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
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
Soon after Rowan Daugherty began public school, it was evident that it was not a good fit for her.
“Rowan, who is smart and verbal, was given several labels of dysfunction,” says her mom, Stephanie Daugherty, “and her confidence was shot. She was becoming a different kid.…When my second daughter, Daphne, who treasures books, started school, she was dealing with some challenges when it came to reading and executive neurological function.”
“We knew about Eton,” Daugherty continued, “but my husband and I were afraid of the cost – until we went to an Open House, where we learned we were not alone – and we made it happen. Eton Academy and The Eton Approach have done nothing short of changing our lives.”
Eton Academy, on Melton Rd. near W. 14 Mile Rd. in Birmingham, was founded in 1986 as a full-curriculum, independent, private school for students with learning differences and has over 200 students in grades 1-12.
Pete Pullen, Head of School, describes The Eton Approach as “the culmination of 30 years of teaching students who learn differently.”
“It takes the science, the research, and our successful experiences,” Pullen explains, “for a systemized approach to consistently delivering direct, explicit and multi-sensory instruction.”
“I’m a big cheerleader for Eton Academy and The Eton Approach,” says Daugherty. “Now, a couple of years later, Rowan (now ten) and Daphne (now seven) are thriving. In the past year, Daphne has improved from being able to read five words to 130 words: a 5.5th-grade reading level! And Rowan has blossomed. She is confident, meeting her goals and making new ones.”
“The teachers call, they communicate, they talk to outside therapists,” Daugherty continues. “The girls are really comfortable there, and so am I. Learning is no longer a battle. When I pick them up and ask about their day, they now say, ‘Awesome! Amazing!’ They are being taught how to learn and are given tools that will last their lifetimes.”
Daugherty describes Rowan’s first day at Eton Academy. “Rowan was upset upon arriving and did not want to stay. Mr. Pullen approached and offered to take her for a walk around the school. She took his hand and – though I don’t know what they talked about – when they returned, she was absolutely fine.”
Pullen smiles as he recalls that walk – and his own path to becoming Eton Academy’s Head of School.
“I know it sounds funny,” he says, “but I knew I wanted to be a school principal from the time I was six or seven years old.”
“I was inspired by Dr. Walker, our principal at Mary D. Mitchell School in Ann Arbor,” Pullen says. “He was the kindest, gentlest man I ever met, and he was always helping children.”
After attending Ann Arbor’s Greenhills School, Pullen returned there, while working on his degree at the University of Michigan, to tutor and coach basketball.
“Later,” Pullen says, “the opportunity was presented to teach middle school at Greenhills, so that’s where I began. And when I was there, I thought, ‘This is how schools should teach.’ It left an indelible mark on my philosophy.”
“I then took a detour and coached college basketball for two years at Eastern Michigan University and realized that my true passion is teaching. Though,” he adds, grinning, “I love basketball!”
Pullen then taught and became Assistant Head of School at Detroit’s Friends School and was also Head of School at Herlong Cathedral School before coming to Eton, where he has been for fifteen years.
And Pullen, as well as Eton’s teachers (and the specialists who continually teach those teachers), support staff, and board of trustees, sustain a place where children with learning challenges, and their families, find hope.
It’s a place where each student who walks through their doors is seen as a unique, growing child with amazing abilities, unlimited potential and discoverable ways of acquiring skills, knowledge, self-awareness; where science, compassion and dedication create a community where all can thrive, where all can succeed.
“We are a resource,” says Pullen, “for a student, a person, your child, who is struggling to learn. Everyone here is incredibly committed and passionate. A call to us may be helpful and, even though the school might not be your child’s ultimate home, we also extend tutoring, our learning center, our summer program. Our goal is to help as many students and families as we can, moving them from frustration to flourishing.”
1755 Melton Rd.
Birmingham, MI 48009
The décor in Dr. Scott Meldrum’s Birmingham dental office is clean, comfortable, and untouched by a decorator since the practice moved from West McNichols in Detroit in 1973. There is no television set in the waiting room. The office doesn’t have an internet connection. And eighty-year-old Norma Thurlow, the receptionist since 1957, administers the practice with a huge ledger-style appointment book and an electric typewriter.
This old school approach is not a musty tradition, but an intentional focus on what is most important and valuable to Meldrum’s patients. This, for Meldrum, is a relationship with his patients that makes them feel safe and comfortable. And it’s about providing highly skilled, state-of-the-art care, without pain, and without unnecessary procedures.
“The number one thing that makes any dental office successful is the dentist,” Meldrum says. “And the number two thing is the employees. It’s about people liking people.”
This starts at the front desk, where Thurlow greets each one of the practice’s 1,500 regular patients personally, including children who represent the fifth generation of their families to be treated there.
“I’m old school,” she says. “I hang up everyone’s coat and they love that.”
Thurlow was a nursing student in 1957 when she became ill and was hospitalized for a month. The break in her studies made returning unfeasible, so she decided to look for work in a dental office. An agency contacted her about the job in Dr. Joseph Champagne’s office, but then told her it was filled. A day later, they called her back, and said that the person they sent over only lasted one day.
“I could see why,” laughs Thurlow, recalling the elder Dr. Champagne’s temper. But Thurlow was more than a match for it, managing the office, becoming close with Dr. Champagne’s son, Dr. Jack Champagne and his wife, and staying as the practice passed to Dr. Jack, and then to his son-in-law, Dr. Meldrum.
Meldrum credits Thurlow with helping to create the continuity that allowed for a successful transition.
“It’s nice, when you walk through the front door, to know the person behind the front desk,” says Meldrum. “They get their dental work done and they stand and talk to Norma for another 45 minutes.”
In a recent article for the Oakland County Dental Society’s Dental Review, Meldrum outlined the “Ten P’s for a Successful Practice.” In addition to personality, personnel, and passion, Meldrum outlines the importance of product, price, and painlessness.
“The best thing,” he says, “is to do everything you can to make sure they don’t feel anything, so they gain confidence that they won’t get hurt next time they come.”
Judith and Duane Cox – Judith Cox has been going to the practice since she was six years old. She and her husband Duane came from Las Vegas on their way to their home in Houghton Lake to see Dr. Meldrum, who she says is “the very best dentist in the entire world.
Many of his new patients come in with concerns about unnecessary procedures.
“Overzealous dentistry,” says Meldrum, can be the result of dentists’ large student loans, corporate dental groups focused on profit, and expensive equipment which must be used to be justified.
Meldrum’s cozy sunlit office is not only familiar and comfortable, but it also lets patients know that they’re not getting extra procedures to pay for ritzy furnishings. Ditto the internet connection, which, Meldrum says, “would not have made the business more successful.”
“It’s the science, the art, and the business of dentistry, and you have to be good at all three,” says Meldrum.
And if Thurlow has her way, it will stay that way. Asked if she ever thinks about retiring, the feisty octogenarian says: “I don’t know why people stay at home. I’m a widow and I live all alone, so I just have to be here to aggravate Dr. Meldrum. That’s my plan in life.”
Dr. Meldrum’s general dentistry practice is located at:
295 Elm St, Birmingham, MI 48009
Phone: (248) 645-5055