Shop local, shop Hatherly Commons: Part 2

In the second part of my series on Hatherly Commons, I’ll detail my trip to three more storefronts at the shopping center. If you missed the first blog where I wrote about shopping at Salim Optical and Dream Fashion, you can catch up here.

Now, as I previously mentioned, I like to think of myself as a “professional” shopper. This means that I’m a self-proclaimed expert in what makes for a good shopping experience. For starters, great customer service is key. Then of course you need interesting and unique products or offerings. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you have to have a clean, friendly space. I give all of the storefronts at Hatherly a high mark in these categories, including the final three spots that I visited the other day – Bride Jewelry, Lazar Sound & Lighting and Al Mahar Restaurant.

I made my way to Bride Jewelry (3645 15 Mile Rd, Sterling Heights, MI) after stoppingimg_0144.jpg into Salim Optical and Dream Fashion. Lining the walls of the store are displays filled with fine gold and silver necklaces, bracelets, rings, chains and earrings. Behind the counter was Nathan Sweer and his father Hameed, both experts in designing, making and selling jewelry. Nathan opened several displays to give me a closer look at some of their beautiful product. The gold is all 21 karat, nothing less. Outside of simply offering the highest-quality metal, Nathan shared that the purpose of this standard is to prevent depreciation. This means that if you buy a piece of jewelry there and one day need to sell it, the product will still have value on the market. That’s great news for individuals looking to purchase something special.

As I browsed through the displays, I saw several sets of jewelry perfect for a bride on her wedding day. Nathan informed me that these sets (which include a bracelet, necklace, earrings and ring) are often on sale for as low as $1,200. Talk about a great deal for high-quality gold! If your wedding is approaching and you are in the market for a bit of bling, I’d definitely recommend shopping here.

Moving towards the back of the store, I noticed some fun pieces available for sale. OneIMG_0132 item, a gold Mickey Mouse pacifier, recently arrived at the shop from Dubai and is on special for $200. Other trendy items from Italy and the Middle East are in stock as well, but the biggest benefit of shopping at Bride Jewelry is the store’s ability to create custom pieces. Nathan’s father, Hameed, has been making jewelry for more than 45 years. He designs nameplates, charms and other items with precious stones. They proudly showed me some of these special pieces and informed me that they can make something in about two days for as low as $100. That’s impressive IMG_0123and certainly worth the investment. I left the store thinking of several gifts I’d like to purchase for upcoming special occasions, noting to myself that I’ll be back.
My next stop is Lazar Sound & Lighting (3743 15 Mile Rd, Sterling Heights, MI), a natural destination if you are engaged and have just purchased a bridal set at Bride Jewelry. Lazar George, owner of the business, greeted me with a firm handshake and guided me to a conference table. Once seated, he offered me some refreshments and began to tell me about his company. It specializes in providing sound systems, lighting, pipe and drape, LED dancefloors and GOBO projections for weddings, parties and corporate events.  Lazar pulled up several images and videos on a screen to demonstrate his skill.  I saw beautifully light ballrooms in every color imaginable and bride and groom first dances on floors that sparkle and shine. He told me about his degree in physics, which means that the lighting and sound he produces at events has some science behind it. For instance, the lights that Lazar offers are custom built from the manufacturer. He informed them of specific angles and outlines that only a person with a background in math and science could request. The end result – a room with no gaps in the up lighting. That may sound odd, but you can certainly see the difference:

Don’t these spaces look beautiful? What more could a party planner need? Well, they definitely need someone who works tirelessly and is available around the clock to ensure an event is well-produced. That description fits Lazar perfectly. He told me a story of a recent customer who called him at 5:20 p.m. one evening. That individual needed a dancefloor by 6:30 p.m….that same day. This type of last minute request is not one that many businesses can fulfill, but Lazar got to work and made it happen. That level of commitment makes Lazar Sound & Lighting an in-demand vendor with brides and party planners around Sterling Heights, where Lazar focuses much of his work. If you’re putting on an event and need audiovisual services, I’d recommend you make an appointment before stopping into the storefront. It may be one extra step, but it’s certainly worthwhile.

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IMG_0145After my day of shopping at Dream Fashion and Bride Jewelry and talking with the owners of Salim Optical and Lazar Sound & Lighting, I decided I needed to check out a local restaurant within Hatherly. I ended up Al Mahar Restaurant (3665 15 Mile Rd, Sterling Heights, MI), which specializes in Arabic seafood. I noticed the delicious scent of spices and herbs as soon as I opened the front door. The owner and head chef, Naseem Alnasrawi, emerged from the kitchen to welcome me. His restaurant opened 10 months ago and he was happy to show me around the nautical-themed space that he designed and constructed himself. To my right, a beautiful stone water feature with a fish tank at its feet. Two large fish happily swam by the glass. To my left, a pristine IMG_0085dining area set off by turquoise walls adorned with a shell-like piece of art. At the back of the facility are several glass display cases, one holding fresh seafood, the other holding prepared sides. The seafood, which Naseem noted is fresh and never frozen, looked like it was just pulled out of the Atlantic Ocean. He showed me the menu and highlighted the promfret “zbedi” whole fish as his most popular dish.  Other offerings include a whole chicken tandoor cooked in a true tandoori oven, breaded shrimp, fried curry fish and fried or grilled grouper, whitefish, tilapia and catfish. All the food is made by Naseem and his family. He’s been cooking for 20 years and he says he’ll never tire of it. He even cooks at home after he leaves the restaurant. Food is his passion. He doesn’t just throw it on a plate. Each dish is carefully assembled, layering ingredients and spices until the right flavor is achieved. This keepsIMG_0093 his patrons happy and the restaurant packed on the weekends. So if you’re interested in trying some promfret at Al Mahar, be aware that you might have to wait for a table. And if that’s not your cup of tea, you can always order a meal to go! Whichever option you choose, I predict you’ll be satisfied.

Well, that wraps up my trip to Hatherly Commons Shopping Center. I hope that my experience with all of these friendly small-business owners inspired you to shop local here in Sterling Heights. If you have any questions for the “professional” shopper, leave them in the comments. I’m happy to guide you in your local adventure.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

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It’s a wrap; Food and agricultural businesses gather to learn about the benefits of a “Farm to Fork” ecosystem

The Macomb Food Collaborative hosted the All about Food: Farm to Fork Conference here in Macomb County last week.  The conference attracted participants from across southeastern Michigan.

The morning started with a five person panel talking about their experiences in the industry.  They talked about services for business startups, growth, economic development and resources available to people looking to expand a business. The panel consisted of:

  • Jack Johns – project coordinator for Macomb County Planning and Economic Development. Jack pecializes in servicing the food and agricultural industry. He helps attract, retain, and grow businesses in Macomb County
  • Terri Barker – Economic/Community Development Analyst, Agriculture Development Division for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Terri works with businesses to help them expand utilizing state programs and services.
  • Jess Youngblood – Owner of Youngblood Vineyard. Although the vineyard (first-ever in Macomb County) and winery is not open for business just yet, Jess discussed how her longtime dream is coming together. She discussed the struggles and joys of starting their own business. Youngblood Vineyard plans to open to the public next year.
  • Andy More – owner of Cap n’ Corks discussed how he has grown his business from a local beverage supply store and will soon be opening Caps N’ Corks brewing which will produce their own beer and wine.
  • Patricia Moore – Brown Iron Brewhouse discussed how the business has grown so much over the last three years and how they have been able to give back to the community.

The day was filled with a wealth of information during the breakout sessions.  The topics ranged from food safety; starting a business; vegetable gardening; soil health and testing. Several sessions were demonstrations about cooking, healthy eating and local gardening.

macomb food colaborativeSeveral students from L’Anse Creuse’s Pankow Center presented how to make a bubble bucket, best management practices, growing your own herb, harvesting and preserving. Students presented a powerpoint, while showing participants how to build their bucket, and test for nutrient requirements. Students brought their lavender, lettuce and basil plants for participants to see how well anyone can grow herbs in their own home.

Lunch included homemade specialties from Henry Ford Health SystemsDorsey Culinary SchoolWestview Orchards and the Clean Plate.  The products served were amazing and Westview Orchards and the Clean Plate would love to see new customers stop in and visit their family-owned businesses.

Check out more event photos at  facebook.com/MacombFoodCollaborative/ 

The event was hosted by the Macomb Food Collaborative, a non-profit organization that works to ensure access to safe, fresh, fair and healthy food for all. It promotes a vibrant, local food economy, sustainability and good nutrition through education, outreach and support.

For more information on starting or growing your food and agriculture business in Macomb County – contact Jack Johns.  He can connect you to the resources you need.  He specializes in Food and Agriculture, as well as automation, connected vehicles, robotics, energy and retail businesses.

Lauri Cowhy is a senior communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Are you a foodie? Learn, connect and eat at the All About Food Conference on March 20th

basic-loga_origThis year’s event highlights the Macomb County food system and will be held at the Macomb Community Action’s Family Resource Center located at 196 North Rose Street, Mount Clemens, MI.  (Formerly Washington Elementary School.)

Registration begins at 8 a.m. The event kicks off at 8:30 a.m. with a panel of Macomb County food and beverage business owners. Each will offer insight about their businesses and the role they play in supporting locally sourced for their food and beverage products. The panel will include voices from a vineyard, brewing supply store and a brew house/restaurant.

As any local food conference attendee would hope, a locally sourced and prepared lunch will be provided as part of the cost of attendance. Guests can expect a delicious spread from meal contributors including Henry Ford Health Systems, Dorsey Culinary School, Westview Orchards and the Clean Plate.

The conference attracts participants from across southeastern Michigan region. Breakout sessions offer a range of choices. Gardeners and farmers may take interest in the basic vegetable gardening, soil health and testing, and a garden in a bucket sessions. Schools and other institutions will be represented with farm to school, feeding the whole child, and food safety sessions. Those that take interest in local food from an environmental standpoint may find themselves attending sessions on disappearing farms and farmland and closed loop systems. Other sessions will address a myriad of food related topics including: legislative advocacy, starting businesses, vegetarianism, and local produce in USDA designated food deserts.

For a complete schedule visit this link.

Time is running out to register! Early bird registration is open through March 16th, with a fee of $25. To register online: http://www.macombfood.org/all-about-food-conference.html. A very limited number of walk-ins will be accepted on the day of the conference, with a fee of $35.

The event is hosted by the Macomb Food Collaborative, a non-profit organization

That works to ensure access to safe, fresh, fair and healthy food for all. It promotes a vibrant, local food economy, sustainability and good nutrition through education, outreach and support.

Barbeque restaurant in Romeo is no joke and plenty of smoke

bbq2I headed out to the northern part of Macomb County to a quaint little village called Romeo. A village with good-hearted people and a good share of restaurants of all types that many small towns would be jealous to have. My heart was set on a great barbeque sandwich, and that is exactly what I found.

I ran into Denise and Sarah Stanko, a couple of locals looking to make a purchase at the Jayell Smoke House at 221 ½ N Bailey in Romeo. I decided to ask them, “Why this barbeque restaurant?” They turned to me with big friendly smiles and said they have literally tried everything there, and it is all good. They really like the place because Dave or his wife Erin are the ones making the food and waiting on them. The service and food are always consistently good. They really like that it is family-owned and that they sell many Michigan-made products.

I had a chance to sit down and talk with Dave Leidlein, the owner of Jayell Smoke House. It was one of the coldest days of the year, and I was happy to be inside smelling great-tasting barbeque and having a cold black cherry cola out of a bottle. You have to go with a glass bottle when drinking ice cold pop, and Dave had plenty to choose from. I’m sorry to all my aluminum can and plastic bottle friends, but that is no way to have a black cherry cola. It is like putting a fine wine into a sippy cup – how dastardly!

A fun fact is that Dave actually was going to school for political science since his grandfather and father were in politics, and this brought him to southeastern Michigan. Lucky for all the barbeque food lovers, Dave did not get into politics and started to follow his passion for food.  He made the decision to get into the food industry, first working for a distribution company in sales and then catering out of a business in Macomb County. He finally pulled the trigger after being on the news with his product line of rubs and BBQ sauce, and Dave opened Jayell Smoke House in July 2017.

He started with about five rubs and BBQ sauces and grew really fast to 12 sauces and 40 rubs. They work with Sherwood Brewery for the Roger City Porter BBQ sauce and IPA rub. They have good customer traffic and want to be part of the beautiful community. They had the patio open for the Romeo Peach Festival, and try to include themselves in any fun event downtown.

They are known to use Michigan landmarks for their BBQ names like the Romeo Peach Habanero which is the No. 1 seller. On the website, you can purchase rubs and BBQ sauces along with joining the rub club to have products sent to your house once a month. Tell me that is not a perfect present for your Uncle Billy who thinks he is a pitmaster with rib meat that falls right off the bone.

The mostly takeout restaurant has a great feel with metal and warm, dark wood and enough space for about three people to sit down to have a quick sandwich. In the summer, you can stretch your legs more and dine outside on their patio which sits back far off the road. You can relax and talk with your friends while having a great meal and at times listen to some guitar playing from a local musician. They also do special menu pricing and events. For example, on Jan. 7 they had special pricing on a slab of ribs. How lucky where those customers when they found that out?

The most important thing for you to know about this fine story is that when I ate that cut brisket sandwich, I had a huge smile on my face and actually said out loud, “This is amazing.” Somebody told me once that anybody can make a pulled pork sandwich, but only people who know what they are doing can make a good brisket sandwich. Well I’m here to say Jayell Smoke House is doing it right, and if you know what’s right, you’ll make your way out there!

Johns, Jack IMG_0030

Jack Johns is a project coordinator within the economic development services group. He specializes in serving the food and agricultural industry as well as automation, robotics, connected vehicles, energy and retail businesses.

One Guy Making a Pizza Pie – With a Little Help

The one thing I have no interest in doing is cooking. There is nothing around the house I’m afraid to tackle, but I just really dislike cooking. When I want to eat, I just want to eat and not be in the kitchen for an hour. Some people enjoy it and even invite friends over to show them how they mastered their barbecue. Whatever! I find it beyond painful and prefer to specialize in eating. That is why this next part is so surprising.

I met a couple of firefighters during a business meeting who were talking about their plans to take over the world with a great new seasoning packet that you add to tomato paste for pizza and add to tomatoes for pasta sauce. Again, I don’t cook so I looked at them and said, “Really? Just add this to the tomatoes, and I will look like someone who knows what he is doing in the kitchen?”

On a side note, my father was a volunteer firefighter for 15 years for Macomb Township so I thought these two guys were probably trustworthy.

I went to the store and got an already-made pizza crust, some already-cut cheese and some tomato paste and mixed in their Just Add Tomatoes special seasoning packet. I put it all together like I have seen it done a million times at many of my favorite pizza locations. I put it in the oven for the amount of time it said on the back of the crust directions, and BAM! It was ready for consumption.

My wife walked in and almost passed out for I was making the best-looking pizza in the land. Let me tell you, I was pretty proud of this masterpiece, and yes, it was really easy to do. It tasted really good, and I may even make some spaghetti sauce in the future because of how easy Just Add Tomatoes seasoning packet was to use. The best part was my wife was very happy to see that I tried my hand at cooking and did not burn down the kitchen.

If you would like to learn more about Just Add Tomatoes, please go to their website at www.justaddtomatoespizzasauce.com.

 

Johns, Jack IMG_0030

 

Jack Johns is a Project Coordinator within the economic development services group. He specializes in serving the food and agricultural industry as well as automation, robotics, connected vehicles, energy and retail businesses.

Miller’s Big Red now offers Union Joints for weekend visitors

mbr_logo3Here is another reason to Fall in Love with Macomb and our orchards.

Every weekend this fall, Big Red will feature a “pop-up” restaurant called “Union Joints.” Union Joints features favorite menu items from Clarkston Union, Union Woodshop, Vinsetta Garage, Fenton Firehall and Union General.  And yes, the mouth-watering and award-winning Union mac-n-cheese and other favorites are available on Saturdays and Sundays between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., or until they sell out. Reservations are not required. Order your selections at the counter and then enjoy it at the picnic tables or picnic-style on the grass.

Big Red has new owners and has undergone several significant building projects.  The new owners have been careful to maintain all the best of 50 years of tradition while appealing to a modern generation yearning to experience a little piece of the country, savory tastes, and an afternoon knee-deep in a pumpkin patch.

A trip to Big Red is not complete without a stop in the farm’s Marketplace. Brimming with farm fresh produce, made-from-scratch baked goods, gourmet condiments and other exceptional local products. While you’re here, experience the aroma, sights and sounds of cider making and the taste of homemade donuts and caramel apples. Enjoy a picnic, visit the petting farm, take a hayride, get lost in a corn maze, climb a straw mountain and even pick your own apples.

Big Red also won best Cider in Michigan in 2016!

Miller’s Big Red is located at 4900 32 Mile Road in Washington, Michigan. Check them out on facebook or at millersbigred.com

Lauri Cowhy is a senior communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Westview Orchards to feature Made-in-Michigan food products on Sundays this fall

tmp_10209_7-3-2012_23100_Beautiful Westview Orchards in Washington Township is one of Macomb County’s northern gems.  This historic farm – it has been operated by the same family for more than 200 year – has delighted generations of families with their wonderful donuts, cider and smorgasboard of family fun activities.

This fall, Westview is adding a new reason to visit them on Sundays.  In addition to the normal fall- themed events and wine tasting, Westview is teaming up with local small food businesses and providing them the opportunity to get their name out.  These businesses will be providing samples so that customers can taste before they their new locally produced favorite products.

This Sunday, Sept. 17, the Made In Michigan Barn will feature: Great Lakes Pickles, Motown Soup, and Grandma Luckey’s Herb Dressing. 

So come stuff your face with homemade donuts and cider, watch the kids play, all while getting the chance to try new products that you will not see in the big box stores yet.  With your help and Macomb County’s Economic Development team, when these small businesses turn big, you will be able to tell all your friends and family that you knew, tried and were purchasing their products before they were well known.  

If you are interested in learning more about Westview Orchards in Washington Twp, MI visit www.westvieworchards.com

Are you a local business with a food product you’d like for people to try on a future Sunday?

Please contact me at  jack.johns@macombgov.org with a little information about your product and your contact information.  (Disclaimer – This opportunity is only for products made in a commercial kitchen. We cannot accommodate entrepreneurs operating under the cottage food law and making products in their home kitchen with this venture.)

Johns, Jack IMG_0030

Jack Johns is a Project Coordinator within the economic development services group. He specializes in serving the food and agricultural industry as well as automation, robotics, connected vehicles, energy and retail businesses.