Meet the serial entrepreneur who is the local Anytime Fitness gym owner…

April 23, 2015

anytimne fitness logo

Many times when I meet small business owners I see that they are people who have a special passion for what they are doing and I always wonder how they got to this point, to this particular business at this time in their lives. Well before I joined Anytime Fitness in Milford, I met Christine Wierenga, the owner, at a Chamber of Commerce event. It was an after business hours mixer at a local bar/restaurant in Milford.  I’m a Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce Ambassador and one of our Ambassador duties is to attend events like that one and to make sure that members, especially new members, Christine Wierengaget introduced around and get the opportunity to meet their fellow local business people. I met Christine that night and took it upon myself to introduce her around. We’ve been friends ever since and I eventually joined her Anytime Fitness gym in Milford and began my personal fitness journey.

I asked Christine to answer the question that she gets often about how she got into the business of gym ownership and below is her answer –

A question I am frequently asked is “How did you get into the fitness business”? I never mind answering that question because telling the story reminds me of the seemingly random way I came into gym ownership. I won’t go into too many details, but here’s how it happened.

I bought a classic car after I graduated high school and I wanted a custom interior in it. I couldn’t afford to pay someone to do the job, so I taught myself to sew and bought an upholstery sewing machine. It turned out well, so I invested in a bigger sewing machine and starting doing upholstery repairs for gyms in Michigan (while also doing automotive restorations). I grew my upholstery repair business to include gyms across the country, specializing in on-site repairs. As I went from gym to gym, I realized that many gyms were very poorly run and were severely lacking in customer service; so, I decided I could do it better. I did my research on the gym industry and bought an Anytime Fitness franchise on the East Side.

After running the fitness equipment upholstery business for almost 10 years (and having been a member of at least 8 different gyms) the decision to open an Anytime Fitness was an easy one!  That decision was fueled by my experiences with those facilities – ranging from overwhelmingly positive to shockingly horrible!  What set the exceptional clubs apart anytimne fitness logofrom the rest?   Customer service!  Or as we call it here at Anytime Fitness – Club Culture.  It’s an atmosphere that welcomes you, encourages you and keeps you coming back!   We know that most people have a difficult time making fitness a habit – It is my team’s goal to make sure that our members feel at home in the club.   We strive to keep our clients motivated and engaged. After all, they trust us to help them with their fitness journey!    

Since opening my first location in 2007, I purchased two other locations (the latest in Milford) and subsequently sold off the two East Side gyms to focus upon the Milford location. I have often looked back to see how I got here. Sometimes in life, you don’t understand why a project isn’t working out or you’re pulled in a different direction. In hindsight, I know that every stumbling block, every closed door, every “coincidence” was there for a reason. When I was asked in school “what do you want to be when you grow up”, I always found it difficult to narrow it down to one profession.  As a small business owner, I don’t have to just “pick one”!  With Anytime Fitness, I’m involved in everything – all of the things I love. I am able to help people get started on their fitness journey. I have an excellent team (of who I am incredibly proud!), that I get to see grow professionally and personally.  As a numbers geek, I even love the back-office work….yes, even spreadsheets!  

Anytime Fitness of Milford is much more than just a business to me.  The people there are my family – staff and members alike.   I’ve been amazed by the transformations I’ve seen our members undergo – Not just the physical changes you’d expect to see, but the even more incredible changes in their confidence, self-esteem, health and energy levels!  It may have taken a strange turn of events to get me here, but I am sure glad I’m here!

Yours in Health,

Christine Wierenga

So, now you know Christine’s story. I encourage you to come into Anytime Fitness in Milford and meet Christine or her
gym manager Willa Danowski. Right now (Ed.- April 2015) is a good time to do that because they man lifting weightsare offering Free Workout Saturdays to introduce people to the gym. You can try out the gym for free! While you’re there pick up one of the free 7-day membership cards and come back to try it out during the week. If you get there in the early mornings, (Ed. – I define that as between 8:00 and 10 AM) you are likely to see me there, too. I go to the gym 5-6 days a week, most weeks. I know of no better way to start my day than with a good workout.

Like some of the ads that you’ll see on TV, the Anytime Fitness gym in Milford isn’t full of “lunks working to feel the burn.” It is full of people like you and me, just trying to get back into a little bit of shape. Joining means that you get a free older couple exercisingassessment from one of the personal trainers to help you understand where you are starting from and them they give you a workout schedule to help you get started on your personal  journey to fitness. The gym has lots of exercise machines and, of course, free weights.They also offer lots of free classes for members, from the Saturday Morning Boot Camp, to Spinning, to Zumba to Cross-training to you-name-it. Choose how many or how few you may wish to participate in or just decide to work out on your own whenever you can get in. It took me a while to work up the courage to try the boot camps, but now I’m fairly regular on Saturday mornings.

The great thing about the atmosphere in the Milford Anytime Fitness is the sense of family that you quickly get to be a part of. The same people tend to show up at the same times and you soon meet everyone who is on your workout schedule by their first names. Sometimes I think some of the ladies who come in the early morning spend more time socializing than exercising, but that’s OK; they’re getting out and getting some time on the treadmill or the elliptical or the other machines and theyplank
are enjoying the time spent at the gym. Life’s too short not to enjoy it, so come on out to Anytime Fitness, at  141 South Milford Road, Milford, MI 48381 (in the old Farmer Jack’s Shopping Center near the corner of Milford Road and GM Road)  Phone: (248) 685-8373 and start your fitness journey. Maybe I’ll see you along the way. And if you think you’re up for a real workout right away, join us Saturday mornings at 8 AM for Boot Camp.


Make a Difference on Earth Day…

April 21, 2015

We celebrate Earth Day April 26th and earlier this year we celebrated Make A Difference Day. I think we should combine the two thoughts and Make a Difference on Earth Day. If on Earth Day everyone on the planet did one little things to help green earthpreserve our planet; that would be billions of little things that help. As they seem to say in Washington – a billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you’ve got something real.

There are lots of events going on around the country to celebrate Earth Day. Most of them have something to do with conservation of natural resources or lessening the impact of man on the planet through recycling or use of less polluting fuels. It is always sobering to read about or see on TV that entire species are about to be wiped out, but that is happening. The impact of global warming is finally being felt and realized by more people and the fact that the oceans are not limitless is now understood. Whether these revelations come soon enough to save what is left is still in doubt.

We are a throwaway society. We have become accustomed to just discarding something when it has been used for a while or when the “next big thing” comes along. Unfortunately we’ll not be able to see the next big thing once we have used up this planet that we live upon. Maybe a million years from now some space-roving explorers will discover a lifeless planet that shows signs that it once supported a primitive civilization that could only figure out how to make energy by burning things, with a people who had a penchant for killing things. They will wonder at the stupidity of a planet of people who committed such a slow and avoidable suicide. Of course, by that time the planet will be rules by the bugs that remained and not by the apes as their movies predicted.

So, maybe this coming Sunday you can begin the re-write of that scenario by making a difference, by doing something, anything to change your personal behavior towards the planet. It can be a simple as not rolling down your window and earth recyclingtossing your fast food bag out as you drive, or maybe planting a tree instead of burning a pile of leaves, or maybe walking to the store instead of getting in the car for the 3- block trip. Every little bit helps. You don’t have to go out and hug a tree (however, that might make you feel a little better) or find a whale to save; but, you don’t have to do a lot of other things that are causing harm to the planet either. Just think about things before you do them; then don’t do some of the bad things and do go ahead with the good one. This isn’t rocket science, it’s earth science and that’s the only rocket that we have to ride on.

If you’re in the Milford Michigan area, here’s a great way to spend a part of the day – Earth Friendly Family Fun Festival 2015 – noon until 4 PM at Carls Family YMCA, 300 Family Dr, Milford, MI  48381. Help celebrate the Earth with lots of activities for the whole family. Click here to view the event flyer.


Listen to the stories of our own Main Street Brat – Mary Lou Gharrity

April 13, 2015

The Milford Historical Society presents Mary Lou and Main Street – Our Thursday April 16th General Meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Milford Methodist Church at 1200 Atlantic St and it will be a Potluck. Pot Luck assignments are as follows: A—F– Salad or Side Dish G—Q Main Dish R—Z— Desserts.

The Guest Speaker that night will be our own Mary Lou Gharrity (shown below on the left with Marlene Gomez, our recently Mary Lou and MArleneretired Museum Director). This is a Meeting you will want to attend for sure. Come listen to the stories of the Main Street Brat! Mary Lou grew up in Yea Olde Hotel on Main street and has decades of Milford stories to share.

The Milford Historical Society holds general membership meeting every other month, with guest speakers talking about topics of historical interest from the area and from Michigan. Past speakers have talked about topics like the founding of Detroit and the early settlers who migrated out to found Towns and Villages like Milford, about the impact of the railroads on the small towns that they passed through, about the work of the CCC during the Great Depressing and the CCC camps that were set up in Michigan, about the Vernors soft drink company and about being in the Nazi concentration camps (from a concentration camp survivor).

This months speaker is lifelong Milford resident Mary Lou Gharrity, who spent at least a part of her childhood living in Yea Olde Hotel, Milford’s downtown hotel, which her parents ran. Later she and her husband owned and ran the Milford Times. Mary Lou, as much as anyone can represents a living history of Milford, and her stories of the old days are fascinating. we hope that you will join us.

The Milford Historical Society was founded in 1973 by a group of citizens who recognized the importance of the heritage of their community and wished to share it with their contemporaries and preserve it for those who will follow. To these ends, the members have established a museum, a research and archives room, and have sponsored, in conjunction with the Milford Township Library and the State of Michigan Library, the microfilming of the Milford Times newspaper beginning with the first issue in 1871. The Society is currently involved with a project in conjunction with Central Michigan University’s Clarke History Library to convert that microfilm library into a searchable, on-line database.

The Milford Historical Society is chartered as a 501c3 Non-Profit organization and as such is eligible to accept tax-deductible contributions. The Society supports the Milford Historical Museum at 124 E. Commerce St (one block east of Main St) and all of its projects from membership donations and fund raising efforts and received no outside support. The Society’s continuing projects include an annual home tour, various research projects and an effort toward local architectural preservation. Through it’s own Sesquicentennial Committee, the Society published a book titled TEN MINUTES AHEAD OF THE REST OF THE WORLD – A History of Milford as another step towards preserving and disseminating the history of Milford, Michigan. For more on the Milford Historical Society, visit our Web site – www.milfordhisoty.org.


Slavery and human trafficking…it can’t be happening here; this is Oakland County, Michigan!

March 14, 2015

I live in Oakland County, Michigan, arguably the most affluent county in Michigan. Yet I also live in a county that is in a hotbed area of modern day human trafficking and slavery. No, I’m not trying to say that boatloads of slaves are somehow making their way through the Great Lakes to be sold to Detroit-area slave owners for back-breaking work on the farm.  Modern day human trafficking is much more likely to involve young girls being sold into lives of sex trafficking or ignorant young people from foreign lands being sold into lives of servitude by their parents.

Why didn’t I know about this and how can it be happening without being noticed?

Modern day human trafficking often slips under the daily newscast radar unless someone is killed or causes some huge scandal for a prominent member of the community. Many of the victims live out their misery in the seedy parts of town and are only seen out at night plying their age-old trade. Some are literally held slave chainsas hostage/servants within the homes of their “owners”; maybe occasionally seen through a window or at an open door by a neighbor. Many of them do not speak English, nor do they understand what people might be saying to them. Some of them started as confused and frightened runaways and are now far from home and totally dependent upon their captor/owners for everything in their lives. Some were actually sold into slavery by their parents, which may be the ultimate betrayal of parenthood obligations. They are alone, fearful for their lives and unable to see any way out. No wonder we never see them or hear about their plight.

Many of the “owners” of modern day slaves are well to do members of their communities- doctors or business owners. Many are first generation Americans young prostitutewith strong cultural ties to their homes of origin. What we fail to understand sometimes is that what we call slavery is an accepted practice in many of those countries. That doesn’t make it right; just helps to explain why it happens. It is sometimes easy for a wealthy immigrant to reach back into his native land and “buy” a servant to do the housework and a whole lot cheaper than paying for a local maid service. It is also relatively easy to keep an ignorant young person who doesn’t speak the local language isolated and under control.

Yet, a few of these modern day slaves do make it out. Sometimes they get lucky and are swept up in police actions that just happen to include the place where escapethey are being held.  Sometimes neighbors just stop believing the false stories that their owners made up to cover their presence and they report their suspicions to the authorities (if one can find an authority with any interest in pursuing such matters). Sometimes the victims finally screw up enough courage to run away from their captors and find someone to whom they can turn themselves in.  Some hear about programs like MAP (Michigan Abolitionist Project) and find a way to get in touch with them. It is almost beyond belief that we still need a group of abolitionists in modern America, but we do.  John Brown’s body may lie “a moldering in its grave”, but the slavers have returned.

I had the opportunity to meet one such survivor/victim at a Chamber of Commerce event at a local credit union  that featured a speaker from the Vista Maria Home in Dearborn Heights an one of the slavery victims whom they havegirl crying helped . You sort of stand there listening in disbelief as the story of the young victim’s life unfolds –  a pre-teen runaway who ended up being sold into the sex trade in the Dearborn area. You want to believe that “this can’t be happening; not here; not in this day and age”; but it does happen It is happening every day and it needs to be stopped and the victims helped to recover their lives. None of us can continue to pretend that this problem doesn’t exist in America or in our own back yards.

You will hear about the experiences of one such survivor of the local salve trade at the upcoming panel discussion Youth Trafficking / Modern Day Slavery in Oakland County on Mar 16. The panel begins at 7 pm. Doors open at 6:30 to visit tables hosted by organizations involved in various aspects of anti-trafficking support. The event is being held at the Milford United Methodist Church, 1200 Atlantic St., Milford, MI 48381 and is co-sponsored by the North West Oakland Optimist Club and the Milford chapter of the Michigan Abolitionist Project MAP/NOAH. The panel will include Oakland County Commissioner Eileen Kowall, Kelly Carter, an Assistant Attorney General for Michigan; Chrissy a Survivor; and a MAP Representative.  If you thought that this is just a problem in Africa or the Middle East, think again…it’s happening right here in your own back yard. Click here to view the poster for this event. My advice is to bring some Kleenex because the things that you will hear might make you cry. The hope is that they will also make you mad and make you want to help.


In the Huron Valley area, why would you look anywhere else?

March 4, 2015

I created and maintain a web site called Move to Milford (www.movetomilford.com ). It is a web site with a mission to try to keep up with and share information about Welcome to the Village of Milford signwhat’s going on in the Huron Valley area – mainly Milford, Highland and White Lake, the Townships in the Huron Valley School District. In addition, because it is Milford Village centric, it contains an enormous amount of information about the Village and links to important sites from organizations that are located in the Village and immediate surrounding areas. If it’s information about Milford it’s probably there or there’s a link to the organization’s web site where it can be found on the Click on Milford page.

One of the features of the site is the poster wall. Did you ever notice while you were walking along in downtown Milford that many of the local stores have posters in theirposters in window windows? Well, I go get those posters from the various organizations, plus many that never make it to the windows downtown and post them on the “Poster Wall” at the Move to Milford site, right next to the calendar of ‘Things to do in the Valley”. That calendar has all of the events that I can find that are upcoming. If it’s not in that calendar column, there’s a good chance that it’s in one of the seasonal calendars or brochures that organizations like the “YMCA” or the Huron Valley Recreation and community Education program or the Milford Library put out. You’ll find all of those calendars, schedules and brochures there, too; along with a link to the Milford Cinema, so that you can see what’s currently showing there.   And where I could find them on web sites all of the calendars of the various organizations in the area are there, too.

Sometimes you just need the answer to questions like where would my children go to school, if I lived in the area. There’s a link to help answer that question and another to help you evaluate the schools in the area. Maybe you want to know if there are booksordinances about outbuildings in Village or Township – there’s a link there to all of the ordinances for both on the Click on Milford page. Maybe you’ve looking at moving into a home that is on a lake in the area and you’d like to know about that like, like how deep it is or how many acres it covers – there’s a link for that, too, on the Real Estate Readings page.

While we’re on real estate stuff, there’s a ton of great information available through this site, like what has sold in the area. I track eight townships that surround Milford and report on all of the sales above $20,000 (let’s face it, any less than that and the sale was for a tear-down house and mainly just to get the land). I don’t just report the sale prices, but also the percentage of sale price vs. asking price, the square footage ofsold sign the home, the number of bedrooms and baths, the days that it was on the market and the asking and sold price per square foot. For each of those eight areas I also calculate the average and median asking and sold prices, so that you get meaningful statistics about each area. I’ve been doing this for some time, so there is 5-7 years’ worth of data there and the data is updated every week. There are also capabilities there to search for homes in the area – I am a Realtor, after all – using various methods, including map-based searches.

If you do happen to be thinking of buying or selling a home, there’s a ton of great reading material about the real estate process – things that buyers and sellers need to know. Much of that I write myself, but there are also lots of great links to things that go beyond my real estate expertise, like mortgages and insurance. There’re links to the various programs for first time buyers, to help them get the assistance that they may need and links to sites that focus on short sales and foreclosures for homeowners who might be desperate for some help or advice.

As in any small town there are lots of local businesses and I maintain a business referral page for many of the local businesses  that I know and can recommend, It’s not Angie’s List, I guess it is Norm’s list, but more importantly it is a list of businesses and people that I trust. I feature a single business each month with a more detailed write up about it and the owner. If it’s not there, use the links to the Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce or the Highland-White Lake Business Association to search for other local businesses. We also have lots of great restaurants in Milford and they are all listed on the Restaurants page. Maybe what you are hungering for is spiritual, so there’s a page for area churches. Maybe you are interested in the history of Milford, well there’s a great article about Milford’s history and a link to the Milford Historical Society Web site. If you are interested in the arts I also track what’s going on at the Village Fine Arts Association in Milford and at the Huron Valley Council for the Arts in Highland. Both organizations have very active calendars of events and opportunities for artists and would-be artists.

Hopefully you get the picture that you can find almost anything that you might be searching for at this site. I search the Web so that you don’t have to. Spend some time exploring the site and I think you’ll want to bookmark it and use it as your go-to site for what’s going on in the Huron Valley. And if there’s something that you’d like to see there that I haven’t thought of, contact me on the About Us page and let me know.


Is walkability important to you?

February 26, 2015

How walkable is the area that you live in? Is walkability important to you in your choice of a new home? How do you find out how walkable a location is? I can’t answer the middle question, but I can help you find the answer to the first and last questions. There is a great site called walkscore.com that rates neighborhoods all across the country. If you go there you can put in an address – either where you live now or where you are thinking about moving to – and find out its Walkscore.

walking manThe Walkscore web site gives grades on a scale of 1 to 100 for the walkability of the area surrounding the address that you provide. The site looks at a lot of different factors, but it all boils down to evaluating what you can walk to within a reasonable distance. Things that the site looks for are stores, restaurants, libraries or other cultural venues within walking distance and what that walk might involve. The Walkscore will be higher is there are sidewalks and a good layout, such as the grid structure that is found in most large cities vs. the lack of sidewalks and  winding streets with lots of cul de sacs that are found in  most modern subdivisions. You can go to the Walkscore site for a more complete explanation of the factors that they evaluate to come up with a Walkscore for any given area.

In the past (through the 1950’s at east) most cities and towns were laid out in grid patterns and had sidewalks. The advent of the suburban subdivision in the 1950’s changed all of that.  Many of the early subs still had sidewalks, but those eventually went away, too. People moved further out and became much more dependent upon getting into their cars and riving to get to anything. Subdivisions quickly evolved from any sibilance of a grid structure into free flowing curves and cul de sacs. The term “bedroom communities” was coined to refer to these developments where the only thing that one could do there was sleep; anything else meant getting into the car.

There are still great walkable cities like New York, Boston or Chicago available; wherecity street with people living quarters are interspersed with businesses, stores and amenities and where one can still walk to a great many things. Newer cities tended to be built mainly for business and seem to empty out at night, leaving little to walk to for those who might live there. It’s actually kind of eerie at night or on weekend in many of those cities – like being in a ghost town.

So, why is all of this of any importance? I suppose one could start by pointing out the obvious health benefits of getting out and walking to things; but there is also an environmental benefit – you’re not driving and creating pollution or using up fuel. There is also usually a social a side benefit. When you are out walking you will likely encounter others in the neighborhood doing the same and, because you are walking, it is easier to stop and say “hi” to them and maybe even have a conversation. Try that while driving your car.

You may be much more likely to make use of local libraries, museums or other cultural amenities if it’s a short walk, rather than a drive, to get to them. Walkable areas usually also have lots of neat little restaurants and locally owned shops. You may find that you don’t have to jump in the car and drive to the mall to get what you need. A side benefit is mostly psychological –  you don’t feel trapped in walkable areas, because you know that, even if you’re without a car, you can just walk to most things if you want to.

Skippy and Sadie for calendarI moved from one of those “bedroom communities” in the suburbs that had a Walkscore of 15 into Milford, Michigan, a small village where I’m just 2 blocks from downtown; and I see a Walkscore of 62 when I check it. I can literally walk to most that I need, with a few exceptions where I would have to get in the car and go to a mall or superstore. It’s great and we love it. Plugging in downtown addresses in neighborhoods in Boston, New York or Chicago might turn up Walkscores that are
Front of Palatemuch higher than that. Try it and see what the Walkscore is for your current home’s location.

So, if you’re in the market for a new home, how important is the walkability of an area to you? If you have 3-4 areas that you are considering for a new home location, plug them in to the Walkscore.com site and see what their Walkscores come out to be. You don’t necessarily have to move back into an urban setting to get into a walkable, but it is more likely that small towns offer more walkable environments than most suburban subdivisions. If you happen to be looking in Southeastern Michigan, call me and I’ll help you find a great walkable area to live in.

 


Final push day for voting…

January 23, 2015

I promise that this will be the last post about voting for the Huron Valley Historyvote graphic Initiative grant. You can go to the Clarke Library web site and Tweet from there or just Tweet or re-Tweet something from my earlier posts or from your own account.The Tweets need to have the hashtag #DigMilford in them to count as a vote. We are doing OK onthe Tweet voting, but Alpena has been right on our heals all along, so keep voting.

You can also vote by sending in a Michigan-themed postcard to – Clarke Library, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI  48859. Remember that each postcard counts as 100 votes, so they are really helpful. Postcards need to sent so that they arrive before Jan. 30; so, they probably need to be mailed by Wednesday the 28th. The postcards also need to have the hashtag #DigMilford on them somewhere, to identify the grants finalist that you are voting for. The cards can pictures of anything to do with Michigan or just a map of the state. Some children have made homemade maps buy drawing mitten shapes around their left hands with crayons and labeling it “Michigan.”

You Tweets and cards will help us win a grant from Clark Library to digitize the back issues of the Milford Times that we currently have on microfilm, the earliest gong back to 1871. We plan to index and make the resulting database available on-line for research. Help us make that happen through your support. Thanks.

Tweet, re-Tweet and Tweet again; then, have a great weekend!