PPNA Happenings

Happenings, history and news of the Prospect Park Neighborhood and Ypsilanti

Archive for June, 2008

A Big Boost for RealKidz in Depot Town

Posted by ppna on June 21, 2008

There has been some good press about RealKidz and now the plus sized clothing line for children has gotten national press. BusinessWeek (at least the online edition) has done an article on the store and the concept. Find the BusinessWeek article here

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Is Ypsitucky a bad word?

Posted by ppna on June 21, 2008

Today the A2 News Ran a report on the Ypsitucky Supper being hosted at Zingerman’s Roadhouse. The article was based on complaints about the use of the term Ypsitucky.

I did research on this supper a week ago and I wasn’t concerned with the use of the term Ypsitucky rather that the Ypsitucky dinner was hosted by a restaurant in Ann Arbor. For the record, Zingerman’s co-founder Ari Weinzweig said that he was unaware that American Table was referring to it as an “Ypsitucky Supper,” and that Zingerman’s has been calling it the “Harriet Arnow Dinner” in all of its promotional materials You should also be aware that the company that planned the supper is based out of Ohio so Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti-Kentuckians (if you want to use the Politically Correct term) have nothing to do with this supper at all.

Growing up in Ypsilanti, most of my friend’s families were Ypsitucky folks and they used that term to describe themselves. The term Ypsitucky made it easy for folks to identify themselves within the community and I will say that the Ypsitucky folks provided Ypsilanti with a more easy going attitude than a lot of the surrounding communities. Ypsituckians also brought with them great music which was played around the potbelly stove at the freight house or on WSDS 1480AM. Many of the popular bands playing around the area today are still based in the sounds of the south.

What happened to the the term Ypsitucky is that outsiders started using the term and somehow made it a bad word and put Ypsilantians on the defensive about its use. Even Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber has bought into this way of thinking by saying as he was quoted in the A2 news, “But the just plain term ‘Ypsitucky’ is a pejorative term.” I disagree with the mayor 100%. Outsiders have made us ashamed of a fact that we should be very proud of. We integrated conservative southern folks into a liberal northern city and we, as a city, have been better for it. We have maintained our liberal outlooks while adopting the more relaxed hands on type of living that our southern ancestors brought to us.

Because the layoffs in the auto industry over the past 20 years have forced (or allowed) many of the Ypsituckians to leave the city and head back South I don’t think you can refer to 2008 Ypsilanti as Ypsitucky. Ypsitucky is part of our heritage and we should embrace the term and be happy we had those folks from the South while we did.

Don’t be ashamed when people say Ypsitucky just nod with a smile on your face and say, ‘Yes, that makes us great.’ Remember, we could have been overrun by people from the east-coast like our neighbors to the West (ironically, Ypsilanti was primarily settled by people from New York but they were a different type). I personally rather be in Ypsitucky than AnnYork.

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The Thompson Block and David Kircher

Posted by ppna on June 19, 2008

In response to the uplifting news about the Thompson Block and the possibility of a liquor license application being allowed which will lead to the possible signing of a lease, which will lead to the possibility of Stewart Beal Getting a loan which will lead to the possibility of him starting work on the Thompson Block (Yes, all those Domino’s have to fall for anything to happen) I had to post about the Thompson Block.

I wonder how long the instrument store who signed a lease is obliged to wait or will they soon jump ship when they see the project is stalled and the economy continues to get worse.  The loss of any of the signed tenants will set Beal back further.

There is also the issue that Stewart Beal may have gotten the Thompson Block because of Judge Shelton’s failure to comply with an order from the Court of Appeals and the battle over the ownership is still being fought in the courts.   The deal with Stewart Beal has seemed fishy from the start. In my opinion the city stole the building from David Kircher and gave the building to Stewart Beal. The horrible part about the deal is that the building has suffered more in Beal’s hands than it ever had in Kircher’s (and it suffered under Kircher). The entire Thompson block scheme is as big of a screw up as the Water Street Project except reports come out about how there is light at the end of the rainbow for the Thompson Block which I hope there is but I doubt it.

David Kircher is still fighting for his building (see his legal briefs here)which was sold at auction to pay the $346,186.39 lien against it which was said to be the total cost of repairs done to the building, that amounts to about $25,000 for each window Beal’s crews have taken out of the building. The appeals court has openly stated that Judge Shelton failed to comply with their direct order and he caused a large part of the Thompson Block Mess.

Hopefully the politics of Ypsi have changed enough to keep us from future messes like the ones we continually find ourselves in. The campaigns for local representatives have started so make sure you ask tough questions of your candidates and expect quality answers.

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PPNA Mailing List

Posted by ppna on June 19, 2008

The PPNA IT department has had it’s hands full as of late trying to get the launch date set for the official PPNA satellite but they managed to find time to create an official PPNA mailing list. If you are interested in receiving announcements from and about the PPNA and Ypsilanti events please visit the mailing list subscription page.

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Growing Hope and the Downtown Farmers Market

Posted by ppna on June 19, 2008

My friend Chris sent me a wonderful article he wrote on the Downtown Farmers Market here in Ypsilanti. I learned more about what Growing Hope is doing and am more impressed than every with the job they are doing.

Taste of Ypsilanti’s Growing Hope

by Chris Berggren

Rachel Chadderdon moves from tent to tent, clipboard in hand, checking with each of the vendors as the downtown Ypsilanti farmers market, 2-6 p.m. each Tuesday, gets underway. Chadderdon is a University of Michigan graduate student and the farmers market manager for Growing Hope, the organization that two years ago brought the market to the Key Bank Center parking lot, at the intersection of Hamilton Street and Michigan Avenue.

Thirteen tents dot the pavement landscape this afternoon, down from 17 the week before, but Chadderdon thinks the forecast of rain may be the culprit. Indeed the cloud cover is heavy.

“It’s still early in the season, but we already have three more farmers starting in June,” Chadderdon says. “One guy with an orchard, and an Amish farmer, Danny Miller, we believe he’s starting at the end of June, but we don’t know for sure because he doesn’t have a phone. And there’s one other guy who sells a lot of sweet corn, so he might be more toward July.”

Even with the foreboding sky, the market is well represented. Local businesses such as the Ypsi Food Co-Op sell a variety of freshly baked breads and Zingerman’s has a booth selling same-day-packaged mozzarella and goat cheeses. They’re joined by a number of area growers. Amateur farmer Tony Scampa, who started his farmers market career selling handmade birdhouses has since added lettuce and spinach that he grows in his less than two acre plot in Bridgewater. This may be Scampa’s first year selling weekly at a farmers market, but Perry and Lelia Mackall are market veterans, who also sell at two Detroit markets and one in Highland Park.

“I’ve had businesses offer to buy every crop we harvest,” Perry confides, while munching on a stalk of rhubarb. “We enjoy attending markets, though; selling directly to the people.”
The Mackall’s have operated Pallet Garden Farms in Sumpter Township since 1992 and sell a variety of produce, as well as jars of specialty concoctions, like Perry’s Pumpkin Stew, which its creator mentions is “some good stuff.”

Originally, Growing Hope was a partner with the Ypsilanti Depot Town’s Saturday and Wednesday farmers market, but according to Chadderdon the organization started the Tuesday afternoon market in Ypsilanti’s downtown so it would be closer to its target population, the low-income residents of Ypsilanti’s subsidized housing.

Growing Hope President Amanda Edmonds founded the nonprofit in May of 2003, and this May the organization moved into its new center, a house on a 1.4 acre plot of land, located at 922 W. Michigan Ave. Edmonds is Growing Hope’s only full-time employee, the rest of the staff is comprised of Americore Vista members, graduate and undergraduate interns and volunteers. Growing Hope’s mission is to help people improve their lives and their communities through gardening. It specifically targets under-resourced and disadvantaged populations and offers classes and workshops, start-up and ongoing gardening assistance, a comprehensive tool library, and partnerships with other agencies and organizations. Currently, there are more than 25 gardens in Washtenaw County that are supported by Growing Hope.

“The farmers market has been our single biggest success in terms of visibility,” Edmonds says, adding that coordinating a farmers market was not an activity she anticipated being involved with when she started Growing Hope.

One of the innovative practices that Growing Hope has integrated into their farmers market is the use of EBT food stamps. According to Chadderdon, they are only the third farmers market in the state of Michigan to accept food stamps and that’s been a big part of their marketing push this year. EBT cards can be scanned at the Ypsi Food Co-Op tent and the cardholder is then issued green tokens that they can use as currency. In fact there are blue, orange and black tokens, too. The blue tokens are purchased with a Visa/MasterCard credit or debit card in the same manner, the orange are market dollar tokens and the black tokens are part of an initiative called Prescription For Health and are given away by free clinics around town. At the end of the market day the vendors turn their tokens in and are reimbursed. But the food stamp program just got even more progressive.
“Starting June 17, until we run out of them, we’ll be giving away $1 tokens for each EBT purchased token, up to $5,” Chadderdon explains. “It’s like a coupon token that we’ve got a state grant to pay for. They basically get to double their money when they use their EBT and so that’s going to convince them to try it. Other markets have tried this and they found that their EBT sales remained high, even after they stopped giving away the free tokens.”

Another initiative, that is planned for later this summer but has yet to have a date attached, is a day when backyard gardeners and people with plots in the community gardens will be invited to come sell at the market.

“We’ll have a big day when everyone can come and sell, just to get a taste of it,” Chadderdon says. “Cause I feel like selling at a farmers market isn’t something most people would think of doing on their own. But I think once they try it, it might put the idea into people’s heads, you know like, ‘Maybe next year I could plant a couple of extra tomato plants and go down there and make a few extra dollars.’ And then we end up with this population of people who are all growing a little bit of food; because the solution to the food shortage isn’t with big government initiatives and spending and subsidies, the solution’s just people learning to grow their own food again.”

Around a quarter to four, Kelsey Watson, an 8th grader at Lincoln High School, arrives to set up the Roots and Shoots table. Roots and Shoots is a youth program run through Growing Hope that champions both gardening and business. Watson and the other members of the program have made hand balm out of bee’s wax and almond oil to sell at the market. According to Terry Phillips Carpenter, one of Growing Hope’s two youth coordinators, the kids in Roots and Shoots took out a loan to pay for the ingredients necessary to make the hand balm, but they’ve since paid that loan off, reinvested the money, and now split the profits of their venture amongst themselves.

“Our program teaches them a bunch of different sorts of skills,” Phillips Carpenter says. “Entrepreneurial skills and how to work with the community, how to grow things, how to sell things, and how to track what they sell.”

Watson is a relative newcomer to the program, joining at the beginning of this session. She found out about Roots and Shoots when Growing Hope visited Eastern Michigan University Business School’s B-Side of Youth program.

Visiting schools and educating kids about gardening is part of the mission, says Phillips Carpenter. In fact earlier in the day he was at West Middle School helping kids plant a garden. The Roots and Shoots kids have a plot they tend at the Perry Child Development Center. Phillips Carpenter adds his support to them as well, but only with the gardening, not the decision-making.
“They’re gonna grow stuff to either sell here in bags or maybe they will make some sort of product out of them,” Phillip Carpenter says. “What we call value-added products.”
The market is now in full-swing and fortunately the weather is still cooperating. A sizable crowd is milling between the various tents. There is plenty of variety: from potted flowers and plants to pies and cookies to produce to grass-fed beef and buffalo meat to bottled honey and even beaded jewelry. There may only be 13 tents, but the market is diverse. Chadderdon is still making the rounds, checking that her vendors’ needs are looked after.

“We’ve done over $1,000 every week,” she says with a smile, “which is big for a market this size.”

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A Repost from Cafe Luwak

Posted by ppna on June 13, 2008

If you read this site I’m sure you know that one of my favorite places in Ypsilanti is Cafe Luwak. I think the food and ice cream are great but the real reason I like the place so much is because of the owner Jim. Here is a repost of a posting on the Cafe Luwak Blog. It shows his sincerity as a business owner that is trying to improve his business by listening to the community around it. Jim has also offered his help with our upcoming neighborhood block party and other things I’m working on through the PPNA. Please make an effort to eat at Cafe Luwak once a week or take the time to fill out his online survey or leave feedback to let him know why you aren’t eating there once a week. I will confess I don’t eat there as often as I’d like but Luwak isn’t the only place I’d like to visit more often.

From Cafe Luwak Blog
Thursday, May 29. 2008
One of the things I am working on is improving our website to make it more interactive. I am adding an improved feedback area that allow customers to give us more detailed feedback on how we are doing, and I am also adding surveys that will help us in deciding our business direction. Questions like what kinds of salads would you like to see on our menu or what is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Can you think of more ways we can improve how environmentally friendly we are?

I really value the customer comments we get, and a number of changes that we have made especially with regards to our environmental footprint have been thanks to customers. Over a year ago I got a comment on one of the comment cards that said we should switch to low energy lighting. The following month we were closed for Easter, and Forrest and I came in and replaced every light bulb in the business with low energy bulbs. Another customer told me about the corn based plastics that were being used on coffee cups, and with a little searching on the internet I found them. I replaced all of our coffee cups, cold cups, salad containers, and take out bags with products made from corn based PLA plastic. Very early we had a lot of comments from our customers that our coffee should be organic and fair trade, and we switched all of our coffees as a result. Board games were another suggestion that came in on a comment card, and we now have a whole shelf full of them.

If you have a suggestion of what you would like to see improved in our business, please let me know. You can always send me an email, leave a comment on a comment card, or stop by our website and leave feedback or fill out one of the new surveys.

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Things to Do in Ypsi This Weekend

Posted by ppna on June 13, 2008

Once again there is a lot to do in Ypsilanti this weekend.

Tonight:
Lady Sunshine & The X-Band on Washington Street as part of the Ypsilanti Crossroads Festival — In the event of Rain the event moves indoors to Club Divine.

Second Friday Business Night Downtown — I don’t know much about this event except that some businesses stay open late on the 2nd Friday of every month, I think there is a raffle of some sort. If you know what goes on please comment.

Saturday:
The Wurst of Ypsilanti –– A fund raiser for Rutherford Pool. The event kicks off at 4 pm and ends at 10 pm at the Crossroads Summer Festival Stage on Washington Street between Michigan Avenue and Pearl St. Tickets are $20 in advance (you can pick them up at the Crossroads Festival), $25 at the gate. Kids 12 and under are $5 anytime. The ticket price includes all you can eat sausages, bratwursts and side dishes. Lemonade and water are included. Beer and pop are available for additional fees on the Pub 13 patio.
Festival goers will enjoy Live Music Featuring:
Hullabaloo from 4-7 pm
Third Coast Kings from 7-10 pm.

For a complete list of events including things at the Library, The Riverside Arts Center, Dreamland, The Bars, and other things visit the Queens Residence blog — there is a very comprehensive list.

Upcoming Event:

June 19-22 — Tucker Convention
June 21 and 22 — Ypsilanti Relay for Life
June 25th — WCC Jazz Band
June 26th — Ypsilanti Community Band
July 2nd — WCC Jazz Band
July 4 – Ypsilanti 4th of July Parade
July 5-6 — Camaro Fest
July 9th — WCC Jazz Band
July 11, 12th — Elvis Fest
July 16th — WCC Jazz Band
July 23rd — WCC Jazz Band
July 25th, 26th — Michigan Brewers Festival
August 6-8th — Triumph Car Show
August 15-16-17 — Heritage Festival
August 23rd – Fire Truck Muster
September 11th — Model T 100th Anniversary Tour
October 4th — Antique Truck Show
October 24th – Downtown Halloween Fall Festival

ALSO REMEMBER
June 5th through September 18th Every Thursday Night are the Depot Town Cruise Nights.

June 6-September 12 Ypsilanti Crossroads Music Festival Every Friday starting at 7pm on the corner of Washington St and west Michigan Ave.

June 3 till September 30th — Tuesday Night Motorcycle Mania outside Aubree’s Saloon on Cross Street.

June 4th – July 9th — Frog Island Music Series Every Wednesday at 7pm WCC Jazz Band, Ypsilanti Community Band & Symphony and more.

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Traveling like the pioneers, almost – Canoeing the Huron

Posted by ppna on June 12, 2008

I have a friend lucky enough to have a home on the Huron River in Dexter and since my home is fairly close to the River in Ypsi we decided to travel by Canoe between the two points. According to Google Pedometer the distance along the river is approximately 27miles. One of the highlights of this years trip was when a mink (yes a mink which are apparently common on the Huron) ran along shore, seemingly following our canoe, for a few hundred yards. There were also a lot of turtles (painted, soft-shell and snapping) sunning themselves and plenty of heron, swans, ducks, and geese. I recommend everyone paddle the river once a year its a great way to relax except for those portages.

There are 5 portages along the route from Dexter to Ypsilanti and most are quite horrible things to encounter. I’m not sure why companies that spend millions on dams aren’t required to provide a portage around the dam but I guess that is America today, the electric lobby is a lot stronger than the canoe lobby.

If you are interested in doing things on the River check out the Huron River Watershed Council and then check out their events page.

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It’s been a long time, Frog Island Jazz part II

Posted by ppna on June 12, 2008

Last night was another nice performance by the Washtenaw Community College Jazz Orchestra at Frog Island the event was better attended I’m thinking 60 or 70 people but there should be more. One family was smart enough to bring a picnic basket and have dinner while watching the show and more people should do just that. There were a lot of kids playing on the hill near the stage and more kids should do that. There was a group of a guys practicing soccer while enjoying the music and more people should do that. What I’m getting at is that this is a community concert for the community and it is in a park where you can do a lot of things with music in the background if you don’t just want to sit or dance and watch the music.

I would like to point out that the Washtenaw Community College Jazz Band doesn’t play a lot of jazz there seems to be more R&B in their mix than jazz. It’s a good time get out to the park and support the parks.

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Frog Island Concert Series 1st Report

Posted by ppna on June 6, 2008

Wednesday the 4th of June was the first event of the Frog Island Concert Series.   The event started at 7pm and I think Runs till 8:30 or 9pm (I had to leave at intermission to catch the start of the Wings Game).  Performing was the WCC Jazz Band and although they weren’t perfect they were quite enjoyable.  It was nice seeing the Frog Island Stage being used.   I hope they don’t go ahead with the bandshell idea because it is nice being able to look through the performers and take in the activities going on in the park.

The spectators were sparse (18 was my count).  Thankfully, there was one guy who was very enthusiastic and mumbled most of the show.  He really gave the concert the good ole’ Ypsi flavor.   My favorite quote was “Right On, You Got it,  Shit” which he repeated quite a few times.

I hope folks start attending these weekly concerts because they are a nice idea and are pretty enjoyable.   I would think 7pm on Wednesday would be a great time to run around the track and listen to good music without the need for an Ipod.

Get out and support what Ypsi is offering your next chance is Friday Night on Washington Street for some good Rock and Rockabilly.

See you there

Kurt

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