Jane Miles of Clawson’s American Flag and Banner shakes her head and laughs as she recounts how, in 1978, she came to own the long-standing business.
Jane Miles, Owner – American Flag and Banner
“Yes, we’ve been around for 101 years, though I haven’t been here all that time,” she quips.
“It was time, after college graduation, a B.F.A., and unrelated jobs, for me to find work in my artistic field. I didn’t want to teach, so I was considering other outlets and saw an ad for a ‘sew-er’ for American Flag and Banner, located in Detroit, and owned byRobert Erdman.”
“During the employment interview, which was the weirdest of my life, Mr. Erdman asked me several personal and what I thought to be bizarre and, maybe, inappropriate questions: ‘Did I want to start a family? If so, when? How much education did my husband have? How much money did he make?’”
“I was offered the job on a Friday afternoon and thought about it all weekend, but decided not to take it.”
“When I called Mr. Erdman on Monday morning with my decision, he said, ‘that’s too bad … I was thinking you and your husband might like to buy the business.’ Well, my husband’s dream was always to own his own business. So soon after that interview, we did end up buying it.”
First located in Detroit on Fort Street and called Detroit Flag at that time, what is now American Flag and Banner finished, in 1923, the original flag that draped across the J.L. Hudson store on Woodward for Armistice Day and other patriotic holidays. The world’s largest flag at 3700 square feet, its stars were six inches tall, and a mile of rope was required to hang it. Its replacement, made in 1949, was seven stories high and needed 55 men to put it in place. Stars for Alaska and Hawaii were added in 1960 by six seamstresses and in 1976, after being hung a final time, the flag was donated to the Smithsonian Institution.
“There’s another flag we are known for, too,” says Miles. “During the initial year or so after we bought the business, we created the first flag for the African country of Liberia.”
Flags for every state and from every country – as well as items for schools, sports teams, and the armed forces – are available, and American Flag and Banner continues to create custom items.
“We just made the ‘Roaring Lions’ flags for the Detroit Lions,” says store manager Emily Dancy, “as well as their ‘WCF’ flags, the initials for William Clay Ford.”
“We also repair flags,” Dancy adds. “And if they can’t be repaired, we can dispose of them properly.”
Longtime customer Marc Secontine, owner of The Varsity Shop on Adams Road in Birmingham,says, “This is such a nice business. It was great to buy the American flags, flagpoles – and flagpole lights – from them for our business.”
Currently, spread out on tables in their store’s adjacent workshop, are fabric, patterns, tools and “goop” for making a special-order sports banner for Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.
Though at one time American Flag and Banner had ten employees who did the sewing of flags, there is now one main sewing staffer, Claudia Geiger, who is also a commercial artist, the store’s design manager and Miles’ longtime friend and schoolmate.
Working in perfect unison as the team they’ve been since their days at Cass Technical High School in Detroit and as BFA students and sorority sisters at Wayne State University, Miles lays out the pattern pieces that Geiger has made, applying the sticky liquid over them that transfers the outline to the underlying fabric.
“It’s easy for people to order inexpensive, computer-printed flags online from China, for example,” Miles shares. “But our handmade flags and banners are gorgeous, hang beautifully, and they last.”
“My computer’s up here,” Geiger adds, chuckling as she points to her head. “And it seems that when we make their flags and banners, the team really does win more often!”
With a wall of storage for patterns that she has drawn as a testament to their work, Geiger recalls past projects.
“Years ago, we had a whole room full of patterns, and we made the most amazing, hand-sewn felt and appliqued flags and banners. It was art. Now, clothes are so inexpensive, and there aren’t that many people learning or wanting to sew. And fabric and patterns do cost a lot! But I meet people and ask, ‘How do you live without a sewing machine?’”
“We’ve been so fortunate with our sewing machines,” says Miles, pointing to the wall-length sewing table. “These are the original machines that came with the purchase of the business. They have old-school ball bearings. We maintain them, and repairmen are in awe of how well-made they are. And parts for them are still out there!”
Many of their other tools and supplies were also included with the business’s purchase by Jane Miles and her husband, Bill, who passed away early this year, and were brought with them when the business was moved to Clawson in 1980.
“Clawson is a great spot for us,” Miles says, “a most wonderful and patriotic town and place to be.”
The Star-Spangled Banner still waves – and has been waving for over a century – at American Flag and Banner, located in Clawson since 1980.
And in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 national tragedy, hundreds of people, in a line that circled their building, waited in the rain to purchase flags and show their patriotism.
“The people were amazing. They were patient and supportive as we made each sale – which, for those who needed flagpoles, took extra time, then, to drill the proper holes for installation,” explained Miles.
“There were no planes flying, either, so luckily Bill found an empty truck that was able to bring us products. Meanwhile, customers were buying everything we had and stripped the place of U.S.A. knickknacks – and even bought my own patriotic clothes off of me!”
“But the best thing was the sense of community as those in line became acquainted during their wait. You could hear people wishing those behind them, ‘Good luck with that wedding!’ or ‘I hope your mom recovers quickly!’ as they entered our store.”
“It’s a wholesome business. Through all of our years, even though a good flag can be a luxury item, no one has ever written us a bad check or lied about their history to receive our veterans’ discount. And that,” concludes Miles, “is just another form of patriotism.”
I first met Kevin Dean back in the late-1980s, when I wrote a story about the magnificent selection of seafood at Superior Fish for Detroit Monthly magazine, where I worked at the time. Kevin was dressed up in a wild Hawaiian shirt holding a pool toy for the photo, and we bonded about the fact that we both came from Allen Park.
Zoom forward to this week, when I was in to do another story, this time celebrating the 78th year of his family’s company. Inside the spotless market, I interviewed architect Chris Wzacny of Bloomfield Hills, a 25-year customer who was in every week and greeted by first name. He was there for the wild bass and sea scallops. A first-time customer, Royal Oak’s Ryan Behringer, was there with his son Beckett, after hearing raves from friends about the market. He was looking for some red snapper after loving it in Florida on vacation. A few days later, I learned that it would be the final week of business for Superior Fish. Like so many fans in the metro area, the news was shocking and sad. I stopped into the store. Kevin and I hugged, and both of us welled up.
You never want something so good to end, but for the Dean family, it’s time.
You never want something so good to end, but for the Dean family, it’s time.
Their announcement on Facebook was this: “To everything there is a season, and now it is time to announce the closing of Superior Fish. For over 75 years we have had the privilege of being of service to Royal Oak and the Greater Metropolitan Detroit area. We sincerely appreciate and thank you for your patronage and support. Many thanks to our coworkers who have helped to make Superior Fish …..SUPERIOR! Our last ‘O FISH AL’ day of full service will be Saturday June 16th. The week of June 18 we will have a Superior FROZEN Sale. Follow us on our website / Facebook for more details. Superior Fish & the Dean Family THANK YOU and may your future be SUPERIOR!”
Kevin Dean is only 58 years old, but he has worked in the family business for 50 years, following the mantra that his father, John, instilled in Kevin and his brother David, 61: “Honesty is our policy. Always be honest with your customers and suppliers. Respect them. Repay their loyalty with your loyalty.”
John passed away in 2011. David, Kevin, their wives, their kids and many employees have carried on the retail and wholesale business — where you could find gorgeous specimens of king crab, shrimp, flounder, grouper, haddock, halibut, lake perch, lobster or octopus — ever since.
In Royal Oak, where development has gone crazy for the last three decades, Superior Fish’s location at 11 Mile and 4th Street with the large parking lot behind has been viewed as Mecca for location, location, location.
“People have been making offers for many, many years,” says Kevin. “But that’s not the main reason we’re closing. It’s a myriad of reasons.” He doesn’t specify, but says to read between the lines.
Everything aligned, he says, that this was the time to sell. Yet he also says it feels totally surreal that this is happening. “We will miss the community very much,” he says. “So much of our lives and family gatherings were spent here.”
Working behind the counter at the register, Kevin’s daughter Stephanie Dean, 20, says she’s never worked anywhere else but Superior Fish, except babysitting. “They (her parents) brought us here when we were born instead of our house, so it’s our second home.” She’s excited about the next chapter of her life, but feels sad, too.
So does Jerry Schmidt of Troy, a 30-year customer, who says he heard the news and just felt like he had to stop in and buy something. “I’m just kind of roving here, thinking about the stone crab claws I used to buy and how my dear friend, now departed, used to come in and spend $400 for holidays every year on oysters and make oyster stew for everyone.”
Cathy Burr of Ferndale is equally devastated about the closing. She came in for the makings of ceviche. “I am so sad to see it close. It’s been here my whole life.”
309 E. 11 Mile Rd.
Royal Oak, MI 48067
Cindy Morris had a devastating problem. She owned three rescue dogs, and all three had cancer. That seemed like more than a coincidence, and she wanted to find out why.
Owner Cindy Morris
“I started doing research online, saw what was in our pet’s food, what’s in the supplements they might take — wondering if we are over-vaccinating our dogs,” says Morris. What she found is that most of the packaged pet food on the shelves — even the premium stuff — is often up to 18 months old, thus depleted of the vitamins and minerals animals need to thrive.
After experimenting with a line of her own homeopathic supplements for dogs as well a few for cats, Morris developed a following at the local farmer’s markets, and decided this was her next calling. She had spent more than 30 years managing J.L. Hudson and Macy’s department stores, and after retiring early, she was looking for something that could combine her business acumen with her love of animals.
Morris opened Pet Wants in Birmingham in October 2016. “I saw that this could be something to bring to the community, somewhere they could buy fresh food. Our food is made fresh every month in Lisbon, Ohio, by a 30-year family company that’s never had a recall, so when I place an order, that’s when they start to make it for me.”
Pet Wants’ kibble is slow-cooked in small batches, which retains the nutrients. “We only source the best protein, like lamb and wild-caught salmon from Nova Scotia, and our food does not have any fillers. Dogs and cats should not have any corn, wheat or soy, no animal byproducts, nothing unspecified and no added sugars or dyes. And it’s all made in USA, which is what my clients like.”
On top of that, Pet Wants delivers for free.
“My passion is trying to make a difference in the animal companions of my clients. They should be living a lot longer than they are,” says Morris. Sadly, two of her rescue dogs died. But Bailey, a mix of Curly Coated Retriever, Bernese Mountain Dog, Shepherd and Collie, has been in remission for seven years and is almost 15. Bailey likes to greet customers at the front door, as does diminutive Beau, another rescue dog, who is a mix of Border Terrier, Parsons Russell Terrier, Shitzu and Pug.
Melissa Shepherd of West Bloomfield is a fan of Pet Wants. She has been shopping here for her 18-month-old mini golden-doodle, Emmett, since it opened. She lost her last dog way too young — only 8 years old — and thinks the food at Pet Wants has made a huge difference in her new pup’s pep and appearance.
“His hair is so soft and he has such great, shiny teeth,” Shepherd says. The food is mainly based on brown rice (some is grain-free) and offers several varieties of protein, which keeps dogs from getting bored. “Emmett loves it.”
There’s also a well-curated selection of cat food, wet and dry, along with cans of wet dog food and even some locally made, fresh-frozen meatballs to sprinkle over dog kibble.
Birmingham dog trainer Ray Kerimian, who met Morris at her farmer’s market booths, also swears by the quality and variety of Pet Wants’ products. “I’m pleasantly surprised. My dogs now have shiny coats and a lot less stool — a lot of dog food has lots of fillers, which go right through their systems.”
Morris never sells her food beyond 90 days, because it begins to lose its nutritional value after that. “We donate it to shelters and rescues: Detroit Dog Rescue, Michigan Animal Rescue League, and Good Karma Puppy Rescue.”
Hanging from one of the walls in Pet Wants are trainer Kerimian’s line of waterproof leashes, along with other colorful pet products made by local businesses, all beautifully displayed. Who knew that pet supplies could look so chic?
In fact, the nearly 2,000-square-foot space, a former art gallery, is immaculate. The floors are polished cement, track lighting makes everything pop, and her custom-made bins and displays are sleek. A sitting area to the rear features comfy chairs and room for events.
“The whole concept is kind of like an urban store, a boutique specialty store,” says Morris. “Clients can go online and order their food and anything else that’s carried in the store. We pack it up and deliver it.”
Here you can find handmade dishwasher-safe, BPA-free, recyclable toys; treats; litter; poopy pickups, and pee pads in brightly wrapped packages. Nothing feels Big Box, and nothing comes from China.
In the homeopathic section, tinctures and other remedies in attractively labeled brown glass are for ailments like sensitive stomachs, mobility challenges and anxiety, all made from essential organic oils. Find paw wax and healing salve for dogs’ elbows and post-surgical stitch removal, calming balm with lavender and peppermint (not for cats but also good for humans), and a new batch of nontoxic mosquito, flea and tick spray.
Morris also carries probiotics, which enhances the immune system and puts good bacteria back in pets’ guts. She has seen great results with her dog Bailey, whose immune system was already compromised from cancer.
Another popular item at Pet Wants is Canna Drops, phytocannabinoids from the hemp plant known as CBD oil, for cats and dogs. It’s legal in all 50 states and is used for anxiety, pain, inflammation, mobility issues and seizures.
“I’ve gotten nothing but good feedback from customers,” says Morris. “Bailey has been on it since last fall. She walks three miles a day with me and she’s still energetic and wants to play.”
Watch for monthly events, visits with vet/chiropractor Dr. Grant Tully, and puppy training throughout the year.
Kevin Hamilton, general manager of MOD Pizza on Big Beaver Road in Troy, smiles in awe as he stands in the midst of his restaurant’s frenzied, first-day activity.
“Opening this store has been a wonderful, uphill roller coaster,” he says. “This team is amazing. Their personalities bring the MOD experience to life as we serve the freshest, fastest pizzas while also serving the community with employment opportunities and local philanthropy.”
MOD Pizza, with over 330 locations around the United States and Canada, was founded in Seattle in 2008 by Ally and Scott Svenson as they sought out places with healthy, quick and delicious food to eat with their own family of four children.
Having traveled to Italy and enjoyed the thin, crispy, freshly made individual pizzas of the street vendors, the Svensons decided to try the “individual pizza” concept in their hometown of Seattle.
They also wanted to develop a business that would provide special support to its workers and its neighborhood.
Opening at the start of the recession, the Svensons hoped to feed families affordably and to provide jobs for those having trouble finding work, including people with special needs and people rehabilitating from addictions or with past crime records.
“The last thing the world needed was another pizza place,” Ally says on the MOD Pizza website, “but maybe this one could be different…and everyone could get what they wanted, made fresh on demand, for as little as possible with employees paid as much as possible, with opportunities for real growth – and even second chances.”
And, as customers approach the counter to order their pizzas made assembly-line style, they can see and get exactly what they want from a choice of crust sizes, dough type, sauce, cheese and over 30 fresh meat and vegetable toppings, temptingly displayed.
“I’ve just come from a performance I gave at Rochester Schools,” says professional storyteller Barbara Ann Poelman (storiesandplay.com). “I don’t eat carbs, so all these toppings on my pizza are actually like a hot salad, and the crust is my plate.”
“I predict,” Barbara Ann adds, “that one day MOD Pizza will have an almond crust on the menu, for those of us who eat ketogenically.” A ketogenic diet, sometimes referred to as “keto,” is very low in carbs and high in fat, producing ketones (broken-down fatty acids) instead of the glucose that would be produced from the metabolic breakdown of carbohydrates.
Bill Thompson stopped in on his way home from work and looks around at all the balloons and jovial staff members.
“I didn’t realize this was their grand opening today,” he says, waiting for a six-inch pizza to eat in the store and a nine-inch pizza to take home in a specially designed, recyclable box that keeps the pizza straight-from-the-oven fresh for twenty minutes.
“It’s my first time at a MOD Pizza,” he continues, “but it won’t be my last! It’s hard to believe that you can get as much of as many toppings as you like for one, set price. And I don’t think I waited even five minutes!”
The pizzas cook quickly in a large, 800-degree brick oven.
“I like my pizza a little more well-done, so that’s how they cook it for me,” says Maureen Neil, who usually goes to the Rochester Hills store with a daughter and grandkids. “And I love the chance to have very light cheese and lots of greens – or anything I’m in the mood for. The salads are fantastic, too. Made-to-order, and just like I’d do at home.”
The Mod Pizza locations in Troy and Rochester Hills are owned by TEAM Schostak (teamschostak.com). They also own locations in Brighton, Canton, Chesterfield Township, Livonia, Northville, Shelby Township, Southgate and Woodhaven, and they have plans to have 25 Michigan locations within the next five years.
Paul Whitmore, general manager of Livonia’s MOD Pizza for three years and a Schostak team member for seventeen years, helped with the opening of Troy’s MOD Pizza.
“Our best asset is our team of workers,” Whitmore says. “We hire for personality and train for skill. One of our core values is ‘individuality with responsibility.’ And, we empower our staff to go above-and-beyond in their service.”
“I love working here,” says Jen Hayton, who has worked at the Rochester Hills store for almost two years and helped with Troy’s grand opening. “We have the best boss ever! I love the environment and the people. It’s incredibly fun making the food, and it’s like a second family here.”
“We offer the opportunity for workers to truly be themselves – like butterflies out of their cocoons,” says Hamilton. “And our staff really enjoys our giving-back efforts, when we have events and make donations and thousands of meals for the needy and homeless.”
“Every experience here is special in its own way,” Hamilton says. “And so is every pizza!”