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My Pontiac Story: Amy McIntyre of City Girls Farm

Amy and John McIntyre are city people at heart. That's why they run their City Girls Farm, a goat livestock operation, out of the city of Pontiac, rather than out in the country.

When asked why they started in the city instead of the sticks, owner Amy McIntyre responds, half-jokingly, "Because we don't want to live out in the sticks."

Though the McIntyres' reasons run deeper than that. The family got its start in the goat business simply enough; the McIntyres' daughter began having problems with lactose and, in 2011, Amy read online that goat milk ice cream was a more suitable substitute for the traditional kind. The McIntyres bought a share in a herd of goats in Brighton and would drive an hour each way, once a week, to pick up a gallon of goat's milk to make ice cream for their daughter.

Soon, the family thought about running their own goat-based dairy farm, but eventually decided that it wasn't a sound business decision. However, a line of goat milk-based soap and lotion products, as it turns out, is a much better business to run.

The McIntyres bought their first goat in 2012--Winnie, who they still have today--and kept her on an urban farm in Detroit's Brightmoor neighborhood, where they initially thought they'd build their farm. But a series of meetings with city brass left the McIntyres exasperated. That frustration would lead to the fruition of City Girls Farm in Pontiac. The McIntyres partnered with Tim Travis, owner of Goldner Walsh Garden & Home, to purchase 3.5 acres adjacent to his nursery. City Girls Farm will celebrate their third anniversary in Pontiac this June.

Amy doesn't miss her former life as a bookkeeper and enjoys bringing neighborhood children into the farm to meet the goats.

"Agriculture is hard, but it's fun," Amy says. "On the hardest day, it's still better than on the best day as a bookkeeper."

The McIntyres now have 24 goats, and some of their does are pregnant again. In addition to their line of goat milk-based soaps, lotions, laundry detergents, and candles, the City Girls goats can be rented out for conservation grazing purposes.

Metromode asked Amy McIntyre about raising goats in the city of Pontiac, and the city itself.

Q: What do you love most about Pontiac?

I love the spirit of Pontiac. And the people. I think a lot of people don't have a choice to leave. A lady came one day to see the goats. A business left, and her job was gone, and she couldn't leave. But the people here are so open to the change that is happening that there's a shift--everyone's invested in it.

Q: Why did you come to Pontiac?

Honestly, it's the whole thing where you have to pivot, and with every meeting we went to in Detroit, it was like slamming your head against a brick wall. In Pontiac, it's been effortless. And then you get to know the people, and you start to think, I want Pontiac to get to experience the same thing that Detroit has right now. But it's going to be stronger because they're doing it without all the press. I think that's the cool thing. It's resilient.

Q: What's Pontiac's biggest challenge and how do you think it can be addressed?

The thing that worries me about Pontiac is the schools. I'm always concerned because I think when you have a city, you need to have the kids. It sounds trite, but they're the future. It needs to be a city where kids are welcomed and are valued. The ITA is a technical academy, and they don't have a science lab. And so, it has to be about the youth.

Q: What are your hopes for the city?

I hope it survives all of this. I hope it becomes a thriving urban center of really cool stuff. I really do. I just think it's awesome. It's a city smack dab in the middle of the wealthiest county in the state of Michigan. And it's not treated well. I want it to be treated well.

Q: What should people in metro Detroit know about Pontiac?

Don't be so scared of it. It's just another city that's fallen on hard times. People who come to the farm, they say, "I didn't even know it was here," and, "I never stop here." And it's like, are you kidding me? It's a city that's fallen on hard times, and it's not scary. I think there's such great potential here. It's amazing. People just need to see it. They need to come to Pontiac and see what's going on and tell people about it.

Learn more about City Girls Farm online.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Metro Detroit communities embrace archery

More Metro Detroit residents will have an opportunity to try the sport of archery this summer, thanks to a new grant program to help fund the development of archery programs in public parks.


Sterling Heights, Oakland County Parks, and the Southeast Livingston County Recreation Authority were among six communities across the state selected to receive archery equipment grants. The grants are funded by Easton Sports Development Foundation and are distributed in partnership with USA Archery and the Michigan Parks and Recreation Association (mParks).


Each park organization received $4,000 in April to purchase all of the equipment needed to start local programs and participated in an Academy to receive training. The program is part of a growing movement to build an archery sport and industry in Michigan, according to Bryan Farmer, deputy director of special services for the City of Farmington Hills.


Farmington Hills launched its archery program in 2010 and quickly saw success in the community, which led them to build a full range in 2015. A modest fee paid off the initial investment in a single season, and the program now generates adequate revenue to be self-sustaining. According to Farmer, the sport offers a new form of recreation, gets people outdoors and builds up the outdoor recreation economy.


"When we surveyed the people of Farmington Hills, a third of the people said they already bought the equipment because they liked archery so much. That's $766,000 spent on equipment," says Farmer. "Then 63 percent said they plan to purchase equipment in the future, which would equal $1.5 million."


The survey also uncovered participants' desire to use their new archery skills to try hunting as a sport, which has the potential to translate into even more of an economic boon for the state.


"Regarding the economic impact, if 15 percent more people got into hunting and fishing and those type of sports, then they're going to buy a lot more equipment. They're going to pay for gas to go up north to go hunt. They're going to buy licenses. That's $3.5 million that would be generated just from Farmington Hills if we had 797 new people come into hunting."


However, finding opportunities to enter and practice archery in Michigan can be a challenge. Farmer believes promoting the sport through local parks systems is one way to increase access.

"It's hard to find through conservations clubs," says Farmer. "People just don't know how to get involved with it. So that's where Parks and Recreation comes. We can hit all ages, all ethnicities, and that's what is happening in Farmington Hills. That's what's going on. A lot of people want it, and the participation is amazing."

Ready for business: Young Entrepreneurs Academy in Dearborn prepares area youth for leadership

A good idea is a good idea, no matter the age of the thinker. This fact is well represented in Dearborn at the Metro Detroit chapter of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, or YEA!. The national program enrolls middle and high school students in a class that teaches them how to turn their ideas into actual businesses.

Grant Sobczak, a graduate of the 2016 season, is a good example of the type of minds that enroll in the Dearborn program. At just 14 years old, Sobczak had already started his own business, Modern Mind Technology & Companies. The YEA! program helped Sobczak get his business off the ground. He came up with a solid business plan and started an LLC.

"I definitely learned a lot, from financials to human resources to marketing. It takes you to a fully realized company," says Sobczak. "The added benefits is the networking, meeting future partners and customers."

Sobczak is currently working on an online platform for school permission slips, and he says that his only current competitor in the field is a company in Canada. At just 16 years old today, Sobczak is hoping that his first paying school district will pick up his platform for the 2017 and '18 and school year. He estimates that the online permission slip system will save school districts approximately $16,000 per year.

This year, Sobczak was a member of the investor panel, which sees students pitch their products to a table of investors. Sobczak was pitching his own product last year, and being on the panel this year allowed him to see things from the other side of the table.

One of the students doing the pitching was Anthony Vickers, CEO of Rally Bands, a head band logo product for sports teams and other clubs. On May 5, Vickers took his pitch to the national Ninth Annual Saunders Scholars National Conference & Competition in Rochester, New York.

Though he didn't win, Vickers, like Sobczak, has a bright future ahead of him.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

It's a party: Green Brain Comics goes all out for Free Comic Book Day

While the random person on the street might not associate a comic book store with a giant party, that's just what's happening Saturday, May 6, at Green Brain Comics in downtown Dearborn. It's Free Comic Book Day, an international event where comic book stores hand out free comic books all day long.

But that's not all that Green Brain has planned.

Green Brain co-owner Dan Merritt anticipates handing out around 10,000 comic books at this year's event. The store has averaged 1,500 visitors for the event each of the past several years.

Over 50 different comic books will be available, created specifically for the event and covering a wide swath of genres and intended age ranges. "There is something for everybody," says Merritt.

Patrons of Free Comic Book Day are allowed three free comic books, though Green Brain is offering the opportunity for people to receive more. Encouraging Cosplay, Green Brain will offer an additional free comic book to those who show up in costume. Up to two additional comics are available to those who bring canned food to be donated to Gleaners Community Food Bank, used books to be donated to Friends of the Dearborn Library, or old cell phones to be donated to Cell Phones for Soldiers.

For every sale Green Brain makes that day, the store will donate a portion of each purchase to Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit. That organization will also be on site with an adoptable dog. Merritt says the store is 3-for-3 in getting pets adopted in years past.

And all of this at a comic book store.

"We want to get the next generation of comic book readers interested, and get their noses out of their iPads. We want to create new readers at a younger age. Literacy is very important to us," says Merritt. "We also want to get people into a comic book shop to see what it really is versus what they might think it is. It's not what you see on Big Bang Theory."

In addition to free comics, Green Brain will have door prizes, grab bag giveaways, and free art prints. DJs and artists will be on hand, as well as a number of surprise guests and activities. A large event tent will be outside, along with The Roaming Hunger food truck.

Check out Green Brain Comics in 360:

Post from RICOH THETA. #theta360 - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

On the Wednesday before Free Comic Book Day, May 3, Green Brain will be hosting celebrated and Detroit-born comic book writer Saladin Ahmed for an in-store signing from 5 to 7 p.m.

Free Comic Book Day is Saturday, May 6, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Green Brain Comics, which is located 13936 Michigan Ave. in Dearborn. The event is free and open to the public.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Sixth graduating class of Henry Ford Early College exit with two debt-free diplomas, ready for work

This May 11th, hats and tassels will cloud the skies of Dearborn as students of Henry Ford Early College become that school's sixth graduating class. The program began in 2007, preparing students for a career in the healthcare industry through a unique curiculum that takes students through the 9th to 13th grades. Students not only graduate with a high school diploma, but also a two-year associate degree or certification in a healthcare field.

The early college program was started by Dearborn Public Schools and is open to high school students throughout Wayne County. Students attend class at the Henry Ford College campus where they study a mix of high school and college level courses, taking one college course in 9th grade and increasing that number through the 13th grade level. The focus is on the healthcare industry; students begin shadowing employees at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit in the 9th grade.

It's an opportunity for students to be ready for the healthcare workforce before they enter their twenties--and debt-free, too. Graduates are also better prepared for a four-year degree, should they want to further their education.

Though Dearborn Public Schools started the Henry Ford Early College with a focus on the field of healthcare, they've since expanded their offerings. The district now offers a similar program for students entering the manufacturing and technology industries and is looking to start a third program in the fall of 2018 that focuses on students that want to become teachers.

Other extended learning options offered by the district include the Henry Ford Collegiate Academy and the Michael Berry Career Center. Dearborn Public Schools also boasts the most dual-enrollment classes in the state.

"We want to provide students with a wide variety of options," says Dearborn Public Schools Marketing and Communications Director David Mustonen. We want students to have those choices because not every student fits into the same peg hole. Everyone has different paths and we want to promote different opportunities for them."

While not the sole factor, Mustonen credits Dearborn's early college programs as contributing to that district's rise in graduation rates and decline in dropout rates. Dearborn Public Schools had a 93 percent graduation rate in 2016, a significant increase from its 76 percent graduation rate in 2011. Over that same period, dropouts decreased from 113 in 2011 to 32 in 2016.

Learn more about Henry Ford Early College online.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

My Pontiac Story: Sonia Acosta of Centro Multicultural La Familia

 Ever since a young age, Sonia Acosta has enjoyed helping people live happier, healthier lives, first in Mexico and now in Pontiac, where she's the president and CEO of Centro Multicultural La Familia, a non-profit that takes a holistic approach to assisting the community with social support services.

"It's satisfying to help others have access to things like health equity and equal opportunity to advancing their lives," says Acosta. "We want all children to do well at school so they can be happy and productive members of society. We want them to say, 'Yes, I can do this just like anybody else.'"

Sonia Acosta got her bachelor's degree in psychology in Mexico. She'd then be awarded a scholarship from the Rotary International Foundation, bringing her to Western Michigan University for her masters in psychology. She'd also receive her Ph.D. in psychology from WMU. She got married at that time, and had her daughter here, too.

When Acosta joined Centro in 1992, the agency focused solely on mental health treatment. Under her leadership, Centro has expanded services to cover a wide range of issues, including health and wellness assistance, citizenship education, and English as Second Language classes. Centro also helps other agencies engage with Pontiac's Latino community, improving residents' access to additional services.

In 2007, Acosta helped split off Centro into an independent non-profit. Today, Centro is offering more services to more people. Acosta believes her role with the non-profit is to develop programs based on the feedback she receives from the community, to respond to people's experiences.

"There's been an increase in immigrants feeling unwelcome, these past few months. We're working to help reduce those levels of anxiety and help children feel safer here. We want people to go beyond prejudice, and not be so quick to judge," says Acosta.

"That's what motivates me."

Metromode asked Sonia Acosta more about her motivations and her Pontiac.

Q: What do you love most about Pontiac?

This was the first city I came to where I found a job that I love and continue to love. It allows me to work with people of different backgrounds that are very interested in making Pontiac the Pontiac that they knew before. I got here in 1992, but I understand from talking to people that it was a very prosperous city and I feel that we're moving in the right direction. I've participated in events with the mayor and faith-based leaders, the nearby universities, the Pontiac Business Association; they're all interested in making Pontiac a better place to be. We're one of the oldest tenants in the Riker Building, and I've always felt very safe here. With all the restaurants opening and the music, food, and culture happening--it's the right place to be.

Q: Why did you move to Pontiac and why do you stay?

This is the city where my job is and the people we serve live here. I think it's a great place to be from. Lakes and parks surround us, and there are lots of great businesses in the area. To me, it's surprising that there are not more businesses here because of the geographic area that we're in, all these natural resources, the people that love this city. For all the businesses that have moved away, others are coming back because they see the potential here.

Q: What's Pontiac's biggest challenge and how do you think it can be addressed?

I feel that some people that have been here for a long time have become complacent. There's still a lot of disagreement between people because they're focusing on their own interests and that's what stops progress. People don't get along because they're not focusing on our common goals. But I assume that happens everywhere. Bureaucracy, red tape are things I've never liked. At Centro, we're working to remove that. What we can do is at the community level, try to be there and offer solutions, give input, and make some changes. We're not on a political level but a community level and focus on a healthier and happier Pontiac.

Q: What are your hopes for the city?

That it continues going in the right direction. Here, when a business opens, you feel more support for the small business owners. People are meeting about concerns, especially in the downtown area. The building we're in, the new owner is making a lot of improvements, and you can see it help the economy. I want to see more of that happening. The work with schools, the police department and its relationship to the community--there has been a lot of that happening and hope it continues to happen. I hope people put aside competing interests for the benefit of the city. There's a lot of potential and no reason it shouldn't be that way.

Q: What should people in metro Detroit know about Pontiac?

That Pontiac is in a renewal state where it welcomes people from all over the state and beyond so they can come and be a part of the rebirth of the city. And that we see the changes that cause prosperity, not only financially but where people feel more connected. We don't want to be an island. We want to be a place where people from other places come and take part in cultural events. The mayor seems concerned about all the residents, regardless of their backgrounds, and listens to the needs of the community. Those who used to be down on Pontiac are now promoting it to their friends. You can come here, have fun, and engage with all the different activities happening.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Royal Oak man launches crusade to save Highland Park's McGregor Library from decay

Ted Strunck, with a billowy head of white hair and twinkling eyes, wants you to vote for the restoration of the McGregor Public Library in Highland Park. In fact, he wants you to vote once a day every day until midnight on May 12, specifically for a grant from the USA Today’s “A Community Thrives” initiative to help reopen the 91-year old institution.


Last year, Strunck, a resident of Royal Oak, started a one-man exploratory mission to find out the condition of the library roof, wanting to make sure the building wouldn’t fall into total disrepair. As a licensed contractor (and a school teacher and a musician), Strunck knew a bad roof would be an express train to permanent, irreversible damage and the rapid demise of the iconic landmark. Getting information about the building from the City of Highland Park was difficult at first; it took him several attempts to reach the right person at the understaffed city hall.


His call was returned by Yvette Robinson, director of community and economic development for the city, who agreed to meet with him. And when they met, she let Strunck know that a new roof was put on the building five or six years back. But the mold situation was bad.


Knowing the roof was okay, “I figured I’d let it go,” says Strunck, who is semi-retired. “But I kept thinking about it.”


At this point, Strunck started working with native Detroiter Joe Rashid of ioby, who loved the idea of re-opening the library. They began promoting the project, with a huge response from people who love the building and want to see it reopen. They created a Facebook group to share information.


In the meantime, Strunck found out that there had been an environmental assessment done in 2010 that had uncovered lead paint and asbestos.


Not one for taking the slow, careful route, Strunck met with Robinson again and asked her directly if she, indeed, really wanted to preserve the building. She did.


When Rashid and Strunck heard about the grant contest through A Community Thrives, which funds ideas and creative solutions to community problems pitched by individuals using video, they decided to apply.


They created a video, but needed two crucial pieces before they could submit it: 1) a nonprofit fiduciary and 2) the city’s approval. Strunck enlisted Upland Hills School in Oxford, where he still teaches part-time, as the fiduciary. He sent the video link to Robinson, and she showed it to the mayor, who approved it. The McGregor Library Preservation project officially entered the contest minutes before the deadline on April 12.


Success will entirely depend on how many people vote before May 12. Strunck is pounding the pavement to spread the word on social media and in person. He attended a Highland Park City Council meeting three weeks ago and gave his spiel.


“I told them, ‘I’m here to ask two things: Is Highland Park in favor of helping this library, and can we get information out about voting on this grant?’”


The mayor agreed to both. The people present were excited, some even applauded, and others approached him afterward to share their email addresses to have him send the link to vote.


"It’s the building that I love, that I want to preserve,” says Strunck. “That said, it could be a boost to the entire community to get it up and running.”


Strunck knows that building remediation is just the start of plenty of work and planning needed to reopen the McGregor Library in a town that doesn’t have the funds to operate it. But he believes that, with creativity, the project can be sustained.


He envisions community workshops, building tours, and a wedding venue – perfect with the structure’s classical Roman design – and a list of other ideas as tall as the full travel mug of coffee that Strunck always seems to be carrying.


Humble in his mission, Strunck says, “I guess it just shows what an average Joe can do that has time, but no connections.”


Learn more here.

This article is part of Michigan Nightlight, a series of stories about the programs and people that positively impact the lives of Michigan kids. It is made possible with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Read more in the series here.

Note: 5/18/17 This article has been amended to correct inaccuracies describing Strunck's interaction with city staff.

Cops and coffee shops: Here's your chance to meet Dearborn's police chief

Long-time Dearborn resident Peggy Richard has made a career out of throwing events and bringing people together, be it in her former role as Director of Events for Dearborn Chamber of Commerce, her current role as PR Director for DFCU Financial. But for 2017, Peggy wanted to do something different; she wanted to get involved on a personal level and do something on her own. So much so, in fact, that she made it her New Year's resolution to do just that.

And after just four months, Peggy will have made good on that resolution. On Sunday, April 30, members of the community are invited to an informal sitdown with Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad for a coffee chat at the Starbucks in west downtown Dearborn. It's an opportunity for residents to ask questions or have a simple conversation with the chief. The event is called Cops and Coffee and runs from 2 to 3 p.m.

Peggy organized the event to help facilitate conversation between the community and its police force.

"We don't want anyone to be intimidated to speak," says Peggy. "It's just sitting around a coffee shop like people do all the time and having a conversation."

Peggy has lived in Dearborn for over two decades, and both she and her husband have spent most of their careers here, she says. Rather than send their child to private school, the Richard family sent their daughter to the city's public schools to expose her to the city's great diversity of people, which is something Peggy loves about Dearborn.

It was a conversation between mother and daughter that helped spur the Cops and Coffee event. Peggy had been speaking a lot with her daughter about the Black Lives Matter movement, and they had participated in the demonstrations at Detroit Metro Airport together following President Trump's first immigration ban. But Peggy wants people to appreciate police officers, too. She says she believes there's potential understanding from simply talking with one another.

"I want people to know they can feel safe in this community," says Peggy. "We have so many great things in common."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Healthy food service opens storefront in downtown Ferndale, to open juice and smoothie bar by summer

Clean Plates Detroit, a meal management and delivery service, has expanded with a storefront in downtown Ferndale. Though Clean Plates has been operating in Michigan since 2015, the storefront is its first in the state. Clean Plates started in Ontario, Canada in 2012.

The Ferndale storefront operates as a pick-up location for the company's pre-portioned meals. An in-house nutritionist helps design the rotating menu, which features healthy and locally sourced ingredients and meals that can be delivered to customers' homes every week. While meals are pre-portioned, customized options for those with dietary restrictions are also available.

Store manager Omario Matti says that the Ferndale storefront has already revealed some dietary trends in the neighborhood, and that Clean Plates has adjusted accordingly.

"The customers here have been primarily vegetarian and vegan," he says. "So, we've been incorporating that into our menus more."

Matti says that at every Clean Plates location, both in Ontario and in Michigan, the food is purchased locally. Nothing is shipped, nothing is frozen, and nothing has GMOs or hormones.

The Ferndale storefront is just the beginning of the company's expansion into Michigan. Matti says that storefronts in downtown Birmingham and downtown Detroit should be open by the end of the year. A juice and smoothie bar is also being built at the Ferndale location, which is expected to be completed by the end of May.

"I think it appeals to busy people," says Matti. "It was originally more targeted to athletes, but it's also for people with really busy lifestyles. It's still nutrition-based, but now people who don't have the time to shop and cook can eat healthier."

Clean Plates Detroit is located at 149 W. 9 Mile Rd. in downtown Ferndale.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

My Pontiac Story: April Wagner of epiphany glass

Out on the outskirts of Pontiac, tucked away between trees, landscaping, and Beaudette Park is a former TV repair shop. It's a quiet part of town, bucolic even. Driving by, it's easy to miss the old shop. There are no signs on the side of the road, no way to know that inside the old TV repair shop is the home of epiphany studios, the gallery and hot glass studio of glass artist April Wagner.

Since 1997, the year she purchased the building, Wagner's business has remained in this unique part of town. From her point of view, it's a perfect fit. Wagner draws inspiration from nature, which translates to her glass work. She appreciates the quiet, and she doesn't like to draw too much attention to her studio.

Wagner runs two businesses out of epiphany studios--and even lived in the attached apartment once. There's epiphany, which is her line of gift pieces and functional pieces, like bowls and decanters. These items can be found at her gallery, and other galleries and stores. And then there's the April Wagner Line, which are larger, more ornamental pieces of glass art that often end up in the lobbies of hotels and hospitals, or the dining rooms and stairwells of people's homes.

Wagner appreciates being in Pontiac. She calls it the heart of Oakland County, and thinks its a great location for artists, citing a nice balance between cost and size in the space that's available. She's currently working on a piece for the donor wall of the recently renovated Flagstar Strand Theatre For The Performing Arts downtown.

"The community here, in particular, supports makers by buying their work," says Wagner. "I'm grateful to be allowed to be here and do my thing, and do it quietly and purposefully."

For a chance to see epiphany studios firsthand, Wagner's 2017 Spring Show is Saturday, May 6, and Sunday May 7, from noon to 6 p.m. both days. The event is free and open to the public. It features glassblowing demonstrations and even opportunities for visitors to try glassblowing, too.

We asked Wagner about Pontiac and the arts.

Q: What do you love most about Pontiac?

I love this piece of property. I love being on the water, and I love how quiet it is. It's gorgeous.

Q: Why did you move epiphany glass to Pontiac?

I moved to Pontiac because I could afford to buy real estate here and I felt that I could grow as an artist here. And because it was such a beautiful piece of property, it would give back to my artistic side just as much as I would give to it. 
The reason I stay in Pontiac is that I feel like Pontiac needs me. Pontiac needs stable businesses that have people working here. Pontiac needs people from other surrounding neighborhoods to come here and see how great it is. Even though I'm on the edge of Pontiac and not in downtown Pontiac, I still think I help Pontiac have a different reputation from what it has in the general media, like violence or poverty.

Q: What's Pontiac's biggest challenge and how do you think it can be addressed?

The biggest challenge has been coming out of a lack of leadership and now, moving forward with such strong leadership, I think they're doing an amazing job of working with the community and the government and the teams of developers to create this synergy to create a community where everyone will benefit. 
In the twenty years that I've been here, they tried to do a resurgence in downtown Pontiac before and it failed, in my opinion, because people weren't talking to each other. The government, the developers, and the community were not interacting. From what I've seen with what's happening today in downtown Pontiac, I'm so impressed.

Q: What are your hopes for the city?

I hope that everything that is going on right now continues. I would love to see it become an enclave for artists and galleries and boutique shops. The thing I would hate to see is if something like Buffalo Wild Wings moved in. I'd love to see little independent restaurants, and maybe a cat cafe would be super cool; boutique clothing stores. Just fun and quirky, kind of like Ann Arbor--different from any surrounding neighborhood and what those have to offer. So you're not competing, you're just enhancing the whole area.

Q: What should people in Metro Detroit know about Pontiac?

Pontiac is a gem that's about to get a really good cleaning and then everyone is going to recognize it for how great it is. Because there are lots of times you might not want to drive to Detroit to do something fun and funky. You might want to stay a little closer to home. Every neighborhood has its own unique flavor, and I think the flavor that Pontiac is going to offer is going to be something that isn't already nearby for a lot of people.

More information about the epiphany studios 2017 Spring Show is available here.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Get in line: Dearborn music shops gear up for Record Store Day with special releases and sales

This Saturday, April 22, Dearborn Music owner Kevin LeAnnais is planning on opening an hour and a half earlier than he typically would. That's because it's Record Store Day, an international holiday for record collectors and record store owners alike.

Now in its tenth year, Record Store Day has helped drum up publicity and interest for independent record stores, with some of the biggest and best artists and labels collaborating on limited edition releases for distribution on this particular day, all across the country and even the world.

LeAnnais is expecting about 400 special releases for this Record Store Day, exclusively available at participating independent record stores. That's why he's opening at 8 a.m. on a Saturday. He anticipates about 225 people lined up at his doors that morning, eagerly waiting for LeAnnais to unlock Dearborn Music. He says that on the eve of last year's Record Store Day, one especially fanatic record collector began waiting outside the shop at 9 p.m., the moment the record store locked its doors for the night.

"Record Store Day is for independent record stores. It's to remind people that we're still here and that music is our top priority," says LeAnnais. "Think about going to your local record store and buying music instead of downloading it."

In addition to selling the limited edition Record Store Day releases, Dearborn Music is also offering 20 percent off all vinyl, including new, used, and RSD records, and 20 percent off all used CDs as part of the celebration.

Over on the east end of downtown Dearborn, a second record store is also throwing a party, although not in the context of the official Record Store Day event. Operating out of its still relatively new storefront, Stormy Records is planning on its version of Record Store Day.

While it may not offer the official RSD limited edition releases, Stormy will be debuting the personal record collection of a friend. The collection includes roughly 1,500 record albums and 2,000 45s.  Store owner Windy Weber says the records are in pristine condition, consisting mostly of 1990s- and early 2000s-era Detroit garage rock, girl groups, noise rock, and experimental records. Chris Tyson will also be DJing from 2 to 4 p.m.

"We want people to come in and have a relaxing and enjoyable day with music," says Weber. "No fighting and no biting."

Record Store Day 2017 is Saturday, April 22.

Dearborn Music is located at 22501 Michigan Ave. in Dearborn. Special RSD hours of operation will be from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Stormy Records is located at 13306 Michigan Ave. in Dearborn. Hours of operation will be from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Welcome to downtown... Southfield? It's coming

An RFP is due for developers this Friday, April 21, to transform the city of Southfield. 
Southfield is seeking to transform an 8.15-acre parcel into a pedestrian-friendly, traditional downtown, something the city has never seen. Planned in the middle of the 20th century, Southfield embodies a suburban era of design where cities were built for the automobile and not people.

Terry Croad is Director of Planing for the City of Southfield. Since joining the city in 2010, he's made it his mission to help transform the city center into a more urban, walkable destination. 
He started with a series of small steps; things like filling in gaps in the sidewalk around the municipal center, making Evergreen Road more pedestrian friendly, and installing bike racks and improved bus stops. The increased pedestrian activity from those efforts has helped convince city leaders that a change was possible and vital for Southfield.

"It wasn't an easy sell five to seven years ago," says Croad. "But the improvements made over the last couple of years have changed many of the naysayers and doubters into believers."

The RFP put out calls for the construction of EverCentre, a high-density, mixed-use district that incorporates a pedestrian-friendly Complete Streets infrastructure at the corner of Evergreen Road and Civic Center Drive. 
Plans call for multiple-story buildings of mixed residential and office use with retail on the ground floor, creating a more traditional downtown setting complete with a streetwall built right up to a sidewalk filled with outdoor seating. There's also plans for a new park with entertainment programming among its features.

That's not all Croad and his team are working on. Southfield is launching a bike share program by mid-to-late June, with 22 bikes spread out over five to seven locations, including the municipal center and Lawrence Tech campuses. A bike and greenway trail is also being built, with landscaping to be installed this spring. The trail will run along Northwestern Highway. Croad likens it to the High Line Park in New York City.

"We're in competition for young talent," says Croad. "Entrepreneurs used to locate around natural resources and transportation centers. Now they go to where the human resources are, where people want to be."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

My Pontiac Story: Pontiac Policy Council's Autumn Butler

Autumn Butler is just getting started in Pontiac. For all the work she's put into building Pontiac Policy Council as its executive director, she's also a project manager for the affordable housing non-profit Venture, Inc., working on a Ph.D. in political science at Wayne State University, and is a mother to a seven-year-old.

The Pontiac Policy Council, cofounded by Butler and Tameka Ramsey, is on track to receive 501(c)(3) status this year. Butler and Ramsey's vision is to create a platform for advocating for the city while working to empower its residents to advocate for themselves.

"We want to help people organize themselves," says Butler. "It's important to get people engaged and get them to advocate for positive change."

In its first year, the Pontiac Policy Council worked on earned paid sick time, a youth center millage, and re-districting, and especially how districting impacts communities of color. In its second year, Butler and company plan on a community survey that will knock on every door in Pontiac, asking each resident about community needs.

They plan on voter registration efforts and voter scorecards, enabling residents to keep track of where candidates stand on the issues as they head into the poll booths. Also planned is the Resident Leadership Academy, where Pontiac Policy Council will help teach people how to be advocates and organizers for change.

And then there's the Policy Council's Microenterprise Institute. Butler believes that one of the true agents of change is economic sustainability. Through this initiative, the Pontiac Policy Council wants to teach residents how to turn their side hustles into small businesses. With the right guidance, talents used for extra money, like braiding hair or lawn maintenance, can turn residents into employers rather than employees.

Metromode talked to Butler her about her passion for progress and the city of Pontiac.
Q: What do you love most about Pontiac?

What I love most about Pontiac are the people. It is a close-knit community, but once people know that you are genuine and authentic, they are so accepting. Pontiac residents are above all persevering, and despite the challenges and obstacles we face, Pontiac residents are hopeful and resilient.

Q: Why do you work for the betterment of Pontiac?

I stay involved in the City of Pontiac because I truly believe that by working in collaboration with other like-minded residents and allies that we can work to have a community that provides opportunities for our children and that we can have an increased quality of life. 
I also firmly believe that Pontiac's success can provide a blueprint for other cities that have suffered from deindustrialization, "fend for yourself federalism", and disenfranchisement and a lack of self-determination due to policies that often do not have our community's best interest.

Q: What's a pressing challenge that Pontiac faces and how can it be addressed?

I think one of the biggest challenges that Pontiac faces is a lack of opportunity for our youth. Over the last 10 years as I've done community surveys, town halls, and planning charrettes, residents always say that the development of our youth is a critical priority. 
What residents are saying is that they want their children to have access to a quality educational system, enrichment programs, and extracurricular activities that will help Pontiac youth reach their full potential and help guide them to dream BIG dreams and become successful adults. 
I think one of the major ways that this issue can be addressed is for elected officials, nonprofit organizations, faith-based institutions, residents, and activists to come together to develop youth programming that is innovative, creative, inclusive, effective, and efficient. 
Pontiac residents recently passed a youth millage in November 2016, so the dollars are there that can become the foundation for dynamic youth programming. Residents need to be engaged so that they can ensure that these youth millage dollars are used to move Pontiac youth forward, and that there is accountability and transparency.

Q: What would you like to see happen in the city?

I would love to see a community where the residents are empowered so that they are becoming entrepreneurs and small business owners employing other Pontiac residents. 
I would love to see Pontiac residents who are engaged and empowered in the political process on a large scale across the generations so that we have more residents moving into leadership positions, organizing for positive change, and holding elected officials and institutions accountable, so that we can begin to see holistic dynamic and sustainable positive impacts in the quality of life for all residents regardless of race, socio-economic status, ability, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

Q: What should people in Metro Detroit know about Pontiac?

Pontiac is a resilient city that is filled with people who want Pontiac to be successful. There is definitely a pride in Pontiac that you can hear when you speak to residents. As one of my Pontiac family members likes to say, "It's time to bring back the 'Yac."

Want to learn more and get involved? Visit Pontiac Policy Council online.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Detroit Soup micro-granting concept coming to Pontiac

A micro-granting and community dinner concept pioneered in Detroit is making its debut in Pontiac this month with the first Detroit Soup community potluck. Organizers are now taking submissions for projects to be funded from a community pot at the event.


Organizer Scott Stewart moved to Pontiac last year to take his first job out of college at Central Michigan at the Oakland Integrated Healthcare Network, where he serves as marketing and development manager. The Troy native chose to call Pontiac home to be close to his job and is now actively discovering the community.


"If I'm going to be working in a community, I might as well live in it," says Stewart. He first pitched the idea for Pontiac Soup after speaking with groups of entrepreneurs in the city. "They all said 'That's something that we would want, something that will get people started, and get ideas out there.' I said, 'Well, perfect!'."


Detroit Soup launched in 2010. The concept helps lift grassroots projects by providing seed funding contributed by the community. For a small door fee, attendees participate in a community potluck dinner while receiving project pitches from a preselected group of community leaders. After pitches are complete, attendees vote, and a winner is selected, receiving the total amount collected at the door.


Since its inception, Detroit Soup has $132,687 over 151 dinners, according to its website. Projects have run the gamut from urban agriculture to community radio to the construction of benches for city bus stops.


Submissions to Pontiac Soup can be made here.

Pontiac Soup will take place on May 20, 2017 from 6-8 pm at the Pontiac Creative Arts Center, located at 47 Williams St, Pontiac, Michigan 48341. Doors will open at 5 p.m. Suggested donation is $5. Find out more at Pontiac Soup's website.

My Pontiac Story: Plain and Fancy Food's Ashleigh Altemann

As is often the case with start-ups, the idea for Plain and Fancy Food arose out of a simple need. 
Ashleigh Altemann and Evan Monaghan, friends since they were fourteen years old who eventually became romantic partners and then business partners, had odd work schedules. With Ashleigh working for an e-commerce design and marketing firm and Evan working in a professional kitchen, the Pontiac couple found that they couldn't eat dinner together until late at night. They found the local late night dining scene to be lacking, so they decided to do something about it.

"It came out of a need we had, so we just thought that we should do it ourselves," says Ashleigh.

Enter Plain & Fancy Food. The company specializes in American street food, with sliders as its main specialty. Plain & Fancy Food also offers homemade ice cream and is developing vegan and vegetarian sliders. 
The menu focuses on fresh and local ingredients. Altemann and Monaghan do a lot of gardening at home and the Baldwin Center and hope to purchase land in Pontiac to expand their gardening capacity and better outfit their kitchen with fresh and local produce.

For now, the main goal is to procure a food truck. In the meantime, Plain and Fancy Food is serving at special events and pop-up kitchens until they find the right vehicle. Altemann says they hope to partner with as other special events around Pontiac, such as Menagerie. 
Currently, the easiest way to find them is at Exerimentation Brewing Company, where they take over the kitchen every first and third Sunday of every month.

We asked co-owner Ashleigh Altemann about Pontiac and her relationship to the city.

Q: What do you love most about Pontiac?

I love that it doesn't feel like the big box or Disney version of life. Pontiac has character and a history. We often say it's a big city, small town. I love the green spaces Pontiac has. This past year I've had the opportunity to travel a bit. I went to Spain and Italy with my family and Denver with Evan. I found myself wanting for nature.

I love the taco truck down the street from my house. I love the bar down the street where we can unwind with our neighbors. I love the art that can be found in town and the beauty of people's gardens.

I love the entrepreneurial spirit people have.

Q: Why did you come back to Pontiac?

I have always had a little place in my heart for Pontiac. I don't know where exactly it started. Maybe it is just because I was born in the city. I remember as a kid going along Huron and seeing the big, beautiful houses on the way to my grandparent's house in Waterford.

When I got out of college, I wanted to buy a house. I wanted a dog and a yard, and I didn't want a landlord telling me I couldn't do this or that. I had lived in Detroit when I was in school and was in love with the city, but it's a little bit expensive for me. Pontiac could give me the city life that I wanted, but without giving up a yard or all my money. I was making $10 an hour and found a home where I could live within my means.

I stay because I love it here. My home is my little refuge from the world, and Pontiac feels like an extension of that. Driving between communities, it is rather obvious when you cross the border into or out of Pontiac. There's a lot that contributes to why that is, and it's not all pretty. 
But there is good in it too. I guess I could say that in Pontiac I feel an escape from some of the pressures of a capitalistic society. A lot of the people I have met here embrace alternative lifestyles, be it raising chickens and farming or supporting barter economies (for example Pontiac SUN TimeBank).

Q: What's a pressing challenge that Pontiac faces and how can it be addressed?

I think public transportation would make a big impact on the city. We have a little bit of service presently, but it's not nearly enough. We are lucky to live on one of the bus routes through the city and we rely on it often because Evan and I currently share a car.

This isn't just a Pontiac issue, but better regional public transportation would have a great effect on Pontiac, more so than in other communities where personal transportation is generally a given. People without access to a personal vehicle are greatly limited in their options for employment, enrichment, life in general. We can't get to Rochester on a bus. We can't go next door to Waterford. In the places where there is service, a trip that might take 30 minutes by car can take many hours by bus.

When I first moved here I met a guy in his 30's who had hardly been anywhere outside of Pontiac. I have had the opportunity in my life to travel the state, and the country. I've been able to travel overseas. There is so much that can be learned when a person has the ability to travel. 

Q: What would you like to see happen in the city?

What I see most every day, people working hard, helping each other. Showing love to their community.

Q: What should people in Metro Detroit know about Pontiac?

Pontiac isn't part of the sprawl of Detroit suburbs, it has a history and character of its own. There's a supportive, can-do spirit here.

Keep up with Plain and Fancy Food online.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.
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