Marc Secontine smiles as he recalls the day when, as a thirteen-year-old, he rode his bike through his Birmingham neighborhood’s streets toward his father’s then-downtown Birmingham store, The Varsity Shop.
“My dad had said, ‘Come on up, and I’ll buy you lunch!’ When I arrived, there were 150 cases of Adidas shoes for me to put away. By the time I’d finished, lunch turned out to be dinner, and my visit to the shop turned out to be a life-long career!”
Vince Secontine, Jr., started the shop in 1954, after retiring, at age 33, from teaching and coaching varsity football at Birmingham High School. Vince, who was also a former football player at the University of Michigan, created The Varsity Shop because he felt “southeastern Michigan needed a quality sporting goods store that provided both competitive prices and outstanding customer service.”
“And we’ve been able to continue those ideals for the past 64 years,” says Marc, who is the store’s managing partner, “and through our 2014 move to our current location at 623 South Adams, at Birmingham’s Adams Square Mall.”
When a boiler pipe broke in their building’s original location at Pierce and Merrill, where they’d been for 61 years, the family owners had planned to repair and reopen.
“But unexpected environmental factors and the costs of meeting ADA compliance prohibited the renovations,” Marc explains, “so we sold the building and have remained here at Adams Square.”
“We miss being downtown in our older, historic building,” Marc says, “but the parking situation is so much better here. Also, downtown shopping has changed. Instead of being leisurely, people now are ‘destination shopping,’ and our place is perfect for that.”
And, when former business neighbor and the owner of 220 Merrill offered Marc their wooden main door after their own re-construction project, the new location of The Varsity Shop was able to add and project a bit more of their former character.
“We’ve got lots of wood inside the store, too,” says Marc, “and locker room lights.”
“Sometimes I think of it this way: The old location was our Tiger Stadium, with its creaky basement, etc. And this new location is our Comerica Park. But my Dad would flip if he knew we had a big-screen T.V.!”
The store is divided into four main sections: High school products (varsity jackets; school sweatshirts, t-shirts, hats and caps, etc.), swimming wear and gear, college logo items, and a section for baseball and softball equipment and accessories.
“We have a family trade secret of breaking in baseball gloves, free with purchase. People from all over the country send us their gloves to break in, which takes two days and costs fifteen dollars.”
“We also have an in-store ‘home plate,’ where we can help analyze a player’s swing and size them for the proper bat,” says Marc who, as a former player, has a passion for baseball.
“One of our most important products,” Marc shares, “is our selection of Fox River socks. They have two different layers and wick moisture away. We ship them all over the country.”
“Towards the end of my dad’s life,” Marc continues, “my siblings and I were lucky to take turns spending evenings with him. One night, while my dad and I were watching a movie, he said, out of the blue and in his tough-coach way, ‘Hey! You’d better have those Fox River socks stocked on the counter!’”
“I looked at him and said, ‘Dad! You haven’t been in the store in over two years! We know the things we need to do!’”
“But, you know what? Every day, the staff makes sure those socks are stacked.”
Most of the staff members have been at The Varsity Shop for years.
“I’ve got one of the best crews we’ve ever had,” says Marc. “My people are kind, good-hearted, energetic, honest. My manager has been here for over twenty years. It’s a great family atmosphere.”
The Varsity Shop is a member of Sports, Inc., a wholesale buying group, and is able to provide prices that are competitive with chain sporting goods stores.
“But people know we’ve been in business for a long time; that we offer great value, service and quality merchandise; that we love our work,” Marc states.
“Where else can you get paid for talking about sports, wearing tennis shoes and team sweatshirts? And dealing with good staff and customers? All this, and more, that came with my first ‘free lunch.’”
The Varsity Shop
623 S. Adams Road, in Adams Square Mall
Birmingham, MI 48009
Troy resident Christopher Baines, a single dad, wanted to celebrate his daughter’s tenth birthday in a special way.
“I come from a big family,” Baines says. “We don’t have a party every year but, when Ella turned ten, I thought it would be a great time to get everyone together for a fun celebration.”
Since Baines occasionally took Ella and her friends to Troy Lanes (at Square Lake and John R.) for Saturday afternoon bowling, he watched, with great interest, as the business began major renovations.
“When, in January, I walked into the ‘new’ Troy Escape that had been Troy Lanes, I was totally amazed,” says Baines.
“It was like Disneyland! There is a fantastic arcade, Laser Tag, numerous alleys and – best of all – an attached restaurant with great homemade pizza and many other items: no more bad bowling alley food. And everything is sparkling clean.”
“I decided to have Ella’s birthday at Troy Escape, and it was the best party ever!” Troy Escape general manager, Ryan Pino, is also thrilled with the results of the renovation, which included costs of $1,000,000 for new equipment and $1,700,000 for construction.
“We’ve created a kind of social hub,” Pino says, “where people can come out and go bowling, play in the arcade or Helios-system laser tag den, and enjoy the restaurant – which we label as a ‘gastro pub.’”
The gastropub, Eats and Crafts, is run by executive chef Xavier Delossantos. “I’m excited to be creating a menu that’s different from what you’d expect at a family fun center,” says Chef Xavier, whose favorite current dish is the braised short ribs. “Everything we make is fresh, including the homemade sauce for our four-square, Detroit-style, deep-dish pizza.”
Shrimp-and-Andouille sausage pasta and the pulled pork Cuban sandwich are guest favorites, as are the 24 beers on tap and hand-crafted cocktails, made with garden-fresh herbs, spices, fruits and more.
“Our most popular drinks,” Pino says, “are the blackberry basil mojito and our margarita with hand-squeezed lime juice.”
“For our Saturday and Sunday brunches, which run from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and are not buffet-style,” adds Pino, “guests really enjoy our Bloody Mary bar with over 26 ingredients, our orange juice-and-champagne Mimosa towers, and our many omelet and sandwich options.”
Guests looking for a venue for a business meeting, special event — and even art or activity classes — also have many options.
“We have two rooms for events like birthday or bachelorette parties, baby and bridal showers and receptions,” says Pino.
“And what is really unique,” he shares, “is our V.I.P. area, with eight high-tech lanes and special laser light show, with couches and lounge, privacy and space.”
The V.I.P. area is adjacent to a luxuriously appointed “all-purpose” room that has been used for executive seminars; yoga, painting and dance classes; corporate breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings – and more.
“On March 2nd,” Pino says, “we will have had, for admission of five dollars, our first of several comedy shows. We have plans for all sorts of events in the future!”
“There’s nothing like this around,” says Pino. “There’s something for everybody. It’s a one-stop shop for just about any event or group.”
“The best thing about my job,” Pino says, “is watching how much fun everyone is having, from guests to staff. I look forward to coming to work. It’s a great atmosphere, with great people. I’ve got the best job in the world here at Troy Escape.”
1950 E. Square Lake Rd.
Troy, MI 48085
248-879- 8700 troyescape.com
Birmingham resident Carol Aubrey thought she couldn’t hear her new parish priest because he, unlike her previous pastor, chose to stand nearer to the congregation and didn’t use a microphone for his sermons.
“And then, when with my ladies’ club friends,” Aubrey says, “I couldn’t hear across the table or two seats down from me, and I knew something was wrong.”
“I saw an article in the local paper about Hinderliter Hearing Services and thought, ‘It’s right here, near me!’ So, I made an appointment for a hearing evaluation. Dr. Kristin Hinderliter was kind, thorough, and very smart. She and her staff are unbelievably efficient.”
“I went home with hearing aids for a two-week trial period and, after routine adjustments, have hearing aids that are great,” Aubrey says. “Dr. Kristin even made it possible for me to adjust them by using my cell phone! I’m so glad I went there to have my hearing evaluated. I’ve told my friends, ‘Just go! Have your hearing tested!’ You need to find out if you have a hearing loss!”
Hinderliter, owner of Hinderliter Hearing Services, agrees.
“It’s important for people to have a baseline audiological evaluation,” she says. “The sooner hearing loss is detected, the easier it is to take care of it.”
She adds, “If you’re asking people to repeat or you’re hearing mumbling, or have ringing in your ears, you might not realize you have a hearing loss. Hearing loss is something that nobody sees; it can be gradual. And it affects so many areas of life!”
It is now known that hearing loss can contribute to brain atrophy and dementia, as well as increased risk of falling, depression, decreased earning potential, and the breakdown – and even loss – of relationships, including marriage.
It’s a condition that affects over 48 million Americans.
Though most hearing loss is age-related (with adults aged 60-69 reporting the greatest amount), it can affect anyone at any age.
“When I was two,” says Hinderliter, “my mom took me to the doctor because I had a cold – and I was then diagnosed with hearing loss. It certainly explained why I often didn’t respond to Mom’s calls of ‘Kristin! Kristin!’”
The diagnosis also influenced Hinderliter’s decision to pursue audiology as her vocation. She became a Doctor of Audiology and began working in a Detroit non-profit for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, followed by co-owning a private audiology practice. A year ago, she opened Hinderliter Hearing Services in Birmingham, where she has become known for her compassionate service and expertise.
“For the first time,” Hinderliter says, “hearing aids are really good! They are comfortable and aesthetically pleasing, and they can be programmed and adjusted very easily.”
And, because of her own hearing loss, Hinderliter understands the frustration of her patients.
“I have an awesome staff,” says Hinderliter. “We all work together to make it a pleasant and comfortable experience.”
The doctor always recommends that a third party come to the appointment.
“It helps the patient,” she says, “to have a loved one there to understand and share information and to be able to hear a familiar voice when trying a hearing aid.”
Hinderliter is also able, upon certain diagnosis of hearing loss, to provide – free of charge – a Cap Tel phone system, which displays written captions of land line phone calls.
“There are many devices and options available to assist with hearing loss in addition to hearing aids,” Hinderliter says.
“It is so rewarding,” says Hinderliter, “to help a patient be able to hear conversations, the phone, the television, music. Though an aid doesn’t make things perfect, it provides a chance to improve hearing and prevent more loss, to avoid the related issue of loneliness, isolation, and withdrawal – and to help keep people connected to people.”
Hinderliter Hearing Services
751 Chestnut, Suite 205
Birmingham, MI 48009
Jeanne Boldt smiles as she strides energetically to her car after an early-morning workout at Troy’s Burn Boot Camp.
“Burn Boot Camp is amazing,” Boldt says. “It gets in your blood. I started last March, and I come here five days a week! In addition to the exercise, you develop strong relationships with the other women, and everyone is very encouraging.”
Head Trainer Kelly Matyniak and Owner Bianca Bahri
“All the women who come here say it is addicting,” says owner Bianca Bahri, who opened her franchise location one year ago in the Troy Pointe Plaza (located on the west side of Rochester Road, north of Big Beaver Road), adjacent to newly-opened Revive Juice Cafe — which Bahri also owns.
Bahri, who earned a business degree from Northwood University, is also a certified holistic health coach and a personal trainer.
“In co-ed gyms,” Bhari says, “I’d see the men using weights and strength training, while the women were mostly working on treadmills and cardio machines. There was total separation, like a grade school playground!”
She adds, “I wanted to have a place for women to work out, not just with yoga and Pilates, but more weightlifting and strength building. And here, we say: ‘I don’t use machines; I am one!’”
At Burn Boot Camp, women of all ages and fitness levels work out side-by-side.
“There’s no need to be afraid,” Bahri says. “This is a fun, comfortable and motivating place. We have women who are super-fit, but we also have women who’ve had knee replacements, some who are in their early seventies – even one who is 27-weeks pregnant.”
Diana Gipe, who is five months pregnant with her second child — and whose fitness success is posted on Burn Boot Camp’s “Transformation Wall’ and company website — enjoys the atmosphere of community. “I’ve been working out all my life,” Gipe says, “but what inspires me to continue to come here is the way we all kind of go through life together, working together at different levels. We all want to see each other succeed.”
Bahri also wants children to learn how important health, exercise and nutrition are.
“Burn Boot Camp is for women only. We have free child care. When the kids see their moms doing a camp workout, the kids say, ‘Mommy! I can do a push-up, too!’”
“And then,” Bahri adds, “they go next door to Revive Juice Cafe wanting wheatgrass shots instead of asking for candy and pop.”
Revive Juice Cafe Menu
Among its many smoothie, raw juice and French-press coffees, Revive offers a kids’ strawberry-banana smoothie called “Mommy, I want a ’moothie!”
“Little Sophia would always come in to Revive,” Bahri grins, “and say, ‘Mommy, I want a ‘moothie!’ So, we named that one for her.”
“Making women – and children — healthier and happier is amazing and worth the struggle of owning a business,” says Bahri, who was on the cover of last May’s Entrepreneur magazine. “The women say, ‘You’ve changed my life!’ You don’t hear that in a lot of businesses.”
“When you lose 50 pounds, like some of our clients do,” Bahri says, “it’s life-changing. It may take longer (than a severe diet), but we do it the right way. It has to be done correctly.”
With fourteen days free and membership that includes monthly, individual meetings on fitness and nutrition goals, as well as daily camps focusing on specific body areas or muscle groups and 45-minute boot camp workouts throughout the day, Burn Boot Camp visitors have the opportunity to make a program that fits their lifestyle.
“It’s a stress-relieving time,” Bahri says, “where you don’t have to think: 45 minutes where a busy college student, a professional, a mom, gets to ‘turn off’ and just focus on the trainer’s voice and on the workout. And, it’s a way to become ‘addicted’ to a healthier – and sustainable – lifestyle.”
Monica Nacianceno never had a Twinkie in her school lunch for dessert – or a Ding Dong, or a Ho-Ho.
She never had a Whoopie Pie or a Keebler cookie.
But every one of her classmates would have traded Monica their lunches for the treats she did have, and some of them begged to do so.
“There were nine of us,” says Monica, “and I’d awaken every morning to the smells of my mother’s baking. She was ahead of her time and made everything from scratch. She wouldn’t buy prepackaged foods because of all the additives.”
“Once,” Monica says, “my mother made the Twinkies I’d begged her for. They were the best ever!”
More than the other children, Monica loved to be in the kitchen. She made her first cake when she was ten.
“And I still haven’t stopped,” she beams.
Now owner of the Fox and Hounds Pastry Den in Troy’s Emerald Lakes Plaza on John R. at Square Lake Road, Monica was already making cakes for friends’ and family events by fifth and sixth grade.
“When I was seventeen,” she laughs, “I took four sheet cakes I’d made to our family reunion. What teenager does that?”
Monica grew up with relatives who were in the restaurant business.
“I would spend summers with them,” she says, “just to be able to work at the restaurant!”
“My very first real job was at Wendy’s. At age fifteen, they made me a shift leader and gave me a key.”
Later, Monica was also a manager at I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt in Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham.
After graduation, Monica would practice her driving skills on Woodward Avenue.
“I was not an eager driver,” she says. “I’d head north on Woodward to Long Lake and would turn around by the fascinating, castle-like building on the corner: the Fox and Hounds restaurant. I’ve always loved historical buildings.”
Years later, Monica – looking for a part-time job – began working there.
“As a guest for the restaurant’s very last dinner before they closed permanently,” Monica recalls, “I had an idea: the restaurant can be gone, and the building can be gone, but their desserts can still be here.”
And when she saw a “For Lease” sign in Troy’s Emerald Lakes Plaza – where she’d been coming for 30 years – she says, “a lightbulb just went on, and I knew ‘it’s time, now!’”
Monica, who’d been busy with her own dessert delivery business, was able to acquire the Fox and Hounds Pastry Den name, as well as the recipes for their beloved vanilla, chocolate and marble Celebration Cakes; their tortes and miniature pastries; and their signature buttercream.
And she has created — with a black-and-gold tin ceiling; the original “Fox and Hounds Pastry Den” wooden sign and their original, now-antique brass cash register; a meticulously painted, over-the-fireplace mural of a fox hunt; and a few sturdy, wooden tables and chairs – a true, comfy lair (with Wi-Fi) where customers can sit and enjoy coffee, tea, or hot chocolate and slices of buttercream cake or freshly baked scones, cookies, muffins, gluten-free Chocolate Decadent Brownies, croissants and quiches.
“We have the best buttercream ever! It’s not overly sweet. With a million buttercreams out there, not one is like ours,” Monica says. “It has a lot of butter, whipped a long time, and a high cream content.”
Monica’s daughter (also named Monica) works with her mom and recalls that, when they first opened, they would give samples of the buttercream to customers who were eager to compare it to the original Fox and Hounds’.
“They’d get on their phones,” says ‘Lil’Monica,’ and call their friends to say, ’Yes! It tastes the same: delicious!’”
She adds, “It’s all about tradition and carrying on the type of quality that many young people have never experienced. One of our customers brought in a photo of his Fox and Hounds wedding cake from 25 years ago. We were able to re-create it as a surprise for his wife’s 50th birthday.”
Owner Monica Nacianceno and her daughter, Lil’ Monica
“And now,” Monica says, “their younger generation orders special cakes from us for their own families.”
“Our clientele is so great,” Lil’ Monica says. “They come from all over to get their favorite dessert, and they appreciate our personal service.”
“We want to brighten peoples’ days,” says Monica, “and make them at home while we carry on some local history, right here in Troy — in our own, cozy, little castle.”