Often when someone takes over an established business, the first thing he or she does is add their own signature. But not Patty Weir. She wants everyone to know that her new store in Clawson is the same rare emporium of style, substance and diaphanous decor as they loved in Royal Oak: Haberman’s.
Look around and it’s all familiar — the signage, the fixtures, the bins, the walls decked in fancy buttons, the wedding and prom areas, the sophisticated mannequins draped in the latest fabrics, the multihued bolts of silk, satin, wool and cotton that line the aisles. In the rear, the home decorating department beckons with picked-for-you-designer special-order and quick-order fabrics.
All around the store, for your comfort, are chairs and benches covered in sumptuous, fabulous fabrics, all from Haberman’s, of course.
Even if you don’t sew — as many customers don’t — the shop has a long list of pros who will do the sewing for you. If you want to learn how, Haberman’s offers classes. For those who want ready-made draperies and blinds, there’s a department for that, too.
Perhaps the most beautiful thing about the new store is its personnel: You’ll be greeted and assisted by the same loyal, talented staffers who gave metro Detroit’s only independent fabric store such a fine edge over the years. Even the phone number and web address are the same. About the only difference is the new location and building, a little smaller than the previous one, but with tons of adjacent parking.
“People like it, so why change it?” says Weir. “They just want to come in and shop.”
Willie Mae Greenwood of Shelby Township is here today, holding several of her mom’s vintage outfits that she’s hoping to update with new trim. For one of the jackets, a 1960s-era cream-colored satin, she’s found some ostrich feather banding that looks fantastic on the collar and cuffs. She holds another band of gun-metal trim against another outfit that could add a subtle but chic pop to its muted pattern of aqua, gray and cream.
“I have no idea where I’m going to put it, but I’m going to put it on, some way,” says Greenwood, a Haberman’s shopper for the past 20-some years. This is her third visit to the new store since it opened in March, and she thinks “it kind of feels the same — just in another area.”
Across the store, Huntington Woods’ Joy Reade and her daughter Frances, visiting from Berkley, CA, are oohing and ahhing the designer fabrics. They have spotted a bolt by the hip fashion label Opening Ceremony, a “designer clothing brand extra,” as they call it, and are snapping up several yards.
“Frances makes all of her clothes — everything,” says her mom. They’ve been Haberman devotees for the last quarter-century. “We bought a sewing machine at the old store for Frances in ’99. They have such unique fabrics here — always something special, and they always have good help,” Joy says, adding: “It doesn’t feel like they’ve lost much with the move.”
It was fortunate after Toby and Sam Haberman decided to retire from the store that Sam’s parents opened back in 1958, that their long-time employee, Patty Weir, wanted to take it over. Patty knew and loved the store, had worked her way up the rungs for 30 years and felt the timing was right.
With lots of advice from the Habermans, and all those store fixtures from Royal Oak, Patty and her husband, Mark Weir, found the perfect site in Clawson and bought the building. Mark and his brother, John Weir, are real estate rehabbers and built out the store’s interior, including a full upper level that is ready for suitable tenants — say, a quilt shop, knit shop, dance studio or another creative pursuit. In all, the building is 14,000 square feet, 7,000 on each level.
“I couldn’t be happier for her,” says Toby, who felt a huge responsibility to the community to find someone to carry on. “There are only a handful of places in the United States with fabrics for high-end apparel and home decorating with an enormous price range and lots of styles.”
Patty Weir doesn’t take this responsibility lightly, nor does her staff, all of whom sew themselves, and all of whom stayed with the store during the transition between mid-November, when the Royal Oak store closed, through March, when the Clawson store opened. They even helped her set up the new shop.
“It’s a very dedicated staff,” says Toby. “They love what they do — and they love Patty.”
Carol Medford smiles as she recalls the time when, at the age of 46, her vision began to change.
“All of a sudden, the print of my morning newspaper was blurry. I found myself squinting and, of course, positioning the paper further and further from my eyes, but my arms are only so long!” she laughs.
“I’d always gotten regular eye exams and had contacts for nearsightedness, but I’d just moved to the Royal Oak area and did not yet have an eye doctor. My dad suggested I visit his optometrist, Dr. Ray Salerno.”
“When I went for my first visit, I felt like I was seeing an old friend,” Medford says. “When I shared with Dr. Salerno that I liked my contacts and didn’t want to have to fuss with reading glasses – because caring for three toddler grandchildren kept me too busy to keep track of glasses – he carefully fit me with mono-vision contact lenses that allowed me to see wonderfully, both far and near, with no glasses needed.”
In the newly remodeled Royal Oak office on Main Street between 11 Mile and 12 Mile Roads that he shares with Dr. David Chorney, Ray Salerno (OD Diplomate, American Board of Optometry) talks about his practice and his recent move to Royal Oak from his previous location in Bingham Farms.
“As independent optometrists, I love what we do,” Dr. Salerno explains. “We are able to get to know our patients and to take time with them. We correct vision with glasses and lenses of all types. We diagnose and treat minor pathologies and injuries. And, importantly, because we know our patients, we can detect changes in their general and visual health and make proper referrals to appropriate specialists.”
One of the tools that Dr. Salerno uses is the Optos retinal imaging camera, which provides a diagnostic map of the patient’s retina, the sensory layer in the back of the eye.
“When you take that picture, you can see if the patient has glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetes effects – and you can refer them to the proper neurologist, internist, or glaucoma or retinal specialist.”
“And here,” he adds, “we can prepare patients for that visit by explaining what the specialist might not have time to address.”
Another condition that the Optos detects is retinal detachment.
“It’s important for people to know that if they ever start to experience sudden ‘flashes’ and floaters, or loss of vision, retinal detachment may be occurring and immediate treatment is necessary,” Dr. Salerno says. “The Optos camera can confirm such a diagnosis.”
As a neighborhood practice, Dr. Chorney and Dr. Salerno are able to make other types of recommendations for patients, also.
“We are able to ask them, ‘What do you like to do?’ And they say, ‘I knit!’ or ‘I play golf,’ ‘I’m always on the computer,’ or ‘I play hockey.’ And we can provide the perfect glasses, lenses and eye care for them.”
“It’s such a thrill,” Dr. Salerno says, “to have patients who actually walk here for a visit from their homes and offices. Royal Oak is such a wonderful destination location. People can fit in a great lunch, dinner or shopping around their appointment.”
“And,” he adds, “We have free parking in the back, convenient metered parking right in front – and a team of the friendliest, hand-picked staff including a certified optician, Val Mason, as our office manager.”
“As independents who, in the wake of more department and even grocery stores offering vision centers with what we consider to be assembly line-type service,” says Dr. Salerno, “at Main Street Eye Care, we are glad to be here to serve this easily accessed area and its children, parents, and grandparents: our community — and our neighbors.”
Main Street Eye Care
817 N. Main Street
Royal Oak, MI 48067
A lot of crazy things can happen in a car wash. Just ask Bruce Milen or his son Jason Milen, second- and third-generation owners of Jax Kar Wash.
Jason & Bruce Milen, Owners of Jax Kar Wash
While they haven’t witnessed anything like the classic “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode — in which Larry David and Cheryl Hines get stuck in the malfunctioning car wash after she has just downed a dose of colon cleanser — the Milens have their own hilarious stories to laugh about.
Bruce recalls one woman who came in for full service.
“Our final guy put her in the car. She drove off and, unbeknownst to her, one of our guys was still in the back seat.”
Jason remembers one inebriated man who went through with his convertible top down.
They’ve also encountered bags of marijuana left in cars, interiors reeking of pot odor, the guy who laid a gun down on the counter when he was paying for his service (“the cashier freaked out,” he says), and another who left a loaded gun on the seat of the car (“we had to call the customer to get it out—we won’t touch them,” Jason says).
And then, says Bruce, there was the pet owner whose dog had just pooped on the floor, and she left the pile there for the attendants to deal with.
Just another day at Jax.
Effervescent cashier Rose Thompkins greets customers in Jax’s bustling waiting area in Birmingham with the big windows and the long racks that hold everything from candy bars to car mats. Air fresheners are big sellers. The most popular scent among the 25 or so types Jax sells, according to Thompkins, is Little Tree’s Black Ice.
“Definitely Black Ice,” a customer at the register agrees. “It’s good and neutral.”
Here you can also find cell phone accessories, auto wax, towels and cold drinks. Jason says the front stuff isn’t a big part of the business, it’s just for customer convenience.
Marty Weissman watches the steam and suds through the window, waiting for his Mercedes SUV to emerge from the conveyor blower.
“I’ve been coming here for 10 years,” Weissman says, “and this place ranks better than most for the service and the way you can get in and out quickly.”
Weissman, who lives a few blocks from the car wash, is a member of Jax’s Unlimited Club Plan, for which he pays $35 a month. That gives him up to twice-daily full-service (inside and out) washings and discounts on special services, detailing and merchandise. Today, a radio frequency identification reader (RFID) scanned the FastPass sticker at the bottom of his rear windshield after he entered the car wash, without having to hand someone cash — moving things along even more swiftly.
Somewhere, Jack Milen, who founded Jax in 1953 at the corner of Six Mile and Meyers in Detroit, is smiling at the innovations his son Bruce, 70, and grandson Jason, 48, have implemented since his passing in 2003: The RFID scanner; the super-suds, eco-friendly detergents; the ability to use credit cards for monthly payments (Jax had a Club Plan starting in 1956, but because credit cards had not been invented, customers had to pay a yearly fee up front); and the addition of the exterior-only option, so customers can stay in their cars.
“It’s less expensive and appeals to a whole different market,” says Jason.
Over 65 years, the Jax motto, “always put the customer first,” has served the company well, although there was a short, regrettable period when that wasn’t the case: In 1998, the family sold the business to a national chain, which ignored the customer and tried but failed to take the company public. Bruce bought Jax back in 2001, and it has stayed on track ever since. Bruce and Jason both run it together. Bruce does day-to-day operations. Jason does marketing and is in charge of social media.
Jason remembers working for Bruce every Sunday when he was 8 or 9 years old.
“I’d have to clean all the shelves in the lobby — I got a dollar,” he recalls. Starting at age 14, he learned every aspect of the business and watched it grow. Jax currently boasts eight locations in Oakland County and another, the newest, in Macomb County. Bruce says further expansions are planned.
“I love the business,” Jason says. “I love our great customers and our great team members—some have been here 20 years.” In all, there are 300 full-time team members and 200 more part-timers.
The biggest challenge the Milens face are the bottlenecks: The days when nobody comes in, and then all of a sudden six cars are there at the same time for full service. Jax tries to make the experience 25 minutes or less, but when people have to wait, they get mad and post nasty reviews on social media.
“We’re not perfect, but we try to be,” says Jason. “We have a quality guarantee, so we ask that if somebody didn’t have a perfect experience to tell us about it and let us fix it instead of going away mad and posting a bad review on the Internet.”
He and his staff monitor all of the social media comments, good and bad, and he responds to any complaints within one working day. His attendants provide a checklist to every car to review after service, and he hopes people take a look before they leave.
“We’re in the people business,” he says. “We just happen to wash cars.”
Some Fun Jax Facts
Since 1953, Jax has washed millions of cars. At least.
All that water and dirt that rolls off your car is separated by a system that sends the water to a sewage treatment plant to be neutralized, while the dirt falls into a pit that gets carted away.
The soaps are eco-friendly, designed to break down before the blower hits the car at the end of the cycle.
Despite summer being a big season for car washing, winter is by far Jax’s busiest time because of all the road salt.
A full-service wash takes seven team members: two to vacuum, two to drive, and three to towel dry. When it’s busy, Jax employs up to 20 team members at a time.
The worst cleaning mess is vomit; biohazard suits and goggles have to be worn. That goes for blood, often present when cop cars are brought in.
34745 Woodward Ave.
Birmingham, MI 48009
27054 Woodward Ave.
Royal Oak, MI 48067
Phone: (248) 547-3450
2835 W. Maple Rd.
Troy, MI 48084
Rochester Hills, Southfield (Telegraph Rd., Southfield Rd.), West Bloomfield, Auburn Hills and Clinton Township
When master plumber Raymond Oatman, owner of A-OK Plumbing, Inc., in Plymouth, received his first letter from the IRS stating that he owed over $150,000 in back taxes, he sought help from three different tax professionals to resolve his problem.
“None of those accountants came up with any solutions, and I was getting letters from the IRS saying they were going to seize my house, my vehicles, my business. My life was on hold. It was collapsed,” Oatman says.
The recession of the early 2000s had challenged the nature of small businesses, including Oatman’s.
“The industry changed,” Oatman says, “and I was losing money.”
“Tax problems can originate in many different forms. It could be a divorce, a bankruptcy, a loss of job, a failed business,” says Mike Franskoviak, certified public accountant, and president and chief executive officer of Franskoviak Tax Solutions in Troy.
“One out of twelve American taxpayers has serious tax problems,” he says, “and that includes anybody who owes the IRS over $20,000, has two or more years of unpaid taxes, is being audited or is facing the threat of property liens or seizures.”
“When Raymond Oatman came to see me, we found an offer in compromise and resolution with the IRS. Raymond owed about $150,000 in back payroll taxes, and we settled it for $8,500. I thought that was a pretty good tax deal.”
Oatman says, “I have never been to an accountant before Franskoviak Tax Solutions who used direct phone contact for ongoing negotiation: true interaction! Then we didn’t have to wait weeks for each letter, etc. I’d been working with those previous three accountants for seven or eight years!”
“By the way,” Oatman adds, “I owed the state $110,000, and Mike settled that for $1,600.”
Oatman has been able to rebuild and expand his business, and it is flourishing.
my taxes on time and I hope,” he says, chuckling, “to never have to deal with the IRS that way again!”
Franskoviak, who received his graduate degree at Eastern Michigan University and his master’s degree from Colorado State University, and has worked as a tax manager for several firms (including Deloitte Touche in Denver, PricewaterhouseCoopers in Chicago, United Artists Communications in Denver, Volkswagen in Auburn Hills) says, “I was about five years into my CPA business when I noticed how many clients were getting tax notices.”
“It so happens,” he adds, “that I received a flyer for a seminar in Denver teaching CPAs, attorneys and enrolled agents how to best solve tax issues, so I attended.”
“The first day of the seminar,” continues Franskoviak, “I was enthralled and ecstatic to learn more of how to solve clients’ problems – and I made the complete commitment and joined the American Society of Tax Problem Solvers.”
In 1996, he opened Franskoviak Tax Solutions in Troy.
“We are a small, hands-on firm,” Franskoviak explains. “Unlike firms who compete against us, we have no high employee turnover. We have consistency in service and are excellent with communication. “
“The biggest complaint against our competitors is from clients who feel like they are a number or are ignored. We return every phone call within 24 hours.”
In addition to specialty tax services, Franskoviak provides many other accounting and tax services for individuals and businesses, including: preparation of business and personal taxes, tax planning and consultation, tax-favored retirement and financial planning, financial statements for business budgeting and loans, bookkeeping and payroll services.
“For small businesses – those making under five million annually – we are a one-stop shop,” says Franskoviak.
One of the services he is offering to established and new clients is explanation of the impact of the new Tax Law of 2017.
“For small businesses, if you operate a C Corporation, your top tax rate will decrease from 35 to 21 percent. If you run an S Corporation, you are allowed to take a deduction equal to 20 percent of your business net profits from your taxable income,” he says.
“For regular taxpayers, there are changes, too,” he continues. “It’s wise to check your withholdings to make sure they’ve been adjusted properly. On their website, the IRS has a tax withholdings calculator.”
“It’s important for people to see their tax advisor. Or, come to see us,” Franskoviak says. “Let’s not wait until next April, especially people who own a small business. Their changes will be dramatic. Most of the time it will be favorable – but not always.”
Meanwhile, Franskoviak and his staff continue to bring “dramatic and favorable” solutions to their clients who are faced with serious tax problems.
“Sometimes I feel like a social worker,” Franskoviak shares. “People meet with me. We give them hope. We give them a roadmap to the resolution of their problem.”
“And,” he says, “what we always hear after our first consultation is, ‘I feel better already.’”