Hazel Park, Madison HeightsJanuary 16, 2013
Grant recipients chosen by Chamber of Commerce
By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer
MADISON HEIGHTS/HAZEL PARK — If you build it, they will come — if they know you’re there.
That’s the logic behind the way several local businesses plan to utilize the monies they’ve been awarded by the Madison Heights/Hazel Park Chamber of Commerce as part of the chamber’s first round of so-called “Small Business Grants.” By improving signage, among other things, local businesses hope to draw in more customers.
Out of 16 applicants, four were selected, determined last month:
• Joyful Jungle Christian Learning Center, 1529 E. 12 Mile, Ste. 2
• Madison Motor Sales, 26815 John R
• The Coach Sports Grille, 26685 Dequindre
• Fairy Tale Flowers, 941 E. Nine Mile
Each business received $375. One-third of the money awarded was donated by Doug Ware Insurance Agency, Inc., located at 30795 John R. The chamber covered the rest.
“It will allow me to help promote my business,” said Christine Hill, of Hazel Park, owner of Fairy Tale Flowers. “There are a lot of customers in the area or nearby cities that don’t even know I’m here, and I’ve been here five years. A lot of my business is based on word-of-mouth, which has been phenomenal, but I sit far back in a plaza and have limited signage, so this will get me a new sign to draw more traffic to the shop without dipping too much into the shop’s funds.”
Open since October 2007, Fairy Tale Flowers offers floral arrangements for weddings, funerals, anniversaries, birthdays, business banquets and more, and it also sells candies, gift baskets, novelty items, cards and balloons. They’re known for their long-lasting roses, Hill said, in a vase or wrapped up.
The economy has taken its toll on the shop, with many customers cutting back on how many flowers they’re getting for funerals and weddings. But the biggest competitors, Hill said, are online flower shops.
“Their quality isn’t what hurts me, but rather just the convenience of going online, entering a credit card number and shipping it out,” Hill said. “People are so busy that they sometimes don’t have time to stop at a flower shop and look around in person. Sometimes, they’d rather look at pictures online, find something nice and order.”
Improving on signage will help people know there’s a flower shop in Hazel Park they can check out firsthand. It will also help with store maintenance.
“This is my passion,” Hill said. “It doesn’t pay the bills for me all the time, but it’s my passion.”
For Racheal Flanagan, of Royal Oak, owner of Joyful Jungle, the challenge lies in the fact that her daycare center, started last August, is part of the Central Church building, which used to be a schoolhouse.
She says they have a great working relationship with the church, but being a separate entity, she tries not to be overlooked. She hopes her business and the church can partner up to use the grant money and create permanent signage to replace the temporary banners currently in place.
“This will really be good for both of us. And being that we’re there next to all these restaurants with nice landscaping, it’ll be nice to have nice landscaping, as well,” Flanagan said of another improvement afforded by the grant.
A Christian learning center, Joyful Jungle focuses on providing a quality environment with healthy meals and snacks, physical development via a gym, and Christian educators that have at least an associate degree. She previously operated the business out of her home for four years.
“God has just opened up this place for me in ways I can’t even explain,” Flanagan said. “I can’t even explain how it all came together. It wouldn’t have come together like this, if it was just me.”
That’s not to say there aren’t challenges. The business has gone from all full-time children in 2009 to mostly part-timers today. Flanagan attributes this to grandparents aging out of the workforce and caring for their grandkids, and unemployed parents becoming stay-at-home moms and dads, meaning a daycare is needed less often. Boosting visibility to attract new clients will hopefully offset this, Flanagan said.
And then there’s Madison Motor Sales, a used-car dealer selling cars, trucks and vans, open at the same location since 1977. For them, the grant money will update signage and provide for exterior cleanup in the form of new garage doors.
“We just like to keep our business looking fresh and new,” said Dan Johnson, of Rochester Hills, co-owner. “We’ve been with the chamber several years. I know they’re there, if I need them.”
Chamber members who are in good standing and have a maximum of 20 employees were eligible to apply for the grants. The deadline closed Oct. 26.
The chamber board reviewed the applications on the following criteria: need, in terms of operating expense, capital improvement or new business opportunity; how the grant will improve or help grow the business; the member’s involvement with the chamber; and whether there is a community benefit.
Not all of the recipients will use the grant money for signage. The Coach Sports Grille, renamed from The Coachman Lounge in 2010, will put it toward changing from paper gift certificates to PVC-style cards like those in chain restaurants.
The Coach Sports Grille offers pizza, salads, burgers and sandwiches, including their trademark Coach Special: a triple-decker corned beef sandwich. Their menu was recently updated after winning a Unilever Food Solutions contest.
The new menu and improved gift cards are among the ways they’re trying to stand out more. Another way is their support of local businesses.
“The economy has been a challenge for everyone in the community,” said Cyndee Krstich, co-owner of The Coach Sports Grille. “We’ve been trying to feature more Michigan products, buying local and using local ingredients in our foods. Our customers seem to appreciate that. It not only helps us, featuring local stuff, but it helps everyone. It helps the economy so people can go out to eat.”