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 Metromode story about specialty food culture in Farmington

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 1.44.21 PMA specialty food culture has taken root in Downtown Farmington.

In fact, a semi-monthly craft beer and cheese pairing event – with cheese selected and provided by The Cheese Lady; craft beer made by the hosts, Farmington Brewing Co.; and additional food supplied by Browndog Barlor & Restaurant or Sunflour Bakehaus – regularly sells out.

“We are strong believers in ‘a rising tide raises all the boats,’” says FBC co-owner Jason Hendricks. “We want to see all businesses in downtown Farmington do well.”

Both FBC and The Cheese Lady have been part of downtown Farmington since fall 2014, while Sunflour – originally called Farmington Bakery when Pavlik and co-owner Becky Burns bought the place in 1998 (the name change came in 2007) – has deeper roots.

For this reason, Pavlik has watched baking fad specialty stores come and go (cupcakes, anyone?) while establishing a beloved, enduring neighborhood bakery that regularly stocks the usual breads-and-cookies fare alongside unique specialties.

“I started making King Cakes twenty years ago, when no one around here made them,” says Pavlik, referring to the Mardi Gras seasonal favorite – a cinnamon coffee cake topped with fondant icing and sugar in purple, green and gold. “ … I didn’t want to just do paczkis. … And when Hurricane Katrina hit, … there were some refugees in the area from New Orleans who were like, ‘I can’t believe it. I didn’t think I’d get to have a King Cake this year.’” READ THE REST HERE

My Destination Ann Arbor profile of Golden Limousine’s Sean Duval

Screen Shot 2019-02-22 at 8.11.27 PM.pngThis profile is the inaugural edition of Destination Ann Arbor’s Great Minds Think a Lotseries, highlighting influential leaders in Washtenaw County who make a positive impact within our community.

Sean Duval is the kind of person that some would present as evidence that the American Dream is still possible.

While working as a manager at a local McDonald’s in the early 1990s, he learned that a jewelry store’s offshoot business – Golden Chain’s Limousine Service, based inside Weber’s Inn – was shutting down. He got a bank loan; bought two sedans (and rented a van) from Golden; and worked full-time at McDonald’s, then later the Federal Correctional Facility in Milan, while working part-time to build his version of the new business, which he renamed Golden Limousine.

In 1998, Duval started working full-time for the still-growing business, and Golden Limousine is now – with an owned fleet of 25+ units, a local network fleet of over 100 units, with ties to hundreds of companies with thousands of vehicles worldwide – celebrating 27 years in business. READ THE REST HERE

REVIEW (Pulp): Theatre Nova’s ‘The How and the Why’ explores unconventional evolutionary theories and families

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Diane Hill and Sayre Fox in Theatre Nova’s production of Sarah Treem’s “The How and the Why.” (Photo by Golden Record Media Company)

It’s a beautiful thing when a play not only passes the Bechdel test with flying colors but offers an intellectually satisfying evening of theater, too.

For Theatre Nova’s production of Sarah Treem’s The How and the Why focuses entirely on the charged conversations between two women: tenured evolutionary biologist Zelda Kahn (Diane Hill) and the daughter she gave up for adoption, post-doc student Rachel Hardemann (Sayre Fox).

As they meet for the first time, Zelda’s department is preparing to host an important conference. When Rachel reveals the radical theory she’s developed concerning the “why” of human female menstruation — that it acts as a kind of physiological defense mechanism — Zelda offers her the chance to present her ideas at the conference. When things don’t go well, Rachel’s left to wonder: Did Zelda set her up to fail out of professional jealousy? Or did Zelda just naively give Rachel an opportunity that she and her theory weren’t quite ready for? READ THE REST HERE

REVIEW (Pulp): Purple Rose Theatre’s ‘Never Not Once’ takes past trauma by the jugular

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Michelle Mountain (Allison), Caitlin Cavannaugh (Eleanor), Jeremy Kucharek (Rob), and Casaundra Freeman (Nadine) star in Carey Crim’s grab-you-by-the-lapels drama Never Not Once. (Photos by Sean Carter Photography.)

We often hear that people shouldn’t be permanently defined by their worst decision or act. But on the other end of that equation, all too often, are men and women who are irrevocably shaped by the violence committed against them.

Carey Crim’s latest world premiere play at Chelsea’s Purple Rose Theatre, Never Not Once, directed by Guy Sanville, treads rather boldly across this ethical minefield.

When Rutgers student Eleanor (Caitlin Cavannaugh) comes home unannounced, with boyfriend Rob (Jeremy Kucharek) in tow, and announces to her two moms that she aims to track down her biological father, her birth mother, Allison (Michelle Mountain), balks, insisting that the one night stand that left her pregnant in college was so inconsequential that she never even learned the man’s name. But when Eleanor’s other mom, Nadine (Casaundra Freeman), secretly supplies Eleanor with a possible clue regarding her father’s identity, the search narrows, and Allison is forced to revisit a trauma from her past.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but Never Not Once is an intense 90 minutes of live theater, despite some moments of levity in the early going. It tackles some tough stuff, and for the most part, it doesn’t pull its punches. But then, it can’t afford to. If you’re going to “go there,” as Crim has chosen to do, you’ve got to have the guts to go all in. So don’t go to the Rose expecting to passively sit back and be entertained by Never. It’s more a grab-you-by-the-lapels kind of show. READ THE REST HERE

My latest WEMU-FM 89.1 Art & Soul segment with Lisa Barry, and artists from Encore Theatre’s ‘Next to Normal’

Screen Shot 2019-02-05 at 3.35.04 PM.pngThis week, “Art and Soul” is about the local performing arts scene. 89.1 WEMU’s Lisa Barry is joined by writer and reviewer Jenn McKee and guests from the Encore Musical Theatre Company to talk about their latest show, “Next to Normal,” and look ahead to many other local performance arts events. LISTEN TO THE 8 MINUTE SEGMENT HERE

REVIEW: The Clubhouse Theatre’s ‘Topdog/Underdog’ explores highly charged sibling rivalry

Screen Shot 2018-12-19 at 12.12.55 AM.pngSibling relationships are often fraught and complicated.

And in case the holidays aren’t doing quite enough to remind you of this fact, you could also see The Clubhouse Theatre’s gripping production of Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play,“Topdog/Underdog.”

The two-hander focuses on two brothers, pointedly named Booth (Nigel Tutt) and Lincoln (Brian Marable, also the show’s director). Their father reportedly cooked up these names as a joke, but Link, at the play’s start, holds a (surreal) job that requires him to impersonate his Presidential namesake, wearing whiteface, an artificial beard, and a stovepipe hat as arcade patrons shoot blanks at him. Booth, meanwhile, shoplifts everything he can get his hands on; pursues a local hottie named Grace; lets Link temporarily move in after his marriage falls apart; and longs to become the Three Card Monte master Link had once been, before his “right hand man” was killed and he left the con behind.

Link refuses to share his card secrets with Booth, though, and when Link loses his job, the two end up in a tense, winner-takes-all game that will forever alter their lives. Continue reading

My WDET segment w/ Jerome Vaughn: Farmington Residents Seek Sense of Community

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 1.59.40 PM.pngFrom WDET’s website: Farmington residents now have the opportunity to get more localized news.  Metromode is reporting on the city as part of its “On The Ground” project.  The website focuses on suburban communities around Metro Detroit.

Jenn McKee is the editor of the Farmington project.  She says the idea is to give more people insight into the community.

It’s an attempt to focus locally on the town itself,” says McKee, “to give not only the people who live there a stronger sense of the town’s identity.”

It’s kind of an eclectic, kind of interesting, quirky, little downtown.”

McKee both lives and works in Farmington.  That’s one of the reasons she decided to take the opportunity to write about her city. (CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO GO TO WDET’S PAGE AND HEAR THE FULL, 6 MINUTE SEGMENT.)

Farmington Residents Seek Sense of Community

My Metromode On the Ground story about 6 places to find holiday gifts in downtown Farmington

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 1.44.21 PM’Tis the season for finding unique gifts, and downtown Farmington happens to be chock full of places to find them – whether the folks on your list are young skater types, budding (or practicing) musicians, foodies, cosmopolitans, or, well, “flower people.”

So if you’re scrambling to find last-minute Hanukkah gifts, or wrapping up your Christmas shopping, consider parking your car at the Downtown Farmington Center and exploring these fun options on foot. READ THE REST HERE

My Metromode On the Ground story about Fixtures of Farmington’s downtown

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 1.44.21 PMBusinesses come and go, but in downtown Farmington, a handful of merchants have weathered decades of economic and technological shifts, thus establishing themselves as tried-and-true anchors of this vibrant, small-town community.

To celebrate these beloved local institutions, Metromode’s On the Ground Farmington project is launching a two-part Fixtures of Farmington series, whereby we shine a spotlight on these businesses’ owners; chronicle each venture’s origin story; and gather insights on how and why these businesses, after so many years, continue to thrive. READ THE REST HERE