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Restaurant veterans to open southern-inspired Menagerie Lounge in Pontiac

A new restaurant is being planned for downtown Pontiac, and it comes from a few familiar faces in the city's dining scene.

James and April Forbes, the couple responsible for the pop-up kitchen and incubator Menagerie, are planning on opening a restaurant of their own. Dubbed Menagerie Lounge, the restaurant will feature southern-inspired fare, live entertainment, and design work and art from local Pontiac artists. The couple, who won the Food Network's Cupcake Wars in 2012, will also carry their own award-winning desserts.

Scheduled for a February 2018 opening, Menagerie Lounge will be located at 155 N. Saginaw St. in downtown Pontiac.

"When we go out to eat, we've been in the service industry for so long that we have a different lens that we view the experience through. We're more forgiving, but we also know how we want our staff to treat our customers," April says. "The customer service will be top notch because people work hard for their money."

The build-out of the restaurant is being funded, in part, by a recently announced $25,000 grant from Flagstar Bank and a $35,000 Small Business Administration (SBA) loan from Center for Empowerment and Economic Development (CEED). The grant is part of $2.5 million that Flagstar is scheduled to invest in small business development in Pontiac.

"We're super excited about the loan and grant opportunity. It's not often that a small restaurant gets this type of opportunity at all," says James. "We're excited about the direction the city is heading in."

April recommends that businesses interested in applying for the loans and grants be prepared and have their business plans ready. Oakland County's One Stop Shop Business Center, she says, was a big help in preparing Menagerie's business plan.

Menagerie, which got its start as a pop-up kitchen in 2015, moved to Lafayette Market earlier this year, where they facilitate the pop-up kitchen and restaurant incubator programs. The couple says that they will continue to work on the incubator program, even after their own restaurant opens.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Flagstar Bank launches small business development funding in Pontiac

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Flagstar Bank announced the first disbursement—$500,000—of its $2.5 million investment in small business development in Pontiac. This small business initiative is part of Flagstar’s five-year, $10 million commitment to help revitalize the city.

“We’re happy to have partnered with Flagstar to bring this $10 million commitment to Pontiac,” said Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman. “Small businesses are the backbone of any economic revitalization, and this funding from Flagstar gives a welcome boost to our community.”

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Pentastar Aviation collaborates on co-ownership solution for business aircraft owners

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Waterford Township-based Pentastar Aviation and Partners in Aviation (PIA) announced they will offer a comprehensive management program with a cost-effective solution to owning and operating a business aircraft.

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Huge At Home decor store stocks 50,000 items

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At Home is all about variety. 

The home décor superstore’s new Wixom location sells more than 50,000 items, including 100 Christmas tree varieties, seven aisles worth of rugs and many rows of mirrors, wall art, towels, window treatments, tableware, cookware, furniture, pet beds, mattresses, pillows, patio umbrellas, Halloween decorations and even artificial turf. 

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Downtown Pontiac's newest business boasts 100 percent American-made outdoor sports apparel

Bill Ludwig and his business partners, a group of avid fishers, boaters, and golfers, noticed something as they were walking around ICAST, an annual fishing trade show. In terms of apparel, the fishing and resort apparel industry had grown complacent. While there was plenty to choose from, the offerings were leaving the group unimpressed.

"We walked through and started discussing starting our own brand," says Ludwig. "One of my partners lamented that there was no need for another performance brand. But I said, yeah, but look at the labels. There isn't one manufacturer here with a label that says Made in USA."

So they started one.

American Made Performance is a fishing and resort apparel company based in downtown Pontiac. Ludwig, the CEO of the company, says that all of its products are 100 percent made in the United States. The cotton is grown here, and the fabrics are woven and sewn here. He contends that they're the only ones in the fishing and resort apparel industry to be able to make that claim.

The notion that people want 100 percent American-made products seems to have so far worked out for AMP. The company employs two dozen people at its downtown Pontiac manufacturing facility, an old bank at the corner of Saginaw and Huron streets. And Ludwig says that current revenue projections indicate that AMP will double that number within the next twelve months.

The company has partnered with Ryan Keene as its exclusive artist, which is another selling point for the brand, says Ludwig. Absent are the muted browns and greens one might expect to find in fishing apparel, instead replaced with bright colors and lively illustrations.

"It's rare for a company to have unique selling propositions," says Ludwig. "We have two. The United States and Ryan Keene."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Meet Royal Oak's new Downtown Manager

It’s mid-morning at The Office coffee shop in downtown Royal Oak, and Sean Kammer has not yet had his breakfast.
 
It’s par for the course, he explains, as he digs into a bagel and cream cheese. As the city’s first Downtown Manager in many years, he has a full schedule getting to know the local business owners, associations, and elected officials.
 
The restaurant scene on Main Street is thriving. But retail, especially along Washington, is faltering. Royal Oak has lost two major retail anchors in recent years; American Apparel in 2016, which is now vacant, and Barnes and Noble, which left in 2014 and is now a Buffalo Wild Wings. And with new office developments taking shape, the city faces a sort of identity crisis—is it fated to develop an upscale character, or can it retain some if its funky bohemian past?
 
Four weeks into the new job, Kammer, who prior served as Assistant City Administrator in Lathrup Village, took some time to sit with Metromode to share his thoughts about what’s next for one of metro Detroit’s oldest downtowns.
 
The conversation is edited for clarity.
 
Metromode: Tell us about your new role. What are your responsibilities?
 
Kammer: The prior person in this role was focusing mostly on events, When I was hired on, they wanted me to focus more on things like retail attraction, retention, to function as the eyes and the ears of the DDA. I think what they mean by that is to build relationships with the business community and all of the stakeholders down here just so the DDA is more informed of how their projects and programs are affecting the downtown. I'm tasked to try to try to build some consensus and work together and move forward in one direction.
 
Metromode: Royal Oak’s Downtown Manager position has been vacant for some years. Why fill that role now? What's the current need the city sees?
 

Kammer: A few years ago there was a downtown task force that was created. They came up with a number of objectives. One of those was to get more economic diversity here in the downtown. They knew that it was thriving in terms of restaurants, but retail was struggling and still is. They wanted to get more office users here in the downtown. They wanted to diversify that to add some resiliency to the economy.
 
Metromode: Is there adequate office space in downtown?
 
Kammer: They're building it right now. There are two projects. One is currently in construction, and one has just been approved. Those two projects alone actually met their goal of 180,000 square feet of office space.
 
One is the Etkin project. That is next to the post office on 11 Mile. You can see it right now; it's that big steel frame that's going up currently. The next one is going to be the Royal Oak City Center project. That's got a lot of facets to it, and it includes an office building that will be constructed in the parking lot in front of city hall.
 
Metromode: What's your vision for retail? How can it be revived?
 
Kammer: I think a lot of the retail is trying to change, to downsize and focus on experience, to stay relevant. For example, Barnes and Noble is working on a concept store right now. They're smaller stores; I think they're only like 15 percent of the original footprint. It's more experiential. They give you wine. There's the Amazon Go stores that aren't online yet. Nordstrom's is in this same kind of theme; making it more experiential. What kind of things can't you deliver online? It's nice to see that they're down-scaling the stores. In downtown Royal Oak most of our available sites are 5,000 square feet or less.
 
Metromode: How do you compete with what's happening in Detroit? Do you try to?
 
Kammer: It's difficult. I think there are two schools of thought. I'm still trying to make up my mind. I think they both have some merit.
 
There’s the regional perspective of Detroit's doing well, so all of the suburbs are inevitably going to be doing better. I think it's going to make the region more competitive on a global scale.
 
Then you get down into the micro-scale of where's everybody going on a Friday and Saturday night. Are they going to go to Royal Oak or are they going to go to Midtown? I think that's where you start to see some competition.
 
Metromode: What about residential in downtown? What's happening with that?
 
Kammer: That has been happening for some years when they build the Fifth building and then all of the other lofts on 11 Mile. There's an additional project that's going to be residential and that's going to be the 696 / 10 Mile and Main Street area on the south side of the downtown.
 
Metromode: What do you hope to be able to accomplish in your first 6-12 months in this job?
 
Kammer: I'd like to bring in a retail anchor, something that would catalyze additional smaller retail.
 
Metromode: What are your thoughts about the old Royal Oak vibe being more of a funky, bohemian type of place? Can it retain that character as it develops?
 
Kammer: I'd love to recapture a lot of that innovation and imagination that it had back when I was in high school, back in the early 2000s. I was in Clarkston, but on weekends we drove all the way from Clarkston to Royal Oak just because of the concentration of the thrift stores and the record stores. There wasn't a community around that had all of that stuff in Oakland County. We came all the way down here for it.
 
Over the years as Royal Oak has gotten trendier and trendier, and attracted more and more investment dollars, it priced a lot of that DIY entrepreneurial spirit out of the market. I'd like to recapture a lot of that.
 
Metromode: How do you do that in this higher-rent environment? Is it possible?
 
Kammer: I think so. I don't know if you could locate them exactly in the urban core. That's why I was thinking about how there should be a little Midtown in Royal Oak to encourage entrepreneurs where the rent's a little lower. It would be along 10 Mile, maybe Fourth Street. I think at some point it could end up being outside the DDA district. It would be outside my jurisdiction, but I'd like to see something like that come back to recapture a lot of that soul that Royal Oak had. We still have some holdouts; Lost and Found Vintage, Rail and Anchor, and UHF, the record shop.
 
Metromode: You have an interesting challenge. You want to try to recapture some of that cool downtown Royal Oak that you remember, but based on the reality that rents are higher, you're sort of stuck between Ferndale and Birmingham. Which way is is the city going to go?
 
Kammer: Right. In fact, it's been described to me that right now Royal Oak is trying to find its identity. We have this office building being constructed, so it's definitely bringing in larger companies. We're gonna get a daytime office crowd. There's a hotel being built. A lot of investment is coming into the community But it still has that cool, trendy, DIY thrift shop vibe that a lot of people still want to maintain. The construction is pulling it in the other direction. Is it gonna be more of like a Birmingham? Maybe. Is there room for that? Is there a third way?
 
I like to believe there's a third way. I think there’s some sort of synthesis that can be achieved. And I think the DDA can maybe help with that. We talked about incentives and trying to foster a lot of these businesses that you wouldn't ordinarily see heavily invested in an urban core.
 
Could you very intelligently recruit businesses into certain sections of the downtown where you could help balance out some of those rents? The higher rents area where you could bring in retail anchors, and then garden entrepreneurs in one section of the downtown that would be more affordable? I think it's uncharted territory right now.

Nina Misuraca Ignaczak is Metromode's managing editor. Follow her on Twitter @ninaignaczak or on Instagram at ninaignaczak.

Old theater to be transformed into comedy club, music venue

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Residents are curious about the renovation Bill Nannoshi is doing at the old Union Lake Twin Cinemas to transform it into a comedy club, music venue, restaurant and gaming room.

“There are between five to 10 people a day who stop and say they can’t believe how nice the building looks,” he said.

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Birmingham Starbucks first in Michigan to have Reserve bar

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The countdown is on for a new Starbucks to open in downtown Birmingham.

The location at 101 N. Old Woodward is set to open Sept. 29, according to a Starbucks spokesperson. At 3,400 square feet, the store is more than twice the size of the existing Starbucks in Birmingham and promises to offer some premium selections that are sure to please local coffee lovers.

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Innovation Park receives Brooksie Way $30K grant

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A section of the trail at Innovation Hills Park in Rochester Hills will now be known as the Brooksie Way. The city recently received a $30,000 grant from the organization, which held its annual half-marathon and other racing events in Rochester Hills last weekend.

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Oakland University offering automotive contractor safety course

Oakland University is now offering a Lockout of Hazardous Energy Control Course (Green Lock Training). This is a safety training course for first, second and third tier automotive industry contractors. 

The course provides the knowledge and skills needed to safely perform lockout for energy sources while working in a typical modern automotive manufacturing facility. It includes a hands-on lab scenario and student manual.

Attendees can select from several dates to take the one-day course throughout the fall.  The next two available dates are Thursday, October 12, 2017 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday, November 9, 2017.  Courses will be held in room 1053 of the Human Health Building located at 433 Meadow Brook Road, Rochester, MI 48309. The course is offered at a fee of $250.   

“We developed this course to meet the training requirements of OSHA, MIOSHA and other state programs,” said Patrick Frazee, M.S., M.A., CIH, CSP, director of Environmental Health and Safety program. “We also built it with automotive industry input and collaboration to fulfill the contractor training requirements for automotive companies.”
 
Highlights of the program include: 
 
•       A six-hour course developed to meet the needs of engineers, contractors, technicians who perform lockout during work activities.
•       Course materials that cover OSHA requirements as well as specific requirements and methods used at General Motors including Safety Control Systems and MPS.
•       Upon completion of the course, students will receive a certificate and Green safety locks will be provided upon request. 
•       Course instructor(s) have extensive real world experience in automotive and construction/contractor activity.
•       The course is delivered on OU’s campus and includes lab exercises at an MPS robot cell. 
 
To register for either course date, visit the website.
 
For questions about the course, email the instructor, Rob Hart at rhart@oakland.edu.

Work begins on new upscale senior living community in West Bloomfield

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Work has begun at the former Ealy Elementary School in West Bloomfield Township, to make room for a $23 million upscale assisted living and memory care senior community.

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Uplifting in store for Hawley Barn in Holly, long term vision on the way

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“It’s not going to fall over on my watch.”

Holly Township Supervisor George Kullis spoke about the Hawley Farm’s large red barn at 13409 North Holly Road. The 14-acre property – complete with two farmhouses, a barn, a chicken coop and an outhouse – had been purchased by the Township for $291,000 in the early 2000s and now is in need of repair and a plan.

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Pinnacle Homes opens Valencia Estates South in Novi

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Bloomfield Hills-based developer Pinnacle Homes today announced the opening of a new single-family residential home community, Valencia South Estates, in Novi. Located at 47458 Alpine Dr., south of 10 Mile and west of Beck Road, the community’s first phase includes 30 lots with new floor plans starting from 3,200 square feet.

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CycleBar Studio expands to Bloomfield Hills in November

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CycleBar, a cycling studio with three others locations in metro Detroit, will be open a new location in Bloomfield Hills in November. The 3,000-square-foot facility will feature classes, in-house and online custom-specific workout data, and instructors.

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Flagstar Bank and Oakland University partner to Deliver actionable economic data to broader audience

Flagstar Bank and the Southeastern Michigan Economic Data Center (SEMEDC), a unit of Oakland University’s business school, have teamed up to expand SEMEDC’s analysis of key economic trends and bring its insights to a broader audience.
 
As the presenting sponsor of the SEMEDC, Flagstar will share the center’s data through its own customer relationships, social, and other media. Flagstar’s sponsorship includes support for research by the university’s undergraduate business students.
 
“Flagstar serves a large and growing base of commercial customers,” said Drew Ottaway, Michigan Market president and managing director of lending for Flagstar. “We’re excited to bring these customers easy access to powerful economic data that they—and the entire business community—can use to drive growth in our local economy.”
 
The economic data center was started by OU Economics Professor Jonathan Silberman, Ph.D., who has developed indices to measure key trends specific to Southeastern Michigan. The SEMEDC looks at trends in the labor market, building permits, vacancies, consumer prices, population, and other categories. Silberman and his students just rolled out a new index focusing on the economic vitality of the region.
 
“The economic vitality index taps into the heartbeat of the economy by combining job growth, unemployment rate, real wage growth, and housing price changes into a single measure of economic vitality that directly impacts households,” Silberman said. “The most recent EVI for metro Detroit shows positive momentum led by housing price gains and a reduction in the unemployment rate. The EVI is available for 19 other cities and a 20-city average.”
 
Through the SEMEDC, Silberman also provides insights on the automotive industry, including timely topics such as Detroit’s lead ranking in autonomous technology patents.
 
About Flagstar
Flagstar Bancorp, Inc. (NYSE: FBC) is a $16.0 billion savings and loan holding company headquartered in Troy, Mich. Flagstar Bank, FSB, provides commercial, small business, and consumer banking services through 99 branches in the state. It also provides home loans through a wholesale network of brokers and correspondents in all 50 states, as well as 85 retail locations in 26 states, representing the combined retail branches of Flagstar and Opes Advisors mortgage division. Flagstar is a leading national originator and servicer of mortgage loans, handling payments and record keeping for $87 billion of home loans representing 402,000 borrowers. For more information, please visit flagstar.com.
 
About SEMEDC
The Southeastern Michigan Economic Data Center (SEMEDC) provides state-of-the-art information and analysis on economic, demographic and business trends in Southeastern Michigan. Data compiled from a wealth of sources is available all in one convenient site. As the real-world data changes, the data and displays are updated automatically, so the information provided is always current. The SEMEDC is part of the School of Business Administration at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.
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