By Kevin Rodney


…an unrelenting, unfettered drive to cost-effectively product fruit-and-vegetables organically, flavorfully enhanced, nutritive, immediately accessed, economical.

Additionally, urban residents, particularly those on tight budgets, gain knowledge and a sense of self sufficiency when they dive into farming and growing edible food.

Here in the Midwest, we have four distinct seasons: Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer. Outdoor food-growing is done mid-May through Mid-September at best, an inevitable drawback if one relies on farming as a food need.

Tomatoes: Early Girls, Beefsteaks, Romas, Heirlooms…tomatoes are the most common, popular, prolific garden food that amateur growers produce all over The United States. Homegrown, thoughtfully grown tomatoes generally abound in flavor, and they are fresh and delightful. They differ radically from store-bought (even high-income gourmet retailers) in that way. Said retail businesses feature tomatoes, none of which have any taste or flavor at all.

One can become very fond – hooked, so to speak – on the amazing high-quality of homegrown produce. In some, depression may surge at seasons end when a farmer realizes that he or she can count on ten fingers those that remain. When they realize that they won’t taste another Roma again until the following spring/summer and the next crop comes in. Some will dearly long for that day when a tomato is once again, great with the eggs and hash browns. Some will never buy another tomato until they seasonally plant their own.

AN EARLY AMERICAN (1917) WRITER NAMED O’HENRY WROTE A POIGNANT SHORT STORY entitled The Last Leaf. The setting is Greenwich Village in New York City. Plagued by a serious pneumonia epidemic, and many fight for life.

In particular, a young girl lies very sick in her small apartment. She clings to life, down with crippling pneumonia. Her main focus is an alley wall outside the bedroom window.

The wall is laden with leaves growing on a vine. It is frigid in New York that night. There is an incessant, sub-zero howling wind through the alley.

As the sick child watches leaves randomly blowing away, she hears a knock on her door. Her visitor is an old man who lives in the building. He is a struggling artist, a painter who barely makes rent. He and the girl are friends. He checks in with her.

His goal has always been to paint his masterpiece while still alive..

He fears for the sick girl. She watches leaves blow copiously off the alley vine. Sadly, she develops the idea that if the last leaf blows away overnight, her will to live will fade. That she will die. The old artist tries, but cannot cheer her up and bids her goodnight.

In the morning, the girl joyously sees that her last leaf has hung on over the brutal night. She is reinvigorated, and inspired, her will to live is much stronger.

Unbeknownst to her, the old artist is found frozen to death in the alley. While the last leaf blew away hours before, he painted its likeness on the alley wall. While it cost him his life, he has truly created his masterpiece.
The spirit of the sick girl is manifested in this writer.

The morose melancholy that plagues a committed urban farmer when the last tomatoes are gone lingers over the dark, foreboding winter.

By Ryan R. Ennis


ON ANOTHER DAY, YOU STOP CLEANING THE KITCHEN and just stare at the refrigerator, wishing it had a small container of tasty potato salad you could grab and devour. Cravings often take hold at the most inopportune moments, when you lack the time and the ingredients to fix the desired foods.

Fortunately, if you live in Metro Detroit, there is Kravings — a deli offering signature sandwiches and many ready-to-eat side items that can appease your hunger. Some of the sandwich choices are the BLT, the BBQ beef, the Philly steak, and the Reuben. According to online reviews, many customers rave about the Chazal, a burger topped with beef bacon and served on a jalapeño bun. Some of the side dishes include soups, garlic bread, fries, and salads. Also available to order are sushi rolls, tempura rolls, and boneless wings.

Oak Park resident Zoya Rice praises the deli to her friends, family, and coworkers. “It has a nice environment and is very clean,” she tells them. When her cravings strike at work, she often breaks away at lunchtime and travels a short distance to the establishment to get her favorite — the grilled chicken sandwich.

The selections at Kravings are kosher. To be kosher, “the food must be prepared under certain restrictions (which adhere to Jewish dietary laws),” explains Sandy Singal, the general manager at the restaurant. “We pride ourselves on the fact that we can make anything that anyone else can under the highest kosher restrictions.”

SINGAL’S HISTORY IN FOOD SERVICE INDUSTRY GOES BACK 23 YEARS, when he began working for Kraving’s parent company Quality Kosher Catering, owned by the Kohn family. Although Quality Kosher Catering had established itself as a reputable caterer for weddings and other events within the local Jewish community, Daniel Kohn, grandson of the company’s founder, decided eight years ago it was time to tap into the market of a new generation of people seeking creative cuisine. The challenge was to find an economical and convenient way to supply kosher meal options on a smaller scale.

Enlisting Singal’s help, Kohn developed a plan to open a carryout business. As they embarked on their search for a suitable location, the owner of Unique Kosher Carry approached Kohn (as luck would have it) about buying his Oak Park sandwich shop. Realizing it was a great spot to achieve his dream, Kohn jumped at the opportunity. Once the purchase was made, the necessary workers were hired to give the place a more contemporary look with new walls, flooring, and furniture.

WHILE THE DELI’S MODERN APPEARANCE HAS ATTRACTED both former and new customers, people keep coming back because “our menu offerings are kosher and high quality at the same time,” says Singal. “We are careful about what we buy and where we buy it from.” In the present period of supply chain issues, “our chefs have learned to be creative,” continues Singal. “If a particular product is out-of-stock, they figure out how to work around it.” For example, “our menu may have more items with fish when beef and chicken aren’t available.”

With business steadily increasing, Kohn has recognized the need for adding services. If you are on a tight schedule, you can place your order in advance and also stop in to quickly buy pre-packaged foods, like roasted potatoes and rice pilaf, from the refrigerated display cases. On the occasions you would prefer to eat in, there is a dining room that comfortably seats about 25. Recently, Kohn purchased the space next door so that the site will accommodate more patrons and more tables with chairs.

As Singal will tell you, Kohn’s intention to expand could not happen at a better time. “Our burgers and sushi are very popular. Unless you live in Los Angeles or New York, it’s hard to find delis that have kosher sushi.” Whether people require a kosher menu or not, more and more customers frequent Kravings “because they love the quality and freshness of our food.”

Located at 25270 Greenfield Road, Kravings is open M-TH 11AM-9PM; FRI 9AM-3PM; SUN 4-9PM. Closed Saturdays. To view the menu or contact the staff online, visit To place an order by phone or schedule a food delivery, call 248.967.1161.

By Jenn Goeddeke


I recently visited Zeana Attisha at their Oak Park locale, which has a spacious, warm ambiance and traditional/intricate decor. Zeana is lively, charismatic, and highly educated, with degrees from MSU and WSU in hotel management and business & finance, respectively. Her father, who immigrated here from Iraq in 1967, was determined to raise his girls to be strong and independent, “like five soldiers!”

SAAD ATTISHA CAME TO THE USA AT AGE 16, the eldest of eight children. His family immigrated here for freedom from Iraqi government oppression. The Sahara Restaurant locations have opened within areas that have both a Chaldean church with a strong community. Saad became skilled at working in the family restaurant and worked his way up from stock-boy. At 19, he opened the Eastern Restaurant at 9 & Woodward in Ferndale (across from Como’s). Then in 1983, Saad moved the restaurant to Oak Park (9 & Coolidge). At that time, they changed the name to Sahara Restaurant & Grill, now located at 24770 Coolidge Highway.

Zeana mentioned that Mediterranean food has steadily become more and more popular over the years, to the point where it is a top option for diners in the USA. She added that there are quite a few variations in how food is prepared, depending on the restaurant. In response to high demand, Sahara employs an experienced team of chefs who work together each day, preparing meals from scratch, using authentic Chaldean recipes: “straight out of mom’s kitchen!” Ingredients are always fresh, not frozen, with frequent purchasing from Detroit’s renowned Eastern Market and the Detroit Produce Terminal.

The Sahara Retaurant menu is extensive, with tempting favorites such as chicken or beef shawarma & cream chops; various lamb dishes; seafood dinners; grilled kabob kaftas; hommous (with or without meat); a full range of salads, and tasty soups such as lemon rice or adas (lentil). Also, menu options include “create-your-own” sandwiches and combo meals. The house ranch, garlic spread, pickled cabbage, plus rice & stew are all popular additional sides. Combined with the fresh bread, made from a customary Iraqi recipe, the combined result is delicious! Zeana informed me that they cater to many other forms of cuisine preferences, aside from the established Chaldean/Mediterranean fare, plus items by special request.

TOGETHER, THE ATTISHAS EFFICIENTLY HANDLE all aspects of the restaurant operations. Zeana explained with a smile, “We are like yin and yang, and so we make a great team. Saad has street smarts and I have book smarts! He is the idea-man: creative and smart. He is also very picky about all ingredients used. For example, he favors choice angus and other top-of-the-line meats. He manages the kitchen and I handle the bookkeeping and bills for all the locations. We are both outgoing and respected in the community.”

Additionally, Zeana is involved with local politics, and helped overturn the dry-city status of Oak Park (which had been in place since 1945. “I want the city to do well and so I have to be proactive!”

The Sahara Restaurant is obviously successful, despite significant adversities the Attishas have encountered while running their business. Zeana recalled that in June of 2010, while at their 9 mile & Coolidge locale in Oak Park, the premises of the neighboring tenant burned down. It was a massive fire, and several local fire departments were involved. The fire extended into the Sahara Restaurant and destroyed a lot of the property (including damage to some large, expensive equipment). Zeana added that it was a huge hurdle to deal with and recover from.

They have also felt the effects of the Covid19 pandemic in quite a few ways. Initially, there was a complete closure, followed by carry-out orders only. “We gradually got back to full restaurant service, but there have been huge changes in cost, labor, and worker expectations.” Zeana explained. “Costs have dramatically increased on just about everything they need to buy, including spices and oil, but we are trying hard not to let this affect the current menu prices. Our customers have been understanding of any small increases made because clearly food prices have gone up everywhere.” In common with many other businesses, supply-chain delays have been problematic currently for the Attishas. There is a wait time of several months for certain supplies for the restaurant (such as their signature plastic bags used for carry-out orders).

DESPITE ALL THE MAJOR CHANGES SINCE MARCH 2020, Zeana emphasized how patient and supportive their customers have been throughout the whole Pandemic upheaval. The staff has been equally loyal, something that Zeana largely attributes to Saad’s management style: “he is laid-back, and you couldn’t ask for a better boss!” Their four busy locations continue to thrive and consistently keep customers happy.

The Sahara Restaurant & Grill locations are in Sterling Heights, Oak Park and Detroit. The Sahara Banquet Center is in Sterling Heights and the Sahara Market & Bakery in Warren.

2390 Metropolitan Parkway, Sterling Heights, 586.264.0400
24770 Coolidge Hwy, Oak Park, 248.399.7744
32836 Ryan Rd., Warren, 586.274.0700
77 W. Columbia St., Detroit

By Ryan R. Ennis


In 2017, she heard about a Girls Pint Out meetup happening one evening at the B. Nektar Meadery in Ferndale and decided to check it out. She ended up having a great time.

Typically, the beer trade is viewed as a man’s world. At the gathering, however, Fracassa happily went from table to table as she befriended women who were local experts on craft beer. While conversing with the ladies, she learned that women’s roles in the industry stretched back hundreds of years, to the days when women living on small farms labored for hours to make flavorful ale without the convenience of modern machinery. They would store their ales in wooden kegs, which they would sell to villagers so that they could earn more income for their families.

That night, she also learned that Girls Pint Out is a national organization committed to recognizing those brewers from the past as well as spotlighting present-day women who are talented beer makers.

WHEN FRACASSA GOT HOME, SHE TALKED ELATEDLY ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION with her husband. Looking forward to the upcoming local Girls Pint Out gatherings, she was disheartened when they fizzled out after only a few months. Eventually, hope reappeared on the horizon for the local chapter. By periodically checking the organization’s social media sites, she saw in early 2019 that the Detroit chapter’s president was looking for someone new to take it over.

“I immediately applied,” she says, “and I’ve been running the Detroit chapter ever since.”

As head of the local chapter, Fracassa is responsible for organizing monthly events, maintaining the group’s social media presence, and purchasing and displaying merchandise to advertise Girls Pint Out at the meetings. Her other duties include building and maintaining relationships with breweries, beer reviewers (writers), beer distributors, and other organizations focused on craft beer.

In addition to all those tasks, Fracassa works full-time as an administrative clerk at Oak Park Recreation. Although her plate is clearly full, she has no qualms about her busy calendar because of the sense of belonging she now feels.

“It took a few years before I realized what this community (of beer connoisseurs) means to me,” she says, “and how I want to make my own place within it. Now, I’m enrolled in the brewing and distillation certification program at Schoolcraft College, studying to become a certified cicerone (a professional who works with beer). It’s such a wonderful feeling to finally discover your passion.”

BY PURSUING HER INTERESTS, FRACASSA HAS GAINED many connections and friendships. “In the past year, I’ve gotten close to a couple of women who regularly attend events,” she relates. “We have our chats, and they’re wildly active — we share memes, jokes, life updates, and advice.”

When they buckle down to business, the women will discuss a variety of issues related to the beer industry, ranging from the reasons why certain beverages tend to be more popular than others, to how certain environmental factors have recently affected the production of them. Fracassa also uses the opportunities to discuss her involvement with similar organizations like Fermenta, whose mission is to provide support and scholarships for women in the industry.

SO THAT THE GIRLS PINT OUT HANGOUTS do not become mundane, Fracassa spices them up by hosting special parties, fund- raisers, and an evening of crafts at the breweries. The special events started in February of 2022, when she threw the group’s first Galentine’s Day party to celebrate the ladies’ friendships at the Urbanrest in Ferndale.

About a month later, the pandemic caused the group’s in-person meetings to be suspended for nearly 18 months, during which time Fracassa spent countless hours increasing the group’s social media subscribers and giving online shout-outs to breweries whose beverages she sampled curbside. In August of 2022, the group was finally able to reassemble for a get-together at Dog & Pony Show Brewing in Oak Park.

“It felt so good to be back in a brewery and be with my girls,” she recalls. “Since then, we’ve held about one event a month with some off-cycle hangs (as we like to call them) at various bars, festivals, and even shops.”

TO HELP ENSURE THAT MEMBERS ARE RESPONSIBLE AND STAY SAFE, meetups typically take place for a few hours during the week. Knowing their alarm clocks will be ringing early the next day for work, the women limit themselves to only a pint or two of beer before going home to bed. Since many are regulars, they feel comfortable talking about what their limits are and, consequently, watch out for each other.

“It’s not difficult to go over your own limit — everyone has done it — but I work hard to make sure the events are a safe space for women,” explains Fracassa. “I want them to look forward to these meetups, whether they’re at a brewery they’ve never been to before, or whether it’s for a specific activity, like Galentine’s Day or a day of crafts.”

Fracassa has had an especially hectic schedule this past summer, occupied with work and family commitments. However, she plans to officially restart Girls Pint Out meetups this fall. On Saturday, October 22, she attended the Michigan Brewers Guild Fall Beer Festival (held at Detroit’s Eastern Market), where she handed out Girls Pint Out materials from 1 P.M. until 6 P.M.

It’s free to become a member of Girls Pint Out. To get updates about the organization and its local chapters, visit and click on the chapter directory. To subscribe to the Detroit chapter’s newsletter, send a message to

By Jenn Goeddeke


The business has been in operation since 1995, but after taking over Katoula has been determined to keep improving its popularity. Katoula lived in Denmark for ten years and worked as a chef in his own restaurant. He certainly has the experience to run a successful pizzeria. Katoula is a family-oriented man, with all his family living in the USA. Katoula moved to Michigan in 1999.

As with many local businesses, the Covid-19 pandemic created some challenges. Katoula lost five of his long-term employees during the early phase of the pandemic and has had to bridge that gap.

Fortunately, many members of his family stepped in to help. For example, his nephew Kyle helps him manage the store, and his son Marcelo works there part-time. Additionally, some of his friends’ kids work for him also. Katoula commented, “I make them all feel like family – it’s not all about business!”

IMPRESSIVELY, KATOULA NOT ONLY STAYED IN BUSINESS, he also came close to doubling his business from early 2020! Katoula appreciates his staff for their part in the continued success of the Ferndale store. “My family cares about the business and they give the best service to customers.” Being professional at all times is key. Recently, Katoula’s daughter Marci and two nieces, Chanel and Chantel ran the store by themselves on a Sunday. With a smile, Katoula added, “they’re even better than me!”

Katoula loves to excel with fresh ingredients, including all the salads. “They are not the cheapest price, but they are the best quality, and we get great feedback from our customers.” Currently, the number-one seller on the menu is Papa’s Favorite, a combination of a large pizza and Bambino breadsticks. They also offer a full Mr. Pita menu too, and delivery is available to a wide radius.

A large part of Katoula’s business is catering, with favorites being mostaccioli and chicken wings. With his reliable staff and store capacity, he can cater to any group size.

TO GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY, KATOULA HELPS OUT various local organizations, schools, city staff, and charities with donations of food. He mentioned how much he enjoys working in Ferndale because of the “great mix” of people!

740 W Nine Mile Rd in Ferndale | 248.399.0011
M-Th 10:00AM-10:00PM; Fr-Sat 10:00AM-1:00PM; Sun Noon-9:00PM.


By Kevin Alan Lamb

WE LIVE IN A TIME WHEN IT IS DIFFICULT TO TAKE 10 STEPS before someone offers their uninvited opinion or advice on how to act, think and run your business.

Rather than lead by example or applaud those pioneering a unique path, we often criticize others who face the changes we weren’t willing to make ourselves. As such, it is refreshing to discover a place, space, and concept designed to help their clients find their own way.

“The D-Loft Cafe is focused on being a hub for the food professional,” says Brandi C Shelton, founder/ owner.

“We assist new and established professionals to grow and maintain their customer base while assisting them in the development of business concepts that increase their brand awareness, financial stability and most importantly creativity. The Cafe works daily on the enrichment of small food businesses by working hand-in-hand with the creator/ owner and continuously developing new and out of the box thinking for the future.

“We work to provide things not normal to a banquet space or hall. Social connections build. A banquet hall isn’t a place to build unless it’s made into a full social environment. TVs, fireplaces, lounge furniture and more provide the client with a different viewpoint. It is a training concept. Social spaces are considered banquet halls but what we do and how we offer the space is by far on a different level to our consuming public.

“Our drink partners both help us to be innovative. No more of the boring drinks. We bring a full brand to the table. It is healthy, tasty and fresh. Our drinks are handcrafted right here in Michigan and they are a super-small business. Lymonheadz started with five total drinks on their menu. In one year we assisted them in the development of 25 flavor combinations and they have even started distribution to stores and restaurants for 2022.

FOR OVER 20 YEARS, SHELTON HAS BEEN BLENDING BUSINESS AND BEYOND, which she credits as the recipe for creating social spaces.

Like rocket fuel for dreams realized, Shelton’s passion and vision continue to provide others a guide to reach, and navigate their stars. The D Loft’s mission is to ensure each professional that walks in their doors is successful on three levels.

• START: Beginning stages of building the business and brand foundation.

• MOVE: Movement is the element where the business is growing and gaining momentum with a brand presence.

• TRIUMPH: The final stone to the foundation of building a business. When the company is established and working, growing and making money. It is the crossover point of knowing you are in the winners circle.

NO MATTER YOUR PROGRESS ON YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY, the D Loft’s mission should excite and quite possibly intrigue you. Their studio space focuses on being a part of the arts, building with educational programs, independent artists, and other small businesses. They host a variety of different business and art-based forums, all by special invitation only.

There’s even a bed-and-breakfast. “Another hole in my belt of trying something new. We took a home and converted it into a boutique style, mini-hotel concept, with art and more. We removed the basic kitchen appliances and replaced them with what a general hotel would have, and created a breakfast menu for up to eight to partake in every morning of your stay. What can go wrong with shrimp and grits, French toast or pancakes, fruit platters, fresh juice, alkaline water and desserts?”

Investing time, energy, and love into the realization of others dreams, helps illustrate the reality that a dream shared, is less likely to be a dream deferred.

“There are several success stories. From food to food trucks. The mission is sustainability. From Confections Factory to Flavor for the Soul, Jerri’s Cheesecakes, Rosey Cheeks Treats, Sweet Babe Treats (our sweet lineup), Blu VI Catering, Chef Taz Bistro (our co-Executive Chefs), Chrissy Cuisine, Culinarian’s Corner (our Executive Chef and Food Director) to Fantastic Fruit (fresh fruit and veggies) and more. On the food truck side, we built a relationship with Touch of Honey and DC Novelty Eats and they both are gaining momentum.

“Touch of Honey is focused on the building phase of life. Her final goal is full domination in the communities where she becomes a household name. She brings back that mama approach, providing you a meal that reminds you of Sunday dinner on a Tuesday. All of them hold something special to me and the foundation of what the cafe stands for. Collectively, there are 20 members that build up.”

Visit the D Loft’s three locations – Hamtramck, Ferndale and Oak Park – to experience its wondrous offerings for yourself.

13710 W Nine Mile Rd, Oak Park
138 Stratford, Ferndale
313.879.0750 |

By Mary Meldrum

FORGOTTEN HARVEST IS CELEBRATING THEIR NEW HEADQUARTERS AT 15000 8 MILE ROAD (at Hubble, a quarter-mile east of Greenfield). The new campus is a 78,000-square-foot purpose-specific building large enough to bring all their employees under the one roof. The warehouse will have ample space to house, sort and refrigerate more fresh nutritious food for Metro Detroiters. Chris Ivey has been with Forgotten Harvest since 2018, helping to make sure no one in Metro Detroit needlessly goes hungry. Chris’ daily responsibilities include marketing and communications both internally and externally for Forgotten Harvest. He also recruits volunteers and works with the Development Department as they do fundraising for the organization.

“This new warehouse will have volunteer opportunities for approximately 60-70 people a day. We have two ways Forgotten Harvest accepts food.” One method is receiving large bulk loads from distributors and manufacturers. They also have their grocery trucks, the smaller box trucks that travel to Kroger, Trader Joes, Meijer’s and Costco where they rescue nutritious food from those organizations. This includes the “seconds” or the ugly or bruised fruits, which are all still edible, just not the prettiest.

Chris goes on to explain the new warehouse: “Right now, the grocery rescue is picked up in morning and delivered in the afternoon. With the new model, all the food will be brought into the new warehouse, sorted by food type and mixed more equitably at every distribution site with the larger bulk loads, so they can be delivered daily in a more equitable mix of food types to every location. This will result in a more balanced plate for everyone receiving our services,” explains Chris.

“Right now their distribution network looks very balanced, but if you look down the line, not every distribution place gets the same type of food. Forgotten Harvest is a large organization and reconfiguring the distribution process is a big job. The goal is to make sure each delivery site gets a balanced nutritional plate. We don’t order our food. We get what we get. Right now, we will have a lot of potatoes, onions and things like that. With the new model we will have a better variety and deliver the right food at the right pace at the right time.

“WE SHOULD HAVE THE WHOLE STAFF UNDER ONE ROOF by next Summer. The pandemic proved that the access and distribution network is very fragile because it’s led by volunteers. The access points to the services we provide are the biggest challenge. To have a distribution point in every neighborhood is the need and our goal.”

As Chris explains, “We can’t make it sustainable, and then all of a sudden we’re not there. We have to set it up to keep it up, once a community starts to count on us.”

The other challenge is volunteers. Fortunately, last year Forgotten Harvest had over 13,000 volunteers who gave 55,000 volunteer hours. They always need more and look to corporate, church groups, youth groups, etc. to help out.

When asked about his vision for Forgotten Harvest, Chris shared that “A peek into the future of the organization has me super excited. Our strategic plan will be Board-certified soon. Next June we will be into the new building. It’s a sense of excitement for where we are going.”

Chris is a long-time Metro Detroit resident and the father of two daughters, one in college in Michigan and one a junior in high school. Chris takes advantage of as much of Michigan’s offerings as he can.

Forgotten Harvest
21800 Greenfield Road, Oak Park, MI 48237
Phone: (248) 967-1500 | Fax: (248) 967-1510


By Lisa Howard

ANYONE WHO’S EVER WATCHED MAD MEN WOULD PROBABLY SAY that the advertising field isn’t exactly a breeze. But what takes even more dedication is leaving advertising to open a boutique corner market/wine shop/gift store.

“I’ve never worked so hard before in my life,” says Donna Dirkse, owner of The Neighbor’s Shoppe. “And I’ve never been so humbled by the kindness and support that the people in this town have given me. That’s what gets me up in the morning.” She purchased what used to be Tweeny’s in the summer of 2015 with a vision of what her new store would be like and zero experience in owning a business. She points out that there was some beauty to not knowing exactly what she was getting into — as the saying goes, ignorance is bliss.

The next three years “schooled her,” as she puts it, with Murphy’s Law kicking into action. Fortunately, the daughter of the previous owner stayed on to ease the transition, and a helpful next-door neighbor happened to know the owner of a successful wine business in Detroit who connected Donna with trusted distributors. Those distributors sat down with Donna and explained the ins-and-outs of stocking intriguing, hand-picked wines.

With the help of her husband Troy — who’s a master electrician and all-around handyman — Donna was able to quickly get renovations underway, painting the interior and exterior, pulling up the floor and putting in new tile, and building new fixtures, including new shelving that Troy custom-built using wine boxes and donated French doors. Throughout all of the renovations, Donna kept the doors open so that the community could see and experience the transition. “It’s so much fun to think back on that creation period,” she reminisces. “We wanted customers to feel comfortable when they walk into the store and feel like it isn’t an average party store.”

Those initial three years taught Donna the tricks of the trade, from what kinds of items customers wanted her to stock to how to find the latest interesting products. But then 2020 rolled around…and everything changed. Demand for frozen foods shot up, people were clamoring for fresh produce and, for several months, 90 percent of her business was curbside. Once people re-acclimated themselves to shopping in big-box stores again, though, sales of the new “staples” plummeted and items started to pile up. Deliveries became uncertain at best ordering 28 cases of Gatorade once resulted in getting four cases of Pepsi – and it was difficult to keep popular items like chicken and Popsicles on the shelves. Then, as restaurants reopened, deliveries and products shifted yet again.

BUT, DESPITE THE MYRIAD CHALLENGES, Donna loves running The Neighbor’s Shoppe. “I love my customers,” she says. “I love trying to figure out how we can grow the shop and make it better. I love being part of this community.” She’s constantly amazed by how friendly her regular shoppers are.

Two even stopped by her store on their way home from the hospital to introduce her to their brand-new baby, something she still can’t believe. “How did that even cross their minds?” she says. “When people move out of town, they come in to tell me goodbye. Who does that? Berkley is a ‘big small town’ where neighbors look out for each other. I could not run this store in any other community.”

Donna is always on the lookout for fun new items to bring in, whether that’s dog-chew toys shaped like wine bottles or craft beers. She also sells spice blends and rubs from the Recipe Kit warehouse and offers pizza and sandwiches freshly made in the store. During the holiday season, she’ll be creating gift baskets and passing out hot chocolate at the holiday parade. All of that ties into her core mission: To have fun. “I want customers to find surprises when they come in and to have fun shopping!”

And they most certainly do.

2833 Twelve Mile Rd., Berkley MI 48072 | 248.546.8960

By Ingrid Sjostrand
Photos © 2021 Bill Gemmell

THERE ARE MORE THAN 78,000 PIZZA RESTAURANTS IN THE U.S., and in 2019 Michigan had the eighth most in the country with 2,718 pizzerias. With those numbers, it should come as no surprise that on any night of the week an average of one-in-eight Americans is eating pizza.*

Roy Sera, and his wife Christine, wanted to help feed that pizza craving in the Berkley community, so they opened their Jet’s franchise location in 1994 at 2823 Coolidge Hwy. The Jet’s Pizza brand alone has over 400 locations throughout the U.S., but Sera likes to think his employees, their dedication, and the residents of Berkley they serve make his restaurant stand out from the rest.

“I chose the location in Berkley because my brother-in-law had a location in Madison Heights and Berkley happened to be just outside of his territory,” Sera said. “I am so glad I went west of his store and settled in Berkley. It has been a wonderful experience because of the people, the residents.”

It probably comes as no surprise that the most popular item on the menu is the classic large, square, cheese-and-pepperoni. But even as a franchise, Sera says there are menu items that are lesser known.

“We have two kinds of pepperoni: the normal pepperoni and an old-fashioned pepperoni that cups up,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know we have them, but once they do they normally order them again.”

Sera credits much of the past 27 years of successful business to his employees. Two of his delivery drivers, Kyle Kleckner and Lester Jones, have been working at his Jet’s basically since the beginning, employees for over 25 years.

“They both are staples of our fast delivery service,” he said. “My general manager, Matt MacDonald, has been with me for over 19 years and has been incredible, especially during the pandemic. All of his brothers and his sister have each worked here at one time or another, too.”

SERA’S OWN FAMILY HAVE ALSO BEEN AN ASSET TO THE BERKLEY JET’S SUCCESS; having helped keep the store staffed when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its height.

“On many occasions, I had Christine, my son Ryan and my daughter Alexandria all working on the same shifts to get through the dinner rushes,” he said. “Having my family all working together during the pandemic was a great feeling.”

Despite the positive family-bonding opportunities, much like other businesses, the past two years haven’t always been easy for Sera and Jet’s Pizza.

“The pandemic has really been hard on our work staff. Working with masks and gloves next to a 500-degree oven was challenging,” Sera said. “We have been fortunate with sales but have struggled to have a workforce to support the sales.”

Sera also owns the Southfield Jet’s location at 30120 Southfield Rd., just north of 12 Mile Rd. For anyone who loves pizza and wants to work in a supportive, family-oriented environment, Sera encourages them to join his team.

“We are hiring! Full time, part-time, inside or delivery,” he said. “Apply within!”

Roy Sera;
2823 Coolidge Hwy, Berkley, MI 48072
(248) 547-9880
*Pizza statistics from &

By Lisa Howard

MAYBE YOU’VE BEEN MEANING TO JOIN A FARM SHARE OR CSA to get your hands on the freshest foods possible. Or maybe it’s lunchtime and you just wish you could find a grab-and-go healthy lunch somewhere.

You can do both at Fresh Collective Kitchen & Market! The cozy space offers wraps, salads and omnivore and vegan entrées right alongside fresh produce, farm eggs and locally made healthy snacks. Co-owners Erin Brick and Alison Purdy and CEO Amy Kaltz like to say that Fresh Collective “is a fancy 7-Eleven/mini-Westborn.” (They also serve lattes and espressos made with locally-roasted beans.)

Behind the counter, Fresh Collective also serves as a commissary kitchen. Several of the chefs who rent the kitchen use it to make dishes for their personal catering clients, while others need the space to prep for their food trucks. Some make the array of grab-and-go items the Collective has available every day, like quiches, wraps, green salads, pasta salads, soups, and croissant sandwiches. In response to customer requests, there are plenty of dairy-free and gluten-free options as well.

The story behind the collaborative nature of Fresh Collective began when Erin started a co-op over five years ago. Back then, she was bouncing from one place to another in a quest to stock her home kitchen with the healthiest ingredients possible. “I was tired of going to several different places to feed my family the way I wanted to feed them,” she says. “That’s how the co-op was born.” She partnered with MSU’s Tollgate Farms, and it didn’t take long before she needed someone to help sort orders and serve as a secondary pick-up point. That’s when Alison joined forces with Erin.

BUSINESS WAS PROCEEDING AT A MANAGEABLE PACE …and then the pandemic hit. “Our sales quadrupled because all of a sudden no one wanted to go to grocery stores,” Erin explains. “Although we had originally focused on cheese, meat and eggs, we thought, ‘Well, we need produce now.’ Then it was, ‘Well, we need pantry items now.’”

In short order, they also needed a bigger location. It was pure serendipity that when Erin was shopping at Vitrine, she started talking to Vitrine’s owner, Susan Rogal, about the co-op. The vacant adjoining space formerly housed a bakery, and when Rogal asked Erin if she’d like to trial-rent the space for her co-op, Erin jumped at the opportunity. It’s been onward and upward ever since.

“Because we have such a big following on Facebook from our co-op customers, they talk about us a lot,” Erin says. “Within two months of being open, we had over a thousand Likes – in the middle of a pandemic! Plus, we’re in such a cute section of Coolidge. There’s so much within this little walkable pocket. We love being here.” It’s also a convenient location for Co-op customers to come by and pick up their weekly items. The animal products are from pastured animals, and all produce and animal items are certified organic/produced in accordance with organic standards.

Erin and Alison have added permanent indoor and outdoor seating at Fresh Collective so that customers can grab something to eat and then stay to enjoy it. It’s all part of their goal to offer healthier, more delicious choices to everyone.

Fresh Collective Kitchen & Market
2752 Coolidge Hwy, Berkley MI
Open Daily