Archive for July, 2011

By John Q. Horn

The holidays are nearing, and first up on the calendar is Thanksgiving. You can smell the bird roasting in the oven. You can nearly taste the pumpkin pie. You can, well, you can cut the tension with a knife is what you can do.

Loathe the holidays or not, Thanksgiving is the gateway drug to the late-December madness that can either add to the already existing glow in your heart, or heap massive fuel to that fireball of rage you call an attitude.

Either way, you need a blueprint. Holidays hit Defcon-4 for folks because people go in without a roadmap.  Make it easy on yourself, and those around you, should you have any consideration for them. And if you lack consideration for those around you, you’re probably some miserable bastard whose going to be lonering it in your unkempt, furnished apartment for the day, watching the Lions lose.

What is the most stressful part of Thanksgiving? For many, aside from travel-related headaches, it’s dealing with family members. And why are we stressed? Because we have an underlying resentment toward some, or all, of our family members. And this is resentment that we never bother reconciling. Put everyone together in the same room and the tension hangs like a lead curtain.

The late-November holiday is meant to inspire us to reflect on the components in our lives for which we are grateful, or thankful, or however you choose to identify it. While we should be happy to be alive and have a roof over our heads, we choose to snipe and trade passive-aggressive mind-fuckery with our siblings and other relatives. Don’t be the one who buys into it. Here’s how:

Make a plan

Nathan Moore is a licensed counselor at Moore and Associates on Connor Avenue in Detroit. He says that holidays become problematic because people enter them without a plan.  Thanksgiving is a prime example. When stressed out among family, people overcompensate by over-eating or getting absolutely hammered. You don’t have to immediately process that snide comment from your brother when you have half a loaf of banana bread crammed down your throat or are pummeling your fifth Jack and Coke, and it’s not even kickoff. Moore suggests people plan ahead.

“Before the holiday, set up a plan,” Moore says. “Set up an eating plan. ‘What will I substitute for fattening foods? If I plan on drinking, am I going to have a designated driver?’ Set this up before the holidays, so as they unfold, you have a plan in place.”

Be proactive

Have a beef with your old man or younger sister? Be a grown-up for once in your life, pick up the phone and settle it. Take the high road and make it easy on yourself.  If you reach out and they still behave reprehensively, then it’s on them. You did your part and you can move from the living room to the dining room with a clean soul. You have three choices with respect to Thanksgiving-related familial stress. You can either bend over and keep taking in a manner akin to prison sex. You can be respectfully assertive and communicate your concerns to the people who need to hear it. Or, finally, you can just stay home. If you can’t hang for five hours with the people who have known you longer than anyone else, if it’s that much work and that stressful, then stay home.  And do so with authority. Call your family and tell them you’ll see them at Christmas. And if they ask why, tell them. “Real Detroit Weekly said I should man up. This is I, manning up.”

Let someone else cook

If you host, you know it’s a lot of work. Depending on the size of your family, it can be short of a nightmare. The bird alone requires an incredible amount of time and attention. Cleaning the house, making the rest of the food and managing the household can take its toll. And we haven’t even approached the clean-up stage yet. Make it easy on yourself and either have the family meet at a local restaurant, or have the holiday catered. I know, I know, you’re not an entertainment venue and “catering” is something that most assuredly is not in your vocabulary, let alone your budget. Please, trust us.

Restaurants all around metro Detroit are ready to help. And Pronto! in Royal Oak is no exception. For 18 years, Jim Domanski says the restaurant has been catering Thanksgiving dinner for customers with great response. This year, you can feed a party of 10 for $125. In return, you get a pre-cooked, 15-pound turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, cranberry relish, dinner rolls, and a pumpkin pie. Pre-order by 11/22 and pick up the goods at either their downtown Royal Oak location or corporate office (on Normandy Court in north Royal Oak).

“It’s really easy and really, really simple,” Domanski says. “Just warm it up when you’re ready. It takes 20 minutes to prepare a turkey dinner. Just preorder and pick up.”

It’s a good bet one of your favorite restaurants could be open Thanksgiving, saving you time, hassle and dishpan hands. Now, get your head right, stand up to your family and eat up.

Published originally by Real Detroit Weekly Magazine

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Epic Comic Showcase Comes To Royal Oak

By John Horn

The fourth annual Garden Fresh Laugh Detroit Comedy Festival is coming to Royal Oak, and is bringing with it some big-time comedic names in the form of David Alan Grier, Bob Saget and Lynne Koplitz, as well as showcasing a crop of rising stand-up talent.

Stretched out over four days, Laugh Detroit kicks off Sunday, 3/27 with a live performance by Detroit native and comedy legend, David Alan Grier. The Cass Tech High and U-M graduate became a household name on the ground-breaking TV comedy In Living Color, and has never looked back.

His show will start Laugh Detroit 3/27 at the Royal Oak Music Theater. After that, the festival shifts to Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle, where national and local comedians will be showcased all week long. Koplitz co-headlines with performances 3/31 through 4/2. Laugh Detroit concludes 4/2 at the Royal Oak Music Theater with a live performance by Bob Saget.

Grier’s career has taken him from the staggeringly hilarious characters he created on In Living Color to feature films, programs on Comedy Central and his book, “Barack Like Me,” released in 2009. He grew up in Detroit and still has family ties in the area, where he makes his way back a couple of times a year.

Grier wastes no time in painting a picture of what visitors to Laugh Detroit can expect.

“They are going to come out changed. We are going to save lives,” he says, chuckling. “No, we are going to bring it strong. The best compliment I get from fans around the country is when they say ‘I came here, I laughed, I cried, I had a wonderful time.’ It’s going to be a really great evening of comedy.

“There is nothing worse than boredom, being distracted during a show, when someone in the audience is asking ‘Why am I here?'”

Why will you be there? You’ll be there to not only drink in Grier’s distinct wit and uncanny ability to be funny, but to check out some of the most promising stand-up talent not only in our region, but nationwide.

Beginning Monday, 3/28, the Comedy Castle will host three nights of performances, each one hosted by nationally known comedians, including Auggie Smith, the duo of Brian McKim and Traci Skene, and Karen Rontkowski. Each night through Wednesday, 10 different comics will be featured live on stage. The showcase wraps up Thursday, 3/31 with Koplitz.

Saget closes out Laugh Detroit completely with his 4/2 show at the Royal Oak           Music Theater.

Thirty-plus comics in a four-day span, including some serious up-and-comers, makes for quite the showcase. For Grier, it’s an opportunity not only for the comics to make an impression and a name for themselves, but for the industry to get some new blood.

“These showcases are very important,” Grier says. “For 10-12 years, the same people were headlining every club I went to. You have to nurture new talent, or you’re going to get me and Carrot Top until we are 100 years old. There has been a shift of young comedians coming up. The industry has to grow that next generation.”

And the industry, at least on Royal Oak’s end of things, is working tirelessly to cultivate a growing generation of comedians. Mark Ridley has owned the Comedy Castle since 1979, with guys like Tim Allen and Dave Coulier getting their starts on the open mic nights there. Ridley’s operation has evolved into the household name in metro Detroit that is synonymous with quality, live, stand-up.

Laugh Detroit is now in its fourth year and for Ridley, his designs on the festival and showcase seem to have no limits. The event, for him, sends a clear message.

“It shows we are serious about comedy,” Ridley says. “Last year, it was Lewis Black and Kathleen Madigan. If we can continue to draw big names, it will help us grow, especially working with local businesses and charities. Down the road, we would like to make it a stand-up comedy and comedy film festival.”

Ridley points to cities like Montreal (its comedy festival is now in its 25th year) and Boston as models he hopes Laugh Detroit emulates.

“Being that Detroit is a fairly new festival, we hope to push it to more prominence,” he says.

For the New York-based Koplitz (she’s moving back to L.A. after her show, Joan Knows Best, with Joan and Melissa Rivers, was picked up for a second season by WE tv), festivals like Laugh Detroit are critical opportunities for rising comics to establish themselves. Like any career endeavor, especially in entertainment, gaining experience and paying your dues is essential to survival.

“It just adds to your credibility in the business,” Koplitz says. “Festivals, doing the road, it’s part of the dues you pay to earn your stripes. Industry people are around at these festivals and they tend to take a look at it. Any time you can be included in something like it is good.”

Koplitz has been performing in Detroit and Michigan consistently for the last couple of years and absolutely gushed at the amount of comedic talent in metro Detroit. Like the region in general, she pointed out that the rest of the country hasn’t yet caught up with the talent pool in metro Detroit. To hear her tell it, it probably won’t be long before they do.

“I know a lot of comedy comes out of places like Chicago and Boston, but there are a lot of funny people in Michigan. I don’t know why people don’t look at Michigan and Detroit more, but there are a lot of funny guys in Michigan.

“What I think is cool about Michigan is that, no offense, Detroit got hit pretty hard with the depression. But the funniest shit comes out of people when they are going through hard times. That’s why Michigan comics have been so hilarious over the last couple of years. I do love you guys. The people are kind, the area is beautiful and you’re all straight shooters. I don’t think anyone understands the Midwest but you guys.”

Published originally by Real Detroit Weekly Magazine






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Motown Winter Blast 2011

Heating up downtown Detroit


By John Q. Horn

The Motown Winter Blast started as a downtown backdrop to Super Bowl XL in 2006. In the last 5 years, it has taken on a life of its own, gradually evolving into a seasonally iconic weekend that has become emblematic of downtown’s versatility and growth.

From 2/11-2/13, Campus Martius and the surrounding area become an epicenter of winter-based, outdoor fun,  irrespective of your demographic. For three days, metro Detroiters converge on downtown Detroit for the huge snow slide, great live music, wonderful food from area restaurants and a general sense of winter mirth that helps warm these cold days and nights.

Families live it up during the day and early evening with free ice skating at the Campus Martius rink, ice sculptures and a kids stage; adults young and old have plenty of options during the night, including three live music stages, after parties, bar crawls and more.

It is a something-for-everyone environment. A huge caveat for Winter Blast 2011 is the 11th-hour sponsorship that came in from officials with the Ambassador Bridge, who this year have sponsored the 200-foot-long, 32-foot-high natural snow slide that has been a big draw at past events. But for organizers, the reality is that Winter Blast 2011 will bring tens of thousands of visitors to downtown Detroit, and what attendees do while they’re there could have a positive effect on the city.

“The slide gives us such a lift but what’s interesting is that it’s not just having the slide,” says Jonathan Witz, executive producer. “It’s a great contribution to us, because it is expected to lift attendance. The more people we have downtown, the more money that is being spent on local businesses.”

Witz illustrated a ripple effect of what happens when people visit Winter Blast. They come for the activities and the fun, but they hopefully use it as a gateway to experience nightlife, dining and other activities in the city, outside of Winter Blast.

“There is a lot of adult-oriented entertainment with the music lineup, the after-party at the Greektown Casino, the Bar Blast, DJs from Movement; we have really put together an evening of entertainment,” Witz says. “We have set up the downtown so that our events go until 11 p.m. We have really opened the door for people to visit other Detroit spots after Winter Blast.”

Three music stages — sponsored by the Michigan Lottery, Flagstar Bank and Meijer, respectively — will showcase a variety of genres ranging from rock, funk and soul, to blues, pop, acoustic and more. Expected to play throughout the weekend are The Muggs, Black Irish, DJs from Movement, The Reefermen, Jill Jack and Stewart Francke, among many others.

Winter Blast 2011 offers a lot more than just great live music, though. Events throughout the weekend range from navigating the giant snow slide, to ice skating and snow-shoeing demonstrations, to dog-sledding, marshmallow roasting and so much more. For Witz, it’s not about how much activity organizers can pack into a weekend; rather, the real payback for him is the view while it’s all going on.

“The support of the snow slide has allowed us to have snow-makers to make snow for snowshoeing and to bring back dog sledding for the first time in three years,” he says. “With the backdrop of the city, you get to watch people putting on snowshoes like they’re at a resort about to hit the trails. This is what Michigan winter is like. There is a little bit of tourism promoted as well.

“It really is a neat mix,” he added. “The great thing about Winter Blast is watching people flow through it all. People are roasting marshmallows or going to catch a live band. It’s a pace that is both fast and slow.”

All of that activity will assuredly work up an appetite. The General Motors Foundation Taste of Detroit will feature 15 participants from all points on Detroit’s culinary landscape.

Restaurants in Taste of Detroit include the rich, European-inspired fare from Cuisine in Greektown; unrivaled barbecue goodness from Lockhart’s in Royal Oak; fresh fish, steaks and chops from Detroit Seafood Market; authentic Middle Eastern dishes from La Marsa; Greek fare from Greektown Taverna; Polish food from Kola’s Food Factory in Riverview; and many more.

Comfort Zones will be established throughout Campus Martius, with heated tents and warming stations no more than 150 feet apart. Visitors to Motown Winter Blast can pop in to warm up, while at the same time enjoying live music or any of the many other acitivities going on throughout the weekend. It’s cold. Go warm up outside.

Published originally in Real Detroit Weekly Magazine

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Community through sustainability

Royal Oak Community Farm nourishes neighbors

By John Q. Horn

Fresh produce is good for you. Buying it grown in your own city is even better.

The health benefits are obvious. With the region trying to emerge from the economic doom of the last three years, a greater emphasis, in the name of sustainability, has been placed on buying locally. The goal is to spend your money on good produced as geographically close to you as possible.

Royal Oak Forward is providing solutions. The nonprofit, community-minded organization is the positive culprit behind the Royal Oak Community Farm, a tract of land in the city that grows organic vegetables and sells those goods to residents.

The group brokered a deal with the city’s school district to reinvent a lot on 11 Mile into a farm. The property, the former Lincoln Elementary School location just east of Campbell on 11 Mile, now sees rows of earth-grown goodness. There, some 40 different vegetables – with 12 varieties weekly – are organically grown, harvested and sold locally.

On Saturdays during produce season, Royal Oak residents can visit the Farmers Market on 11 Mile and buy any number of items – from basil to zucchini – or whatever is in that week’s harvest schedule. In the truest concept of community farming, these goods are grown, harvested, and transported approximately 1 mile away from the point of purchase.

“It benefits the community,” said David Baldwin, Royal Oak Forward executive director. “It benefits the people so they can buy locally and consume locally grown, organic produce. The only way you can get fresher is if you grow it in your own back yard.”

In 2009, the Royal Oak School District approved a deal that would rent the school property – the building was demolished in 2004 — to Royal Oak Forward on a zero-dollar lease. The arrangement is simple: The farm is welcome to operate, but the school district plans on selling the land. If it does, the farm has to relocate.

The farm sustains itself financially by selling shares to neighbors. Baldwin says a full share is good for an entire growing season and costs $615. That fee provides enough fresh produce for a family of four. A half-share costs $335 and feeds a family of two for the season. Shares for 2010 sold out long ago. A waiting list exists for 2011.

You can help

Still, community support of the farm’s stand at the market – located outside of the south entrance at 11 Mile and Troy – could make the difference between survival and drying up.

“The school district has made their goal clear. They are looking to sell the land,” Baldwin said. “We want to see a permanent farm in Royal Oak, be it at that location or elsewhere. We have not reached our sales goal at the Farmers Market.”

Those interested in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) can buy produce in person on Saturdays at the Royal Oak Farmers Market or at Eastern Market in Detroit. Baldwin noted that some Royal Oak restaurants use the Royal Oak Farm-grown produce in their menu offerings. Those businesses include Inn Season, Café Muse, Lily’s Seafood and Zumba.

“We want to enhance our relationships with local markets,” Baldwin said. “We are looking at working with more markets.”

The farm can remain operational, especially if shoppers spend their money at the booth. It’s not like Baldwin is trying to set people up in a Ponzi scheme. He wants to sell to you fresh radishes grown a mile or two from your front door.

“We told everyone that if we make a profit it goes back to education,” Baldwin said. “If we profit, it goes back to the school district.” Presently, he added, the venture is operating at a break-even point. Sliding into the red could threaten the farm’s existence.

As a result of patronage, the farm is able pay one, full-time employee. Trevor Johnson is the property’s organic farmer. Patronizing community farms, Johnson said, is about more than supporting a grass-roots effort. We spoke to him on the phone and he wasted little time, or conviction, getting to his point. The commercial food industry is structured to make money first, he said. And that includes large manufacturing plants, tons of waste, and a lot of fuel spent on semi-trucks.

“When a person buys from us, they are not supporting external costs. We’re not leaking nitrogen into the water from one of our plants,” Johnson said. “The small organic grower wants to grow healthy produce to keep people healthy.”

It’s good food that is not bad for you, is grown locally, and is designed to keep your dollar local. So, this type of consumerism is a no-brainer, right?

“It’s a no-brainer to go to McDonald’s, actually,” Johnson said. “I’m sorry, but broccoli does not have the same caloric density as a Big Mac.”

Having an impact

Working full-time on community land to raise organic produce to sell to neighbors is Johnson’s job. He’s down at Eastern Market on Saturday mornings. He’s sweating it out in the sun. He wants the freshest, healthiest food for everyone in metro Detroit. And when he’s not doing all of that, he’s still furthering the goal of stretching the community buck, imploring neighbors to peel back a layer of that philosophy and take a peek.

“When I get paid, I don’t go to Wal-Mart,” he said. “I may go to a local brewery and buy a pint, made here with local ingredients. And my spending helps him …’

That brewer can pay a local wage or take a couple of bucks from his earnings and spend them at a local artist’s shop in downtown Royal Oak. That artist may donate a portion of her income to the animal shelter. That ripple’s breadth and depth is congruent to the size of commitment from the person holding the dollars.

Johnson said the reward can be considerably more significant than just the personal warmth that one can hold, knowing they supported a local business.

“Every purchase has an effect,” Johnson said. “What effect do you want to leave behind? McDonald’s? Or Inn Season?”

The farm’s weekly yield depends on what is at its peak. Baldwin said the forecast changes, based on soil conditions and weather. Still, they try to set out the schedule with roughly a week’s notice. On one week, the offerings may include beans, new potatoes, Swiss chard, basil, and eggplant. The next week might serve up dill, carrots, cilantro, melon, and leeks. The farm’s Web site – www.royaloakcommunityfarm.com — lists the schedule, ways to get involved, and provides general information on CSA.

Published originally at royaloakneighbors.com

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Generations of longevity

Hardware store has nuts and bolts to hold community together

By John Q. Horn

It has enabled people to turn around a rotten day, add value to their home, and, in some cases, has arguably saved a few marriages. And no, “it” is not half of a bottle of bourbon, a swimming pool, or a therapist. It’s the neighborhood hardware store.

If longevity and sincerity are indicators, the family owned hardware store at Lincoln and Main streets in downtown Royal Oak crystallizes perfectly the role any hardware store plays in its community.

Frentz and Sons has been doing right by handymen — amateur to pro — for 85 years. It has done so by paying strict attention to its customers’ needs.

From the well-worn hardwood floors that rise up at an upward angle from the rear part of the store to its front, to the big steel bins of nails in all sizes, to the litany of home improvement items, Frentz and Sons has, literally, the nuts and bolts that hold together a community. Every store needs stock to sell, irrespective of their market, whether it’s a pipe wrench or a burrito. What makes Frentz and Sons distinct is how they serve the people who come through the door.

One is not alone for long inside Frentz and Sons. Within a minute, you’re being asked if you need help. Repairing a screen at home? Someone there has done it and can tell you how. Run into some snags replacing the sink trap? They’ve been in those wet shoes themselves and can set you straight. Wife have that look on her face as you continue to screw up the tiling job in the bathroom? Staff insight will keep you off the couch that night. Customer service is the priority. Nothing else comes close.

“I tell my staff that the most important thing in this store is not talking, not horsing around, it is waiting on the customers and that’s your main job,” said co-owner John Frentz.

John Frentz’s father, also named John, opened shop in 1925 in Detroit. The elder Frentz did so with his father, George. They moved the store to Royal Oak in 1932, into the 15,000-square-foot building that today stands like a monument at the downtown Royal Oak intersection. The younger John Frentz is part of the day-to-day operations with his brother, Mike and Chip (real name George).

One look at John Frentz and a shoplifter may want to consider going legit. He has a contained intensity to his expression and the physical build of a guy who looks like he was stranded on a desert island for 10 months with nothing but a set of free weights and some steel kettle balls. He speaks matter-of-factly but with sincerity. He’s humble, too. His idea of success doesn’t stem from helping to sustain a business in which he’s worked since 1958, or what the ledger’s bottom line looks like. It’s input from customers that is the fuel to his fire.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but it’s not very often that you have a job where you are complimented every day,” Frentz said. “Those compliments come from the people you work for, and the people we work for are the customers.

“And not a day goes by that somebody won’t say ‘I love coming in here because you guys have everything I need. You have what I need and I’m in and out quickly.’”

The store’s rows are home to any shade of paint and type of paint supplies, plumbing repair and maintenance items, wiring supplies, lawn maintenance items, new keys, select sizes of plywood and trim, and anything else one would need to make a repair or improve an aesthetic. The most consistent sellers? Lawn bags in spring, summer and fall; rock salt in the winter.

The other consistency for Frentz is in the generations of return customers. A hardware store in business this long will generally get to see a lot of family trees growing.

“Royal Oak and the surrounding communities have been good to this family,” Frentz says graciously. “People come in and say ‘I used to come in with my grandfather. I used to run up and down those aisles in the store.’ And this guy I’m talking to is probably 40-45, and he has his own kids with him.

“I probably waited on his grandfather, or my dad did, when they came in. Those families go back, some of them four generations of families who have come in. It is those people who have kept us around here. We owe to them a great debt.”

And that component of Frentz and Sons doesn’t always go back three or generations. Frentz said it is often just one or two.

“Dads will come in with their sons and daughters, and the daughters are in their 20s and the kid just bought a house,” Frentz said. “They don’t know what they’re doing, so they call their dad, who supposedly knows what he’s doing.

“And the dad will say ‘Yeah, my daughter just bought a house and we are redoing the plumbing.’ And the next week they’re back, doing the electrical.”

And if Frentz and his staff can’t find what a customer needs, or provide the expertise themselves, they have a big list of handyman contacts they gladly pass along. Behind the counter is a box with the names and phone numbers of trusted contractors and other stores in the area that can pick up where Frentz leaves off. This includes electricians, plumbers, roofers, and suppliers.

One such referral is Warren Pipe and Supply, which will sometimes have customers steered their way if Frentz doesn’t stock certain sizes of pipe. Warren Pipe co-owner Brian Quinlan’s family has been in their business for more than 40 years. Quinlan said they share similar dynamics when it comes to customer service.”

“They are our backbone,” Quinlan said of his customers. “We hear it all of the time. They come in and say ‘You guys got me in and got me out quickly and helped me solve my problem.’”

For the last 85 years, Frentz and Sons have been solving more problems than a calculator. Don’t expect that to change any time soon.

Frentz and Sons is located at 1010 Main Street. Call them at (248) 544-8111, or visit www.frentzandsons.com




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Ride On

Mobile bicycle repair startup is rolling

By John Horn

Some people set lofty goals and pursue them until attained. Others, amid inaction and excessive chatter, prattle on about what they say they’re going to do.

Alan Schlutow doesn’t do a lot of talking.

Rather, the 27-year-old Royal Oak businessman is busy with the bicycle repair company he just started. A company that, in its infancy in 2009, was run out of the basement of the house he shares with his girlfriend, Melanie.  He does this while working a full-time job.

Schultow started Home Grown Cycles as a Plan B, when hours at his day job – which he actually works nights —  were rumored to be trimmed. He works as a technician in the Emergency Room of Pontiac Osteopathic Hospital, an atmosphere that can often be sea of human wreckage; a sometimes flotsam of blood and people bits.

“I was working midnights at the hospital,” Schlutow said, “and I was close to being laid off. I had always wanted my own bike company, so I started doing repairs out of the basement.”

Schlutow still works at the hospital. The lay-off was a false alarm, but it spooked him enough to kickstart his dream. As his business model evolved, he struck gold with the idea to make his operation mobile. As in, he comes to you.

Going mobile

A business that fixes two-wheeled machines needed some wheels of its own. Schlutow introduced pick-up and drop-off services to customers. In an enormous yellow parcel truck (a retired U.S. Postal Service truck, actually), he will pick up a bike, haul it back to his Ferndale shop, give to it the TLC it needs and return it promptly to the customer’s front door.

The big yellow truck is impossible to miss.

“We really do not do much advertising, just the truck mainly,” Schlutow said. “We started repairing bikes in the basement and became a corporation on August 11, 2009.”

So, he now has two birthdays to celebrate.

The truck is working well. Schlutow said it oftentimes is the one component driving work his way.  He said most customers are women of a certain age with specific responsibilities.

“The clientele is mainly middle-aged women with kids,” he said. “They do not have a lot of time, especially with the children. And they usually have no space in the car to put the bike in.”

Starting a company is challenging. It helps to have people on your side. When talking about Home Grown Cycles, Schlutow always says “we.” He could be talking about his father, who actually discovered the retired postal truck on the side of the road one day on a drive through Howell. Buddy Ben Krenke handles the company’s paper work and tax obligations. Another friend, Justin Curran, helped land a deal with suppliers. Schlutow’s aunt did the logo. This is how things get done in small business.

Schlutow rents 550 square feet in a rather unique working environment. Paper Street Motors is 22,000 square feet of industrial building at Wanda and Jarvis streets in south Ferndale. It has been hindquartered and parceled out into separate office space and raw, industrial work areas.

“I saw their flyer and checked out the shop,” he said. “There is not a lot of overhead, which is good, because bike tools aren’t cheap.”

Schlutow and his father hung walls and huge doors to create a properly dedicated workspace inside of the shop. In it, Schlutow repairs a variety of bicycles. And while they include the spring tune-ups for the MILF-y crowd, he has also worked on higher-end bikes and has done some custom restorations inside of the Ferndale shop.

There is an obvious feel to the place. It is a collection of like-minded entrepreneurs working for something better.

“Our clients are one of two archtypes,” said Paper Street owner Andy Didorosi said. “One, they have an existing small business and they have brought it here to save some money. Or, two, they work a day job and are staring a small business. They can test it out here.

“These are people who are completely fed up with working for someone else and they have to do something.”

Keeping good company

Paper Street’s client roster has a wild diversity to it. It contains Web designers and graphic designers, but there is also the two blue-collar guys working to perfect their recipe for a streak and chicken seasoning rub. There are masonry and motorcycle repair specialists. You have Monte, an auto repair guy that Didorosi says works there to feed and shelter his 11 children. One woman translates German fairy tales to English. One company makes its own mead. Everyone is under one roof, with one common goal.

And then there is Alan.

“Home Grown is awesome,” Didorosi said. “Alan’s is the perfect story. He is plugged into the community and that’s what it takes to get things like this going. His model is novel. I see him as one of the ones that will make it.”

Instead of the bones that make up that big nub of the human ankle, Schlutow’s might as well have ball bearings packed with grease. He’s ridden most of this life, working at a bike shop when he was 16. In the time between graduating from Waterford Mott and studying biology at Oakland University, he took his graduation money and upgraded his ride to a full-suspension Specialized mountain bike. He races in the Michigan Points Series. He’s not playing around and his vision for his young business is no joke.

“The whole reason we got into repair was to get into frame building,” Schlutow said. “Fabrication. I want to build my own bikes.”

Suddenly, the reserved shop owner opens a bit, and starts diagramming on a tabletop how a bike frame comes together. He talks of steel frames and geometry, the Michigan emblem that goes on the back of the seat tube, dropouts, head badges and other jargon. He sees bigger things for the business.

“We want to be able to sell our own frames,” he said. “I want to have a shop where people can come in, and hang out for a bit. We will have custom bikes that we build and repair. We can have showers and lockers within the shop where people can clean up after their rides before or after work.”

Throw Schlutow some work. Dig out your bike and call him at (248) 677-1360; e-mail him at repairs@homegrowncycle.com; or visit the Web site at www.homegrowncycle.com

More information on Paper Street Motors can be found at www.welovepaperstreet.com

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Haunted In The House

Detroit Opera House artfully showcases the spooky

By John Horn

The Detroit Opera House isn’t exactly a scary place; quite the contrary, actually. But come 10/30, the landscape inside all of that regal architecture gets decidedly spooky for one of the most distinct parties of the season.

The lights change, the cobwebs appear, the smoke filters in and patrons, dressed to their Halloween nines, will thrill to what organizers hope is an epic Halloween bash amid the stunning and captivating backdrop that is the Opera House.

Haunted in The House at the DOH takes the Halloween-themed party to slightly classier heights but does so without being pretentious. The venue itself is breathtaking. Why? Because it’s an opera house, that’s why. The architecture and detail in this Detroit gem create a visage that can render visitors —  those of both the first- and long-time variety — agape at the mouth, rubbery at the neck and silent in the voice.

Take that foundation, dress it up for Halloween, pack it with costumed revelers, and you have the trappings of an event that defies what we’ve come to expect in the season’s parties.

“The main reason why we made this is because we looked around and saw that there really wasn’t a cool, high-end event that was out there,” says co-organizer Sean Harrington. “There were a couple of events, but they didn’t have the cache of, say, the Opera House.”

Readying for Haunted in The House is quite the transformation, Harrington says. The big chandelier comes down and is draped with material. Smoke machines, spider webs, creepy lighting and lasers also add spooky elements to the revered venue.

“When you get in there and see what we do, it’s really kind of cool,” Harrington says. “It’s straight out of Scooby-Doo.”

What’s also very cool is that proceeds from Haunted in The House benefit the funding-strapped Opera House. Thus, your enjoyment is two-fold. Dress up hard and throw down in arguably one of the finest architectural gems in the city and, at the same time, help sustain that very building and the cultural greatness generated between its walls.

“You can do something good and support culture in Detroit,” Harrington says. “I’m not sure how many people appreciate the Opera House. Whether you are into operas or not into operas, it is a chance to experience this cultural icon.

“While we do not have a million-person population and the state itself is on hard times, we actually have an opera house,” says Harrington, “which is mind-blowing when you look at other cities.”

The first event was held in 2009 and came about as a way for the community to become part of the Opera House. Last year’s success led to a repeat engagement.

“After the astounding success of our first year, we’ve decided to bring it back and make it even bigger,” says Michigan Opera Theater Director of Development, Mary Parkhill.

Also blowing minds will be the lineup for the evening. Forget for a moment that you are throwing much-needed support to the Opera House, or that you are basically trick-or-treating with cocktails and snacks in a historic former movie palace built in 1922. Party people can enjoy two floors of costumed festivities while enjoying the work of Detroit Circus. DJ Tom T will spin. Specialty drinks at the cash bar will be plentiful, as will candy treats. Midnight snacks come courtesy of Sander’s Fine Chocolatiers, Tubby’s Southgate and Zumba Mexican Grille.

Cash prizes will be awarded for best costumes, with judging and awards at midnight. Harrington adds that the witching hour will hold a special, secret surprise, but he remains tight-lipped on specifics.

The Opera House’s stage and main seating area are closed off for the party, leaving people to mingle throughout the rest of the house, namely the main and upper floor spaces between Broadway and Madison. Harrington says this lends itself to a more inviting party dynamic.

“It compacts and keeps everyone together,” he says. “You can stand by the railings and check out the costumes. This way it really does keep everyone jammed together, being out in a true social event.”



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