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 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

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

My On the Ground Farmington story about Korner Barbers

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Photo by David Lewinski

Businesses come and go, but in downtown Farmington, a handful of merchants have weathered decades of economic and technological shifts, 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 has been publishing a 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.

This week, we focus on one of Farmington’s most enduring businesses, Korner Barbers, where customers who first came as boys now bring their own children and grandchildren.

Before Korner Barbers opened in 1963, and staked its claim at the intersection of Grand River and Farmington Rd., its building had been a dry goods store; a general store; Grimes Cleaners; a jewelry store; and, for a brief time, a Republican campaign office during an election year.

But these days, most of us can’t imagine a time when the space didn’t house a series of classic barber chairs.

Owner Dan Klawender started working at Korner Barbers in 1967, when he was just 19 years old.

“To this day – and my wife would tell you this, too, she’ll say, ‘He still loves getting up every day and going to the barber shop,’” says Klawender, who also noted that the conversations he has with his customers, and the connections that result, are what keep his job enjoyable.

What started Klawender on this path?

“When I was growing up, my dad cut my hair, and I thought, ‘Well, if he can do it, so can I,’” said Klawender, who grew up in Farmington. “And I liked doing it. … I used to cut a lot of my buddies’ hair. Back when I worked at a Clark Gas Station, I’d sometimes cut my friends’ hair in the bathroom.” READ THE REST HERE