LBN Covers Local Business News

From a Family of Rock Collectors to a Royal Oak Staple

From a Family of Rock Collectors to a Royal Oak Staple

From a Family of Rock Collectors to a Royal Oak Staple
LBN Community Series
Royal Oak
The Royal Oak jewelry staple, Miner’s Den, came about because Mike Schowalter’s mother had had enough.

The Showalters are a family of rock collectors and every vacation was spent in mines, on beaches or in the Upper Peninsula collecting rocks.

“Back in the early ‘70s our hobby had risen to the point where our garage was full, and my mother was getting perturbed,” said Mike Showalter. “So, my father rented a building on Rochester Road.”


It was a small store front—office space, really. The Miner’s Den soon became a Mecca for rock hounds—the Showalters would polish and cut the rocks and gems hobbyist geologists brought to them.

“Our business evolved from catering to the hobbyist for cutting rocks and cutting gems, then carrying the machines to make jewelry, then to making jewelry ourselves,” said Showalter. “For a long time, we were doing repairs and creations for other jewelers, but we do our own now.”

While still in the original location bought by Frank Showalter, Miner’s Den now covers five adjacent office spaces and is run by three siblings: Mike Showalter, Tom Showalter and Barbara Tourangeau. Their parents also worked at the store until they passed away.

“The name ‘Miner’s Den,’ came from miners in the family,” said Showalter. “Dad was a gold miner in Alaska and as kids it was our passion to mine and collect rocks.”

Laid out by price point, there’s something for every budget at Miner’s Den.

“There are fun gifts in jewelry and there’s important times in jewelry,” said Showalter.

At one end of the store, customers who enjoy geology can find rocks, gems, fossils and more.

Miner’s Den also has a large selection of polished rocks and gems that are indigenous to Michigan, with plenty of Petoskey stone, meteorite and even some fordite, which is taken from automotive plants. Fordite is layers and layers of paint that is removed from the robotic arms that paint cars. After fordite is set and polished, different wave patterns in various colors pop.

Jean Guccini of Royal Oak is a long-time customer of Miner’s Den.

“I have been coming here for Christmas gifts for at least 10 years,” Guccini said. “You get very personalized service.”

In fact, Guccini recently brought one of her mother’s rings to the store to be resized as a gift. Guccini’s granddaughter was graduating from college and she wanted to give her something special.

“It was important to me to have the confidence to leave the ring with people who will take care of it,” Guccini said.

The other side of the store is fine jewelry.

“It was important to me to have the confidence to leave the ring with people who will take care of it.”
Designers use the latest in CAD/CAM computer programs with a 3D printer and blue light scanning to ensure customers get the perfect creation.

“Our biggest product line is custom engagement rings created in house at a more favorable price than those that are mass produced,” said Showalter.

They also created a special-cut for a diamond to nearly double the facets making it even more radiant—The Big Bang Diamond.

“The normal diamond one encounters is the 58-facet what’s called the modern brilliant cut,” said Showalter. “We’ve taken it a step further and modified the 58-facet modern brilliant cut to what we call our Big Bang Diamond. With extra facets to the point where we have 89 facets.”

Miner’s Den also carries Excalibur diamonds—lab created, 100-percent real diamonds grown in the laboratory. Nothing distinguishes Excalibur diamonds from geologic diamonds except very specific lab testing. Those in the market for a larger diamond on a budget find these gems more affordable.

“The beauty of what we have going on here, is you can recognize how enthusiastic we are. It’s the team,” said Showalter. “They love working on the design, it’s just their passion. We’re really, really lucky. I just like to look at the success of the employees here. They’ve allowed me to step back a little bit and have less responsibility. They want to take projects on themselves and grow to their potential.”

The skill and talent of the jewelers is renowned.

“We are the people that are referred to if nobody else can repair it because we have a diverse group of experience. They have the ability to look at, and fix, damn near anything,” Showalter said of the jewelers on site.

“Our common cause here is making the customer happy. We just relish every day. What a great crew we have here,” said Showalter.

3417 S. Rochester Road,
Royal Oak, Michigan 48073









Sweet Treat: Mrs. Mason’s Co. Premium Brittle

Sweet Treat: Mrs. Mason’s Co. Premium Brittle

Sweet Treat: Mrs. Mason’s Co. Premium Brittle
LBN Community Series
Royal Oak
Vonnie Miller has been hooked on Mrs. Mason’s scrumptious brittles nearly 20 years.

“It’s crunchier than other brittles,” says Miller, who is the community development director at Stagecrafters in Royal Oak.

“Hers is so natural.”



Brittle is candy generally created with embedded nuts. But don’t assume Mrs. Mason’s in Royal Oak is anything like the thin, hard version you find at holiday gatherings.

Hers comes in eight delectable varieties, many covered with chocolate. What’s so different?

“The texture is crisp, not hard,” Mason explains. “We have unique ingredients. Five of the varieties have a dried fruit in the middle.”

Rick Carmody has known Mason since they worked together in the 1990s.

“She would occasionally bring in her brittle (to work),” says Carmody of Detroit.

Carmody admits he isn’t a “sweets person,” but there is something about Mason’s candies.

“I have four boxes now to give as gifts and I walk into the kitchen and think, ‘Do I have to give one to so-and-so?’ Hers is just so correct, so great,” he says.

Carmody will buy a tray of Mrs. Mason’s brittle for dinner parties. “And the tray will be gone by the end of the evening. Maybe they’re putting (the brittle) in their purses?” he wonders.

Mason sells her brittle online and in her shop on South Washington Street.

The adventure started when a friend gave Mason a peanut brittle recipe years ago.

“I immediately changed it,” says Mason with a smile. “Why? Because I’m a creative person.”

She went to work upgrading the ingredients, substituting pure cane sugar for corn syrup. Creating the mouth-watering brittles in her home, she gave them away to friends and her children’s teachers as gifts.

“For years people said, ‘You should go into the business selling it,’” says Mason.

She took the leap in 1994 and began selling the brittles. In 2001 she opened a small shop on 11Mile in Royal Oak, selling a whopping 17 different varieties. That business closed in 2004. Then in September, 2017, Mason started cooking again, selling her brittles online.

In September 2018, she opened the current Royal Oak shop with eight brittles.

“You see it and you know somebody thought a lot about it.”
“People wanted to be able to pop in on their way to a party or to pick up some rather than have it shipped,” says Mason.

Inventory at the 500-square-foot store is kept low to ensure the product, created at a nearby commercial kitchen, is always fresh. “It’s very labor-intensive,” she says.

Even the brittle descriptions sound delicious. Take “Best Friends” brittle, made with white chocolate with a drizzle of dark chocolate and on the flipside, dark chocolate drizzled with white chocolate. Yum!

The eye-catching metallic gold boxes of brittle make gift-giving easy.

“We are known for our packaging,” says Mason. “We can change the ribbon or add any

Mason created the packaging.

“I tried to keep it classic so it would be relevant year after year.”

Inside her shop, Mason and her staff can create custom packages for weddings, bar mitzvahs, corporate events or any special occasion. Recently boxes of Mrs. Mason’s brittles placed on the hotel beds of visiting shareholders attending a Birmingham meeting, she says.

Vonnie Miller believes the packages draw people into the store.

“You see it and you know somebody thought a lot about it,” says Miller.

Prices for the various package range from $3.95 up to $52.95, depending on weight. The brittles can be shipped anywhere in the U.S.

Mason’s company philosophy – Love, Kindness, Generosity, Abundance and Peace – guide her in her business.

“This is what I am about,” she says, pointing to the five philosophy signs on her shop wall.

She had an epiphany back before she began her business.

“I looked to see what I was committed to,” she says. “How do I express that? It came through the candy.”

Mrs. Mason’s Co.
619 S. Washington St.,
Royal Oak, MI 48067












At Scrubbers, Dogs and Cats are Groovin’ to the Grooming

At Scrubbers, Dogs and Cats are Groovin’ to the Grooming

At Scrubbers, Dogs and Cats Are Groovin’ to the Grooming



LBN Community Series
Royal Oak

Just off the corner of Webster and Woodward in Royal Oak, a steady parade of customers is streaming into Scrubbers, fur babies in tow, all of the latter in need of a good bath.

Dennielle McIver, a Royal Oak MS LPC (Master of Science, Licensed Professional Counselor) just popped in with Happy, an adorable Pomsky puppy that she is training to be an emotional support dog. The Pomeranian/Husky mix, hugging McIver like a baby, is a ball of thick black fur. Today is his first grooming.

Ilza Berzins comes in just after McIver, toting her Cockapoo, Fifi, and her Havanese, Lula. The Beverly Hills dog owner says she’s been a Scrubbers customer for a year, for trims and other grooming. “They’re great here—always on time, and they do a good job,” she says, holding both dogs.



Buster—aka The Shop Dog—an 11-year-old terrier-mix rescued from the Michigan Humane Society, pads out near the front desk, sniffing the thrice-his-size Godendoodle that’s just come in. As each new dog enters, the barking amps up. Buster, who belongs to Scrubbers groomer Candace Jude, seems cool with that.

Amid all of this canine cacophony is Nikki Budaj-Chatfield, 32, herself an oasis of calm. The mother of two young children and co-owner of this and two other Scrubbers locations in Oakland County stands at the counter, fielding new customers, phone calls and questions. The barking doesn’t faze her. She knows once the dogs relax, they get into the groove and come out clean and manicured in the end.

Cats are welcome here, too, for professional nail and other trimming, shaving, bathing and brushing. “As long as owners are comfortable bathing their cats, they’re welcome for self-serve as well,” says Budaj-Chatfield.

While most clients are leaving their pets with the grooming staff for nail trims and other primping this morning, they’re welcome to do their own, seven days a week. Scrubbers offers five tubs with shampoo, face wash, combs, rakes, scrubbers and even mouthwash, plus fluffy towels and blow-dry stations to make Fluffy even fluffier.

“It’s great to build relationships with our customers and recognize them when they come in. The customers really appreciate that.”

The tubs are large enough to accommodate Scrubbers’ biggest canine customer, a 240- pound English Mastiff.

Budaj-Chatfield bought Scrubbers in May of 2012 as a turnkey business from its previous owner. “He was afraid the business was going to plateau, but we doubled the business within six months,” says Nikki. 

Scrubbers has been growing ever since, adding locations in West Bloomfield, where she grew up, and Rochester Hills, the newest, almost a year old. Now the Royal Oak location is expanding 1,200 more square feet to the suite next door, with four new grooming tables, two tubs and a blow-dry and crate area, all of which should be completed by November.

“We’ve just rebranded ourselves so we can to get into franchising,” says Budaj-Chatfield. She and her husband, co-owner Jim Chatfield, 50, plan to franchise locations starting in early 2019.

The couple met when she bought Scrubbers. “He was the previous owner’s best friend. He was helping out to teach me the business, we became good friends, and then things just happened. I always joke that I bought the husband and got a free business.”

Budaj-Chatfield has always loved animals. She rescued her first dog from a shelter when she was 18, and while attending Western Michigan University as a nursing student, she eventually fostered and adopted out 35 cats and dogs through the Kalamazoo County Animal Rescue.

That experience changed her career path. “I decided I didn’t like (taking care of) people,” she laughs. “I like animals way better.”

After college, she moved back home and immediately started training as a groomer for the now-defunct Aussie Pet Mobile. “The girl who trained me back in 2009 is now my grooming manager, Crystal Goldsmith,” says Budaj-Chatfield, whose employees number 15 to 20 during most months. “I love my employees—everybody is family here.”

While there are many challenges as a small business owner, Budaj-Chatfield says the joys outweigh the perils: “It’s always a fast-paced job, we’re not sitting behind a desk, rotting away. It’s a physical job, so we’re always up and moving.”

She says her favorite part of the job is that she gets to play with dogs all day, despite the janitorial duties that go along with it. “We’re constantly cleaning floors, doing laundry.”

Plus, she adds, “It’s great to build relationships with our customers and recognize them when they come in. The customers really appreciate that.”

Prices for professional grooming vary due to the dog type, coat and condition, from about $35 to $150 for double-coated breeds.

2713 W. Webster
Royal Oak, MI 48073












For 112 Years, Sullivan and Son Funeral Directors Have Served the Royal Oak Community

For 112 Years, Sullivan and Son Funeral Directors Have Served the Royal Oak Community

For 112 Years, Sullivan and Son Funeral Directors Have Served the Royal Oak Community




LBN Community Series
Royal Oak

When Eric Page’s father died in 2014, there was no doubt in his mind who he’d call first: Wm. Sullivan & Son Funeral Directors.

“Even if we didn’t know the Lopes as well as we do, there’d be absolutely no doubt who we’d call,” said Page. “They’ve taken care of my grandmother, my grandfather, and my father. You know for sure that everything’s going to be done correctly. What the family name stands for is the utmost dignity for your family member and there’s never a doubt.”

Mike Lope (L), John Sullivan (C), and Jim Sullivan (R)

Page is childhood friends with Michael Lope, the great-grandson of William Sullivan, the founder of Wm. Sullivan & Son Funeral Directors. Michael, along with his father Ray Lope, mother Meg (Sullivan) Lope, uncles John Sullivan and Bill Sullivan, aunt Marty (Sullivan) McGinnity and cousin Jim Sullivan, now run the family business.

Since many people hosted funerals in their own house, there was no need for a funeral home, just a storefront.

“William had a livery stable in downtown Royal Oak and he knew a cabinet maker, so together they could make caskets and get people to the cemetery,” said Lope.

The year was 1906 and the storefront was located on Main Street in Royal Oak.

In 1939, after twins Meg and Marty were born, William Sullivan moved his family to a house on 11 Mile Road. This would become the permanent home of the family business.

About that time, having family funerals at home was going out of vogue and more people began turning to funeral homes for all their needs. The funeral home had two chapels at the time, and the family lived above the business.


In 1945, the family moved to another house to make room for William’s expanding business. By the 1960s and 1970s, William had passed away, leaving his son, Jim in charge.

John Sullivan is a co-owner. “I saw what my grandfather and father did, and respected them. We had a good name in the community and I wanted to help with that. We’re proud to have the fourth generation here to keep it going. We’re going to be here for a long time,” he said.

“We really want people to feel comfortable when they come in, like they’re home. We want them to welcome their guests in a relaxed environment.”

Today, the Sullivan family is as dedicated as ever to providing compassionate, dignified services for families at two locations, including Utica. The old homestead on 11 Mile Road in Royal Oak is still the site of the funeral home, but after several expansions and additions, it’s difficult to see the original footprint from outside.

“We’re always putting money into our buildings,” said Lope. “We really want people to feel comfortable when they come in, like they’re home. We want them to welcome their guests in a relaxed environment.”


Both locations recently added a large chapel, “because so many people don’t identify with a church. We put the addition on to serve that niche,” said Lope.

Additionally, Sullivan & Son offers specialized services that many other funeral homes don’t.

“We’re one of the leaders in the area for green burials, which is basically environmentally friendly burial. No embalming or traditional vaults. The idea is to get people back to the earth as soon as possible. We have two to three green burial seminars a year and probably do 20 a year,” said Lope. “It’s a personal preference, though. Our whole focus is to make sure our staff is educated and families get what they want. We need to make sure we’re experts in all the fields.”

Lope explained that Sullivan & Son provides a full range of services for whatever a family might need.

“The whole thing for us is to try and offer as many options as possible. Pre-arranging funerals helps people get what they’re looking for, but once someone passes away, it’s important for families to know we’re there for them,” said Lope. “Our biggest thing as funeral directors, is to help figure out what’s best for families. Customer service is at the heart of what we do. Whatever it is people are looking for, we’re here for them.”

The Sullivan family roots run deep in Royal Oak as does their sense of duty to the community to which they belong. They are major supporters of the Boys and Girls Club, and served with the Rotary, St. Vincent de Paul, historical societies and many more. Mortuary science students at Wayne State University are invited to use the apartment at the funeral home when they are completing their apprenticeship as well.

“Community service is paramount. We don’t do it just for business purposes, we truly believe in our community,” said Lope.

For more than 112 years, Sullivan and Son Funeral Directors has been the shoulder the Royal Oak community leans on in sad times. It’s the oldest business in the city and has high hopes of being able to serve the community that has been so good to them for many years to come.

Sullivan & Son Funeral Directors
Royal Oak: (248) 541-7000
Utica: (586) 731-2411













Royal Oak’s Tania’s Pizza Celebrates 31 Years

Royal Oak’s Tania’s Pizza Celebrates 31 Years

LBN Community Series
Talking to Amos Sheena, his energy is palpable.
“I get enjoyment from so many parts of it. It’s the challenge of seeing the next level,” Sheena said. “I don’t want to be 1,000 stores across the country, at least not today. The vision is there, but I want to focus on a true feeling of accomplishment I get when I can help the youth understand more than they did yesterday.”

Sheena is part owner of Tania’s, a family-owned pizza joint in Royal Oak. Together with his father, mother, sister and brothers, they consistently craft pizza by the slice and by the pie made from simple, fresh ingredients using original recipes.


“The sauce is mom’s and the dough is mom’s recipe. The garlic seasoning we put on top is mom’s. We make our own ranch and the garlic dip is mine,” said Sheena. “It’s simple ingredients. Our sauce is five ingredients. Our dough is four ingredients. We don’t need a lot of complexity. It’s good because it’s simple.”

Those simple ingredients added to the next-level customer service each client receives, earned Tania’s a nearly cult-like following for the last 32 years.

It all started when Sheena’s father, Sam, immigrated to the United States in 1967. Leaving war-torn Iraq behind, Sam Sheena landed in Highland Park just in time to witness the Detroit riots.

“My dad wanted to be in the pizza business,” said Amos Sheena. “He’s always been an entrepreneur. He’s always done his own thing and he’s done many things. At 43 years old, he had a stay-at-home mother of four to support and he had to take a job delivering pizzas for Domino’s. He was enamored.”

“I go in there a lot. I always joke around like it’s my Cheers. I like the pizza, so I get different combinations. I’ve pretty much had everything on their menu.”
In 1987, the business now called Tania’s went up for sale. Sam Sheena borrowed money from his father-in-law and bought it. He named it after his only daughter, Tania.

“He was in love with the Domino’s model, but he didn’t know the model. We focused on the kitchen at first,” said Amos Sheena. “You have to stand out some way. How do we stand out? We have stuffed pizza. We take two thin layers of dough and put pizza stuff inside.”

Today, Sam Sheena is mostly retired, but is still at the store every day. Sam’s wife, Muntaha, also helps out a few times a week. “If we’re short on the schedule, we lean on her. She’s our prepper,” said Amos Sheena.

While the hard work of the family has kept the business thriving for 32 years, it’s the food and atmosphere that makes Chad Chilton a regular.

“I go in there a lot. I always joke around like it’s my Cheers. I like the pizza, so I get different combinations. I’ve pretty much had everything on their menu,” he said.


The menu ranges from Tania’s famous pizza to pasta, salads, subs and gluten-free. Additionally, online ordering and delivery makes meal planning a snap.

Tania’s also has a full selection of beverages ranging from wine to craft beers and liquor.

Jim Carlin of Royal Oak is also a long-time customer.

“I’ve been going to Tania’s since Amos was 19,” he said. “Most often we get pizza and salad. Or if we are having pasta that night, I’ll get some parmesan bread sticks. It’s clean, the food is excellent, the service is good. Amos is both proprietor and friend. It’s a good family place. I would recommend it to anybody who likes pizza.”

Tania’s Pizza
3204 Crooks Road
Royal Oak, Michigan 48073












Ray’s Ice Cream, Selling Happiness for 60 Years!

Ray’s Ice Cream, Selling Happiness for 60 Years!

Tom Stevens, Owner of Ray’s Ice Cream

Wilma Andrews has never missed an Andrews family reunion. Even after moving from Berkley to Denver, her entire year’s schedule is arranged so that she is free to travel and to spend a week socializing with kids, grandkids, siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews and friends and attend a huge reunion picnic at Lake St. Clair Metropark.

But to Andrews, just as important during her yearly visit as that picnic, is at least one visit to Ray’s Ice Cream on Coolidge in Royal Oak.

“Ray’s has been part of my life for as long as I can remember,” Andrews says. “When my four children were young and we’d be going somewhere as a family, if we drove anywhere near Ray’s, the kids would laugh and chant, ‘Ray’s ICE cream! Ray’s ICE cream!’ And we usually did end up stopping there for cones, sodas and sundaes.”

“My grandfather, Raymond Stevens, opened Ray’s Ice Cream in 1958,” says third-generation owner, Tom Stevens, “and ran it with my dad, Dale Stevens, and my grandmother, Bernice.”

“My grandfather had worked at Mints Dairy and loved the business. When the dairy closed, my grandfather decided to open a facility to manufacture ice cream. He found some affordable property on Coolidge and built the building where we continue to operate.”

“My grandfather was only planning to be a wholesaler,” explains Tom, “but my grandmother wanted to also have an ice cream parlor. Ray found a diner closing in Detroit and bought the countertops for our soda fountain area, and the fountain became half of the business! I wish my Grandma was here to see it!”

“I fell in love with the place,” he says.

And now a fourth generation is being trained to take over and continue the business.

Tom’s nephew Tommy Shimshock, with a civil engineering degree from Purdue University, has worked at Ray’s since 2004 and is the production manager though, he says, smiling, “My title depends on the day.”

Nephew and production manager Tom Shimshock with co-worker Liam O’Brien

On this day, he and co-worker Liam O’Brien and Tom’s nephew, Stephen Shimshock (who has a double-business degree), will be making their vanilla ice cream.

“It happens to be my favorite flavor,” Tom says.

“Nowadays,’’ explains Tom, “the vanilla is like liquid gold. The supplier won’t even ship it anymore. We have to pick it up.”

Each ten-gallon batch uses two-to-three ounces of the precious, pure vanilla, and all of the ice creams are slow-churned to make.

“The equipment is new,” Tommy says. “But the ice cream is made the old-school way. It’s a slow process.”

In spite of the time-consuming production, Ray’s Ice Cream can create 2000 gallons of ice cream per week.

Half gallons of the ice cream can be bought at many area grocery stores, including: Hollywood Market, Holiday Market, Nino Salvaggio’s, Papa Joe’s, and Westborn Market on Woodward. The ice cream at Ray’s Ice Cream can also be hand-packed for take-out sale, and many popular flavors are available freshly packaged.

Ray’s Ice Cream also makes special orders of novelty, molded cordial and ice cream designs for parties, showers and other celebrations and holidays, with many photos of these creations on their website.

Tom’s daughter, Jenna Stevens, who has an art degree – and a love for her father’s business – schedules the many counter helpers who keep the lines of customers moving on hot, summer nights.

Bryce Everly, a pre-med student at the University of Michigan, has worked at Ray’s Ice Cream for three summers, and he enjoys the regular customers and making their orders just the way they like them.

“We get all sorts of great regulars every day,” Bryce says. “One gets a chocolate shake, light on the chocolate; another gets a vanilla shake; another gets a hot fudge sundae but with different types of ice cream each time.”

“And the weird thing is,” he adds, “most of our regulars are normal weight, even coming here daily!”

“All of our customers, and staff, are amazing,” Tom Stevens says. “I’m very excited to be continuing such a great business with another generation of its founding family.”

Ray’s Ice Cream
4233 Coolidge Highway
Royal Oak, MI  48073