My Destination Ann Arbor post about Jenn Cornell Queen

Screen Shot 2019-05-17 at 10.55.49 AM.pngThis profile is part of Destination Ann Arbor’s Great Minds Think a Lot series, highlighting influential leaders in Washtenaw County who make a positive impact within our community.

Jenn Cornell Queen – Ann Arbor SPARK’s VP of Marketing and Communications and a driving force behind a2Tech360Opens a New Window. – has long been one of Tree Town’s movers and shakers; yet surprisingly, she only became an official resident two years ago.

“Yeah, that’s it,” said Jenn, who grew up in Belleville, and had made Tecumseh her home for years before moving to Ann Arbor. “But I started working here twenty years ago, when I got my first agency job.”

Jenn worked for seven years at that first PR firm, after graduating from Alma College; then, in 2007, she launched her own agency (Jenn Cornell PR Consulting) specializing in tech companies. (Yes, Google was among her first clients, in a moment when the company was preparing to open its Ann Arbor office.)

“Ann Arbor is such a cool town,” said Jenn of her choice to build her career here. “I was never going to get bored. One of the great things about being a consultant is you can pick and choose clients – but you can’t really pick a bad one in Ann Arbor. There are start-ups, there are more established businesses – the diverse range of work made me want to keep doing it. … [People in the local tech community] are always so excited and happy to talk about why they do what they do, and that enthusiasm is infectious.” READ THE REST HERE

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My Destination Ann Arbor blog post about Zingerman’s Camp Bacon

It’s official: Zingerman’s famous Camp Bacon. is just as dreamy as it sounds.

Now in its tenth year, this multi-day celebration (happening May 29-June 2, 2019) of everyone’s favorite savory meat features a film festival at Greyline; a Bakin’ with Bacon class at the Bakehouse; the Bacon Ball. (this year spotlighting ‘nduja, a spreadable salumi blended from Calabrian sweet and spicy peppered pork) at the Roadhouse; a bacon tasting program for kids at the Deli; a cheese tasting – alongside Zingerman’s specialty bacon Pimento, of course. – at the Creamery; a breakfast (prepared by four-time James Beard Foundation finalist Steve McHugh) at Greyline; a lunch talk with “Travels Through Dali: With a Leg of Ham” author Mei Zhang; and a Camp Bacon Street Fair.

But even with all these tasty options, the appropriately titled Main Event symposium at Cornman Farms. is Camp Bacon’s centerpiece, offering a full day of “meaty speakers” and, of course, a bacon-centric breakfast and lunch.

None of this, however, specifically aims to mark Camp Bacon’s one decade anniversary.

“We don’t really care about that, other than it’s a nice, round number,” said Zingerman’s co-founder Ari Weinzweig. “It’s like a birthday. We just try to keep getting better, like everything else we do. We never get it all right, so we keep pushing the envelope.” READ THE REST HERE

My On the Ground Farmington story about Blue Hat Coffee & Gallery’s plans to move into Masonic Lodge

Screen Shot 2019-04-12 at 3.32.04 PM.pngAs news has spread that Coldwater-based Blue Hat Coffee & Gallery plans to open a second location in downtown Farmington – inside the historic Masonic Lodge, at Grand River and Farmington Rd. – locals have been jones-ing for more information.

So let’s start with the first thing everyone wants to know: when will Blue Hat open its doors?

“I’m assuming we’ll not get into the building until June 1st,” said Phillip Jewell, a retired software engineer who’s now Blue Hat’s COO. (Jewell’s wife Catherine, a former opera singer, is BH’s owner and CEO.) “We’re scheduled for a four-month build-out, so that would probably take us to the beginning of October, unless we can cut the buildout back. There’s not a ton of work to do, but we need to make changes to the serving area and the kitchen; we need to put in ADA-compliant bathrooms, and we need to put the deck in, which will be an elevated deck with 24×24 porcelain tiles.”

While this work is being done, locals will be able to try Blue Hat’s wares this summer at the Farmington Farmers Market.

“Our coffee is different from a lot of other roasters,” said Jewell. “ … Industry standards tend to result in coffee that’s more acidic, while our coffee is more smooth.” READ THE REST HERE

My Concentrate story about the 10 year anniversary of the announcement of the Ann Arbor News’ closing

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Photo by Doug Coombe

Ten years ago, on March 23, 2009, the staff of The Ann Arbor News – then a daily afternoon print newspaper founded in 1835 – was summoned to an all-hands-on-deck meeting.

Naturally, there was rampant speculation across departments about a possible second round of employee buyouts, or scaling back to print the paper only two or three days each week. News metro editor Steve Pepple (who now works at the Detroit Free Press) pulled aside business team leader Stefanie Murray and assigned her to report on whatever was said at the meeting.

“I had no clue what I was about to cover,” Murray says.

When the gathered throng finally fell silent and the News’ publisher, Laurel Champion, stepped up to the lectern, the 272-person staff (including myself, who had worked at the paper since 2004) learned that the company would permanently shut its doors in July. As more readers turned to the internet for free news (and free classifieds, once a major income source for the paper), the News’ business model had become increasingly unsustainable.

“I’ll never forget the audible gasps from several in the packed room,” says former News sports reporter Kevin Ryan. “Personally, I knew in those moments that my journalism career was going to end.”

Some News staffers went on to take jobs at the then-new digital media ventureAnnArbor.com, which integrated with MLive Media Group and adopted the Ann Arbor News name four years later. But for many, the News’ closure indeed marked a transition into new careers and new markets. READ THE REST HERE

My On the Ground Farmington story about Metromode’s Future of Farmington event

Screen Shot 2019-04-12 at 3.36.15 PMOn Wednesday, February 27, about a hundred locals gathered in the Civic Theater’s upstairs auditorium to listen to, and take part in, a panel discussion called “The Future of Downtown Farmington: An Evening with Metromode.”

Moderated by DDA President Todd Craft, the panel consisted of Farmington Mayor Steven Schneemann; DDA Executive Director Kate Knight; Issue Media Group Co-CEO Brian Boyle; and Michigan Municipal League Executive Director/CEO Dan Gilmartin.

The program kicked off with a question about the role community engagement plays in the economic development of downtown.

“Many of you … know that this city, this community, is driven by volunteers,” said Schneemann. “ … Looking around the room, I’m seeing people who’ve been really engaged in the community, and they usually started by volunteering for something, by being downtown, by being out in the community and seeing something they want to get connected to. And the next thing you know, they’re interested in serving in a greater capacity on a planning commission. … This also starts to get people familiar with the place enough that they start to say, ‘Hey, this is a place to put down some roots. This is a place where I can start to invest, or I can open a business in.’”

Boyle, who’d just returned from the Knight Media Forum in Miami, noted that one big topic of conversation involved tracking the relationship between civic attachment and economic development and understanding the way the media plays a key role in that.

“The 24/7 news business model, which is essentially driven by clicks, is now, as a business paradigm, incentivized to report on things that disconnect people from place,” said Boyle. “ … There has been a lot of talk about the importance of these types of community conversations as infrastructure to continue to knit the community together and create more civic connectivity at a time when media implodes all around us.” READ THE REST HERE

My Destination Ann Arbor Great Minds Think A Lot blog post on Bilal Saeed

Screen Shot 2019-04-12 at 3.14.15 PM.pngThis profile is part of Destination Ann Arbor’s Great Minds Think a Lot series, highlighting influential leaders in Washtenaw County who make a positive impact within our community.

Bilal Saeed – co-founder and managing owner of Pakmode Media and Marketing, and chairman of AFC (Association Football Club) Ann Arbor – is a person who harbors equal love for Ann Arbor and YpsilantiOpens a New Window..

“I grew up in Port Huron,” said Saeed, 34. “Both of my older sisters went to U of M, … and my dad loved the (Ann Arbor) Art Fair, in particular. But really, we’d jump at any excuse for getting all of us in the car and heading to Ann Arbor. So I developed a real affinity for the area. When I went to Eastern (Michigan University), I hadn’t been familiar with Ypsilanti at all, and I fell in love with Ypsi, too. With both places right next to each other, I found it really hard to ever leave.”

Saeed launched PakmodeOpens a New Window. – a company that focuses on sports and entertainment marketing (the name alludes to Saeed’s Pakistani heritage) – in Ypsilanti in 2008, when he was still a student at EMU. And although the company now works out of an office in Ann Arbor, Saeed makes his home in Ypsilanti, near a border between the two towns.

“I’m one of those people – a lot of people feel really strongly one way or the other,” Saeed said of town allegiances. “I’m a connector. I love both communities. They each have different things to offer, so I feel like I get the best of both worlds.”

But how did Saeed become AFC Ann Arbor chairman in 2014?

Well, he’d already spent a good chunk of his childhood playing soccer in Port Huron, “and also pretty much every other summer in England with my family, which taught me a lot about the game, playing pick-up with kids in the back alley or the parks,” said Saeed.

So he’d always had a passion for the game. And when local soccer fanatic Jamey Amrine started laying the foundation for building a semi-pro team (now called The Mighty Oak), Saeed didn’t hesitate about getting involved.

“I thought, what a cool opportunity to use my skills for a good cause,” said Saeed. “From the beginning, I knew it wasn’t a ‘get rich’ type of business. It was clearly marked from the beginning as something we could just do for our community, and I thought about what a powerful tool this could be to get kids involved in the game, get them more active, and encourage them to adopt a healthy lifestyle. When I was a kid, the game gave me confidence, it gave me friends, I learned how to work with teammates – I learned so much from this game. So to be able to use this platform to give this same opportunity to young people, and get them involved from the get-go – I just love it so much. I feel lucky to lead the club. It’s a real labor of love.” READ THE REST HERE

My On the Ground Farmington story about the Greater Farmington Film Festival and the Civic Theater’s history

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Photo by David Lewinski

Marrying the old with the new has long been part of the Farmington Civic Theater’s DNA.

So the fact that this classic, beautifully restored 1940 movie house will be the sole venue for the 6th annual Greater Farmington Film Festival (March 7-9) – which showcases some of the latest and greatest “good films for a better world” – makes a perfect kind of sense.

THE GREATER FARMINGTON FILM FESTIVAL

“The idea for the festival came out of wanting to do something at the Civic, and use the theater in a different way than just the usual second run films it usually shows,” says GFFF co-founder Dwayne Hayes, who noted that a group of volunteers entirely runs the festival.

“Originally the idea grew out of my love for foreign films, so at first, it was going to be a foreign film festival – which would have been great for me. I would have loved it. But in thinking more about what the community was about, having lived here a while, it just seemed like the community was built on giving and supporting one another. So the idea of showing films about contemporary issues that people could get behind, and that would ultimately strengthen our community and the world, seemed like a great fit for us.”

In the past, the festival showed films at the Civic as well as OCC and the Holocaust Memorial Center, but this year, all seven selections will be screened at the Civic throughout three days.

“It always has much more of an impact when you see something on the big screen, and when you see it with others in your community,” says Hayes. “It’s almost like attending a religious service. … That communal aspect changes the experience. And from the beginning of the film fest, when we’d identified what we wanted to do with it, we felt it was important to give people ways of getting involved with the issues raised by the films immediately. That’s taken form in various ways. In the past, we paired each film with nonprofits and given them a chance to talk about what they do. We don’t have that freedom at the Civic because of time and space. … But we will have materials available, with information about the ways people can get involved. It’s important to us that people don’t just come to films and say, ‘Oh, that was nice.’” READ THE REST HERE

My On the Ground Farmington story about transplants and boomerangs

Figuring out where to put down roots – particularly when you have a family – can be a stressful, fraught decision, to say the least, so Metromode recently checked in with some local residents to hear their respective answers to the question, “Why Farmington?”

Some came from another place entirely. Some (nicknamed “boomerangs”) lived in this area as kids, then found themselves drawn back to Farmington. Here we chat with five of them to find out what brought them to (or back to) Farmington.

Meet Jennifer Tomlinson

Perhaps no one was more surprised to find herself in back in Farmington than Jennifer Tomlinson, Farmington’s Deputy Clerk (and mom of three). Tomlinson had been 15 when she first moved with her mom to Farmington from Dearborn Heights, and she wasn’t a fan.

“Farmington was different back in the mid-90s than it is today,” says Tomlinson. “ … It felt like old people central. … I worked at Daman Hardware (where Fresh Thyme is now located) – I’d walk to work – and I didn’t have many friends. It was social suicide to move in high school, so I just wore all black and sat in the back of the class and didn’t talk to anyone. … I thought it was a dull, lame place to live, and I hated every second of it.”

She left town to attend Western Michigan University – “I hardly ever came home, because I felt like I didn’t connect with people here,” says Tomlinson – and then lived for a time in Florida and California before returning to Michigan. Even then, though, Tomlinson lived in Lake Orion, Waterford, and Macomb before the housing market collapsed.

“Our nice, family-oriented neighborhood (in Macomb) became awful,” says Tomlinson. “My mom told me about this house across the street from her that had been foreclosed and was sitting empty. She says, ‘It’d be a great place for you to live,’ and I say, ‘Are you kidding me? I don’t want to live in Farmington.’ … I was really skeptical. My experience was that it was a really boring place to live. But then we moved here, and I started getting involved with my kids’ school and everything, and things had changed downtown. When the brewery was coming in, and Los Tres (Amigos) opened – It started feeling like a place where I wanted to hang out.”

Plus, being in a town where so much was in walking distance helped Tomlinson lose the fifty-plus pounds she’d put on while having three kids in three years. “Even if I’m not going to an event, I walk all the time,” she says. “I’ll go for a walk and watch the kids dance (at Swing Farmington at Riley Park), or I’ll watch people ice skate and stop and get a coffee at Starbucks. … I love being able to walk around and know people and say ‘hi.’” READ THE REST HERE

My Concentrate story about strip mall stars in Ann Arbor (and why they’re thriving)

Screen Shot 2018-10-19 at 4.11.02 PMThe old real estate mantra “Location, location, location” seems especially imperative in Ann Arbor, where businesses flock to pedestrian-heavy commercial strips like Main Street, South University, and State Street.

But those areas also command the area’s highest rents, so many businesses opt for the quieter and less glamorous environs of Ann Arbor’s strip malls – where some of them have become destinations in their own right.

The tough part is getting on people’s radar in the first place.

“You can get from one side of Ann Arbor to the other in about 15 minutes, but it is interesting how townies tend to stay in their area of town, or the areas they get accustomed to,” says Jenny Song. Song is an Ann Arbor native herself and owner of the Songbird Cafe, which has locations in the Plymouth Road Mall at 2707 Plymouth Rd., and at 2891 Jackson Ave.

“Even my friends will say that we’re far out if they’re on the west or south side of town,” she says. READ THE REST HERE

My Destination Ann Arbor blog post on new restaurants in Washtenaw County’s small towns

Screen Shot 2019-04-12 at 3.21.03 PM.pngGeorge Bernard Shaw famously wrote, “There is no sincerer love than the love of food,” so Washtenaw County foodies probably felt their hearts racing many times this past year, as yet another crop of enticing new restaurants opened their doors.

And while Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti’s food scene tends to get the most media attention, new restaurants can often make an even bigger splash in the area’s other towns, so in this post, we’ll be focusing on eateries that recently launched in Dexter, Chelsea, Manchester, Saline, and Milan.

Smokehouse 52 located in Saline: Phil and Jenn Tolliver’s authentic barbecue venture isn’t technically “new” to the county – the first iteration opened in Chelsea in early 2013 – but its second location in Saline is, having just launched in April 2018, in the space formerly occupied by Mangiamo Italian Grill. (By way of bona fides, co-owner Phil Tolliver grew up on a hog farm in Stockbridge, then later traveled to learn the ropes from Mike “The Legend” Mills of 17th St. BBQ in Illinois.) Saline’s SH52 menu offers the same options as Chelsea’s, including comfort food faves like mac and cheese, shepherd’s pie, and fried chicken, as well as pulled pork, beef brisket, and ribs cooked over authentic wood-fired pits. Sounds fall-off-the-bone good, no? READ THE REST HERE