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A to Zen Cleaning brings peace to chaotic life

Hannah Morse was on a mission to save time. As a single parent, she knew the demands of working, child care and then having to turn around and take care of a home.

So when she moved from Detroit to East Lansing in the summer of 2017 to be closer to family, Morse decided to pay forward the help and generosity she had received from relatives and friends. Putting on her thinking cap, she arrived at an idea for a home-based business that could lessen stress by helping others maintain a clean, well-lighted space.

Morse launched A to Zen Cleaning Service in January 2018. Her goal, she says, is to be that go-to person people need for tending to most any home cleaning chore. Dusting, picking up clutter, vacuuming and mopping floors are among the basic services in most any area of the home.

"I'm a single mom, so I know time is of the essence," reflects Morse. "Having that extra cleaning service or helping hand gives you more time to do what you enjoy and what your family enjoys."

Customers can choose from a cleaning package that includes several services or go a la carte. Cleanings can be scheduled on a regular basis, and alternated between solid cleanings and light pick-ups. Morse comes with all her own equipment and products, with non-toxic, plant-based cleaning solutions available on request.

A to Zen is also available for short-term or occasional services like before and after an in-home party or a holiday celebration. Customers can also request services for times when recovery from a surgery, injury or illness takes priority over cleaning

Before moving to East Lansing, Morse worked for a cleaning company. That experience, she says, taught her that customers like consistency and having the same person or company coming into their home to clean.

"I like giving people that sense of peace," she says. "The world is so chaotic and we are all stretched so thin. It's a great feeling to come home and have the calm feeling that a clean house can bring."

A to Zen Cleaning Services is currently hiring three to five staff, and has its sights set on moving to an office location as her business grows. For details, email Morse here.

Source: Hannah Morse, Owner, A to Zen Cleaning Service
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Groovy Donuts expands far-out flair

Andrew Gauthier's quest for a donut and a cup of coffee morphed into something unexpected.

In 2015, the 20-something entrepreneur plastered 60s and 70s posters on the walls of a 900-square foot space in Williamston, set up a kitchen, and began making donuts. Within weeks, Groovy Donuts was a happening place, putting up to 1,000 fry or cake donuts daily into cases, boxes and the hands of customers.

Today, Gauthier manages two stores and is frying and baking up a storm. His East Lansing branch opened in September 2016 at 3054 E. Lake Lansing Road, and projects the same vibe as the original shop at 313 W. Grand River in Williamston. Standards include cake donut classics like buttermilk and sour cream, as well as apple, cherry and blueberry fritters.

"We're known for our 'size of your face fritters,'" says Gauthier. "And then there's our 'funky hubcap'—a gigantic, 12-donuts-in-one that we can do for parties or as an alternative to a cake."

Gauthier also caters to the adventurous palate, with up to 50 varieties that include pina colada, maple bacon and seasonal or customer-inspired confections.

"We take feedback very seriously," he says. "Ultimately, I view my business from how I would want to be treated. If someone comes in and asks if we would consider serving this, I start looking into it."

Groovy Donuts has expanded its repertoire and offers some baked goods including biscotti and muffins. Bloom Coffee Roasters supplies coffee by the cup and the bag. In keeping with the classic rock theme, Gauthier enlisted local artist Dennis Preston to create concert inspired labels for each special blend. This spring, Gauthier looks to offer crumb cakes, croissants and potentially, breakfast sandwiches.

"When we started this whole thing, we didn't quite know what to expect," says Gauthier. "But Williamston and East Lansing have really embraced us. My main goal is to make every customer who walks through the door happier than when they came in."

Groovy Donuts bakes everything on site at the 2,000-square foot East Lansing location—including nearly 5,500 paczkis for Fat Tuesday. Gauthier employs a "baker's dozen" staff between the two Groovy Donuts.

Source: Andrew Gauthier, Owner, Groovy Donuts
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Where the Wild Things Bloom warms a tiny space in Old Town

Urban gardeners, flower lovers and fans of local handmade goods will find reason to emerge from winter doldrums to visit a new boutique and floral shop on the southern edge of Old Town.

Where the Wild Things Bloom opened the first day of the New Year. Owner Brittany Simmons will draw on her 12 years in floral design to manage the full-service floral shop complemented by urban gardening products and goods made by Lansing locals. Her architect mother and business partner, Lisa Demankowski, is involved in curating and creating inventory for the new business.

"I have a love of items gathered in nature as well as contemporary and high-style design," says Simmons. "My mom and I decided we wanted to do our own thing and create as much as possible to celebrate design."

Located between Preuss Pets and Zoobies at 523 E. Cesar Chavez, Where the Wild Things Blooms occupies a south facing cozy space of no more than 700 square feet. That tininess, says Simmons, adds to the warmth and charm of the space she's already filled with exotic flowers, wall hanging planters, heirloom seeds and soil mixes, and gardening tools and pots. The shop carries an eclectic mix of artisan goods that include wool mittens, jewelry made from natural materials like porcupine quills, crochet pillows, body care products, beeswax candles, and vintage-style messenger bags.

Simmons and her mother look to launch classes for adults and children. Topics will include mindfulness, floral design and terrarium building. Regular discussion groups on plants and gardening are also in the works.

On the floral side, Where the Wild Things Bloom provides a range of flowers and designs for weddings and special events. Simmons says that just about any arrangement or type of flower is possible, while her base stock of floral and plants includes orchids, bromeliads and tillandsia. The shop will carry a variety of cacti, succulents and other warmer climate plants as Michigan temperatures rise.

"The community involvement and classes will be a big one for us," says Simmons. "We're really excited to meet with people and to spread the love of flowers, plants and design."

Source: Brittany Simmons, Owner, Where the Wild Things Bloom
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Wooden Skate reopens with new name, new management

Kellie Johnson wanted to expand her horizons and found what she was looking for right around the corner.

In early- to mid-February, the long-time founder of Kellie's Consignments in Okemos will reopen the shuttered Wooden Skate, bringing her acumen for the best in resale and fine vintage to the iconic space at 1259 W. Grand River Ave.

"We're lightening and brightening it, but leaving the charm of what was there before," says Johnson. "We're not taking away anything, just adding a few things. People who shopped there loved it for what it was."

The Wooden Skate closed its storefront in 2012 after a nearly 40-year run as a seller of fine jewelry, antiques and estate goods. Owned by Gary Durow, the shop was renowned for being housed in a renovated building that replicated an 1880s town. The structure incorporated stained glass, tin ceilings, antique stairways, and oak columns and woodwork. The landscaped grounds featured a Victorian two-story child's playhouse, gazebo, and a "living cemetery" with wooden headstones bearing humorous inscriptions of people still "above ground."

While the Wooden Skate maintained an online presence and sales on-site by appointment, Durow was looking for someone to reopen the physical doors. Johnson fit the profile.

"I'm super excited to bring the Wooden Skate back to life," says Johnson. "It was the place where people came because their mom or grandma or their sister got their diamond there and they want to, too. Generations of people went there. It will be a perfect complement to Kellie's Consignments."

Kellie's Wooden Skate will retain the jewelry focus and bring a "hipster" appeal to the inventory of antiques. Customers will find items along the lines of what they might see on a show like "American Pickers"—including architectural artifacts, vintage and antique signs, and industrial antiques.

"It's not your grandma's antique store," says Johnson. "It's accent pieces, collectibles, and other cool stuff people are looking for today."

Kellie's Wooden Skate will feature both new and consignment inventory. Johnson is also expanding her business model at the popular Kellie's Consignment to include in-home moving and estate sales.

"We started doing this all in earnest over the past year," says Johnson. "We really have a focus now. We do recycling with flair. And we do it with the help of the community."

Johnson hired a full-time gemologist to work at the re-opened Wooden Skate. The shop will be staffed with a rotation of employees from Kellie's Consignments.

Source: Kellie Johnson, Owner, Kellie's Wooden Skate
Writer/Editor: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.

East Lansing community invited to preview reimagined Bailey Center

East Lansing and mid-Michigan residents can get a glimpse of the newly adapted and historically preserved Liberty Hyde Bailey Center when the partners behind the project cut the ribbon and host an open house on Thursday, Nov. 2.

The Capital Area Housing Partnership says it's ready to show off the new center after 13 months of renovation that transformed the 95-year-old school building into a multi-purpose facility—one that answers the city's need for more affordable senior housing, daycare and performance and activity space.

"This project bring additional people downtown, and provides another level of housing for seniors in the downtown area of East Lansing," says Mikki Droste, CAHP development director. "And it provides space for the daycare that the neighborhood clearly wanted to have in that building."

Located at 300 Bailey Street, the Bailey Center stood as a neighborhood elementary school from 1922 to 1985 when the site was acquired by the City of East Lansing. Up until 2014, the site was the home of coordinated activities with the schools, city and parks and rec programs, including childcare, classes and meeting space.

The center was given a new lease on life when CAHP and PK Development group submitted a proposal in 2015 that reimagined the underused and shuttered facility. After a market study and community input, the project broke ground in August 2016, with funding provided through historic and low-income tax credits, partner equity and loans.

The Bailey project consisted of renovating the existing three-story 21,000-square foot structure and constructing a slightly larger three-story addition. The new center will feature 30 one- and two-bedroom apartments for residents 55- and older, a commercial daycare, a renovated gym and performance space, and offices for CAHP. Twenty-five of the apartments are designated for low-income residents, while five are market rate. Rents will vary based on income and will range from about $290 to $800 a month.

"On top of being historically interesting with really high ceilings and open floor plans, the apartments are LEED Silver Certified," says Droste. "So they're extremely energy efficient, and they're in an excellent location that's walkable to downtown."

Although the projected $6 million renovation won't be completely finished until early 2018, project coordinators are moving ahead with a Nov. 2 ribbon cutting from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., and a "welcome home" event from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The evening event will feature appetizers, drinks, live music, a silent auction, and tour of senior housing and other completed areas. Community members are invited to submit memories in the form of short stories, pictures or memorabilia related to attending school, taking classes, working, or simply enjoying the Baily Center throughout its history. The gathered pieces will be compiled into a visual art piece for display at the center.

Source: Mikki Droste, Development Director, Capital Area Housing Partnership (CAHP)
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Deloitte welcomes 150 professionals to new downtown office

The world's largest professional services firm opened a new office in downtown Lansing to provide 150 employees a home base for their IT and consulting-related work for the State of Michigan.

Deloitte officially opened the doors to their new location adjacent to Washington Square in mid-September. The consulting, audit, tax and advisory firm will occupy the third and fourth floors of the Hollister Building at 106 W. Allegan.

"It's a great location, a great space for our people, and will allow us to provide great service to our clients," says David Parent, principal with Deloitte Consulting. "Being here allows us to put our roots down even further into our Lansing community."

Parent says Deloitte decided on the location in the Hollister Building since the majority of employees work with State of Michigan clients a short walk away. Before the office, many Deloitte employees were housed within state buildings, working alongside State of Michigan clients on IT and consulting projects.

The new office, Parent says, keeps employees close to clients, but also fosters team unity and efficiencies by bringing Deloitte employees under one roof. The newly remodeled space features an open floor plan, shared spaces and modern amenities, while retaining the historic curb appeal of an iconic, downtown building. The new office also builds on Michigan pride by naming conference rooms after influential Michiganders like Henry Ford, Gerald Ford, Hank Greenberg and Magic Johnson.

The company will occupy 25,000-square feet of space between the two floors. In addition to Lansing, Deloitte has offices in three Michigan cities including Detroit, Grand Rapids and Midland. Deloitte employs 240,000 around the globe, with 11,000 of those living and working in Michigan.

Deloitte opened its first office in Michigan in 1947. Their first project for the state involved financing for the Mackinac Bridge in 1955. Parent says the Lansing office today primarily provides IT-related work and services that support the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Source: David Parent, Principal, Deloitte Consulting, LLP
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.

New restaurant to bring old style charm to downtown

Tyler Bowdish worked in a steakhouse in downtown Chicago. His dad was a connoisseur of steak. So when the family relocated to their long-time vacation town of Saugatuck, the father and son set out to bring their favorite style of dining to west Michigan.

In October, Bowdish announced they will be opening a second location Bowdie's Chophouse in Lansing's Riverfront District at 320 E. Michigan Ave. The concept will mirror their two-year-old steakhouse in Saugatuck, and offer a similar menu of high quality steaks, seafood, generous sides, cocktails and wine to Mid-Michigan diners.

Bowdish says he and his dad decided on Lansing after a regular at their Saugatuck venue tipped them off about the available commercial real estate that had once housed the Knightcap.

"We heard that the Knightcap had been there forever, and that it had a similar vibe to us," says Bowdish. "We came here, looked around Lansing, and saw an opportunity to bring something to this part of the state."

Bowdish is targeting a Nov. 1 opening for the 58-seat restaurant, complimented by a 25-seat outdoor patio. He says the previous property owners already set the basic ambience, which means any renovations will be minor.

"We're not going to recreate the wheel," says Bowdish. "We're painting, changing the bar around a bit, and upgrading the light fixtures. That's about it."

The vision, Bowdish says, is to create an early- to mid-20th-century steakhouse, similar to a type where Frank Sinatra, the "Rat Pack" and others may have hung out over candlelight dinners. The chophouse will feature a small menu, but Bowdish says it hits all the key points, including USDA prime and dry-aged steak, lobster mac and cheese, New Orleans style beignets, and signature cocktails.

Bowdie's Chophouse will create 16 to 20 jobs, and will be managed and operated by Bowdish and Chef Jason Campbell.

"We want to give people a reason to come downtown and have a great dinner and walk around," Bowdish says. "I like what I see up and down the street with new bars and distilleries. It's a growing area and I see this place expanding. We just want to be part of it."

Source: Tyler Bowdish, Operator, Bowdie's Chophouse
Writer/Editor: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.

The Plant Professionals add staff, expand footprint for storage

While winter holidays come just once a year, one north Lansing business is rarely out of the holiday spirit.

For 38 years, The Plant Professionals have tended to the plant, floral and landscaping needs of Greater Lansing—including a consistent and expanding base of customers focused on seasonal decorating.

The Plant Professionals provide a mix of services that include interior and exterior landscaping, event-focused floral, plant rental and holiday decorating. And while installing artistic combinations of lights, wreaths, and seasonal plants takes center stage during the winter holidays, much of the planning, design and storage spans the seasons.

"Holiday decorating is a lot of fun because people enjoy it so much," says President Kathy Valentine. "You get so many smiles when you walk into an office to decorate. Even though it's stressful and you're working in a compressed timeframe, it's very satisfying to do."

To accommodate the logistics of their seasonal work, The Plant Professionals recently added a second storage facility on their grounds at 16886 Turner Street. The company began construction in the spring and completed the 60- x 24-foot pole barn in the fall. The new structure follows the expansion of the main building's mezzanine in early 2017.

Valentine says the new structure will provide a spacious, well-organized placed to store the hundreds of wreaths, trees, lighted reindeer, ornaments, strings of lights and other large decorative pieces The Plant Professionals combines into festive displays for dozens of businesses and organizations.

"This extra storage will give us the capability to continue to expand the types of services and décor we offer," says Valentine. "People like bright lights and sparkling glittery things. This extra space allows us to store the elements and do custom design from here."

Valentine says that 80 percent of their business comes through corporate and institutional clients. The remaining percent is a mix of residential customers needing landscaping and floral services. The Plant Professionals added three new staff to its installation team in 2017, for a total of 37 staff working year-round.

Source: Kathy Valentine, President, The Plant Professionals
Writer/Editor: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Gravity Works maintains spot on top business list

For the second year running, a small web agency nestled in Lansing's Old Town earned a coveted spot on the Inc. 5000 list and captured recognition as one of the nation's fastest-growing private companies.

Gravity Works Design and Development earned spot #3,002 on the annual list published by "Inc. Magazine." The list highlights businesses that have shown notable revenue growth for three consecutive years, and is culled from the results of the more than 7 million private businesses in the United States.

Not all businesses cited on the Inc. 5000 list make repeat appearances. In the past 36 years, only one in three have appeared twice on the list.

"I think all small business owners come to a point where they have to decide whether it's time to camp or climb," says Gravity Works Owner Jeff McWherter. "At Gravity Works, we climb."

Gravity Works was founded in 2009 and specializes in building customer websites and mobile apps. Located at the corner of N. Washington and Grand River in Old Town, the company works with Michigan-based businesses, government agencies, national franchises, and international nonprofits.

Content Strategist Hailey Anderson says company culture is a strong driver of Gravity Works' ongoing success.

"Enjoying where you work, the people you work with, and having fun makes a big difference in productivity and creativity," says Anderson. "We're deeply invested in the success of our projects because we care about our clients and doing good work."

Since 2014, Gravity Works has experienced a total growth rate of 141 percent. In 2016, the company expanded its footprint by adding more remote employees across North America. Currently, the small business employs 17 people, with 7 working remotely.

Source: Hailey Anderson, Content Strategist, Gravity Works
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Grand River Barber Company expands footprint with new location

While old school in concept, Grand River Barber Company makes the cut with modern technique and style.

Shortly after the Fourth of July, the East Lansing barbershop moved a quarter mile east on the city's downtown strip. General Manager and Barber Wayne Weigel says the search for a new space was prompted by the impending Center City District Development, but was something the four-year-old shop had been debating for a year or two.

"We had been thinking it was time for an upgrade, so it was just good timing," says Weigel. "We have a more conventional barber shop layout now. It's more spacious, the A/C works better, and it just looks really nice, upscale and comfortable."

Weigel and staff moved in late June to the former location of Velvet: A Candy Store at 507 Grand River Ave. The crew loved the space immediately. Black-and-white checkerboard flooring provided a barbershop vibe, while the ample square footage enabled the company to go from 6 to 12 chairs.

At 2,400 square feet, the new location on the avenue is more than double the size of the previous 1,100-square foot upstairs location. That, says Weigel, allows plenty of room for the five full-time and one part-time barber to serve customers—the majority being MSU students.

Grand River Barber Company fills the demand for urban cuts, but can also style and cut hair in traditional styles.

"We're among the few in this area providing a detailed, modern hair style for men," says Weigel. "We're not just getting hair shorter, we're giving the customer something very detailed."

Founder Grant Foley opened Grand River Barber Company in 2013, followed by a second shop in his hometown of Allen Park in 2015. The shop focuses on providing up-to-date, contemporary styles, and on creating an atmosphere similar to an old-fashioned shop.

"We want to be more than a barber shop," says Weigel. "We want to be a staple of East Lansing. So when you think of MSU, you think of Grand River Barber Company as a place where guys not only get a good style, they come in to hang with the guys at the barber shop."

Source: Wayne Weigel, Barber and General Manager, Grand River Barber Company
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Redevelopments create jobs, diversify REO Town commercial space

Two vacant buildings in REO Town are in the midst of transforming into vibrant mixed-use spaces for local businesses, additional office space and residential units.

Demolition began in late July to make way for the reconstruction of 1101 and 1103 S. Washington Ave. Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale could open on the ground floor of one building by December 2017, while second floor renovations are expected to be complete by September. Renovations are also underway in the adjacent building for the future home of the Wheel House Pottery Studio—owned and operated by local artist and teacher Daniel Nunez—as well as two upstairs apartments.

"It's been my privilege to teach Lansing how to play with mud for over a decade," says Nunez. "While I loved being a ceramics instructor for high schools, non-profits, and parks and recreation, I have always dreamed of opening my own studio."

Super Fancy Too, LLC, will invest $100,000 to redevelop the property that will house the brewery and restaurant at 1101. Nunez's development company, REO Life, will invest about $472,855 to rehabilitate 1103 for mixed use commercial.

When open, Sleepwalker is expected to create 12 full-time jobs. The REO Life project will create two full-time jobs, with completion expected in September 2018.

Both developers applied for Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act Certificates to abate a portion of the future tax increases that will result from building improvements.

Source: Victoria Meadows, Marketing, Communications and Talent Director, LEAP
Writer/Editor: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Major investment propels music facilities at MSU

A bold transformation is underway for music at Michigan State University as plans for a major new addition and significant facility renovations to the College of Music were announced in late June.

The preliminary plans detail a $35 million project that includes a 35,000-square-foot expansion and 8,500-square feet of renovated space to the Music Building on Circle Drive. The project was approved the MSU Board of Trustees and is made possible by more than $7 million in initial gift commitments from several donors.

“This will be an important and strategic piece of our vision for the future,” says James Forger, dean of the College of Music. “This state-of-the-art addition and renovation to the Music Building, following the world-class renovation of performance spaces including recently completed Cook Recital Hall and Fairchild Theatre, will make it a premier destination for students and faculty from around the globe. It will support the work of an exceptional faculty that is second to none.”

The initial impetus for the project came from MSU alumnus James Billman, Jr. who provided the lead gift for an expansion and refurbishment of the original 1939 Music Building. Alumni Byron and Dolores Cook and the late Ruth Charles joined Billman in setting the project in motion with major support of their own.

“Spartan musicians regularly thrill audiences with their professional performances, and their performance venues, classrooms and practice areas should reflect that,” said Billman, a 1969 graduate of the College of Natural Science.

The renovation and expansion plan includes acoustically advanced rehearsal spaces, additional practice rooms, a modern and high-tech lecture center, faculty studios and offices, a recording and multimedia room and a public gathering space with a café.

Climate control and excellent acoustical design will enhance all work in the new spaces. Larger, flexible rehearsal and performance spaces will accommodate various ensembles including bands, choirs, jazz bands and combos, new music, opera, orchestras and percussion. Significantly expanded spaces will be developed for individual practice locations as well as chamber music rehearsal space.

“This will facilitate the work of faculty and students in extraordinary ways,” says Forger. “It is gratifying that alumni and friends have stepped forward with cornerstone gifts that will transform the College.”

Forger added that improved music facilities have long been on the University's list of needs. The College has outgrown current spaces, Forger explains, with 550 students working toward music degrees and more than 2,000 additional students participating in ensembles and classes.

“Expanding and enhancing the Music Building is the next step in transforming the learning environment for scores of students and providing outstanding musical experiences for audiences,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “We are grateful to Jim Billman and other donors for leading the way in investing in a new chapter for music at MSU.”

A thorough study conducted with faculty, students, architects and planners helped identify key spaces for critically needed improvements and strategic opportunities for innovation at the College. Michigan State will provide 50 percent of $35 million needed for the renovation and expansion. The College will proceed with additional fundraising efforts for the remaining $10.5 million in gifts, and will provide opportunities for donors to name spaces in the expanded and renovated facility.

Source: Michael Sundermann, Communications Director, MSU College of Music
Writer/Editor: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Forsberg Real Estate makes big impression with Tembo tiny living homes

Eye-catching tiny homes for big thinkers are making their way to Lansing neighborhoods, starting with REO Town this summer.

T.A. Forsberg, Inc. unveiled its first completed Tembo home in late June, inviting the public to embrace a small concept with huge potential for providing attainable, quality housing in core urban areas. The compact design features one bedroom, cathedral ceilings, luxury appliances, quality fit and fixtures, energy-efficient systems and insulation, and a front porch.

"We saw a huge shortage of affordable housing in the region, and it was evident that we needed to focus on it," says Gina Pons-Schultz, Forsberg operations and project manager. "Traditionally, we've built homes for subdivisions. We wanted to diversify more, and this was it."

Pons-Schultz says the concept drew its name from the Swahili word for elephant—projecting a playful, gentle perception as well as the idea of a small home with a big welcome.

The 600-square foot model home at 127 Elm Street will rent for $850 a month. The company's goal is to build up to 50 Tembo homes within the next two years, ranging in size from 600- to 720-square feet. About five to eight of the slanted-roof homes will be built in REO town by the end of the summer, with plans for others with a slightly different design on Lansing's East Side.

Homes are built on-site, typically on vacant or infill lots purchased from the Ingham County Land Bank. The idea, Pons-Schultz says, is to enhance the quality of life within the community and to contribute to a sustainable, urban system.

"We try to get involved as much as possible and to interact with communities," says Pons-Schultz. "We went to people within REO Town before we even started building. That's how we like to do things."

Pons-Schultz says the REO Town Commercial Association has supported the Tembo project since it began about a year ago. Several merchants and artists provided furniture and artwork for the model home, including Vintage Junkies and Mary "Makeshift" Molnar.

Tembo Homes were the brainchild of the builder's CEO Brent Forsberg who worked closely with company interns for a year to tweak and test the design in a company warehouse. The Okemos-based builder celebrates 60 years of business in 2017, and was founded by Brent's grandfather Terry Forsberg.

"We're really proud of the Tembo concept house and want people to understand what our designs are all about," says Pons-Schultz. "We did a lot of research on the market, on spending patterns and on millennials. A lot of the concept comes from that."

Source: Gina Pons-Schultz, Operations and Project Manager, Forsberg Real Estate
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Acres of Play invites preschoolers to drive their own learning

D'Lynn Smith believes in letting kids make a mess. She also believes in letting them explore, move and direct their own playtime activities as a way to learn.

In early 2017, D'Lynn Smith opened Acres of Play based on her long-held philosophy of early learning and childcare. The licensed preschool—or "playschool" as Smith calls it—offers a home-based option for working families of 3-, 4- and 5-year old children.

"I opened this because I saw a great decline in programs offering true play for children—or simply allowing children to play authentically according to their nature," says Smith. "There's this huge academic push for kids to know their alphabet and be mathematically set and test well before kindergarten. I want to bring back that true, child-led form of play."

Acres of Play is located at D'Lynn's ranch-style home in Charlotte. She converted three rooms in the upper level for the preschool, starting with the 12-foot by 15-foot living room that became the main classroom and nap area. One of the three bedrooms became a "construction room" complete with toy bricks and tubes and other building materials; a second became an art and playhouse area furnished with a toy kitchen and stove, and an art table with supplies for making and creating.

Children go on occasional field trips and venture outdoors every day for play. The landscape of the huge, two-acre backyard is equipped with a climbing structure, a mud kitchen made with pallets, buckets and water, tools for shoveling and scooping, and items to roll and push and move.

"We do a lot of sensory and imaginary play," says Smith. "I don't have trademarked toys, and we don't watch movies or have screen time. We read a lot. We sing. We dance. We have art activities that are their own. It's very child-driven and child-led."

Acres of Play is licensed for six children and runs during the academic year. Smith also offers a series of summer camps based on age groups for children up to third grade. The preschool is currently enrolling for fall.

Source: D'Lynn Smith, Owner and Teacher, Acres of Play
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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Firecracker Foundation triples footprint with new office space in Holt

Four years ago, Tashmica Torok founded the Firecracker Foundation from her home in South Lansing. In early June, she moved the organization into a 2,000-square foot space in Holt.

"Originally, my goal was to help six kids," says Torok. "I had no idea this is what it would become."

Torok started the Firecracker Foundation to provide child survivors of sexual trauma and their families with high quality, consistent holistic healing services. Those service have evolved to include individual mental health therapy, trauma sensitive yoga therapy, and caretaker support groups.

The foundation's new location is the organization's fourth, following a path that led from Torok's home in South Lansing to The NEO Center in North Lansing to REO Town to Suite 9 in the office plaza at 2450 Delphi Commerce Drive.

"We were looking for a place that would accommodate not just administrative work, but our program work that includes yoga and therapy," says Torok. "This office has two spaces for yoga, two therapy rooms, and some group therapy rooms as well."

Before moving, Torok gave the space a makeover, including fresh paint, new carpeting and hardwood flooring, and putting up walls to section off service areas. The larger footprint triples the foundation's previous office in REO Town. The expansion enables Torok to offer on-site space to contracted, qualified therapists, and to run more yoga programming. Torok says the new facility also provides plenty of space for the foundation's pediatric medical advisory team to hold training and continuing education sessions.

The Firecracker Foundation employs two staff in addition to Torok, and benefits from the donated talented and services of about 75 active volunteers. Torok contracts with five therapists qualified to work with pediatric sexual trauma and five trauma-informed yoga instructors.

In the past year, the Foundation's client base has grown from 25 to 100 clients, with services provided to children and families.

"It makes me feel hopeful," says Torok of the organization's rapid growth. "I think what we've created is necessary and it's evolving to meet the needs of children and families in our community."

Source: Tashmica Torok, Executive Director, Firecracker Foundation
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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