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Downtown Lansing to be among the first homes of "Shark Tank"-backed Tom+Chee restaurant

Next month Downtown Lansing will be among the first places to open a restaurant that is set to start spreading across the country. After appearing on ABC’s "Shark Tank" in May, the small, Cincinnati-based restaurant Tom+Chee earned $600,000 in investment funds, followed by more than 9,000 franchise requests from around the world. 
Fortunately for Lansing, franchisee Mark Wibel was in on the grilled cheese and tomato soup-themed restaurant concept early. Prior to appearing on the show, owners Corey Ward and Trew Quackenbush met with Wibel, and the result will be Tom+Chee's seventh location opening in Lansing on Dec. 10. 
"He has a pretty extensive franchising history," Corey Ward says of Wibel. "We were identifying the best candidates to open our first stores, and he just has tons of experience with multiple brands."
The 1,700 square foot restaurant will feature unique, affordable twists on grilled cheese, such as "Hippy+Chee" with hummus and vegetables, "Pep+Chee" featuring pepperoni and "Flying Pig" with turkey, bacon and pickles. Ward hopes the Lansing lunch crowd will receive the grilled cheese concept just as well as the crowds at their original restaurant.
"The buildign actually reminded us a lot of our first location in Cincinnati," he says. "The architecture looks familiar, and it's a nice location - an awesome lunch location." 
Tom+Chee will open with 10 to 15 employees. The restaurant will soon be joined by three additional franchise locations outside of Michigan, and a boom of 30 to 40 Tom+Chee restaurants is expected in 2014. Wibel plans to open at least two more locations in Michigan. Ward and Quackenbush will be featured this Friday in an update episode of "Shark Tank."

Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Zaytoon Grill to bring well-known family recipes with an American fusion twist to the Westside

With the long-running Sultan's Restaurant and new Saffron Grill in East Lansing, the local market's love of the Samy Aburashed's family businesses has been tried and tested. This week, fans of Mediterranean cuisine will have another option with Aburashed's Zaytoon Grill opening on Elmwood Rd. near the Lansing Mall. 
"I've been looking for the last two years on the west side," says owner Samy Aburashed, who is nephew to the owner of Sultan's Restaurant. "There really isn't anything authentic out there."
Zaytoon Grill will begin with a soft opening this Saturday and will be fully open by Monday. Aburashed says the menu will have similar recipes to his family's well- known cuisine, but with a twist. 
"There will be a little modern touch to mine," he says. "I'm not scared to use a little more spice. It'll be a little different, with an American fusion to it." 
The 2,800 square foot restaurant will open with seating for 50 and about 10 employees. Aburashed says he hopes to expand in the future, looking to increase the size of the restaurant, and perhaps add a banquet facility and bakery to the business. 

Source: Samy Aburashed, Zaytoon Grill
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Player's Choice celebrates grand opening of FunTyme Dome in Okemos

It was just a year ago that Player's Choice golf shops opened in Okemos and Grand Ledge. Now, the business is growing with the opening of the FunTyme Golf Dome on James Phillips Dr. in Okemos.
"The company as a whole is doing pretty well," says owner Josh Herrera. "It's an opportunity for us to grow."
The approximately 54,000 square foot FunTyme Golf Dome offers indoor driving range services, as well as a pro shop. Herrera says the business may also host softball tournaments and other events in the dome. Golf lessons will be offered at the dome through a partnership with Gregg Webber Golf Academy.
The new FunTyme celebrated a grand opening on Nov. 1. Company-wide, Player's Choice has added nine jobs since last year, bringing their staff to 13.

Source: Josh Herrera, Player's Choice
Writer: Natalie Burg

Bordeaux serves up fine wines, local foods at the Crowne Plaza Lansing West

The dining room transformation inside the Crowne Plaza Lansing West was something more than a renovation; it's a whole new restaurant. Serving fine wines and made-from-scratch dishes, Bordeaux is the result of the hotel's desire to give their guests the Michigan experience they were looking for. 
"The more we listened, the more we heard the desire for an elevated dining experience on the west side of Lansing," says April Fitzsimmons, marketing coordinator for the Crowne Plaza. "It was also important for us to feature elements unique to our home state, such as Michigan wines and microbrews and the Timeless Timber used in the construction of our bar." 
The renovation touched nearly every surface of the hotel's restaurant space, including features by those more than 100-year-old Timeless Timber logs, which were recovered from the Great Lakes. The restaurant includes private dining rooms, named for various wine regions, as well as the Cork Room with more than 70 wine options, including, of course, Bordeaux.
While already receiving positive feedback from guests, Fitzsimmons says the menu will continue to evolve with the seasons and tastes of the guests. 
"Chef [Bradley] Lineweaver plans to transform the menu from time to time throughout the year, with the goal of keeping it fresh and creative," she says. "As he continues building relationships with in-state vendors, more and more locally sourced ingredients will make their way into his dishes."
Bordeaux plans to soon offer pre-order options for guests on the go. The restaurant employs a staff of 30. 
Source: April Fitzsimmons, Crowne Plaza Lansing West
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Continental Home Center opens 5,000 sq ft Mason location

It's hard to believe there wasn't a furniture store within 15 minutes of S. Cedar and N. Cedar St. in Mason, but that's exactly why Michigan-based Continental Home Center opened their newest location there. 
"We like family places," says Bethany Peterson, store manager of the Mason Continental Home Center. "We do lots of demographic research. Caro was our number one store, and Mason had the same environment."
The family-owned Continental Home Centers was once primarily known for furniture rental, but have now expanded their offers to include cash sales. In fact, the new Mason location, which opened in July, has already found significant interest in their cash sales. 
"We guarantee to be the lowest price," Peterson says. "We're super friendly, and we always work with your budget. If you're looking for a particular price, don't look at our tags and walk away."
The 5,000 square foot Continental Home Center employs a staff of four. Peterson says her goal is to become the business' best performing location.

Source: Bethany Peterson, Continental Home Centers
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

New ODP Fitness offers variety of workout options on N. Larch

These days, it seems every new workout facility has a single specialty. Whether it's CrossFit, yoga, Zumba or personal training, it seems all the newest exercise businesses focus on one. When opening his own business, Kory Wertz, who got his start as a mixed martial arts enthusiast, decided he could offer something more by, well, offering more. 
"Michigan is the fifth most obese state in the country," says Wertz, owner of the new ODP Fitness on N. Larch. "To change that, you can't just target one specific thing. With the diversity of the classes, I can address a diversity of fitness levels."
The "ODP" of the business' name stands for "open door policy," which Wertz hopes will encourage anyone interested in improving or maintaining his or her health to give it a chance. ODP Fitness offers boot camp classes, personal training, functional training and Zumba. Wertz also provides strength and conditioning training for area high school sports teams. 
Between his sports training and the multi-faceted business opening in early Aug., Wertz says the business has been busy from the get-go.
"It's crazy. It's been nonstop," he says. "I hit my three-month goal in nine days. I was blown away from the amount of support I've received."
The 3,800 square foot ODP Fitness employs a staff of nine. Wertz hopes to continue to grow the business and eventually expand into multiple Lansing-area locations. 

Source: Kory Wertz, ODP Fitness
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids phone repair business expands into East Lansing

Just two years after the opening of their first retail location in Grand Rapids, Genius Phone Repair is going gangbusters. With five stores now on the west side of the state, the owners decided to expand further out, and East Lansing was the company's first stop. 
"We knew that the students were going to be a very good market," says store manager Jayson Vanderstel. "That demographic was one we never really explored before." 
Genius Phone Repair opened in a 1,500 sq ft E. Grand River location about six weeks ago. The downtown storefront with plenty of visibility to students was just what the company was looking for. 
"We knew it was a good place to look for a high volume of traffic," Vanderstel says. "It's also pretty close to Okemos and some of the carrier stores. It's a plus to have Verizon, Sprint and AT&T fairly close."
The store offers iPhone, iPod, iPad and smartphone repair services. According to Vanderstel, Genius Phone Repair prices can often beat the prices offered by phone manufacturers, even for phones with insurance coverage. The East Lansing location is the business' sixth retail store. It employs a staff of five. 

Source: Jayson Vanderstel, Genius Phone Repair
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

American Home Fitness celebrates 12th anniversary with new Okemos location

Some people will do anything to put off the start of a new home workout routine, but now accessibility to home workout equipment is no excuse. The American Home Fitness store is celebrating their twelfth year in the Lansing area with the opening of their new store in Meridian Crossing in Okemos. 
"We were pretty much just a destination," says Mark Renfer, general manager of the local American Home Fitness store. "It's nice to have neighbors and more traffic moving in and out here. We also get a lot of customers from outside the Lansing area as well, and this location is very easy to find." 
The new 3,000 square foot store is a bit smaller than the former location, but is closer in size to American Home Fitness' six other stores throughout Michigan and Ohio. The new store opened in July, and Renfer says he's looking forward to the beginning of their busy season in the new location. 
"We're going to keep doing our best to help the Lansing area and surrounding community get better fit and better educated," he says. "All of our staff are well-trained trained, and many are personal trainers."
Renfer is already looking to add a new part-time position at American Home Fitness and will add to the staff as needed as business continues to grow in their new location.

Source: Mark Renfer, American Home Fitness 
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

New westside Soldan's opens with new name, logo

A local familiar name in local pet supplies is unveiling some big changes. Soldan's Feeds and Pet Supplies is now open in its new W. Saginaw location under the shorter name Soldan's Pet Supplies, which will soon make its way onto all eight Soldan's stores. 
"We're changing our logo too," says Nikki Soldan, floor supervisor for the westside Soldan's. "We've done less and less with horse feed, so we're dropping the horse and adding a rabbit."
Perhaps the most dramatic change is Soldan's new westside home. Though not far from their former location near Best Buy, the new, larger space at 6201 W. Saginaw gives the pet supply store more visibility and more room for some new features, including a self-serve dog wash and shorter, more customer-friendly shelving. 
"With the shelves just five feet high, you can see across the whole store," says Soldan. "It opens everything up more so it's more inviting. Eventually, I think they're going to start doing this in all eight stores. We're sort of a guinea pig." 
The new Soldan's Pet Supplies location opened today after several months of preparation at the new site. The new store will offer expanded food and toy lines, and Soldan hopes the increased traffic will lead to an increase in their staff. Now employing eight to ten employees, if the westside location can meets their expectations, Soldan expects two to four more jobs could be created in the new store. 

Source: Nikki Soldan, Soldan's Pet Supply
Writer: Natalie Burg

LLB Asian Grocery brings specialty foods to Delta Twp.

Joseph and Vina Nguyen have been small business owners in the Lansing area for more than a decade, and they always knew something was missing from Lansing's west side. 

"We looked around and we saw on this side of town we didn't have any Asian specialty stores," says Joseph Nguyen. "My wife thought it would be conventient for all of the people around here." 

After four to five months of renovations, the Nguyens solves that problem by opening LLB Asian Grocery at 4221 W. Saginaw. Nguyen says the location was perfect for the new market because of its size and the amount of traffic that passes by every day. The store opened on Aug. 25.

"We doing okay," says Nguyen. "We are still getting people who are noticing us for the first time."

LLB Asian Grocery carries a variety of specialty Asian foods not found in other area stores, such as noodles, mainades, sauces, fish and spices. The 3,200 square foot store is staffed by five members of the Nguyen family. In the next five years, they hope to expand the store into a larger space. 

Source: Joseph Nguyen, LLB Asian Grocery
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Grand River Barber Company brings urban cuts, retail to East Lansing

From yoga studios to nightlife, many of the businesses in East Lansing exist to serve the needs of students and other young adults. Until recently, however, there was one market that was being underserved. 
"My partner has friends in East Lansing they were all complaining that there were no barbershops here that could do an urban cut," says barber Doug Mrdeza, who began his career in Metro Detroit. "They would have to travel home to get a cut." 
Mrdeza and his partner have responded to that demand with the Grand River Barber Company in downtown East Lansing. The business, which opened Aug. 26, offers urban hairstyles for men, as well as a whole new take on the barbershop concept. 
"We have four 50-inch LCD screens and an X-Box, so when people are waiting they can play," says Mrdeza. "The whole atmosphere is very different."
In addition to the entertaining atmosphere, Grand River Barber Company is the the process of establishing a retail area, where they will carry attire and accessories. 
The 1,100 square foot barbershop currently employs Mrdeza, his business partner and one additional barber. Final renovations to the space are still underway, but Mrdeza says the community's response to the new business is already in full swing. He and his partner hope to grow into the business community as the shop grows, sponsoring local organizations such as youth sports leagues. 

Source: Doug Mrdeza, Grand River Barber Company
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Longtime S. Washington business opens REO Town Gardener retail space

With all that's shiny and new in REO Town these days, it's easy to look at even pre-existing businesses on S. Washington with new eyes. In the case of the more than 20-year-old business, Foliage Design Systems of Mid-Michigan, the double take is warranted. Previously a mostly business-to-business operation, the interior landscaping company has recently unveiled the REO Town Gardener, a new retail department offering patio and container gardening supplies to the public. 
"I've always wanted to have a retail outlet," says owner Jean Husby. "The right thing to do seemed to be to use it promote of healthy living in small spaces. Why not promote small gardening for as a hobby or for health purpose? You can use a windowsill to grow herbs or a salad garden." 
Husby says she is already experiencing an increase in foot traffic and general activity in REO Town since the completion of the streetscape project, Lansing Board of Water and Light development and entrance of new businesses into the neighborhood. It seemed like the perfect time to broaden her business' focus from just the back door to the storefront. 
"It's nice to see new foot traffic. There are ton of people passing by," Husby says. "Why not give them a reason to stop in?"
REO Town Gardener is located in a renovated 400 square foot space within the existing 7,000 square foot Foliage Design Systems building. The shop offers supplies for gardening in small containers, including a mix of Dr. Earth-brand products. Over the past year, Husby has increased her existing staff by one part- and one full-time position, and she has also hired a new employee for the new retail operations. 

Source: Jean Husby, REO Town Gardener/Foliage Design Systems of Mid-Michigan 
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Indoor Grow Store opens first of two stores, creates 13 jobs

Some people put up with the things that aggravate them; others just change them. Alex Manuel is among the latter, and the result has been a new invention, one new retail store, another in the works and plans to grow his business all over the state. 
The Indoor Grow Store opened two months ago on S. Cedar, and it all began with Manuel's desire to make the process of indoor growing better. When growing the indoor plants, he was dissatisfied with the local prices of supplies, as well as the devices available to trim the plants. 
"I bought a machine and it was nothing. It was bad," says Manuel. "I invented my own trimmer. It’s the best in the country." 
To solve the problem of the steep prices on local growing supplies, he then opened his own store. Manuel says his prices at the 2,000 square foot South Lansing store are lower, not only than other stores, but also most online stores. 
Manuel will open second, larger Indoor Grow Store near the Lansing Mall in six to eight weeks. After that, he says, the sky is the limit for expansion.
"We are planning to have a store in every city in Michigan," says Manuel. "If I stay healthy, we are going to expand as much as we can."
The current Indoor Grow Store employs a staff of five. The forthcoming store will employ seven to eight workers and will be in a 5,800 square foot location.

Source: Alex Manuel
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Lothamer Tax Resolution expands into new, 7,000 sq ft headquarters

Lothamer Tax Resolution has been in business for 30 years, but ever since the company began specializing in IRS and Michigan tax problems, their growth has been notable. Now with nine satellite offices and a staff of 18, the business has expanded into a new headquarters on Dunkel in Lansing. 
"We choose this location because it was central to the Lansing area and great access the highway," says Lothamer Tax Resolution Vice President Marketing Amy Lothamer of the 7,000 square foot space. "We needed more space to accommodate our growing company."
When an individual or business finds itself in an issue with a tax agency, it can be a scary time. Lothamer specializes in resolving these issues, a niche which Lothamer says was much needed. 
The firm moved into their new location in early September after completely renovating the interior of the facility and celebrated their grand opening last week. The company has been hiring one to two new professionals a year for the past several years, and anticipates hiring another one to two staff members in the upcoming year. 

Source: Amy Lothamer, Lothamer Tax Resolution
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Leopold Bloom and Co. to bring the curated past to Old Town

Tony Sump is more than just a seller of antiques and home décor. 
"I'm kind of a curator of the past," Sump says, "finding really great pieces that are solid and long forgotten and up-cycling them into something that is usable." 
Sump and business partner Doug Meeks will bring that passion for antiquities to their new Old Town shop, Leopold Bloom & Co. The store will carry antiques, new home décor, as well as a collection of local artisanal goods.
Sump and Meeks aren't new to the antiques game. They've had a small presence in Howell for two years, and recently expanded into the Grand Rapids market. It was while looking for a location for a warehouse between the two that the Old Town space presented itself, and their plans quickly changed.
"It was reasonable and fit the needs for a store," Sump says. "We thought, maybe we could drop one of the other locations move it here."
That's exactly what happened. After about six weeks of renovations, the 1,200 square foot Grand River location is set to open for the first time this Friday during an open house from 5:30 to 9:00pm. The grand opening will take place Oct. 7. Leopold Bloom & Co. will open with two employees in addition to Meeks and Sump. 

Source: Tony Sump, Leopold Bloom & Co. 
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor
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