Monday, May 16, 2016

Independent Retailers by Bill & Rod's Appliance

What do you know about independent retailers? Did you know that according to the National Retail Federation that one in five Americans are employed by independent or privately held retail businesses and account for nearly 95% of the industry? Most probably do not.

Some of these retailers are being squeezed though by not being noticed. According to a recent survey of 1000’s of consumers conducted by, a marketing company, showed that 49.2% were able to identify an independent furniture dealer. This same survey showed us only 32.7% could name an independent mattress dealer. Even sadder to me personally as owner of Bill & Rod’s Appliance Inc., in Livonia, MI, was that a measly 19.5% could name an independent appliance dealer. We could also look at this another way, 80.5% of consumers cannot name a currently open independent appliance dealer.

The myth of the “Big Box” stores always having the best prices always is far too wide spread as well. Many independents can not only compete, but hold their own without breaking a sweat. Bill & Rod’s Appliance Inc., for example, is part of national buying group called BrandSource. This allows us to pool our volume with other independents and give us the same amount buying power as the chain stores.

Our one mission is to be the absolute best every single time, and make our customers our family. Without our neighbors coming to work with us we would be sunk. If you are tired of being a number then come join the family of an independent retailer.

What do you know about independent retailers?

Joe Legato

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Livonia Chamber supports renewal of city’s millages

Protecting police and fire staffing and Livonia’s quality of life are among several significant reasons the Livonia Chamber of Commerce endorses renewal of two city millage requests that go to voters this summer.

Livonia residents will be asked to approve 10-year renewals of a 1.7-mill levy for public safety, and a 0.25-mill levy to support the Greenmead Historic Village and Livonia Senior Center. The election for both millage requests will be held August 2.

Both millages were approved for five years by 75 percent of Livonia voters in August 2011.
The Livonia Chamber’s Board of Directors unanimously voted to endorse both millage renewals at its April meeting. Chamber leaders said renewing these millage proposals would not increase current tax rates to home and business owners.

“If these millages are not renewed, the Livonia Police Department would be forced to cut 35-40 positions, and we don’t believe anyone thinks that is a good idea,” said Dan West, president of the Livonia Chamber of Commerce. “The millage also enables the city to continue the training and purchase the equipment needed to maintain premier police and fire services in our city.”

The chamber also supports renewing the millage for Greenmead and the senior center, because they are popular programs that support quality of life in Livonia.

“Our board feels city leaders have been good stewards of the city’s budget, while keeping Livonia as the second-lowest tax rate of any city in Wayne County,” West added.

The Livonia Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit, non-partisan trade organization that represents 900 businesses and groups. The Livonia Chamber’s 21-member Board of Directors occasionally takes positions on issues that impact the local business community, but the Chamber does not endorse candidates running for office. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Livonia Home Show returns to Rec Center March 19

A gymnasium full of home improvement ideas will be on display at the Livonia Community Recreation Center next Saturday, March 19, for the annual Livonia Home Improvement Show.

Some 50 exhibitors will be featured in the MAC gym of the Rec Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission and parking is free. Bob Evans Restaurant will provide free coffee in the morning, and several restaurants will provide food samples during the afternoon.

The sixth-annual home show is coordinated by the Livonia Chamber, and sponsored by Bright House Networks. The Rec Center is located on the corner of Five Mile and Hubbard.

“As spring’s thaw kicks in this week, home owners start thinking about improvement projects and this show is a great way to explore those ideas,” said Dan West, president of the Livonia Chamber of Commerce. “We have a great variety of exhibitors but it is a comfortable environment for show visitors to spend time with experts and get their questions answered.”

Experienced companies that work with landscaping, concrete, heating and cooling, roofing, carpeting and flooring, bathroom and kitchen remodels, and general contractors are among the registered exhibitors.

There are a few spaces left for prospective exhibitors. For more details on the show, contact Laura Tahmouch at 734.427.2122, or

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Anniversary committee, Livonia Chamber partner to provide Spree information center

Monday, March 6, 2016

Organizers of Livonia Spree and the Livonia Chamber of Commerce have formed a new partnership to provide easier access to details for prospective vendors and supporters about the city’s annual festival.

The Livonia Chamber of Commerce office will serve as an information center for all businesses and organizations interested in participating in Spree 66, which takes place June 21-26 at Livonia’s Ford Field.

“We’ve grown and we look forward to developing a good relationship with the chamber,” said Rich Skaggs, president of the Livonia Anniversary Committee, the non-profit group that manages Livonia Spree. “We are working together so we can continue organizing this great event that is important to promoting our city.”

During normal business hours, businesses and organizations looking to become a food vendor, provide a business promotional booth, or become a sponsor of the event can get the information they need to apply at the Livonia Chamber of Commerce office, located in Suite 212 of the Civic Center Office Plaza on northeast corner of Five Mile and Farmington roads. The phone number is 734.427.2122.

“We’ve had our fair share of these types of inquiries about Spree through the years,” said Dan West, president of the Livonia Chamber of Commerce. “This new partnership will make it easier for prospective vendors and sponsors to get the information they need, and provide new support to the Spree’s volunteer committee that works an extraordinary amount of volunteer hours each year to organize Livonia’s signature event.”

The plans for band and entertainment are settled for Spree 66, but the Committee continues to look for food vendors, business booths, sponsors, and volunteers.

The Livonia Spree attracts some 500,000 visitors during the annual six-day event, culminating with a premier fireworks show after dusk on Sunday evening. Since its creation in the 1970s, funds raised from Spree have enabled the Livonia Anniversary Committee to donate more than $1 million into many charitable community causes.

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Roush, Embassy Title earn Chamber's 2016 business of year awards

Mendelson's, Mama Mia's garner enhancement awards
Jack Roush started an engine-building operation in Livonia 40 years ago to compete in auto racing.

Over his hall-of-fame career in the sport, his teams won 7 championships in auto racing's leading circuits, but his company's racing innovations expanded into other breakthroughs for all kinds of vehicles. 

Roush has grown into a worldwide operation that's developed propane-powered vehicles, military vehicles, theme-park ride systems, autonomous Google cars, prototype helicopters and fuel systems for rockets - just to name a few. Roush, which employs more than 1,000 people at 16 facilities in Livonia, has received national and state honors in recent years for its outreach to hire military veterans.

The company's latest honor is this year's selection as the Livonia Chamber of Commerce's Outstanding Large Business of the Year.

The Chamber also announced that Embassy Title Agency is the 2016 Outstanding Small Business of the Year; Mendelson's Professional Building and Mama Mia's Restaurantwill earn Community Enhancement Awards; and Emily Bauman from AdviCoach of Michigan  is the chamber's ambassador of the year. All will be honored at the 12th annual Leadership and Award Celebration to be held at Laurel Manor on Thursday, Feb. 11.

"The companies each have a compelling story of perseverance and growth, while being an important part of the Livonia community," said Chamber President Dan West.

Roush operates 28 facilities in southeast Michigan, others facilities and testing centers around the world, and collectively employs 4,300. Steve Sciatto, the company's executive vice president and long-time Livonia resident, said the company is looking to hire more people as Roush is in need of welders, fabricators, designers, technicians and engineers.

"What you see from Roush is just the tip of the iceberg," said Sciatto, who has worked at Roush for 34 years. "Not many people realize how much more we do below the surface. We take a customer's idea and other technologies, and integrate them into a real product."

Roush has long supported education initiatives in Livonia, including the Livonia Robotics Team. The company's extraordinary efforts to hire more than 200 military veterans over the last two years earned Roush the 2015 large business supplier of the year from Disabled American Veterans.

Outstanding Small Business honoree Embassy Title Agency is located on Farmington Road north of Five Mile Road. Owner Kate McCarty grew the company from about 30 transactions a month in 2008 - in the midst of the real estate bust - to some 200 transactions a month in 2015. She credits her personal relationships, work ethic, positive spirit, talented team, and community involvement for Embassy Title's emergence which includes an expansion this year.

"I give 100% of myself to all the people we help," McCarty said. "I seem to have an ability to bring out the best in people to grow our company. Our foundation has always been that we should help people the best we can."

McCarty was forced into entrepreneurship in 2005 when she suddenly lost her office manager job at a title company that folded. She had no personal savings but had a book of business that inspired her to start her own operation. With an infectious energy highlighted her favorite catch phrase: "Love baby love," she developed key real estate connections that gradually directed more closings to Embassy Title.

"We had to work hard to build our relationships with people, and then we always took care of them," McCarty said. "We always tried to make it more about relationships than business."

She worked seven days a week most of the time since she opened Embassy Title, taking her first trip in 15 years last year when she joined her daughter and grandchildren in a trip to Disney World.

After overcoming some personal struggles, she always focused on giving back to the community - even when her business was not as successful. She provided financial and mentoring support to domestic violence victims in the First Step program. She also contributes to the Livonia Family YMCA, Toys for Tots, schools and other nonprofit groups.

"I can't believe I was selected for this," McCarty said about earning the small business honor.

Mendelson's Professional Building and Mama Mia's Restaurant will receive this year's Community Enhancement Award, which honors Livonia companies that invest in a construction project that makes a visible difference in the community.

Mendelson Kornblum Orthopedic and Spine Specialists invested $13 million to redevelop a long-dormant site on the corner of Five Mile and Levan Roads. Dr. Herbert Mendelson started his practice in the 1960s and operated at various Livonia locations through the years, most recently on the campus of St. Mary Mercy Hospital.

CEO Mike Beaubien said the company needed more room and looked at various sites in and around Livonia for several years before deciding on the spot last occupied by Frank's Nursey and Crafts.

"We needed more space but we really wanted to stay in Livonia because this has been our home for so many years," Beaubien said. "We wanted a first-class building that will serve this community for a long time."

They constructed a two-story, 43,000-square-foot building that complimented the new construction across the street at St. Mary Mercy Hospital. In addition to the Mendelson Kornblum practice, the new building houses outpatient surgery and bariatric care facilities for St. Mary Mercy, MRI center for Instant Imagining, and Lakes Urgent Care.  

Dr. Herbert Mendelson's sons, David, Jeffery, Stephen, and daughter-in-law Alice are among the practice's 14 doctors. Beaubien said he needed to add 70 positions to adequately staff the new, larger Livonia location. The practice also has two facilities in Warren and with a total of 225 employees, and plans to add at least three more doctors this year.

Beaubien said the company is honored to be selected for this honor.

"I realized how visible the project is to the community," he said. "It's nice to see the hard work we put in and focus on the details are recognized publicly."

Mama Mia's Restaurant has been a fixture on Plymouth Road near Inkster Road for 63 years. Brothers John and Chris Vardouniotis acquired the property in November 1976, and with the help of their families, Mama Mia's grew into a popular stop for Italian dishes featuring a variety of homemade sauces and pastas.

The family also controls the Mama Mia's location on Beech Daly Road near Grand River Avenue in Redford.

The family invested more than $160,000 last year to revamp the restaurant's exterior to provide a uniform look for the 140-seat restaurant and 225-seat banquet hall that were constructed separately. Other renovations last year included new carpeting and appliances for the kitchen and bar area.

"We will continue to work on some other interior projects," said John Vardounoitis, who turned 80 in December. "The family wants to keep it, so I put some money into it so they can keep it going."

He is on a winter break in Florida, but he plans to return to Livonia in the spring and resume working at 7:30 a.m. each day at the restaurant. John's wife, Catherine; daughters Nancy and Margie; and grandchildren Paul, Katerina, Dominic, and Yanni all work at the restaurant.

"I've always told my grandchildren that whatever you do in life, you should be happy doing it," he said. "It makes me proud to see so many from the family who want to stay involved with the restaurant."

He added he attributes the restaurant's success to fair and consistent service and meals, and the Livonia community.

"I'm very proud to be part of Livonia," Vardounoitis said. "It is one of the best cities in Michigan and I enjoy being here."

Madonna University was selected as the second annual recipient of the Livonia Greenleaf Award. Developed by the City of Livonia's Greenleaf Commission on Sustainability, the panel aims to reward those Livonia businesses that implement strategies that place equal importance on environmental quality, economic prosperity, and social equity. Madonna's Franciscan Center, completed in 2009, became the city's first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building.

The Livonia Chamber's Ambassador of the Year, Emily Bauman is honored as the chamber's leading volunteer.  She supported chamber members at ribbon-cutting celebrations, welcomed new businesses to the Chamber and referred other prospective new members throughout 2

As a business coach for AdviCoach of Michigan, Bauman works with business owners, specifically family-owned, to help take them to the next level.

"What we like to do is help the owners really get back to why they started the business and rebuild that passion," said Bauman. "I have met new people and built relationships and having those connections have been great personally and businesswise."

She credits the Livonia Chamber for helping her meet many people when she was still new to the area. Bauman was raised in New York and lived in Colorado most of her professional life.

Bauman and her husband of nearly 20 years, Bill, have three children and they belong to St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Livonia. She's also a member of the Livonia Civic Chorus.

The business award winners were nominated by Livonia Chamber of Commerce members and community leaders and selected by an anonymous committee who evaluates the nominations.

Also at the Leadership and Awards Celebration, teachers of the year for the Livonia and Clarenceville school districts will be honored, and The Livonia Observer will present its Outstanding Youth and Livonia First Citizen Awards.

The Leadership and Awards Celebration is sponsored by Bright House Business Solutions, Livonia Chrysler Jeep, AlphaUSA, St. Mary Mercy Hospital and Madonna University. Tickets are available at $25 each. Admission includes a strolling dinner and soft drinks. A cash bar will be available. To reserve tickets, call the Livonia Chamber office at 734.427.2122, or via e-mail at