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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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.

Macomb County celebrates National Economic Development Week

From May 7 through May 12, the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development (MCPED) will celebrate National Economic Development Week. Created by the International Economic Development Council, the largest professional membership organization for economic developers, the week serves to increase awareness of development programs that enhance local economies.

So what does that really all mean? Well, in the broadest sense, economic development focuses on three major areas:

  • Policies that government undertakes to meet broad economic objectives, including inflation control, high employment and sustainable growth
  • Policies and programs that provide services, including building highways, managing parks and providing medical access to the disadvantaged
  • Policies and programs that are directed at improving the business climate

Essentially, economic development organizations work to improve the economic well-being and quality of life for a community.

Now you’re probably asking yourself – what does this all mean for Macomb County? And what does MCPED do? In a nutshell, the department helps facilitate public and private investments in the region by providing businesses with free and confidential services, enabling them to thrive and grow.

Since 2014, the department has helped 145 companies invest almost $4.8 billion, creating 16,148 new jobs and retaining 11,267 existing jobs. In 2017 alone, the department reported that its clients invested $417.4 million in new equipment and space while retaining 2,140 jobs and creating 3,729 new ones. Highlights of last year’s investments include:

  • Amazon announced a $70 million investment to build a transportation logistics center in Shelby Township. The 100,000-square-foot building is expected to offer an estimated 1,000 new jobs to the community.
  • Grupo Antolin, an auto supplier headquartered in Spain, invested $63.7 million in Shelby Township to construct a new plant. The suppliers will provide door panels to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for the 2019 Ram pickup truck.
  • St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital announced a $48.1 million expansion to its Warren Campus. The investment will increase the number of private rooms available to patients.

While those examples deal with larger companies and organizations, it is important to note that the department also works very closely with small-business owners. Ninety-five percent of the businesses in Macomb County are defined as a small business, one that employs fewer than 50 people. Working with the Michigan Small Business Development Center, we offer these owners and entrepreneurs assistance with marketing, financial analysis and planning, strategic planning, management and operations. We act as their partner, helping them succeed.

As you can see, the work done by MCPED is impactful and far-reaching. We take great pride in what we do and will always continue our efforts to enhance the region that we all call home.

Later this week, we will post a piece written by John Paul Rea, director of MCPED. He’ll share some insights into his role as director of the department and give his perspective on what’s on the horizon in Macomb County. Stay tuned for that blog and other posts on our social media accounts and website. We’re excited to celebrate this week and hope you will join in by sharing your thoughts, comments and ideas around economic development in our community. Please post in the comment section below or on Facebook using ##EDW2018 #EconDevWeek #QualityofLife. We’d love to know what you think.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.