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Barbs Designs transforms big events into small business

For Barbara Joseph, the party never ends.
 
As the owner of Barbs Designs, Joseph is in the business of providing the highest quality decorations for special events from weddings to birthday parties to baby showers.
 
"I love working with people and helping them celebrate," says Joseph. "It's rewarding to create something beautiful and exciting and to help people reach something they've been dreaming of."
 
Joseph launched Barbs Designs after her children graduated high school and she found she had extra time on her hands. She had worked for years in local government, and decided to change career paths by taking a part-time job as an events stylist.
 
Joseph combined what she learned on-the-job with her life-long experience organizing parties for families and friends and opened her home-based business in  DeWitt in July 2013. Just recently, she added two part-time employees. She also relies on the continual support of her husband and sewing wiz mother.
 
"I have a huge inventory of products," says Joseph who is also venturing into floral design. "Everything from linens to centerpieces to candelabras, and even a wooden cake stand custom-designed by my husband."
 
Joseph can show clients actual samples of display items and linens, and keeps an extensive sample book of different fabrics. In some cases, she can custom-design linens for clients.
 
"My mom is my seamstress," she says. "She's the one behind me and supporting my creative side."
 
Joseph averages about two events a month for half the year, and about three during the spring and summer wedding and graduation seasons. She says she has planned events for small groups all the way up to those for 350 guests.
 
"Even though I'm a small business, I have big ideas," says Joseph. "I never forget that each and every event is special. I want to always have that one-on-one with each customer and make them happy."
 
Source: Barbara Joseph, Owner, Barbs Designs
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

DeWitt CrossFit gym rebrands, grows in popularity

While they recently rebranded their year-old gym, Brad and Bailey Hillard have remained true to their commitment to build community through functional, athletic training.
 
In mid-July, the Hillards opened the doors to Lake State CrossFit—a new, expanded version of CrossFit Malleus. The new gym, they say, provides space to "stretch out," as well as a memorable, easy-to-remember name for those interested in tackling the CrossFit phenomenon.
 
Located just a few doors down from their original facility in Clark Corners, Lake State CrossFit will continue to offer a certified training curriculum that provides an all-inclusive workout and fitness program for customers of any fitness level.
 
"My wife and I have always been athletes," says Brad who wrestled and played football throughout high school, and went on to coach. "It's in our nature. Once we started training in CrossFit, we believed in the concept and wanted to share it with others."
 
CrossFit, Brad explains, is an all-around, varied strength and conditioning program that pushes participants to perform at their highest possible level. Developed in the late 1990s, CrossFit workouts include interval training, weightlifting, gymnastics, calisthenics, plyometrics, running and other exercises.
 
"You're not a specialist in anything," says Brad. "Your goal is to be an all-around good athlete."
 
The Hillards say they build community at their 6,100-square foot gym through instructor-led training and social events related to gym activities. Since originally opening in June 2013, the gym has grown from just a handful of members to more than 80 strong.
 
"We're excited to see what the future brings," says Brad. "We're going to bring a kids program here eventually, as well as specialty courses. We want to offer a boot camp, too, that provides an on-ramp to people who might be feeling a little intimidated."
 
The Hillards invite anyone to give the intro course a try and to join the no-contract gym at 1161 E. Clark Lake Road, Suite 260. Lake State CrossFit employs two staff in addition to Brad and Bailey, with plans to add more as the gym grows in popularity.
 
Source: Brad Hillard, Owner, Lake State CrossFit
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Dewitt newly-weds open JJ Frozen Yogurt, create jobs

Tham Doan and John Nichols devised plans for launching their own business shortly after getting married two years ago.
 
"We thought about it, started planning, and got the location in January," says Doan. "It seemed like a good idea and we decided to do it."
 
In late June, Doan and Nichols opened JJ Frozen Yogurt in DeWitt. The shop brings a fresh and delicious twist to the strip mall at 13070 Old U.S. 27, and offers a rotation of 100 flavors and varieties of the satisfying and healthy snack.
 
As a nurse at Sparrow Hospital, Doan is attuned to making healthy dietary choices that take food allergies into account. Nichols, too, understands the challenges of food sensitivities, having grown up with family members with severe allergies to dairy.
 
JJ Frozen Yogurt, Doan says, will carry traditional frozen yogurts as well non-dairy, sugar-free, fat-free and low-fat varieties. Customers can review posted nutrition and ingredient information for each yogurt and dozens of topping in the self-serve shop. Doan says, too, she is exploring ways to dispense peanuts and chocolates separately for the benefit of allergy-sensitive customers.
 
"We can tell you how the yogurt is made and what the ingredients are," says Doan. "We focus on customer service and have a very nice setting with free Wi-Fi."
 
Doan and Nichols completely rehabbed the small space that seats up to 35 customers. Contractors redid plumbing, electrical, air conditioning and heating, and installed equipment for storing and dispensing foods. The husband-wife team also rolled up their sleeves and contributed to the top-to-bottom overhaul that included fresh paint, new floors and a new ceiling. The couple also received help with business planning from the Michigan Small Business Development Center, housed at Lansing Community College.
 
Doan says she plans to offer coffee in the next few months and to expand the hours to accommodate early-risers. More immediately, she will add smoothies and tea to the summer line-up.
 
Doan works occasionally in between her nursing shifts, while Nichols runs the shop. JJ Frozen Yogurt employs three staff with plans to add a couple more once coffee services are up and running in the fall.
 
Source: Tham Doan, Owner, JJ Frozen Yogurt
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Family-owned auto parts company converts to NAPA brand

They say it's all in a name, but for Dick Seehase, it's also all in the family.
 
For 51 years, Seehase has been among the family members owning and operating The Parts Place. And while the Holt-based car parts company has spanned three generations and grown to nine mid-Michigan locations, the company prides itself on providing the highest level of customer service.
 
That quality of service, Seehase says, will be further ensured as the distributor of automotive parts and equipment switches affiliation from CARQUEST to NAPA, and adds an 18,000-square foot warehouse as the hub.
 
"It made perfect sense to go with a more traditional auto parts company," says Seehase of the changeover. "With our 50-year-old history and NAPA's 90, we'll be well-recognized and even more prepared to service our customers."
 
All eight stores will carry NAPA inventory and retain the nearly 60 professional staff who work in locations in East Lansing, West Lansing, Holt, Charlotte, Mason, Eaton Rapids, Williamston and Stockbridge.
 
The newly purchased warehouse on the corner of Waverly and St. Joseph will result in about three new staff joining the company. The space will also allow The Parts Place to carry about $2 million more in additional inventory to service all locations.
 
Seehase says the commercial market makes up about 70 percent of The Parts Place customers, with the remaining 30 percent coming from do-it-yourselfers.
 
"Years ago, lots of people could work on their own vehicles, but as the complexity has increased, we began servicing more commercial clients," says Seehase. "Our employees come from all different facets of the market, too, and know the business."
 
Seehase says The Parts Place changed affiliation in late April. He says he's anticipating the NAPA partnership will spur annual sales growth from about $9 to $15 million in the upcoming year.
 
"The NAPA brand name is one of the most recognized brands in the United States," says Seehase. "We're hoping to add more stores once we get our feet on the ground."
 
 Source: Dick Seehase, Company President, The Parts Place NAPA
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Restaurateur buys landmark Terranova's Market, hires four local staff

Faez Toma woke up one morning and knew he needed a change. He was ready, he said, to get out of the "rat race" and to pursue a different path in the restaurant biz. Something, he said, was right around the corner.
 
Toma found that change in Terranova's Market. And while nearly two hours up the freeway from Toma's home in Farmington Hills, the small grocery store in DeWitt was Toma's dream come true.
 
"I knew when I walked in that bingo—this was it," says Toma, who jokingly credits his childhood nickname "Fonz" for fueling his quest for a simpler life. "It was the little market in the little town I was looking for."
 
Toma purchased the 2,500 square foot store at 129 S. Bridge St. in December. He kept the moniker of the landmark store, and went about making incremental changes while retaining Terranova's small-town flair.
 
"I knew that something could be realized here with just a little bit of effort," says Toma. "The store was already a success but I knew it had even more potential."
 
Toma drew on his experience and family background in the liquor and restaurant business and expanded Terranova's spirits section to include craft beers, specialized bourbons and scotches. He also began changing up the grocery aisles to accommodate specialty items from small distributors.
 
"You can go anywhere and get a can of chicken noodle soup," says Toma. "Sure, I'll carry that, but I want my shop to be known for finding those specialized items you can't find anywhere else."
 
In January, Toma installed new double-decker ovens for making hot subs and stone-fired pizzas. He also stocks a cooler with homemade salads and sandwiches, and plans to offer more to-go foods as the store's kitchen remodel gets underway.
 
In keeping with the community, Toma hired four staff from DeWitt to help him run the market. He hopes, too, to localize his own life and cut down on his daily commute by moving his family closer sometime soon.
 
"DeWitt is a great and fantastic community," says Toma. "With me coming from a bigger city, it's refreshing to have that small-town experience."
 
Source: Faez Toma, Owner, Terranova's Market
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

St. Johns mom opens gym to get kids out of house and moving

Like a lot of moms with kids, Casie Grams was bouncing off the walls when snow, ice and freezing temperatures kept her family confined to the great indoors.
 
In January, Grams decided to take that pent-up energy elsewhere and opened PowerPlay Kids Fun & Fitness in St. Johns for kids ages 10 months through fifth grade.
 
"I see it giving children an outlet aside from being stuck at home inside," says Grams who has three children under 12. "Everything here is designed to build confidence. It's a non-competitive environment and meant to be fun."
 
The 1,600-square foot gym at 701 W. State Street is set up to accommodate a variety of activities, including gymnastics, indoor soccer, hockey, basketball, tennis, relays, playground games and more. Grams herself oversaw the light remodeling of the previous sports retail store, including laying new carpet, painting and making it "kid friendly" by bringing in equipment that includes a 25-foot Air Trak, balance beam, tumbling mats, gymnastics bars and stationary bikes.
 
"I also have a variety of other things like hula-hoops," say Grams whose background and certification is in gymnastics. "Every week we'll have a different theme."
 
PowerPlay offers several five-week classes that are set up according to ages, grades and siblings. She also offers a boys-only class and open gym twice a week. Parent participation is required for children 3 ½ or under.
 
"Eventually, I hope to expand and offer more classes," says Grams who runs the classes with the help of her mother and her nephew. "I just wanted to start somewhere."
 
In addition to 20 different classes and open gym, PowerPlay offers parent's night out, birthday parties and camps.
 
"It's an outlet," says Grams. "It's something fun to do and can help combat obesity. My goal is to just encourage a healthy lifestyle for kids."
 
Source: Casie Grams, Owner, PowerPlay Kids Fun & Fitness
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Craft & Mason spills the beans on single-source fresh coffee

Jeremy Mason was never much of a coffee drinker until he came upon an espresso place that sourced beans from local farmers. From then on, he was hooked.
 
"When I find something I like, I look at it from as many angles as I can," says the co-owner of Craft & Mason Roasting Company, a brand new micro roaster in Lansing. "I started visiting coffee shops that used small roasters and checked out direct trade arrangements for ordering green beans."
 
Mason bought his first beans from Sweet Maria's—a home-roasting site that sources beans directly from small farmers. He did his first roasts in a popcorn popper, and when he shared a cup with his friend, Eric Craft, they decided to brew up something bigger.
 
The two friends purchased several hundred pounds of beans, bought a small roaster, and launched Craft & Mason in a 500-square-foot warehouse. Since December 2013, the two have roasted once a week, filling orders for local restaurants, coffee shops and individuals.
 
"We feel coffee tastes best when it's fresh," says Mason, who sells online direct and ships within one to two days. "If you can drink coffee within the first two weeks of its roast, it's the best."
 
Mason believes that enjoying coffee that's fresh roasted from a single origin can be as unique as eating food from a great local farm. His goal, he says, is to honor small coffee farmers by finding the optimal spot in each roast that maximizes the complex flavors of the beans.
 
"It's a little bit like wine," says Mason of the varieties he sources from El Salvador, Columbia and Sumatra. "All the questions you might ask of a cabernet or pinot wine, you could apply to coffee."
 
Source: Jeremy Mason, Co-owner, Craft & Mason Roasting Company
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

CrossFit Malleus opens in 2,500 sq ft DeWitt space

A new business has brought a new kind of workout to DeWitt. CrossFit Malleus opened on June 17, offering the unique group training style exercise in a 2,500 square foot facility on E. Clark Rd.
 
CrossFit is in fact what brought owner Brad Hillard and his partner together. Unsatisfied by their regular workouts, they both found better all-around strength training results from the format. 
 
"I'm stronger all around," says Hillard. "I feel confident to take on any physical task. Also, with a group setting you get the natural competitiveness that occurs naturally in humans to come out which in turn helps generate motivation to try your best." 
 
Hillard and his partner began renovating the CrossFit Malleus facility in May, and finished in early June. Renovations included demolition, ceilings and flooring. They plan to get involved with the communities through local events and helping, and hope their presence in the Clark Corners will attract others to the development. 

Source: Brad Hillard, CrossFit Malleus
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Family ice cream business connects with community in Dewitt

The Dalman family has long had a dream of running an ice cream shop, and now that plan has come to fruition in their hometown of Dewitt with iScream. The new 1,000 square foot shop serves ice cream, soft serve and low-calorie, high-vitamin smoothies. 
 
"We are in the center of Dewitt," says Max Dalman, who manages the store owned by his parents. "We're right by the schools, and are tons of neighborhoods over here." 
 
The Dalmans have been working on iScream since last fall, and the ice scream shop opened about a month ago. The shop currently employs a staff of eight. Despite the snowy weather during their opening, the community has come out to support the business, and they've found themselves even busier than expected. 
 
The concept of iScream includes reciprocating that community support. The Dalmans also have a smoothie booth that they bring to local events to offer smoothies to attendees. The organization running the event receives a portion of the proceeds of every smoothie sold. 
 
"We're in it for the fun," says Dalman. "We're trying to keep prices as low as we can and offer the best we can to the community."

Source: Max Dalman, iScream
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Great Lakes Family Dental opens new, 3,300 sq ft DeWitt Twp location

Great Lakes Family Dental did more than simply double its footprint when it expanded into a new, 3,300 square foot building in DeWitt Twp on January 1. From new dental services to a new community outreach program, the practice has grown in all sorts of ways. 
 
"We outgrew our space," says Patricia Hart, general manager of Great Lakes Dental Group. "It was outdated."
 
Growth has been the name of the game for Great Lakes Dental Group since it purchased retiring local dentist Dr. Tomkie's practice, which had been in business for 30 years. Under new ownership, the practice grew by three employees, and now plans to add two additional staff members in the new office. 
 
"Moving out of that space allowed us to do more," says Hart. "It's pretty homey. It's meant to take away from being hit with that feeling of being nervous to be at the dentist." 
 
Great Lakes Dental Group broke ground on the new building in mid-August of 2012. Since moving into the new location in January, the practice now offers such new services as digital x-rays, free cancer screenings and new teeth whitening techniques. 
 
In addition, the growing office is offering a free dental clinic on April 16 for those without dental insurance or other assistance. 
 

Source: Patricia Hart, Great Lakes Dental Group
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Chelsea Lumber opens new digital project center in Dewitt, adds five jobs

The digital age is changing the way people shop, and that’s not limited to clothes and books. The century-old family business Chelsea Lumber is now using digital technology to extend their reach with a new showroom in Dewitt.
 
“Everything is done with digital imaging, so people come in a select colors and samples,” says John Sabin of Chelsea Lumber’s new Dewitt project center. “We’re open to the public, and they can order lumber, and we can deliver right out of the central hub in Chelsea.” 
 
According to Sabin, the new 800 square foot project center is the first of its kind in the area. The project center currently operates on limited hours and by appointment, but Sabin says he hopes to expand into regular hours soon. Five jobs, including sales and a kitchen and bath specialist, have been added with the new office. 
 
“People are Internet shoppers now,” says Sabin. “They work and they’re busy, so they can come in and do it at the office here, or from their homes. It helps a lot for us to be able to say to people, ‘Hey here’s what you’re looking for, and we’ve got it.’” 
 
The Chelsea Lumber project center opened in Dewitt in May. The office services both residential and commercial customers with projects large and small. 
 

Historic DeWitt school to receive 9,700 sq ft addition to become senior living center, up to 15 jobs

When Dr. Tim Brannan and his partner at Brandino Properties came across the vacant Gunnisonville Elementary Building in DeWitt, they saw the potential for the site to not only return to its roots as a place of learning for children, but so much more. The developers plan to renovate the 26,000-square foot school, as well as build a 9,700-square foot assisted living facility called Gunnisonville Meadows on the same site. 
 
“For assisted living, we thought it would be an ideal setting,” says Brannan. “You’ll come right off the highway and you’re about five minutes away, and then you’re just five minutes away from Eastwood [Towne Center]. Families can come and visit and then take their senior out for dinner.”
 
Brannan was inspired to open an assisted living facility after his father was diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s and he and his mother had a difficult time finding the right local facility for his care. 
 
“There really wasn’t anyone who was well versed in the issues he was having,” Brannan says. “We wanted to provide some memory care options.”
 
Gunnisonville Meadows will share a site with the Blending Learning Academies charter school and Little Scholars Preschool and Childcare Center that will soon open in the renovated school. Interaction between students and seniors is expected to add to the learning experiences for kids and life enrichment for residents. 
 
Work on the 20-bed facility will begin soon and Brannan hopes it will be open for residents by late 2012 or early 2013. He plans to employ 12 to 15 workers there. 
 

DeWitt Township home to fourth area Vision Collision

The team at Vision Collision sees themselves as more than just a new business in DeWitt; they see themselves as a new member of the community. 
 
“We’re very involved with the schools and the communities where we’re located,” says Jim Rossman, Business Development Manager for Vision Collision. “We’ve given three cars away, we’ve been involved in the Silver Bells parade and community car washes. We’ll be having a grand opening in late May, and hopefully the high school will have a team here doing a wash for their sports boosters.” 
 
The grand opening will be for the business’ fourth Lansing-area location. The 13,278 square foot DeWitt Charter Township facility is located just North of I-69 on BR-127. The building was nearly an all-new build, utilizing some walls from a former car wash on the site. It also includes an Enterprise Rent-A-Car in the front lobby.
 
Vision Collision opened on February 6 and currently employs five local workers. According to Rossman, the growing business’ success is based on superior customer service and great marketing. 
 
“We have two different people doing mobile estimating,” says Rossman. “We go to their home or office at no charge rather than them having to come us all the time. We’re willing to go to them and be more service-driven.”
 
Now that the DeWitt location is up and running, Vision Collision is looking to Grand Ledge for their next possible branch. Rossman says the businesses envisions up to a dozen Lansing-area locations. 
 

Greater Lansing's first Wireless Zone moves into 1,200 sq ft DeWitt space

Despite being the largest independent Verizon Wireless franchise in the US, the Greater Lansing area did not have a single Wireless Zone store until recently. The nationally-recognized name moved into a 1,200 square foot space in the Crossroads Center in DeWitt last month.

According to owner Michael Armstrong, choosing the location was as easy for he and his wife as looking down the street.

“We live near the store,” he says. “We picked the spot. I had to get the spot approved by Verizon and Wireless Zone.”

The new store created five local jobs and brings a variety of wireless products and services to the area. Armstrong is open to the possibility of expanding further into the Lansing area, but is now focused on his new store in the former First Bank site, the leasing of which is managed by CB Richard Ellis/Martin.

“It is a perfect building for us,” says Armstrong.

Source: Michael Armstrong, Wireless Zone

Writer: Natalie Burg, News Editor

Consumers Energy Signs 100 MW Energy Deal with Wind Turbine Manufacturer

Consumers Energy is one step closer to building its first wind energy park in the next two years.

The Jackson-based company has signed a contract with a national manufacturer to supply 56 wind turbine generators for the utility’s Lake Winds Energy Park in Mason County on the state’s western shore.

The contract calls for Vestas-American Wind Technology, Inc. to manufacture, deliver and commission the V100-1.8 MW turbine units. The total installed generation capacity of the units is 100.8 megawatts.

“Securing this agreement is a major milestone in the development of our first wind energy park and continues our commitment to environmental stewardship,” says John Russell, president and CEO of Consumers Energy.

“Consumers Energy already is the largest supplier of renewable energy in Michigan. By the end of 2012, including the addition of our Lake Winds Energy Park, about eight percent of the power that Consumers Energy supplies to its customers is expected to come from Michigan-based renewable sources.”

Consumers Energy provides natural gas and electricity to 6.5 million of the state’s 10 million residents in the 68 counties of Michigan’s lower peninsula.

Source: Consumers Energy

Writer: Louise Knott Ahern

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