LBN Covers Local Business News

Building Trust Helps Keep Repair Shop Going Strong at 30

Building Trust Helps Keep Repair Shop Going Strong at 30

Building Trust Helps Keep Repair Shop Going Strong at 30




LBN Community Series


As his business hits the 30-year mark, Troy Midas Automotive Service Center owner Gil Harris has developed a pretty straightforward philosophy.

“This is my life. It’s my family’s life. One thing we absolutely demand is integrity,” said Harris. “If I would find an employee screwed someone (regarding service), they’re gone. That’s how I built the business.”



With his wife of 54 years, Patricia, and son Chris, Harris owns and operates the Midas store on East Big Beaver at Dequindre in Troy, along with a second location in Clinton Township. His first Midas franchise was in Detroit on Van Dyke just south of Eight Mile.

“I put everything in the world on the line to buy that store — my house, my life insurance. If it didn’t succeed, I’d go bankrupt,” said Harris.

But Harris did succeed and at one time owned four Midas stores — the Detroit location, the two current locations and an additional store in Waterford. The Detroit and Waterford locations were subsequently sold.

“Our philosophy is that we want to be as honest as humanly possible and give the customers options,” he said. “We don’t shove anything down anyone’s throat. If something needs to be done, we will tell them why and show them what needs to be done. They get the estimate upfront. Even if it was a verbal estimate, they won’t find it is $300 higher when they come in.”

Folks of a certain age will remember when the automotive repair chain was known as Midas Muffler. The days of vehicles that need to have mufflers replaced is largely gone.

“Exhaust systems are steel now. It’s not stainless steel but it’s more like stainless steel,” said Harris. “Today, cars can go to the graveyard with the original muffler. If I had to live off exhaust system business, I’d be dead.”

Today, Midas offers the kind of full automotive service offered at dealerships as well as tires. In most cases, Harris said, the repairs are finished the same day unless he’s waiting on a part.

Today, Midas offers the kind of full automotive service offered at dealerships as well as tires. In most cases, Harris said, the repairs are finished the same day unless he’s waiting on a part.

“We are in a position as a dealership alternative. I’m not the lowest-priced guy in town and I’m not the highest-priced guy in town,” said Harris, who dislikes offering low-cost oil changes but admits those will get people in the door.

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Many of Harris’ employees have been with his business for many years, and keeping those workers is part of a successful operation.

“Have you tried to hire an auto mechanic? It’s virtually impossible after … Washington (D.C.) killed all the technical schools and told everyone they needed to go to college,” said Harris. “A quality mechanic is an asset beyond words.”


One of those assets is Jason Morgan, the manager at the Troy location. “Jason is the finest diagnostician I have ever known. If no one else can find the problem, which is rare, Jason can find it,” said Harris.

Morgan was a mechanic at Midas when he was seriously injured when his vehicle was hit head-on in December 2017.

“I have three artificial discs in my neck and they had to redo my left shoulder. It was a mess,” said Morgan, who has worked at the Troy Midas for three and a half years.

After Morgan recuperated, he tried to come back to his old job but he wasn’t physically able to work as a mechanic. Morgan said he and Harris had always worked well together, including when Morgan took calls seeking advice while he was on medical leave.

“Jason has certain physical limitations now. We really try to benefit from using his brain, not brawn,” said Harris. “Jason is also highly personable. He is able to give customers an explanation of a problem. He has the patience to educate them. A lot of mechanics understand the dollars and cents but not how to build customer loyalty.”

While he misses working on vehicles himself, Morgan has settled into his new role well.

“Auto repair has been my passion but I know that I’m stuck at the counter,” said Morgan, originally from Cass City. “God does things for a reason. I’m thankful that I am still able to be in this business.”

Recently, customer Jason Bradford was in the store having his vehicle repaired. He came all the way from Redford Township to Troy to have his truck serviced.

“It’s because of this guy right here,” Bradford said, pointing at Morgan. “He’s why I came so far. He has kept my truck running in peak condition.”

At 78, Harris said he doesn’t have any plans to retire — life is already good.

“I have a phenomenal life. I can come and go as I like. I have complete confidence in the staff. My son handles the finances for the business,” he said. “I just came back from Tennessee last week.”


His wife alternately asks him either why he hasn’t retired or why he doesn’t go do something at the shop, Harris said.

“I tell her to make up her mind. We have a great life, we are absolutely blessed,’” he added.

The Midas Automotive Service Center on East Big Beaver in Troy is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Closed Sunday.

2995 E. Big Beaver
Troy, MI 48083















Grape Leaves Troy: New Construction, Same Delicious Cuisine

Grape Leaves Troy: New Construction, Same Delicious Cuisine

Grape Leaves Troy: New Construction, Same Delicious Cuisine

LBN Community Series
Shawn London, a long-time Troy resident and a devotee of Middle Eastern food, never complained during the many months that the Troy strip mall in which the Grape Leaves restaurant was under now-completed construction.

“My whole family loves the food at Grape Leaves. My husband, daughter and I often meet up for dinner there after work,” London said. “And, when my schedule changed and I started working several evenings until 7 p.m., picking up chicken ghallaba for my husband — and crushed lentil soup for me — was a guilt-free and economical way to have a quick, easy, delicious, healthy dinner. How can you beat that?”


“Yes,” London added: “I was willing to fight my way into construction entrances and through maze-like pathways to get that good food.”

So were lots of other Grape Leaves customers.

“The construction took so long,” said Grape Leaves owner Mike Chalhoub. “It was ongoing for almost two years. Unfortunately, some customers thought we were closed. They would call to see if we were open. It was really tough.”

“Thankfully,” Chalhoub continued, “so many of our regular customers continued to come by to eat here or to pick up carryout orders.

“We appreciate every customer and the loyalty they showed. They are great people, and we can’t thank them enough!”

Clawson resident Linda Smith works in Troy and often picks up lunch for herself and her coworkers, and she is thrilled that construction is now completed.

“Several of us in the office order lunch from Grape Leaves at least once a week,” she said. “It’s great to be able to pick it up so easily now. There is lots of easy parking.

“But if we can’t come to get it, they will deliver our group’s order. We all love being able to have such fresh and healthy sandwiches that are so affordable — like under five dollars. And I cannot live without their garlic spread!”

Chalhoub explained that the rich, fluffy, flavorful garlic spread is deceptively light and carbohydrate-free.

“Our recipe is fantastic. We do not use any starches, like some places, but only the pure ingredients of lemon juice, salt, fresh garlic, and olive and vegetable oils. And it keeps fresh for ten days.”

Peter Mulhaney, who works out at neighboring Planet Fitness, is thrilled to be able to maintain his health regimen by picking up freshly squeezed juices and salads with chicken breast.

“To be able to walk from the gym to Grape Leaves and grab a juice that is half the price of a juice shop item — and just as delicious — is a true bonus to being at Planet Fitness,” he said.

Mike’s brother and the Grape Leaves general manager, Brian Chalhoub, says his staff enjoys making fresh juices for carry-out and dine-in customers.

“We use California carrots, local apples, produce that we carefully choose each day from our suppliers. We can add ginger — whatever the customer would like,” he said.

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“And every day, no matter what the weather,” he added, “people love our crushed-ice lemonade, which has a touch of orange juice. It is a healthy treat and really quenches the thirst.”

One of the staff members who might be making the juices, serving platters of kibbe or kabob dinners or arranging the individual loaves of freshly made bread (a customer favorite) is Mike’s son, 24-year-old Youssef, who is also a college business student.

“I’ve been working with my dad since I was 14 and, of course, it’s great to be able to eat anything I want during the day, because it’s all delicious,” he said.

“My other son, Mahdi, is nineteen. He studies business, also, and software engineering. I make him do the paperwork,” Mike Chalhoub said. “I hope I can give the business to them some day in the future. It will be nice that they can say, ‘Grape Leaves: Our family’s restaurant since 2004.’ ”

Customers, too, love the authentic Lebanese entrees and the rich aroma of baking bread, spice blends, grilled vegetables, roasted meats, simmering soups.

“When they enter,” Chalhoub said, “our guests always say how delicious it smells in here. And that hasn’t changed since we opened, or since the construction,” he said.

“They are also so happy that they can easily get to us again, from Maple or Coolidge Roads. Everyone loves the sleek, updated facades and the plentiful, convenient parking spaces,” Chalhoub said. “We like the new property owner, A.F. Jonna Development Co.”


“But mostly,” he said, “we like to be here for our loyal customers. It is a pleasure to serve them, always.”

“Yes,” his brother added. “It’s our pleasure to see them come hungry — and leave happy.”

Grape Leaves in Troy is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from noon to 9 p.m. Sundays. There is also another Grape Leaves location in Southfield.

2850 W. Maple Road
Troy, MI 48084












Sonic Alert in Troy: Keeping You Safe, Entertained, Aware – and Awakened!

Sonic Alert in Troy: Keeping You Safe, Entertained, Aware – and Awakened!

Sonic Alert in Troy: Keeping You Safe, Entertained, Aware – and Awakened


JULY 2019
LBN Community Series

Lois Leoni of Sterling Heights had been looking forward to spending a girls’ getaway weekend this summer with her grown daughter at their family’s favorite vacation spot on Lake Huron.

“But I was worried about my husband, Jim, being home without me,” Leoni said. “Even with hearing aids, when a cold or allergy flares up, he can’t hear the dog barking, the doorbell, the phone, or even the smoke detector.”



“Luckily, a friend of mine had read about Sonic Alert in Troy, and how they donated special, super-strong alarm clocks (with bed shakers!) to high school kids who had a hard time waking up,” she added. “When we contacted Sonic Alert, we learned about lots of awesome products they had for us and our home.”

“Needless to say,” Leoni laughed, “my daughter was happy to get Jim a Sonic Boom alarm clock for Father’s Day, and I am purchasing a HomeAware unit for our house and for up north.”

Thomas Zimmer, Sonic Alert’s sales and marketing coordinator, explained some of HomeAware’s many uses and functions during a demonstration at their office in Troy.

“This system has become so popular with all age groups,” Zimmer said. “Even though it is a multi-tier alerting system, it is simple to set up and operate. HomeAware is the first complete home system to use transmitters and receivers to alert you to baby cries, the doorbell, home alarms, phone calls, carbon monoxide and smoke detector alarms, weather radio announcements, clock alarms, kitchen timers, cellphone notifications and texts – and more.

“They can, virtually, all be linked, and the system’s flashing lights, its alarm (up to 105 decibels), the bed shaker and the scrolling digital word display (which can also show phone caller identification), alert within 1000 feet,” he added.

A mobile phone app provides even more uses and features.

“We offer well-made, really unique specimens in terms of products,” said Zimmer, “that truly help people in their daily lives. That’s what I enjoy about being here.”

Sonic Alert was founded by Adam Kollin, who tried to help his grandmother, in her Pontiac home, be aware of visitors at the door and other safety issues.

“In an age of rotary phones,” Zimmer explained, “Adam used his knowledge as a ham radio operator to create, with wires run throughout the floor, a flashing pattern built on Morse code as an alerting system.”

“And now, over 40 years later, we have so many products, sold all over the world, assisting and alerting  everyone — from those who are physically challenged and those who want to know their home and children are protected, to those who just want to see their wake-up time displayed on their bedroom ceiling, hear a personalized alarm, listen to their favorite music app, or hear white noise while falling asleep.”

“One of the products I use a lot,” shared Zimmer, “is the TV Listener. I can wear it working around here, and listen to a TV show that’s on in another room. Our products are great for so many uses. Like the ‘Transformers’ in the movies, they’re ‘more than meets the eye.’

“It’s very meaningful to work with products that are so cutting-edge, for people that are older or young,” Thomas said

Maryland resident Joan Langan said she “loves” her Sonic Alert alarm clocks.

“I started with the smaller one and liked it so well I got the big one,” Langan said. “My grandson was having trouble waking up for high school, so I gave him my small one.  He turns it to its loudest sound and he has no trouble now waking up and being to school on time. The super shaker that you put under your pillow connecting to the clock is fun, too.

“The clock is stunning-looking,” Langan added, “a beautiful silver with large, two-inch numbers that you can make brighter.  You can easily read them from very far away or in a dark room. How could anyone love an alarm clock? I do. It brings great comfort to know I will always wake up on time.”

“It’s easy to understand why, when our president, Bryan Bartneck, goes to graduation or family parties,” Zimmer said, smiling, “he is swarmed by starry-eyed young people who say, ‘You’re the Sonic Bomb alarm clock guy.’”

Zimmer, who grew up with a family of engineers and innovators, pointed out the company is “continually expanding ideas” and is “extremely conscious of making sure our customers have lifelines to the products and services they need.”

”’What is the customer looking for?’ our founder always asks,” Zimmer said. “We have new and exciting developments, a depth of knowledge and history, and a commitment to changing the lives of people, communities and families. It’s an incredible journey.”

850 Stephenson Highway,
Suite 323
Troy, MI 48084













The UPS Store Helps Local Businesses Grow

The UPS Store Helps Local Businesses Grow

The UPS Store Helps Local Businesses Grow
JULY 2019
LBN Community Series
According to Cody Pietz, the best thing about working at The UPS Store is that you never know who or what will walk through the door.

“You never know what someone’s going to bring in or what you’re going to have to do,” said Pietz. “We’ve shipped car engines and even more than 200 windshields to Poland.”


Pietz is the store manager at the Troy store on Rochester Road. The UPS Store are franchised businesses, and he’s liked working there so much, he’s been with the same owners for more than 10 years. The Troy store is also the inventory store for the other two locations in the franchise. Pietz stocks more than 40 different box sizes as well as packing materials that keep all three locations operating at full throttle.

“We do shipping, packaging, freight, crating large objects with wood, laminating, binding, printing fliers, post cards and banners,” said Pietz. “We also do house account services to small businesses and sort of become their shipping department. We also offer mailboxes and notary services. Out of the 90 stores in our region, we’re fourth in notary. We offer postal services, pick up services from homes if people don’t have a way of getting them here. We usually help people out.”

In addition to Pietz, 28, the store is staffed by one other associate, Austin Kosmatin, 19.

“This job is stepping up for me,” said Kosmatin. “I feel like this is more of a job that could be long-term rather than a job that you don’t know if you’ll have a good future. It’s different being only two people who work here. There’s a lot to learn, so I’m excited for it.”

While the businesses of the store revolve around shipping, Pietz emphasizes that customer service is actually the driving factor.

“We always try to make the customer happy. We always want to get them in and out as quickly as possible. We don’t want to rush people in and out, but we know they don’t want to be here a long time,” said Pietz. “Out of the three stores, we only have eight employees, so everyone is pretty much full time. We want people who have an interest in making the business grow.”

Rochelle DeSmet, business owner of CORE, is proof that Pietz and The UPS Store walk the talk.

“They have been amazing and awesome and a main link in growing my business,” said DeSmet. “They provide excellent customer service. I will stick with that UPS Store for the rest of my life. Cody has seen me from being in a closet to a 10,000-square-foot office. It makes my life easier.”

Co-owner Paula Martinos-Mantay and her husband focus on giving young people, like Pietz and Kosmatin, the opportunity to grow professionally.

“Our business model revolves around treating our customers exceptionally well and offering a variety of services, so they can take care of all of their errands in one stop. And we’ve heard from our customers that we do provide that,” said Martinos-Mantay. “We have a great team of Millennials here. We like to support the young people, that’s why we’ve given them more responsibility.”

Services at The UPS Store aren’t limited to businesses, though. Individuals use the location to drop off cable boxes, retrieve mail, make copies and ship items.

“We never want to gouge people,” said Pietz. “We tell you if it’ll be cheaper at the post office. We’re very straight forward with people. We’re not out to give you bad service.”

The UPS Store
3334 Rochester Rd.
Troy, MI 48083











Mother Earth Products Target Pain Relief

Mother Earth Products Target Pain Relief

Mother Earth Products Target Pain Relief


JUNE 2019


LBN Community Series
Royal Oak

Arianna and Tory Welsh started their business out of passion and a healthy dose of empathy. The sibling team opened Mother Earth in Royal Oak in March. It’s their third CBD store, the first on the West Side.

“We got interested in CBD when we were trying to help our dad with pain management,” said Arianna. “He was getting overmedicated by health care professionals and was hospitalized because of the medications. We got him started on medical cannabis, but he didn’t always want a head high.”

That’s where CBD came in.



Cannabidiol, or CBD as it’s commonly known, is made from the hemp plant. It is different from cannabis because it has a very low THC level—just .3 percent, the level mandated by the state and federal government. THC is the element in cannabis that gives the user a head high.

Medical marijuana, however, has a high THC level and a lower CBD level.

“They all have therapeutic benefits, but I say CBD is the straight-laced cousin,” said Tory.

Arianna, 37, and Tory, 32, were concerned with the way their father’s pain was being managed when he battled septic shock from an unknown infection — twice. He succumbed in February.

During their father’s illness, Arianna worked in real estate and in an office. Tory had followed in his father’s footsteps and became a heavy equipment operator and truck driver. But all that changed for them after their father’s illness.

Tory refers to the Mother Earth stores as a calling to help people.

“We were here before the hype helping people,” he said. “The market is saturated, CBD is available at gas stations and video stores. The difference is we do the leg work, so when people come in here, they have a warm alternative to a drug store. (Drug stores) don’t have the passion to help people, they have the passion to make money.”

The Mother Earth store in Royal Oak is on Woodward just north of 14 Mile Road in an established strip of businesses. When the Welshes first found the place, it needed a complete tear-out.

With his construction background and handy talents, Tory and a friend completely gutted the space and gave it a fresh, holistic look. He made all the shelving and did all the carpentry work himself using mostly locally sourced materials and even some reclaimed pieces. In fact, the large, rustic, wooden table in the center of the store is still seeping sap onto the floor when the weather gets warm.

“The design and color scheme were designed so our grandma would be comfortable coming in,” said Arianna.

Tory also did the demo and remodel for the other two Mother Earth stores in New Haven and Shelby Township.

“There’s definitely a lot of heart and soul in the stores,” he said.

Customers, who often become more like family to the siblings, are greeted by a low-pressure, soothing atmosphere. Free to look at the ample supply of Himalayan salt lamps, essential oils and diffusers, natural vitamins and CBD products, those looking for pain relief or respite from other ailments have only premium, proven products at their fingertips.

“Our goal is to provide quality products and knowledgeable advice on what to do with them to target the relief they’re trying to achieve,” said Arianna.

In addition to oils and supplements, Mother Earth stocks gummies, topical creams, drink blends, CBD tea, bath bombs and even a line of CBD products to help pets with pain and anxiety.

Amanda Ware, 33, of Rochester Hills, discovered Mother Earth when looking for relief from a soccer injury.

“I was looking for something to help with pain in my neck and shoulder from an old soccer injury from high school,” Ware said. “It gets worse when I work out. It gets worse when I sit too long.”

She tried physical therapy and pain medication, but nothing helped for long and she didn’t like some of the side effects. After researching options, she decided to head to Mother Earth.

“When I walked in, it was really nice. There was music playing. The décor is like a spa where you’d buy your face scrubs. It feels very comfortable. It felt like a real easy place to be able to ask questions,” she said. “I talked to Arianna first. She asked me really good questions about my pain. Really personal questions, but she made me feel comfortable. I felt confident in her knowledge. It seemed like there was an expert there walking me through.”

That was April. Today, Ware is sleeping better than she has in years thanks to the pain relief she’s experienced. In fact, she also recommended CBD to her grandmother, who was struggling with osteoporosis and has had great results.

“I would encourage anybody if they are experiencing pain or anxiety to come down and just talk with one of the experts they will give you really great recommendations for your price range,” Ware said.

Mother Earth Natural Health
32206 Woodward Ave.
Royal Oak, MI 48073
(248) 206-7476











La Botana Mexican Grill: Celebrating Nine Years of Being Troy’s Best-Kept Culinary Secret

La Botana Mexican Grill: Celebrating Nine Years of Being Troy’s Best-Kept Culinary Secret

La Botana Mexican Grill: Celebrating Nine Years of Being Troy’s Best-Kept Culinary Secret
JUNE 2019
LBN Community Series Troy

When Elaine Tercel met her mom, Marjorie Odum, at Emerald Lakes Plaza in Troy for dinner outside their favorite Chinese eatery, Marjorie asked, “Would you like to try the Mexican place here, for a change?”

“I said ‘Sure!’” Elaine recalled. “I’d passed by La Botana for years – especially since I’m a Troy resident and live and work close by – but had never been there. Usually my family goes to southwest Detroit for Mexican food.



“When I entered La Botana, I’m afraid my jaw must’ve dropped,” Elaine laughed.  “I haven’t been to Mexico, but somehow, entering this unassuming storefront, I felt I’d just arrived there, with all the bright-orange, hand-painted tiles, the Mexican folk music, the cooks talking to each other in Spanish, the delicious smells!

“Oh!” she added, “and the bottles of Mexican beer and the margarita glasses!”

“I try to come here at least once a week,” said Paul Garwood, who works in Warren. “I just got back from the Mexican Riviera, and the food I had there can’t even compare to here!”

Owner Fernando Segura and the family of his wife, Susan, are from the state and city of Guanajuato, in central Mexico. Fernando and Susan met when her family would return there for vacations.

“It’s such a beautiful place, with mountains and underground tunnels,” said Fernando, holding a photo book about Guanajuato. “It’s sometimes called ‘hilly place of the frogs.’ That’s why we have paintings of frogs on our wall.

“Guanajuato is a very important city,” Fernando continued. “From there came Dolores Hidalgo (who helped win Mexico’s independence in 1610), Diego Rivera, and our university. Our town is also known for mummies, which were preserved because of all the minerals in the ground. The mummies have even been at the D.I.A. for exhibit.”

In Mexico, generations of Fernando’s family owned a butcher shop.

“I’m also a butcher,” Fernando said. “I cut, marinate and cook all our own meats. That is why the meat in all of our dishes is so tender. And we make our own chorizo sausage.”

“All of our food is prepared totally from scratch,” said Susan, who bakes their tres leches cake and also works as a nurse. “We don’t open any cans of tomatoes for salsa or beans for refried beans. We cut fresh tomatoes, de-seed our jalapeno peppers by hand, peel and mash avocado, and cook up hundreds of pounds of dried beans.

“Most people in this area are familiar with the Tex-Mex style of Mexican food,” Susan added. “Our recipes are truly authentic, from our families.

“If you came to our homes, here or in Mexico, we would serve you exactly what we serve – and eat – here,” she added with a smile.

“We make different things all the time,” Fernando said. “For Lent, we made chili rellenos. And we are becoming known for our tamales. Ours are triple-sized: made by hand, not machine.”

Many of the items at La Botana Mexican Grill are vegetarian or vegan.

“There is no lard in anything,” said Fernando, “and no chicken base. So much that we have is vegetarian.”

Five years ago, La Botana received a liquor license.

“Many people still don’t realize that we serve Mexican and domestic beer, as well as Margaritas and special cocktails of all kinds,” Fernando says. “We also do catering and provide food for parties and business meetings.”

La Botana is bustling with customers at the counter who are placing orders to be served to them at tables by friendly, efficient staff or readied for carrying out. Some are sipping Mexican pop or traditional creamy horchata (a cold, refreshing drink Fernando makes from rice, almonds and cinnamon). Some are chatting about places in Mexico they’ve visited. But all are happily looking forward to enjoying their specially made dishes.

“There’s no outside partner here, or large corporation,” said Susan. “It’s just us, working together as family and staff.  We’re a team here, with a little piece of Mexico — the food, the music. I feel like I am in Mexico. We feel like we’re home, sharing our home.”

5947 John R Road (accessible from Square Lake Road)
Troy, MI  48085