants anyone out there listening who has a similar story to not feel alone.

“I used to be afraid to tell this story,” Cocco said. “It’s not that I’m saying: ‘Hey, pay attention to me.’ It’s that it’s so powerful to meet somebody else who’s been through something traumatic. That’s how my producer (Benjamin Warsaw) and I first connected, because he had a similar story and said that he just wanted to be a part in creating music that speaks to this experience.”

Cocco is already a professional, even at 27. She’s been playing music from a very young age, and has been a lifelong writer (first poetry, then songs). She was raised in Sterling Heights, listening to classic rock, Motown and some of the heavier alternative groups of the ‘90s. She played the viola between sharpening her lyrical sensibilities with poems, but went to study classical music at Oakland University. She started making an impression around the local music scene by the age of 22, but says she really came in to her own only recently, and blossomed, with Science for Sociopaths.

Cocco said her father, also a musician, exhibited ostensible sociopathic behavior as her manager when he instituted a ‘pop-star-or-bust’ level of expected perfection. Circumstances were exacerbated enough to where Cocco struck out on her own, three years ago, and has since developed her own solo career—writing a blend of blues, Americana-rock and jazzy folk ballads that are radiant but raw, presenting beautifully melodic odes of unvarnished truths that tap into experiences that could be specific to her yet nevertheless create an empathic and relatable response from a listener.

“I’m not over-assessing my writing, like before, wondering whether it’s commercial enough or not,” said Cocco. “I used to feel really isolated, like no one has gone through this particular life experience. All the stuff I’ve gone through might not be universally relatable, but it is to some people on a deeply personal level. It’s not going to be fun-time dance music, but it’s relatable and I see a lot of value in that. That’s the music I’m drawn to, anyway.”

Cocco is newly inspired. She’s constantly working on material; she released two EPs earlier this summer and already has a full set of songs for another album after that. What’s changed, said Cocco, is that she’s receiving positive encouragement. The musicians she’s working with now, along with Warsaw, “respect me as a songwriter and I’m feeling very encouraged. After my Dad, there was a period where I didn’t trust anybody… But I’ve realized there’s a ton of really great people out there who are just passionate (about this music) and offer to help, and that just makes me want to try my best, because I want to be worth it.”

The intention, above all, is catharsis. Writing and performing her music and sending these lyrical messages is one unique way in which Cocco can make a difference. She’s been able to impact the lives of others through other outlets,like teaching and volunteer work, but she can’t ignore the potential that her music has to reach people; people who might be in dire need of receiving a message of hope.

And even though the name of the project might put some on edge, Cocco knows that it will nevertheless draw an audience. She said she was done trying to be a pop star and appeal to everyone. Now, she’s writing down, recording and releasing whatever comes to her and putting it out there so that it can be found, so that it can speak to someone, rather than fixating on reaching everyone.

Cocco set up a Patreon to create an online community for fans of Science for Sociopaths, including exclusive access to her new releases. Her output continues to accelerate—she’s been delivering a new song each week to Patreon supporters online (which could be a new single, a new cover, responding to a special request, or just jamming with other artists).

Science for Sociopaths performs August 17 at PJs Lager House. After, she’ll be leaving for a patron-sponsored week-long tour in Ireland (Sept 3-10).