Julia Staniszewski holds an amethyst geode in front of her Roseville store, Julia’s Treasures from the Earth.

Julia Staniszewski holds an amethyst geode in front of her Roseville store, Julia’s Treasures from the Earth.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Local women make career changes in opening their own businesses

By: Joshua Gordon | C&G Newspapers | Published May 16, 2018

 Camilia Saleh, right, poses with her restaurant manager, Romeo Jergess, at Cedar Grille in Troy. Saleh’s restaurant was born from nostalgia for her mother’s cooking back home in Lebanon.

Camilia Saleh, right, poses with her restaurant manager, Romeo Jergess, at Cedar Grille in Troy. Saleh’s restaurant was born from nostalgia for her mother’s cooking back home in Lebanon.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Elizabeth Parr, owner of Pure Balance Massage in Clawson, opened her business two years ago and employs eight fellow massage therapists.

Elizabeth Parr, owner of Pure Balance Massage in Clawson, opened her business two years ago and employs eight fellow massage therapists.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

METRO DETROIT — As a teacher’s assistant for 15 years in the Berkley School District, Camilia Saleh had found satisfaction in helping children in the special education program.

But she had this longing for home and her family in Lebanon. She missed her mother’s cooking and the environment that food created.

In 2010, Saleh opened Cedar Grille on Crooks Road in Troy. She used her mother’s recipes and created a dining experience that was like home and that allowed Saleh to find satisfaction in bringing people together.

“When I do something, I give 100 percent,” Saleh said. “At the school, I felt like a teacher and I dealt with students there that needed love and care, and I helped them out. The same thing goes on here in the restaurant, where I put a lot of love and care into this business.”

Pivoting from one career to opening a business is not uncommon, and other local women have followed that path with businesses of their own.

In 2017, Michigan had more than 430,000 women-owned businesses, according to the 2017 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report commissioned by American Express OPEN. That was up 133 percent from 1997, ranking Michigan ninth in the U.S. in growth over the past two decades.

Metro Detroit alone was estimated to have 280,000 women-owned businesses in 2017, which was up 192 percent since 1997, the fourth-largest growth in a metro area during that time frame.

Like Saleh, Elizabeth Parr switched things up when she went from being a civil engineer to opening Pure Balance Massage in Clawson almost two years ago.

Parr said she discovered occupational therapy when a family car accident introduced her to the profession. While pursuing school for occupational therapy, Parr found a mentor who utilized massage therapy for healing.

Parr worked as an occupational therapist for a while, but she missed the healing touch of massage therapy, so she started her own business.

“I missed healing and wanted to show people there is more to massages,” Parr said. “I used the mindset of being a civil engineer and I learned it in the same way. The landmarks you would see in the roads — I see that on the human body.”

Parr has a storefront along Main Street in Clawson and has eight other massage therapists she works with, along with a reception staff. Parr said she tries to match up clients with each massage therapist’s area of specialization.

Massage therapy can have several health benefits, from relieving stress to supporting heart health and digestion. Parr said that relaxing muscles around an injury can help the injury heal faster.

While she is an expert in massage therapy, Parr still has to deal with the business side of her profession, which comes with its own challenges and perks.

“We are different than some franchises in that we offer packages, but not memberships, so you can use it as often or infrequently as you want,” Parr said. “It is not just about being a massage therapist, but how to be a leader for my staff. Some days it is frustrating, but I feel like we learn a lot and it is a fun challenge.”

Health issues led Julia Staniszewski to a new career and a business of her own.

Staniszewski went to school to be a chef and was a restaurant manager, but problems with her health meant that being on her feet so often wasn’t possible, and that led to her being placed on disability leave. At that time, almost a decade ago, she went back to a lifelong passion of hers: rocks and minerals. She decided to go back to school for gemology.

Staniszewski, who said her nickname growing up was “Jewels,” didn’t just enjoy the “pretty and shiny” objects; she liked the hard work involved in obtaining them. Along with her husband and friends, she has taken field trips through the Midwest and down to Arkansas and North Carolina to collect rocks, fossils and crystals.

Now she owns and operates Julia’s Treasures from the Earth on Utica Road in Roseville. The store sells hand-cut and custom jewelry pieces, from earrings and rings to pendants.

But the store is about more than just jewelry, Staniszewski said, and she is hoping to expand it by inviting customers on trips with her to uncover some of the hidden gems she works with, and she also plans to offer gemology and lapidary classes.

“I’ll dress nice for work, but I don’t care about getting dirty and finding fossils and crystals,” Staniszewski said. “I always worked under someone else in my other jobs, so it was a big thing to open this store and run it. With the support of my family, I think we offer something different.”

Running a business has its benefits, Saleh said, such as being on your own time, but there are challenges to managing people and offering a good customer experience. At Cedar Grille, Saleh has 12 staff members between the kitchen staff and the serving staff.

But in following in the footsteps of her parents, who opened their own business in the 1940s, Saleh said she has found something fulfilling.

“I had this nostalgia for back home in my mom’s kitchen and wanted to share that food and hard work and love every day with my bigger family in Troy,” Saleh said. “I used to watch my mom in the kitchen, so I just trusted my gut and love for food in opening here. Thankfully, it has been a very good experience.”