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

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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

My On the Ground Farmington story about Focal Point

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 is the last story of the series.

Focal Point Studio of Photography started small, and moved to several progressively bigger spaces, before landing in its current longtime (and enormous) home at 33431 Grand River.

Founded by photographers Jerry Jakacki and John Prusak in 1973, Focal Point first opened in a tiny, 300 square foot office in the Village Mall, at the corner of Grand River and Farmington Rd.

 

Michele and Marisa Jackacki.“Then we moved to where the tailor (Farmington Alterations) is now, which was maybe 900 square feet, and then we moved into what was a health food store and space next to that, which was 2,000 or 2,200 square feet,” said Michele Jakacki, owner/manager of Focal Point. (She and husband Jerry bought Prusak’s share of the business in 1976, and Michele took the reins with her sister, Marisa, well before Jerry’s death six years ago.) “In the mid-80s, we bought the building where we are now. … At the time, it was kind of a big eyesore in town – this dilapidated, abandoned old factory.” READ THE REST HERE

My On the Ground Farmington story about the Village Shoe Inn

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.

In the 1970s, Farmington’s Village Shoe Inn was the third of about a half-dozen stores by that name that opened the metro Detroit area, and now it’s one of three that remain. (The other two are in Eastpointe, where its office is also based, and Rochester.) Why does owner Chuck Thibault think the Farmington location is still open for business, after almost 50 years?
Photo by David Lewinski.

“It’s centrally located, there are lots of residential, and it’s just a beautiful area,” says Thibault. “And there’s a lot of traffic on Grand River, so we’re seen by people.”

When VSI first moved into its building – which had, at one time, been a car dealership – it shared the space with four other small stores. Then, 25 years ago, VSI bought the building outright and expanded to fill the whole space.

How did the Thibault family get into shoes?

“My mother, for some reason, was fixated on shoes,” says Thibault. “She likes to tell this story about how, when she was growing up in East Detroit, a girl in her class was supposed to hold the button on the drinking fountain for her for a count of ten seconds. She stopped at two, and my mom said, ‘Mary Lou, why’d you stop at two?’ and the girl said, ‘Because you’re wearing your brother’s shoes.’ They weren’t well off, so my mom wore a lot of hand-me-downs.”

When Chuck was in high school, his mother, Marianne Thibault, worked at B. Siegel, a Detroit department store, and learned as much as she could while plotting to open a shoe store. “She went to St. Louis and brought back the inventory for her first store in a suitcase,” said Thibault. “ … On the flight back, she was talking to the guy next to her. She explained that she was starting a shoe store, and he started telling her about how many businesses fail. She came home crying, telling my dad, ‘I just spent all of your money!’ … But that guy didn’t know who he was talking to. … My mom is someone who can’t be stopped, no matter what she’s doing. She’s got a ton of drive.”

Chuck Thibault tried a few different jobs, “but I always came back to this. In high school, I’d get up and help out at the store. In college, I was there. So at one point, I just never left. I was getting married, and then we had four kids in five years, so then it became a matter of, I better make this work.” READ THE REST 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