By JESSICA STRACHAN
DEARBORN — On the Ground Dearborn asked you to share your Dearborn story with us, and you delivered.
Over the past three months, On the Ground Dearborn hosted weekly community newsrooms and open discussions with residents, business owners, and community leaders, sharing their perspectives on everything Dearborn.
On the Ground Dearborn captured east and west Dearborn, heard about the good and the desired, the points of pride and areas to be worked on. Guests shared their journeys and professional secrets. Altogether, it makes for a story of how a community is coming together to thrive and grow.
Businesses with heart
Sipping coffee at Common Grace Coffee Shop, Glass Academy owner Michelle Plucinsky is brought to tears.
It was just last month that she had a family come in to create a project together, only for the patriarch of the family to die before their glass creations could be picked up. It was the last activity they all did together and the final memory they had of him.
It’s stories like that that move her to share her passion with those around her.
“You create memories,” she says. “When you come, it’s like nothing you know. Everything stops, you’re not thinking about anything else, that’s the focus.”
She and her husband run the 14,000-square-foot facility on the northwest end of Dearborn.
It’s a 15-year passion for them turned into a career. The company hosts live glass blowing shows, events, classes and has an in-house gallery with their creations, including special techniques the Plucinsky’s invented.
“People are educated and inspired by commentary behind it and seeing artists living their dream. It gives them hope for what they do,” she says. “We get people from everywhere, every age groups, every ethnicity, every social status. From auto mechanics to doctors to housewives and in between. You’re transformed just by being there.”
She says they were welcomed into Dearborn by the mayor, chamber of commerce and others in the business community, helping their company grow by word of mouth. She also credits the synergy among Dearborn businesses for their success.
One such example is the partnership with Dearborn Brewing, where handmade mugs are enjoyed by everyone in the mug club. They pay to join and sip brews from a unique glass made by a local artist and serving as a great conversation piece.
“We create community on a small scale,” Plucinsky says.
Residents with vision
Florin Mindru works as a residential inspector for neighborhood services. That means each day he’s ensuring a high-quality experience for residents. Having previously worked to grow and engage downtown Clawson, the millennial likes to envision ways his community can better itself.
“You have an east and a west (Dearborn) and a five-lane highway between, so how do you bring those two downtowns together?” he asks, offering solutions like rapid transit, bike lanes to complement the bike sharing program and an improvement in crosswalk signals to reduce jaywalking.
“It’s the simple things we have to start from,” he says. “We all want to start big, but we have to
start small and then maybe we can work our way up to bigger projects.”
The east Dearborn resident is proud of his neighborhood and loves the unique eateries and shops on his side of town. As for the other side, he’s just as impressed.
“The Wagner (Place) construction project is a great catalyst for making the streets more walkable,” he says. “I’m impressed with Ford that they are trying to see a more walkable downtown.”
One of the things he loves the most about Dearborn is the character of each area.
“Every neighborhood has its own identity,” he says.
The new M Cantina, offering a modern taste of Mexico, is among his favorite spots in his own neighborhood. They have the best tacos around, he says.
“We are seeing the changes and this kind of resurgence, like these little cool businesses opening up,” he says.
He’s just one of the many residents who shared his visions for Dearborn.
Entrepreneurs dedicated to Dearborn
Enjoying a homemade omelette and hash browns from Joe’s Top Dog, Green Brain Comics owner Dan Merritt reflects on the love of comics he’s shared with his wife and the greater Dearborn community since they opened in 1999.
“I’ve read comics my entire life, it’s how I learned to read,” he says. “When the opportunity to buy the comic store my wife worked at arose, I jumped at the chance.
His wife is the veteran, having worked at the comic shop for 30 years, he explains.
“They opened in 1985, so it had a 14-year history in Dearborn when we bought it,” he says. “It made sense to stay here and we’ve since moved twice, but stayed within the neighborhood.”
That commitment to Dearborn came from being part of a strong business community. Merritt is the chairman of the East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority, which he has been involved with for 10 years.
“Dearborn has taught me the importance of community and those connections,” he says. “Being a business owner in a small community like this, it’s important to be a part of not only the business community but also the neighborhood itself, to create those relationships to help create customers and support other businesses.
Dearborn was the first place Merritt moved from his parents house. He said it felt like a more cohesive community than the bedroom community his family lived in.
“This is a more walkable neighborhood,” he says. “Now that I’m no longer a resident, I can still see the value of it, spending all my working hours in Dearborn. To me, it’s always been a fun place to be and spend time.”
A community of memories
Merritt wasn’t the only Dearborn expat to join us at Joe’s Top Dog for On the Ground’s community newsrooms. Visiting Dearborn for a few days, former resident Glenn Guzzo dropped by and was one of the many members of the community to share some of this best memories in the city.
Guzzo is a Fordson High School graduate and lived in Dearborn until 1975. He worked as a reporter and editor for the Dearborn Times-Herald, which took him from Dearborn to Texas, all across the country, to Florida, where he currently calls home.
“One of my fondest memories of Dearborn was playing softball for many years,” he says. “It seems like just about everyone played softball; there was a culture in this town.”
Guzzo remembers playing at many of the local parks and green spaces as a kid, creating both rivalries and friendships. Even the neighbors would come out to catch the games, bringing everyone together.
“A lot of friendships came from that,” he says. “It was a great atmosphere of friendships and community.”
On the Ground posed the question to lots of folks: Where do your best memories come from? How do you love to spend your time in Dearborn.
Cynthia Jones, general manager of innovation experiences at The Henry Ford, shared that she loves to sample the interesting restaurants and bakeries dotted all along the streets of Dearborn. Ford Land’s Doug Van Noord shared his love of golfing in Dearborn and entrepreneur Sam Abbas told of his daily bike rides around the city, taking in all the green space and outdoor areas.
Others mentioned the city’s cultural institutions and museums, the Rouge River and unique storefronts as highlights for them.
What On the Ground heard the most, however, was the importance of creating a cohesive community and connecting with others in the community. Time after time, residents swelled with pride about living in a diverse and inclusive town, with welcoming neighbors and community members who care.
(This story was reprinted from Metromode Media. It also is available here.)