‘Tis the season for Shop Local Macomb! Here’s how your business can get involved.

pexels-photo-929245Like the song says, it’s the most wonderful time of the year! And if you own a small business, you likely agree. The holiday season provides the perfect opportunity for attracting new customers and boosting sales margins. Which is why the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development (MCPED) is partnering with First State Bank and the Sterling Heights Regional and Macomb County chambers to bring back the Shop Local Macomb campaign. We want to help our more than 1,600 independently owned and operated retailers by encouraging local holiday shopping.

“Shopping local is one of the easiest things we can do to support our independently owned businesses,” said John Paul Rea, director of MCPED. “These retailers help us build vibrant cities and towns by attracting visitors and new residents. Which means that spending money at these businesses during the holiday season has an impact far beyond sales figures.”

Shop Local Macomb and its corresponding social media competition will officially launch on November 23. Like last year, this contest will ask individuals to upload photos of their local holiday shopping with the #ShopLocalMacomb hashtag for a chance to win one of five $500 gift cards (donated by First State Bank).

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In the interim, campaign organizers are asking independently owned and operated retail businesses in Macomb County to submit their Shop Local Saturday (November 24) deals and other holiday discounts to a digital portal here: http://bit.ly/ShopLocalMacomb. There is no charge to submit and all information collected will be promoted on MakeMacombYourHome.com and a variety of other mediums, like our interactive holiday shopping map.

Anecdotally, businesses that participated in this manner last year saw an increase in foot traffic on that Saturday.

“We heard from many businesses after the Shop Local Saturday event last year, and those that had the extra promotion through our outlets experienced a greater number of shoppers than they had in years prior,” said Melanie Davis, president of the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce. “So submitting your deals and discounts is an easy and free way to spread the word about your business and get new customers.”

Businesses interested in sharing their holiday deals through the free online portal are asked to do so by Friday, November 16. And those that would like to help us promote the Shop Local Macomb campaign can download a flyer here and use the #ShopLocalMacomb campaign hashtag on social media. All told, this extra support can help us make this holiday shopping season in Macomb County the best one yet.

For more information on the Shop Local Macomb campaign, visit http://www.makemacombyourhome.com/shoplocal.

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.

Attention Local Businesses! We want to help you reach shoppers this holiday season.

mapIn an effort to support independently owned and operated retailers this holiday season, the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development is partnering with the Sterling Heights Regional and Macomb County chambers to launch the #ShopLocalMacomb campaign.

As part of the promotion an interactive Shop Local Macomb map was created which features more than 1,600 locally owned stores. The map is searchable by type of merchandise sold or location. If we have missed you, please let us know planning@macombgov.org .

Visit makemacombyourhome.com/shoplocal to submit your store information, photo and holiday specials and we will share it in our #ShopLocalMacomb gallery.

Shoppers will have a chance to enter a contest to win one of five $500 gift cards, donated by First State Bank. Shoppers can snap a photo of them shopping local and post it online between November 24 and December 3. Winners will be randomly selected during a live Facebook drawing at noon on Monday, December 4.

Help promote Shop Local Macomb by downloading a flyer to hang in your window or door and sharing it on social media using #ShopLocalMacomb

More details about the campaign can be found at www.MakeMacombYourHome.com

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