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Troy Chamber Celebrates 60th Anniversary

Troy Chamber Celebrates 60th Anniversary

Troy Chamber Celebrates 60th Anniversary
13
FEBRUARY 2019
BY BETH ROBINSON
Small Business
Troy
The kanun is a many-stringed Middle Eastern lap harp. Ara Topouzian is a master of the kanun and a popular Armenian folk music performer. He is also the mastermind behind the Troy Chamber of Commerce and many of its contributions to the success of Troy businesses.

Although music and commerce may seem opposites or, at least, unrelated, it was a more or less straight line from the kanun’s strings to the Chamber for Topouzian.

As a musician, Topouzian realized that he needed recordings of his music to get gigs, so he created a record label for himself. He landed a distributor who got his recordings into all the big record stores and then onto iTunes. He became a nationally known artist, playing concerts and festivals around the country. Back home, he was awarded a prestigious Kresge Artist Fellowship. And he created “The Guardians of Music,” a documentary about the history of Armenian music in Detroit which aired on PBS.

In the meantime, he was still running a recording studio with an office in Farmington Hills.

As the owner of a small business, says Topouzian, “I thought I should join the chamber of commerce and see what that’s all about.”

Membership led to a seat on the board and then a paid position planning events for the Farmington Hills Chamber, vice presidency and then presidency. After ten years, Topouzian was ready for a new challenge and moved on to Novi as its Economic Development Director.

In 2013, Topouzian brought his unique blend of creativity and economic development acumen to a new role as the Troy Chamber of Commerce President and CEO.

This year the Troy Chamber of Commerce is celebrating its 60th anniversary and Topouzian took the opportunity to share the secret sauce that makes the Troy Chamber a successful resource for its members.

When Topouzian first took the reins of the Troy Chamber, he visited businesses asking what they wanted to get out of chamber membership. He visited non-members to find out what would make them want to join.

“It’s not my chamber. That’s my mantra. It’s the members’,” says Topouzian.

“We try to be all things to all people,” he says. “One of the things that’s changed in 60 years is not doing one-size-fits-all events. Presidents of major corporations are not coming to events where a guy is selling a widget. So, what you have to do is you have to create events that will bring different folks together in different realms.”

The Troy Chamber has a tiered membership structure which offers different levels of benefits. The president of a large corporation, for example, may pay more dues but have the opportunity to attend a presidents’ breakfast at no cost.

“It’s going to be a year-long birthday party for us. It’s exciting for us because we can tweak a little bit of what we’re doing throughout the year. We’re going to be taking some of our signature events and theming them toward the 60th.”

“At that level,” says Topouzian. “They’re building relationships. They’re not doing lead generation.”

Since the Chamber first opened its doors sixty years ago, people no longer join their local chambers of commerce just because ‘it’s the right thing to do.’ They expect to get something specifically worthwhile to their business when they pay dues and take time to attend an event.

“Ten to fifteen years ago, chambers could be more social, and they did their networking around social type events, like a festival or a raffle or a parade. We don’t do a lot of that anymore,” says Topouzian. “That doesn’t fulfill our mission and what our members want.”

“We know the types of benefits and programming that will help their business, whether it’s helping them save money or market or putting them in touch with the right people so they can build relationships.”

The creativity that makes Topouzian a successful artist, small business owner and chamber professional is what helps him keep the Troy Chamber’s offerings fresh and relevant. His members, he says want quality programming and they need a reason to keep coming.

“Most of our events are unique,” he says. “We try to avoid ‘been there, heard that.’ We do a CEO series. We bring in CEOs from the area, people our members haven’t seen. Food lab – They’re doing work of a different scale. We’ve had Amtrak come out, DTE. Last year, we did an event on the autonomous vehicle. We try to stay on top of current events and parlay them into events. “

At their holiday event, they hosted a panel of Michigan entrepreneurs discussing how they built their businesses. At their annual meeting, the economic forecast was done, not by an economist, but by the president of Michigan Municipal League, the president of the Detroit Regional Chamber and Oakland County’s workforce development staff.

“They’re not throwing numbers on a screen. They’re going to focus on certain issues that pertain to the economy that they see from their vantage points. That’s different and attractive to people who want to know about that,” says Topouzian. “It’s those kinds of unique events that really set us apart. We’re always trying to one up ourselves in what we do.”

And they always solicit feedback from their members so they can continue to fine tune their offerings to their audience.

Their 60th Anniversary presents a great opportunity to dazzle with a full year of events, workshops and promotions focused on growth and opportunities in the Troy business community.

“It’s going to be a year-long birthday party for us,” says Topouzian. “It’s exciting for us because we can tweak a little bit of what we’re doing throughout the year. We’re going to be taking some of our signature events and theming them toward the 60th.”

They recently announced that the Mercantile Bank of Michigan will be partnering with the Chamber as the 60th anniversary sponsor.

Mercantile Bank of Michigan was founded in 1997 by directors and bankers who firmly believed that the customers, employees, and the communities they live in are best served by financial institutions with local ties. They expanded into Troy in 2017.

“We understand the importance of building strong community partnerships and couldn’t be happier to help support the Chamber in their efforts,” said Todd Witmer, Mercantile Bank’s Metro-Market President, SVP.  “It was a perfect fit for us, and we are looking forward to working closely with the Chamber throughout 2019.”

When Edward Rusin first founded the Chamber in 1959 there were fewer than 100 businesses in Troy and today the area boasts 6,146. In 60 years, the names and faces of the Chamber may have changed, but it’s focus hasn’t.

“Troy Chamber is as relevant to the business community today as it was in 1959,” says Topouzian. “Serving our members to help them grow their business has been our main directive for the past 60 years. I look forward to celebrating our year-long birthday with our members!”

For more information call 248.641.8151 or e-mail: theteam@troychamber.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LATEST TROY POSTS

‘Doctor’ Fixes Bodies With Bikes

‘Doctor’ Fixes Bodies With Bikes

By HONEY MURRAY
Local Business News

Randy Martin never considered going to medical school, but every day, for the past 26 years, he has donned crisp, blue surgical scrubs, driven his white van with ambulance strobe flashers and helped make hundreds of people of all ages feel healthier and happier as the owner of The Bicycle Doctor in Hazel Park.

In 1989, after years of working in Detroit area bike shops, Martin bought a van and started his own business, becoming the Bicycle Doctor, repairing bikes throughout Oakland County.

“I realized it was a great way to help families right in their own driveways,” Martin said. “Customers make appointments and, unlike the family doctor, I never keep them waiting.”

“I arrive with my ambulance lights flashing, ready with my black medical bag and stethoscope, which is a modified tire gauge. And any repair I can make in the shop, I can easily do from the van, too.”

Tools for bikes

The “Hospital Gift Shop”

Martin, 53, purchased the Continental Bike Shop shop on John R. in 1996. The recently-renamed store boasts an Emergency Room (in-house service department), a Hospital Gift Shop (parts and accessories) and a Neonatal Unit (new bicycles).

There are brands and styles of bicycles for every type of rider, including Bianchi, Giant, KHS, Electra, Lynskey and Waterford.

The Bicycle Doctor carries kids’ bikes, road bikes, tourist bikes, hybrids, cruisers, mountain bikes, flat-bar road bikes, adult tricycles and dual-sport bikes.

“You really have to know what you’re actually going to use the bike for,” Martin said. “We don’t oversell you. We try to listen to your needs and fill those needs properly.”

Martin’s business philosophy also includes, in addition to making a little bit of money to live on, being fair and helpful — and having fun.

“What’s fun for me,” Martin explained, “is seeing a kid getting on his first bicycle or an 80-year-old stopping in to tell me about his rides and that he feels like a kid again. That’s what makes it fun for me.”

The "Neonatal Unit"

The “Neonatal Unit”

The Bicycle Doctor also provides many opportunities for customers to have fun, in the store and on the road.

“On Wednesday evenings when the weather is good and above 60 degrees, we have what we call casual or slow-roll rides,” Martin said. “We ride in the area from 6:30 until 8 p.m., and then we go to dinner together. It’s a very relaxed way to ride with a group, get exercise and enjoy the local scenery.

“On Friday nights we have a higher-paced road bike ride into Detroit, and we find a different, unique place to eat there. Since we ride until 10:30 or 11 p.m., all bikes on these Friday night rides must have the proper safety lights.”

When the weather is not favorable for riding, The Bicycle Doctor shows in-store movies on Friday evenings and holds trainer classes on Wednesday evenings.A trainer is a  stand that the bike is attached to, allowing for riding or training in place.

The Bicycle Doctor also offers basic and advanced maintenance classes, and personal fittings are available for every bike that is purchased.

Tire repair area“In addition to finding the right frame size for you,” Martin said. “We position the seat, brake levers, handlebars and shifters — all to make sure that you are comfortable and feel safely in control. This is something that department stores don’t do. A bike from a department store might last a season. From a store like ours, and when serviced, they can last for years and even maintain great resale value!”

One of The Bicycle Doctor’s most memorable fittings was from a married couple who wanted to incorporate bicycling into their weight-loss program.

“They each purchased an Electra Townie, a fun and easy bike to ride with wide tires and a plush saddle,” Martin said. “Several months later, the woman came into the store, and I didn’t recognize her. She had lost 150 pounds. Her husband had lost 80 pounds. Bikes can be a lifestyle changer.”

The March 16, 2014 issue of Health and Wellness Digest listed a number of ways that cycling improves health. One benefit listed is that cycling is one of the easiest ways to exercise since it can be done almost anywhere and at any time, with little risk of physical — or financial — strain.

The article explains that, though cycling strengthens leg muscles, burns calories, builds stamina and improves coordination, it also greatly improves the mobility of hip and knee joints and increases cardiovascular fitness (by 3 to 7 percent for those who bike daily) and reduces stress.

In addition to overall heath, the team at The Bicycle Doctor is very concerned about the obesity of today’s kids — as well as adults.

“I love it when parents come in to buy for their kids. This Christmas, a family bought bikes for their four children, ages six through 11 “It’s a fantastic way for kids to feel great and keep in shape – and a real stress reliever for all ages!”

In addition to providing opportunities for fitness and recreation, a bicycle can be a very economical and pleasant mode of transportation, and one that does not have a negative effect on the environment.

According to the 2009 National Household Travel Survey, 40 percent of daily trips are shorter than two miles. The survey also states that one in 12 households does not have an automobile, and 13 percent of people 15 years and older do not drive.

Ferndale mom Kristi Soave smiled as she related her visit to The Bicycle Doctor.

“I took my daughter, Stephania, and her bike to see The Bicycle Doctor because the bike had a broken brake lever,” Soave said.  “Randy was dressed in scrubs and remarked on the bike’s ‘broken arm.’”  ‘Yes,’ I agreed, and then I pointed to a disconnected cable. ‘And a torn ligament, also.’ “

“We keep the bikes rolling, for basic transportation, for health, and for pleasure,” Martin said. “We keep records on all of our ‘patients,’ the bikes we take care of.   One of the things that sets us apart is that we test ride everything we repair; when it’s fixed, it’s really fixed.   Whether I’ve made a house call or the ‘patient’ has been brought to our shop on John R., the Bicycle Doctor is always in.”

The Bicycle Doctor
248.584.3060
Doc@thebicycledoctors.com
24436 John R. Road
Hazel Park, MI 48030

 

Nicole, 16, of Waterford, was directly helped by Suite Dreams

Nicole, 16, of Waterford, was directly helped by The Suite Dreams Project.
Photographer: Vaughn Gurganian

Suite Dreams Project gets big lift from local mattress donation

(L-R: Lauren Tonne, Kris Appleby, Rory Karpathian and Kay Ponicall; photographer: Vaughn Gurganian)

 
By MIKE SCOTT
Local Business News

Kay Ponicall and Kris Appleby can’t help but come to tears when they think of hundreds of kids, their non-profit The Suite Dreams Project have helped since being established in 2001.
But it is that emotion that has helped The Suite Dreams Project to thrive. The organization provides children with various medical challenges a custom-designed bedroom created to meet their specific needs, tastes and preferences – all at no charge to their family.

Think of “Extreme Home Makeover,” only focused on a child with special needs throughout not just southeastern Michigan, but the entire state of Michigan. That child will describe their dream bedroom and Ponicall and Appleby work their magic – and the magic of their vast array of volunteers – to make it happen.

“You see the courage that these children have. And you see what their parents are going through and what we’re just trying to do is create a healing environment,” said Appleby, a Bloomfield Hills resident.

“For these kids it is a space that gives them a voice,” said Ponicall, who is also a Bloomfield Hills resident.

“Many of them are spending most of their time in their bedrooms and in their own beds so it’s not just their refuge. It is really where they spend most of their time. We want to do something to help add a layer of peace for them and their families.”

The children who have been helped by The Suite Dreams Project, such as 16-year-old Waterford resident Nicole whose challenge is spina bifida, are forced to deal with a range of serious illnesses such as cancer and neurological diseases that have a direct impact on quality of life. The rooms can be designed to help address the need for certain medicines that is required. One of the specific needs that the organization has is mattresses for children’s beds that are comfortable and high-quality.

Nicole, 16, of Waterford, was directly helped by Suite Dreams

Nicole, 16, of Waterford, was directly helped by The Suite Dreams Project.
Photographer: Vaughn Gurganian

That’s where Rory Karpathain and his team at Rochester’s Beds by Design come in. As owner of the Beds by Design location that just opened this July in Rochester, Karpathian was looking to work with a local charity that supported children’s needs given his recent entry into the community. Since Beds by Design handcrafts mattresses made of natural fibers in northern Michigan, they are ideal for children with special needs. After Karpathian heard about Nicole’s needs, he offered to make and donate a perfect mattress for her.

“The thought of Nicole getting a better night’s sleep every night felt so good that I wanted to do more,” Karpathian said.

He added that now through the end of the month, any purchase made from Beds by Design’s master bed collection at its Rochester location will result in a twin mattress being donated for a child helped by The Suite Dreams Project.

Families and individuals are referred to The Suite Dreams Project by area hospitals such as Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit and C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. Social workers and physical therapists are also great resources for Ponicall and Appleby to help identify families and children that have specific needs.

Besides Ponicall and Appleby, the real heroes are the volunteers: those that volunteer supplies and their know-how to projects; and those that donate their time. There are a large group of committee members who have been a part of the organization since its inception. In addition there are artists and designers; skilled trades people in such areas as plumbing, electrical work, and more; and those that can help with transporting goods and items to the sites where new magical bedrooms are created within a period of weeks, not months or years. Their assistance has been invaluable.

Furthermore it includes generous business owners like Karpathian willing to pitch in.

“If you are handy with some tools and around a house we could really use you,” Appleby said. “I mean we really rely on these people and their skills because we would be lost without them.”
Since The Suite Dreams Project has just one employee, project coordinator Lauren Tonne of Shelby Township, (Ponicall and Appleby don’t take salaries) it has virtually no overhead, and practically all donations go directly to families in need. And in the end it is that need that keeps the two mothers of a combined six kids going with this organization.

“We do it because it makes a difference. It’s more than just the physical ability to make a room look pretty. The redesigned bedrooms make the kids feel special. And the parents and the family need that,” Ponicall said.

Often, The Suite Dreams Project will also provide some design services for siblings of sick children, who often may feel left out because so much of their parents’ attention is directed toward the child with special needs, Ponicall said.

“We started this because we wanted to set an example for our own kids and it has just grown and grown,” she said. “Now our kids are in high school or older and they are still involved. It has become this family effort, not just of our family but those who have played such a major role over the years.”

For more information on The Suite Dreams Project, visit suitedreamsproject.org. To learn more about the twin mattress donation promotion being held by Beds by Design, call 248-923-2153 or visit bedsbydesignmi.com.

 

 

Photographer/Videographer: Vaughn Gurganian.

 

Short Story

Suite Dreams Project gets big lift from local mattress donation

An agency that provides children with various medical challenges a custom-designed bedroom created to meet their specific needs is getting a boost from a local mattress maker.

The non-profit, Rochester-based Suite Dreams has helped hundreds of children in Southeastern Michigan at no cost.

“For these kids it is a space that gives them a voice,” said Suite Dreams’ Kay Ponicall.

“Many of them are spending most of their time in their bedrooms and in their own beds so it’s not just their refuge. It is really where they spend most of their time. We want to do something to help add a layer of peace for them and their families,” Ponicall said.

Beds by Design, which just opened a Rochester location in July, is working with the agency by donating mattresses. Now through the end of the month BBD is donating a twin mattress to Suite Dreams for every mattress sale it makes. BBD handcrafts mattresses that are ideal for children with special needs, according to BBD owner Rory Karpathian.

After Karpathian heard about Nicole’s needs, he offered to make and donate a perfect mattress for her.

“The thought of Nicole getting a better night’s sleep every night felt so good that I wanted to do more,” Karpathian said.

For more information on The Suite Dreams Project, visit suitedreamsproject.org. To learn more about the twin mattress donation promotion being held by Beds by Design, call 248-923-2153 or visit bedsbydesignmi.com.

 

Brief

Suite Dreams Project gets big lift from local mattress donation

An agency that provides children with various medical challenges a custom-designed bedroom created to meet their specific needs is getting a boost from a local mattress maker. The non-profit, Rochester-based Suite Dreams has helped hundreds of children in Southeastern Michigan at no cost.

Beds by Design, which just opened a Rochester location in July, is working with the agency by donating mattresses. Now through the end of the month BBD is donating a twin mattress to Suite Dreams for every mattress sale it makes. BBD handcrafts mattresses that are ideal for children with special needs, according to BBD owner Rory Karpathian.

For more information on The Suite Dreams Project, visit suitedreamsproject.org. To learn more about the twin mattress donation promotion being held by Beds by Design, call 248-923-2153 or visit bedsbydesignmi.com.

 

Michigan Mattress Manufacturer Opens Store in Downtown Rochester

Michigan Mattress Manufacturer Opens Store in Downtown Rochester

Michigan Mattress Manufacturer Opens Store in Downtown Rochester

By GLENN GILBERT
Editor, Local Business News.net

Rory Karpathian was at the top of his game but something didn’t feel right. He was a highly successful executive making a six-figure income in the mattress industry, and his services were in demand.

“I actually had a great job,” Karpathian, 53, recalls. “I had worked for all the major companies. But I just got sick of the changes in the industry.

Rory Karpathian, owner of Beds by Design

Rory Karpathian, owner of Beds by Design

“You just saw so many changes that really bothered me. Everything was planned for obsolescence. It used to be you bought a mattress and they never wore out. You’re lucky to get three years out of a mattress anymore. “They’re all foam, they’re all synthetic. Nothing is natural anymore. Everything is petroleum-based,” said Karpathian, who has worked in the industry for 30 years. Karpathian felt he could do better. He wanted to take a step backward and make something he could feel good about.

So in 2005 he bought and renovated an old 12,000-square-foot facility at 8643 M 119 in Harbor Springs, a resort area that sits on Lake Michigan, and started making high-end mattresses using a process he believed in. He named the company Beds by Design.

Today its five employees are producing nearly 800 mattresses a year and Beds by Design has just opened a new retail outlet with three employees at 111 W. 3rd St. in Rochester, Mich.

Karpathian said that what’s different about his handmade mattresses is that they rely on old-fashioned box springs, natural materials — wool, cotton and natural latex and very little foam. Each two-sided mattress is custom made for the customer. Prices range from about $1,000 to $4,500 for standard sizes.

Beds by Design also custom makes bedding for boats. The “older generation remembers when this kind of stuff was around,” Karpathian said. “I didn’t invent this. I just brought back all the old-school stuff. I wanted to go back to the healthy way of sleeping and build something that lasts, something I felt good about .”

The mattress industry has seen significant consolidation and contraction in the past decade and the number of small, independent manufacturers — once the bedrock of the industry — has declined, according to a report in Bed Times, a publication that covers the sleep industry.

Beds by Design offers a lifetime warranty. A sign in front of the Harbor Springs location says it is the last bed you will ever need to buy. That caught the attention of David Marvin, vice president and chief operating officer of Stafford’s, which operates three lodging facilities in northern Michigan.

Marvin walked into the store on a day when he needed a replacement bed in a hurry. Karpathian and his crew dropped what they were doing to meet the need in two days. It was the beginning of a lasting relationship between the two companies.

“We saw the way he made his mattresses,” Marvin said. “His mattresses cost quite a bit more than ours,” Marvin said, but with the lifetime warranty and no need to keep replacing beds, buying from Beds by Design made sense, Marvin said. Marvin said Stafford’s had been replacing beds about every five years.

Worker at Beds by Design

Worker at Beds by Design

Beds by Design now furnishes mattresses for all of the Stafford locations. “We put our name on it,” Marvin said of the beds made for Stafford’s. Stafford’s calls it the Pineapple bed — actually it is Beds by Design’s Moonbeam model.

“The guests responded to it. We can get more money for a guest room. It’s one more amenity for our properties,” Marvin said. “Almost half of the time you spend in a hotel room you’re spending in a bed,” Marvin notes.

Many of Karpathian’s customers have been guests at Stafford’s and want a similar mattress of their own. Marvin said Stafford’s now has an interest in the survival of Karpathian’s business.

“We need him to be around.” That suits Karpathian well. He wants to eventually open three more stores in Chicago, Indianapolis and Naples, Fla.

Karpathian said his typical customer is 50 years old or older, and usually wealthy. Seventy percent of his customers “have bad backs, bad hips, bad shoulders,” Karpathian said.

Beds by Design showroom/workshop in Harbor Springs, Mich.

Beds by Design showroom/workshop in Harbor Springs, Mich.

“People expect our mattresses to cost $20,000 to $30,000” and his audience could probably afford that. Typically, he said his customers might live in Birmingham, a wealthy community in Michigan’s Oakland County, have a summer home in Petoskey or Harbor Springs in Northern Michigan and a winter home in Naples. The health issue could provide a niche for bed makers as the Baby Boom generation matures. Getting a good night’s sleep depends on factors such as comfort, stress level, room temperature, but the first essential is a good mattress, according to the Sleep Disorders Center of WebMD.

“If you wake up in the morning and have some low back pain and can stretch and get rid of it in 15 or 30 minutes, that means you’re on an inappropriate mattress for you,” sleep specialist Michael Breus states on the WebMD web site. “The right mattress, on the other hand, is one on which you feel no pressure, almost like you’re floating in air,” Breus said.

Stafford’s Marvin was experiencing back problems himself and Beds by Design customized a bed for him and his wife. The company built him “a left-and right, his and hers bed. And I’ve never slept better,” Marvin said.

Karpathian said local chiropractors send their patients to him and want him to set up a booth at their conventions. Karpathian said launching out on his own “was a dream of mine five or six years before I started this company. I just had something driving me to do it. “There’s nothing like this on the planet. I’ll stick by that.”

Beds by Design is reachable by phone at 248-923-2153 in Rochester and at 231-347-0696 in Harbor Springs.