Development News

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New, 25-unit condo development planned for Kerrytown

If anyone needs proof that demand for downtown living is still on the rise in Ann Arbor, the announcement of Huron Contracting's third Kerrytown condo project in various stages of development should suffice. As his North Main condos near completion and the Kingsley Lane project should break ground in a few weeks, a new, 25-unit condo project has been proposed for N. First St. 

"We're excited," says Tom Fitzsimmons of Huron Contracting. "As long we we can continue to find land in or near Kerrytown and the demand remains strong we'll continue to develop. "

And people seem willing to continue to buy. The North Main development is sold out, and the Kingsley St. project is about 75 percent sold before groundbreaking. Similar to the previous projects, the new N. First development will include on-site parking and a mix of unique, one- to three-bedroom units ranging from 900 to 2,000 square feet each. 

"You're going to be two blocks from Kerrytown, and two to three blocks from downtown," says Fitzsimmons. "With parking on site, it's going to be a fantastic spot." 

Though prices for the new units have not yet been set, Fitzsimmons says his current near-downtown condos are selling for approximately $375 to $400 per square foot. Though the new plan is in the proposal stage, should all go well, Fitzsimmons hopes to break ground in late summer of next year and complete construction in 2016. 

Source: Tom Fitzsimmons, Huron Contracting
Writer: Natalie Burg

Massage Mechanics expands footprint, adds five new workers in Depot Town

Make no mistake, Massage Mechanics is not a spa. And that is working for them. The Depot Town business has been operating since 2011, and during that time it has grown from a 225 square foot space employing only the two owners to a 1,000 square foot operation with seven massage therapists. 

"Our big tagline is, 'We are not a spa.' We don't have the extras or do the fluff an buff massage," says Andrea Gruber, who owns Massage Mechanics with partner Becky Smith. "We're here to provide excellent quality therapeutic work to our area. We really want to help people and be a staple, not a luxury item. 

That means they can keep their prices affordable to those they feel need massage the most — working class people who are often on their feet or sitting at desks all day. That attitude has served them well. They moved from their original location more than two years ago into a larger space across Cross St., and this spring, expanded that 700 square foot space to accommodate even more growth. Since that time, they've added five additional massage contractors to their business. 

Smith and Gruber plan to continue the growth of Massage Mechanics with the same philosophy that had led to their current success: listening to the needs of the community. 

"Ultimately we want to keep growing as the customer base allows," Gruber says. "Every so often we look at the world around us to see that it needs."

Source: Andrea Gruber and Becky Smith, Massage Mechanics
Writer: Natalie Burg

Stony Lake Brewing Co. nanobrewery to open in Saline

As a concept, Jerry Tubbs's forthcoming Saline business has been brewing for years now. Come February, however, the nanobrewery Stony Lake Brewing Co. will finally be ready for patrons to get their first hoppy taste of the new local watering hole. 

"My wife and I have always played around with different business ideas over the years," says Tubbs. "My love for beer and brewing made it just kind of fit."

The 3,300 square foot Stony Lake Brewing Co. on E. Michigan Ave. in Saline has been under construction for months now, after Tubbs began his lease in June. Building a brewery from scratch takes time, however, and Tubb is just now getting his brewing equipment installed and ready for operation. His microbrewers license will allow him to brew and serve his own beer at the location. Offering food and and selling his beer to other local establishments may come further down the line. 

"My kettles are three-barrel, which is on the small side, so I follow what a lot of these nanobrewes have done," Tubbs says. "I'm hoping with a year or two under our belt we'll be planning for larger tanks".

While Stony Lake Brewing Co. will offer a variety of different beers, the menu will include a number of IPAs — Tubbs's own personal favorite. While he will brew the beer himself, he expects to hire a staff of about seven to operate the taproom when he opens in February. 

Source: Jerry Tubbs, Stony Lake Brewing Co.
Writer: Natalie Burg

New Briarwood Bravo! Cucino Italiana now hiring for 75 new jobs

A new option for "polished casual" Italian dining and more than 75 new jobs are coming to Briarwood with the forthcoming Bravo! Cucina Italiana. With locations in Dearborn, Lansing, Livonia and Rochester Hills, Ann Arbor will be the newest of the restaurant's many locations. 

"Ann Arbor is the perfect mix of professionals, families and students," says William Kirby, GM for the Briarwood/Ann Arbor Bravo! "[It's] a great fit for us and very close to the type of community we are successful in amidst our Lansing location."

Hiring for both front of the house and back of the house employees has already begun, though Bravo! is still looking to hire up to 40 more staff members. Applicants may apply at Courtyard Ann Arbor at 3205 Boardwalk Drive, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. until all positions are filled.

The new, freestanding 6,551 square foot building at Briarwood includes a semi-private banquet room and a 1,242 square foot patio, which will include seating for 55 and fire pit. The restaurant will include 40 tables in the restaurant, and 41 seats in the bar. The grand opening will be celebrated on December 11. 

"The new Ann Arbor location is part of our expansion project in Michigan," says Chief Executive Officer of Bravo Brio Restaurant Group, Inc., Saed Mohseni. "We have a great reputation within the community and want to continue to expand and provide high quality of food and service within the market. For 2014 we opened 6 new restaurants inclusive of the Ann Arbor location."

Source: William Kirby, Briarwood/Ann Arbor Bravo! Cucina Italiana
Writer: Natalie Burg

Now, Then & Again brings cards, classes, antiques to Milan

A longtime knitter and card maker, Cindy Day has wanted to open a shop that included both for some time. Combined with her mother's experience as the former owner of Victorian Garden in Blissfield, the concept for Now, Then & Again in Milan finally came together: an antiques, thrift and vintage shop that includes her handmade cards and knitted goods. 

"It's been going really wonderfully," says Day's mother Sandra Suchy. "Milan has been very responsive. I've from Milan and all our children were raised here, so it's like coming back home."

Now, Then & Again opened about three months ago and celebrated their grand opening earlier this month. Many of the antiques came straight from from Suchy's own collection of displays from her former shop, as well as garage sale and auction finds she's collected along the way. In the future, Day, who is a nurse in Adrian by day, would like to add knitting and card making classes to the shop's offerings. 

For now, the store will focus on a wide variety of new, used and antique items. 

"We have unique treasures and price ranges for everyone," Suchy says "from 50 cents to hundreds of dollars. We have a lot of beautiful antiques, good quality used furniture and brand new items."

Now, Then & Again is located between Roy's BBQ & Burgers and Chase Bank in Milan. Day manages the store herself with the help of Suchy. 

Source: Sandra Suchy, Now, Then & Again
Writer: Natalie Burg

The Dixson Agency is a new player in Ann Arbor insurance scene

After a decade working in insurance repair, Mark Dixson says he understands a side of the insurance business many agents haven't experienced firsthand: clients who are not properly covered. Now that he's an agent himself, and opening his first Ann Arbor office, he says that is a quality that sets him apart. 

"I've dealt with so many clients in the past who were under-insured. I wanted to think about those clients and bring the the kind of policy they need," says Dixson, whose The Dixson Agency is slated to open by the end of December. "When a client is paying a premium, they want to make sure all of their property is covered."

Often, he says, people don't realize until after a flood or sewage break that they didn't have the coverage they thought they had. That is something he hopes to address when opening his office, which is tentatively planned for a 500 square foot space in South State Street Commons. 

"We're here to stay in the Ann Arbor area, and we're bringing some value for clients," Dixson say "We're just happy to be in Ann Arbor."

The Dixson Agency has been operating for about a year from a location in Canton. Dixson plans to hire two staff members to help operate his new Ann Arbor office. 

Source: Mark Dixson, The Dixson Agency
Writer: Natalie Burg

Local Habitat for Humanity revitalizes more than just houses

When most people think about Habitat for Humanity, they think about volunteers building houses and renovating them for those in need. For Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley, that's only part of the story, and their commitment to revitalizing more than just houses has landed them a $70,000 grant from Lowe's.

"About three years ago we took a more concentrated approach to investing in the communities in a bigger way than just renovating houses," says Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley Community Development Director Sarah Teare.

That expanded approach includes community planning meetings, visioning, surveys and more to determine how Habitat can help the entire neighborhood become a better place to live. "Long term, we will work with the residents to help make those things that are most important come to life in their community."

The local Habitat affiliate was one of 11 national affiliates and the only in Michigan to receive the grant award from Lowe's. The funds have already been put to use for community planning meetings, home exterior improvements, improvements to a pedestrian and bike path, door-to-door surveys and a clean-up day, all in Ypsilanti Twp.'s West Willow neighborhood. The funds, which came in a combination of cash and Lowe's gift cards, will also help with the construction of a pavilion in the future.

"We hope to give people more of a sense of pride and comfort in their community," Teare says. "We've really seen a lot of connections made and friendships made." 

Source: Sarah Teare, Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley
Writer: Natalie Burg

Chin-Azzaro opens Ypsilanti storefront for art and photography

Three years ago, Yen and Nick Azzaro were in Chicago working as an art dealer and photographer, respectively. When they moved back to the Ann Arbor area, the husband and wife University of Michigan grads retargeted their services to the local market, creating Chin Azzaro, an art, design and photography studio. Now, the pair is expanding their operations to a new storefront in downtown Ypsilanti. 

"Part of it was client necessity. People would say, 'Where's your studio?'" says Yen Azzaro. "A lot of things just came together at the same time, and a lot of it was happening in Ypsi. So even though we were located in Ann Arbor, it just made sense to open in Ypsilanti."

In addition to Nick Azzaro's commercial work, he's been partnering with local schools to teach studio photography and taking photos for families in Ypsilanti's Hamilton Crossing. In their new downtown space, Chin Azzaro will offer weekly photography discounts to Ypsilanti residents. Yen Azzaro's services include art consulting, as well as marketing and publicity. 

"As people have learned more about us, our services have expanded, and our partnerships too," Azzaro says. "We are really open to working and collaborating with people in the community."

Chin Azzaro opened their new, 800 square foot studio Tuesday, which includes both studio space and an office. The Azzaros plan to continue to expand their services and find even more ways to work with the community and local students. 

Source: Yen Azzaro, Chin-Azzaro
Writer: Natalie Burg

Yeo & Yeo more than doubles staff, expands into new, 10,000 sq ft location

The Ann Arbor branch of Saginaw-based accounting, audit, tax and business consulting firm Yeo & Yeo is now the company's second largest with about 25 employees and a brand new office that is 2.5 times the size of their original location. 

"We are outgrowing our previous location," says Kimberlee Kelley, director of marketing for Yeo & Yeo. "Last year we merged with a firm in Southgate, Hungerford & Co. We wanted to bring some staff from that office into one office so we could make a stronger foundation of resources for our clients." 

Between the merger with the Southgate company and their own growth, the Ann Arbor staff has more than doubled in size over the past year, even as some Southgate employees remained in a satellite office in the metro Detroit office. Such growth attracted the firm to a 10,000 square foot space less than a mile from their former location on E. Eisenhower. 

"It's not too far from our current office, so it's convenient for our clients," Kelley says. "We're happy to be able to grow and expand in the Ann Arbor area. It's been an ideal location for us."

Construction began on the new space in July and included a complete remodel of the office. The firm moved in on Oct. 31. 

Source: Kimberlee Kelley, Yeo & Yeo
Writer: Natalie Burg

B Young B Fit expands into 4,200 sq. ft location

Ann Arbor native and personal trainer Brian Young's B Young B Fit began in a 900-square foot location in 2006 and has been beefing up ever since. In 2010, the member-focused gym grew into a 3,500 square foot location in Glencoe Crossings, and then continued its growth this year by moving to a 4,200 square foot space on Washtenaw Ave. 

"This new studio is designed with field turf, state of the art equipment, a private yoga studio and all the necessary tools for us to train everyone from the elite athlete to the beginner fitness enthusiast.

A former Snap Fitness, the space was ideally suited to BYBF's needs. It also includes outdoor studio space for boot camp classes and other training classes. The BYBF concept is intended focus on personalized fitness and individual progress. In addition to serving individual members, BYBF also works with local businesses on their corporate wellness programs, an initiative Young plans to expand upon in his new space. 

"We also are growing our Sports Performance programs to work with local high schools for boys and girls in sports," he says. "This is a big passion of mine working directly with athletes as I was once in their shoes."

Source: Brian Young, B Young B Fit
Writer: Natalie Burg

New State St. Area men's barber spa aims for December opening

If men in Ann Arbor's State Street Area start looking a little more dapper in 2015, there's a reason why. Toronto-based men's barber spa Taylor & Colt is bringing its grooming services south of the border, and Ann Arbor will host its first U.S. location. 

"We’re beginning to see men have an appreciation for the precise grooming techniques of their fathers and grandfathers," says Taylor & Colt's Birdie White. "We also want men to enjoy taking a bit of time for themselves in a space exclusively designed for them, rather than in a salon designed for women."

White says Ann Arbor was chosen as the first U.S. Taylor & Colt for its unique, bustling downtown vibe. The shop's buildout is now underway in their 1,100 space on E. Liberty.

"The physical space will be completely renovated, right down to the studs. Ann Arbor will be our flagship location, so we didn’t hold back," says White. 

From here, Taylor & Colt plans to open a shop in Rochester Hills next year, followed by Birmingham, Grand Rapids, Lansing and then on to other states. 

White hopes to finish renovations by mid-December and open in time for the holiday rush. They are currently hiring 7 to 8 barbers, as well as support staff and managers. 

Source: Birdie White, Taylor & Colt
Writer: Natalie Burg

DFCU eyes Carpenter Rd. location for new branch in 2015

Ann Arbor is Dearborn-based DFCU Financial's fastest growing market. To keep up, the credit union is looking at Pittsfield Twp. site to replace an existing branch with a larger location that offers more amenities. 

"It’s a high-traffic intersection, and therefore current and potential members will pass by this corner every day," says DFCU Financial CEO Mark Shobe of the new Carpenter Rd. site. "Its proximity to our current branch is an added bonus for an easy transition for our membership."

The proposed branch would be built in place of the now vacant Great Lake Chinese Seafood Restaurant on Carpenter. The one-acre property would include a new 4,600 square foot branch, drive up window and ATM, and include services "to fit our brand promise," says Shobe. 

DFCU Financial hopes to move forward with the multi-million dollar project in mid- to late-summer next year. Seven to nine full-time employees are expected to work in the new location. 

Source: Mark Shobe, DFCU Financial
Writer: Natalie Burg

Neighborhood oriented Bake Me Crazy brings cookies and pizza to E. Madison

If there's such thing as the perfect resumé for a pizza and cookie bakery entrepreneur, Harold Solomon has it. He began his career working for a French bakery before spending a decade in research and development for Dominos, working for and being a franchisee for Cottage Inn and then bringing the Insomnia Cookie truck to town. Now, he's shed those big business names and has opened his very own twist on all of it: Bake Me Crazy on E. Madison. 

"I liked the Insomnia Cookie concept, but I'm a pizza guy," Solomon says. "We're, in effect, complicating their business model with other items we think people would like delivered." 

Though the menu is still under development, that will include pastries, shakes, lunches, breakfast sandwiches, and, of course, pizza. Both with his full pizzas and the pizza by the slice he sells now, he plans to follow through on the "crazy" part of his company name with such pies as pot roast pizza, spaghetti and meatball pizza, Asian fusion pizza and more. 

Solomon's experience in the food industry has taught him the importance of a good, long slow opening, during which he can perfect his menu and get everything up to snuff. He's been quietly serving to residents and workers in his neighborhood for a couple of months now, but is looking forward to a big roll out soon. 

"We're almost there now, at the final menu stage" he says. "I'm thinking a couple of weeks." 

Bake Me Crazy currently employs a staff of four in the 900 square foot location near the corner of Main and Madison. As his delivery services and grand opening gets underway, Solomon estimates he'll employ between 10 and 20 workers. 

Source: Harold Solomon, Bake Me Crazy
Writer: Natalie Burg

New Milan pharmacy extends a more personal touch

After opening the Saline Pharmacy three years ago, Ziad Ghamraoui started hearing that his brand of customer-focused pharmacy services were in demand elsewhere as well. 

"A lot of doctors and patients were very happy with us, and a lot of Milan residents told us if we moved closer to Milan they'd give us more business," Ghamraoui says, "because we help bridge the gap in healthcare."

Ghamraoui met that demand, opening Little Pharmacy in Milan about two weeks ago. Like the Saline Pharmacy, he plans to serve customers in a variety of ways, including carrying over-the-counter medications as cheaply as possible, helping those who struggle to meet their copays, allowing people to pay with store accounts when their cash flow is short and more. 

"Brand names can be expensive," Ghamraoui he says. "We get them coupons so we can save them on their copays. We want to make sure people get their prescriptions and make sure they're on the road to health with no restrictions whatsoever."

Little Pharmacy currently occupies about 1,600 square feet of a 2,500 square foot space on Dexter Rd. in Milan. Ghamraoui has hired two employees to manage the new business. 

Source: Ziad Ghamraoui, Little Pharmacy
Writer: Natalie Burg

Original Moxie expands haircare business into Ypsi storefront

It all started because Ypsilanti resident and landscape architect Rachel Blistein wasn't satisfied with the hair product options she found in stores. She wanted something natural, but also needed the quality and complexity of the products sold in salons. So she started experimenting with making her own.

"I was doing a no-foam shampoo, and after about a year I was connected with a stylist who was willing to try out my products on her clients," Blistein says. "Then, by word of mouth, I got into Plum Market in Ann Arbor." 

Now, that experiment has grown to a full-scale haircare manufacturing and retail business, Original Moxie. And because it just won't stop growing, Blistein is now moving the business from her home into a downtown Ypsilanti storefront. 

"We found places way out in no man's land, but they had no connections to pedestrian traffic," she says. "I had my eyes on this space, and I didn't even know they had manufacturing space in the back. Then it came up for lease, and everything just sort of came together unexpectedly."

Blistein aims to open the 1,800 square foot retail and manufacturing space by Black Friday. In addition to growing into the new space, Original Moxie has grown in staff as well. First run entirely by Blistein alone when it all started five years ago, she now works with two employees, two freelancers, and, should the retail end of the new storefront demand it, she'll add another employee as well. 

With her proximity to the Ypsilanti Coop and her own business's commitment to sustainability, she hopes to partner on events and initiatives in the future. 

Source: Rachel Blistein, Original Moxie
Writer: Natalie Burg
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