LBN Covers Local Business News

From a 2 KB Memory to Today’s Laptops, Tech Has Seen it All

From a 2 KB Memory to Today’s Laptops, Tech Has Seen it All

From a 2 KB Memory to Today’s Laptops, Tech Has Seen it All
LBN Community Series Royal Oak

Ray Lareau has been working on computers for a long time — about 44 years, which takes him back to the dark ages of personal computing.

The owner of Royal Oak-based Computer Services of Michigan, Lareau built his first computer at age 9.

Armed with some computer books given to him by a brother-in-law, including one on building a computer, Lareau said, he also taught himself to program.




  “I built a computer that would flash eight lights. I didn’t care what it did — I was interested in the process,” said Lareau, who has learned about embroidery, cookie-decorating and other skills while writing programs on those tasks. In the 1970s, Lareau got a TRS 80, a cheap computer from Radio Shack. Having saved up $200 in paper-route money, he said, he went to a store to buy what he needed to expand the computer memory from 2 kilobytes to 64 KB. (The typical laptop today has 8 gigabytes — that’s more than a million KB.)
“The store owner didn’t want to sell it to me. He figured I’d just burn it up. He finally agreed to sell me the memory after a second visit,” said Lareau. “I installed the memory. The computer still works — it’s in the back (of the business).” With his partner Maureen Landau, Lareau opened their business on Rochester Road just south of 13 Mile in Royal Oak 22 years ago. They had met while working at Michigan Bell/Ameritech and originally struck out on their own with a voice-mail business.
Eventually, the primary business became servicing computers, and Lareau and Landau have seen public preference move from desktops to laptops, with the latter now predominant in the market. “No one has been doing this longer than Ray. He’s very picky,” said Landau. Having a background in psychology, Landau had worked in communications and marketing. That’s a role she still has with Computer Services. “Ray is the technology, I’m customer service. I talk to the customers. I calm them down and serve candy,” said Landau. “I adopt the customers like they are my kids.”
“She talks to people about their kids and puts them at ease. I listen to figure out what they need,” Lareau added. Flyers about the business say, “You Click It We Fix It.” “People believe what they see on the Internet,” Lareau said, and that causes them to click on things they should leave alone.

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Landau points out, for example, that before clicking on an e-mail about a package delivery problem, it’s a good idea to think about whether you were expecting a delivery. An even more common problem, especially with laptop computers, comes from food and beverages. “Your laptop is not meant to be eaten over,” Lareau said. When it comes to soft drinks, he said, diet pop can cause more problems than drinks with sugar — because the sugar residue can be more easily be cleaned up than that left by diet pop. “Kids will tell us that they spilled orange juice on the computer but we can tell it was beer,” said Landau. “We had one laptop come in just stuffed with cat hair. The husband would turn on the computer at night for the cat, who liked to sleep on it because it is warm. Never do that — get the cat an electric blanket.” Physically cleaning the computer when it is brought into the shop is always the first step on any service, Lareau said, even if it turns out the computer won’t run again. The two are proponents of customers getting what they need from their computers and keeping the devices running well. “It’s always cool to get a new computer. Do you know where your data is and all your passwords are? No? We have a sheet for people,” Lareau said. 
When it comes to computer services at a big-box store, the emphasis will likely be on getting the customer to buy a new computer rather than providing his or her existing computer with needed repairs or upgrades, the couple said. For many customers who are getting a new computer, Landau said, a popular service is to have Computer Services transfer data and software to the new device.  
Customer Pat McKinley stopped in with her old laptop and a new one to have it set up in the same way the old one has operated. “I’m keeping both computers. I love my old computer — I’m used to it. Windows 7 isn’t supported anymore. They can fix that for me,” said McKinley. “I’ve been in here a few times. They do a great job. I had a really old computer. It was 15 years old and the screen went out on it. They fixed it.” For customers used to a certain setup on their computers, Landau said, the company can set up a new computer in a way that is familiar and easy to use. Along with servicing personal computers, Computer Service also works on corporate accounts and handles forensic work, often involving divorce cases. Landau and Lareau, the latter one of 16 siblings who grew up on a Commerce Township farm, operate a self-described mom-and-pop business. The lobby has some computer accessories on display along with photos of family members, including grandchildren. On a recent day off from school, granddaughter Sadie Falcon, 10, was spending the day at the business. She sometimes helps with intake as customers drop off computers. Sadie noted she has sometimes provided some technical support when it comes to her grandmother’s cell phone. “People feel more comfortable with a family business. Customers will ask if Ray can see all their personal data when he works on their computer, and he can,” said Landau. “I had a customer say, then, he’d take the computer somewhere else. I told him anyone who tells you they can’t see your personal information is lying. There has to be some trust.” Computer Services of Michigan is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday.

3125 Rochester Road
Royal Oak, MI 48073





Hollywood Markets Keep Neighborhood Feeling in Era of Big-Box Stores

Hollywood Markets Keep Neighborhood Feeling in Era of Big-Box Stores

Hollywood Markets Keep Neighborhood Feeling in Era of Big-Box Stores


LBN Community Series

Royal Oak

When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, it’s all about the turkey. That’s not the case when it comes to the other big holiday meal on Christmas.

“At Christmas, we get a lot of special requests — crown pork roast, standing rib roasts. We have a full-service meat counter with a lot of specialty cuts,” said Bill Hoemke, meat department supervisor at the Hollywood Market in Royal Oak.



Located on Main Street, the store also offers a wide range of specialty sausages all made in-house, as well as popular products from Kowalski and Dearborn Ham. The Royal Oak store has a facility for smoking meats and fish that provides products for meat counters at all Hollywood Markets, a total of five stores in Oakland County.

Some products such as marinated or stuffed chicken breasts are oven-ready, while others, such as crumbled smoked fish, may be more likely to be incorporated into a dish.

“We can help with recipes. We have the best knowledge of the product. It’s what separates us from the big chain stores,” said Hoemke.

At the adjoining counter, deli manager Becky Carver said a special ham is offered in the hot-food case, with party trays, chicken wings and other holiday party favorites.

“Last year, we did 42 party trays December 23-24, not including all the other trays we had done,” said Carver. “We make batches and batches of ambrosia (salad). We have special dips that we make by hand only at Christmas.”

Carver is also in charge of putting up the holiday decorations around the store.

Store manager Frank Remlinger has worked for Hollywood Markets for 42 years. “I started as a part-time cashier in 1977. I was supposed to be working my way through college,” he said.

As Remlinger moves around the store, he talks not only with employees but also with customers — they’re often on a first-name basis.

“I like talking to the neighbors who come into the store,” he said.

He added: “People come in every day. You know people on a first-name basis, you know their kids.”

The Welch family owns and operates Hollywood Markets, with third- and fourth-generation family members carrying on the tradition of working for the company.

“It’s different working for a family owned store. It’s a different vibe than a big company-owned store,” said Remlinger.

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The Welch family’s experience in the grocery business actually dates back to 1924. Having served during World War I, John Welch Sr. opened his grocery store on Detroit’s east side. During the 1930s, he was killed during a holdup at his store.

Known as Jay, John Welch Jr. opened a grocery store in Detroit in the years after World War II.

The first Hollywood Market opened in Royal Oak on Campbell in 1950, founded by brothers Jay, Richard and William Welch, working with their stepfather, Charles Ross. A fourth brother, Robert, the eldest, had died while serving in the military during World War II.

“Each of the brothers had three kids so there were nine of us from the third generation involved in the business,” said Hollywood Markets president Tom Welch, whose late father was Jay. “There are six of us (from the third generation) still involved today and five from the fourth generation actively involved.”

At eight or 10 years old, Welch said, family members of his generation would start helping out at the store by getting carts, handling returnable bottles, cleaning and bagging groceries.

“We all got our feet wet. It’s part of our DNA,” said Welch, whose uncle William is still active in the business at 88.

Not surprised that Remlinger and customers were on a first-name basis, Welch said that’s what the company expects from store managers, who need to know what customers like.

“We encourage that contact with customers. It differentiates us from other stores,” said Welch. “That customer contact makes the whole experience more enjoyable.”

With competition from big-box stores and more people ordering dry goods online for home delivery, Welch said, fresh specialty items like those found in the meat department are a forte for Hollywood Markets.

“When people have a holiday gathering with family and friends, they come back to us. They trust us and the quality,” said Welch. “When they want to make a presentation, they come to us, with the full-service meat counters. The same with the deli and produce. There are always ways to buy cheaper but you get what you pay for.”

There are several stories about how the Hollywood Markets name originally came about. Welch prefers one crediting his grandmother with picking the name.

“Nana Ross in 1950 flipped open a phone book and landed on Hollywood. That’s where the name comes from. It’s as a good a story as any,” said Welch. “There is Hollywood, California. The customer is always the star. We don’t use that slogan anymore but we still stick by that. It has to be that way for us to survive.”

Hours at the Hollywood Markets Royal Oak store are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.

714 North Main Street
Royal Oak, MI 48067















Warm Up to Winter with FireSide Hearth & Home

Warm Up to Winter with FireSide Hearth & Home

Warm Up to Winter with FireSide Hearth & Home


LBN Community Series

On a blustery winter night with the snow coming down, sitting in front of a fire is the perfect thing to do. A fireplace that’s well done sets a cozy ambiance in a home and turns an ordinary wall into a focal point.

“Are you looking for heat and efficiency or ambiance?” asks Daniel Crank, store director for FireSide Hearth & Home in Royal Oak. “What are you looking to get out of it? Are you looking to bring down your gas bill or zone heating?”



According to Crank, a fireplace can be an efficient, helpful element in the home or a drafty energy suck.

“If you have an open fireplace, it is basically like an open window,” said Crank. “Direct vent is basically where our industry is at right now as far as trends go.”

FireSide Hearth & Home has been in Royal Oak for five years. It’s a family-owned company that has three other locations: Utica, Canton Township and Brighton.

“This used to be a pool hall,” Crank said of the Royal Oak store. “We started with Utica and purchased a Canton store. We were the third store to come on in a saturated market. Business is growing. We’ve been able to take the store and bring it right along with everyone else. To be part of that success is pretty awesome, just to be a part of a growing business.”

According to Crank, “We’re the only ones who can sell the best product in the area.”

The best product, said Crank, comes from Heat & Glo, the company that invented direct-vent technology. The only place in the Royal Oak area to see this product, and purchase it, is at FireSide.

In addition to selling fireplaces, the team at FireSide will measure, fit and install them.

“First we have you come in and pick your product. Then we send out our master installer to survey the project and make sure everything is correct,” said Crank. “The master installer makes sure everything is right, then we order the product and get you installed.”

Choosing a fireplace at FireSide can be a fun experience. At the Woodward Avenue store, cozy fireplaces in all styles and sizes line the walls. Some of the products look like art, while others have a practical purpose.


The stone samples customers use to choose the perfect stone hearth are plentiful and the fireplace inserts, tools and flame options can be dizzying. The store also has a section for outdoor fireplaces and grills.

Employee Jaye Anderson enjoys his work. “I’ve worked here for seven years,” he said. “I love associating with people. I love the aspect of fixing a customer’s house up, dressing their house up and making it their home.”

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Crank jumped in.

“I like everyone I work with. There’s not one person I don’t truly enjoy being around,” he said. “We go on trips together. I love the pride, and getting to design something for someone trusting us to make the focal point in their home is prideful.”

FireSide Hearth & Home in Royal Oak is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Closed Sunday.

30295 Woodward
Royal Oak, MI 48073














Royal Oak Welcomes LifeWorks Chiropractic

Royal Oak Welcomes LifeWorks Chiropractic

Royal Oak Welcomes LifeWorks Chiropractic




LBN Community Series
Royal Oak

Royal Oak threw out the welcome mat for a new chiropractic clinic, LifeWorks Chiropractic, on Aug. 15.

A grand opening at LifeWorks, located on Catalpa Drive near Main and Crooks, drew local business people, Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce members and friends and family members of the practitioner, Franklin Norton. There were hors d’oeuvres, clinic tours and door prizes donated by area businesses and even a local church, and visitors lined up out front for a formal ribbon-cutting and picture-taking session.



Norton, who’ll be assisted by chiropractor Eric Axmacher, said chiropractic care, which focuses on the spine and neurological system that “controls and coordinates every other part of the body,” can successfully manage a range of conditions, such as headaches, back pain and more.

“We’re basically removing any pressure off the nerves and allowing the body to function the best,” Norton said. “You can see different systems of the body start to work a little bit better through chiropractic care.”

Norton said he wants to help people without drugs that, in his view, treat the symptoms instead of the root causes of bodily dysfunction.

“We are the most medicated country in the entire world. I want to try to treat people naturally without, you know, opiod drugs,” he said.

“I have yet to see a condition that I don’t think chiropractic can benefit,” said Axmacher.


Nick Miko, a longtime friend of Norton who was giving clinic tours during the grand opening, said Norton successfully treated his back injury several years ago. It was the first time he’d visited a chiropractor and he was “a little nervous,” Miko said. The pain in his back, though, had become hard to bear with a job in retail that kept him on his feet for most of the work day.

“I felt great again” after treatment, Miko said. “Got back to biking, running, all the physical stuff I used to do.”

Norton, who majored in biology at Oakland University and graduated in 2013 after four years of chiropractic study at Life University in Marietta, Georgia, said he had intended to become a neurosurgeon when he was bumped off that career path through his family’s personal experience.

His athletic younger sister, he said, was diagnosed with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, as a teenager; the condition affected her lung function and she had trouble staying active. She underwent surgery to straighten her spine with the help of metal rods, and though the surgery was successful, her mobility at age 27 remains partially affected, he said.

Later, their younger brother was also diagnosed with scoliosis, and his situation was complicated by injuries suffered in a vehicle crash. But chiropractic treatment and physical therapy, Norton said, helped keep his brother’s spine curvature below the point at which surgery would have been recommended.


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His siblings’ challenges, and the differences in the way they were addressed, changed Norton’s mind about what kind of medicine he wanted to pursue. “I wanted to go more of a preventative route,” he said. He wanted to help people like his sister, he added.

LifeWorks office assistant Moria Austin also came to the field because of personal experience. Austin, who’s previously worked in medical settings, said she’s battled several health issues and has spent the last two years working to manage them. She credits chiropractic care with helping her maintain her ability to walk several years after being told she would lose it.

“I’m really fortunate I’m able to do something I’m passionate about,” Austin said.

LifeWorks uses technology in patient diagnoses, including X-Rays and a machine that measures heat differentials on the skin, which could indicate areas of inflammation and thus pressure on the nerves.

Norton said he plans for LifeWorks to become a family practice, and that the clinic makes it affordable for families with a capped family treatment fee. LifeWorks accepts a variety of insurance plans and will do insurance checks free of charge.

Norton, who lives in St. Clair Shores, has long been drawn to Royal Oak, which, he said, has a vibe that works for his clinic.

“It’s a lot of young families. It’s an up-and-coming area,” Norton said. “There’s a lot of new building happening. There’s a lot of energy in this area.”

116 Catalpa Drive
Royal Oak, MI














Elements Jewelry Studio in Royal Oak Celebrates 30 Years of E.P.I.C. Creations

Elements Jewelry Studio in Royal Oak Celebrates 30 Years of E.P.I.C. Creations

Elements Jewelry Studio in Royal Oak Celebrates 30 Years of E.P.I.C. Creations




LBN Community Series
Royal Oak

Brendan Sherwood, owner of Royal Oak’s Elements Jewelry Studio, is a very good listener.

Stepping forward from his workshop full of jewelers’ tools, precious and alloyed metals,  intricately carved wax wedding ring molds; medallions-in-progress for the D.I.A.’s Founders Society; pendants, bracelets and earrings being re-worked and re-fashioned from heirlooms and family gifts; production pieces for golf courses, colleges and yacht clubs; and one-of-a-kind works of wearable art he’s created from rare stones or jewels, Sherwood smiles as he talks about his business.



“This shop,” he says, “is not about me and what I do.”

“What sets this shop apart,” he explains, “is the diversity of what we do for our clients. We listen, and then we put principles of design behind what our clients want, what they like, what resonates with them.”

“There is no sales counter here,” Sherwood continues. “We’re not here to sell you something. People come here to have things made, and they always say how much they enjoy the process, the experience, of co-creating.”

Working with their clients, Elements has made rings inspired by Detroit’s Guardian Building, Catalan architecture, and even the video game “Zelda.”


“It’s personally fulfilling for our clients to be able to design such special items for their loved ones,” says Sherwood. “One of the engagement rings we designed has a side view that only the wearer can see, like a little crown with diamonds at the base of each prong. The wearer says ‘it melts her heart every time it catches her eye.’”

“Another client, a recent widow, came in to have her wedding ring made into a necklace. She shared how much the personal and touching process – including some tears — meant to her, how great the staff was, and how much she loves the necklace. We are glad to have so many stories like these, and we love working toward each one.”

Sherwood and his two employees use many design aids.

“We use the right technique for the right project,” Sherwood says, “including hand-carved models, CAD (computer-aided design) programs, rapid prototyping with CNC (custom machining) milling, laser welding and 3-D printing.”


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“I was always encouraged to be making things,” Sherwood shares. “My father was an architect and my mother a decorator.”

Sherwood studied sculpture at the College for Creative Studies.

“Metals worked well for me as a medium,” he says. “After graduation, I worked for local jewelers and gained practical skills while developing artistically.”

“I was not interested in the art fair or gallery life. I wanted a shop that services the community, where clients could walk in and have help in creating their visions.”

Thirty years ago, Sherwood opened Elements and implemented what he calls the E.P.I.C. Principle: design that embodies engagement, passion, integrity and collaboration.

“With those four elements of operation – and the physical elements of metals and stones – we have so many interactions on so many different levels,” says Sherwood.

“Whether we’re making a 20th-anniversary ring embedded with twenty stones or creating a personalized   memento of a special achievement, the work we do is really a pleasure. And we hope to be here for another thirty years.”

512 South Center Street
Royal Oak, MI 48067











Celebrity Founders Visit New Royal Oak Wahlburgers

Celebrity Founders Visit New Royal Oak Wahlburgers

Celebrity Founders Visit New Royal Oak Wahlburgers

LBN Community Series
Royal Oak
Royal Oak’s newest burger joint got a star-powered boost on Monday.

Actor Mark Wahlberg and chef Paul Wahlberg, two of the trio of famous brothers behind the restaurant chain that bears — sort of — their name, stopped in at the just-opened Wahlburgers at 13 Mile and Woodward early Monday evening for a meet-and-greet with local movers and shakers and area celebrities.

The restaurant was packed by the time Mark Wahlberg, who was fashionably late, showed up, but the VIP crowd, munching on mini-burgers and sipping complimentary glasses of beer and wine, didn’t seem to mind. The actor, formerly known as Marky Mark from his days leading the hip-hop group Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, was mobbed as he made his way through the dining areas, stopping often to pose with fans for photographs.

Wahlburgers, the first business to open in a still-developing plaza, Woodward Corners by Beaumont, officially fired up the grill on Aug. 8 and is building a philanthropic partnership with Beaumont Health, which runs Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak and several affiliated area hospitals and medical centers, including an urgent care clinic in the new plaza.


The restaurant donated $1 for each burger sold over the previous weekend — a total of $1,150 — to Beaumont, and the Wahlberg brothers, earlier Monday, had stopped at the hospital to visit with patients. Beaumont executive vice president and chief operating officer Carolyn Wilson, in welcoming the Wahlbergs, said it was the beginning of a long partnership between them and Beaumont.

“I’ve never been to a hospital where I’ve felt so much love, so much joy, compassion and caring,” said Mark Wahlberg.

Wahlberg, a founding member of the boy band New Kids on the Block (he left after a short time), later took to acting and has appeared in “Boogie Nights,” “The Departed,” a “Planet of the Apes” remake, “The Fighter” and many other films.

Standing on a bench and using a microphone to be heard over the din, Wahlberg also gave a shout-out to Nino Cutraro, the Royal Oak Wahlburgers franchisee. The location is Cutraro’s 10th Walburgers franchise; he and the restaurateur had become “fast friends,” Mark Wahlberg said.

“He had no idea that he’d be running all over the planet opening restaurants” and becoming a celebrity with Paul Wahlberg, the actor said. Paul Wahlberg, a longtime chef, stars in “Wahlburgers,” an A&E Network reality show about the chain.


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Cutraro, who has been in the restaurant business for more than 40 years, said the Royal Oak location and the quality food and attention to service behind the Wahlburgers concept make the restaurant stand out. Cutraro and wife Liz also own Bella Piatti, an upscale Italian restaurant in Birmingham.

The Wahlburgers menu offers three kinds of house burgers (single-, double- and triple-decker), specialty burgers like The Fiesta Burger (a half-pounder with Southwestern accents like jalapeños and salsa) and The Beast (two five-ounce burgers with pulled pork, barbecue sauce and more), sandwiches (Portobello, chicken, fish and a sloppy Joe), salads and sides. There are also turkey burgers and plant-based Impossible Burgers for those looking for alternatives to beef.

Paul, the oldest of the Wahlberg boys — middle brother Donnie, also an actor and founding New Kids member, didn’t make Monday’s event — praised the new location and its first few days in business.

“It’s been unbelievable. The whole development is spectacular,” Paul said as guests waited to pose with him for selfies. “We’re just very, very blessed.”

Partnering with Beaumont, Paul Wahlberg said, is important for himself and his brothers because they came from humble origins and want to give back.

Wahlburgers guest Pat Brown, of Grosse Pointe Farms, was at the hospital Monday for Mark Wahlberg’s visit with himself, his wife and their three children, including son Hudson, 6, who has been treated for brain cancer. The actor sent Hudson a video greeting when Hudson finished radiation treatment earlier this year, Brown said, and said they could meet in person the next time he came to town. Treatments appear to have worked, and Hudson is having “a nice, normal summer,” Brown said.

“Super kind,” Brown said of Wahlberg. “He came in with a little bag of gifts for the kids” and stayed and talked with them, he said.

Wahlburgers is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Fridays and 11 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays.

30955 Woodward
Royal Oak