Entrepreneurs share their stories for Small Business Saturday

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published November 21, 2022

 Jill Tack, owner of The Pet Beastro, shows off a special bag that customers can receive on the weekend of Small Business Saturday.

Jill Tack, owner of The Pet Beastro, shows off a special bag that customers can receive on the weekend of Small Business Saturday.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 The Pet Beastro, in Madison Heights, specializes in raw diets for cats and dogs, but features a wealth of other items, including pet toys treats, and themed clothing and accessories  for humans.

The Pet Beastro, in Madison Heights, specializes in raw diets for cats and dogs, but features a wealth of other items, including pet toys treats, and themed clothing and accessories for humans.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

HAZEL PARK/MADISON HEIGHTS — Small Business Saturday is Nov. 26, an opportunity to appreciate the many unique shops that keep the local economy humming.

For Tim McKee, owner of Hazel Perk Café, it’s an especially exciting time, since his business is just getting started. At press time, the soft opening for the new coffee shop, located at 21403 John R Road, was Nov. 21, with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony set for Nov. 28.

“I have run businesses in the past, but this is my first time building from scratch. There are always bumps, but nothing that can’t be navigated,” McKee said in an email interview. “It’s very exciting to create something brand new. I’ve been very blessed to have friends and family helping me through this process.”

He said Hazel Perk Café has many treats to enjoy, from hot and cold coffee and bubble tea to fresh deli sandwiches and hot paninis. There are also fresh meals available to grab and go, as well as bulk candy. In addition, there is a curated artist gallery and an antique wall, each with items available for sale, and a local vendor wall featuring Michigan-made brands and vendors. Hazel Perk Café also has plans for special programs and ticketed events.

“And because of my extensive background in the gay community, I will also be working as an advocate for community outreach resources,” McKee said.

Hazel Perk Café will also host the January edition of the Entrepreneur Lounge, or E-Lounge — a networking event for business owners and aspiring ones, put on by the Madison Heights/Hazel Park Chamber of Commerce. More details will be available at mhhpchamber.com.

“We’re very excited to be having them at our establishment,” said McKee, adding he will speak about his experience starting a business.

For Sean Brezzell, one of the co-owners of 24th Cheesecakerie, his story includes opening his Madison Heights location in March 2020, at the start of the pandemic. The other founders include his mother Vicki Brezzell, and Barbara Wilson. Each has a birthday on the 24th, but in different months, which led to the name of their business. The Madison Heights location is at 141 W. 13 Mile Road.

“Our inspiration came from just wanting to make one thing — cheesecakes — the best it could possibly be made,” Brezzell said via email. “We just wanted to specialize in cheesecakes.”

But opening during the pandemic wasn’t easy.

“Like a lot of businesses, we took a big hit in our sales. We’ve been able to (continue) because we have a great team of people that work hard every day to provide an awesome support system to help us maintain great service and a consistent product,” Brezzell said. “We had to raise our prices due to the fact that cream cheese went from $49 for 30 pounds to $80-$130 for 30 pounds. That’s just an example. However, we’ve been able to stay consistent.”

That was achieved by focusing on community and “not chasing the dollar,” he said.

“We were able to pick up more wholesale accounts for cheesecakes, which we still maintain to this day. Also being part of the Madison Heights community — it allowed us to go across the street to the local high school and just give them a good insight on how business has been for us, allowing us to share our knowledge with the community,” Brezzell said.

One long-standing business is The Pet Beastro, at 27637 John R Road in Madison Heights. The owner, Jill Tack, was inspired by her family’s experiences feeding pets raw diets, a specialty of The Pet Beastro.

“I have learned how important it is for our cats and dogs to have fresh food in some way, shape or form within their diet. What I can say is that when pet caregivers begin to add some of the fresh food items, their pets are healthier, they have more energy, they eat with gusto — great for picky pups — and they are excited about mealtimes,” Tack said via email. “They crave the hydration from food, allergies clear up, itching diminishes, weight control is better, and you nourish the body with whole foods.”

She became a distributor for Oma’s Pride Raw Pet Food nearly 20 years ago, operating out of her home. As demand outstripped the space available, she decided to open a retail location, which is how The Pet Beastro came about in 2007. The store still carries the brand today.

“As other pet parents learned more about raw feeding and natural health choices, my business grew organically. We are the go-to place for raw feeders, with the largest raw food selection in Michigan,” Tack said, noting her store has continued to grow, consistently doubling its retail space every few years, having started at 600 square feet and grown to 3,600.

“We always strive to pivot as a team when needed. The pandemic made us proficient at being nimble,” including a delivery service started in February 2020 for those unable to visit amid COVID, she said. “The past few years have made our overall team strong, with our leadership team taking on challenges skillfully. Looking into the future, we have plans for additional store growth, along with continuing to add to our online market, and expanding our local pet food and treats with same-day delivery services.

“Current economic conditions are not any more challenging,” Tack added. “We are in several independent retailer business groups that focus on creativity and continued growth. This has helped us stay focused, and not listen to the negativity that may surround retailers.”

For the holiday season, The Pet Beastro has a variety of toys and treats for dogs and cats, along with pet-themed items for their human owners, such as sweatshirts, tumblers, canvas bags and essential oil diffusers. Anxiety supplements for dogs and cats are also popular at this time of the year, as they help keep pets calm during hectic holiday gatherings.

“Our local community has certainly embraced us, and that speaks volumes,” Tack continued. “Our team genuinely cares about our customers and their pets. When dog and cat parents choose us as their ‘go to’ pet store, they are supporting the community, and also supporting our employees and their families. We also donate all food, treats and chiropractic services to our local K-9 officers to ensure they stay healthy and ready to serve.”

She added that during the Small Business Weekend, Saturday and Sunday, each shopper who spends $59 will receive a tote bag loaded with samples for dogs and cats. Additional free items are added to the tote bag at tiers of $79 and $99.

To learn more, visit thepetbeastro.com.