Berkley Huntington Woods City Guide 2019

Story: Ingrid Sjostrand | Photos: David McNair

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Lisa Howard

WHEN SISTERS KATIE KUTSCHER AND CHRISTINE GROSS OPENED BERKLEY COMMON in 2017, one of the things they wanted to do was to create a common space for the community.

As Katie points out, “It’s part of our name.” They wanted a place where people could bring their kids and families, a place with healthy bar food options that women and men would enjoy equally.

Their combined efforts resulted in a community-minded restaurant that serves American food with a global twist. (They offer plenty of vegan and gluten-free dishes, too.) Case in point: Their most popular item is the Korean Cauliflower Wings with house-made kimchi and BBQ sauce. “We really focus on fresh ingredients and a scratch kitchen,” says Katie. “We have zero food storage space, so the ingredients arrive every day.”

Christine adds that the same holds true for their cocktails – they’re created with ingredients like hand- made bitters and freshly-pressed ginger. And, just like the food menu, the cocktail menu is rotated seasonally, with new menus in fall and spring. Along with cocktails, Berkley Common also has 22 beers on tap (all from Michigan!) and includes two nitro taps in the mix.

THE RESTAURANT BUSINESS IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART, but the sisters have a synergy that makes them a great team. Christine, a CPA, does “the nerdy stuff” while Katie manages the staff and plans the menus. That said, she points out that the specials they run give their chefs a lot of creative freedom. “Anybody here who walks through the door has maximum creative development potential, because they’re adding to what we do,” she says. “If their idea is successful, we’re thrilled! It’s a collaborative business, and we’re always looking for good people to grow with us.” The sisters are also happy to say that 80 percent of their employees are from Berkley.

One of their ideas from the beginning has naturally unfolded into a key aspect of their business: Creating an event space where they can host everything from bridal showers to networking events to class reunions. They’ve even had musical groups rehearse in the second-story space.

They hold fundraising events, too, like the guest bartender series where the group picks the charity they want to support and Berkley Common gives part of the proceeds and all of the tips to that charity. A recent fundraising event for Cure JM (juvenile myositis) raised $1,200; on October 25 they’ll be hosting a guest bartender fundraiser for breast cancer.

During their peak season, they’ve had as many as 25 events in a single month in the upper space. Katie thinks that’s because the demand served the space. “There aren’t that many venues in this immediate area that will take a party of 40 or 50,” she says. “We have done private dinners for groups of 20 people and can fit up to 80. It’s a very versatile space.”

BEFORE THE SISTERS OPENED BERKLEY COMMONS, Katie had been running two beverage establishments in NYC, but she decided to move back to Metro-Detroit and open her own restaurant. It took a while to find the right location, renovate the building (the tin ceiling is still there, though!), and then get it staffed and open.
“My favorite part about all of this has been seeing our business and building change as Berkley has changed,” Katie says. Chris agrees. “Seeing how so many motivated, smart, and fun business owners and residents are committed to growing the city is great,” she chimes in. “It’s really fun to be part of everything.”

3087 12 Mile Rd.
Berkeley MI 48072

Mon- Closed
Tues – Friday – 4pm – Close
Sat & Sun – 11am – Close

By Sara E. Teller

WHEN 36-YEAR-OLD PETRO DRAKOPOULOS DECIDED TO OPEN REPUBLICA in Downtown Berkley in 2013, he already had years of experience in the restaurant industry under his belt.

“My wife’s family owned Mitch’s in the Keego Harbor area. They opened in 1949. I also had 21 years of restaurant experience myself,” he explained. “I helped open Texas de Brazil in Detroit.”

Drakopoulos knew he wanted to start his own restaurant, and the spot in Berkley was ideal. “A lot of people asked if it would be like Mitch’s, but the nostalgia tied to a restaurant can be more important than the restaurant itself. And nowadays people are looking to be more health-conscious,” he explained, adding that Mitch’s was known for large portions of comfort food. “I wanted to start a healthy dining place with vegan and gluten-free options.”

Drakopoulos, who’s originally from the Chicago area, said Berkley reminded him of the Northwest Chicago suburbs where he grew up – a small- town feel with conveniences close by. He said, “I wanted to open a gastropub, which has a completely different meaning here than it does in Chicago or New York. The concept would be cool and unique, and the meals would consist of fresh ingredients but be approachable at the same

WHEN COMING UP WITH REPUBLICA’S MENU the family decided to infuse just a few favorites from Mitch’s to keep its memory alive, including its legendary ribs and family pasta. Drakopoulos’ mother-in-law is also a dietician and helped put together the one-of-a-kind “from- scratch kitchen” with “fresh ingredients,” he said,
saying, “She puts arugula and antioxidants in everything. After eating here, people can really understand the difference between a freshly- cooked meal and a freezer-to-fryer meal.”

The restaurant’s menu consists of small plates, burgers and sandwiches, soups, salads, entrees (even for the kids) and everything in between with options that meet a variety of dietary needs. Gluten-free and vegan dishes are highlighted along with organic bites and a note that all of Republica’s salad dressings are “made in-house and free of refined sugar and artificial ingredients.”

“Our bartender has also come up with drinks that are gluten-free and have less sugar,” Drakopoulos said, adding that Republica offers space for special events as well as off-site catering and party planning.

He credits the restaurant’s successful six-year run – and counting – largely to Berkley’s supportive community, explaining, “Berkley has a great school system and people just want to be here. I really love the sense of community. It’s often said, ‘it takes a village’ and Berkley is that village. I also have some regulars that come once a week from Grosse Pointe, so people come from all over. But Berkley and Huntington Woods have been especially supportive. The Chamber of Commerce holds meeting here, as do other organizations.”

FOR DRAKOPOULOS, BEING A RESTAURANT ENTREPRENEUR is a part of a long-standing family tradition. He believes Republica represents this, explaining, “We’re a family-run establishment. There’s always an ownership presence – whether patrons want to talk to my mother-in-law or watch me buzzing around, dropping plates.”

He also owns Brujo Tacos and Tappas, part of the restaurant collective and beer hall inside the Detroit Shipping Company, which is a high-traffic eatery especially on the weekends with thousands stopping by. He is an active participant in the Berkley community and enjoys entering its Soup & Chili Cook-off.

Republica is located at 1999 Coolidge Hwy and is open for lunch and dinner, 12:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. Monday through Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays 12:00 P.M. to 10:00 P.M., and Sundays 12:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. Carry out is offered online through GrubHub. For more information, call 248.268.3175.

By Sara E. Teller

COCO FAIRFIELD’S IS A BREAKFAST-AND-LUNCH DINER with classic eats like Belgian waffles, pancakes, omelettes, and fresh soup, sandwiches, and salads. They not only offer traditional favorites, just about everything on the menu can be made gluten-free.

Nicole Miller, who owns the restaurant along with her husband, Marty, said, “It had long been Marty’s dream to have a little local sandwich restaurant, and together we opened Coco Fairfield’s in August 2013. When the recession hit and displaced him from his auto- motive maintenance career, it was the start of the dream becoming a reality. We decided to take the plunge.”

In their search for a “cute little downtown area,” Miller said they just knew Berkley was the spot. “Marty likes to say that Berkley chose us. It just reached out and pulled us in!” she said. “We couldn’t wait to open and be a part of this great little community.”

Coco’s food is always top-notch and made to order, and the owners source many items from other Michigan-based companies.

“We don’t have deep fryers or microwave ovens,” explained Miller. “Everything is made to order and cooked fresh. We buy our maple syrup from Doodle’s Sugarbush located in Blanchard MI. We serve Zingerman’s coffee locally roasted in Ann Arbor. Our meats are nitrate- free, and we use organic mixed greens in our salads.”

A BERKLEY FAVORITE FOR THE PAST SIX YEARS, the restaurant has many regulars as well as those looking for a destina- tion spot while passing through. Miller said, “We love our customers and clearly would not be what we are without them! We have a lot of regulars, mostly from Berkley and the surrounding areas, but also a good amount from further out like Bloomfield and Farmington. We’ve even heard we have a following from the Grand Rapids area. Seems some people came in to eat while they were in town…now if people are coming to the Metro Detroit area, they come to eat at Coco’s.”

Part of creating such a warm and welcoming atmosphere means the staff treats every customer like family and the menu and vibe are all consistent with a community feel.

“Serving great food is only one part,” Miller explained. “We have the atmosphere and community that set us apart. And the community is the most fulfilling part of being a restaurant owner.”

Coco Fairfield’s is an active member of the Berkley Area Chamber of Commerce and helps to sponsor the Berkley Street Art Fest. The restaurant also regularly supports Berkley schools and many student teams through fundraisers and other events, as well as the Huntington Woods Men’s Club annual auction and Women’s League annual home tour. Miller is currently the Chamber president (through the end of 2020) and spends her time volunteering at local activities around town like the Art Bash, Pub Crawl and the Irish

“Our staff loves helping people and and supporting the community as it grows and evolves with the ever-changing businesses.”

COCO’S WILL SOON BE EXPANDING to a new, larger building off of 12 Mile. The added space will accommodate its growing customer base and allow the restaurant to offer patio seating in the back.

“We should get approval of our plans any time now and able to start the renovation,” Miller said. “It’s going to be great! We hope to be complete by fourth quarter 2019.”

Coco Fairfield’s is open from 7:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M., Tuesday through Sunday. It is closed on Mondays. For more information, call 248-399- COCO (2626) during normal business hours. A menu can be found online at

Photos By Ashley Poirer & Rich Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Sara E. Teller

DENNIS MCDAVID IS SUPERINTENDENT for the Berkley School District. He has served in his current role since 2012 and has been with the District since he was hired in 2005 as an English teacher at Berkley High School.

He joined Berkley schools after working for thirteen years in the private sector at well- known companies such as Chevrolet and OnStar. McDavid held a leadership position at OnStar just prior to making a complete career switch and returning to college to pursue a teaching degree.

McDavid earned his certificate at Arizona State University and his master’s degree in educational leadership from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He briefly worked at Phoenix North High School in Phoenix, Arizona, before transitioning to Berkley schools.

In 2007, McDavid was asked to make the move from teacher to principal at Berkly High School, a position in which he could put to use his previous experience leading teams. While McDavid was serving as principal, he contributed to many noticeable improvements at Berkley High, and for the District as a whole, including improving high school achievement scores and enhancing the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) model. PLC is a systems- based approach to school improvement in which educators are organized into teams and each team is responsible for its part in working with other groups to achieve district-wide goals.

In the Fall of 2009, McDavid assumed the role of Director of Schools & Human Resources, and in March 2012 he was named Superintendent. As Superintendent, McDavid currently oversees the daily operations and sets the tone and tenor of the district. His work has primarily been focused on improving educational outcomes for all students and creating pathways for each child to be successful. This includes attracting and retaining only the most talented and qualified teachers and administrators to be part of the Berkley team.

McDavid said, “We prepare our students to be creative, curious, confident, and critical thinkers. Berkley students enjoy the multitude of experiences and successes because of the overwhelming community support, the fantastic work of their great teachers and administrators and the rich and vibrant environments that parents create. We believe we are all in this together for the benefit of all our children.”

MCDAVID BELIEVES IN MAKING SURE students “feel inspired, empowered, and are given the tools to become leaders.” He also believes “all students should feel loved and know that they belong in the classrooms, hallways, groups, teams, and in the Berkley Schools

McDavid added, “We have a commitment that our students’ experience is within the context of a safe and nurturing environment where high achievement includes academic excellence, opportunities for language, fine arts, athletics, enriching experiences and the development of personal skills for lifelong success.”

An open line of communication is kept post-graduation, he said, and recently, the superintendent shared with those in the District, “Remember that whatever you do and wherever you go, there is a group of people in this district who believe in you, who love you and are supporting you in all that you do.”

MCDAVID KNOWS THAT THE SUCCESS OF BERKLEY SCHOOLS is made possible by all staff members and is the product of the “continual commitment of each staff member to take risks, to strive for continuous improvement, and to set positive examples and develop relationships with students, each other and the community.”

In 2007, McDavid was named Berkley School District Teacher of the Year, and in 2018, he was one of four people in the nation to be named a Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher. He is a member of the Michigan Association of School Administrators (MASA), the American Association of School Administrators School Superintendents Association, the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), the Oakland County Superintendents Association (OCSA), and the Oakland Schools Legislative Committee.

By Sara E. Teller

BRIDGET MAHRLE HAS LIVED IN BERKLEY for almost two decades and has certainly left her mark on the community. Well-known to many residents, she inherited her entrepreneurial spirit from her parents.

“I am a 17-year resident of Berkley,” Mahrle said. “I grew up in Wayne, Michigan, with successful entrepreneurial parents. They passed on that strong drive – to be the best you can be – to me and my siblings.”

Mahrle landed a job at Vibe Credit Union, formerly known as Telcom Credit Union, right out of high school and quickly worked her way up to a management position before leaving in 1999 to run United Mobile Power Wash, which she eventually moved to Berkley and later relocated to Southfield.

“United Mobile Power Wash was founded by my father in 1987 and was passed down to me in
1999,” she said. “In 2002, my husband and I moved to Berkley, where he was raised and graduated high school. We decided to make Berkley our hometown to raise our family.”

New to the area, Mahrle jumped into a few leadership roles which would allow her to integrate into its culture. She explained, “As a new resident and business owner in Berkley, I had decided the best way to assimilate into the community was to get involved. I joined the Berkley Area Chamber of Commerce, became active with the Downtown Development Authority for a few years, and led a not-for-profit Beautification Committee to help bring awareness to all the wonderful aspects of our beautiful community.”

SHE WOULD ALSO BECOME INVOLVED with Berkley’s annual Street Art Fest in a big way – in fact, she came up with the idea.

“I had stumbled across the West Michigan Chalk Art Festival online and introduced the concept to the Berkley Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors as a way to bring more positive attention to our Coolidge business district,” Mahrle said. “Three years ago, the Chamber decided the timing was right to roll out this amazing summer festival, and they asked me to co-chair it with Darlene Rothman, its Executive Director, and RoseAnn Nicolai, Events & Operations Manager.”

The vision for the Berkley Street Art Fest was to create an event that would allow businesses to showcase their unique offerings while bringing the community together through music, art, and other fun activities. Recently completing its third year, the festival brought to life “a commitment to bring more public art to our community through 15 vibrant murals that are now on the walls of Berkley businesses and one on the exterior pillar of the library,” Mahrle said, adding, “Chalk artist David Zinn of Ann Arbor painted two mini-murals, and Berkley is now only the sixth place in the world that has permanent artwork from Zinn.”

SHE IS GRATEFUL TO CALL BERKLEY HOME, stating, “My love for Berkley, and especially for the business community, has always remained a top priority for me. I continue to shout out the praises of our leaders who were making positive strides to improve our
community, businesses that are offering their best, and all the fun events designed for everyone to enjoy.”

In everything she does, Mahrle said she lives by the Margaret Mead quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” She explained, “I truly believe, small groups have the ability to make huge progress in improving their community – the key to their success is remaining positive, looking for ways to cooperate and work toward a common goal, and to do so with enormous respect and civility. That’s really when magic happens.”

Story by Sara E. Teller | Photo by Brita Brooks

FORMER HUNTINGTON WOODS MAYOR RON GILLHAM was elected to his position in 1981. Prior to that, he served on both the Zoning Board of Appeals (1972) and the city commission, beginning in 1977.

“MY FRIENDS CONVINCED ME TO RUN FOR THE CITY COMMISSION,” he recalled. “I lost by only 20 votes. But the person who won wasn’t there very long and I was appointed. Then, the opportunity came to run for mayor and I went for it.”

Gillham is well-known as the second longest- serving mayor in the state of Michigan, and is a proud, long-time resident of Huntington Woods. “My wife Shirley and I have lived in the same house since 1959. Huntington Woods is close to many other downtowns in the area – it is too small to have its own. It’s all about location – location, location, location.” He added, “I also appreciate the cooperative nature of the City Commission, the citizens, and our public safety officers. All of the city departments do their best to make this a very pleasing and wonderful city in which to live.”

Many important initiatives took place during the more than three decades Gillham was Mayor. He fondly recalls a time when the beloved Rackham Golf Course on 10 Mile was to be put up for sale and he successfully advocated against it. The community came together and fought to keep the historical site, which was constructed in 1925.

He said, “One of the more interesting things that happened was when the mayor of Detroit wanted Rackham Golf Course to be sold but couldn’t do that legally. The residents of Huntington Woods really came together and made sure that didn’t
happen. Just the overall response of the residents was commendable.”

Gillham added, “I also always enjoyed our Fourth of July parade. It was a great way for everyone to come out and have a good time. In all the years I was in office, I can honestly say it never rained
on our parade.”

HE FEELS VERY FORTUNATE to have had great city managers and credits their dedication to the day-to-day happenings for the reputation Huntington Woods has maintained throughout the years.

“I was extremely fortunate,” he explained. “They were responsible for the day-to-day running of everything that needed to be done. I would make suggestions here or there, but they really did a great job. And when things were going well we would do everything we could to keep them.”

Asked about the Gillham Recreation Center, he said, “It’s my pride and joy. When it was first
suggested, there was some pushback, but ultimately it was decided the Center was a good idea and plans were developed…I was both surprised and very pleased when I was told my name would be put on it.’

Gillham’s name was actually installed on the building while he was out of town and it was covered with a tarp. When he returned, he was invited to what he believed to be a community fun night when it was actually the unveiling of his name etched in limestone.

The Center is now home to many group meetings and events. It also hosts summer camps, clubs, sports teams, and activities for residents of all
ages. It has proven to be an important gathering place for area residents.

Gillham said, “Including the pool was one of the bigger decisions that had to be made. They had to eliminate the existing one and replace it with a competitive pool. That was a major financial asset – kids enjoy it, adults can swim laps, and the swim teams use it.” He added, “It is also a nice place for the Men’s Club to meet.”

OVERALL, GILLHAM IS HAPPY to have had an opportunity to give back to a community that’s near and dear to his heart.

“Huntington Woods has been, and continues to be, one of the best cities in which to live,” he said. “In fact, it’s considered one of the ten best small cities in the U.S. and the best in Michigan. It’s close in proximity with lots of things to do. Downtown Berkley, Royal Oak, and Ferndale are right around the corner. There are shops and the golf course. A large majority of the land belongs to the Detroit Zoo. It’s a prime location.”

He has many fond memories of his time serving as mayor and often tells others he had “two careers almost simultaneously,” working at General Motors while in office. Life is a little more laid back these days. Gillham is retired, and while he and Shirley are still active members of the Huntington Woods community (and have a fair share of their family nearby), they enjoy vacationing, especially during the summer months.

“Shirley’s family is in Canada,” Gillham said. “We just got back from visiting them. We enjoy traveling, and I keep active around the home, doing things for my family.”