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Sum Girls Boutique in Berkley: a Place for Shopping, Learning – and Having Fun

Sum Girls Boutique in Berkley: a Place for Shopping, Learning – and Having Fun

Sum Girls Boutique in Berkley: a Place for Shopping, Learning – and Having Fun

06
NOVEMBER 2019
BY HONEY MURRAY
LBN Community Series
Berkley
In recent years, Batman, Wonder Woman, Iron Man, the Hulk and loads of other beloved characters have been embraced by fans as they’ve jumped off the pages of comic books and landed, with full, magnificent force, onto three-dimensional movie screens and into jam-packed, comic-book character conventions.

In Berkley, popular retailer and blogger, Robyn Coden, has created the same type of phenomenon with Sum Girls Boutique, an upscale-resale (sustainable-fashion) and new apparel-and-accessories shop — and transformative meeting place — for “Tweens, Teens and Ladies of all Ages.”

ROBYN CODEN

OWNER, SUM GIRLS BOUTIQUE
“Our shop is actually our blog, ‘Dim Sum and Doughnuts,’ come to life,” Robyn says.

When Robyn adopted her daughter, Frankie, from China, she started a blog called “Fu-Lan Mania: A Blog of Chinese Adoption and Clueless Parents” to keep in touch with family and friends during the adoption process. And when Robyn gave birth to daughter, Jaye, she started writing ‘Dim Sum and Doughnuts’ with her two daughters in mind, sharing her knowledge, experiences, ideas and love for them to read when they grow up.

“Growing up, making mistakes, having fun … Through Sum Girls Boutique, we are living our ‘Dim Sum and Doughnuts’ mantra, but we’re also building sum confidence, doing sum recycling and donating, and offering sum style at reasonable prices,” Robyn laughs.

Southfield resident, Tammy Cedo, loves shopping at Sum Girls Boutique, often with her three teenage daughters, Lydia, Lily and Joanna.

“I was running errands here in Berkley,” she says, “and I needed a special dress to wear to a gala. Someone suggested I try Sum Girls Boutique.”

“When I stopped in,” Tammy continues, “Robyn said, ‘I’ll pick out a couple of dresses while you finish your errands.’”

“When I got back, tried on one of the dresses – sheer, black lace with a beige under-slip — and walked out of the fitting room, I thought we were going to fall on the floor: it looked fantastic – and was exactly what I’d been looking for!”

“Plus,” she chuckles, “I’ve been able to wear the slip with other dresses! Now, when I need something, I come here first. And nine times out of ten, I find the perfect thing.”

Business neighbor Kathleen Abrahamian, who, with her husband, owns Alice’s Perfect Fit Alterations, is a frequent shopper at Sum Girls Boutique.

“This is a Harvey’s bag, made from seatbelts,” she says, holding up her purse. “It’s my favorite! And I also got this Eileen Fisher sweater I’m wearing from Sum Girls.”

Though the boutique does offer new clothing items and accessories, part of the shopping allure is the experience of finding high-end, gently worn treasures – at a fraction of their original price.

Check Out This Week's Berkley City News

“Robyn beautifully controls the inventory that comes in,” Kathleen says. “Everything has a modern vibe and is in perfect condition.”

On her website, Robyn shares information about the consignment process for the clothes, shoes, bags and accessories she chooses to carry.

Some of the higher-end brands the store sells include: Vintage Havana, Lululemon, Free People, H & M, ROOTS, Urban Outfitters, North Face, Banana Republic, Chico’s, Dooney & Bourke, Coach, Michael Kors.

“We also love unique, on-trend or timeless apparel, bags and accessories from upscale, higher-end stores or boutiques,” Robyn explains. “We do not accept brands of any major chain discount stores like Walmart, Old Navy or Target.”

Though some consignors opt for a cash purchase of their items that sell, the majority choose to convert the sales into credit toward a store account.

On Saturdays and school holidays, the shop is filled with students and their moms who are thrilled to be using accounts that have helped them recycle their wardrobes and find “new” wearables for their own closets.

Twelve-year-old shoppers Sienna, Karsen, Jessie, Talia and Delaney are frequent customers who often meet at Sum Girls and shop together, trying on outfits in the lush and spacious fitting room.

“I like, literally, everything that they have,” Jessie says excitedly. “There’s a wide variety of options: shoes, jewelry and clothes.”

“All my shirts that I wear are from here,” says Karsen.

Delaney points to the jeans she’s wearing, and Talia describes a Bat Mitzvah dress she purchased.

Delaney adds, “Also, they have a ton of events here that we’ve participated in, like when we gave advice for sixth graders.”

“We are very involved with the girls in the community,” Robyn says.

Like the wisdom shared in her blog, Robyn holds informative, confidence-building mini-seminars for girls in her community, like “SUMthing about Middle School,” and she holds many other special events and fundraisers.

“We have an informal leadership/learning program called the ‘Girl Boss Internship,’” Robyn says, “for eighth-grade (and older) girls to help in the store and learn customer service, retail knowledge and other values.”

“So,” concludes Robyn, “though we love offering upscale, trendy, coveted, timeless items that help you get ready for work, parties, a vacation, or any day’s event, we also work, have fun as a family and, like the words in ‘Dim Sum and Doughnuts,’ help girls know the beauty and fun in life – and to feel empowered and loved.”

3015 Twelve Mile Road
Berkley, MI 48072
248-677-4900

sumgirlsboutique.com

DimSumAndDoughnuts.com 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Birmingham’s St. Croix Shop: “Our Enchanting Windows Change Weekly!”

Birmingham’s St. Croix Shop: “Our Enchanting Windows Change Weekly!”

Birmingham’s St. Croix Shop: “Our Enchanting Windows Change Weekly!”
16
NOVEMBER 2018
BY HONEY MURRAY
LBN Community Series – Update
Birmingham
With 20,000 commuters on Maple Road in Birmingham daily – and often slowed in traffic there — the themed, decorated windows of the St. Croix Shop (managed by retail dynamo Victoria Knight) are drawing the eyes of those drivers and of pedestrian shoppers.
“What’s so great about being in Birmingham,” Knight says, “is we have that built-in audience! With eye-catching displays, we razzle-dazzle and delight customers going by. For example, they see our renowned chenille scarves creatively displayed in our Thanksgiving-themed window, and we’ll sell seven in an afternoon!”

“We’re not mandated by a mall, so get ready! For us, it’s lights! Trees! And a festive destination for local holiday shoppers.”

Birmingham, Michigan
Visit our new location in Downtown Birmingham!

Manager: Victoria Knight

268 West Maple
Birmingham, Michigan 48009
1-248-816-1390
1-800-276-6880
birmingham@stcroixshop.com

Monday – Saturday: 10am – 7pm
Sunday: 12 – 6pm
(call store for holiday hours)

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Ciot in Troy Readies State-of-the-Art Warehouse/Showroom for Nature’s Masterpieces – and Much More

Ciot in Troy Readies State-of-the-Art Warehouse/Showroom for Nature’s Masterpieces – and Much More

Ciot in Troy Readies State-of-the-Art Warehouse/Showroom for Nature’s Masterpieces – and Much More
17
OCTOBER 2018
BY HONEY MURRAY
LBN Community Series
Troy
Jeff Glasener, Vice President of Detroit Ciot in Troy, grins, rubs his eyes, and quickly straightens his sport coat — a tweed that blends some of the same colors as the majestic slabs of stone that surround him.
“We closed a very important deal early this morning, and I just received the contract. Luckily,” he chuckles, “our lawyer will help with those 50 pages!”

Ciot, the stone, tile, and specialty design company begun in Montreal 68 years ago, is celebrating the tenth anniversary of Troy’s Detroit Ciot, its first showroom in the United States, and they’ve been so successful here that they are constructing – and have almost completed – a 55,000 square-foot warehouse and showroom, dedicated only to slabs (man-made, or of stone, glass, composites).

JEFF GLASENER

VICE PRESIDENT OF DETROIT CIOT IN TROY

“Though we offer an endless variety of tile for builders and homeowners,” says Glasener, “our focus area is primarily stone and slabs. Our current, 10,000 square-foot slab gallery is beautiful and holds 1000 slabs. We also have inventory in four other buildings. Our new warehouse will house 10,000 slabs.”

“In states like Florida or California,” Glasener explains, “slabs can typically remain outdoors. Some suppliers store them in Quonset huts or other dingy structures. But in Michigan’s freeze-thaw environment, the material needs to be protected. And our new warehouse-and-showroom is definitely state-of-the-art!”

The outside walls will be clad in slabs and glass.

“It’s designed with a whole new standard of displaying and showcasing the slabs,” says Glasener.

These exotic natural and manufactured slabs are used by over 200 local fabricators to offer designers, builders, and homeowners the precise material to personalize and beautify anything from a countertop, wall, furnishing, floor, or door frame to a corporate lobby, exterior structure, or even to create a work of art.

“We love our fabricators.” Glasener says. “The projects they complete with our products and designs are amazing!”

Glasener also loves the business of stone, which he has been in since he was sixteen.

“My dad, who owned a Chicago ad agency and had several factory owners as clients, always got me summer jobs at those factories when I was a teenager,” he explains. “One day, after I’d been crawling around inside a boiler, cleaning it out, my dad had me run an errand for him to a tile and stone company.”

“We’re not a typical tile or slab company,” says Spielmann. “Ciot is a fashion-forward, trendsetting powerhouse. We sell exquisite hard surfaces instead of fabric and cloth.”
“When that owner saw me in the state I was in,” he continues, “he said, ‘Hey! How would you like a different job? You can start here tomorrow!’  So, I did. After two weeks I was on the floor selling stone and, eventually, was president of a national stone company for 25 years. Now I am here, and it is great to be working at Ciot during such growth.”

Company-wide, Ciot imports over 2500 containers of stone and slab per year – and each container’s area is 5000 square feet.

The stone is gathered from more than 30 countries. Several times a year, owner and architect Benny Spielmann travels to Spain, Brazil, Israel, Italy, India or Africa and works with his team of stone buyers, who help make mining and purchase decisions.

“Our buyers not only need to be geologists, but they have to understand design and trends. They also help maintain our great relationships with quarries around the world,” Spielmann says. “We hand-select the quartz, granite, marble – and even semiprecious pieces of tiger eye, jasper, amethyst – and often buy it in the shape of large blocks. It’s like jewelry in large scale!”

The blocks are sent to specialty processing facilities to be cut and polished into slabs.

“We’re not a typical tile or slab company,” says Spielmann. “Ciot is a fashion-forward, trendsetting powerhouse. We sell exquisite hard surfaces instead of fabric and cloth.”

And now those exquisite, hard surfaces – many of them brilliantly jewel-like – will soon have a new, light-filled, multi-million-dollar, elegant space of their own, at Detroit Ciot in Troy.

Ciot Detroit
1080 Coolidge Hwy.
Troy, MI  48084
248-288-8888
ciot.com
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Greek Islands Coney Restaurant in Birmingham: 24 Years of Food, Families, and “Opa!”

Greek Islands Coney Restaurant in Birmingham: 24 Years of Food, Families, and “Opa!”

Greek Islands Coney Restaurant in Birmingham: 24 years of food, families, and “Opa!”

11

OCTOBER 2018

BY HONEY MURRAY

LBN Community Series
Birmingham

“Opa!” exclaims John Kotsogiannis as he stops by a booth to greet a long-time customer with a warm handshake and a clap on the back. “Where’s your daughter? Still in New York?”

As the two men chat for a moment, John nods his head and smiles at other lunch patrons who are picking up or ordering carry-outs or looking at menus, seated in his restaurant’s newly renovated booths and tables.

“We’ve been in Birmingham for 24 years,” says John. “I’ve seen families grow up here.”

JOHN KOTSOGIANNIS

OWNER OF GREEK ISLANDS CONEY RESTAURANT
IN BIRMINGHAM

Kelli and Mark Stebbins and their four children are one of those families.

“Mark and I walked here today from our home in Bloomfield Township, three miles away,” says Kelli. “We’ve been customers for 20 years! I’d ride my bike and meet Mark here when I was pregnant with our first child.”

“It was so cozy,” she continues. “We’d talk about what our child might be like while we ate what are still our favorites today: a hamburger for me and a gyro for Mark – though we’d often come for breakfast, too!”

“Yes, and with the kids, breakfast always included Mickey Mouse pancakes, which was exotic for them,” Mark chuckles.

“Part of the reason we come,” Mark says, “is the people: John and his fantastic staff. John always has a really positive outlook and a big smile.”

“And,” grins Kelli, “he always let us take four suckers!”

“If kids want to go to a place – even for the suckers,” John laughs, “the parents will follow. It’s about good, fresh food but, also, all about the nice experience.”

“I had a customer yesterday who was in from Miami,” John shares. “He said, ‘We have upscale restaurants, European places, fine dining – but nothing comfortable like this, with good atmosphere, food, and price.’ We just like to treat people the way we like to be treated while serving food we enjoy eating, ourselves.”

“All of our Greek dishes are made from scratch,” states John. “People especially love our homemade spinach pie and our lentil or chicken lemon-rice soup.”

“A lot of people now like to get home quickly after a long day and then eat at home,” Bill says. “So carry-outs—especially salads — are a very large part of our business.”

“And we sell a lot of chicken here. We have a lady who works cleaning chickens all day and then marinating them for 24 hours.”

Their most popular menu item is their Greek Islands Special Salad, with grilled chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, beets, cucumbers, feta cheese, and Greek dressing – which they make themselves and sell in bottles, along with their homemade Ranch dressing.

“We have customers who come from New York and Chicago and buy three, four, five bottles of our dressing,” John says.

Manager Bill Gikas, who grew up with John in Thiva, Greece, adds, “The dressings have no preservatives. And we have low-cal versions, too.”

“All the area schools – the students, parents, teachers — come here to get salads for meetings and to take home, and for catering their all-night parties and other events.”

“A lot of people now like to get home quickly after a long day and then eat at home,” Bill says. “So carry-outs—especially salads — are a very large part of our business.”

“People love that our foods are so fresh. We get produce and other deliveries five times per week,” shares John. “Nothing in our walk-ins is older than two days.”

“And now, our décor is fresh, too,” he continues. “My wife, Mary, chose the colors, the materials: everything! We were closed for eleven days and completed the work, including brand-new bathrooms.”

“I wanted to give Greek Islands a more modern feel, up-to-date and elegant,” explains Mary. “I’m not a designer by trade, so it took me a while…I had a vision and, after lots of tile and paint samples, we got it to work!”

John’s whole family is involved in the business, along with his original partner, George Stefanakis, and his kitchen manager and newest partner, Ali Zacellari.

“My daughter Marisa, who studied graphic design and product packaging at Michigan State, created our menu,” John says. “And daughter Ana, a true family leader and a nurse anesthetist, keeps us all healthy and in line,” John laughs. “She’s always calling to say ‘Add more salads to the menu!’ And ‘Did you exercise today?’”

“I’ve worked a lot of jobs,” John relates, “starting at American and Lafayette Coney Islands as a teen. I treat people, staff and customers, the way I’d like to be treated. Most of my staff has been with me for years. We do the right thing, always, and we have done so for 24 years.”

“I’d like to be around for another 50,” he jokes. “Well, maybe 25….”

Greek Islands
Coney Restaurant
221 Hamilton Row
Birmingham, MI 48009
248.646.1222
www.greekislandsconey.com/birmingham/

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LATEST BIRMINGHAM POSTS

Maple Lane Florist in Clawson: Serving Customers for Five Generations

Maple Lane Florist in Clawson: Serving Customers for Five Generations

Maple Lane Florist
in Clawson:
Serving Customers for
Five Generations
10
OCTOBER 2018
BY HONEY MURRAY
LBN Community Series
Clawson
Anna Frost, from Clawson, was sending flowers to a funeral home. Her oldest friend’s mother had passed away at the age of 96 after a brief illness.
“I was sad for my friend, of course, but I wanted a flower arrangement that wasn’t ‘funeral-ish,’” Anna says. “I called Maple Lane Florist on Crooks Road in Clawson and was helped by a man that I believe was the owner’s son.”

“He was sympathetic and kind, and he assured me that he had the flowers available to make just the kind of uplifting and very pretty arrangement I was thinking of – with lots of fresh, white, feminine blossoms — in my price range, and able to be delivered later that day.”

NATALIE WATKINS

OWNER OF MAPLE LANE FLORIST IN CLAWSON
“When I arrived at the funeral home,” Anna recalls, “the family members came running up to me and said, ‘We knew those flowers were from you as soon as they arrived! They are so lovely!’”

Owner Natalie Watkins, who started working in her family’s shop over 50 years ago at the age of nine, says, “We actually listen to everyone and try to get exactly what they want…And usually, we get it just right!”

She adds, “After all, we’ve been in business so long that we have a deep understanding of flowers – and people.”

Though Maple Lane Florist was officially opened in 1948 by Natalie’s grandparents, John and Grace Ann Schultz, the Schultzes actually began the business out of the Troy home they moved to from Highland Park in 1936.

“I had a customer come in,” shares Natalie, “who wanted flowers for a 75th anniversary. She said that my grandparents had done the wedding flowers out of their house all those years ago!”

 

Her grandparents built onto the house with greenhouses and a flower shop. They also had a roadside stand for selling “mums, tomatoes – anything they could grow.”

“And now,” Natalie beams, “there is a fifth generation of family here.”

“Growing up, my mom would bring home work for the five of us kids to do: making bows, assembling corsages…All five of my kids (and most of their spouses) have also been brought up in the business.”

“Our customers love and trust us,” Natalie smiles. “They’ve been with us for years, and many actually worked with us when they were teens!”.”
“My granddaughter Natalie, who is twelve, is one of my best employees! She loves to wait on customers and make mixed bouquets. Since she’s been four years old, she’s counted out the cash drawer every time she works, making sure we have enough singles and change.”

Grandchildren Jordan, Alyssa, Luca, Meadow, and Violet also often work on weekends and in the summer, cleaning flowers and watering plants.

“It’s so great for all the kids to work here. They learn how to count and work with cash, they enjoy people, and they are excited and happy to make money – though they are required to save half of what they earn in their bank accounts.”

Natalie recounts ways in which the business has changed over time.

“In the past, Mother’s Day and Easter were the biggest holidays. But, over the years, grocery stores – and even hardware store chains – began mass-selling of flowers and plants.”

“My grandfather was appalled,” Natalie says. “But the good part is, it’s kept flowers at the forefront. A bad part is, customers are not always getting quality and properly cared-for flowers that way.”

“Like food, our flowers are a perishable commodity and are always kept in perfect temperature and conditions. If a customer says they don’t want roses because they only last a couple of days, I’m so happy to tell them that ours will last at least a week and sometimes ten days with just a little at-home care.”

“And,” she continues, “if you have a small floral arrangement and leave it in the fridge or in a cool room while you’re at work and take it back out when you get home, you can enjoy it for many extra days!”

Maple Lane Florist is increasingly delivering weekly arrangements, as well as other floral gifts, to corporate customers and other businesses.

“When they receive their standing order for their lobby or front desk, the office workers say, ‘Yay!! Our flowers are here!’” Natalie says. “It’s like they are getting their own gift.”

“They love it,” adds driver and clerk Leigh Liotta. “We bring back the old flowers, and they love the new ones. Everyone loves receiving flowers!”

General manager Blake Bergeson, Natalie’s son-in-law, also enjoys arranging holiday decorating of all types and occasions for homes and businesses.

“Especially the weekend of Thanksgiving,” he says, “we are putting up lights and decorations that homeowners and businesses either own or have us purchase for them. We’ve done entire blocks of storefronts as well as a single bannister a client needed decorated for a house party.”

“Our customers love and trust us,” Natalie smiles. “They’ve been with us for years, and many actually worked with us when they were teens!”

“They know our names; they come in, put money on the counter and say, ‘Give me my usual.’ When they move away, they still call to have us send flowers to their mom or grandmother…or to send holiday and thank-you gifts like amaryllis, poinsettias, and centerpieces.”

“They’ve stayed with us through all these years. And…it gets better every year!”

1522 N. Crooks Rd.
Clawson, MI  48017
248-280-5949
maplelaneflowers.com
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