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New Dexter business spices up downtown

After 14 years as a public school teacher, Denise Becker decided to spice things up with her business in downtown Dexter. The Dexter Spice House offers spices, rubs and spice blends that are unique to the area. 

Becker's interest in spices began when she her daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease four years ago. Rather that relying on pizza and take-out to feed her busy family as she had before, Becker was inspired to take to the kitchen and learn how to cook foods her daughter would love. Spices became key to her success. 

"I loved it," Becker says. "I was always on the hunt for different species and rubs and blends. When I had the idea to open my own store, I just decided to go for it."

The Dexter Spice House offers a variety of unique spice rubs like honey chipotle and an adobo lime, and blends such as shawarma, spicy thai, as well as all-purpose blends named after ares of Dexter.

"My blends are ones that you just can't find at any grocery store," Becker says. "Even the nice spice shop in at Ann Arbor — they have some blends that I don't have, but I have some they don't have."

Becker is now working to develop her online presence and expand her business to the web. She currently operates the shop herself with help from her mother and a part-time employee. 

Source: Denise Becker, Dexter Spice House
Writer: Natalie Burg

Bailiwicks Outdoors brings fly fishing accessories and outdoor gear to Dexter

Lauren Kingsley has enjoyed fly fishing for 25 years, during which time she's become an expert in the industry. While she anticipates outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds will enjoy her new Dexter shop, Bailiwicks Outdoors, she especially hopes it will make sportswomen like herself feel welcome. 

"Women are the fastest growing segment in the sport, and yet when women go into the shops, they're often less than woman-friendly," Kingsley says. "We want to be known as a welcoming shop where people don't just buy stuff, but they come for help and knowledge and community — and for that to be particularly true for women."

Bailiwicks Outdoors is a joint venture between Kingsley and co-owner Dirk Fischbach. The shop features high-end fly-fishing gear, adventure wear and gifts with a Michigan outdoors theme. Dexter's proximity to the Huron River and growing downtown business community made it the perfect place for such a shop. 

"It's a goof fit for us because it's a half a block away from the main downtown," says Kingsley. "You can walk to it, but there's ample parking. It's also a house, so it's really cozy, warm and there's great natural light."

The 1,300 square foot location opened April 1. Kingsley plans to add seminars and workshops to the Bailiwicks Outdoors offerings in the near future. The shop is operated by the owners, who will soon share the workload with two part time trainees. 

Source: Lauren Kingsley, Bailiwicks Outdoors
Writer: Natalie Burg

Boxwood Cottage and Home opens in Downtown Dexter

Downtown Dexter is now a little cozier. Boxwood Cottage and Home, a home goods retail and furniture renovation space opened in late November on Alpine St. Owners Gail Hauman and Mandy Pomo off customers home decor items, chalk-based furniture paint and furniture painting workshops. The shop is the only location in Washtenaw County now carrying the unique, eco-friendly paint

"If you haven't painted furniture before, there are so many techniques to learn," says Hauman. "We provide all of the supplies, and we just have a lot of fun. It's a really fun way to bring new life into the furniture you already have."

Hauman and Promo chose the homey, 550 square foot space for its proximity to downtown. After putting their personal touch on the interior, Hauman says customers are finding the show room cozy enough to call home. 

"We have a lot of support from people in Dexter," Hauman says. "They love the space. People just want to sit down and read. It's very homey and cozy." 

Boxwood Cottage and Home is currently staff by the owners. In the spring, they plan to invest in extensive landscaping and expand their inventory to include yard and gardening decor. They are currently celebrating the recent launch of their website, and hope to add ecommerce to the site in the future. 

Source: Gail Hauman, Boxwood Cottage and Home
Writer: Natalie Burg

Jolly Pumkin gets new facility in Dexter, to add a taproom

The forthcoming null Taphouse at the Jolly Pumpkin facility in Dexter has been a long time coming. 
 
"Ever since Lori and I opened Jolly Pumpkin we wanted to have a tasting room in the brewery," says owner Ron Jeffries. "We opened with a ridiculous shoestring budget, and then we kind of went back and forth over the next ten years of having either not enough space or money at the time."
 
After moving into a new, 70,000 square foot facility last year, the time is finally right for that vision to be fulfilled. A 5,000 square foot space in the building will be dedicated to the taproom and tasting area, the plans for which are still under development. One thing Jeffries knows for sure is that it will come together with the input of their customers. 
 
"We always want to get our fans involved," Jeffries says. "We want them to have the opportunity to participate in building out the taproom."
 
To support the project, customers can join a number of "clubs" by donating funds in exchange for different ways to be a part of the project, such as sponsoring a booth or having their name included on a wall.
 
The null Taphouse will serve beer tastings, light snacks and possibly sandwiches, include seating, and will also host tours. Jeffries says customers often stop by the facility, and he's looking forward to being able to give them the opportunity to look around. An additional five to ten employees will initially be hired to staff the business. Though progress will depend on a number of factors, he hopes the taproom will be open to the public by early summer.

Source: Ron Jeffries, Jolly Pumpkin 
Writer: Natalie Burg

New beer and wine retail concept to open first location in Dexter

The Beer Grotto coming to downtown Dexter will be more than a retail store. Though beer and wine sales will be its primary function, those sales will come with advice, recommendations and information from alcohol experts, along with samples and even a chance to sit down and enjoy a drink inside the store. 
 
"Our goal is that you're never going to walk out of the store with something you haven't tried," says Beer Grotto President Sam Short. "We're going to have an educated staff, a good selection and the ability to test stuff in the store before you leave."
 
East Lansing resident Short is relatively new to Michigan, but has been in the beer and restaurant business for years. After working with a number of well-known names in the industry, such as Grand Rapids' Barfly Ventures of HopCat fame, he is moving into the retail business. In what turns out to be a happy coincidence, the prime location for launching The Beer Grotto is the same village that is home to his wife's family.
 
"It was serendipity," says Short. "Dexter is great because it's very close to Ann Arbor, but yet it retains this true American small town feel. But it still has 30,000 cars driving regularly through. It's a neat little community."
 
The Beer Grotto will open in the 3,000 square foot former home of Dexter Pharmacy on Main St. In addition to retail space, the business will include a lounge area in which customers to enjoy a beverage. He anticipates work beginning on the space in Jan., and hopes to open with a staff of about 15 employees in late April or early May.
 
Short plans for the Dexter location to be the first of 15 Beer Grotto locations. He anticipates the next two will also be in the Ann Arbor area, and will open in 2014. 

Source: Sam Short, The Beer Grotto
Writer: Natalie Burg

Pie it Forward sets down local roots in Dexter

Last year, Sarah Fertig and Chris Kovac started giving away pies. The just wanted be kind and inspire others to think about kindness. They kept giving away pies in Liberty Plaza, and 18 weeks later, they knew they were on to something, even if it wasn't clear what that something was yet. 
 
"I realized this wasn't going to be a little side project," says Fertig. "I had accidently stumbled across something really great. I just didn't know if I was going to be a travelling pie evangelist, or would be in one location." 
 
So they took their show on the road. After giving away 251 free pies from San Francisco to Washington D.C., Pie it Forward has returned to Ann Arbor, set down roots in Dexter, and is preparing to get official as a non-profit.  
 
Pie it Forward makes pies and trades them for any amount between 10 cents and 10 dollars. In addition to apple pies, shepherd's pies have been added to the menu, and pasties may soon join the mix. The newly incorporated non-profit's mission isn't to feed the hungry or raise money, but simply to demonstrate kindness, and that no one does anything without a community. 
 
"I may have made a pie, but I didn't plant the wheat field. I didn't plant the orchard," says Fertig. "The hope is when people hear about our mission, they think about what they can do. What can I do to improve my own neighborhood? What skills do I have to offer?"
 
After traveling all over the nation with their concept Fertig and Kovac have decided to keep the Ann Arbor area as the home of Pie it Forward. They are currently seeking out commercial kitchen space and can now accept tax-exempt donations. Fertig says she hopes to grow the organization into a fleet of food trucks to expand Pie it Forward to Flint and Detroit, as well as have a disaster relief truck that can go anywhere in the nation with pies when a tragedy occurs. 

Source: Sarah Fertig, Pie it Forward
Writer: Natalie Burg

Restored, historic barn to be raised again at Zingerman's Cornman Farms

When faced with a historic barn in disrepair, people can get pretty creative. Some sell the "reclaimed barn wood" to be used as flooring or décor, others might slap a coat of paint on it and cross their fingers it doesn't fall over, but neither approach is really up Zingerman's alley. So they decided to deal with the 1837 barn on their Cornman Farms property in Dexter in a way that better fit their style: having it completely disassembled, shipped to a barnwright, restored, and shipped back for reassembly. 
 
"They're basically sparing no expense," says Zingerman's Marketing and Communications Specialist Eric Olsen. "Most people don't send off a barn to be rehabbed, but that's what we're about. We believe in sustaining this property." 
 
The final stage of the process will officially kickoff with the raising of the barn on Sept. 29. During the private, all-day event, workers will raise the barn and begin the process of reassembling and refurbishing it for its future use as an events space. Though the project is a lengthy one, expected to continue through next summer, Olsen explains that preserving this piece of history is simply worth it.
 
"It's a classic, beautiful barn," he says. "It's also an integral part of the at property. It's also been a landmark in Dexter for well over 100 years. We wanted to make sure we didn't disrupt anything out there." 
 
Private events have already been booked at the future events space for 2014. Zingerman's vision for the barn includes hosting weddings, business meetings and other events in the two-story structure. 

Source: Eric Olsen, Zingerman's
Writer: Natalie Burg

Dancer's Edge to expand into nearby 12,000 sq-ft space in Dexter

A forthcoming Dexter Downtown Development Authority project is coinciding with the growth of a local business. The Dexter DDA-owned property at 3045 Broad Street now houses the 10-year-old Dancer's Edge Studio. Owner Valerie Potsos will be expanding the business from its current, 7,000 square-foot space into a building she is purchasing across the street that will provide an extra 5,000 square feet for Dancer's Edge. The move will come in time for the DDA to proceed with the demolition of the current building.
 
Though the new space will give her business more space, Potsos says retaining a similar location was a big part of her decision to move right across the street.
 
"We have students coming from all over the state within a 100-mile radius," Potsos says. "Those students and families bring revenue to downtown Dexter by visiting the village's restaurants and shops."
 
Work on the building is slated to begin next February, and Potsos says discussions are still underway as to how the space will be utilized. The business now serves about 400 students and maintains a staff of about 20 part-time instructors. The new move not only reflects growth for Dancer's Edge, Potsos believes the entire neighborhood is growing into an artistic neighborhood.
 
"We plan on building an arts community," she says. "With our close proximity to the theater, there are so many synergistic things we can do together!"
 
The Dexter DDA intends to create a development plan for the property that will be demolished. 
 

Source: Valerie Potsos, Dancer's Edge
Writer: Natalie Burg

Kids Fashion Jungle triples in size at new Dexter location

Just a year after opening in a small location in Manchester, the children's resale and retail shop, Kids Fashion Jungle, is preparing to open in a new, larger location in Dexter. 
 
"Now we can breathe," says owner Tamara Douglas. "We had a lot of stuff stored in the back and had stuff stacked up to the ceiling. We just didn't have enough space." 
 
Kids Fashion Jungle will nearly triple their space in the new location, going from just over 800 square feet to 2,400. With the additional room, Douglas plans to carry bigger merchandise, as well as add a kids' entertainment element to the jungle-themed store. A craft room will be created where children can get creative. 
 
"Kids can come in and do a fun, creative gift for under 10 dollars," says Douglas. "We're just trying to make it a fun place for kids in different ways." 
 
The new store is scheduled to open July 20. In addition to the new craft room, Douglas hopes to offer crafting parties for kids' birthdays and other occasions in her expanded space. 
 
While Kids Fashion Jungle is currently operated by Douglas with some help from her family. She hopes the new space will allow her to grow enough to hire staff, as well as give back to the community. A key element to her business, she says, is supporting local charities that benefit children. 
 

Source: Tamara Douglas, Kids Fashion Jungle
Writer: Natalie Burg

Dexter artist opens art, gardening, & design hub with 3.5-acre Bloom!

To say that the former Sloan's Nursery and Dexter Gardens has reopened under new ownership doesn't quite cover it. The new Bloom! Garden Center and Elemental Design on Baker Rd. in Dexter is a nursery, garden boutique, art gallery and hub of landscaping and design-related businesses. 
 
"[Owner Traven Pelletier] wanted to have a place where a lot of people could explore their passion and work collectively," says Gretchen Warner of Bloom!
 
The eight-person office staff of Bloom! and Elemental Design is housed in a 1,600 square-foot space in a renovated historic barn on the 3.5 acre property. The innovative space also includes a 2,000 square-foot retail shop and a 700 square-foot art gallery. 
 
"The gallery space is very neat because you can see up to the ceiling," says Warner. "We currently have four artists exhibiting and they're all local."
 
The businesses owned by Pelletier are joined by Poseidon Ponds & Landscaping and Serge van der Voo Landscapes, companies that serve as collaborators with Bloom! and Elemental Design as well as offering expanded services to customers. 
 
Bloom! Garden Center opened in April just a few months after Pelletier took ownership of the property in January. After a tough month of weather, they celebrated their grand opening during the first weekend of May with sunshine and an outpouring of community support. Bloom! features locally-sourced flowers, trees and shrubs, and offers free gardening workshops.
 
In addition to office staff, Bloom! employs three project supervisors and seasonal work crews. Beginning this week, the business will host a booth from nearby White Lotus Farms offering fresh goat cheese, breads and produce. 
 

Source: Gretchen Warner, Bloom! Garden Center
Writer: Natalie Burg

Bits and Pizzas to bring unique Italian recipes to Dexter

Rob and Mindy D'Oria's forthcoming Bits and Pizzas restaurant in Dexter won't be anyone's run of the mill pizza place. From imported Italian tomatoes to longtime family meatball recipes, the D'Orias are planning to create a restaurant unlike any Dexter has seen before. 
 
"I'm from the east coast, so I'm kind of a pizza snob," says Rob D'Oria. "We've spent the better part of the last ten years thinking about the food and testing out recipes."
 
Patrons will get their chance to try out those recipes around mid-June. D'Oria hopes to have work completed on the downtown Dexter space and a staff of about 20 in place by that point to make and serve the New York-style pizza and other specialty Italian foods. 
 
The recipes aren't the only aspect of Bits and Pizzas that have been carefully crafted for some time. The 5,000 square-foot building on Main St. in Dexter has been under redevelopment for about a year. 
 
"The building is almost 150 years old," says D'Oria. "It's pretty well configured from a layout standpoint, and it will give us room to grow."
 
In addition to updating the infrastructure of the historic building, the D'Orias are building a patio from the rear of the building that will hold out outdoor seating. Eventually, Bits and Pizzas will expand seating into the second floor, including a full bar. 
 
D'Oria says he's not cutting any corners to make Bits and Pizzas a truly unique place. They'll source their ingredients from local and specialty sources and be making everything – including their own Italian sausage – in house. 
 

Source: Rob D'Oria, Bits and Pizzas
Writer: Natalie Burg

Dexter's MedHub to invest $1.7M in historic Old Grain Mill building

Healthcare software company MedHub has received a boost from the village of Dexter that will help the firm move toward its goal of renovating and relocating in the historic Old Grain Mill. The recently awarded industrial facilities tax exemption is expected to save the firm $24,000 per year as a 50-percent tax abatement for six years on real property and two years on personal property.
 
"Dexter is a vibrant and dynamic community that understands economic growth and vitality," says MedHub President Peter Orr. "We considered Ann Arbor, but with just nine miles separating the two, we felt the flexible opportunities available for expansion in Dexter coupled with the close proximity to Ann Arbor was a very easy decision." 
 
MedHub intends to invest $1.7 million into the 1899 structure. Though Orr says the cost to renovate the building will be triple what it might have been to demolish it and rebuild, both his firm and the village of Dexter recognized the importance of saving a community landmark and made a collaborative effort to preserve it. 
 
While the tax abatement incentivized MedHub's investment, it will also benefit the village, as it will increase the taxable value of the long-abandoned, 22,000 sq. ft. facility, as well as bring new employees to the downtown. Now employing a staff of seven, Orr expects to double MedHub's staff in the new space. 
 
"We not only have the space we are currently in the process of redeveloping," say Orr, "but we also have room to develop a training facility in a large non-contiguous out building on the property. Our clients from across the country could eventually congregate in this facility for intensified training. This will add to the economic vitality of Dexter because our new location will be a true campus in every sense of the word." 
 
MedHub purchased the historic mill in 2011, and expects to renovate and move into the facility in this spring.
 

Source: Peter Orr, MedHub
Writer: Natalie Burg

Washtenaw County awards $600,000 in trail grants to four communities

In four Washtenaw County communities, projects intended to help people get places will soon be really getting somewhere. Ann Arbor, Dexter, Pittsfield Twp. and Ypsilanti Twp. will each receive a portion of the $600,000 awarded this month by Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission
 
The awards were a part of the Connecting Communities Initiative, a five-year program intended to invest in the County's non-motorized trail systems. 
 
"Every once in awhile we'll update our parks and recreation master plan for the county, which includes doing a survey to the public," says Coy Vaugh, deputy director of the Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission. "Trails are always number one on the list. 
 
This program allows local municipalities to create connections between trails maintained by the County and key points in their communities. 
 
Now in its fourth year, Connecting Communities has supported such projects as the trail connecting Whitmore Lake Elementary School to surrounding residential neighborhoods in Northfield Twp. and a 950-foot Chelsea trail along Old US-12 connecting the boardwalk system at Pierce Lake Golf Course with neighborhoods and schools.
 
Of the total $600,000 grant, Ann Arbor and Pittsfield Twp. each received $150,000. Dexter received $225,000 and Ypsilanti Twp. received $75,000. The communities were required to match the funds, which are earmarked for construction only, with the cost of engineering the projects. Eight projects in six communities vied for the funding this year.
 

Source: Coy Vaughn, Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation
Writer: Natalie Burg

In Dexter, 3-mile B2B Trail link hits the ground running this February

It's full-on winter now, but that's not stopping the Border to Border Trail from growing. In February, work begins in Dexter on a new three-mile segment of what will be a 35-mile non-motorized trail connecting Washtenaw County to Livingston and Wayne Counties along the Huron River.

This three-mile leg is expected to be completed by fall 2013. At that point, 23 miles of the planned 35 will be completed, says Coy Vaughn, deputy director of the Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission. This new portion will run from Hudson Mills Metropark to Dexter, linking up to Warrior Creek Park. It will be mostly asphalt, but there will be a boardwalk through the wetlands and a small pedestrian bridge.

"Once this is done, it will create a 13-mile round trip that you can take from downtown Dexter up through Hudson Mills Metropark. They already had three miles of trails on the other side of the [Huron] River, so overall it will be a 13-mile round trip bike ride, walk, run, or whatever from downtown Dexter," Vaughn says.

On the east side of Dexter, work has concluded on a 1.25-mile trail headed towards Ann Arbor and ending at Dexter-Huron Metropark. That segment connects to the DPW yard in the village, with a small section adjoining Central St. Vaughn says it's not open to the public yet, as the county is in the process of obtaining a railroad easement.

Hudson Mills Metropark is north of Dexter on the river, and to the southeast of Dexter is Dexter-Huron and Delhi Metroparks. "We're trying to connect all the Metroparks to the village [of Dexter] and the city of Ann Arbor," sayas Vaughn.

Source: Coy Vaughn, deputy director, Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Hotel Hickman's Chuck Wagon BBQ rides into Dexter

Downtown Dexter is less than 10 miles west of Ann Arbor, but it's looking more like Montana if Hotel Hickman's Chuck Wagon BBQ has anything to say about it. You might recognize the catering and take-out joint, which opened in the former sheriff substation at 8050 Main St. in late November, by the chuck wagon parked out front from time to time.

Owner Scott Thomas does a brisk business cooking up Texas beef brisket and ribs on his 1889 chuck wagon, which also often sits outside the Dexter Feed Mill. He smokes all of his meats and makes everything from scratch – dishes like buttermilk biscuits and gravy, and mac and cheese.

Four people staff Hotel Hickman's Chuck Wagon BBQ, open Friday through Sunday all winter long. The foursome also does Wild West reenactments and cooking for private parties. Thomas plans to hire more staff and add outdoor picnic tables during the busier summer season.

"It's kind of a hobby, a little passion doing a little barbecuing," Scott says.

Source: Scott Thomas, owner, Hotel Hickman's Chuck Wagon BBQ
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar
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