Sterling Heights-based business sparking global exercise and wellness revolution

If you drove up to the normal-looking Sterling Heights business park that ActivMotion calls home, you likely wouldn’t think that a world-class fitness tool used by celebrities and sports stars alike was designed and manufactured within. But it is. Just beyond a am logomain office and studio, you’ll find two men producing hundreds of ActivMotion Bars, a simple yet brilliant exercise solution that is sparking a revolution in the health and wellness community around the world. So what exactly is this innovative tool? From the outside, the patented ActivMotion Bar looks like a standard weighted bar. But hidden within are rolling steel weights that create active resistance by moving from one side of the bar to the other. Caps on the ends hold everything in place and allow the user to perform a variety of muscle strengthening exercises.

While this may sound like any other fitness tool, ActivMotion Bar focuses on improving balance and stability, two areas that are sometimes overlooked in a normal exercise routine. Think about it. When you work out, you likely run, lift weights and stretch. Those are all great activities, but they don’t always help your balance. And according to experts, good balance is essential for having a healthy and fulfilling life. It gives us the ability to walk and climb stairs and can also help prevent falls. So as you can see, performing exercises that focus on building core strength and balance are important. Which is where the ActivMotion Bar comes in. Holding the bar, you can feel the movement of the rolling weights. It takes focus and control to grip it in manner where they remain centered, forcing weaker muscles to work harder to stabilize themselves. Combine this with other exercise and users of the bar become stronger in ways not previously achieved.

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The individual behind this fitness innovation is Derek Mikulski, a trainer with a degree in exercise science and public health. While employed at a local gym, Derek began thinking about different ways he could work with his clients to better match the natural movements of everyday life. You see, in the gym, we move in isolation, but outside of that setting, we move in more 3-dimensional ways. Knowing this, Derek imagined a handheld tool filled with ball bearings that would make exercise more dynamic and functional. He then went to a hardware store and built a prototype ActivMotion Bar out of PVC pipe. Clients that used that first bar were immediately on board with the idea, helping Derek raise the funding to pursue the mass production of the tool.

After two years of prototyping and testing, the ActivMotion Bar organization was up and running and the tool was on the market. Today, the bar is made in a variety of weights and people around the world are responding with enthusiasm. Close to 2,000 are sold every month, with distribution to 30 different countries – figures that allowed Derek to open his Sterling Heights headquarters. The facility houses his business office, production facility and a fitness studio where exercise videos and tutorials are filmed.

From this base, Derek and five other employees are working to take the ActivMotion business to the next level. The first step is getting the bar into the hands of exercise and fitness influencers, something already underway. Currently, the ActivMotion Bar is used by celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson (whose clients include Kim Kardashian and Hugh Jackman), trainers for various sports teams (including the White Sox, Lions, Tigers, UofM and FSU) and physical therapists at some of the country’s top medical facilities (including the Mayo Clinic).  These credentials alone show the bar’s effectiveness, but Derek and his team have taken it one step further. In 2015, they partnered with the University of Michigan’s Human Performance Innovation Lab on a study aimed at providing insights into muscle activation differences when using a variety of weighted exercise equipment. Results of the study showed the ActivMotion Bar performing significantly better than a standard bar or medicine ball – with seven of the nine muscles analyzed showing greater activation while using the tool.

Studies like UofM’s add further credibility for ActivMotion Bar and help push it forward towards greater success and market reach. So what’s next for Derek and his growing fitness company? Well, the first item on the agenda is innovating and expanding the ActivMotion product line – something that can now be explored due to a recent Kickstarter campaign that raised $40,000 in 36 days. He’ll also work on expanding his team of nationwide trainers that are experts in the ActivMotion Bar and offer classes using the tool. Perhaps there’s even future studies and collaborations in the works too, but above all else, Derek is focused on getting the bar into the hands of new users around the world. Which could be just about anyone. Gymnasts, dancers, football players, baseball players, older adults and physical therapists. The ActivMotion Bar can help just about every demographic. It even has the potential to change the very nature of how we train our bodies, with the end result being a stronger and healthier world. And while that may sound like an exaggeration, it’s certainly a positive goal. One that got its start in a Sterling Heights business park.

If you’re interested in pursuing a new type of exercise routine, check out the ActivMotion Bar on its website here. You can also view the tool on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

**ActivMotion is a client of the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development (MCPED).  The business development group assists companies in many facets of expanding and growing a company including:

  • Support with accessing state and local incentives and financing options
  • Assistance with workforce recruitment, training and retention programs
  • Identifying available sites for expanding or relocating a business
  • Access to business counseling services
  • Market research and marketing
  • Workshops and networking opportunities

The economic development specialists for MCPED are focused on growing, retaining and attracting businesses to Macomb County. To learn what resources are available for your business, visit macombbusiness.com or email info@macombbusiness.com.


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

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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.

Shop local, shop Hatherly Commons: Part 1

I come from a long line of self-proclaimed “professional” shoppers. It started with my grandmother. She loved to hit the big department stores all over southeast Michigan. Jacobson’s…Hudson’s…you name it, she was there. The same goes for my mother. When I was a child, we used to spend entire weekends out shopping at the mall. But the malls weren’t always our main shopping destination. We loved visiting small, local stores too. They’d always have something unique or special on sale; something we just had to have. The shop owners would greet you with a smile; offer their help and guidance with a purchase. They were kind and friendly. They’d treat you like family. This is why I loved shopping at these stores. You don’t get those products or that level of service at the big-box retailers. And only when you begin shopping local do you start to see the difference. So today, I am asking you to shop local at Hatherly Commons Shopping Center in Sterling Heights. You can trust me, I’m a “professional” shopper.

Salim SignI had the pleasure of visiting several small businesses located within Hatherly the other day. Parking was a dream. I pulled right up in front of where I wanted to go. How easy is that? My first stop was Salim Optical (3747 15 Mile Rd, Sterling Heights, MI), a family-run store that offers eye exams, glasses, contact lenses and sunglasses. I was greeted by its owners, Salim and Aydel Auraha. Married 28 years, the friendly husband and wife optometrist team were joined by their daughter Rafal. Prior to opening their storefront at Hatherly, Salim owned an optical business in Baghdad. All told, he has close to 30 years of experience in the field. This expertise means that Salim Optical offers quality products and quick service. In most cases, you can get an eye exam, fitting and custom frames within an hour. If you’re looking for name brand accessories, they offer Ray Ban, Gucci and Jimmy Crystal NY glasses and sunglasses. And if you’re looking for specialty items, Salim Optical delivers. For instance, they have custom color contact lenses and the ability to tint any pair of glasses, turning them into sunglasses. Need a quick repair on some existing frames? They handle that too! All this to say, I was very impressed with the offering and the store itself. You could feel the passion Salim and his family have for optometry. I mean they’re open seven days a week! And you could certainly tell that the service provided to customers is top-notch. They want to help you find exactly what you need, which is of course what I love most about shopping at small, local businesses. So if you’re in the market for a new pair of lenses or want some shades for the summer, stop into Salim Optical.


dream signThe next storefront on my list was Dream Fashion (3653 15 Mile Rd, Sterling Heights, MI), a woman-owned boutique offering eye-catching, custom gowns and sharp, tailored menswear. Noor Shammo, the owner and designer of many of the store’s fashions, warmly welcomed me at the door and ushered me inside to showcase some of her beautiful clothing. We started in the women’s section. She pulled dress after dress to demonstrate the exact detailing on many of the gowns and showed me colors ranging from pastel pink to deep blue. She then took me inside a room with wall-to-wall dresses, a space that could easily be featured in any high-fashion magazine. Feathers, sparkles, beading, lace, embroidery, cut-outs, long dresses, short dresses, form-fitting dresses, mermaid-style dresses, ballgowns…this room had everything. I know it’s cliché, but as a woman, it would be a dream to shop at Dream Fashion.

We then made our way to the men’s section and I saw several jackets that would make any man look like James Bond. Each piece came in a variety of quality fabrics and with custom touches like removable silk lapels that transform a high-end tux into a suit for work. Positioned conveniently next to the suits were dress shirts in almost every color, dress shoes, belts and ties. Alterations were available on site as well, making this truly a one-stop shop for both men and women. And I should note, everything was very well-priced. With a full men’s suit for $140, dresses as low as $100 and alterations starting at $20, shopping at Dream Fashion makes fiscal sense.


Prior to 2018, Dream Fashion was owned by a different vendor who has since retired. So if you were previously familiar with the store but haven’t been back recently, it’s worth stopping in. Noor invested a great amount of time and energy remodeling the space. She painted the walls and installed new lighting, carpet, TV screens and other decorative features. The store now exudes class, but with a modern twist. She’s proud of the space and you can sense that. I would be too. It’s a beautiful place to shop.

Stay tuned for the next blog, where I’ll detail the final three storefronts I visited at Hatherly Commons. If this “professional” shopper hasn’t convinced you to get in your car and drive over there yet, I hopefully will in my second piece.

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

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!

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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.

 

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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.

Buy Nearby is this weekend!

MRA-infographicThe Buy Nearby campaign is an ongoing, year-round, feel-good campaign intended to create excitement about the great shopping in Michigan and the advantages of supporting retailers and communities in Michigan. You can think of it as a “shop local” campaign for the entire state. The campaign is designed to get everyone excited about the great places and great shops in Michigan and get shoppers committed to buying in Michigan.

The campaign runs throughout the year and is formally celebrated on the first weekend in October, called “I Buy Nearby Weekend.” The two-day special shopping weekend, which this year falls on Oct. 7-8, will include a drawing for a $500 gift card to one lucky shopper who posts a photo of buying nearby with the hashtag #ibuynearby.

In addition to promoting the fun and value of shopping at Michigan retail businesses, the Buy Nearby campaign is designed to be an economic driver for the state.

Did you know that there are about 1,600 independently owned and operated retail establishments in Macomb? Support Buy Nearby in Macomb County this weekend.  Check out our interactive map of independently owned and operated store throughout the county.

Shoppers and retailers are encouraged to use social media to post photos and comments during “I Buy Nearby Weekend,” as well as throughout the year, about their great experiences when they Buy Nearby.

The Buy Nearby campaign was created by the Michigan Retailers Association and launched in April 2013. The 2017 campaign is sponsored by DTE Energy (title sponsor) and Retailers Insurance Company (supporting sponsor). Contributions to the campaign can be made on the Buy Nearby website at www.BuyNearbyMI.com.

Cabela’s to wow at grand opening

CabelaThe highly anticipated grand opening of Cabela’s in Chesterfield Township takes place this Thursday. In addition to 175 new jobs, the development brings something special to the area, and with that, a lot of excitement surrounds this weekend’s festivities.

The impressive 90,000-square-foot facility features 2,500 square feet of hand-painted murals, 150 wildlife mounts, vintage and modern outdoor photographs, and high-tech interactive kiosks. In addition to aisles and aisles of merchandise that include everything from live bait and sporting gear to clothes and cabin décor, there are plenty of excited employees ready to share their passion for the outdoors, encouraging customers to try out products and participate in live demonstrations.

Cabela a.pngThis is Cabela’s fourth location in Michigan, and it has been tailored to Macomb County. Located near the intersection of Hall Road and Interstate 94, it is minutes away from Lake St. Clair. The store offers a large selection of fishing gear but is especially stocked with items for muskie, walleye and smallmouth bass fishing, since this is what Lake St. Clair is known for. With more than 100 reels to choose from, customers are encouraged to try them out before making their purchase.

Because hunting is also a popular pastime here, another large portion of the store is dedicated to firearms. This is the first store to have a digital firearm kiosk that allows customers to easily sort through a vast catalogue of guns, pulling up information on weight, capacity, caliber and much more. With assistance from an employee, a sample firearm can be filled with CO2 and fired at a target on the screen. In addition to getting a feel for the grip and pull of the trigger, the interactive kiosk tracks and reports your movement. There is also an archery range in the store where you can get in a little target practice with a number of different bows.

Cabela 1With a mission to bring the love of outdoors to everyone, Cabela’s offers something for every member of the family. This is evident by the products they carry, such as toy fishing rods and kid’s tackle boxes, and even by their shopping carts which include baby seats and motorized carts. Kids will not only be amazed by the mounted wolves, deer and moose in the displays, but they can also learn about the animals and their habitats by using a touchscreen kiosk.

The grand opening takes place Thursday, Aug. 3. Crowd entertainment begins at 7 a.m. and includes giveaways, live music performed by Lucas Hoge and several speakers. At 9:45 a.m., there will be a dramatic ribbon cutting ceremony where an employee will shoot an arrow to break the ribbon. Doors officially open at 10 a.m., and the shopping can begin! The first 500 customers in line (18 and over) will receive a gift card valued from $10 to $500. The party continues with more festivities and giveaways throughout the entire weekend.

Cabela’s is located at 45959 Towne Center Blvd. in Chesterfield Township. More information can be found on their website at www.cabelas.com/chesterfield.

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Caitlin Gerds-Habermas is an associate planner in business outreach and communications for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.