With a sleek and efficient website, a gleaming service area stocked with state-of-the-art equipment and a computerized, eye-catching marquee flashing on Maple Road, Troy Auto Glass is an ultramodern and ever-evolving enterprise.
But what makes owner Gary Laviolette most proud is that Troy Auto Glass is so “old-fashioned.”
“It’s hard to find good, small businesses that work like they did 20 years ago,” Laviolette says. “Social behaviors change, but you can’t underestimate what customer service means.”
And each member of Laviolette’s staff provides customers needing auto and windshield glass replacement the kind of service that generates five-star online reviews and enthusiastic referrals from highly satisfied clients and local car dealerships.
When Troy resident, Laurie Albert, needed to replace the windshield of her Mazda, she called a business she had used in the past.
“They were kind of nonchalant,” said Albert. “They didn’t ask me any details about my car, but said they could take care of the work and the insurance when I came in.”
“I then called the Mazda dealership for their advice, and they recommended Troy Auto Glass,” Albert added.
Albert’s concerns about the replacement process and questions about the windshield product were answered by Laviolette himself, who happened to take her call.
“Gary took time to explain what would happen, that he had the proper inventory, and that he’d easily be able to process the insurance claim. But the best part,” Albert said, “is that work was finished almost an hour ahead of the time they’d estimated!”
“Also,” she said, “the facility is clean, pleasant, and professional. It’s much more like a nice office building than an auto garage.”
The 55-year-old business was started by Gary’s dad, Ronald Laviolette, in Waterford, in 1962 and has been at its current location on Maple Road since 1978.
“As a 10-year-old kid,” Gary said, “I would drive in with Dad on Saturday mornings and do deposit slips, and take orders and phone calls. In high school, I did a co-op program here, attended staff meetings and learned even more. After high school, I was here fulltime.”
“And half of our employees have been here 20 years,” he added. “For some, it’s been 25 or 30.”
In those years, windshield technology has continued to change.
“Along with customer service, our concern is driver safety. We only use OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) products,” Laviolette said.
“Often, people looking to save money will have a service station replace their windshield. But that product may be from China and, in an accident, may not withstand a safe airbag release.”
He added, “And, with sensors, cameras and brackets, after-market and cheaper products cannot provide a safe fit.”
“Even the type of glue used contributes to safety,” Laviolette explains. “Ours is the highest quality, and we provide the proper drying time so that when a job is finished, the vehicle is completely safe. If a customer left here and was in an accident, the windshield would definitely remain intact.”
Laviolette and his staff are ready to meet the challenges of future auto innovations and heightened technology.
“Our technicians are highly skilled – and they care,” said Laviolette. “We are excited to keep up with the future, but we’ll always remain old-fashioned.”
As a 13-year-old growing up in Beirut, Lebanon, Mike Chalhoub couldn’t wait until his school day was done.
Unlike most of his friends, he had more to look forward to than playing ball or riding a bike after classes.
He was going to his job as a busboy at The Summertimes restaurant, where he would soon be immersed in the aromas of cumin and coriander and freshly chopped cilantro, onions and garlic, while the chefs sliced, sautéed and shouted orders to each other for chicken shata or the lamb and chicken shawarmas, for which the restaurant was known.
“My boss saw my passion for food and hard work,” Chalhoub says, “and soon promoted me to cooking.”
By age 18, Chalhoub was running the snack bar, night club and main restaurant of a nearby hotel. At 23, he opened a restaurant on the Ivory Coast.
“Soldiers came and took it over,” Chalhoub said.
He moved to the United States and worked in several Mediterranean eateries until starting the Troy location of Grape
Leaves in 2004.
“It was challenging,” Chalhoub says. “I wanted everything to be perfect: fresh, delicious, healthy and, especially, consistent. And, you know what? Everything, thirteen years later, is still the same consistent quality.
And,” he says, “I guarantee that what you enjoy here today will taste the same when you order ten years from now!”
Each morning, Chalhoub and his brother and general manager, Brian, shop for fresh vegetables and meat and deliver them to the three Grape Leaves locations (Troy, Oak Park, Southfield). The chicken will be marinated; the lamb, roasted; the vegetables, washed and sliced: all readied for the stews, salads, sautees and specialty dishes that will be made-to-order for dine-in or carry-out lunches and dinners, as well as catered events.
“I wish I had photos of one wedding we catered,” Chalhoub says, “with a whole, baked lamb. It was fantastic. Everyone loved it!”
Diners eat there often and are treated like family. “Hello, Squash Guys!” Brian says, greeting longtime customers, Dodie and Warren, as they enter. They hug Brian warmly.
“We started coming here eight years ago,” Dodie says. “Currently, we’ve had to omit dairy, sugar and meat. Here, we can always have the most healthy and delicious meals.” Warren laughs.
“That’s why you get to know the boss! Look! They made me these fresh-cooked cottage fries to go with my cousa (stuffed squash),” Warren says.
“My crew is the best,” Chalhoub says. “Though some of the wait staff leave for other careers after college, 90 per cent of my cooks have been with me for many years.”
And, though Chalhoub now leaves most of the cooking to his staff, today he motions, “Come! I want you to see the creation of my favorite dish: chicken ghallaba!”
He washes his hands and dons gloves, apron, chef hat. With a 10-inch, razor-honed knife, he slices onions, peppers, carrot – even mushrooms – with lightning quickness and tosses them into a sizzling pan. The vegetables are cheerfully thrown in air and then land amid marinated chicken breast he’s added.
“Now,” he says, spooning a red powder over the skillet, “here is for the special taste: my own spice blend!”
Holding the plate of golden chicken with its mound of brilliant vegetables and rice, Chalhoub smiles and says, “If you want to stay healthy and eat delicious food, come to Grape Leaves. A visit a day keeps the doctor away!”
One of the most challenging parts of a health care professional’s job is explaining complex information about conditions and treatment to patients and making sure the patient has the right information when they get home.
It is a frustration that optometrist Dr. Ryan Corte faces regularly. Last spring he had a patient come in about blurry vision in his left eye. It turned out that he hadn’t seen a doctor in years and had very advanced diabetic retinopathy and wasn’t even aware he had diabetes.
“As I was explaining to him the likelihood that he had undiagnosed diabetes, I could see the look on his face how perplexed he was that glasses, at that time, were not a likely solution to his problem. I referred him to a see a primary care doctor as well as retinal specialist. But he never went to either appointment,” says Corte. “I felt like in that moment, when I was educating him, it was almost overwhelming. I think of how many doctors are seeing more patients in less time and the amount of time they have to educate their patients is too little. I feel like there’s a lot of opportunity to break things down so the patient understands it, so they can follow up appropriately and they can follow through with success.”
Corte wished that there was a simple, video-based resource that he could send her and other patients to for information, but that resource wasn’t out there. So, he created his own.
A photography buff, Corte was one of the few people who had a digital camera in college. He says his passion for photography transferred to video when he realized that it was a great way to educate his patients. He did his research on YouTube, watching videos to see what would be the best format for him and how to set up his production.
The result was a website — now defunct — called Introeyes.com. Founded by Corte, who is also the CEO, the site featured 30- to 90-second videos that provided information on terminology, conditions, preventative care, disease management, products and services. The topics ranged from “What is an optician?” to “What is Keratoconus?” In the videos, eye care professionals explain each topic briefly, in clear and simple language, with appropriate photos or diagrams. The videos, which are all hosted on YouTube, are close captioned and each has a transcript below it.
Introeyes has since been replaced with a more broadly based health and wellness site called Introwellness.com.
Because the education level of his patients varies dramatically, Corte’s goal was to write the content at an elementary level.
Corte believes that video-based content is the wave of the future.
“Our vision and our general viewpoint on where we’re going is big,” Corte said. I think we definitely have a very good start. More and more generations are beginning to shift to wanting info digitally.”
“You have to walk before you can run,” says Corte, who got Introeyes.com up and running in approximately two months. He is a self-taught video producer, developing the scripts with a team of eye care experts, mostly in the Concord area, but now branching out across the country. The simple format makes it easy for the professionals to shoot the video themselves, and Corte edits them, and adds photos and graphics to the footage of the professional explaining the subject.
His goal was a simple, professional-looking presentation.
“I built it into my schedule to learn to use the Adobe tools,” says Corte, who devotes one day each week to developing the site. “It’s like riding a bike, the learning curve is pretty steep, but once you learn how, you know.”
All that work paid off with a recent win in the Skimm email newspaper’s Moving On Up startup competition. From a nation-wide pool of entrepreneurs, Corte lasted into the semi-final round of 10, was flown out to Seattle for the final round of 3 competitors, and ultimately won a $2,500 cash prize, 6 months of financial mentoring from Chase Bank, and 6 months of startup mentoring from the Skimm.
He used the money and the mentoring help to take the site to the next level, ultimately deciding to retire the Introeyes site and integrate all of the content on the Introwellness.com, which already has content on eye care, nutrition, and men’s and women’s health, and is constantly growing.
Corte grew up in Michigan, where teaching may have been coded into his DNA. His mother and one of his three older sisters are high school teachers there, and another sister teaches at the University of Chicago Hospital. His father just retired from Hewlett Packard, where he was a computer consultant. Explaining things, it seems, is a family affair.
Corte attended Michigan State University, went to Ohio State University for optometry school, and then did his residency in Chicago. He had family in South Carolina, so he was familiar with this part of the country. When he was looking for a place to settle down and start a practice, the weather, the economy, and the stringent licensing in North Carolina, which meant more opportunities for those who qualified, sold him on the Charlotte area, where he recently met and married his wife Allison.
One sister has already followed him, and he’s hoping to lure the rest of the family away from the Michigan winters as well.
When he’s not teaching himself video editing or seeing patients, Corte lectures to residents on how to fine tailor their clinical skill sets to adapt to the ever—evolving health care industry. He and Allison are involved in Young Affiliates of the Mint, supporting The Mint Museum, and running, working out, socializing, being outdoors, and carving out time for their 6-month-old marriage.
Plus, Corte loves to run and work out. “I enjoy every sport you can imagine,” he says.
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
Nicola (“Nicky”) Noble loves to talk about her girls: all 153 of them.
As the general manager of Calder Dairy Farm in Carleton, Michigan, one of Nicky’s many jobs is to make sure that those girls — the Brown Swiss and Holstein cows that produce Calder’s milk daily — are happy, healthy and comfortable, enabling the dairy, after 70 years, to continue to produce, sell and deliver their fresh milk that is free of added hormones and still sold in glass bottles.
“Their barn is a free-stall one,” says Nicky, “and the girls are able to eat, drink and socialize as they wish.” She adds, “Each girl has a mattress, topped with straw, and the floor has rubber matting for their comfort. Their forage-and-grain food is grown right here on the farm and, during grass season, they are free to graze the pastures.”
Thermostatically controlled fans and side curtains maintain perfect barn temperatures, and their milking area is heated. The cows receive lots of human interaction, including pedicures and care from cheerful veterinarians, and they can groom themselves with automatic brushes.
“Not a bad life!” chuckles Nicky.
Each happily pampered cow produces about seven-and-a-half gallons of milk from two five-minute milkings each day. The milk is delivered from the farm to Calder Dairy in Lincoln Park, Michigan, where it is processed and bottled.
The Lincoln Park location was established by William Calder in 1946 when he purchased the dairy’s first delivery truck (a used, twelve-year-old laundry truck) with the bonus check he received from the Air Force. The location is also home to an ice cream parlor and a retail dairy store. From there, Calder Dairy supplies many wholesale outlets and 2,000 home delivery customers in Macomb, Wayne, Washtenaw and southern Oakland counties.
“People love our service and the taste of the milk,” Nicky says. “We pasteurize it the old-fashioned way: at 155 degrees for 30 minutes, which purifies it but preserves the beneficial enzymes — and the rich, natural taste. And, with the product coming right from our farm, everything is fresh. We were ‘local’ before ‘local’ was fashionable!”
The 500-acre farm was originally purchased as a weekend family retreat and eventual retirement spot. When a neighbor suggested a cow as a means to help manage the grass growth, the Brown Swiss they purchased had a baby — and the dairy farm began.
Today, in addition to the cows, the farm has a store and an ice cream parlor with a large, attached country-kitchen style dining area that can be rented for birthday parties and other events, and there is also a covered pavilion area beside a waterfall and pond.
There are ducks, geese and goats that visitors (welcome daily from 10 a.m.- 8 p.m.) can feed, and milking can be observed at 4 p.m. For groups of fifteen or more, private tours can be pre-arranged.
“William Calder’s son, John, lives here and runs the business, working daily at the dairy, also,” states Nicki. “John is dedicated: to the environment; to bridging the gap between farmers and our city neighbors by educating people about agriculture and providing the opportunity to be on a real, working farm; and to maintaining the values — and quality production and delivery services — established by his father in 1946.”
As a young Canadian medical student who dreamed of working surgically with her hands and helping cancer patients of all ages, Troy ophthalmologist Dr. A. Luisa Di Lorenzo of Somerset Ophthalmology began her oncology rotation at The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland with eager anticipation.
Dr. A. Luisa Di Lorenzo of Somerset Ophthalmology in Troy
But as the program progressed – and she learned that, as an oncologist, she wouldn’t be doing surgery and would need to choose between adults and children as patients – Di Lorenzo wondered if oncology was truly the best specialty field for her.
“Fortuitously,” says Dr. Di Lorenzo, “in my final year of medical school, my rotation in ophthalmology at Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, was with larger-than-life Professor Louis Collum. During my very first day with him, I saw that he cared for children as well as adults – and he performed surgeries, too. And when, with photos of the inside of eyes, he innovatively taught us that all diseases can affect the eyes, I knew by the end of that first day that I wanted to become an ophthalmologist.”
Having completed an Internal Medicine Residency at Wayne State University and an Ophthalmology Residency at the Kresge Eye Institute of Wayne State University, serving as Chief Resident in her last year, Dr. Di Lorenzo established Somerset Ophthalmology in Troy.
Di Lorenzo explains some of the almost science fiction-like improvements in the field that she has seen and passionately incorporated into her practice of eighteen years.
“Cataract surgery has changed tremendously,” Dr. Di Lorenzo says, “with extremely small incisions and ‘no-stitch’ techniques. Implant lenses are tiny, and anesthesia is now topical instead of being injected around the eyeball. Patients who may be on blood thinners no longer have to stop them.”
The lenses implanted during cataract procedures have also improved dramatically, along with methods for more precise measurements in calculating the appropriate strength of the lens. In the last ten years, inter-ocular lenses have been developed that can correct astigmatism and offer multi-focal and accommodative vision, often allowing patients to forego reading glasses.
Many eye patients dread a diagnosis of macular degeneration which, in the past, has often meant certain loss of clear sight. Dr. Di Lorenzo, who also teaches at Oakland University and Wayne State University medical schools, is thrilled that people with macular degeneration now have vastly improved chances of maintaining – and sometimes even improving – their vision. “There’s been a major treatment development since 2004 for patients with “wet” macular degeneration, in which blood builds up behind the retina, consisting of special intra-ocular injections.”
And the doctor is very excited about recent research of “dry” macular degeneration. “AREDS (Age-Related Eye Disease Studies),” she said, “found that ingesting nutrients such as lutein, zinc and others in leafy green vegetables not only can halt ongoing deterioration – but can offer condition improvement! Over-the-counter ocular supplements are valuable, and I do recommend them to my patients.”
The doctor has additional recommendations for eye health and safety. “Don’t smoke!” she states. “Smoking is a great risk factor for eye disease. And wear protective eyewear for sports and industrial work of any kind. So many children have eye injuries from soccer balls, etc., hitting unprotected eyes. And I do recommend that children see an ophthalmologist who, with their scope of training, can often spot lazy eye, tumors, neurological and other issues during examinations.”
“Interestingly,” she adds, “exercise is great for vision health. Also, wear sunglasses in bright light. And eat those leafy, green vegetables!”
Dr. Di Lorenzo and her associate, Dr. Sue Lim, do believe in a “total body” approach and, in their personalized and compassionate practice, they treat their patients – children and adults – like family. “It’s easy to make treatment decisions when you feel that way,” the doctor says. “We are available all the time. We love what we do.”
And, where outside the walls of her practice, Di Lorenzo zealously pursues new surgical techniques and knowledge, she also is active with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Michigan State Medical Society and the Michigan Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons (serving as its president in 2010). In rare leisure time she enjoys acting, music, all types of athletics, entertaining, traveling and being with her husband, an internist.
But, with everything that she does, Dr. Di Lorenzo’s true focus is stated as a quote on their website (somersetophthalmology.com): “The beauty of life is in the details.”
And, she wants us to be able to see all of them.
2877 Crooks Rd. Suite B
Troy, MI 48084