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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

UnoDeuce Multimedia moves to new space, adds staff

Visual storyteller Paul Schmidt just got started on a new chapter of his business.
 
In August, Schmidt moved operations for UnoDeuce Multimedia across the street and upstairs to a new space in REO Town. While not too much bigger than his previous place of business next to Art Alley, his new studio at 1146 S. Washington Ave. offers a configuration that includes access to a lounge area, conference room and opportunity to grow.
 
"We're right upstairs within the New Horizons learning center," says Schmidt. "It makes for good synergy. It's good for my staff. And most of all, there's room for us to grow. That's one of the big things."
 
UnoDeuce recently added a full-time video producer, or as Schmidt calls, a "chief video storyteller." Paul Henderson started in the early summer. Schmidt also works with occasional sub contractors, and is considering bringing on more full- or part-time staff depending on workflow.
 
Schmidt launched UnoDeuce in 2001 with the mission of providing low-cost, high-quality media solutions for non-profit, church-based and small business organizations. Within a decade, the company had earned national recognition for its video production quality, and became the creator of websites and media production tools for clients across the country.
 
Schmidt's local and Michigan-based customers include Lutheran Social Services, Michigan Osteopathic Association, Cravings Gourmet Popcorn, Annabelle's Pet Station, Evolve Corporate Wellness and Top Duck Products. UnoDeuce also sponsors and provides video support for the Lansing Derby Vixens.
 
"I came across a stat once that said a video is worth 1.8 million words," says Schmidt. "For us, it's all about crafting stories about people's passions using video as a storytelling tool. "
 
Source: Paul Schmidt, Owner, UnoDeuce Multimedia
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Husband-wife team roasts up wood-fired coffee on Lansing's North Side

Paul and Emily Nicholls share a love for each other and for great coffee. So when the residents of Santa Cruz, California, moved to Lansing about three years ago and got a taste of the city's entrepreneurial culture, they knew their destiny was to brew up something big.
 
In June, the Nicholls opened Rust Belt Roastery at 801 E. Grand River after a long search for the best means of production. They had never forgotten the fellow they had met on a trip out West, someone who made the best coffee they ever had using a simple, wood-fired roaster.
 
"We started looking on-line and found a wood-fired roaster up in Wisconsin," says Nicholls. "We knew we had to have it."
 
Paul and Emily purchased the 1930s Victoria Italian roaster and had it delivered via tractor-trailer to Lansing. After some adept maneuvering, they successfully planted the 3,500-pound cast iron roaster inside the 960-square-foot building that would eventually become their place of business.
 
"It's a magical device," says Nicholls. "It's big and red and chrome and was made during that time when orchards were everywhere."
 
The Nicholls live within walking distance of the roastery on the edge of Old Town. They've added to the hometown feel by roasting their first few months of beans with the ample supply of red oak sacrificed by one of their trees during last year's ice storm.
 
"We got about 60 feet of wood from that mighty branch," laughs Nicholls who also sources cherry and apple wood from a Williamston farm. "I can roast 20 pounds of beans with a piece of wood the size of a baseball bat."
 
Nicholls says the wood-fired roaster produces an exceptional smooth cup of coffee with a rich smoky flavor. He roasts about two to three 20-pound batches every Saturday, and sources his beans through single-source or fair trade suppliers.
 
"I like everything about what I do," says Nicholls. "And Lansing is a neat place with old trees, a couple rivers and a lot of nice people all working on the same team. I like that."
 
Rust Belt Roastery coffee is carried through the Old Town General Store, Vet's Too Gift Boutique, Detroit Frankie's Wood-Fired Pizza, and the East Lansing Farmer's Market.
 
Source: Paul Nicholls, Owner, Rust Belt Roastery
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

New Horizons opens co-working space in REO Town, relocates up to 24 jobs

Back in the "old days," computer training took place in classrooms—complete with desktops, facilitators and giant printed manuals.
 
As a Michigan leader in computer learning and training, New Horizons wanted to find a new facility that reflected their business model and more effectively served their clients.
 
Enter REO Town and a building owned by developer Alan Hooper. It was a space, says New Horizons Chief Administrative Officer Scott McLean, that provided the energetic, urban environment he envisioned. What's more, it was close to highways, downtown, and to many New Horizons clients.
 
So in August, New Horizon moved from East Lansing to 1146 S. Washington and became a "tenant" within their new venture: a collaborative working and learning space for IT and coding professionals, small business owners, entrepreneurs, traveling business people and more.
 
"Our business has changed so much that we wanted to look at our space and see how we can continue to add value," says McLean. "The more we talked and thought about it, the more we got hooked on the idea of creating a co-working and learning center."
 
Co:Space consists of 6,500 square feet of open work area for up to 80 people. Customers have access to WiFi, printers, scanners and storage lockers, and can drop in or purchase monthly memberships. New Horizons set aside an area for computer classes, as well as a conference space for events or meetings.
 
McLean outfitted Co:Space with industrial-style furnishings, exposed brick walls and a polished concrete floor. One wall features a huge chalk drawing by Michigan artist Greg Oberle that pays homage to REO Town.
 
"We want to be an investor in Lansing," says McLean. "A lot of Michigan cities are undergoing urban renewal and recreating areas like this."
 
New Horizons will relocate 12 staff to the new facility, with a dozen more dropping in from other sites once or twice a week.
 
Co:Space and New Horizons invite the community to celebrate the new facility with an open house on Wednesday, October 8, from 4 to 7 p.m. Free parking is available behind the building or on the street.

Source: Scott McLean, Chief Administrative Officer, New Horizons
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

East Lansing Threads brings resort-inspired brands to town, creates 10 jobs

Marsha Chouinard never suspected the email her stepdaughter sent from the East Lansing Art Fair would recommend a storefront as the family's next work of art.
 
But when Chouinard saw the picture of the vacated Kirabo's at 225 E. Grand River, she instantly knew it was the perfect place to open the Midwestern "sister store" of her Destin, Florida, boutique.
 
Chouinard began putting things in motion to open East Lansing Threads—a clothing boutique for men and women featuring trendy brands such as Vineyard Vines, Southern Proper, Southern Tide, Southern Marsh, Ella Moss, 7 for All Mankind and Splendid. The 1,200-square-foot store also carries accessories and apparel from Over Under as well as designer handbags, footwear and artisan jewelry. 
 
"Our brands aren't super expensive, but they're high quality and very well made," says Chouinard. "We try to hit, good, better and best for everything we carry."
 
Chouinard developed her passion for fashion from her career as a purchaser and manager of resort retail. She has opened nearly a dozen stores, including a Threads boutique in Destin.
 
"While our main market is college, we know that lots of moms and community members need casual weekend wear, too," says Chouinard. "In Destin, we see a variety of ages—from middle school all the way to up to men and women in their 50s."
 
After securing the spot in June, Chouinard enlisted a renovation team to build out the space. Changes included pulling out the drop ceiling, repainting walls with charcoal and light gray tones, installing a slate-looking floor, and adding fitting rooms, a new cash desk and alcoves.
 
Chouinard's husband, Marty, grew up in Greater Lansing, and encouraged her to give Michigan a try for her second Threads store.
 
"We're very excited to be part of the community, for sure," says Chouinard. "I'm really happy to have a reason to be up here and be near other members of my family."
 
Threads opened in late September with a staff of three full-time and five part-time employees.
 
Source: Marsha Chouinard, Owner, East Lansing Threads
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Al-Lin Floral and Gifts grows business, moves to new space

Alan Vogl learned all about flowers from his grandma, a master gardener in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
 
Today, Vogl is a master in his own rite as he tends to a flourishing and growing business in Okemos.
 
Vogl owns Al-Lin Floral and Gifts with his wife Linda. The 10-year-old business recently relocated to prime frontage at 1739 W. Grand River after outgrowing their space a mile east down the road.
 
"We attribute out growth to a quality product at a fair price," says Vogl of the move that nearly doubled the space for his business. "Our customer service also makes us stand out."
 
The husband-wife team decided to open the shop in 2005 after their kids packed up and went to college. Al had worked for years in a local floral shop, and with the business skills of his wife and the "home schooling" he had received from his grandmother, he felt confident cultivating a business of his own.
 
Al-Lin Floral's new 5,500-square-foot store captures attention from the busy roadway and positions the shop to nurture the floral and gift needs of new and returning customers.
 
"All our flowers are fresh and come in daily and last five to seven days," says Vogl. "We offer seasonal specials, and we do arrangements for corporate events, weddings, special occasions, every day, and most of all, just because."
 
The new store, Vogl says, will carry more unique gifts including pillows, lotions, napkins, candleholders and other home décor items. The new location will also offer a special line of Michigan products made by local artisans.
 
"We're not your typical everyday florist," says Vogl. "We encourage customers to participate in the design of their arrangement, and we offer floral classes so you can make your own arrangement to take home."
 
Al-Lin Floral and Gifts also offers seasonal decorating services for homes and businesses, tailored to customer preferences. The Vogls employ two part-time staff, and plan to hire up to two more part-time designers and three sales people in the next couple months.
 
Source: Alan Vogl, Owner, Al-Lin Floral and Gifts
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Established baker satisfies East Lansing's sweet tooth with French cookies

The trip to find one of the world's finest cookies just got reduced from a lengthy plane ride to a quick jaunt across town.
 
In late August, Kelly Toland opened the doors to her East Lansing bakery that specializes in French macarons. Located at 1133 E. Grand River Ave. next to Tasty Twist, Le Bon Macaron carries up to a dozen kinds of the European meringue cookie made from sugar, egg whites, almonds, and loads and loads of butter.
 
"They're really light cookies," says bakery owner Kelly Toland. "They're very pretty, too, and aesthetically pleasing for parties or weddings or desserts."
 
Toland says a macaron consists of two crispy shells filled with a flavored butter cream center. Cookies come in a rainbow of colors and many of the flavorings used in the butter cream center come directly from France. Must-tries including salted caramel, chocolate peanut butter, jasmine, violet or poppy seed.
 
"It's always fun to pick out or recommend flavors for customers," says Toland. "We have boxes with a clear front that hold six or 12, so no matter how you arrange them, they always look really nice together."
 
The 250-square-foot Le Bon Macaron is primarily a retail space with a back area for baking. Up to 15 people can sit on an outdoor patio shared with next-door neighbor Bell's Pizza.
 
Toland got the idea to bring a little bit of Paris to East Lansing after a college study abroad program landed her in France. When she came back, she started and ran her first business—A Piece O' Cake—for about seven years. She recently sold the business to open Le Bon Macaron.
 
Toland runs the bakery with her parents, Wendy and John Kobus. Her dad, she says, creates the macarons, starting nearly every morning at 5 a.m. to make shells, blend flavors and assemble the cookies.
 
"We've always baked and cooked together as a family," says Toland. "And since I was interested in food photography, one thing led to another. Cakes are a good creative outlet, and macarons are similar. Plus, they're very photogenic."
 
Source: Kelly Toland, Owner, Le Bon Macaron
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

The Runway debuts talent, fosters fashion growth in Lansing

Even before opening the doors to their highly anticipated retail space, The Runway has been racing to put Lansing on the fast track to becoming a Midwest fashion mecca.
 
With a grand opening slated for Thursday, Oct. 9, The Runway welcomes the fashion-conscious and fashion-curious into a 3,000-square foot storefront filled with quality, Michigan-based apparel. Featured products laid out in flexible 10 x 10 boutique spaces include Trybe, Brightly Twisted, Lionblood and MP Fashion. Others are on the way as the showroom and the related fashion incubator capture attention.
 
"Retail and fashion aren't the first thing many of us think of when we think of downtown Lansing," says Jeff Henry, operator of The Runway. "This is an inspiration for others to follow suit, as well as a motivator for our fashion incubator tenants to reach for."
 
The showroom can accommodate up to 25 brands. In addition to general traffic, the showroom looks to attract buyers from boutiques and other fashion retailers.
 
"It's a great way for buyers to get a visual of what items may look like in a store," he says. "It's also a great way to show the talent that's here in Michigan and why we started The Runway in the first place."
 
Located on the ground floor of the renovated Knapp's Centre, the showroom features all kinds of "wears" from sportswear to swimwear to street wear. A sweeping staircase leads to a 5,500-square-foot incubator on the second floor where up to 12 designers-in-residence and associate designers explore start-up businesses.
 
Anchor tenants enjoy private studio and office space, as well as shared resources to produce products. Associate designers can also access resources that include pressing and cutting tables, dress forms, industrial sewing machines, and the coveted OPTITEX's 2D and 3D software. Business planning and legal services are also available.
 
"We're focused on retaining talent and bringing industry and jobs here," says Henry. "We want to roll off the strength of manufacturing and return the Midwest to its history of making things."
 
Current designers-in-residence include Lawrence Hunt, Freshwater Apparel, LE&O, Allie Su Bridal, Swim Lively, Alex & Jayde Designs, Beauhawk, Lady Aitch, Bad Latitude and North Promontory. Economic development and organization support for The Runway comes through the Lansing Economic Development Corp. and LEAP. Major sponsors include Foster Swift and Peckham.
 
Source: Jeff Henry, Operations Manager, The Runway
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Confectionately Yours sweetens up sidewalk commute for downtown workers

Workers and visitors traversing the busy morning sidewalks of downtown Lansing this fall will find a sweet option for breakfast and snacks on the go.
 
Right after Labor Day, Heather Schmidt rolled out Confectionately Yours on the corner of Capitol and Michigan Avenues and began vending baked goods and coffee to passers-by.
 
Schmidt stocks an assortment of seven different breakfast items including scones, muffins, cinnamon rolls and yogurt parfaits within the 3-foot by 10-foot red canopied push cart. Granolas, cookies and brownies are also part of the inventory for afternoon or late-morning snackers. Hot coffee from Paramount is also on hand for caffeine seekers.
 
"We'll be offering seasonal baked goods and other things here and there," says Schmidt. "We want to keep it interesting so people smile and want to come back."
 
Schmidt worked in bakeries in Michigan and Rhode Island for about 18 years, and launched Confectionately Yours about two years ago from a licensed kitchen within her Dansville home. As demand grew for her cakes and other confections, Schmidt considered opening up a brick and mortar shop, but opted for a mobile option when her carpentry-inclined husband offered to build her a food cart.
 
Downtown Lansing was a logical choice to roll-out her food cart business, Schmidt says, because of the city's ongoing support of small business and street vendors.
 
"There's also nice traffic from downtown workers," says Schmidt. "It's great to be part of helping to liven up the downtown."
 
Schmidt says she bakes everything fresh the night before and then gets help with cleanup and stocking the cart from her three kids, ages 9 through 16. The Confectionately Yours food cart is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
 
Source: Heather Schmidt, Owner, Confectionately Yours
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Lou and Harry's responds to customer demand for downtown location

Scott Rolen listened to his mentor in the restaurant business. He also listened to his customers.
 
In late August, Rolen cut the ribbon on Lou and Harry's Downtown and began his long-awaited venture into owning and managing his first restaurant. It's an opportunity, he says, he owes to Harry Saites—a founder of the Lou and Harry's family of restaurants. And it's a chance to answer the call for a Lou and Harry's in Lansing's urban core.
 
"People have been asking us for a while to bring a Lou and Harry's to downtown," says Rolen who has worked for Saites for 10 years and will operate his restaurant under a licensing agreement. "There's a wonderful clientele down here and as long as we continue to be quick and efficient, we're sure they'll love our product."
 
Rolen promises not to disappoint and will offer the original Lou and Harry's menu of freshly made sandwiches, gyros, burgers and salads. To distinguish the downtown location, he is offering his own homemade soups and sandwich specials on a daily basis. Early risers can also stop in for coffee and a simple breakfast, including yogurt parfaits, and pitas with eggs, meat and cheese.
 
The new eatery will seat 48 people in a 1,900-square-foot space that features booths, tables and a blend of old school and modern décor. Colors are deep and earthy, with a mix of blues, oranges and reds to set off the new floors, countertops and lights.
 
"Harry and I are totally like family, and his mom and dad, too," says Rolen. "They've all been hugely supportive. His mama came in and blessed the store. It's great to have them around."
 
Lou and Harry's Downtown employs 16 people, including two cashiers and prep, line and grill cooks. Rolen hopes to branch into catering and delivery once the sit-down restaurant is up and running. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Other Lou and Harry's are located on Chandler Road in Bath Township and on East Saginaw Street in East Lansing.
 
Source: Scott Rolen, General Manager/Owner, Lou and Harry's Downtown
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Beer Grotto on deck in Stadium District with hybrid store and lounge

A combination tasting room and store coming to Lansing's Stadium District complex next spring will help lessen the chance for "buyer's remorse" among lovers of craft beer and wine.
 
With the tagline "Taste It. Love It. Tote It.," the Beer Grotto will offer craft beverage enthusiasts a destination for sampling, experiencing and purchasing up to 48 draft beers and 80 wines—with about 75 percent made in Michigan. The Beer Grotto will also offer a select line of non-alcohol beers, wines and sodas, including the iconic Michigan brand Faygo.
 
"The idea for the Beer Grotto came about when we were thinking of customers who pick up a flavored stout or a wine with a cool label, only to realize they have five left in a six-pack or are stuck with a cooking wine," says Sam Short, one of three owners along with Troy Ontko and Brandon Ansel. "There's no reason for that. We want people to have a chance to taste everything in our store."
 
Beer Grotto patrons will also be able to hang out in full-service lounge, or reserve an event space for parties, meetings or celebrations. Short says the hybridized space will include individual tasting stations where well-trained staff dubbed "beer geeks" or "cork dorks" will assist and educate customers on beer and wine samples.
 
Short plans to hire about 20 part-time and 20 full-time staff for the 4,100-square-foot space. Located on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Cedar Street, the Beer Grotto will seat 200 people inside and 50 people on an outdoor patio.
 
The Beer Grotto, Short says, addresses the booming interest in craft beers and wines, as well as the ongoing resurgence of living and working in the urban core.
 
"We've watched Lansing grow in a wonderful way," says Short, adding that Pat Gillespie's Stadium District and other downtown developments create a perfect setting. "That mix of residential, tourism and visitors to downtown is something you don't see very often. We're happy to become part of it."
 
The Beer Grotto is on deck for early 2015 and will be open seven days a week. The Lansing location is the third Beer Grotto for Short behind Dexter and Ann Arbor.
 
Source: Sam Short, Owner, Beer Grotto
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Sweet Lorraine's serves up classic comfort food in arty setting

Satisfying the insatiable yen for the queen of comfort foods just got possible as a Detroit-based restaurateur opens the doors in downtown East Lansing this fall.
 
At 547 E. Grand River just across from the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Sweet Lorraine's Fabulous Mac 'n Cheez will offer 14 made-to-order varieties of the famed culinary duo. Hungry or discerning appetites can also dine on salads, grilled sandwiches stuffed with macaroni and cheese, and end with a sweet treat of fresh-baked cookies or a salted caramel rice crispy bar.
 
"We've tried to give people an idea of our brand through our logo," says Lorraine Platman who owns the restaurant with her husband Gary Sussman. "The artwork is like something between The Flintstones and The Jetsons—showing that macaroni and cheese has been around forever, but we can also get it out to you fast and fabulous. In other words, it's not your mama's mac and cheese."
 
Platman and Sussman met at Michigan State University in the mid '70s, and are ecstatic about bringing the concept to East Lansing. The new location becomes the fifth in the Sweet Lorraine family that consists of two full-service deli and café concepts and three mac-and-cheese focused eateries. Other locations are in the works outside Michigan.
 
As an alumna of MSU's fine art program, Platman takes an interest not just in the food, but in the décor of her enterprises. The East Lansing location, she says, will feature industrial-style chairs with flexible backs, eye-popping veneer, and a terrazzo floor. A variety of pop-art posters and sayings will adorn the different colored walls, including a reproduction of a Sweet Lorraine's menu signed by Andy Warhol.
 
"I still get tongue-tied talking about how Andy Warhol came to my restaurant 30 years ago and signed my menu," says Platman of the influential artist who was in Detroit for a book signing. "He loved the different colored walls and had a sandwich."
 
The 2000-square-foot Sweet Lorraine's Fabulous Mac 'n Cheez seats 65 people and will be serviced by 32 staff.
 
Source: Lorraine Platman, Owner, Sweet Lorraine's Fabulous Mac 'n Cheez
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Dublin Jerky offers exotic flavors for the protein-crazed snacker

Once a point-of-sale favorite at party stores, jerky is making inroads as a healthy and satisfying alternative for snackers everywhere.
 
Just ask Bruce Patulski. He's a Michigan pioneer in the jerky renaissance and has been racking up popular and exotic varieties of the carnivorous snack for years. And last summer, Patulski brought a branch of the renowned Dublin Jerky to the Lansing City Market, offering the company's most flavorful varieties plus an eclectic mix of brats, firewood, mopeds and custom-made T-shirts.
 
"The proof's in the product," says Patulski of the booth's staple. "Our jerky is nice and juicy, and it bursts with flavor when you bite into it. It's insanely tender."
 
Patulski learned the jerky business from the Dublin Jerky founder, who is also his brother-in-law. He started as a teen working in the Greenville, Mich., shop, and has continued to smoke, rack and package prime cuts of beef, chicken, turkey, pork, wild boar, rabbit, pheasant, alligator, ostrich and python.
 
"It's definitely not your typical gas station jerky," says Patluski. "We source our meats from all over the country and they all go through FDA inspection."
 
Patulski carries the most popular of Dublin Jerky's 60 varieties in his 100-foot vendor space. The 15 to 20 types of jerky include his go-to items like the "sweet heat beef" and "apple jack beef" and spicy varieties made with hot or ghost peppers.
 
"I'm surprised they don't melt the bag," he laughs.
 
A quarter-pound bag of jerky, Patulski says, provides an option for people looking for a high-protein snack or quick meal. Several popular magazines like Esquire and Muscle & Fitness have mentioned Dublin Jerky by name as a way to curb hunger, help build muscle, and ward off carb cravings.
 
Dublin Jerky also carries a line of loaded brats including garlic and sauerkraut, maple and bacon, and a blue cheese and cherry. Like the jerky, the brats are smoked, fully cooked and made with all natural ingredients.
 
As for the mopeds and screen printing and firewood, Patulski says that's an offshoot of his father's retail business in Manistee.
 
"I'm in the business program at MSU," says Patulski who operates the market with his girlfriend. "I guess you could say that business is in my blood."

Source: Bruce Patulski, Owner, Dublin Jerky Company
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Stilettos and Steel brings pole fitness to Lansing's West Side

Candice Tess always had a passion for fitness and the idea of a fitness-related business. She just didn't know where she fit.  So when Tess happened upon pole fitness, she worked hard to dispel the eyebrow raisers and bring a pole fitness studio to Lansing.
 
"It's the most amazing form of strength training I have ever done and it's awesome," says Tess. "It's closely related to yoga, gymnastics and acrobatics and the only equipment needed is the pole and your own body weight as resistance."
 
In the next few weeks, Tess will open the doors on Stilettos and Steel Fitness at 6400 W. St. Joseph Highway. Tess will teach and hold classes in various levels of pole fitness, applying her expertise as a certified instructor through the Pole Fitness Alliance.
 
Tess worked with friends, family members and her "crafty husband" to gut, move or install walls, put in new floors and ceilings, and paint the 1,100-square foot studio. With purple as a signature color, the studio is cozy, warm and inviting, with a private pole room outfitted with six poles.
 
"It's pretty," says Tess. "We have a chandelier and we dim the lights when we do the dance part of the workout."
 
Tess says the 90-minute classes involve meditation, a yoga-based warm-up, pole tricks and spins, and a dance routine. People unsure of whether pole fitness is right for them can check out a one-time intro class or sign up for a mini-session. Membership options are also available.
 
Tess says she learned pole fitness through studios in Grand Rapids and Detroit since she couldn't find a studio closer to home.  As her confidence and abilities grew, she became a certified trainer so she could share her love of the discipline.
 
"One of my main goals is to take away the stigma attached to pole fitness," says Tess, citing that the American Council on Exercise accepted Pole Fitness as a form of exercise in 2009. "People don't understand that it's not the same as being a pole dancer. It's a workout that's totally for you that helps you feel strong, confident and sexy."
 
Source: Candice Tess, Owner, Stilettos and Steel Fitness
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Front 43 creates friendly gathering place on Lansing-East Lansing border

Frank Cheng noticed something big missing on Lansing's eastern edge and decided to start small. So far, he's begun to fill the need for a gathering place on the busy stretch between East Lansing and Lansing.
 
Since early August, Front 43 Neighborhood Pub has been serving up craft beers and high-end bar food in a cozy, low-key setting. Initially dubbed "The Barrel," the latest in Lansing's growing lineup of gastro pubs rebranded and kicked into gear right around the MSU Spartan's home opener.
 
"Everyone seemed to want a place like this in this area," says Owner and Manager Cheng. "We were always hearing that something like this was missing with all the housing and apartments in the neighborhood. It just seems like a great location."
 
Front 43 is well-poised to draw from the aura left by Jimmy's Pub—a Lansing landmark that relocated to Chandler Road when the site was razed for the Pointe North Retail Center in 2011. Cheng got first-hand insights into customers seeking places to enjoy food, drink and time with friends since he also owns and manages Xiao—Front 43's next-door neighbor.
 
The 1,200-square foot interior seats 45 people, while a small outdoor patio seats 15 more. A long bar and wall-mounted beer taps mingle with pictures of neighborhood and local imagery. Fifteen big-screen TVs (two of which are 80-inchers) provide a panorama of visual entertainment.
 
"It's very cozy and comfortable and warm," says Cheng. "I want it to be a neighborhood place, where everybody will get to know everyone."
 
Front 43 has 20 beers on tap, with 18 brewed in Michigan. Beers include Bell's Oberon and Big Two Hearted Ales, New Holland Dragon's Milk, and Strawberry Brown Ale. Customers can also enjoy wine, with local spirits coming to the mix down the road.
 
In keeping with the gastro-pub concept, Cheng will offer up non-traditional bar foods including mussels, calamari and three-cheese macaroni and cheese. Red meat eaters can satisfy a hearty appetite with a half-pound Angus burger.
 
Cheng spends about 10 to 15 hours a day on-site between Xiao and his newest venture. He hopes to hire up to 15 staff for Front 43, including two full-timers.
 
Source: Frank Cheng, Owner, Front 43 Neighborhood Pub
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor
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