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Business Discussions Heat Up in the Woods

In Grosse Pointe Woods, discussion about business is picking up as the Mack Avenue Business Association begins a re-organization and the Mayor's Mack Avenue Business Study Committee has begun meeting again for the first time in years.

Development, communication and drawing people to Grosse Pointe Woods businesses are among the goals of two separate groups that recently started meeting.

First, the Mack Avenue Business Association of Grosse Pointe is in the midst of reorganizing and re-energizing. The group met for the first time in at least a few years last month with the goal of bringing it back to life.

The organization was at one time thriving and had many members but the membership dwindled severly and the group's only recurring event is bagging the parking meters during the holiday season in Grosse Pointe Woods.

Several business owners who were not members, and many of whom had not even heard of the organization, attended that meeting with the goal of finding out more about it. Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jennifer Boettcher has been helping the group after receiving feedback from some business owners about wanting such an organization to plan events and represent the businesses in Grosse Pointe Woods.

Angelo DiClemente, who is a founding member of the organization, will remain its president. He owns the Dried Flower. For the first time, the organization elected officers earlier this week during a follow-up meeting.

The officers include:

Boettcher said the changes are exciting and she thinks the people who are officers demonstrate good leadership skills.

Meanwhile, Grosse Pointe Woods Mayor Robert Novitke has restarted a committee that has not met in more than a decade, the Mayor's Mack Avenue Business Study Committee. The committee is being chaired by Woods Councilman Kevin Ketels.

Novitke told Patch it was not one particular thing that led to his decision to restart the committee, but rather something that should have been happening all this time. The committee, he said, last regularly met in 1996.

The Grosse Pointe Woods council has made a series of decisions that were unpopular among business owners in 2011, including one business owners fought to reverse concerning neon signs early in the year. Other decisions included the denial of a variance requested by the Neighborhood Club Thrift Shop to locate on Mack Avenue, the denial to allow Blackstar Inc. to locate on Mack Avenue and the denial of certain signs for the Little Blue Book, which recently relocated to the Woods from the Park.

Novitke said those particular decisions were not all that spurred his decision but feedback he was hearing about how business owners felt about the city are important. When the committee was last meeting, members were able to address several issues brought forth by business owners, he said.

The committee looks at business development along Mack Avenue and concerns of business owners as well as any business related issue. It is a subcommittee of the council and any ideas requiring changes to city ordinances or policies would require council approval.

The group met for the first time since Ketels was appointed as its chairman and then again this week. The first meeting was really about determining who on the committee still wanted to serve and who should be included as part of the committee. The members that were on it in 1996 were still technically a part of it because the committee was never officially decommissioned.

During the meeting this week, Ketels began conversations about communicating with businesses beyond their inspection approval and grand openings. The group now consists of the Mayor, Ketels, Boettcher, restaurant owner Dan Curis, Woods Wholesale Wine owner William Matouk, Planning Commissioner John Vitale, Woods Building Inspector Gene Tutag, City Manager Al Fincham and Councilman Richard Shetler. There are a few additional members who were not present at Thursday's meeting.

The group discussed using an email format to alert businesses of other business happenings, having business owners sign up on Nixle—a public safety and community notification system-- and making the city's website more business friendly.

Boettcher also mentioned that the association plans to create a phone tree among the businesses, so that if something noteworthy occurs at one business, others will be aware. A phone-tree is where one business calls another and then that business calls the next one on the list. This is a practice that is established and well utilized in the Village and on the Hill, Boettcher said.

The committee also discussed what type of events would draw people to the Woods for shopping and fun. Boettcher said the association is aiming to plan several events once its more organized and can begin communicating with all of the businesses along Mack Avenue.

To end the meeting, Vitale brought up the difficulty of gaining approval from Wayne County on outdoor projects along Mack Avenue. He brought up outdoor dining patios in particular, noting how there is one restaurant that aimed to have one open last summer but it never happened because of all the red-tape with the county.

Tutag agreed, explaining to the committee that there is frequently changeover in the employees, and so what one person may approve, another may not. He also said Wayne County wants everything to be very plain, so business owners that want to invest with landscaping or other ways are not allowed to do so.

Ketels and Novitke decided the topic merits discussions and a special meeting with representatives from Wayne County, including Commissioner Tim Killeen and from the building department.

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