TONIGHT: The future of Dearborn entrepreneurship to be explored in panel event

What’s in store for Dearborn’s business scene, it’s thriving downtown districts and mission to bridge the gap between east and west?


Those topics and more will be explored at On the Ground-Dearborn’s upcoming event 6-8 p.m. Sept. 28 Community Conversation: The Future of Dearborn Entrepreneurship.


The event will take place inside the former council chambers of the ArtSpace building, 13615 Michigan Ave., featuring local business owners from all around the city, both longtime owners and budding business owners, speaking out on what’s next in the city.


The following business owners will be featured on the panel:


Sam Abbas is a Dearborn native who earned his MBA at Arizona State University. The Dearborn resident opened his first restaurant in Arizona but moved operations home and opened Yogurtopia in West Dearborn in 2013 and then Brome Burgers and Shakes, now Brome Modern Eatery, in 2015. He sees Dearborn as the perfect place to open a new business and test out a business idea.


Katie Merritt is co-owner of Green Brain Comics, a comic book specialty shop in East Downtown Dearborn. She has been with the company 29 of its 32 years and has co-owned it with her partner and husband, Dan Merritt, since 1999. Katie quickly fell in love with comic books and the medium of graphic storytelling. Over the next few years, she became manager while attending college and got married to Dan Merritt, who has been a comic fan his entire life. In 1999 the owner of Comics Plus offered Katie and Dan the opportunity to purchase the business, and after weighing the pros and cons, they decided this was the chance of a lifetime to make their hobbies their careers.
With Katie’s inclination to money management and Dan’s long knowledge of comic books, they were confident they could create a successful business together. They changed the name to Green Brain Comics in 2001. By 2002 they had outgrown the original location and the store a half mile east where they doubled the sales floor. In 2014 it was time to purchase their own space and found a building only three doors down from the original location in the historic Hewitt’s Music building. Being an entrepreneur means different things to different people. To them, it is the opportunity to be involved in an industry they love and to share that love of comics and reading with their community and beyond.


John Rucinski is a Dearborn resident, a graduate of Dearborn High School and Wayne State University. He’s been brewing since 2000 and is married to his wife Sheila. John got into brewing after moving back from Texas in 2000. He had a manager during a job while in college that talked about brewing, and thought it sounded like a very interesting hobby. One night we were out and saw a home beer making kit and it provided the chance to finally try it.

Windy Weber is the co-owner of Stormy Records. A lover of music her whole life, she has only ever had one job - selling records. Starting in 1988 at a corporate mall record store and slowly working her way into smaller shops over 11 years, she opened Stormy Records with her husband Carl Hultgren in 1999. With over 29 years of direct experience, she has both words of wisdom and horror stories to share to help guide a new business owner on a good starting path.


Cristina Sheppard-Decius, CMSM, executive director of the West Dearborn Downtown Development Authority, will moderate the panel:


Sheppard-Decius founded POW! Strategies, Inc., to help downtowns, communities, and businesses leap tall buildings in a single bound to reach their full potential by implementing sound business development and communications strategies. With over 17 years of downtown management experience, Sheppard-Decius is most notably known nationally and locally for her proven track record of revitalizing Downtown Ferndale, Michigan, during her tenure as the Executive Director of the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority from 2000-2015. Since August 2015,


Sheppard-Decius continues to work with the City of Dearborn, East and West Dearborn DDAs, and Dearborn community stakeholders to build a cohesive Downtown Dearborn along Michigan Avenue, as well as serving as the West Dearborn DDA Executive Director. Dearborn is a community of almost 100,000 residents, over 700 businesses and two downtown districts.


Sheppard-Decius will guide the conversation with the entrepreneurs, digging deep into issues surrounding Dearborn, including overcoming people’s apprehensions with the city to promote its growing economy, creating a memorable experience for shoppers and patrons, and what resources exist -- or need to exist -- in the community to assist business owners coming into Dearborn.


On hand at the event will also be community partners and institutions in the city that also have a vested interest in Dearborn’s growth and vitality, including ACCESS and the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

The event will include the panel session and a Q&A session with the audience. Community Conversation: The Future of Dearborn Entrepreneurship is free and open to the public. To RSVP for the event, CLICK HERE. For more information, find Metromode Media on Facebook.

Read more articles by Jessica Strachan.

Jessica Strachan is an award-winning journalist and Metromode's project editor for On The Ground Dearborn. Follow her on Twitter @JStrachanNews.
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