When 9-year-old Paul Nielsen dipped into the magic kit his Uncle John gave him for Christmas that year, he quickly got hooked on the thrill of having an appreciative audience.
“The tricks inside there were really awful,” Nielsen recalls. “But my parents acted amazed.”
His parents nurtured their son’s interest, permitting their miniature Houdini to buy one trick from the revolving racks at Stuckey’s convenience stores during family road trips. But his big break came during high school, when Nielsen got a job demonstrating the magic tricks sold at a local novelty shop in his hometown of Peoria, Ill.
“I was performing every day,” he says. “And I had access to all kinds of props.”
As it turns out, Nielsen’s big break foretold his future. He still performs every day and has access to any prop he wants at Wunderground Magic Inc. in Clawson, a store he bought in 2007 after having been a customer there for about 10 years.
“I just had nothing to do and I was looking for something to keep me occupied,” he says. “It’s not nearly as lucrative as software, but it keeps me afloat.”
Nielsen, who has a doctorate degree in computer science and taught at the University of Michigan in the 1990s, founded the intelligent software company Soar Technology in 1997 in Ann Arbor and sold the business in 2006. While magic and computer science may seem like incomparable pursuits, both satisfy Nielsen’s drive to understand the way things work, he says.
Founded in 1971 in Ferndale by a previous owner, Wunderground marked 47 years in business on—when else?—April 1. In addition to selling magic sets, card tricks, theater props, books, DVDs, illusions and more, the shop offers classes for children and adults. Nielsen will also help find a magician for a children’s party and other special events.
Tony Adragna, a magician from New Baltimore, stopped in at Wunderground in March to buy a card trick entitled “Caught Red Handed.” He’s been a customer for at least 25 years, Adragna says, and likes that he can call Nielsen to order a special trick.
“He’s reliable and he’s quick,” Adragna says.
Adding to Wunderground’s mystique is an unconfirmed story that its basement was part of an underground speakeasy during Prohibition. Melodie Nichols, curator of the Clawson Historical Museum, says she has no evidence of the speakeasy story but no reason to doubt it either.
When not at his shop, Nielsen serves as chair of the Board of Directors for the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Mich. He also performs at libraries, schools, community centers, private parties and other venues.
As for that thrill when performing for an appreciative audience that his parents ignited 49 years ago?
“I do like entertaining people,” Nielsen says. “I do like bringing that sense of wonder to their lives. It’s important.”
It was 2008, and chef Nicole Pichan-Seals had already looked at a couple of storefronts with the idea of opening a prepared meals takeout business. The plan was for her to staff it during the day and her husband David Seals, executive chef at Federal-Mogul headquarters in Southfield, would work there in the evenings.
Chefs Nicole Pichan-Seals & David Seals
Then David learned the Federal-Mogul food services were going to be outsourced. And the landlord at an especially tempting storefront on Main Street south of 14 Mile Road in Clawson said what the city really needed was an Italian restaurant.
The couple drew from Nicole’s northern Italian heritage—her great-grandparents lived in the Ascoli Piceno province, about 125 miles northeast of Rome—and David’s southern U.S. roots, where hospitality is almost a religion, and opened DueVenti. The name is a literal translation of their Northern Italian cuisine restaurant’s Main Street address, “220.”
The fine-dining venue owned by the husband and wife chefs marks its 10th anniversary in August 2018. With seating for 54 inside, and 16 outside in warm weather, its pressed linens and sparkling silverware blend with warmer touches like Nicole’s grandmother’s oil paintings on the wall, her portrait on a shelf above the bar, and a real grapevine that winds its way along another wall.
Nicole’s grandmother Eva Cafini-Theodoroff, of Oak Park, started painting as a hobby after her children were grown and went on to create more than 300 works of art over 40 years. She drew inspiration from food for her still lives, current events and her family, eventually painting every family member before she died in 2008.
While David prepared a cauliflower soup and sweet potato risotto on a Tuesday evening in February, Nicole fed pasta dough through a roller. She can thank her grandmother for inspiring Nicole’s love of pastas, gnocchi, risotto, and Italian breads like ciabatta as well as the sea salt-rosemary focaccia featured at the restaurant.
Diners at DueVenti can order from a full bar and menu of antipasti, zuppa, insalata, dolci (desserts) and piatti principali (entrees) including Piedmontese beef, fresh pastas, sea bass, chicken and rabbit, or can request the tasting menu.
The restaurant is available for private parties, which is partly what brought sisters Melanie Boswell and Suzanne Cross, both of Royal Oak, and Renee Lynch, of White Lake, there for dinner on a Tuesday in February. Cross’ daughter is getting married this year, and her aunts are giving her a shower at DueVenti in May. The trio were also celebrating Cross and Boswell’s March birthdays (the latter woman’s 50th).
Cross had eaten at the restaurant before with her husband, but it was new to her sisters.
“I’ve heard many people who are foodies recommend this place,” Cross says.
Lynch, who had spoken to Nicole on the phone previously to make the shower arrangements, says, “You get a good feeling here.”
Too much traditional advice for taking care of your vehicle in the winter—keep your gas tank at least half full, use a lighter weight oil than what you use in warmer months, and check your battery’s water level—is way too 20th century!
For example, modern underground gasoline storage tanks should be leakproof, and less prone to letting groundwater seep in, so there shouldn’t be water in the gas you dispense at the pump. Today’s oils, many of them a blend of real and synthetic oils, don’t turn into sludge anymore when temperatures dip: Follow your owner’s manual recommendation. And today’s batteries are sealed. You couldn’t add water if you wanted to, says Robb Remick, owner of Top Tech Auto businesses, in Clawson and Royal Oak, and TLC Car Care, also in Royal Oak.
Robb Remick, Owner & Gary Gibson, Clawson Manager
Whether your mechanic does the job or you prefer to do it yourself, you should get your vehicle ready for Old Man Winter around Halloween, or Thanksgiving at the latest. However, with the growth in the number of leased vehicles that owners return to a dealer after a few years, many owners neglect a pre-winter inspection, he says.
But to keep your vehicle on the road and humming along, he recommends winterizing it.
“The coolant is the A-No. 1 thing” to check and top off or to replace, if necessary, after flushing the system, says Remick. Old coolant gets dirty, breaks down and could freeze, leading to leaks into your oil or onto your driveway.
“When it gets really cold, we get a ton of coolant leaks,” Remick says.
In addition, owners should inspect and make sure their vehicle’s windshield wipers and washer fluid, battery, oil and tires are tip top, he says. For tires, pay attention to proper inflation, adequate tread depth and need for rotation to ensure even wear and a smoother ride.
Once tire tread has worn to less than 2/32-inch, Top Tech recommends replacement. Regarding snow tires, Remick says they’re a personal preference, but may be necessary in northern climates that see lots of snow, or for those with long, steep driveways.
A Top Tech technician can test a vehicle’s battery to ensure it holds a proper 12.5-volt charge.
Whatever you do, Remick says, use a winter-grade windshield washer fluid containing alcohol and don’t add water to stretch your supply.
“We’ve seen frozen (windshield washer fluid) lines during the recent cold snap,” Remick says.
Once winter hits and road crews start using salt to melt snow and ice, take your vehicle to the car wash regularly and spring for the few extra dollars to get an underbody flush.
“Salt creates rust on the suspension components and can cause premature failure on break lines and fuel lines as well,” says Gary Gibson, manager of Top Tech in Clawson.
Using Top Tech’s recommendations and scrapping outmoded, 20th-century advice can help keep your vehicle running through whatever Old Man Winter has in store.
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