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Metro Detroit-owned ZIM's Vodka headed to out of state shelves

ZIM's Vodka, an award-winning potato vodka, created in metro Detroit and made in Poland, is expanding sales outside of Michigan.

As of January, ZIM's Vodka, a gluten-free vodka made with Polish-grown potatoes in a 250-year-old Polish distillery using a recipe based on research conducted there, went on sell in Pennsylvania. In March, it goes on shelves in Illinois. Several other states are expected to follow.

The 2-year-old company founded by Grosse Pointer Terry Olson and run from offices in Warren is sold in more than 600 outlets across Michigan, top restaurants among them.

Throughout its existence the vodkas, an 81 proof and a 59 proof, have won awards and accolades around the world. Olson says ZIM's success shows it is more than a craft liquor "flash in the pan."

"We are really a Michigan owned and based spirits import company called The Rebel Spirits Group, LLC that makes traditional vodka products in Poland, the motherland of vodka," says Olson. "Unlike most, we import our own products back into the United States. We do not chase trends or fads which is why we never planned to deliver flavored vodkas, which are crashing and burning. We don’t do browns - whiskey, rye, bourbon, which is the latest trend. Even some brown makers are moving into flavors. Be careful and learn from the vodka flavor dotcom collapse."

Olson seems intent on skipping the gimmicks that currently accompany the craft distillery movement, choosing instead to let the product speak for itself.

"We don’t have a bar, restaurant or tasting room. We have six -pack cases of our internationally award winning vodkas. We continue to stick to our knitting by delivering a vodka that is coined the smoothest vodka on the planet." 

Source: Terry Olson, founder, ZIM's vodka
Writer: Kim North Shine

Former Northville psych hospital to become massive commercial/public use space

After years of sitting dark and quiet, wasting way, the former psychiatric hospital property in Northville Township is undergoing changes that are part of a lively economic redevelopment that turns the 400-acre site into a walkable, shoppable, eatable, hang-outable, job-creatable project.

Part of the project at 7 Mile and Haggerty roads, known as Northville Park Place, covers about 82 acres, and is being developed by Livonia-based Schostak and its Team Schostak Family Restaurants. A large portion is a public park, walking trails and other amenities that will give visitors a variety of things to do and also connect some locals to their neighborhoods via a trail system. The main hospital and other buildings have yet to be demolished, but the development is proceeding.

As the retail and commercial portion of the project enters phase 2, several restaurants and retailers have signed leases to open. They include Tom + Chee, a specialty grilled cheese restaurant; Mediterranean eatery, Red Olive, North Dakota-based Granite City, Seattle-based MOD Pizza, BurgerFi, Chipotle, Jimmy John's are signed leases previously.

Several stores are also signed on. Phase 1 was the 100,000-square-foot University of Michigan Northville Health Center.

The final phase will be the public space that will also feature water falls, a pond, bike trails and outdoor seating.

The re-use of the land was a source of debate for years in the township as several plans and promises were made and broken and red tape for the former state-owned property dragged out a re-use of the prominent piece of land.

Source: Jennifer Frey, director of community development, Northville Township
Writer: Kim North Shine

Cardiologist, successful chef and author behind GreenSpace Cafe in Ferndale

Construction and hiring are underway for a downtown Ferndale restaurant that plans to offer a menu that pleases the palate without hindering good health.

GreenSpace Cafe is expected to open in March at 215 W. 9 Mile Road.

The cafe is the brainchild of restaurateur Daniel Kahn, cardiologist and heart health author, Dr. Joel Kahn. George Vutetakis, chef, healthy eating author and former proprietor of the long successful Inn Season vegetarian restaurant in Royal Oak is developing the menu, which will be plant based and oil free. He is known as the Vegetarian Guy and is director of product research and development at Ferndale-based Garden Fresh Gourmet. Dr. Kahn is a vegan and author of books about the benefits and implementation of plant-based eating.

The 1,700-square-foot restaurant will seat about 60 inside and about 40 on an expanded patio. The renovations are transforming the space that was Maria's Fine Italian Dining into a relaxed, rustic style eatery in the heart of downtown.

Daniel Kahn hopes not only to attract vegetarians and vegans who don't limited quality options for dining out in metro Detroit as well as meat eaters who may be looking to improve the way they eat and discover a plant-based diet does not equal deprivation.

Source: Daniel Kahn, owner, GreenSpace Cafe
Writer: Kim North Shine

Pet spa and boutique caters to pet lovers in downtown Plymouth

A new pet spa and boutique celebrated its grand opening in downtown Plymouth

Britt's Bow Wow Boutique & Spa at 550 Forest Ave. also provides doggie day care, and since it's official opening a few months the furry clientele has continued to build.

The new business moved into a closed yarn shop after major renovations were completed to add tubs, showers, grooming areas and retail space.

It is located in the Westchester Square shopping and office development and is next door, ideally, to Three Dog Bakery.

Source: Plymouth Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Juice Bar business added to fitness studio in downtown Ferndale

The owners of two health-and-fitness focused businesses are operating under one roof in downtown Ferndale as a way to tap into one another's clients by offering them more products and services.

The grand opening of Pure Juice Bar & Cafe is being celebrated this Friday. It shares its space at 23440 Woodward Ave. with TV Fitness, a workout studio that offers personal training and trainer-assisted workouts with popular TV and DVD exercise routines.

Pure Juice Bar & Cafe serves fresh juices, smoothies, fruits, vegetables and light meals in the cafe or for takeaway. It also is a source for drinks and education for clients on cleanses.

Its counter with bar stools and a small seating area with tables and chairs take up part of the lobby at TV Fitness, which has a gym and workout space behind glass partition off the lobby.

TV Fitness owners and brothers Ryan and Earl Carruthers see the two businesses as natural complements.Friday's grand opening will double as a health expo with TV Fitness hosting an open house while Pure Juice cuts the ribbon on its business opening.

Source: Ryan and Earl Carruthers
Writer: Kim North Shine

M1 MRI Center brings latest tech to $700K facility in Berkley

The M1 Imaging Center, which operates from a $700,000 facility in Berkley, is the only MRI center in the state to hold a license for a weight-bearing imaging device that was developed by NASA and is used to treat chronic back, neck, leg and knee pain.

The owners of M1, one a radiologist, the other a health care administrator, combined their expertise to open the MRI center inside a 75-year-old, 3,000-square-foot former Henderson Glass at 27501 Woodward Ave.

The center offers several forms of MRI, and the latest, the DynaWell L-Spine, is non-invasive and allows patients to stand and bear weight during MRI in for more accurate diagnoses, and potentially, more effective treatment plans.

It is one of several services and technologically-advanced tools offered by M1 to patients and doctors in southeast Michigan, some of them available only at M1.

“By simulating gravity on the lumbar spine through the compression device, we can make a more comprehensive diagnosis than an MRI that does not offer weight-bearing images,” says Joshua Katke, the health care administrator who owns M1 with muscoskeletal neuroradiologist, Dr. Chintan Desai.“What we see may be the difference between conservative treatment and surgery. Weight-bearing MRI will not create a false positive or worse condition of spinal stenosis when there isn’t one but rather will be the first to detect a previously under-diagnosed condition.”

Source: Lynne Golodner, Your People LLC
Writer: Kim North Shine

Indie film destination Maple Theater renovates, adds second location

The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Hills is undergoing a second round of renovations and bringing on a partner theater, The Riviera, which is scheduled to open in Farmington Hills in May.

The Maple, which was built in 1977 and eventually made the best of being too small to show most large run commercial films by featuring independent films, will have a larger lobby and lounge to add to the comfort of patrons. The renovations are expected to be completed by April.

The theater, which is operated by Cloud Nine Partners LLC, was renovated to add a coffee bar and cafe in 2012, when Cloud Nine bought the three-screen theater from Landmark Theaters. The theater will remain fully operational during renovations.

In the meantime, construction will begin Feb. 1 on The Riviera at 9 Mile Road west of Middlebelt in Farmington Hills.

"We're very excited about this," says Ruth Daniels of Cloud Nine. "Michigan is a wonderful state for movie-going. It actually has more independent theaters than most states. And let's face it who doesn't love something new and updated."

The Riviera, which is owned in partnership by Cloud 9 and Dipson Theaters, an operator eight movie theaters in Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania, will have nine screens and a screening room for private parties and corporate events.
Dipson operates the theater that will be replaced by The Riviera. The existing theater closes at the end of the month.

Birmingham design firm, Ron and Roman, will design the new theater, which will reelect a luxury feel, a cocktail lounge, specialty food menu and premium comfort, convenience and technology. Ron & Roman is also redesigning the Maple Theater.

"It will be a very drastic change," Daniels says of the changes happening at the movie theater that will become The Riviera. "A movie is all about the experience and we want to give the best possible movie-going experience. I go across the country and see some of the amazing things people are doing with theaters," she says. " This is going to be amazing."

Source: Ruth Daniels, Cloud Nine Partners LLC
Writer: Kim North Shine

Vodka, gin distillery, tastng room planned for Royal Oak

Royal Oak may soon be home to small distillery and tasting room. Five Lakes Distillery received a small distiller license from the city commission this week, paving the way for owners Craig Schlicht and Keith Reid to make vodka, initially, and then, eventually, gin from a small space at 4320 Rochester Road.

The plan is to produce vodka on site, 90 percent of it for distribution, 10 percent on site for the weekend-only tasting room, which will take up 190 square feet of the 855-square-foot facility.

The owners have a permit to produce up to 60,000 gallons of spirits per year, says Todd Fenton, the city's manager of economic development, but as of now they expect to produce closer to 6,000 gallons.

No opening date has been set as other city permits are still required. If successful, Five Lakes could join metro-Detroit-made spirits success stories such as Valentine Vodka in Ferndale, Hard Luck Candy Vodka in St. Clair Shores, Griffin Claw Brewing Co. in Birmingham and Zim's Vodka based in Warren.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Todd Fenton, economic development manager, city of Royal Oak

Institution of Dance Arts opens in Ferndale

The new Institution of Dance Arts, Ferndale's only traditional dance class studio, is building a following of customers who want to learn dance as well as the skills it imparts imparts in their lives outside the studio.

Owner Ida Lowback opened the studio several weeks ago at 701 Woodward Heights, Ste. 130. She and her four instructors and occasional staff guest artist teach several genres of dance and pilots to all ages.

"Can you believe that the city of Ferndale has not had a studio offering traditional dance classes up until now?  Well, we are here now and excited to fill the void and share our passion for dance," says Lowback.

The business inside a renovated office building, which looks like a former school. The cheery yellow paint on the inside opens onto a studio that was built with a sprung sub floor and a Marley floor covering, both of which make dance more comfortable, effective and safe than regular flooring.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Ida Lowback, founder, The Institution of Dance Arts

Taylor & Colt barberspas coming to metro Detroit

Two brothers from Birmingham will be importing Canadian-based Taylor & Colt barberspas to the U.S., starting with two metro Detroit locations.

John and Tom White are the U.S. franchisees for the chain of Toronto spas that combine old-fashioned barber shop services and more modern grooming treatments in high-end surroundings.

The first Taylor & Colt barberspas will open in the Villages in Rochester and on Liberty Street in Ann Arbor. They are seeking a location in Birmingham, says John White.

Renovations are underway on the first two spas, and they are expected to open in January.

"We're bringing this to Michigan first, and hopefully as we open new locations and expand, we'll bring it to a number of different states. We'd like Boston, Charleston, Austin."

The spas have an old-fashioned meets contemporary feel with rough woods and stone in the interior and traditional barber shop chairs. There are iPads at each chair and big-screen TVs throughout. There will be a reception bar with coffee, tea, juice, and newspapers. Services will include haircuts, hot towel shaves, laser hair removal, massage and more.

After seeing Taylor & Colt in Toronto, "We kind of thought, 'You know what this makes a lot of sense.' When you visit men's barber shops, a lot of them have been there forever. They're old, they're tired. They're a basic place to get a haircut, but not much more," says John White. "We've seen this whole movement that younger men are indulging in more careful grooming and more attention to their appearance. We think there will be much interest in this."

Source: John White, Taylor & Colt U.S.
Writer: Kim North Shine

Slow's Bar-B-Q to expand to downtown Pontiac

Detroit's celebrated Slows Bar-B-Q, which hit restaurant gold in Detroit years before today's restaurant boom rolled in, will open a location in downtown Pontiac, where reinvestment and rebirth are once again becoming part of the local lexicon.

The Pontiac Slows will be connected to the Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts, a $20-million redevelopment of a historic building that will bring national shows and live theater and stage acts back to the city.

With Slows as its exclusive partner, the theater will offer the unusual combo of arts and culture and barbecue joint.

Slows Pontiac, on Saginaw St., will be 6,500 square feet and have a street-side entrance for the public and a theater entrance for show-goers. Slows will also cater events at the theater, which will be run by the nonprofit Encore Performing Arts Center and Bill Lee, former vice president of Celebrity Events Group and vice president of sales and marketing at Olympia Entertainment, Inc.

Construction will begin in early 2015. Opening date will coincide with the theater opening in late 2015.

Slows has an exclusivity agreement with the theater so that it will be the only Slows location in Oakland County, says Kyle Westberg, CEO of West Construction Services, one of Pontiac's main developers with projects such as the at-capacity Lafayette Place Lofts and Lafayette Market.

Slow's owners want to be a part of a Pontiac's comeback. They see it, as they did their first restaurant in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood, as a way to run a business and also help the community.

“We chose Pontiac as the site of our first metro Detroit expansion for the same reasons we chose Corktown. It’s an underserved community with a defined identity and potential for an exciting evolution,” Slows Bar-B-Q co-owner Phil Cooley says. “We are excited to become part of the neighborhood and serve up great tasting Slows Bar-B-Q to the folks who live, work in, and visit Pontiac.”

Westberg says Slows, along with numerous large and small projects, from the opening of small tech businesses to multi-million-dollar improvements by GM and St. Joseph's Hospital, may be the tipping point to making downtown Pontiac become a destination again.

"I've been watching Slows's business model for quite a few years, and what was fascinating to me was their thought processes on economic development and working with the community and helping the community prosper and move forward," Westberg says. "That philosophy meets right up with the philosophies we have here in Pontiac."

Source: Kyle Westberg, CEO, West Construction Services; Phil Cooley, Slows Bar-B-Q co-owner
Writer: Kim North Shine

Ypsi fave Rocket Candy bringing sweets & fun to downtown Ferndale

After eight years of selling candy -- and fun, really -- from its downtown Ypsilanti store, The Rocket is expanding to Ferndale and opening a second location.

The Rocket Candy & Novelties opens at 23147 Woodward Ave. this Friday, and the store will be stocked with confections, packaged and bulk, and colorful, crazy, funky and retro toys, cards, t-shirts and other novelties like Archie McFee collection from Seattle and Lip Shit lip balm.

The locally-made t-shirts, like the Ypsi store, will include designs that give a shout out to Ferndale, Detroit and Michigan.

The 2,600-square-foot store is located in a new building near 9 Mile and the owners, Eli Morrissey and Paul Balcom, see Ferndale's fun and eclectic mix of businesses as a good fit for their bacon toys, wasabi gum balls, popsicle and Sharknado ornaments.

There's an eddy entrepreneurial mix here," he says. "We feel it's very similar to Ypsi, and this is just a good place for us to be."

They opened the Ypsi store in 2006 as a way to "bring life to downtown. We wanted to open a store that would draw people in," says Morrissey.

"I guess it started off as an idealistic notion, and it's worked out," he says. "The nice thing about expanding is it creates new jobs here and at our Ypsi store."

Source: Eli Morrissey, co-owner, The Rocket
Writer: Kim North Shine

Birmingham's Griffin Claw Brewing adds bottle spirit sales

Griffin Claw Brewing Company is now in the business of selling bottled vodka, gin and rum from its taproom in Birmingham.

Earlier this year the brewery, which has made its name in craft beer, added liquors to the menu. Bottled sales were the next step.

The lineup: Griffin Claw Grain Vodka, Griffin Claw Potato Vodka, Griffin Claw Botanical Gin and Griffin Claw Black Strap Rum sell for $20 each and can be purchased inside the taproom. The brewery will also be releasing KRUPNIK, a polish style honey liqueur in a 750ml bottle, for $20, for the holiday season as well as its popular Oblivious Wheat Wine in a 22-oz. wax-dipped bomber bottle for $17.

Griffin Claw biergarten and taproom are at 575 S. Eton St. The 12,000-square-foot operation in the city's Rail District includes a brewing system, distillery, and distribution operation.

Source, Jaclyn Robinson, JT Marketing Group
Writer: Kim North Shine
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