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.

Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.
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