By Sara E. Teller

Businessman, Family Man & Visionary

JACK ARONSON, FOUNDER OF GARDEN FRESH IN FERNDALE AND A MAN WHO GAVE FIERCELY TO THE COMMUNITY HE LOVED, died peacefully in his sleep at age 68 after a battle with cancer. His heart of gold and love for his family will long outlive him.

Aronson was first and foremost a go-getter. He poured passion into everything he did. Son Daniel Aronson, the youngest of five now-grown children, said “I couldn’t have asked for a better role model and father. He was determined and hard-working, and yet he always made time to be with his kids.”

Daniel said of his father’s business mindset that he was always innovative and on the cutting edge. “He was the heart and soul of Garden Fresh,” he said. “He created the recipes. My mom helped make it come together while my dad would go out and sell it. He partnered with business-minded people. When he discovered that some of the products, like onions, were exploding, he researched high-pressure pasteurization vessels; water pressure which kills pathogens extending the shelf life and keeping everything fresh. It was a game-changer.”

Brett Tillander, CEO of Metro Detroit Youth Club, echoed these sentiments, saying of Aronson, “He saw the things that go unseen and heard the things that go unheard.” For the Youth Club, “He was a coach for people who needed it.”

ARONSON DID MUCH FOR THE KIDS INVOLVED WITH THE CLUB. Tillander remembers Aronson set one of the members up to throw a first pitch at a Comerica Park game. Aronson was inspired by her tenacity, Tillander said, and mentored her until, as an adult, she began to work with autistic youth herself. He recalled, “Jack had the ability to seed and inspire others to take action.”

He also added that Jack and wife Annette made a great team, saying, “Throughout their time at Garden Fresh, they both did so much. I remember Annette wouldn’t let the sale of Pepsi go through so that employees wouldn’t lose their jobs.” He chucked and recalled, “One day, Annette came in and some of the employees were anxious about it, wondering why she was there. Turns out, she just came in to wash the windows.”

Daniel and Tillander both agreed some of their favorite memories with Aronson involved food. Daniel called his dad a “foodie” and said he was a “phenomenal cook” who would feed a crowd by coming up with “seven different things that would somehow all come together in the end.” He added, “My favorite memories were driving around finding new places to eat.”

TILLANDER SHARED A STORY OF ARONSON RANDOMLY DRIVING HIM out to Red Hots Coney Island in Highland Park (now closed), putting four coney dogs in front of him and leaving him with a to-go bag of twenty. He didn’t have the heart to tell his friend he had just switched to being a vegetarian. He knew Aronson had a love for food, and Tillander ended up just eating them all. He said, “Whenever Jack was driving, it was an adventure. You had no idea where you were going and yet it was all okay.”

Daniel found his dad’s willingness to go above and beyond and get involved in as many charitable organizations as possible incredibly inspiring. He recalled, “He was involved in lots of charities, not only the Youth Club, he did a lot with the Salvation Army and the Beyond Basics Reading Program.” He added, “Above all, my dad was passionate, compassionate and strong.”

Tillander hopes that “when the silence comes, when the flowers stop, when the cards stop, others remember to connect with Annette and the family. They’ve done so much for the community.”

Jack is survived by his loving wife and devoted partner,  Annette (known as Vitamin A), his children Trevor (Angela), Melissa (Davey), Melanie (Dave), Jack (Bridget) and Daniel (Shantel) as well as 16 beautiful grandchildren, Tyler A, Tyler, Marlie, Janet, Katie, Jayson, Landon, Ryan, Lily, Katie, Emily, Mya, Lea, Hannah, Olivia and Drea, and siblings Kenneth (Joan), Virginia (Gordon), Diana (Roger), David (Lynn). Predeceased by his parents and his brother, Sonny.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to Metro Detroit Youth Clubs (, Say Detroit (, Salvation Army of South-Eastern Michigan ( or Beyond Basics (

JACK WAS A PROUD GRADUATE OF FERNDALE HIGH SCHOOL, a restauranteur, and founder of Garden Fresh Gourmet. But, more than that, Jack and his beloved wife Annette, were committed to helping our community and our children achieve a better future. As a part of that commitment, the Aronsons made an incredible investment in Ferndale Public Schools to help improve literacy.

Jack knew that success for any student is built on a strong foundation of literacy. Due to the incredible generosity of the Aronsons, Ferndale Schools was able to hire a full-time reading specialist and purchase flexible learning furniture, computers, and licenses for READ 180 curriculum. READ 180 is a researched-based reading tool that blends reading comprehension, academic vocabulary and writing skills for students. Thanks to the Aronsons, Ferndale High School has been able to provide vital reading intervention and tutoring for hundreds of students.

Jack’s commitment was much more than just financial. In addition to being involved in the reading program at FHS, he and Annette regularly took the students on culturally diverse field trips and brought them lunch so that they could talk and get to know each other. Jack was committed to establishing personal relationships with our students and school community.

Jack’s engagement traveled far beyond the boundaries of Ferndale. He served on the board of Beyond Basics (an organization promoting youth literacy), as well as the national board of the Salvation Army. Through their foundation, Jack and Annette were also significant contributors to Boys and Girls Clubs of South Oakland County, as well as other charitable causes focusing on bettering the lives of children and young adults.

WHILE MANY WILL REMEMBER JACK for his incredible success in the business world. We in Ferndale have been blessed to know Jack personally and to witness the truly life changing impact of his generosity. The greatest legacy any of us can hope to leave behind is one where through our actions in life others benefit when we are gone. Jack has truly left a legacy that will positively impact our community for generations to come.

On behalf of the entire Ferndale Schools family, I want to send my deepest condolences to Annette and the entire Aronson family.

Thank you Jack.

Dania H. Bazzi, PhD
Superintendent, Ferndale Schools


THERE ARE MANY FOND MEMORIES OF THE TIMES I SPENT WITH JACK. I know I don’t stick out as anyone special in any particular way but that’s completely appropriate. Jack was a larger-than-life person to probably everyone he knew.

We met when I was running AJ’S Cafe in downtown Ferndale. AJ’s was a beloved “living room” of Ferndale that achieved a lot of local, even national and global attention for the many grassroots activities that happened there. Jack once told me that when he traveled around, people knew two things about Ferndale, him and AJ’s Cafe! That was pretty cool.

When the time came to leave AJ’s Cafe, I was kind of like a fish out of water. I had no idea that the social capital we had achieved at AJ’s could be translated into working capital somehow. I put my chips down on a coffee company and we called it Detroit Bold, because the city of Detroit and all of its people, despite all we had endured throughout the ages, was bold. It was the best word to describe us.

THERE WAS NO ONE I COULD HAVE IMAGINED ASKING FOR ADVICE OTHER THAN JACK. He basically took me under his wing and took me in. I’ll never forget that first meeting on 9 Mile at his headquarters in Ferndale. He sat me down at this super-long executive meeting table with he, Dave Zilko, and Mike Griffin, his trusted cohorts. They began to lay out a plan for me to follow and gave me the necessary roadmap towards success. Detroit Bold is sold in hundreds of stores today and it would never have happened were it not for Jack.

It was not all work, though. I played in his charity softball games because he asked me to be one of the celebrities. I could not imagine myself as a celebrity but hey – if he wanted me to play I was glad to, no questions asked. I knew the cause was good. We had a lot of lunches together, mostly at Red Hot’s Coney in Highland Park. We both were originally from around there and loved to go back. Our roasting operation is there, too. Jack made sure to stop in and see the facilities and lend his name to ours.

In 2016, we lost our mom. Throughout the year, Jack always made sure that I went back home with hummus, chips and salsa. Our mother was bedridden and had a hard time eating, but she sure loved that hummus. I Face-Timed Jack for my mom so she could say hello and, of course, Jack was gracious enough to chat with her.

Jack and Annette (that was our mom’s name too!) attended the funeral and took me off to the side of the room where they gifted our family a check to help with the funeral costs. I was so flabbergasted, it was completely unexpected and quite helpful. Jack and Annette knew that my coffee business was still a fledgling business.

JACK NEVER SOUGHT ATTENTION FOR THAT KIND OF STUFF. I think Jack knew that happiness did not come from the attainment of things. It came for Jack by giving, and quietly so. I think that of all the gifts he has given to me, that is the one that I cherish the most.

If you knew Jack, you know what I mean. If you didn’t know him, rest assured you

would have liked him. He gave his time and talents to me as he would to anyone who crossed his path.

Rest, dear friend. We will carry on and your memory will live on for generations to come.

AJ O’Neil
Detroit Bold Coffee & AJ’s Cafe


I KNEW JACK ARONSON SINCE THE ’70S, THROUGH A MUTUAL FRIEND. But I really got to know him and his wife Annette in the early ’90s, working for him at Clubhouse BBQ. Then, in August of 1998, I started working for them making salsa in the back of the restaurant. That’s when the real story began.

As the salsa business grew over the years, so did their love for helping others. Through their humble struggle building a business, so did their humanitarianism grow. They became involved with the Bed & Breakfast Club, Salvation Army, The Boys & Girls Club and many other great giving foundations. They started their own Artichoke Garlic Foundation. They help fund Beyond Basics and many more. They have been there for countless organizations and thousands of individuals over the years.

I love these people who also helped me in my time of need. I can’t express my deep sadness for the loss of my friend. Jack who lost a three-year struggle with cancer. Through his struggle, he learned so much about this horrific disease, traveling to Switzerland, Austria and lastly Hungary in June/July of this year searching for alternative cures. Through his travels, much was learned for future cancer victims.

His memory will live on throughout the world forever. R.I.P. my dear friend and boss in Heaven with all of the other Earth’s Angels.

Sincerely, your Cherbot 2000!
Cher Mitchell

I’D HEARD HIS NAME IN MY HOUSE EVERY DAY FOR YEARS. My mom was always going to work at his house, or she would hang with his wife, Annette (one of her best friends). Jack was my first boss at Clubhouse BBQ in Ferndale. Now I know the whole family, and am sorry for their loss of such a creative and generous man! He loved helping his community.

I was already working at the restaurant when he created Garden Fresh Salsa. I worked at a few different positions for that company too. On one trip in Chicago, Jack told a waiter it was my birthday. It was not, but they didn’t know that, and the staff came with a cake and song. It’s funny to look back on now! He made a pig for my luau graduation party and an employee put the pig’s head on my living room table! (I had just become a vegetarian.)

Jack sent me food often through my mom. He knew I love salmon. He loved me, and called me Amy Lou. (“Jack, like you know that is not my middle name right?”) I used that name on a voice text telling him that I loved him about eight hours before he died. I am very grateful that I knew to tell him that then.

He made his dreams come true and did what he was sent here to do, which is to help people! I could never forget him even if I wanted to. He has been such a big part of my life.

Amy Mitchell

ONE THING ABOUT JACK ARONSON (there are too many to list) is that each relationship he had was unique to that individual. He always made you feel important, no matter if you were a student trying to build your own brand or the CEO of a major company. I never saw any ego in any of my time with him over the years.

When I was in treatment for cancer, he made sure I had food prepared each week, and when it was over he and Annette offered me a job with the Ferndale Literacy Project. He saved my life in ways he and Annette never knew. Heartbroken that I will never hear that booming voice again or have to struggle to keep up with his speed-talking. Love you,  Jack.

Carol Jackson
Ferndale Literacy Project
SouthEast Oakland Coalition

IF THERE’S TIME TO INCLUDE IT, A MENTION OF GREG MUDGE OF MUDGIE’S DELI would befit this issue. We’ll miss seeing him at Western Market. He was a Ferndalian who lived directly behind our store and frequently shopped here. He was a friend to Putnam (our wine buyer, whose previous job was wine buyer & signage for Mudgie’s), Steve, and Jarred.
– Alana Carlson Western Market

IT IS ALWAYS DIFFICULT SAYING GOODBYE TO SOMEONE WE LOVE AND CHERISH. Family and friends must say goodbye to their beloved Joshua S. Urban of Ferndale, Michigan, who passed away at the age of 38 on May 9, 2021.

He was loved and cherished by many people including his parents Stephen Urban of Ferndale and Marie Cardona (Joseph) of Hazel Park; his brother Jeremy Urban of Ferndale; his girlfriend Dawn Porter of Hazel Park; and his sons, Trevor and Hunter.

In lieu of flowers, memorial tributes may be made to the charity of choice.

JUST THINKING ABOUT YOU,  WONDERING IF YOU ARE WATCHING ME,  thinking about us, or maybe hanging with our past loved ones. I miss you already, planned to stop at the donut shop before the airport, like in the past, to say goodbye and grab a coffee, but had to stop myself in tears and make my Keurig. No one is there.

When I saw you Saturday, you were in great spirits, felt great, I asked you to come with me to Vegas. We would have had the best time, but I guess you had other plans. It’s not the same out here, knowing what I have to come home to.

My heart hurts. I stop myself from looking at Facebook, because I don’t want to cry out here. Gotta’ keep a game face.

Remember when we would go to the casino to play poker together? I just keep waiting to wake up from this nightmare. After mom and dad, it’s just me. I am always gonna wonder what could have been. I love you Joshua… Rest tight little bro…

IT’S AN UNBELIEVABLE LOSS. JOSH WAS THE CENTERPIECE,  the driving force and the reason we woke up every day. He was the staple, the cornerstone. He made it the way it was. We want to fulfill everything we talked about with him (such as the donut ideas)! We are literally “in his shoes” back there (inside the store) and even seeing his chair brings back memories.

It’s hard sometimes to come here every day, but we do it anyway. Joshua worked hard, seven days a week. He was here from the moment the store opened until it closed, typically by himself, until we walked in to help. We were the “Three Amigos,” the “A-Team!”

Joshua knew everybody, and he had worked here since he was six or seven-years-old. From around 2008, Josh helped his dad bake the donuts. Then in 2013 he took over more. We could count on him for everything because he was a loyal friend. And kind to everyone, from the smallest baby to the oldest customers. Josh took the time to get to know people; he would even deliver donuts himself to the older ladies. For example, a lady named Guinevere would come in on Tuesdays and Josh would immediately stop what he was doing and take her items out to her car.

Josh was great at finding ways to build the businesses by expanding our vendor accounts with gas stations and different stores. Josh loved making donations of donuts for many worthy causes, and he really cared about the community of Ferndale. He did everything with such passion! Some customers still don’t know that he is gone. Others share memories so we still get to talk about him while we work.

He had many interests, such as football and history. He enjoyed watching Ancient Aliens, The Goldbergs and The Golden Girls on TV. Music was also a big part of his life; he would dance around in the back to his favorite songs. It was hard hearing those songs after he was gone, but now we enjoy hearing them because of the memories they bring back. Traveling up North to a family home way his favorite way to re-energize before returning back to work. Also, he loved spending time out boating with his brother, Jeremy.

Josh’s father,  Steve, now trusts us to keep it going, which we truly appreciate. That took a lot of courage and he trusts our judgement, but it’s hard to fill Josh’s shoes. Steve had a vision of Josh taking over the business; now he has a bunch of women to deal with! We can’t make things run like he did, and the speciality Joshua Donut is gone forever. But we will always try hard to do it his way, the way he showed us. His presence is with each of us, every day. We see little signs of him all the time. We were privileged to have him in our lives.”

Memories of Dawn Porter, Colleen Pank & Cyndi Heys
Transcribed by Jean Goeddeke

Happy Heavenly Birthday to my dear best friend Joshua. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you or speak your name. I truly, deeply miss you every single day. I wish you were here so you would be able to celebrate your birthday and us having a house soon, and Shaylyn’s sweet 16th birthday. I know you will be watching and we will feel your presence. I love you with all my heart. Til we meet again…
– Cyndi Heys

We love The Apple Fritter and Josh would always treat us the kindest every time we went to The Apple Fritter and nobody can ever make better donuts than him.
– Abby, age 11

I’ll miss you Cousin. I’ll miss our adventures and working together and having a riot. You were the best friend a cuz could have. You would do anything for anyone. That was your kind heart. I love you, Joshua. R.I.P., my cuz.
– Martin Downs

Steve and Jeremy; my heart goes out to you and your family. Josh had a good heart. Like many others in the community I’ll miss him.
– Kris Lieber

Oh my. This is incredibly sad. His family and the whole community have suffered a terrible loss. I celebrate his life and the joy he brought to everyone who knew him. Hugs to his family.
– Merri Busch

Josh was always so nice and took great care of us. Very sad. Keeping Dawn and the rest of Josh’s family in our thoughts and prayers.
– Mike Hickey

The last time I saw Josh at the shop, he remembered that I worked for the Fisher Theater, and asked me how we were doing and we chatted for a bit. It lifted me up that he remembered. Back when we had The Book of Mormon at the Fisher, Josh helped us give away a bunch of maple-glazed donuts for a promotion (if you know the show, you know the connection.) He was always so very nice. My heart goes out to the staff, family and friends. I feel like this is a big loss for all of Ferndale.
– Scott Myers

My sincerest sympathies to your entire family. I believe it was Josh I gave the original artwork for my Vern Dale of Ferndale comic that featured The Apple Fritter. He and Colleen helped us out quite a few times. Great people.
– Josh Ryals

I am sad about this news. I saw him Saturday morning and only had a chance to wave hello. Our old pastor used to say: “We all are on the same path, and some will be there first and will just wait for the rest of us.”
– Laurie N Charles DeNoyer

My grandma and Josh used to talk all the time about football, and she would often go to The Apple Fritter only to see him and Dawn. She loved him and it was very obvious he had a good heart. My heart goes out to everyone working at The Apple Fritter and to Josh’ family and loved ones.
– Karly Natin

I went to The Apple Fritter donut shop on Tuesday morning at 7:30 AM. I then saw the wreath and the flowers on the door and said to myself “Oh no… not Josh!” I was very sad. I did not know what was going on. After being completely shocked for a few minutes, God put a peace over my heart and made me remember. The last time I saw Josh was last month, when I came to get a donut all the way from Eastpointe. I told him that I loved him and I would see him soon. He knew my favorite donut when I walked in the store. He would have it ready for me with a smile. I miss you guys and love you all! Steve, stay strong and stay safe. Apple Fritter has the best donuts in Michigan. Josh made every donut better. He will really be missed!
– Taleisha Jones

R.I.P. Joshua Urban, you and I have been through so much together. Our friendship was so strong. You tried to teach me how to cook smothered pork chops and then kicked me out of the kitchen. You have made me smile, you have made me sad, I always said I would always be by your side through anything. You had a rough time with stuff. I was always there for you, now you will be our guardian angel. I will forever be your best friend. Til we meet again, love and miss you so much.
– Cyndi Heys

By Kevin Lamb

The words “Jazz” and “Cats” have long been synonymous, but these days, it’s being taken to a whole ‘nother level. Mostly started in Korea and South Asian countries, cat cafes have been a popular trend throughout the world for some time.

“Jazz. What cat doesn’t like jazz? It’s as though jazz was created as a soundtrack for a cat’s life: John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, the usual suspects. We also play a lot of Brazilian jazz from the 1960’s and the cats seem to dig it,” Executive Director of Ferndale Cat Shelter, Deanne Iovan says.

But don’t be fooled, you can’t actually bring your cat to the Catfe Lounge, enjoy a coffee, and groove to some Coltrane while contemplating your mutual place in the cosmos.

“Many people don’t realize that we have been open for six years on Livernois in Ferndale. Some people also think they can bring their cats there to play with other cats, like a dog park. Not a good idea! Cats are very different from dogs and all of our cats are rescues who need forever homes. We are a part of Ferndale Cat Shelter and as such, licensed with the Michigan Department of Agriculture as a cat shelter.”

Turns out, it’s jazz for cats who need homes! Can you dig?

“WE KNEW WE COULDN’T AFFORD to build out a proper coffee shop right away since we were just in our first year as a non-profit. So we decided to offer self-serve coffee and tea instead. I pitched the idea to our very small board of directors and they surprisingly agreed. We did a small kickstarter fundraiser and opened on a shoestring. Since then, we have grown and taken over the space next door.”

Since I don’t believe in coincidence, it’s probably not one that Catfe Lounge on Livernois is just a half-a-mile away from the longest continually running Jazz establishment in these United States, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge.

“We always need dedicated volunteers. Animal rescue work succeeds on the backs of people who volunteer their time and energy to helping animals in need. Without volunteers, most rescues would not exist.”

YouTube alone assures me y’all are cat crazy…while history itself speaks for jazz, making this a classic “twenty nine or two-for-fifty” (Mr. Alan’s commercial) type of volunteering opportunity, people! Have I mentioned how healthy helping others and Ferndale felines is for an anxious mind?

“Our biggest obstacle right now is finding the space, time and veterinary care for all of the animals who need it. The pandemic quarantine brought many new fosters into rescue since they were staying home. Now that number has dwindled because everyone wants to get out and get back some normalcy in their lives. Veterinarians have been scrambling to catch up with the demand for spaying and neutering since many clinics closed or could only perform emergency surgeries during the pandemic. The veterinary profession is a hard road and requires an enormous amount of education and training. The financial payoff is meager compared to human doctors, yet veterinarians have to learn the physiology of so many species. It’s a thankless job most days. I feel their struggle.”

THE CATFE LOUNGE IS EXCITED to start having events again! “We have yoga classes twice a month and will be bringing back the ever-popular Cat Bingo in September. As always, we are looking to expand our footprint in the community and that means finding a larger facility to move forward with a coffee shop to create a sustainable non-profit business model. It’s always better when you don’t have to beg people for money!”

Each of us has an opportunity to show up for community in a unique way; different gifts bring different passion but indifference always ends the same. Perhaps you’re looking to show up in your cat’s pajamas to connect and engage with Ferndale in your way, maybe this could be it.

“Our volunteers and fosters! There are so many to be grateful for. And our veterinarians who step up to help even when they are overworked. We are very lucky to have so many good people helping our organization. On that note, building relationships in the community and fostering those relationships is so important to succeed in our mission. Each one of us plays a vital role.”

By Rose Carver

RIFINO VALENTINE WAS INSPIRED TO START HIS VALENTINE DISTILLING COMPANY in direct rebellion of the manufacturing standards by big alcohol companies. Coming from a background on Wall Street, he saw big players making big moves in what he considered to be the wrong direction.

IT ALL STARTED WITH THE DIRTY MARTINI. Valentine would frequent different swanky bars to enjoy this beloved drink after a long day at work. He would try vodkas with labels that said “handcrafted” but, upon further inspection, proved to be just another mass-produced liquor.

“Put simply, profits became the chief goal instead of the quality of the product,” Valentine explained. This prompted him to create a business model that focused on quality.

Valentine Distilling is located in 965 Wanda Street in Ferndale, just down the street from their cocktail bar, on 161 Vester Avenue. Valentine claims the small cocktail bar serves the “best stuff in the world.” You can find this “stuff” all over the Midwest, as it is distributed in 12 states, spanning the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

These spirits are award-winning, and have won best-vodka-in-the-world two years in a row. Their gin has also been named the best-American gin, and their cask gin has won a world’s-best award as well. That doesn’t begin to cover all of the awards won over the years.

Which one is Rifino’s favorite? He says choosing a favorite liquor is like choosing a favorite kid.

“IN THE FALL MONTHS I ENJOY OUR BARREL-AGED GIN OR OUR BOURBON. In the spring and summer time, I go for our White Blossom vodka,” he says, boasting the quality of their flavored vodkas. “Nothing is better than sitting on a sunny patio with a White Blossom cocktail.”

Like many businesses in the area, Valentine has been hit really hard by the pandemic. Forty-five percent of their distribution is to bars and restaurants, and the shutdown has been devastating. “It’s been horrible, a really tough year,” Valentine said. “We are still trying to build back our business, but we are going to be okay.” Early on in the pandemic, the distillery also made a Valentine brand hand-sanitizing liquid. A sincere thanks goes to the customers who bought those and their “to-go” cocktails last year, as he says it helped them out a lot.

The City of Ferndale also gets a special Valentine thank you, as they allowed the cocktail lounge to expand their patio seating to a couple street parking spots when indoor seating was restricted. The lounge is now back to 50 percent occupancy, and outdoor seating is also available.

ANOTHER WAY THAT VALENTINE DISTILLING goes above and beyond for their customers and community is their commitment to what they call their “Clean Green Initiative.” The business is in their third year of a ten-year sustainability initiative, which includes making their 20,000 square feet manufacturing facility completely sustainable. They installed a system that will allow them to reuse up to 98 percent of their water. Being from a Great Lakes state, Valentine says they take their water usage seriously. Their green initiative has also allowed for the installation of LED lighting in the facility, and an ambient temperature chilling system that uses much less energy.

“Large liquor companies are making billions of dollars off of Michigan consumers,” Valentine said. “We want to influence customers to demand more from those companies to be responsible when it comes to energy efficiency.” Valentine claims that because these larger liquor companies have no tie to the region in which they sell their product, they don’t make decisions that are responsible for the community.

Get the good stuff from Valentine Distilling, and support regional manufacturing companies who have your best interests in mind. It’s good to know what goes on behind the scenes, and their product speaks for itself.

By Ingrid Sjostrand
Photos ©2021 David McNair

FERNDALE IS A GREAT PLACE TO GRAB SOME GRUB. This past year, however, has been a challenge for many bar and restaurant owners, who have had to withstand a whirlwind of closing, reopening, and putting new restrictions into place. Here’s how a few of your favorites are enduring the ups-and-downs.

Danny’s Irish Pub: A Retro Flare & Affordable Fare

DANNY’S IRISH PUB, 22824 WOODWARD AVE., has been a staple of Ferndale for years. It features an old-school atmosphere with a jukebox, pinball machines, and darts. Danny’s is the perfect place to grab a drink and enjoy inexpensive bar must-haves like burgers and chips.

Owner Dan Reedy has been forced to roll with the punches during the pandemic.

“We have been very lucky,” he said. “Like everyone else, we were closed for the first three months. We received the first PPP money during that time to keep our payroll, rent, and utilities paid. After the first month we did a little carryout.”

As the landscape changed, so, too, did his plan. Reedy explains, “When the Governor allowed us, we reopened on a limited basis with all of the proper restrictions. When the Governor shut us down again, we did outside service. With the weather getting very cold, it was a relief when we could open up inside at 25 percent. Now we’re up to 50 percent and it’s great.”

Reedy credits the community’s support, saying, “We are very thankful to all of the people who supported us through the worst times.”

For more information on capacity requirements or to place an order, call 248.546.8331.

Detroit Fleat: The Delicious Place to Eat from the Street

AFTER SUCCESSFULLY LAUNCHING AND RUNNING THEIR OWN FOOD TRUCK, Detroit Fleat owners Katie Picard and Aaron Tye wanted to create a place for the food truck community to gather. In 2017, that vision came to life. Detroit Fleat opened its doors at 1820 E. Nine Mile Rd. with ample space for trucks to visit and guests to enjoy a unique, open venue.

“Detroit Fleat is proud to be the first-and-only food truck park in Metro Detroit,” said Brooke Zadorsky, Marketing Manager, adding that Ferndale has proven to be the perfect spot. “Being a part of such a vibrant city inspires us to be creative, to be good neighbors, and to continually strive to improve.”

During the summer months, the Fleat offers a space to feature the best food trucks in the area on its huge patio, alongside a year-round delicious, street food-inspired menu. And a bonus to dining outside? The space is dog-friendly. “We love seeing all of our furry friends and their humans,” Zadorsky said.

Guests can also grab cocktails, choose from a lineup of 16 craft beers, or order the Fleat’s famous frozen, boozy Slooshies at its full bar.

“FOOD TRUCK SEASON OFFICIALLY KICKED OFF MAY 1, 2021,” Zadorsky said, adding, “From the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve taken our responsibility to keep our staff and guests as safe as possible seriously. Almost every aspect of the way we do business has adapted to ensure we are at the forefront of safe COVID practices.”

Some of the changes include implementing a walk-up counter to maintain social distancing, installing an advanced surface and air purification system directly through the Fleat’s HVAC, and placing air purifiers with HEPA filters throughout the dining room. All staff members are completing temperature checks, wearing masks, and sanitizing frequently.

“We will continue to provide the safest atmosphere we can for our guests and staff,” Zadorsky explained, and she thanks the patrons for their help. “Our community is amazing! We have been so humbled by the support through the year. Whether it’s ordering curbside pickup, engaging with us on social media or visiting us for a safe spot to enjoy food and drinks, we are so grateful for all the ways our friends, family, and neighbors have shown us love.”

Those dining in-person will soon be able to enjoy a new feature. Zadorsky announced, “Fleat is excited to roll into our fourth season with a new addition to the patio. Look for our own house trailer that guests can visit for boozy popsicles, ice cream treats, and canned cocktails. We are always striving to improve upon our business year after year and this new facet is sure to be a hit with our guests.”

For more information, visit or call 248.607.7611

Get Great Food at Got Pho

GOT PHO, 172 W. NINE MILE RD., is an Asian Fusion restaurant with an array of Tai, Vietnamese, and Chinese dishes launched by Thomas and Nancy Singh. The restaurant also offers many vegan and gluten-free options.

“We understand the different dietary needs our customers may have, so we try to accommodate as much as we can,” said Nancy Singh. “Ferndale already had a great array of dining options, but pho was the only thing missing. We are passionate about food and wanted to expand the food scene in Ferndale – therefore, Got Pho was born.”

Their vision was brought to life in the middle of the pandemic.

“We had many challenges trying to get open on time, but we finally opened our doors June 1, 2020,” she explained. “We quickly adjusted by providing delivery services, so Got Pho partnered up with Grub Hub and Door Dash as a contact-free convenience to our customers.”

And, thankfully, Ferndale came through to help. “The community has been very supportive since we’ve opened,” Singh said. “Our customers are the reason why we have made it through the toughest times of this pandemic. We still have to remain vigilant and follow health guidelines to ensure safety for every citizen.”

Now, Got Pho is just waiting for when it’s safe enough to resume business normally. “We can’t wait to participate in upcoming community events!” she exclaimed. “Ferndale has the best customers around by far. The diverse community is what makes it so unique and so special. So Got Pho is proud to call Ferndale home.”

For more information or to place an order, visit or call 248.780.1164.

New Way Bar: A New Spin on an Old Tradition

NEW WAY BAR, 23130 WOODWARD AVE., originally opened in 1935, and current owner Jamie D’Angelo bought the well-known hot-spot in 2013. The bar offers live music, comedy shows, and games such as skee-ball, ping pong, pool, and darts. It also offers open-mike nights and themed events and is home to the Ferndale-famous game ‘Down the Clown.’

A community center of sorts, many local musicians and artists call New Way their ‘second home,’ and all featured talent keep 100 percent of their earnings. The laid-back, old-fashioned vibe also means all guests are treated like family.

“The past year has presented a lot of challenges and opportunities,” D’Angelo explained. “We do not have any events scheduled at this time due to the uncertainty of occupancy restrictions.”

However, the pandemic has offered an opportunity to update the interior and get to know those who helped along the way.

“We have taken the reduced occupancy requirements as an opportunity to get to know our customers better,” he said. “We also had the chance to replace some equipment, carpet, and refresh the paint. We have been so lucky because the community has been very encouraging and supportive. Our re-openings have been well received and business remains as solid as it can be, all things considered. We also have a great group of regulars that really make the place special. The staff are invested and truly enjoy serving our neighbors and the community at large.”

For more information or to place an order, visit or call 248.541.9870.

By Colton Dale

ONCE A DULL AND DRAB LIGHT INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR, ELEVEN MILE RD between Greenfield Rd and Coolidge Hwy. is going through a total transformation. Much like the Nine Mile Redesign, City officials saw potential in Eleven Mile that hadn’t yet been unlocked. So, they took it upon themselves to make a difference and bring out the best in one of Oak Park’s unique business districts.

IN 2018, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR KIM MARRONE AND CITY PLANNER KEVIN RULKOWSKI worked with the Oak Park Planning Commission to rezone three blocks of Eleven Mile between Greenfield and Coolidge; the blocks between Tulare St. and Gardens St. to be exact. They were rezoned from LI (Light Industrial) to a brand new zone called MX-1 (Mixed-Use).

Previously, those three blocks were zoned for things like small manufacturing, warehouses, storage facilities and other light industrial operations. Now, the allowed uses are much more exciting and consist of business types aimed at drawing in people from all over the region: restaurants, breweries, coffee shops, bakeries and more. The three rezoned blocks are specifically prime for this new classification because of the large public parking lots in the rear. Since the rezoning took place, investment and development in the area has taken off.

Unexpected Craft Brewing Company

THE FIRST BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT TO BE ANNOUNCED AFTER THE REZONING was Unexpected Craft Brewing Company (UCBC), at 14401 Eleven Mile Rd the former location of a small parts manufacturer. Originally

announced in 2018, this project has faced considerable obstacles but is moving forward with perseverance. UCBC will be the second location for proprietor and head brewer Edward Stencel of River Rouge Brewing Company in Royal Oak.

The new brewery will house brewing operations as well as a tasting room (and possibly space designated for food trucks), and it was all made possible by a $100,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD). The MDARD grant helped Stencel cover the costs of the expansion and purchasing new brewing equipment.

“Ultimately, this grant allows us to expand into Oak Park. Without it, it would be very difficult to make this jump because of the overall costs and expenses of the project,” said Stencel at the time. “It’s going to help with the infrastructure, the plumbing and adding additional cold rooms, as well as allowing us to use more Michigan agricultural products and increase our overall production.”

Look for Unexpected Craft Brewing Company to open on Eleven Mile in the coming months.

Oak Park Social


First announced in May 2019, Oak Park Social sits right under Oak Park’s iconic and newly renovated water tower. It will feature an outdoor patio and offer a menu consisting of artisan-inspired New American cuisine that features unique shareables, chef-driven entrées and vegetarian options.

“We knew Oak Park was a great choice because of their recent investments in infrastructure and their strong focus on economic development,” said Oak Park Social proprietor Alexander Bishai. “We sincerely believe in Oak Park and the City’s vision for Eleven Mile Road. We will continue to invest in the City of Oak Park and assist in forging the path for Oak Park to be labeled as a destination for food, spirits and hospitality in Metro Detroit.”

Scheduled to open this Summer, work was stalled for a while and the project pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Work has resumed, though, and residents can look forward to this unique neighborhood eatery opening very soon.

Dog and Pony Show Brewing

IN ADDITION TO UNEXPECTED CRAFT BREWING COMPANY, Oak Park is getting a second brewery on Eleven Mile! Dog and Pony Show Brewing is anticipated to open up some time later this year or early next year in the old Randolph Tool Building located at 14661 Eleven Mile Rd. Unlike some other industries, two breweries in close proximity to each other can actually benefit one another. With their own unique traits and offerings, both brewing operations should draw plenty of interest.

Dog and Pony will be complete with an outdoor front patio, offerings of both beer and cider, and an event space for when larger social gatherings are safe to hold again.

Proprietors Aaron and Josh Gierada come from an entrepreneurial background and are determined to make their brewing operation a success. “Anything you do, you have to do with passion and we will make it a success,” Kyle Gierada said.

Oak Parker

ANOTHER RESTAURANT IS IN THE WORKS on Eleven Mile – this one outside of the new mixed-use zone, though. Near the corner of Eleven Mile and Coolidge, Oak Parker will be a hip new bistro located at 13621 Eleven Mile Rd.

From renowned restaurant operator Joe Bongiovanni, Oak Parker will feature outdoor seating, a basement lounge, and various spirits. Of Salvatore Scallopini and OWL fame, Bongiovanni knows what it takes to bring a great eatery to a previously uncharted area and turn it into a massive success. Architecture firm Ron & Roman are designing the interior and exterior of the building to be modern, chic, and welcoming to all. Planned to open later this year, you’ll definitely want to add this spot to your “must-try” list.


IN ADDITION TO ALL THE EXCITING DEVELOPMENTS HAPPENING on the Eleven Mile corridor, the new Kroger grocery store will be located right around the corner on Greenfield. Currently wrapping up construction, the Kroger will feature a grocery pickup service, pharmacy, and a fuel center. The biggest development in Oak Park since FedEx, this project is sure to be another catalyst for growth on the Eleven Mile corridor as well as the shopping center directly adjacent to it.

With all that is going on in Oak Park, and specifically on Eleven Mile Rd, it’s hard to keep up! Stay tuned for updates and announcements about even more developments coming soon. To learn more about the City of Oak Park’s economic development efforts, visit their webpage.

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 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

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WHETHER YOU HAVE AN ESTABLISHED GARDEN, A HOPEFUL STRIP OF DIRT WAITING FOR YOUR TROWEL, OR JUST A POT OR TWO, you can grow easy-to-care-for plants to brighten your yard and your plate. You can also skip spraying your lawn and harvest delicious edibles from it instead. (Not applying pesticides is better for bees and other pollinators, plus you’ll save money and won’t be contributing to pesticide run- off flowing into city water systems.)

When pondering what to plant, non-invasive native species are always a good idea since they’ll thrive all on their own. Noninvasive imported plants work well, too, assuming that they’re suited to our hardiness zone. In most of Oakland County, that’s Zone 6, with a few areas being Zone 5.


Although lots of veggies are relatively easy to grow, lettuce is by far the easiest, especially if you’d like to grow something from seed. Unlike tomatoes and beans and peppers, lettuce doesn’t need any kind of support structure, and it doesn’t need as much sun, either. One caveat: lettuce needs to be protected from voracious bunnies!

An outdoor bistro table or chair makes an excellent lettuceperch, or you can use an outdoor plant stand to get your lettuce off the ground and away from marauding rabbits. (If you have a surplus of large pots, turn one upside down and put another one on top of it — filling it with dirt should make it stable enough to plant your lettuce in.) Fencing in your lettuce also works, but another advantage of using pots is that you can move your lettuce from one spot to another if it seems to be getting too much or too little sun.

Lettuce comes in many shapes and shades: closed-head varieties (crisphead, iceberg), looseleaf (red leaf, green leaf), and in between (romaine, bibb), and in hues from pale green to deep red. The more loosely the lettuce grows, the more nutrients it contains — a greater number of exposed leaves means the plant has to have a stronger immune system to defend itself from bugs and fungi that try to attack it. Deeper reddish hues also offer more nutrients in terms of anthocyanin content, which is a pigment that functions as an antioxidant. Another nutritional bonus: Lettuce is high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. The flavors and textures of different varieties of lettuce vary, but they’re all easy to grow.


Like lettuce, herbs also grow well in pots. Large-leafed herbs like basil and mint also have especially high amounts of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. (And come in many different varieties! Purple ruffled basil, anyone? Or how about chocolate mint?) In terms of culinary applications, you just can’t beat fresh herbs that you can snip whenever you like. Plus, you can dry them at the end of the season to enjoy your garden bounty even in the winter months.


If you’re looking for something pretty and practical, plant edible flowers like nasturtium, violets, pansies, and roses. Flowers from herbs and alliums are also edible and often stunning in their own right, so even if you don’t eat them, you can enjoy looking at them. (And chives are possibly the most hands-off perennial plant you can have.) Herbal flowers like lemon balm, lavender, are particularly beloved by bees, too.


The biodiversity of an unsprayed lawn is stunning, and a lot of it is edible: Dandelions (the flowers, leaves, and roots), red clover flowers, wood sorrel leaves (wood sorrel kind of looks like shamrocks and is tangy with vitamin C), violets, plantains (aka psyllium in health food stores), purslane (an incredible source of omega-3s), and many more valuable “weeds.”

Don’t spray your lawn — eat it!