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A Passion for Fashion: Boutique Owner Marks 25 Years in Business

A Passion for Fashion: Boutique Owner Marks 25 Years in Business

A Passion for Fashion: Boutique Owner Marks 25 Years in Business

17

JANUARY 2020

BY HONEY MURRAY

LBN Community Series

Berkley

On an unassuming side street in Berkley, a few feet from 12 Mile Road’s relentless stream of daytime traffic, longtime boutique-clothing entrepreneur Patti Brock has created a cozy, richly stocked space for the apparel shoppers she’s been serving for 25 years — and for those who’ve just discovered her here at Annabelle’s Couture.

“I’ve always loved clothing and fashion,” Brock said recently at her store. “For 10 years, in the seventies and eighties, I enjoyed working part-time at specialty clothing store Patti Smith’s in Royal Oak. I became a buyer there. When I needed full-time work, I went to It Was/It Is, another Royal Oak boutique, where I worked for two years.

PATTI BROCK

PATTI BROCK

OWNER, ANNABELLE'S COUTURE

“I finally realized, ‘I think I could do this myself!’ Was it a leap of faith? Stupidity? Passion? A little of all,” she said with a laugh.

A Ferndale resident at the time, Brock noticed a Pleasant Ridge location for lease on Woodward.

“The landlord did not want a retail business there, but finally relented. That’s when I went to work: knocking down walls, painting, decorating, doing everything I could to open my store on a very tight budget.”

After operating Excelsior! Couture there for fifteen years, Brock downsized to a new location in Royal Oak and renamed the business Annabelle’s Couture, after her first granddaughter.

“I had been caring for my mother, who was loved by our customers and had always worked with me as a seamstress,” Brock said. “After she passed away, I took some time off. Eventually, I found my current space on Robina Avenue in Berkley and have been here for three years. And now I’m celebrating 25 extraordinary years of owning my unique clothing business.

“We don’t carry any brand you find in a mall. We work with artistic companies that are able to produce things that are not mainstream, from America and all over the world, including lots of handmade jewelry.”

Shawn Lombardo of Pontiac, a university librarian, has been a customer since 1999.

“I’d been looking for casual wear,” Lombardo said, “and my boyfriend told me about a place where his co-worker shopped. It was Patti’s store, Excelsior! Couture in Pleasant Ridge. It was an amazing personal shopping experience. Just as it is now at Annabelle’s, there were brands you’d never seen before.

“I’m from Long Island,” Lombardo continued, “and when my sister and mom visit, they say, ‘Where did you get that dress? Do they have any more sweaters like that?’ So, I long-distance shop for them.

“People might think of librarians as conservative dressers, but shopping here has made me take chances in what I wear. Patti is so enthusiastic and encouraging. She’s also the first person to say, ‘Take it off’ if it doesn’t look good.

“Annabelle’s is almost like home,” said Lombardo. “I’ll be running errands, and I’ll stop by just to say hi.”

“It’s a dangerous place! Very dangerous,” teased regular customer Laura Lies of Berkley. “I live a block and a half away.

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“I came to this location when it was previously a Pilates exercise studio,” Lies said. “I wish I had known about her previous locations.

“I get my fun clothes here, my dressy, jazzy, nobody-else-has-it things” she said.

“I love everything from here,” Lies added later. “The velvet skirt I got, which goes with everything; the burned-velvet kimono I wore on New Year’s Eve; all kinds of jewelry, shoes and accessories: in fact, everything I’m wearing right now. And every time you come in, it’s like a little party. Even if you don’t know the other customers, everyone is always having fun.”

 

Nicole Artanowicz, another Berkley resident, has been a customer since 2014.

“I tagged along with my friend, Shawn,” she said, “and I fell in love with Patti and Annabelle’s. I bought a perfect dress for a Berkley school fundraiser. It was an Alembika burn-out velvet cocoon dress. I love the slimming illusion, and I can wear it all year.

“I’m also impressed that Patti is very community-oriented and always gives back. She has become such a bright spot in our community.”

 

Annabelle’s was a dropoff center for the Berkley Moms Club’s diaper drive for the Judson Center, a social services agency, and also has a yearly fundraising fashion show.

“We had an extra-special event recently,” Brock said. “Chemistry Salon, Ullman’s Health and Beauty and Annabelle’s — three business here in Berkley — treated a winning caregiver of a veteran to a fantastic prize of clothing, jewelry, shoes, beauty items and salon services.

“It’s a great community here,” added Brock. “I hope it grows but doesn’t lose sight of the positive impact of retail.”

There is no website for Annabelle’s. “Shopping is an experience you cannot get by ordering online,” Brock said.

However, a visit to the store’s Facebook page is almost like being at a merchant event. Pictures of new arrivals are posted throughout the day, prompting enthusiastic requests that a dress or shirt be put on hold, questions about size availability, exclamations of product admiration, and encouragement for fellow readers’ purchases.

“I also have my ‘first-dibs’ email list,” Brock said. “When items come in, I can let customers know, especially when it’s items I know they like.

“I love helping women feel beautiful in their clothing, jewelry, and shoes. And I love being part of this community. And, best of all,” Brock added, “with Annabelle’s, you definitely won’t see yourself coming and going.”

Annabelle’s Couture is open from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Annabelle’s Couture
3369 Robina Avenue
Berkley, MI 48072
248.544.9008

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Bowling Center’s Success Rooted In a Colorful Past

Bowling Center’s Success Rooted In a Colorful Past

Bowling Center’s Success Rooted in a Colorful Past

04
JANUARY 2020
BY REBECCA CALAPPI
LBN Community Series

Berkley

If it’s possible for a bowling center to have a personality, Hartfield Lanes has got one. And it all started with Harry Hartfield Sr.

The charismatic Harry owned a pool hall and a blind pig in Detroit during Prohibition. He did well for himself. So well, if fact, that the Purple Gang, notorious Detroit mobsters, invited him to join the organization.

Harry declined, saying he was doing just fine without the gang, and continued his professional growth. In 1944, he bought a bar in downtown Berkley and called it Hartfield’s, according to his grandson, Jeff Hartfield.

“They nicknamed it The Bucket of Blood,” said Jeff. “I don’t know why, but somehow it got nicknamed that. But then my father (Harry Hartfield Jr.) built the bowling center around the bar. He had to buy out residents’ homes. They built 16 lanes downstairs. The next year, they built 16 more lanes above that. Then the following year, they built 20 more lanes.”

It was the 1960s by then, and bowling was all the rage.

“You built a bowling center and you had a line out the door,” said Jeff. “Back in the early ’70s, we were the first house to have automatic scoring. By about ’75-’76, we had the most games bowled per lane in the country.”

Hartfield Lanes was a success.

Harry Sr. was part of that success until 1999, when he died at the ripe old age of 102. He lived in the apartment above the bar until he died and could frequently be seen in the bowling center.

His grandson attributes Harry’s longevity to being active at Hartfield Lanes.

“He was an avid pool player. He’d come out and talk to everybody,” said Jeff. “He’d come out and see some kids playing pool that didn’t know how to play. He taught a lot of the kids in Berkley. Some of those kids still talk about him.”

Today, Jeff, 59, runs the center with his wife, Linda Hartfield, and his son, Jeff Hartfield Jr.

“The bowling industry has changed. We went through the real rough period, but we’re on the upswing,” said Linda Hartfield recently. “It’s neat because so many people love bowling. Right now, it’s the season. It’s our busiest two weeks a year with holiday break. Everyone can bowl. That’s the neat thing about bowling.”

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Mary Mason has been the manager of Hartfield Lanes for three years.

“Right now, we have 19 employees who pretty much run the whole show,” said Mason. “They’re very dedicated, very loyal employees. Based on the manner in which the family treats the employees, people stay here.”

In addition to open bowling, Hartfield Lanes also offers league play, special-needs programs, glow bowling (bowling with the lights down and the music up), special events and more.

“We offer bowling parties, corporate, birthday, fundraisers, family reunions,” said Mason. “Glow bowling is specific to Friday and Saturday evenings. That starts at 5 p.m. and goes until 2 a.m. We get very crowded and we offer overflow upstairs. We have karaoke every Saturday night in our Hat Trick Pub from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.”

The Hat Trick was formerly known as The Bucket of Blood. The new name came about during the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup years, when the pub had a naming contest and one of the patrons suggested “The Hat Trick Pub.”

Perhaps the biggest draw for Hartfield Lanes is the location, right on 12 Mile Road in downtown Berkley. While many bowling centers are dying out, Linda says, Hartfield stays consistent with its ambiance.

“They’re definitely dying out and turning into entertainment centers,” Linda said. “But we have a local pub with karaoke. It’s kind of a ‘Cheers’ thing. The young people all walk or Uber. A lot of the girls get together to karaoke. We’re thankful where we’re at and keeping afloat.”

Four generations in, and the business is still strong. The vision Harry Sr. left for Harry Jr., Jeff Sr. and Jeff Jr. laid the foundation for four generations of Hartfields to entertain Berkley over more than 70 years.

“We’re fortunate we can make it work for us,” Linda Hartfield said.

Hartfield Lanes is open Mondays Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to midnight, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to midnight, Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to midnight.

3490 W. 12 Mile Rd.
Berkley, MI 48072
248.543.9338

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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.

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“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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‘Irish Pub, Gourmet Kitchen’ Marks Silver Anniversary

‘Irish Pub, Gourmet Kitchen’ Marks Silver Anniversary

‘Irish Pub, Gourmet Kitchen’ Marks Silver Anniversary

13
SEPTEMBER 2019
BY MATT JACHMAN
LBN Community Series
Berkley

Kevin O’Mara was never interested in climbing the corporate ladder.

Instead, “I wanted to make my own ladder,” said O’Mara, a scientist, restaurateur and health food devotee.

And he’s done just that, by running his own environmental- and product-testing laboratory for more than three decades, practicing yoga and clean eating that he says is adding life to his years, and building a successful restaurant that’s become a fixture in central Berkley over the last quarter-century.

KEVIN O'MARA

OWNER, O’MARAS RESTAURANT
O’Mara, 55, is the owner of O’Mara’s Restaurant at 12 Mile and Coolidge, an “Irish pub, gourmet kitchen” hybrid that he put together with a trio of brothers, Harry, Lewis and James Sawyer, whom he met as a teenager when they all worked in area restaurants. Kevin was by far the youngest of the four, but he had big dreams back in the early 1980s.

“I was working with Harry and I told him, ‘Some day we’re going to have our own restaurant,’ ” O’Mara said recently as he reflected on his namesake’s silver anniversary.

He’d started out as a dishwasher, worked his way into cooking and was running a restaurant kitchen, he said, by the time he graduated from high school. He went on to major in chemistry at Adrian College, paying his way with restaurant work.

Post-college, in 1987, he opened his testing lab, but he was never far from the restaurant world.

“I never left the kitchen. I was never not on a kitchen project,” O’Mara said.

O’Mara and the Sawyers opened O’Mara’s in March of 1994 in what had formerly been a Chuck Joseph’s Place for Steak.

“The building was built by a restaurant man,” O’Mara said. “Chuck built a nice building so we thought we’d give it a try here.” They’d previously scouted for locations in several Detroit-area communities, he said.

Today, Harry is the head chef, James the sous chef, Lewis is the general manager and O’Mara is the owner and shareholder and a familiar presence to regulars there.

O’Mara’s makes most of its food from scratch, even soups, breads and many desserts; O’Mara takes pride in a menu that relies on fresh food with low sodium and no preservatives.

“It’s just a good place to go for a meal,” said veteran radio host Bob Allison, who hosts the “Ask Your Neighbor” show on WNZK (AM 690) on weekday mornings. Allison visited recently for lunch and a drink. “Their soups absolutely wonderful,” he said.

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“It’s good food, good service, good people,” said Alan Kideckel, who had stopped in with friend Michael Reynolds; both regulars, the two shot the breeze with O’Mara for a few minutes.

O’Mara’s lunch menu offers sandwiches like a half-pound burger, a BLT and a “World Class Reuben,” entrees like “Chicken O’Mara” (seasoned in Parmesan batter plus lemon, white wine and garlic), pan-fried Lake Superior whitefish and fish and chips, plus homemade soups and salads. Dinner entrees include filet mignon, New York strip steak and Irish pot roast, plus pork, chicken and seafood dishes. O’Mara’s also serves breakfast on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; that menu includes omelettes, frittatas, scrambles, crepes, pancakes, waffles and a variety of sides.

The menu changes every few months, O’Mara said, but the concept stays consistent: good, fresh food.

Kevin O’Mara had picked up beer-making skills while a college student (“I was thirsty,” he says), and in the beginning, O’Mara’s had one of the first microbrewery licenses in Michigan. But space was tight and O’Mara and the Sawyers wanted to focus on food, so they gave up brewing and began buying others’ craft beers after about eight years.

In the early days of small-scale, local brewing, he favored O’Mara’s own brand. “Now there’s a lot of people making really good specialty beer,” he said.

The restaurant has a small bar area with a fully stocked bar, a large dining room with an Irish-themed decor and wood accents and a patio for al fresco dining. A separate back room can be closed off for private gatherings.

“We have a lot of events here, from christenings to memorial services and everything in between,” O’Mara said.

They’ve also got entertainment: live Irish, folk, rock, jazz and blues music, mostly, but not exclusively, on weekend nights; regular Tuesday trivia nights (7-9 p.m.) and occasional appearances by comedians (next up, Dave Landau, 9 p.m.-midnight Saturday, Sept. 21).

O’Mara likes to think of the restaurant as a “chameleon,” he said, that can be formal or casual, depending on customers’ needs. Though not a “cool kids” place, he said, younger hipsters do find a place at O’Mara’s.

“I just love it. I love food. I love people. I love having a place that people can come to and meet,” O’Mara added. “And I take it seriously.”

O’Mara’s Restaurant is at 2555 West 12 Mile, Berkley, on the southwest corner of Coolidge and 12 Mile. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. The phone number is 248-399-6750.

2555 W. 12 Mile Rd.
Berkley, MI  48072
248-399-6750

omaras.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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