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Detroit Development News

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A new co-working space for downtown Detroit

A new co-working space is being established in downtown Detroit. WorkBuild HQ, located in the Julian C. Madison Building on Washington Boulevard, is about to become the latest in a wave of co-working spaces opening across the city.

WorkBuild HQ CEO Ernest Foutner, Jr. and co-founders Brandon Colvin and Marcus Twyman have already made the space available to tenants though an official grand opening party won't be held until July. An open house will be held this Saturday, May 17, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Free to all, the casual affair will feature food and refreshments from Rubbed, Voigt's Soda House, and the Detroit Pop Shop.

A number of membership options will be available at WorkBuild HQ, including part-time and full-time pricing plans and public and private seating arrangements. A program called the Success Advancement Resource Center, or SARC, will be dedicated to guiding recent college graduates as they transition from school life to business life. A business incubator, Propel Plus, is also planned.

Encouraging collaboration between tenants will be a focus of WorkBuild HQ, says Foutner. He hopes to see a wide variety of professionals, entrepreneurs, and educators working together -- a sort of synergy, he says. The communal aspect of a co-working space allows tenants to sync up with other professionals who aren't in their industry, providing people the opportunity to both learn and benefit from each other.

"The days of the traditional office space are over," says Foutner.

Typical office amenities such as Wii-Fi Internet, mailbox services, and a conference room are complemented by more modern and non-traditional office perks, including a gaming station, happy hours, and yoga classes.

The Julian C. Madison Building is also home to PT in the D.

Source: Ernest Foutner, Jr., CEO and co-founder of WorkBuild HQ
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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25 and still going strong, Greening of Detroit keeps humming along

In their 25th year, the Greening of Detroit is as busy as ever. The non-profit group is in the midst of another season of planting trees, urban gardening, and much, much more. A variety of programming dominates the Greening of Detroit's year, from planting roughly 5,000 trees throughout the city to conducting workforce training for citizens with challenges to employment.

Greening of Detroit is beginning the transition from tree-planting season to gardening season. The group typically plants 5,000 trees a year over the course of two periods, from March to June and from mid-September to just before Thanksgiving. The Greening recently finished a massive tree-planting project in Rouge Park, a 1,184-acre west side park where it has planted 1,703 trees since the fall of 2013.

As the weather warms, much of the group's focus shifts to its three farm gardens: Romanowski Farm Park, Lafayette Greens, and Detroit Market Garden. The Greening uses the gardens for educational programming, urban farming, and produce markets. On May 20, they'll be offering a class on how to grow wild edibles in your garden. On May 29, they'll be offering a class on backyard aquaponics. Each demonstration will be held at the Detroit Market Garden, located behind Shed 5 of Eastern Market.

In collaboration with the Lower Eastside Action Plan (LEAP), the Greening is devising ways to clear and re-green blighted lots. Trish Hubbell, marketing director for Greening of Detroit, says that the group engages the communities they work with as much as possible.

"We like to work with the communities and get their input because ultimately they're the ones who take over and run things," says Hubbell.

Adult workforce training, children's educational programming, and the popular Build-A-Garden program are also planned for the summer.

Since its formation in 1989, the Greening of Detroit has planted nearly 82,000 trees throughout the city.

Source: Trish Hubbell, marketing director for Greening of Detroit
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Hamtramck bakery quietly becomes go-to source for French baked goods

What do Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company, Mudgie's Deli, and the Detroit Institute of Arts have in common? They all carry Matt Knio's breads, pastries, and buns. The Frenchman-turned-Michigander has quietly become one of the city's go-to people for baked goods.

Despite keeping a low profile, Knio's Hamtramck-based Golden Wheat bakery provides baguettes, croissants, and other French baked goods to a number of the city's popular restaurants, cafes, and markets. With very little web presence or branding, Golden Wheat's popularity has spread by word-of-mouth. Knio says that he doesn't advertise and that 90 percent of his customers come from referrals. You could be eating one of his almond croissants right now and not even know it was his. Still, business keeps growing.

Knio started Golden Wheat when, on account of a girl, he left France for Michigan. A year later in 2003, Knio opened a storefront in Birmingham. A 2007 chance encounter at a Rochester farmers market led to his opening a commercial kitchen in Hamtramck. By 2008, he closed his Birmingham storefront and started doing wholesale baking full-time. He's since opened a small Birmingham coffee shop, Cannelle Patisserie.

In Hamtramck, Knio runs his bakery at night, preparing his fine French baked goods for the morning. They work odd hours at the kitchen, operating from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. As a result, Knio catches up on sleep during the day. It's a committed lifestyle, but one that he finds rewarding. Knio believes that Detroit dining options have really turned a corner and he's glad to be a part of that.

"I travel quite a bit and see a lot," says Knio. "The area is getting more and more good food. It's not like it was five or six years ago."

One of the more recent restaurants to carry Golden Wheat products is La Feria, which opened in November 2013.

Source: Matt Knio, owner of Golden Wheat
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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City's first dog park opens in Corktown

On Thursday, May 1, another pop-up turned permanent in the city, though this pop-up, the Detroit Dog Park, has nothing to sell. The roughly 3/4 acre site is located on the former Macomb Playlot, an abandoned playground at 17th and Rose adjacent to Roosevelt Park. Michigan Central Station looms largely nearby.

Pop-up success stories have become commonplace in Detroit. They've proven efficient and effective in introducing businesses to the public without all of the initial costs that can eat up startup funding. They also serve as a means for community building, as was the case with Detroit Dog Park.

The nonprofit group first organized in the summer of 2011. By 2012, it became part of a larger group that was holding a pop-up dog park every third Saturday on Navin Field (the site of old Tiger Stadium). This month's meet-up will take place on the second Saturday instead, coinciding with the new park's official grand opening at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 10.

Detroit Dog Park came to occupy the property by way of the city's Adopt-a-Park program. Volunteers mowed the grass and cleared out brush and debris from the neglected park. PetSmart, the national pet supplies store, helped the group establish the site. The company sent a mobile dog park kit -- a shipping container with the basic components required for setting up a dog park, including the perimeter fence.

Succeeding in establishing the city's only permanent dog park, the group now shifts its focus to maintaining it. Instituting additional dog parks in other parts of the city is also a goal.

"The idea is that we'll build one, learn from it, and turn around and try to make it happen again," says Megha Satyanarayana, a board member of Detroit Dog Park.

Detroit Dog Park is free and open to the public.

Source: Megha Satyanarayana, board member of Detroit Dog Park
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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New Nigerian BBQ restaurant concept to debut in Southwest Detroit

Fresh off the rollout of a second -- and controversial -- restaurant concept, Goldfinch American, Tunde Wey is preparing to launch a third. The restaurant, Lagos, draws inspiration from Wey's native country, Nigeria. Wey is also co-founder of Hamtramck's (revolver).

Lagos will begin as a series of weekly dinners. The first, May 17, will feature suya, a Nigerian barbecued beef dry rubbed in ginger, pepper, and other spices. The dinners are located at the old restaurant inside the Mexicantown Fiesta Center on Vernor Hwy. Wey hopes to sign a long-term lease at the location.

When pressed to characterize Nigerian barbecue, Wey says that so many of the dishes throughout all of Africa tend to possess bolder flavors than American fare. The meat is more tender, something you take your time with.

"It's food that you eat with your hands and then you lick your fingers," says Wey. "It's an engaging meal."

Also on the menu is jollof rice, dodo, egusi (rice pilaf), fried plantains, and steamed vegetables. A pescetarian option is part of the menu.

The city of Lagos, with a population of over 17 million people, can seem chaotic, says Wey, but there's a definite rhythm to it. He hopes for something similar for the restaurant, an informal and friendly communal dining experience defined by a boisterous energy. Music will play a big role in setting that tone, featuring contemporary and traditional Nigerian music as well as hip hop and reggae.

Where Wey's first two restaurants put much of the focus on the creativity and direction of a head chef, Lagos allows for a team of cooks working on the dishes together. 

Source: Tunde Wey, owner of Lagos
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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New public art installations for Hart Plaza, then neighborhoods

Six new public art pieces will be temporarily placed at Hart Plaza over Memorial Day weekend, greeting electronic music fans from all over the world who flock to Detroit for the Movement Electronic Music Festival. The artists responsible for the pieces were chosen because of a number of factors, including their connection to Detroit.

Once the festival is over, the pieces will be relocated to various parts of the city and installed again as public art projects. Paxahau, Community Arts Moving Projects (CAMP), and Opportunity Detroit are responsible for the contest.

Ernst: King of Cats by Sean Hages is a towering marionette that festival-goers can control by pulling and manipulating a system of ropes.

Yeah Yoy, Foch by Louis Casinelli and Andrew Thompson uses trees from an eastside neighborhood, recessed lighting, and lycra to create a playful sculpture and bench.

Reflection Portal by John Rizzo and Will Tyrell is a 'portal' where electronic music fans walk through a ring of accordion-shaped mirrored Plexiglas.

Dystopian Disco: Sonic Crystals by Bethany Shorb and Kip Ewing. The pair designed a series of prismatic disco balls, bright, reflective hanging shapes that enhance the listening experience.

The Good-time Light-hearted Lean Peaks by Patrick Ethen, Ellen Rutt, Alan Sedghi, Eiji Jimbo, Simon Anton, and Rachel Mulder. They designed a number of pyramid-shaped structures that provide weary festival-goers places to lean during the day. At night, the structures respond to the music.

Amity by Eddie Bullock is a graceful flower sculpture fashioned out of steel.

This is the fifth year CAMP has led the public art project. It has not yet been announced which neighborhoods will receive the public art once the festival is complete.

Over 100,000 people attended the 2013 Movement festival.

Source: Paxahau press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Russell Industrial Center to host open studios, adds over 40 tenants in six months

The Russell Industrial Center will be hosting another of its open studio days on Saturday, April 26. The all-day event invites the public to come tour the sprawling 2.2 million square foot complex and its many artist studios and businesses. It's an opportunity for artists and small businesses to showcase their wares while also providing the public an inside view of the Albert Kahn-designed manufacturing complex.

There will be a number of new vendors for the public to check out in addition to the Russell's numerous well-established artists and businesses. Leasing officer Eric Novack says that the Russell has added over 40 tenants in the past six months. The list of new tenants includes artists, recording studios, furniture makers, and marketing and promotions teams. Novack credits a number of factors for the increase in occupancy.

"It's been a back-to-basics approach with our tenants, people who don't need a lot of overhead and regulating," says Novack. "It's a shift back to our original ideology. Come for your dreams and ideals and manufacture that reality."

Several high profile events and appearances have also helped that surge in occupancy. The Russell recently hosted the ever-popular Dirty Show for the first time. GMC unveiled its 2015 Canyon there during this year's North American International Auto Show. The iconic and gigantic chimera graffiti mural facing I-75 was even featured in the Bob Dylan-narrated Chrysler commercial that aired during this year's Super Bowl.

The Russell is also gearing up for Rummage. Billed as Detroit's biggest garage sale, $20 will buy vendors space at the May 17 and 18 event.

Source: Eric Novack, leasing officer of Russell Industrial Center
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Community group purchases historic Ford Highland Park Plant building with intent to redevelop

The Woodward Avenue Action Association (WA3) has purchased the Administration Building and Executive Garage at the historic Ford Highland Park Plant. The economic and community development organization raised over half a million dollars to acquire the property. WA3 purchased the buildings with three acres along Woodward for $550,000.

A second round of fundraising begins as the organization has determined that the buildings require $7.5 million in renovations. Debbie Schutt, executive director of WA3, says that fundraising should be much easier with the property now in their possession.

WA3 plans on building an Automotive Heritage Welcome Center at the site. The center will serve as a gateway to the grounds of the Highland Park complex, similar in spirit to a national park welcome center. The center will provide information about local tours and house interpretive displays and a theater. Rather than focusing solely on the history of the Ford Motor Company, the center will instead focus on the culture of creativity and innovation fostered by the local automotive industry.

"So much more has come out of the industry than cars. We need to tell our own story to ourselves and then tell it to others," says Schutt. "There's a reason Detroit has a patent office."

In addition to the historical and informative plans for the site, WA3 is going to use the site for training purposes. They have partnered with Wayne County's Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) to build a high tech learning lab for the modern assembly line. The building used to house one of Henry Ford's original trade schools, says Schutt, making it an appropriate place for a modern training facility.

The lab will be designed to serve both the citizens of Highland Park and the region as a whole.

Source: Debbie Schutt, executive director of Woodward Avenue Action Association
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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15 homes for sale in Grandmont Rosedale to be featured in tour

Prospective home buyers who want another option beyond the city's new auction website can look forward to the Grandmont Rosedale Neighborhood Open House. Up to 15 houses will be for sale and open for viewing during the event taking place on Sunday, May 4, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. 

Visitors to the event will have the option of taking a tour of the neighborhood by foot, bicycle, or bus. Guests are encouraged to register at the North Rosedale Park Community House, 18445 Scarsdale, before touring the neighborhood. From there, visitors can go from home to home on their own or join a short bus tour narrated by their potential future neighbors.

A bike tour is also available. Wheelhouse Detroit will be leading a group of cyclists from downtown to the neighborhood. A group of Grandmont Rosedale residents will then lead guests on a tour of the area.

The 15 houses that will be featured vary in style, size, and price. Each home is eligible for $7,500 in down payment assistance from First Merit Bank. A number of the homes have been rehabilitated by the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. These GRDC houses are eligible for another $10,000 through the Detroit Development Fund, a total of $17,500 in incentives. New buyers may also qualify for a 15-year tax abatement.

The Detroit Future City plan has identified Grandmont Rosedale as a neighborhood ideal for stabilization and investment. Over a million dollars have been invested in the neighborhood these past few years from groups that include foundations, the Detroit Land Bank Authority, and the city of Detroit.

The Public Lighting Authority has chosen Grandmont Rosedale as a site for demonstrating its public lighting improvements.

Source: Grandmont Rosedale Neighborhood Open House press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

April Development News Round-up

April was another busy month for development news in the city. Let's catch up on six stories from the past four weeks.

Come November, downtown will add 150 jobs and 24,000 square feet of dining, drinking, and gaming -- and all under one roof. Dan Gilbert's Bedrock Real Estate Services announced that the Denver-based Punch Bowl Social will be opening a location in the recently-opened Z Garage.

There's a new name in the downtown development scene. Roger Basmajian has recently purchased three office buildings in the central business district, acquiring 104,000 square feet of office space in nine months. Basmajian expects to spend at least $7 million in renovations, says Crain's.

Midtown Detroit, Inc. announced two beautification projects in its district: a second green alley and a dog park. The green alley will run behind Avalon Bakery, from Willis to Canfield. The dog park is planned for the empty lot at Canfield and Cass. Midtown Detroit, Inc. signed a three-year lease on the lot with a two-year extension possible.

There's a new restaurant in New Center. The Zenith, a Mexican-Southern fusion restaurant, opened in the Fisher Building this month. The pictures at Eater Detroit reveal a colorful and eclectic interior, one that draws from 1940s and 1950s kitsch.

Another grocery store has opened on the city's east side. Parkway Foods joins Parker Street Market in debuting this month, providing residents with more food options. While Parker Street Market is a smaller, specialized neighborhood grocer, Parkway Foods is more of a traditional super market, not unlike the Farmer Jack that used to be in the same location.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Cousins to open 'tipless' restaurant with simple, fresh cuisine and picnic basket service

Two cousins are cleaning up an old diner on E. Jefferson with hopes of being ready for a May opening. Lucy Carnaghi and Molly Mitchell will be launching Rose's Fine Food, named in tribute to their grandmother, at 10551 E. Jefferson. The building, built in 1960, was previously home to Elmo's Fine Food and, later, Kolonja Fine Food.

The duo have a combined 30 years of experience in the restaurant business, but starting their own restaurant marks a pretty incredible evolution for the two of them, says Carnaghi. Mitchell recently returned to Detroit from San Fransico, where she worked as baker at the James Beard Award-winning Tartine Bakery.

Carnaghi and Mitchell plan on offering a diverse menu of made-from-scratch, locally sourced food with new American, rustic Mexican, southern French, and American South influences. They'll also be baking their own bread, making their own French pastries, and starting their own garden in back of the restaurant.

Unlike typical diners, Rose's Fine Food will operate as a "tipless" restaurant. Customers will not be expected to tip their servers. The front of the house will be making the same as the back of the house, a living wage of $10.10 an hour, says Carnaghi.

"I want to keep the people that I hire and I want them to be proud of where they work," she says. "It seems to be the responsible thing to do as an employer."

Near enough to Belle Isle, the restaurant will offer a picnic basket service. Customers will be able to rent baskets complete with a meal, blanket, and real dishes and cutlery.

Source: Lucy Carnaghi, co-owner of Rose's Fine Food
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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A women's clothing boutique pops up on Woodward

A new pop-up retail shop has opened downtown. Ebony Rutherford hopes to be another Detroit entrepreneur success story, one that takes the opportunity of a pop-up store and makes the transition to a permanent location. Her women's clothing boutique, Trish's Garage, opened its doors with a soft opening on April 7 and a grand opening April 11.

The store features local clothing makers and emphasizes products made for women of every size and shape. Rutherford herself makes the peplums found in the store. Other local brands carried include shirts from Bruce Bailey, Quinn Hamilton's Firebrand Candle Company, and artwork from Brooke Ellis. Rutherford also provides free styling services.

Rutherford has worked hard to open Trish's Garage, taking advantage of a number of resources designed for Detroit entrepreneurs. She attended the TechTown Retail Boot Camp, where she says she learned to identify customers' needs rather than stocking only what she wants to sell. Rutherford also completed the D:Hive Build program, where she says she learned a foundation of business planning, pricing, and money management.

All of these lessons led to her eventual acceptance into the D:Hive Pilot pop-up program, situating her boutique next to the D:Hive storefront in the heart of downtown. It's another step that should help her make the transition to a permanent location.

"These experiences -- learning how to staff people, learning how to price merchandise -- will prepare me for the future," says Rutherford. "They're experiences I can show landlords when applying for locations."

Trish's Garage is open through May 31 and is located at 1249 Woodward Ave.

Source: Ebony Rutherford, owner of Trish's Garage
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Local design and architecture firms collaborate on a new vision for Palmer Park

An impressive list of Detroit-area architecture and design firms have come together to help shape Palmer Park's future. Led by Gibbs Planning Group and sponsored by the Michigan chapters of the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Congress for the New Urbanism, seven teams made up of 11 firms recently presented various plans for the historic park to the People for Palmer Park, an advocacy group. A consensus master plan will be created from this work and presented to the city by Memorial Day.

Participating firms included LivingLAB Detroit, McIntosh-Poris Architects, ASTI Environmental, dPOP!, Archive DS, department 01, Conservation Design Forum, Ken Weikal Landscape Architecture, Mark Johnson Architects, Hamilton-Anderson Associates, Downtown Solutions, Inc., Campbell Architeture and Planning, and Gibbs Planning Group.

The plans address a wide range of issues facing the park, from stormwater management to transit and parking questions.

Other plans focus on the park's design elements. Dave Mangum, urban planning associate for Gibbs Planning, says the park has been disconnected from itself and the community it serves. He singled out a high fence running along Woodward Ave. that limits access to the park.

People for Palmer Park is engaging community members to identify what they like and dislike about each of the seven presentations. Gibbs Planning will then work with them and the other firms to form a consensus master plan. Though not binding, the parties involved hope that the city will use the master plan when considering changes to the park. It also provides the People for Palmer Park with an effective fundraising tool for their own advocacy efforts.

"There hasn't been a cohesive vision for Palmer Park in quite a while," says Mangum.

Palmer Park is a 300-acre park designed by the 'father of landscape architecture,' Frederick Law Olmsted, the man who designed such famous parks as Detroit's Belle Isle and New York's Central Park.

Source: Dave Mangum, urban planning associate for Gibbs Planning Group
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Detroit debuts new property auction website

Building Detroit, a website designed to auction off city-owned houses, has launched. It features a number of safeguards that are designed to keep speculators from bidding on the properties. The idea is to ensure that houses go to people and companies who will fix, maintain, and populate the homes.

Houses will be available at a rate of one per day starting Monday, May 5. Bidding starts at 8 a.m. and runs through 5 p.m. There are currently 12 houses listed on the Building Detroit website. Bidding for the first house, 4184 Bishop, starts at $1,000. Registration has opened for potential bidders.

The city is employing what it calls a "rigorous process" to vet winning bidders. Winners must pay 10% of the price within 72 hours of winning the auction. If purchased for $20,000 or less, winners must make the full payment within 60 days of the auction. Winners have 90 days to make a full payment if a property is purchased for more than $20,000.

The Detroit Land Bank Authority requires winners to demonstrate executed construction contracts for home rehabs within 30 days of closing. If the winner is rehabbing the home themselves, they are required to provide corresponding receipts.

Buyers have six months to be granted a certificate of occupancy and have the home occupied. Failure to meet all of these requirements results in losing both property and purchase price. Such rules should prevent speculators from buying properties only to sit on them, leaving them unoccupied and at-risk for scrapping and squatting, something for which the Wayne County Tax Auction has been criticized.

On April 27, the East English Village Association, heavily involved in the auction's first round, will be hosting open houses for the buildings available in its neighborhood.

Source: Building Detroit press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

A spa opens in Midtown's Park Shelton building

Opening Serene Medi-Spa is the realization of a six year dream for Dr. Manisha Mehta, a podiatrist who also owns and operates a medical practice. The two businesses neighbor each other inside the Park Shelton.

Dr. Mehta first opened Gentle Foot Care of Michigan in the early months of 2008. Forced to move her medical practice from 3800 Woodward as a result of that building's impending demolition, Dr. Mehta moved to the Park Shelton in August of 2013. Serene Medi-Spa opened Valentine's Day of 2014.

Dr. Mehta hopes that as her spa business grows, she'll be able to expand into an additional space and offer waxes and facials. For now, the spa offers manicures and pedicures, including paraffin, scrub, and gel polish services.

Being a podiatrist, Dr. Mehta knows quite a bit about foot care. As such, she places quite an emphasis on the sanitary conditions of the spa, saying that too many spas ignore healthy sanitation practices.

"With me being experienced in sterilization and cleanliness, the nail techs can always come next door to my office and ask questions," says Dr. Mehta.

Liners are placed in the foot bowls and are thrown away after one use. Dr. Mehta also discourages nail techs from reusing nail files. She even sells a polish with anti-fungal properties. With these practices, Dr. Mehta wants customers to know that she's doing everything she can to ensure a healthy manicure and pedicure experience. The doctor knows a thing or two about fungi, bacteria, and infections.

Dr. Mehta also spreads the gospel of ovarian cancer awareness and hopes to start a foundation someday. "With all these women coming into the spa, I want to educate and hopefully save some lives," she says.

Serene Medi-Spa is currently looking for experienced nail techs.

Source: Dr. Manisha Mehta, founder and owner of Serene Medi-Spa
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.
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