How to support National Black Business Month

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In 2004, August was established as National Black Business Month. It is a time for policy makers, venture capitalists and residents to focus on fostering a hospitable environment where black-owned businesses can prosper. It is also a call to action for those within the black business community to support one another.

In an effort to create a welcoming community for all people, Macomb County established OneMacomb. One of this initiative’s key objectives is to strengthen the county’s economy through supporting entrepreneurs of varied ethnicities.

The Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development also specializes in helping all types of businesses grow. Their staff has extensive knowledge about available incentives and alternative financing programs that may be able to assist eligible businesses gain access to capital and take advantage of new opportunities such as job training, energy efficiency and façade improvement programs.

One way you and I can help black-owned businesses succeed is through our patronage. The Black Business Month website created a helpful list of various types of black-owned businesses you can support each day of the month, such as a restaurant on Aug. 6, a retail establishment on Aug. 11 and a dentist on Aug. 15.

MerollisThere are 677 minority-owned businesses in Macomb County. According to Crain’s Detroit Business 2014 Book of Lists, the top black-owned businesses in the county are St. Clair Shores-based Prestige Automotive LLC and Eastpointe-based Bill Perkins Automotive Group (either automotive dealership would be perfect to visit on Aug. 3) and metal processing corporation SET Enterprises Inc. in Warren (Aug. 4).

This month, challenge yourself to shop small, shop local and discover a new business. By redirecting a small portion of your spending, it could be a beneficial boost to the black entrepreneurial system.

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How to keep metro Detroit kids happy at the tail end of winter

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With the weather hovering between icy wind and mild temperatures, kids are getting antsy for spring. Until you can simply send your little one outside for hours of amusement, here are some ideas to keep them happy and occupied.

Make a special occasion out of going to the theater. The Macomb Center for the Performing Arts in Clinton Township is showing the children’s classic “Charolotte’s Web” March 23 and 24. Your adolescent might enjoy “Rock of Ages” put on by the Clintondale Community Theatre the first two weekends in May.

The Anton Art Center in Mount Clemens offers youth art classes. March’s classes are 3-D Map, Illuminated Monogram and Impressions. April’s classes follow an upcycling theme. No appointment is needed to create your own art at Plaster Playhouse in Shelby Township. Simply choose your piece of plaster or pottery and start painting!

Boost your baby’s brain power through programs offered at your local library. Throughout the year, the Clinton-Macomb Public Library offers storytime sessions including Baby Time, Tot Time, Little Listeners, Preschool, Music & Movement and Pajamarama. My daughter loves Pajama Storytime at the Eastpointe Memorial Library, where kids dress in their pajamas, bring their favorite stuffed animal to hold and listen to the youth librarian read stories.

Check with your local Parks and Recreation Department to see what seasonal offerings are scheduled. The Warren Community Center boasts an indoor waterpark comprised of a lap pool, pool basketball, waterslide, lazy river and play structure complete with a water cannon and waterfall. Other nice amenities for adults include a sauna, steam room and fitness room.

Get hands-on and join your kid for a skate around the rink. The St. Clair Shores Ice Arena has public skating from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. It is $3 per person, and children under 6 are free when accompanied by an adult. Admission to the Mount Clemens Ice Arena is $5 for adults and $4.50 for students, seniors and youth. Skate rental is $3.

Pack on the layers and head out to one of Macomb County’s Metroparks. Weather permitting, Lake St. Clair Metropark offers ice fishing, cross-country skiing and outdoor ice skating. Snowshoe or cross-country ski across marked trails at Stony Creek Metropark, or head over to the winter sports area with hills to snowboard, sled or toboggan. Eastpointe’s Spindler Park recently revamped its new sledding hill. Open dawn to dusk, it includes a hay bale safety barrier and seating area. The Macomb Orchard Trail isn’t just for running or biking; it’s also open to cross-country skiers.

Just Delicious SconesJust Delicious Scones on Utica in Roseville is a quaint tea room, bakery and coffee shop with … well, delicious scones. Get big-girl dressed up for this fancy excursion. Sip tea or cider from beautiful china and delicately nibble on scones – a memory your child will remember. If your little one isn’t likely to sit still for long, try Chuck E. Cheese in Roseville or Sterling Heights. Jungle Java in Clinton Township is an indoor play center with a sports court and laser maze. It includes a separate toddler play area and a full menu.

Let the kids burn off energy at the Bounce House in New Baltimore, St. Clair Shores or Sterling Heights. It consists of giant inflatable slides, moon walks and an obstacle course along with arcade games that might even entertain mom and dad. Try Airtime in Sterling Heights or Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Shelby Township for open jumping on wall-to-wall trampolines, foam pits, dodgeball and basketball. Jumpers are sorted by age to make sure the intensity level is a good match, though there are waivers that must be signed before participating in the fun. Play miniature golf any day of the week at Jawor’s on Gratiot in Roseville. It has an 18-hole course for kids of all ages and is open year-round.

It doesn’t matter what you decide to do as long as you make the time you spend together count. Unplug and give your kids your full attention – that’s all they want!

Warren business serving up locally-sourced Latin American cuisine

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Pilar’s Tamales in Warren is offering something really unique in Macomb County – gluten-free Salvadoran food with dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan options. It’s made with many all-natural, free-range and organic ingredients from local Michigan farms.

You may have had a tamale the last time you dined at your favorite Mexican restaurant (see A look into Plaza Mexico), but when was the last time you had a pupusa with fried yuca root and tamarind?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI hadn’t even heard of these savory dishes until I tried them at Pilar’s. A pupusa is a grilled handmade tortilla made from stone-ground corn masa filled with your choice of chicken, pork or black beans and cheese. Fried yuca root is derived from the root of a shrubby plant with large, starchy roots. Fried and coated with a spicy seasoning, it is essentially a tropical French fry. Tamarind is a Latin American drink made from the fruit of an Asian evergreen tree. Pilar’s peels their own pods to make this tart and fruity drink.

And of course, there are tamales. Handmade with stone-ground corn masa, these tamales are filled with all-natural chicken, chicken and cheese, all-natural pork, spicy pork with ghost chili peppers, chorizo (pork sausage), jalapeno and cheese, black beans and cheese, vegan black beans or tempeh (soybeans). Then they are rolled, steamed and served with a delicious homemade sauce and a side of curtido (cabbage slaw). In fact, all of their stocks, salsa, sauces and salads are made in house. I recommend the perfect pair special because you get to try both a tamale and a pupusa.

Pilar’s opened their first location in Ann Arbor in 2000. A family of refugees fleeing from the Salvadoran Civil War, they began their business with a tamale cart, selling to University of Michigan students. The business expanded as they became vendors at several farmers markets, offering cold tamales that can be easily frozen and reheated. In early 2014, after looking for a satellite kitchen to be closer to Eastern Market, the Royal Oak Farmers Market and the Birmingham Farmers Market, Juan Carlos Nolasco and his wife Sandra Naimou found an affordable spot in Warren and opened a second Pilar’s Tamales kitchen and restaurant. Juan Carlos’ sisters and mother still manage the Ann Arbor location.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocating on Mound between Chicago and 14 Mile Road has proven to be a good business decision. In addition to their proximity to nearby farmers markets, Pilar’s is also seconds away from the popular Warren Community Center and pool and two of the largest employers in the area: the GM Technical Center and TACOM Life Cycle Management Command. GM has even invited Pilar’s to participate in a rotating lunch program they offer to their employees.

Juan Carlos was surprised by how much support they have received from the community. “The people here really care about what they are eating; they care about their health,” he said. His favorite part of running Pilar’s is meeting people who are open to new foods and to trying something different.

The recipes are not necessarily traditional Salvadoran because the concept of healthy food was incorporated from the very beginning. While authentic Latin American recipes often contain some not-so-healthy ingredients (think lard), Pilar’s has created their own delicious and healthy versions while still remaining true to their Salvadoran roots. They have devised more varieties of tamales and have included healthier meats raised without antibiotics, hormones or artificial growth stimulants. Kale, squash and other seasonal produce are locally grown at Vanhoutte Farms in Armada. Since everything is free of gluten, it is the ideal dining destination for patrons with celiac disease or food allergies.

I could go on and on about the different sides, drinks, desserts and specials available (casamiento made with organic black beans and organic white rice; fried plantains (like a fried banana); and gluten-free, vegan, soy-free and nut-free chocolate chip bliss bars), but you should really explore this restaurant for yourself. Keep an open mind, and remember, this is Salvadoran food and might not be exactly what you expect at first – but I promise it will grow on you!

This tiny restaurant offers carry out and minimal dining in. Open Tuesday through Saturday, hours are limited, so be sure plan your visit accordingly. And don’t forget their cold tamales, perfect for freezing and reheating for a great meal at home or an office lunch.

 

exterior

32247 Mound Road, Warren, MI 48092 (586) 838-5608

 Pilar’s Tamales Menu

Hours
Tuesday – Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday – 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Saturday – 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Closed Sunday and Monday

The Walkability Factor

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Macomb County roads are always evolving, and whether you drive, take the bus or ride your bike to work, roads affect all of our daily lives.  Many spend hours sitting on these roads in rush hour traffic while commuting to work each week. Every winter, we turn to our local news for weather and traffic report updates to plot out alternate routes and hope the roads are plowed.  Even Executive Mark A. Hackel has taken up the topic, asking local legislators to look at our potholes and take action.

While the northern part of Macomb County is paving dirt roads and widening busy thoroughfares, the built-up southern end of the county is taking measures to close the concrete gap.  An example of this can be seen on Gratiot Avenue in Clinton Township.

In an effort to improve pedestrian safety, the Michigan Department of Transportation has installed four new high-intensity activated crosswalk (HAWK) signals.  Signals were installed on both sides of the Gratiot median at Quinn Road and Laurel Street.  The HAWK signals remain dark until activated by a pedestrian, at which point the signal will flash yellow, turn solid yellow, then solid red, indicating to traffic to slow and stop.  Traffic can begin again once signals flash red and pedestrians have cleared.

Another pedestrian-friendly project recently completed in Macomb County was the installation of a traffic island and pedestrian-activated signals on 12 Mile Road in Warren between Macomb Community College’s South Campus and Wayne State University’s new Advanced Technology Education Center.  As a result, students and SMART bus riders are able to conveniently traverse the five lanes of traffic.

While roads are the portals that take us anywhere we want to go, they often serve as impassible dividers within a community. For example, a store may be within eyesight and walking distance, but crossing eight lanes of traffic may be nearly impossible or simply impractical if the nearest intersection is a half mile away.  These projects increase the convenience for anyone trying to get around by bike or on foot – something that is becoming more popular with not only young professionals, but also senior citizens who want to stay in their community without relying on cars for transportation.

Walkability plays into the major placemaking movement many communities are striving to adopt.  The city of Roseville has taken on an initiative to create a pedestrian-accessible business district at the Utica and Gratiot junction.  The Roseville City Counsel passed an ordinance that creates a town center overlay district for this area which could feature landscaped streets, restaurants with outdoor seating and a mix of commercial and residential areas.  The council also passed other ordinances allowing for more sidewalks, less parking spots and more bicycle parking.

Both Roseville and Eastpointe were recently declared Development Ready Communities by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.  Last October, Eastpointe hosted a charrette where it invited students from Lawrence Tech and the George Brown College’s Institute without Boundaries program from Toronto to brainstorm redevelopment ideas for the city.  Of the many ideas that were generated, some were to turn the Stephens and Gratiot intersection into a walkable area of commerce and to add bike lanes on Kelly Road.

Bike lanes are soon to become a reality for the city of Warren.  Warren officials approved funding for a non-motorized pathway along Van Dyke Avenue that will include a dedicated lane, median enhancements, a decorative crosswalk and sidewalk ramps.  Once completed, there could be an opportunity to extend the path to other neighboring communities.  The goal is that the increased pedestrian and bike traffic will lead to more revenue for businesses in the area.

The next time you find yourself sitting in traffic in Macomb County, keep your eye out for some of the exciting new developments that are coming down the pike.

This article was also published in eMacomb Winter 2015.