Local Business News Executive Editor Glenn Gilbert asked Constance Logan to address issues affecting small businesses. Logan is the district director of the Small Business Administration in Michigan. Here are excerpts from her responses.
Glenn Gilbert, Local Business News Executive Editor
GILBERT (LBN): In his announcement of Small Business Week (April 29 to May 5) President Trump said the country’s 30 million small businesses employ nearly 58 million Americans — 48 percent of the labor force, and that each year, small businesses create two-out-of-three net new, private-sector jobs in the United States. Is this a trend that is sustainable and where will this leave us 10 years from now?
LOGAN (SBA): The U.S. Small Business Administration surely hopes the current trend in the economy is sustainable. SBA’s Office of Advocacy statistics show that small businesses are the driving force in our economy. Multiple economic indicators consistently signaled a strengthening U.S. economy in 2017. In the third quarter, the economy grew at an annual rate of 3.4 percent, and the unemployment rate is down. This trend seems to be continuing into 2018. The United States is home to 30.2 million small businesses which employ 58.9 million people, or 47.5 percent of the nation’s private-sector workforce. The three industries with the most small business employment are: 1) health care and social assistance; 2) accommodation and food services; and (3) retail trade. Therefore, if the current trends continue, we hope that these small businesses grow into large businesses and more small businesses develop as a result.
GILBERT (LBN): When we talk about the necessity of supporting small businesses, does this mean the public should support so-called Main Street retailers instead of shopping online?
Constance Logan, District Director of the Small Business Administration
LOGAN (SBA): When it comes to supporting small businesses, we don’t encourage one avenue of how the public shops over the other. In fact, many of the small retailers we help also have an online presence.
GILBERT (LBN): The president has been very negative, for example, toward Amazon. He claims Amazon has an unfair advantage over traditional retailers? Is he correct?
LOGAN (SBA): As the only independent voice of small business, SBA certainly advocates for supporting small businesses. Our number one focus is on guiding small businesses on the right path to success with resources and advice. Your question is an important one to independent retailers; unfortunately, we don’t comment on these issues at the district level.
GILBERT (LBN): How do prices of merchandise of bricks-and-mortar retailers compare to online shopping?
Or perhaps I am misunderstanding this and the question should rather be … to what extent should Main Street retailers take advantage of online functions? Can you give examples?
LOGAN (SBA): I think the best answer to that question is for Main Street retailers to work with our certified business consultants to do an analysis of their competitive strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan that best incorporates e-commerce with brick and mortar sales. Our consultants do a great job in helping small businesses create a marketing strategy by incorporating market research into the plan. They can conduct a search engine optimization or SEO on the business’ website and identify what’s working and what needs improvement. These services are all free through the SBA funded Small Business Development Centers located across the state. The SBA consulting services help small businesses compete at a local, national, or global scale and this is how we are able to help small businesses meet the needs of their customers, regardless if is it at the Main Street retail shop or online level.
GILBERT (LBN): Can you give some concrete examples of why and how the public should and can support community businesses?
LOGAN (SBA): The public should support community businesses by patronizing establishments in their neighborhood because it’s good for the local economy. Viable small businesses are job creators and the cornerstone of healthy communities. We have 870,301 small businesses in Michigan. Those small businesses employ 1.8 million and created 66,240 net new jobs. Various studies such as the one by the American Independent Business Alliance show that when you shop local, each dollar you spend at independent businesses returns three times more money to the local economy than one dollar spent at a chain. This study also suggests that shopping local creates jobs and opportunities, increases wealth of residents, creates a healthier environment, lowers taxes and enhances local democracy. This information can be found at https://www.amiba.net/resources/localhero/. Take for example Great Lakes Health in Jackson. William and Cheri Deary started this company in 1994 with a bank loan guaranteed by the SBA. Great Lakes Caring grew to a company with more than 2,600 employees in nine states, with 25 offices, serving over 9,000 people a day. The Dearys sold the company in 2016. I’m very proud that the SBA was there to help them in the beginning stages. And there are so many stories just like this. This is why the public needs to support community businesses.
GILBERT (LBN): Do you have anything to say about the results of the recently completed Small Business Week?
I have reviewed the resources available on SBA’s website, including the very helpful and comprehensive Michigan Small Business Resource Guide (https://www.sba.gov/offices/district/mi/detroit) But I can imagine this remains a maze to the average person. Can you simplify the steps a person dreaming of starting a small business should follow — how to find property, how to learn about financing, etc.?
LOGAN (SBA): Well first, National Small Business Week was a phenomenal success, especially here in Michigan. The SBA Michigan district presented the 2018 Michigan Small Business awards at the 14th Annual Michigan Celebrates Small Business event in Lansing on May 3rd. The SBA has been honoring the contributions of small businesses and entrepreneurs since 1963!
In addition to that event, the SBA Michigan district office kicked off National Small Business Week by participating in the 26th Annual Association for Enterprise Opportunities (AEO) 2018 National Microbusiness Conference in Detroit that same week. More than 600 executives, decision-makers, microfinance practitioners, advocates, policymakers, small business advisors, educators, funders, investors, fintech influentials and entrepreneurs from across the nation gathered here to share, network and collaborate on ways to move Main Street forward through inclusion, innovation and investment. I also took part in the 1st Annual State of Small Business in Michigan Live Chat on Facebook with the Small Business Association of Michigan. Rob Fowler, SBAM President & CEO and I had a lively and spirited discussion highlighting small businesses in Michigan as well as sharing what opportunities are coming from SBA and SBAM that small business owners and entrepreneurs can look forward to.
Our resource guide and website can be overwhelming which is why we are in the middle of a rebranding and messaging campaign that we hope will generate a more customer centric approach. With the rebrand, our goal is to make it easier to access information on how to start, grow, expand and recover. The 10 steps to start a business are:
Conduct market research
Write your business plan
Fund your business
Pick your business location
Choose a business structure
Choose your business name
Register your business
Get federal and state tax IDs
Apply for licenses and permits
Open a business bank account
Our website and resource guide go more in-depth on the 10 steps while providing additional resources such as free counseling services and training for individuals interested in starting their own business.
GILBERT (LBN): I assume virtually all small businesses require loans. What percentage of small businesses have benefitted from SBA loans? What other business financing do banks typically offer? Can the average person learn about SBA financing by going to his or her local bank? Are banks required to work with the SBA in terms of financing?
LOGAN (SBA): Most startup companies do require capital but many obtain it from friends and family or often by using credit cards. Loans to new businesses are typically hard to get because they have inherent risk, but by using the SBA guaranty programs, lenders can mitigate that risk. So we guarantee many loans to launch new businesses and create jobs. In fiscal year 2017, the Michigan district office supported 2,700 loans totaling $1.087 billion, a 15.39 percent increase in loan dollar volume over the same time period last year. This reflects the highest level of SBA lending ever in Michigan and is a testament to its work with Michigan lenders to continue supporting small businesses. Our extensive outreach and collaboration with community organizations and lenders in the state has contributed to loan increases to minority entrepreneurs.
Included in the $1 billion is more than $101 million in SBA-approved loans to woman-owned small businesses, $26.9 million in loans allocated to veterans, and nearly $116 million to minority-owned small businesses (a 14.88 percent increase over last year).
SBA lending in 2018 continues to be strong. With 1,311 7(a) loans through March, the Michigan district is currently the second highest volume SBA district in the country. Overall SBA lending is up 7.3 percent year to date.
Flipside Records in Clawson is a trip back to Hippie Detroit time, somewhat reminiscent of Plum Street, with its chartreuse walls and incense burners.
Todd Fundaro, Owner
If you came of age in the ’70s, picture the Trading Post, another long-gone Hippie haven on Woodward and 10 Mile.
For those much younger, it’s your Boomer parents’ basement, minus the parents — just the tunes and the ambiance, plus lots of new music your folks never heard of.
“You never know what you’ll see in here,” says Todd Fundaro, Flipside’s owner, who proclaims you’ll find “anything I can legally sell and make money on.”
Royal Oak’s Frank Wilder, a self-proclaimed movie freak, stands in front of the store’s “Death of Digital Sale” sign, leafing furtively through the DVDs.
“I usually stop in every couple of weeks,” Wilder says. “It takes me about 15 minutes to see if there’s anything I want.”
Another regular customer, Jim Morrissey from Clarkston, is rummaging around in the “Audiophile” section of original master recordings and says he owns a $30,000 stereo system that fills one wall of his house. He prefers LPs to CDs. “Mostly you can find things here that you can’t get anywhere else,” he says.
Today, Morrissey brought in some stereo equipment that he hopes to sell to Fundaro, who features a whole section up front with some very good deals on used models, and also new equipment such as turntables and accessories. Under $200 for a used Bang + Olufsen turntable, for example (“but the needle needs replacing and that costs $150,” the store owner explains).
Fundaro, who grew up in Ferndale, started working with his father, Frank, when he was a teenager. Frank and a partner sold coins, stamps and other collectibles in a shop at 10 Mile and Coolidge in Oak Park. Then the market fell out, and they needed something else to do. That was 1980.
“We tried used books,” Fundaro recalls, then added used records, competing with the only other place around at the time, Sam’s Jams in Ferndale. When Frank’s partner split in 1983, he and Todd moved to Clawson, putting Flipside on the must-browse Oakland County circuit ever since. Frank passed away in 2012, and Todd has carried on with a small staff and an enormous inventory. Like maybe half a million things under one roof. Nobody knows for sure.
“We sell, buy and trade here,” says Fundaro, now 55. “A lot of our super expensive vinyl we sell online. We just bought a huge bunch of Kate Bush LPs from the ‘80s and ‘90s. We bought another collection recently of 4,000 LPs and 6,000 CDs, and way back in the day, we bought a 10,000-LP collection.”
Younger kids come in and buy older LPs, music that their parents turned them onto, “but mostly they’re buying the newer stuff, which is very expensive,” Fundaro says. “We used to buy new records when we were young for $8.99. Now they buy three new albums and it’s $70 to $100.”
But LPs are just some of the inventory here.
Look up, and a pair of silver Led Zeppelin blimps hang above, along with other musical ephemera. Look around and there are video games and accessories, toys, posters, band-related T-shirts, head-shop stuff, 45s, books, board games and weird toys—unlikely combos of mixed heads and torsos (a monkey face on a fuzzy Mickey Mouse, for example) created by local artist Gwen Joy.
Up near the front counter of this cavernous, 3,300-square-foot outpost, find Beatles memorabilia, a roll of Trump toilet paper, a rack of Hot Wheels (a steal at $2.99 each), “Mystery Bags” with 10 CDs for $5, Indy-label artists, and new and used music in nearly every form and genre, from Ambient to Zydeco.
Well, not everything, at least not on this visit. Toward the front of the store, another regular, Denis Nobliski, is having no luck finding a copy of the “Fragile” album by Yes.
“I originally bought it in the ‘70s, says the Rochester Hills resident, who, like Morrissey, says he favors LPs over CDs, adding, “Albums just blow the CDs away.”
Flipside’s Fundaro knows that truth: Today, vinyl, which fills a large percentage of the racks in his store, is gold. LPs survived the onset of 8-tracks, tapes, CDs, MP3s and streaming, and so has Flipside, now in its 35th year. Flipside just received a plaque from the City of Clawson to commemorate the event.
And if it weren’t for the fact that Clawson’s main intersection is ripped to shreds, traffic is down to one lane and miserable, and anybody’s GPS will take them in circles to find parking near his store, on 14 Mile Rd., just east of Main, Fundaro would be celebrating.
Instead, he has to wait until at least the end of June until the mess on the streets clears out and sales can get back to normal.
“We’re down 40 percent since the construction began (in April), says Fundaro. “Everyone around here has the same problem.”
But the good news: When construction’s over, summer will be in full swing, Clawson’s streets will be beautiful, and Flipside can break out some cake and candles. Let the summer begin.
41 E. 14 Mile Road
Clawson, Michigan 48317
(Hint: Park in the rear of the store or in the nearby Ace Hardware lot.)
It’s a perfect 76 degrees on a stellar blue-sky afternoon at the Royal Oak Golf Center. The air is sweet with the smell of new-mown grass and the constant sound of range balls being whacked, and pals Matt Song of Franklin and John Calso of West Bloomfield are geeked about the new Power Tee system they’re trying out.
Unique to Michigan, Power Tee offers up to 24 different adjustable-height settings. Load a basket of balls into the lower hopper, press a button on the console, which raises the tee, then take a whack. To readjust, hit another button and watch it move to the height you desire.
It’s the first time Song and Calso, who call themselves “rising juniors” at the University of Michigan, have visited the center. They’ve been playing for the last hour with a jumbo basket of balls. “He’s winning,” says Song.
“I’m surprised to see new technology here,” says Calso, happily, and somewhat in awe. “The sensor knows if you hit the ball or not.”
For decades, throngs of golfers have flocked to this verdant corner near 13 Mile and Coolidge to sharpen their game and take in some fresh air. The vast driving range and practice facility, which dates back to the 1950s and is owned by the City of Royal Oak, has long been an oasis in the middle of one of the busiest sections of North Woodward, a beloved place to sneak in some golf at lunchtime, get in a golf fix in a hurry after work, or take the kids for some leisurely mini-golf on a summer afternoon.
But those who haven’t been here in awhile are in for a treat. After a $1.5-million renovation and upgrades throughout, the 20-acre/ 250-yard-deep golf center is all bright, shiny and, with its automated ball-teeing system called Power Tee, techie enough to tantalize the most jaded Millennial. Many seniors like Power Tee because there’s no bending, no loss of grip on their clubs, just exhilarating fun.
Down the row of practice stalls are Ray and Anne-Marie Eklund of Beverly Hills, who have been coming to the center for 30 years. They’re impressed with the transformation.
“The whole facility is so much nicer,” Ray says. His wife adds: “We’ve seen all the changes and upgrades, and this is the best place for all kinds of weather.” She recently had back surgery and is taking lessons at the center to get her swing back. “The pros are great here,” she says.
For chilly days and evenings, the center added 33 covered and heated tees, making year-round driving practice a reality, one of the aims of the expansion. The new stalls are also equipped with fans for summer. In all there are 87 tee boxes, including open-air.
“Basically you can practice every shot here that you can do on a golf course—full swing, short game and putting,” says Pulice, who has been in love with all things golf since he was a young lad. “It’s kind of a cult,” he laughs.
Beyond the sheer joy of playing, it’s all about learning the game here, with three PGA golf pros to hone the skills of beginners on up via groups, camps, clinics, hour or half-hour lessons. There are 32 other employees on staff, plus a well-respected repair shop to keep equipment in shape.
Walking around the facility with Glenn Pulice, the center’s general manager and PGA professional, he points out the just-hung directional signage and the Adventure Golf area, with newly renovated “mountains,” a waterfall and carpets for mini-golf, all redone by Big Sky Miniature Golf out of Wyoming.
“We adjusted the golf holes together to make the entire golf course more fun and playable,” says Pulice. Krieger Klatt Architects and Ronnisch Construction Group, both of Royal Oak, oversaw the entire project. This area is where families or couples can enjoy a fun afternoon or date-night under the stars, and indeed they do; customers here range in age from three to 95, according to Pulice.
Thanks to the recent expansion, it’s also a fine place to party, whether celebrating a birthday, corporate event or any other kind of soiree.
“We tore down three small buildings to create a new 1,400-square-foot pavilion, adjacent to the 2,400-square-foot mini-golf complex. It’s a great event space,” Pulice says, which can accommodate anywhere from five to 200 people. “We cater the bigger events,” he adds, “and Tania’s Pizza (Royal Oak) helps us out with the rest.”
There’s also an 800-square-foot tent for overflow and Michigan’s unpredictable weather. A small concession area is nearby and also is upgrading the entire concessions menu.
Watch for more improvements as the season unfolds. There’s something here for everyone, and a good time is guaranteed for all.
In 1949, Harry S. Truman was sworn in as president and unveiled his Fair Deal program; the first Emmy awards were presented; the first Volkswagen car was brought to the U.S. and sold; world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis retired; Israel was admitted to the United Nations; Hopalong Cassidy, the first television western, aired – and The Barber Pole barber shop opened in Birmingham, Michigan.
Now in its 70th year, The Barber Pole is Birmingham’s oldest, still-operating business.
And every Monday through Saturday, from morning until night, men of all ages and from various locations and walks of life gather at that long-standing shop (now owned by Stephen Trachsel) for haircuts, straight razor shaves, beard trims, shoe shines and an atmosphere that hasn’t changed much at all through seven decades and three generations of owners.
Opened by Max and Marie Ege, The Barber Pole was eventually run by their son Keith until his death in 1997. Keith’s wife, Helen, then managed the shop until their daughter, Sue Ege White, took ownership in 1999.
In 2007, Sue sold The Barber Pole to Stephen, one of its barbers.
“I originally started barbering because of my ministry,” says Stephen, who is also the senior pastor of Grace Apostolic Church at 700 E. Elmwood in Clawson. “I knew, from the time I was thirteen, that I was called into ministry and was looking for a job that was flexible and would allow me to still fulfill my church and community duties.”
“When I was in bible school,” Stephen recounts, “a guy in our dorm would cut peoples’ hair and I thought, ‘That seems like a good idea!’”
Owner Stephen Trachsel
“I went to Meijer,” Stephen chuckles, “and bought a haircutting kit, and it had an instructional video. For a year, I cut hair for friends in my parents’ home and then, in 1999, I went to Barber school.”
After getting engaged and then married to his wife, Dana, Stephen began working at The Barber Pole in 2001.
“It’s such a great place to work and visit,” Stephen says. “The other barbers are fantastic people and extremely skilled. And as a barber here, I found myself getting many ideas for the business. I was blessed to be able to become its owner in 2007.”
One of the first things Stephen did as new owner was to extend The Barber Pole’s hours.
“We’d been closed on Mondays,” he says, “but recognized the need to be open. We also extended Saturday’s closing hours from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. And we installed a flat-screen T.V.”
“But essentially,” he says, “nothing else has changed, and we are still the old-fashioned, downtown barber shop where people stop in to talk, grab a haircut, shoe shine or beard trim, maybe play a game of checkers, and feel very comfortable.”
The antique cash register clangs as the drawer opens and closes with each transaction, and some pedestrians wave to the customers and barbers they know as they pass by.
Burt Bryson, a local businessman walking by, recognizes a friend who is just about to have his face wrapped in hot, white towels in preparation for a beard trim by barber Ryan Alsup. Bryson enters the shop, high-fives his smiling friend and decides to have his own hair cut and beard trimmed.
“That’s what I like about working here,” says Alsup, who has been at The Barber Pole for eleven years. “It’s a great area with great people.”
“And,” he adds, “you should see this place when we are having a groomsmen’s shave party, when every chair has a guy with his face slathered with pre-shave lotion or wrapped in hot towels, getting their shaves for a wedding.”
Michael Sparks, from Bloomfield Hills, has been coming to The Barber Pole for over ten years, and he often brings his twelve-year-old son with him for a haircut.
“They all do a great job,” Sparks says. “The haircuts are good, and the experience is even better.”
“I have been to a salon, but the feeling was more uptight, like being on display. Here,” he explains, “it’s very comfortable and enjoyable.”
Sparks, sitting in a red leather barber chair, smiles as Stephen completes his haircut.
In March of 2017, Stephen retired from full-time barbering but, on the last Thursday of each month, he sees his regular customers from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.
“My congregation at Grace Apostolic Church is growing,” Stephen explains. “And the Clawson Food Pantry that I separately run has taken off and is now feeding between 80-100 families per month. I feel very lucky to be able to pastor my church and be very involved in my hometown Clawson community – and to be employing seven full-time barbers here.”
Stephen, the son and grandson of ministers, brings his own eleven-year-old son Lincoln, the oldest of his three children, to the shop on Saturdays.
“Lincoln cleans up, gets pop and food for the barbers, and helps take care of things. We don’t believe in child labor laws,” Stephen laughs.
And, with Stephen’s encouragement, a 21-year-old member of his church is attending barber school.
“We’re very happy here and doing everything we can to make sure that The Barber Pole can be here for another 70 years.”
The Barber Pole
164 S. Old Woodward
Birmingham, MI 48009
“It’s been a journey to get here, but we’ve arrived, and here we are,” said St. Croix Shop manager Victoria Knight at the Friday, May 4, soft opening their new, permanent location at 268 W. Maple Road in Birmingham, just a couple of doors east of where their temporary, ‘pop-up’ shop had been.
“We’re in an Albert Kahn historic building that had once been a bank and, with the full support of our corporate, property-owner’s, contractor’s, and city of Birmingham’s crews, we’ve come full circle as part of this community’s evolution, now serving clients – many of whom are bankers and businessmen, themselves – and embracing all of Birmingham.”