Hazel Park

Main Street Hazel Park unites small business community in a tough year

A hardware store. A neighborhood bar and grill. A smoking accessories shop.

A classic family-style diner. Sellers of healthy juice drinks and Italian beef sandwiches. A hair salon and clothing store.

It’s a diverse group of businesses. Some have been around for decades; Tony’s Ace Hardware opened in the 1930s. Others, like We Juice, opened just this year.

Each, however, is quintessentially Hazel Park.

“One thing that Hazel Park is is that we’re resilient. This is not our first rodeo. We know something about getting the dirt off after getting knocked down,” says Jeff Campbell, director of Planning & Economic Development for the city.

“We’re always looking for creative ways to help the city that we care about.”

The city has been doing just that, having recently produced a series of promotional videos featuring a select group of Hazel Park businesses.

The video campaign, titled By Golly, Be Jolly. Shop Hazel Park This Holiday Season, was commissioned by the city’s Main Street Hazel Park program, which itself is part of the larger Main Street Oakland County initiative. Through that initiative, Main Street Hazel Park won a $500 grant from Flagstar Bank to promote its small businesses.

Finding an additional $1,000 for the project, Main Street Hazel Park opted to produce promotional videos to help its small businesses weather the economic downturn of the COVID-19 pandemic and thrive this holiday shopping season.

“We tried to pick businesses that we haven’t promoted a lot in the past, to pick both old and new businesses,” says Mike McFall, a city council member on the board of Main Street Hazel Park.

“We’re working to promote our businesses as best we can through Covid and the holidays. Many of our businesses have
struggled this year and we’re trying to push and support buying local as best we can.”

The businesses featured in the videos are BDT Smoke Shop, Country Boy Restaurant, Kozy Lounge, Matt & Mo’s Italian Beef at Doug’s Delight, Tony’s Ace Hardware, We Juice, and Youngbloods.

The seven businesses represent almost 100 years of Hazel Park entrepreneurship.

By Golly, Be Jolly

Each video begins with a drone rising up above a Hazel Park business, setting the scene. The video then cuts to the business owners who go on to tell their stories.

One of the video series's main goals is to establish a connection between the city’s small businesses and its residents, for people to take ownership of their small business community. The more people shop Hazel Park, the better off all of Hazel Park will be.

“We want people to realize that these business owners are people that live here. That when we support them, you’re not supporting some corporate giant; you’re supporting your neighbors,” McFall says.

“It’s essential that people realize the importance of maintaining our business community. And we recognize that residents are struggling, too.

“It’s all part of the fabric of our city. We all have to help each other, and helping each other will help the city succeed.”

Someone who knows a thing or two about being a Hazel Park resident and small business owner is Curt Goure, the BDT Smoke Shops owner. Goure’s family first opened BDT as the Buzz Bah in Sterling Heights in 1973, before it promptly moved to Hazel Park. There are now five BDT locations throughout the region.

Goure has experienced changing attitudes about Hazel Park (and cannabis culture) first-hand. And while 2021 looks promising for the still-growing business, he was not left untouched by the economic uncertainties brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“2020 was one of the scariest times in my life as an entrepreneur. When we closed in March, we didn’t know if we would survive into April,” Goure says. Fortunately for Goure, an expansion already in the works allowed BDT to reopen with twice the space, allowing for more inventory and social distancing.

Also fortunate for Goure is Hazel Park’s embracing the recreational cannabis industry. With three recreational dispensaries already open and more on the way, BDT has worked in concert with the new dispensaries in town. He recommends his customers to them, and they do the same.

“With the laws changing and people staying home more this year, the cannabis industry has joined alcohol as something people are embracing at home.”

Goure is doubling down on Hazel Park with plans to build a micro-dispensary and lounge on the parking lot next to BDT. His daughter, who represents the third generation of Goures to operate BDT, leads the project.

Rebuilding downtown Hazel Park

Main Street Hazel Park has at its focus John R Road, the city’s main commercial corridor. Through various measures, the city is working to transform John R into a more walkable, traditional commercial thoroughfare not unlike those found in the downtowns of nearby Ferndale and Royal Oak.

It’s not an easy task. Hazel Park lacks traditional downtown infrastructure, a casualty of I-75. The city did have a downtown once, located at the intersection of John R and 9 Mile roads, but that’s long gone.

The Main Street Hazel Park program and the city itself seeks to build a new one.

“We’re trying to help build a viable downtown area where people congregate and spend money, whether that’s our residents or people visiting Hazel Park or both,” Campbell says.

“I-75 splits us right down the middle; it took out our downtown. Projects like the John R road diet are meant to help us appreciate what’s actually on John R.”

One of the most promising sections of John R is at its intersection with Woodward Heights. There is a cluster of popular businesses there, including Matt & Mo’s at Doug’s Delight, Joebar, and Mabel Gray.

On the northwest corner is Tony’s Ace Hardware, which has been there since the 1930s.

Like Goure at BDT, the owners of Tony’s, Sharon and Matt Abramsky, weren’t sure if they would reopen after the initial COVID-19 shutdowns last March. But an outpouring of support from the community and the city made their return almost inevitable.

“Tony’s has been around for decades, and people really care about it. Seeing that during the pandemic motivated us even more than what it already meant to us as a family-owned business,” says Sharon, who is also a board member of Main Street Hazel Park.

“With Main Street Hazel Park, the goal is for the community, for the people who live here, to feel ownership of the changing business district rather than something that is being done to them.”

In addition to being included in the video series, the Abramskys were introduced to an architect through the Main Street program. They plan on renovating the facade of their building while restoring its historic character.

Though Main Street Hazel Park is focused on establishing a more downtown-type feeling along John R, the program aims to lift all of the city’s small businesses. A number of the businesses featured in the video series are located elsewhere in the city. And earlier this year, the program raised almost $25,000 to then disperse to businesses throughout Hazel Park.

“I’m not a business owner, but I do try and support the local community,” says Frank Accavitti III. The principal of Bishop Foley Catholic High School in Madison Heights, Accavitti purchased a home in Hazel Park in 2018. He would then join the Main Street Hazel Park board earlier this year.

“I’ve seen so many new businesses pop up in Hazel Park since I moved here. It’s known as a high-demand place, and we want to help keep it that way.

“We want to make sure that our businesses, both old and new, survive.”
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Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

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