Let's Go Midland tells the Small Business stories of Midland, Michigan, giving the spotlight to the business owners that make Midland unique.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Miranda Lynn Photography

"When other people see happiness and bright colors, it makes them feel joy too" 
 - Miranda Wieber
   Owner of Miranda Lynn Photography

There are a lot of picture takers out there, especially these days, but then there are actual photographers, and Miranda Wieber is one of the best. As Miranda and I talked, I brought up how I personally love photography, but I am not a photographer, I am a picture taker. I have not spent the hours of training and apprenticing that it truly takes to become a photographer. I don't know how to use my camera professionally. But Miranda was quick and kind to say, "well, we really all just start out as picture takers." This humility and kindness is just part of what makes Midland, Michigan's Miranda Wieber, owner of Miranda Lynn Photography, such a phenomenal choice for wedding and family photos.

Miranda has been a professional photographer for 7 years now, but her passion started in middle and high school. She loved to take pictures, yes, she too was a picture taker, and she loved to see how the film would turn out. She started out, as most picture takers do, by taking pictures of just about anything, but she was quick to realize she enjoyed photographing people the most. She truly enjoys the emotional connection of taking pictures of people and capturing life's most precious moments of weddings and families growing through the years.

Eventually Miranda's, then fiancé, now husband, gifted her with her first digital camera, the rest is history. She loves how digital photography has opened up a whole new set of opportunities for the photographer as well as the client. The photographer can learn faster and perfect their craft with the quick results and the client can instantly have their trust built as they can get instant sneak peaks of the photographer's work.

The handful of gifted photographers Midland County boasts of are all so very different in style and approach. Some more dramatic, some black and white, some enjoy playing with filters. Some pose, some capture emotion in action, some do both. Miranda is a digital photographer who shoots manually. This means in short, she knows how to use her camera, the tool of her trade. This is something you certainly want in a photographer. She does not count on the camera getting the shot for her, she knows the shot she wants in her creative mind's eye and she makes her camera do exactly what it needs to in order to grab the perfect picture. Miranda is drawn to a clean, bright style as you can see in her photos. She is drawn to happiness and knows how to shoot lovely romantic and emotional photographs. She also loves getting to know her clients so they feel at ease working with her. Her years of experience have also helped her to know how to help clients relax and take beautiful, natural pictures.


When asked what keeps her going as a small business owner Miranda says it's definitely the end product. She loves to see how people are quick to share their images of special occasions. Scrolling through social media she often sees her images and just loves that she is able to capture such special moments for people to share. Miranda also believes that being a small business owner helps her to be able to structure her time in a way that fits her family. She loves that her children see her work. Working from home while she edits, her children will see she has a valuable trade that is a talent and contributes to the family, this is important to Miranda. She is hopeful she will spark passion in their hearts by involving them and letting them watch the process. Miranda encourages other business owners to not be afraid to grow slow. Also she states "don't be afraid to make mistakes and keep learning. If you are not making mistakes from time to time, you are not trying anything new".

Miranda was asked what she enjoys about Midland. She said she enjoys the perfect size of the town, not too big or too small. Also that with venues like Dow Gardens and the Chippewa Nature Center she does not have to go far for great settings for a shoot.

Getting to know Miranda myself I will say she is very easy to talk to and get to know. She is someone people have ease around, this is an important quality at events such as weddings. She is gifted in being able to help bring peace in situations that can tend to be high stress. She also is extremely organized, has beautiful ideas as you can see from her pictures, and she is extremely knowledgeable. Miranda Lynn Photography is a trusted photographer. Taking pictures of special occasions is never wasted money when you have such a delightful professional to work with. You can check out more about Miranda and her beautiful work at www.mirandalynnphoto.com or the Miranda Lynn Photography Facebook Page.
Miranda can also be reached at
(989) 492-0445 and mirandalynnphoto@gmail.com
Get in touch soon as this amazing photographer is well known!

Article By: Hope Krotzer
Photography By: Miranda Wieber (of course!)


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Sanford Pizza

Roger and Pam Riggie, Owners

"Go out of your way to know your customers, if someone new comes in, get to know them as well and appreciate them, if it wasn't for our customers, we wouldn't be here." -Pam Riggie

When community shows compassion toward each other, amazing things happen, and it can all start with grandkids, pizza... and bad circumstances.

Let me set the stage.

Several years ago two very hard working, compassion filled, home health care workers were ready for a change after a combined 40 years of experience in caring for others. They poured their hearts and souls into others wonderfully, and life seemed to be giving them an open door to a new adventure. Little did they know a drive through Midland's village of Sanford would turn into a life changing moment for them as they saw that Sanford Pizza was for sale. It didn't take much convincing as Roger has a passion to cook and bake and Pam deeply loves people. A great combo if you ask me. After looking the place over a few times, they were sold and opened for business on May 3rd, 2013.

After buying Sanford Pizza from Fred and Nancy Lyons who owned it for about a year, Roger and Pam knew they needed to continue in home health care for a while as they watched their business grow at first. This meant some very long days, but when entrepreneurs want something, they make it work.

There is so much to tell about this wonderful business. Of course I want to touch on the delicious food. I truly believe it is some of the best in our county, and I know I'm not the only one. As I sat interviewing the Riggies a customer near by told Roger "You'll have to stop making these pizzas so good! I just can't stop coming back!" Roger said with a smile... "That's the point, we want you to come back!"

One unique thing you will find at Sanford Pizza... is the same cooks every time. You know you will get quality, delicious food prepared just as it should be by experienced hands. Roger and Pam pride themselves in that. They also have many components of their pizza that are homemade. Roger makes the dough every day and the sauce... well that is Grandma Hansen's secret recipe, just the right blend to make just the right taste. Along with your traditional pizza choices there are different monthly specialty pizzas, this month it is Chicken Cordon Bleu, other months have been Chicken Caesar, Pork Carnitas, Roast Beef and Cheddar, Italiano or Dill Pickle Pizza! What an adventure! Not only is the pizza perfectly crafted, but the pasta dishes on "Pasta Tuesday" range from a variety of lasagnas to delicious goulash, alfredos or Swedish Meatballs over egg noodles. And oh boy, on "Wing Wednesday", be ready to have your socks knocked off with some of the very best boneless or bone in wings you have ever eaten, with amazing variety. Tropical Rum, Kentucky Bourbon, Korean BBQ, Garlic Parmesan, Sweet Chili, Sweet or Spicy BBQ, Buffalo, Ranch, Blue Cheese and homemade sauces of Funky Chicken, Maple Bacon, Alabama BBQ and Jack Daniels BBQ. I mean, come on!! Oh and the rest of the menu... soups and sandwiches to die for and Roger bakes up some great sweet treats to go as well!

The atmosphere at Sanford Pizza is so very relaxed and family friendly. A revamp on the tables with beautiful work by Ron's Custom Woodwork and Design has brightened up the dining room wonderfully. There are always coloring books and games on hand to keep the customers busy and happy during the short wait for their food and sometimes live music entertains as well. And, what pizza place would be truly complete without a little arcade action!!? Pam and Roger have done a great job making Sanford Pizza a place anyone can belong and feel comfortable.

But now for my favorite part of all of things Sanford Pizza.

Rarely have I seen a business with such wonderful hometown love for people. As I sat interviewing them, Pam greeted every customer that came in by name. She even knew what was going on in their lives. Pam would ask how family members were doing, how vacations went and so on. And when I introduced myself and gave her my name, with a lovely smile she said, I already knew your name.

One Christmas day, the Riggie's grandkids asked if they could go to the restaurant with them to make some pizza. Obliging, as grandparents do, they headed in, although they were closed for the holiday. Before too long they heard a knock at the restaurant's front door, it truly is something like a Hallmark movie, only better because this is real. They opened the door to a family looking for a bite to eat  and a place to warm up... and being touched by their experience serving this family, Roger and Pam have opened every Christmas day since. They realized that people need a place open on Christmas. People still need each other, maybe people ESPECIALLY need each other on the holidays. Whether it is simply friends that want to get together, neighbors going through a hard time, or community members that have no friends or family around, the Riggies opened up their arms and became that place on Christmas, no questions asked, where all are accepted and fed and enjoyed for who they are. But there is even more. One morning as Pam was filling the ice machine before opening, she turned around to see the oven on fire. Thankfully she was able to act quickly and put out the flames, but the oven was ruined. A quote to fix it was between 6 and 10,000 dollars... more than they could imagine. Roger and Pam were certain they were done serving the community they loved so much. But soon news stations showed up due to an anonymous call and they were quick to tell the story. (click here to read one news story) As word got out, miracles and kindness started to return to Pam and Roger in a way that touched their hearts forever. One loyal family, the Weingartz, came in with their three little boys in tow, stating they had been praying for the Riggies and they emptied every cent out of their piggy banks to help however they could. Also, one evening a gentleman knocked on the restaurant door. They let the man by the name of Don Chambers in, and heard him out. He was a retired serviceman who fixed kitchen equipment when active and after he retired he worked servicing a popular pizza chain's ovens. He took a look and soon found the problem. He could fix the issue, but couldn't reach it and the parts were still a bit costly. The community rallied and raised enough funds quickly and the Riggie's friend, Wesley Stewart, climbed right in the oven, fixing every part as Don instructed . The oven has been working fine since and the community and friendships grew stronger than ever, interesting how hard times bring good people together.

These acts of kindness propelled Roger and Pam to reach back even more now to the community that loved them in their time of need. Pam said one thing she loves about Midland, and especially Sanford, is that it is a very giving and caring community. She encourages fellow small business owners to sincerely get to know their customers and care about them. Caring for each other is what makes the world go around. The Riggies continue to open each Christmas Day from noon to 5:00. Friends come help serve and the community brings toys and clothes for families in need that may show up on Christmas Day. Pam said she was able to give out every item that was donated last year and any excess goes places like the Caregiving Network or area Foster Closets.  

We highly recommend you take a drive in to the Village of Sanford. There is a lot of great food. And a great place where you belong. Sanford Pizza is a wonderful part of the Sanford and Midland community. The care between the customers and owners really tells the entire story. What goes around comes around. If you're just in small business ownership for profit the customer knows. But when you are in it for the good of the people in your community, the customers know that too. When you give, you receive. We all need more Sanford Pizza's in our lives, or maybe the world just truly needs a few more Pam and Rogers.

Sanford Pizza can be found in the heart of Sanford, Michigan at 335 W Saginaw Rd,
on Facebook or
at (989) 687-4992.
You can dine in, or carry out.
You really should try them. Trust Grace, we give them 5 stars too!!

Article and Photos by Hope Krotzer

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Pudgy Puppies Grooming

Laura Bejcek, Owner of Pudgy Puppies Grooming, with Freya
“I love that people allow me to spend time with their animals.” -Laura Bejcek
 Laura Bejcek is full of passion, she’s a dreamer, a creative, and she is humble. Self-described as socially awkward (I disagree), any supposed lack of communication skills with humans is certainly not apparent when it comes to the canine species. If you believe in empaths or simply that some people have a distinct calling in life—Laura has it with dogs.
Pudgy Puppies Grooming is a full-service dog grooming business owned and operated by Laura out of her home. It’s a drive out of town, but easy to find (us townies really like our 2-3 square miles). Walking into Pudgy Puppies is any dog-lovers dream; on interview day Laura had two boarders making her pack a solid seven that day—all different sizes and personalities.

The newest member of her pack is a sweet Australian Shepherd puppy, Lola. Laura’s love for dogs is so strong that when she found out that Lola was deaf, only after bringing her home, she refused the previous owner’s offer to return the pup. Laura recognized that her pack will be good for Lola and is researching the best ways to communicate with her newest love. Another family member is a tiny little cutie named Muffin. Muffin was a one-time grooming client and when the owner stated that she was going to have to get rid of her, Laura said “she can be part of our family.” Rumor has it she is a daddy’s girl. Harley, a sweet Golden, was one of Laura’s oldest rescues and his pudgy frame was the inspiration for the business name. Unfortunately, he crossed the rainbow bridge last year.

A life-time dog person, Laura didn’t start out with any intention of working in the grooming business (to be fair it wasn’t really a ‘thing’ like it is today). Laura has had a lot of jobs over the years, because unlike some people who think a job is a means, she truly believes a job is a dream. She had been chasing that dream all over Michigan, Florida, California, Montana, Las Vegas, and back and it was just a few years ago that she figured it out. While working in a retail shop washing dogs she made a great friend, Laurie, the now-owner of Looking Pretty Pet Grooming in Freeland. She saw the talent Laurie had with the dogs and learned a lot from her style and approach, Laura considers Laurie her mentor. What Laura (and Laurie) didn’t like about their jobs at the time was the focus on numbers—get the dogs in and out—she saw how stressed they were and that they did not thrive in those conditions.
Laura started grooming for a few friends, a Golden and a Bichon, it would take her hours because she only had a few pieces of equipment. After that, Laura continued to groom a bit on the side, but necessity meant she had to work other jobs. Laura quickly became a lifelong student of Google University, using the world wide web to learn techniques and approaches best-suited for each breed. And, you guessed it, thanks to these friends and a solid word-of-mouth advertising she was able to take the plunge and make grooming her full-time gig. Those two dogs who served as her guinea pigs are still grooming clients, today (it goes a little quicker than it used to). Her unwavering belief that passion comes before a paycheck came true! Goose. Bumps. Laura is such an inspiration and, I don’t know about you, but that is the kind of passion I want when I surrender the care of my three children (yes, they are my children) to someone else.

Laura’s big goal is for her clients (the dogs) to have a stress-free experience. So much so, that she books extra time for new clients to get to know her (again, I mean the dogs). She wants you, the parents, to know they are safe in her care. She is not in it for the money, she’s in it because she loves to do this, and she loves animals. Her promise to them (and you) is that she devotes all her attention to the animal until they leave her care. Oh, and when they leave, they will have an adorable bow, flower or bandana as a memento.
             Laura has had to turn away a few clients when the fit wasn’t right, but she will give it her all and even recounting the stories of bad attitudes, bites, horribly matted fur, etc. she still “feels like a jerk” when she must turn them away or tell the parents that she won’t be able to see them again. She gets a lot of tough clients because she is so patient. Laura does a little bit of boarding too but requires a pre-meet to make sure the animals will get along in her pack. Her family is on-board with this and loves to play with the dogs—grooms too. I guess it would be difficult if they didn’t because Laura currently works out of her home, using her kitchen sink and bathroom tub to wash and a mudroom to do the groom. Her big dream is to build a shop in their barn and you guys, it’s going to happen, I just know it!
A few points of wisdom Laura has learned and would love for puppy parents to appreciate too:
1.      Start grooming right away, when they are puppies. If puppies are groomed, it’s less stressful for them as they grow. She even offers a “Face, Feet and Fanny” discount for puppies under one. This means she will wash their face (you know the tear stains) and will wash and groom their feet and fanny. This sets them up for success for full grooms as they get older.
2.      Tell her what the finished product looks like. Is a light trim half an inch or 3-inches? Do you want your dog groomed like the standards suggest or do you have something else in mind?
3.      Tell her what you are really bringing to her. “I just need a good brushing for Lassie.” Okay but, a “brushing” of a dog is not the same as a de-matting of a dog. The time commitment and charge would be vastly different so just be honest and Laura will be honest right back.
4.      Parents are parents and dogs are a lot like kids; i.e., you should not be there so the dogs will let Laura do her thing.
5.      Holiday time for dog groomers is just like hair stylists—everyone wants to look their very best for those family photos. AKA-she’s busy, so book early or if you don’t care about the family photos; if it’s just because you had time, book after the holiday.

     Laura does everything from simple nail clipping to a full groom by appointment only Monday-Thursday and Saturdays. Like all of us, Laura loves the community and how they look out for each other. She is so grateful that people gave her a chance and is so thankful for the people she has. If you want to be one of Laura’s people, she would love to have awkward conversation with you and a deep relationship with your dog.

Contact Laura via Facebook or text at (989) 430-3420.

Pudgy Puppies Grooming is located at 1629 S. 4 3/4 Mile Road in Midland, Michigan.


Article and Photography by Joslyn Chulski

Monday, January 7, 2019

Wellington Ltd.

Geri and Laurie

 “We are always going to put people first, and in the way they need.” – Geri Horsley

If you are reading this, you probably know there is something special about our little town of Midland. A little larger than Mayberry and surely not quite as wholesome—the sense of community and family is strong here. It’s that unique appeal that brought Geri (pronounced Gary) Horsley back from a big job out east and it’s why we are lucky enough to have Wellington Limited in our little town today.

Wellington Limited is a true Midland treasure, nestled in Midland Plaza you will find high-quality gifts for both personal and business use. Need a YETI® or Polar Camel with your business logo? Trying to create a portrait on a piece of jewelry? Building a service program or custom award for your employees, corporation, or special occasion? Just need a unique gift? Wellington can help! It’s their customer-first focus that has been the cornerstone of their success and why they have been in business in this town since 1974.

Interview day was not the first time I’d met Geri, but only the second. When you meet him, you know he’s in it for the relationship not the sale. He even said that to me, that he didn’t want to seem cliché, but that people walk in strangers and he wants them to leave as friends. With a personality like his and his first-mate, Laurie Kramer—you cannot help but become a Wellington family member and you will be glad for it.

Geri likes nostalgia, you can feel it all around from the Horsley’s sign on the wall, to some of their most challenging pieces on display to his U of M memorabilia in his office. Getting nostalgic about the origin story of Wellington was a true pleasure for me and I think you’ll feel the same.
As Geri would say “Many, many years ago…” Horsley’s was a floral and gifts business run by the Horsley children (four in all) and their parents, it was the predecessor to what we now know as Village Green. He recalls helping to carry the cement blocks that laid the foundation of the building. Geri’s father worked at Dow and the entire family worked at Horsley’s. Geri would later head off to Ann Arbor to earn a business degree and, “after university,” spend time out east working for Alcoa and then in sales for a medical supply company. A phone call from his brother would lead to a brainstorm about a business venture for the two of them: What if we opened a smoke shop and specialty store for men? The vision was strong enough to bring Geri back to Midland, but as I already mentioned, it was also that Midland magnetism that played a heavy hand. And so, it began, a 600-foot corner of Horsley’s was carved out for Wellington Limited to be born. They carried top-of-the-line articles from Cartier, Dunhill, Marc Cross leather, and George Jensen pewter. Wellington held pipe smoking competitions at the old Holiday Inn—entire families came to watch. If you are curious, as I was, as to what a pipe competition entails each competitor held a pipe with exactly 3.3 grams of tobacco and whomever could keep the pipe lit the longest would be the victor.
Heat Stamper

As is often the case in our small town, The Dow Chemical Company became an important part of the Wellington story early on. In the 70’s you could smoke just about everywhere, even at Dow corporate. As the Chairman of the Board was retiring, a special project was presented to the Horsley men: we need this 18-karat gold Dunhill lighter engraved with the Chairman’s initials. There were no engravers locally at the time. Geri, as he will still do today, said he would figure it out and came upon a hand-engraver in New York City. Dow flew Geri to New York where he hand-delivered the lighter to a man in Manhattan, returned three-hours later to retrieve it and flew back to Midland. This is where Geri realized Midland needed engraving. They purchased a heat-stamper that they still have and use to this day (albeit less often than their laser and sandblasting machines).

Laser Machine
As is true for all businesses, they needed to evolve and grow. Wellington became a big retailer of travel accessories, carrying the Hartmann luggage line. When Dow AgroSciences (then located in Midland) approached Wellington for 50 attaché cases their corporate business began booming. It was this corporate focus that allowed Wellington to thrive. At one-point Wellington employed more than 30 people. Once the Horsley’s business was sold to Village Green, Geri moved Wellington to Dartmouth and Cambridge into an 1800 square foot space. They worked all day in the original space and built the new space by night. Fun fact: around this time, Wellington also had a shop inside the lower level of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island—it was the first shop of its kind in what’s now a multi-store boutique shopping space. Wellington spent 18 years at Dartmouth and Cambridge and later headed to Eastlawn Plaza where the Chinese buffet now resides; when their lease was up, they found out Walgreens would be built out front and decided to move on. They landed at their current location in Midland Plaza and have been there ever since.

You know I love origin stories for business names. Where did “Wellington” come from? Geri and his brother wanted a strong English name (as was their heritage). They started with Churchill’s—one of the strongest and most well-known English names, which was already taken—so they selected Wellington. The first Duke of Wellington (an original writing of his hangs in the store), was an impressive figure serving twice as Britain’s Prime Minister and a decorated military man.

We talked for longer than I’d planned but it wasn’t labored conversation. It was friendly and casual. Geri and Laurie ordered in pizza and salad, treated me to that lunch. They also laser engraved a few Let’s Go Midland articles for me to take (so nice!!!). We chatted through their upcoming deadlines—busier this time of year than usual. We talked about the ‘right now’ world we live in and how people sometimes pop in and expect things to be engraved immediately like some other shops can do. I, myself, am certainly guilty of this ‘right now’ expectation sometimes: Not willing to wait; Waiting too long and making it someone else’s problem; Not willing to venture outside of my house for a truly unique gift. Of course, sometimes Wellington can oblige a last-minute request, but other times they have an order of 100 for a corporate client in line ahead of the last-minute customer. A friend recently told me about a great experience with her own last-minute request for a Bible engraving—the team came in on a day off to complete the gift.
Wellington Gifts

Geri speaks fondly of Midland, when I asked what has kept Wellington going for these 44 years? He said “Friendships; staying true to Midland; and loving this community the way we do.” As for competition besides the Internet, competition isn’t something that Geri worries much about because they don’t say ‘no’ very often. If they must, Wellington will work hard to find a local business that can say ‘yes.’ They aren’t afraid to help other businesses, keep it local and make it easy for the customer (we—at Let’s Go Midland—LOVE this!).
Wellington Letters

Geri is complex—he’s got a keen business sense and a bias for results for his customers that is unmatched, but he’s also a super sweet man. He said, “I have to get romantic for a second” saying that Laurie “has completed life.” The Northwood grad who once worked at Horsley’s entered his life years later and became his love and partner in business. You can sense a quiet satisfaction in the almost 45-year journey and as he prepares, in the next few years to retire, his daughter Natasha and son-in-law, Scott, will take over. The Horsley legacy and Wellington Limited will continue to thrive and grow in Midland—full of love for their craft and for this community. The meaning of the Wellington surname is “a prosperous estate”—I daresay it’s certainly held true for this small Midland business.
Geri Heat Stamping

Whatever your gift-giving needs, Wellington can help; from the Baggallini line to travel accessories or small leather goods to beautiful vases and scenic framed photographs, Wellington provides more than just engraved products. Wellington also tries to use as many Michigan and United States artisans as possible in their vast offering of merchandise; they carry many unique Michigan-made gifts including Petoskey stones and other products native to Michigan. So, next time you need a gift (engraved or not) make sure you check out Wellington Limited at 1900 South Saginaw Rd., Suite K, Midland, MI 48640, Monday through Friday from 10AM until 5:30PM, they are open for a few hours on Saturday for last minute gifts, just drop in between 10AM and noon. They are closed on Sundays. Follow them on Facebook at @wellingtonltd or visit their website www.wellingtonltd.net. Have a question? Call them at (989) 631-5270 or shoot them an email at wellingtonltd@yahoo.com. Tell them Let’s Go Midland sent you.
Article and Photography By Joslyn Chulski

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Shine of Midland

"Create a business that will impact those who work for it."
-Mark Haskin, Owner
"We help our customers, because it truly is good to help, it's not a sales tactic."
-Brad Lackie, General Manager

Brad Lackie, General Manager      Mark Haskin, Owner

Taking a bit of a different twist this time around, Let's Go Midland sought out a highly esteemed franchise in our town. We found out that indeed some franchises are "small businesses". Many start out as just that, a dream in one community that eventually branches out to others. And while we may not be huge fans of the big box stores, we are huge advocates for success, and when a small business alights into other communities, we are big cheerleaders for that growth! So, lets talk about Shine.

The story of how the Shine company began, and propelled forward, is one that truly inspires many. Starting 20 years ago in West Michigan it is now thriving throughout the country with many franchises. This business truly is doing wonderful things and much of that is due to the company's amazing core values. Merely reading through these on their webpage (which we highly recommend) is truly inspiring, but meeting with the leaders of our own town's Shine, just added to the inspiration.

Shine came to Midland in April 2013. That is when those big lettered red trucks first caught your eye.  It all started when Jim and Mary Reif saw an opportunity to bring a beneficial business to Midland and saw potential in their son in law Mark Haskin to manage the business. Mark worked for Shine in Zeeland and enjoyed the outstanding values and atmosphere, as well as what the business had to offer. He and His wife Lauren were excited to see the business come to Midland and for a chance to live near family in Lauren's hometown. Mark now owns Midland's Shine and runs it alongside General Manager, Brad Lackie of Sanford.

When asked what makes Shine a unique business, great qualities were mentioned. Honesty, straightforwardness, hardworking, guaranteed, quick response, integrity, transparency and fair pricing. If you talk to anyone who has hired Shine in our community they will likely back up that these qualities are indeed true. I have had them in my home and I was stunned by their professionalism and kindness, and the price was indeed fair! Yet I would go farther to say that what makes Midland's Shine unique is that they know why these qualities are important and... they love this town. Mark stated that the service community at times gets a wrap for being unethical and to him it is important to flip that perception. Mark and Brad want people to feel greatly at ease and respected when Shine employees are on their property. They remind employees that customers are "inviting" Shine into their homes, not just their houses, and that is to be respected. Also, Shine prides itself in finding employees that truly care and have a heart to serve with compassion in all situations.

So who inspires Mark to keep going when Small Business get's hard? He says it's the original vision of the Shine company along with what it offers employees, a chance to grow themselves and provide for their families, amongst other benefits. Brad says the good days make it all worth it, when teamwork and positive energy are growing as well as simply knowing you are genuinely helping people, some whom cannot safely do certain things for themselves anymore.

Small business ownership is indeed a double edge sword according to Mark. In many ways it offers the flexibility to be available for your family, but some days it certainly encroaches on time outside the shop as well. Yet being a part of something that is so helpful to customers as well as impactful to employees, he humbly says, is a good feeling. Mark is quick to make it clear that it really is not about how he feels. He also commented their is a great opportunity in business ownership to strengthen the community by providing positive employment and the healthy franchise structure in this case, offers wonderful community support as well.

The difficulties of running a small business according to Mark is the many hats that often need to be worn such as counselor, financial planner, HR, marketing, equipment manager to name a few. Mark and Brad both seem to feel that the positives far outweigh any negatives however. Positive energy is a main core value to the entire Shine company and Mark and Brad exude that exact energy fittingly. They shared with me that true success for Midland's Shine comes from the crew leaders' dedication and their employees honest, servant hearts. Mark stated "(success) is not necessarily about marketing" in reference to how integrity and trustworthiness spread by word of mouth more rapidly advertising. Midland's Shine truly values what the customers value, clear honest communication and integrity. They instill in their employees to have a mentality of thinking what they would expect out of a window company if they personally hired one, and meeting that vision.

We often like to ask Midland's business owners what they like about Midland. Brad,  who is also very involved in his home town of Sanford, shared he enjoyed the small town feel Midland offers and the many "interwoven connections" the small businesses have. Mark agreed saying Midland has the unique quality for being a great town for small businesses to start and succeed because there is a wonderful "element of support" among a new generation of small businesses in our town. He also adds that Midland has a wonderful amount of resources that it can pour into itself with its many foundations.

It is indeed a great time of year to feature Midland's Shine because beyond windows, they do much more. They also do pressure washing, gutter cleaning, certain aspects of home detailing and... holiday lighting! Right now is a wonderful time to call Shine and get on their schedule to have your lights put up while there are still openings. Shine provides the lighting for you, consisting of various styles of high grade LED lights for your roof tops, trees and shrubs. I could not think of a better business to do the job personally.

Shine has been in town long enough that Mark and Brad enjoy telling stories of how regulars have touched their lives with things as simple as always having cookies available at the end of the job, to certain regulars requesting specific employees that they seem to have made a connection with. They also take to heart the many notes sent from customers thanking them for a job well done. This business gave me such a positive upbeat feeling, on the job and in the interview. Their genuineness and integrity was top notch. This is a business you need to check out, the prices are wonderful and the staff, even better. You will feel safe and respected with a business like Shine in your home. What a perfect addition they have been to the Midland community.

Article written by Hope Krotzer

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Live Oak Coffeehouse

Live Oak owners, Aaron and Renee' Deckrow

"Conversations over a cup of coffee can be life changing" 
-Renee' Deckrow

A vintage light bulb, a record player spinning with reminiscent music, a soft embracing chair and artwork from local masters of the trade. Historical nooks echoing with years of business in days gone by are now shifting to the laughter of friendships, the listening ear of family members, the glow of a laptop and progress being made. The ambiance of Live Oak Coffeehouse bids one to come, and feel they belong and can find solace inside. Never was there a shop that so truthfully proclaimed that its heartbeat is to "love people" so well. To me, walking into "trendy" locations has always been intimidating. I am not the type to sit in a coffee shop, I don't fit the prototype, whatever that even is. And then came a different vibe on our very own Ashman Street, an everybody type of place.

Art Deco Ashman Plaza has quite a history, originally the Knights of Columbus and known for serving some wonderful fish fries, it eventually became the HQ for many other places of business and entertainment. For example, KC Bowling came on the scene with the bravest of live pin setters. Later, Ashman Plaza became known as the "The Blue Light Building" in 1966, booming with wedding receptions and teen dances. The building is rich with history, always a place that brought people together from groceries, dance lessons, Coupie's Butcher Shop, boy scout meetings, a bike shop, retail shops and the Secretary of State. It is now alive again, restoring that glory with businesses that not only bring people together, but help them thrive in every aspect. You can go to Ashman Plaza to find help in building your business, receive professional counseling, get your hair and nails refreshed, learn life skills, get fresh air for your lungs, have a photo shoot, exercise your body, let your kids play while having some parent-community time, learn to paint, learn to use your camera, have a trivia date night or learn to crochet... oh yes, and my main reason to visit... drink coffee. Ashman Plaza has been redeemed, to say the least. Although the entire building is intriguing and full of businesses to explore, Live Oak was my main focus for this visit. I wanted to hear the "what and why" behind the captivating little shop that is more often than not brimming with people.

Owned by Aaron and Renee' Deckrow and opened in 2017, their hand on this building has gone from transforming the building, to touching midtown. Renee's vision of Live Oak was to create a space for "makers, dreamers and doers", to do their thing, meeting and growing together in a positive atmosphere. Also, to form a place for friends and family to have those special, critical, memorable moments. She states "conversations over a cup of coffee can be life changing" because "meeting over coffee is so approachable". Live Oak was created to be a gateway to those important conversations, a gateway to good things happening in the community and a gateway to the other life breathing businesses in the building, allowing the employees and owners to come together and encourage one other.

Sitting with Renee', anyone will walk away inspired. Her passions reach deeply into her soul and she is sincere to the core. She is a thriving business owner, and yet will be the first to sit down and compare notes and be real that the journey is not all roses. "Owning a small business is not for the faint of heart" she notes, "but it can be very worth it". When asking Renee' to share with other business owners what she felt was the most difficult about owning a small business, she remarked with a gentle smile, "all of it". She continued, "all life is hard. Work is hard, being patient is hard, relationships are hard. We have to really embrace that to move forward with any of it". The phrase "do what you want and you won't work a day in your life" is not the most realistic perspective, in Renee's opinion, although the sentiment holds some truth because it's wonderful to do what you love, there is still always going to be a grind to it. "Being willing to have difficult conversations with others you work with is not easy" she shares, "and neither is being at the mercy of public opinion". To be a successful business owner these are some of the things Renee' believes one will have to wrap their mind around, as well as always watching for trend changes in their niche.

Yet the Deckrows are not people that dwell in the hard stuff. Renee' says her husband, Aaron, has been the greatest source of encouragement to her in the hard moments, always telling her to simply focus on doing the "next good thing". Perhaps Renee's most inspiring encouragement is to remember, "even dreaming is hard, but it is so important, it's like exercise". "Discipline is hard, but accept it and let it help grow you". Problems are "soil for a fresh idea" she says, and encourages that small business owners should take the growth of their businesses on their own shoulders instead of solely blaming trends, business partners, locations or employees. She states you can either run from the problems of business ownership or be flexible, come together and resolve them and be resourceful.


When asked what she loves about business ownership Renee' stated, she adores serving the community, this is seen in the way she and Aaron intentionally fill the building with businesses that breath life into people. It can also be seen in their ongoing of presence at community happenings, involvement in developing Midtown Midland Neighborhood Association, support of local food vendors,"Coffee Blitzs" that give exposure to other local businesses and organizations, and special events that bring community together like this fall's "Gather at Grove". Renee' and Aaron also cherish their employees deeply and know without a doubt that their employees are the heart of the business and the first to touch the community. Renee' also remarked she absolutely loves that Live Oak is a place for everyone. She is pleased that people can feel welcome and know when they enter the building, that no one is excluded. The environment truly is a mirror of their slogan to "Like Coffee, Love People". I noticed easily when I was there that it was a judgment free zone. Employees always greet everyone warmly, by name when they can, and serve with such positive energy.

Daniel Terhune, General Manager

Live Oak has been overseen by general manager, Daniel Terhune, from the start. Daniel abounds with the talent to run the show and is also a gifted expert of deliciousness. He is the sole creator of the menu at Live Oak, abounding with ideas from sandwiches, to "no-nonsense bars" all the way to creating the very syrups the coffee shop uses which make Live Oak such a very original experience. Day Managers Jazzmyn "Jazz" Benitez and Sean Bartley are gifted baristas who know the grind well and are known for their skill, likeability and hospitality. They, along with an average of 12 employees, make Live Oak thrive. Remembering names, remembering "the usual" and always smiling and serving with vivacious hearts.

Day Managers, Jazz and Sean

Getting lost in the inspiration of these business owners, I realize I have lacked really doing any "product" review. Which is fitting in a sense, as Live Oak is so much more about connections and people. But that said, with the same passion they have for seeing people connect, they are passionate to see that the people of Midland are connecting over products that are not only, worth while, but of highest quality imaginable. The skillfully made drinks are made with utmost consideration of the consumer, because the consumer is instantly friend, neighbor and family so their opinions and insight are richly valuable to the Live Oak team.

Along with their own delicious and original line of drinks and foods, Live Oak has a passion to link with other local businesses. Some businesses from our very own Midland, and others from throughout the state of Michigan. Great Lakes Potato Chip, Northwoods Soda, Mindo Chocolate Makers, GFB Bars, Fraser Tea, Esch Road Foods, Fruitbelt, Cultured Ferments Co., Creation Coffee, Katie's Kitchen, Cheeky Cheesecakes, Mittenprints, Simply Bloom and fresh produce, milk, and cider is used from local growers as often as possible as well.  We highly encourage you to seek out and support these other wonderful businesses as we know Live Oak would encourage it as well.

Among the lovely staff and products of Live Oak, there is another iconic characteristic we have all taken in, the stunning mural by Mark Piotrowski at MARKed ARTS. The mural alone has changed the feel of Midtown, as it reminds us of the importance of enjoying moments of rest in life in order to be restored so that we are ready to let our dreams grow. It is also a great reminder that the effect of our dreams sends ripples into the lives of others as we are reminded of in Mother Theresa's quote "I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across waters to create many ripples."

When asked what she treasures about Midland, Renee' was quick to say there are so many great opportunities in a town that is small, in the fact that you can easily connect and see people you know whenever you are out, but there is also the "culture and aesthetics" of a larger town. She also enjoys the way Midland cares about the community with so many opportunities like wonderful schools and many great parks.

Live Oak is a place made by dreamers, for dreamers. A place deeply inspired by world changers, for world changers. As a gorgeous tree filters the scorching rays of the sun to expose the healthy warmth of a place to gather safely in the shade, Live Oak and Ashman Plaza have begun to do the very same for the town of Midland. Providing a place to rest, relax and dream as dreams take flight. And although we are proud to claim that Live Oak's roots grow down into our great city of Midland, its branches are soon to be reaching to our neighbors in Uptown Bay City too! What a great opportunity for another great town to be blessed by the presence of positive small business!

Don't mind if we do.

#meetmeinuptown too!
Live Oak currently can be found at 711 Ashman Street in Midland
(989) 423-1800

Article by Hope Krotzer
Photography by Michelle Delzer and Hope Krotzer