FEB/MAR 22 Michigan Retailer

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CELEBRATE EQUALITY Urbanum Evolves through Pandemic Barden Lumber Turns 100 Diversity in the Workplace

F EB 2022 / M AR 2022 VO L U M E 47 N O. 1 The official publication of the Michigan Retailers Association

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R E TA I L E R S . C O M R E TA I L E R S I N S U R A N C E . C O M B U Y N E A R BY M I . C O M Visit us online to see what’s new in the industry and what services we provide members to strengthen your business.





Barden Lumber’s upcoming celebration has been five generations in the making

12 “A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.”

– Sundar Pichai CEO of Alphabet

Barden Lumber Celebrates their 100th Anniversary

14 16


Lansing’s leading event planner shares what’s new and offers tips on event planning Is it Time to Revisit the Topic of Surcharging?

From the Editor Honoring our unsung heroes and seeing things in a new way


In Their Own Words Wren Home, LLC


Government Affairs Michigan retailers need help finding and keeping workers

If You Plan it, Will They Come?

Shifting the cost of credit card processing fees to consumers is now becoming universally accepted


Members are our source of inspiration

Urbanum Detroit Grows Up During the Pandemic (Cover) Brigid Beaubien says her shop has morphed from toddler to adult in terms of understanding its brand and audience

From the CEO


Legally Speaking Fostering diversity in the workplace


From the Archives Dorothy Noyce


Catch-all Drawer

Are You Treating Employees Like Independent Contractors?


Customer Service

How to avoid a misclassification


New Member List

F E B 2022 / M A R 2022 — 3


(L – R) John VanFossen, Meijer, Buy Nearby Guy, Kim Edsenga, Meijer, and Bill Hallan, MRA

Contact William at whallan@retailers.com

As the father of three, including Olivia, my 11-year-old, I’m used to the occasional eye-roll. It reached a new level last week when Olivia wanted to throw out a perfectly good fan because it didn’t meet the “aesthetic” she was trying to achieve in her room. Needless to say the fan is staying, but the situation did put an exclamation point on changes to consumer behavior and the future demographic of purchasers. I spend a lot of time thinking about what influences me as a consumer and sways my purchasing decisions. Is it an online ad that I saw? Customer reviews? Convenience? Expert advice? Or maybe my children have worn me down and I am tired of saying no. Often it depends on what I’m buying, and like everyone, I may be more deliberate on something uniquely personal or expensive. Historically, the 18 to 34 age group is the most coveted demographic for advertisers. Individuals in this age group are spending money on consumer goods while older generations are transitioning their spending to services. At 39, I’m outside the most valuable demographic, but as a family of five, we are still firmly in the “spending” phase of life for both consumer goods (e.g., lacrosse equipment) and services (e.g., dance lessons).


Members Are Our Source of Inspiration BY: W I L L I A M J . H A L L A N President & CEO of Michigan Retailers Association

But I question whether advertisers are getting good value when they show me their online ads. At this stage in life, it seems that the process has a stronger impact on my purchasing decisions. As consumers, we interact with a variety of businesses everyday; with the proliferation of ecommerce, the choices are endless. Thus, many of our purchasing decisions are based on whether the process was positive or negative. In our sister publication, The Michigan Food News, there’s a great profile on Hansen Foods in Hart, Michigan, where store-owner Dave Hansen discusses his plan to remodel the front entrance, so customers enter the store’s produce section instead of into checkout lanes. The change will create a more inviting customer experience. It’s these types of changes that enhance the shopping process. We often look to our members for inspiration and we have tried to incorporate that mindset at Michigan Retailers Association. We have implemented many different strategies to connect with members (and prospective members) about our services. It’s no shock that credit card processing, workers’ compensation, and government advocacy aren’t the most exciting topics, so creativity is key. Further, we recognize that time is valuable and attention spans are short, so we’ve increased video content, tightened our updates, and

developed various forms of automation. Each change is designed to enhance interactions with the Association and hopefully increase engagement. As we continue to develop ways to connect with our members, I ponder what the future holds. Watching my 8-year-old, Zachary, swat at imaginary objects on his Oculus, I wonder whether a time will come when Michigan Retailers Association hosts a virtual meeting in the Metaverse. It may be sooner than we think that customers will be able to virtually shop any local retailer. This is the sort of article that will probably not age well and I’ll probably look back and see how far off we are. But as long as retailers and Michigan Retailers Association continue to focus on providing the best experience to our customers the future is bright.

Bill Hallan and Tony Sarsam, SpartanNash President & CEO

Contact Jennifer at jrook@retailers.com

BY: J E N N I F E R R O O K MRA Vice President, Communications & Marketing

You may have noticed that we’ve added a little feature called “From the Archives” as a nod to the early days of MRA and Michigan Retailer. Being a sucker for nostalgia, I really enjoy paging through the 1950s issues of Michigan Retailer. It’s fun to check out old ads and headlines like “Color TV Boom Predicted” and review relevant issues of that time.

“There were no accolades for women back then other than an occasional pat on the back.” If you have story ideas or news about your business, send me a note at: jrook@retailers.com We’d love to share it!

Seeing Things in a New Way In February, we celebrate the achievements of African Americans. Recently, there’s been an increased focus on diversity and inclusion initiatives that’s long overdue. When I looked up the definition of diversity, the meaning of the word truly stuck with me – “the quality

For this month’s “From the Archives,” to honor Women’s History Month in March, I pored over early issues of the Retailer for stories honoring women. I envisioned finding images of pioneering female store owners or committee leads. Something typical that demonstrates the ideal women in leadership and complements the trailblazing leadership tone promoted frequently for Women’s History Month. In my hunt for these images, what caught my attention was a photo of Dorothy Noyce. In the photo, Dorothy is referred to as Mrs. Dorothy Noyce as was common at that time. According to the story, Dorothy managed all the administrative duties

or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc.” I thought about that definition when reviewing February’s bundle of features. This month, we celebrate the concept of diversity by looking at things in a new way. From a 100-yearold business that continues to evolve (Barden Lumber) to Ashlee Willis, a leading event planner in Lansing, showing us new rules for

for MRA’s executive staff. I can’t imagine what that was like back then! I’m willing to bet she had her fair share of difficult days managing executives, who were exclusively male. It appears the author humbly acknowledges this too in the copy of the article. When I think about all the glamorization that tends to happen during Women’s History Month, I think of Dorothy and others like her. There were no accolades for women back then other than an occasional pat on the back. For the most part women like Dorothy quietly worked hard and devoted their time to running a smooth operation. In my opinion, it’s women like Dorothy that deserve the real recognition of Women’s History Month. It’s these unsung heroes upon whose shoulders the rest of us stand that created the future we know today. Without the Dorothy’s of the world, there would be no Women’s History Month. Thanks, Dorothy, we owe you one!

event planning, each story shares examples of how business owners, industry leaders, and my colleagues here at MRA add new perspectives to many common practices such as hiring and retaining talent. I hope this month’s issue inspires you to look at and truly see your business practices in a new light.

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Honoring Our Unsung Heroes


Wren Home, LLC Specialties – Home Décor and Jewelry Owner: Lisa Gnass Member since: 2021 Founded: 2021

Becoming a business owner Wren Home, LLC was a longtime in the making. Dimondale resident Lisa Gnass grew up with a passion for interior design, home décor and a love for small, interesting shops and boutiques. She took a career in corporate communications and continued to keep up on design trends and visited vintage and unique home décor stores, but never thought twice that her career would allow her to also start her own business. Then the pandemic hit. She was working remote, her youngest child had moved to college and she found herself with more free-time than usual. She started following artists, photographers and designers who were selling vintage items on Instagram. With the new-found freedom, Gnass started collecting items with hopes to sell them online. Then she and her husband decided to move. They packed up all their belongings and put them in storage and started a full remodel on their new home. Not wanting to leave her new collection behind, she found an empty retail space in downtown Dimondale, jumped on it, and became a small business owner. Gnass shares how during a time of darkness for so many, she found her light and her fire to start something new.


When I started, I had no real knowledge about what steps to take to register a business or how to do all the paperwork and filing. Once I jumped in and decided to figure it out, though, everything went fairly smoothly. While most businesses are experiencing shipping delays and limited surplus, I’ve been lucky that I have a very specific kind of product I’m seeking out. When it comes to our vintage items, which make up about half of Wren’s merchandise, those are things I have sourced myself. They have a quality that is tough to find in many mass-produced items available on the market now, but fit perfectly in a modern home, bringing a sense of history and warmth. The other half of our business is new items. I look for products or businesses that check at least one of many boxes: woman-owned, minority-owned, made or sourced in the U.S., small-batch, sustainable, or have a social justice story. Today, many people are becoming more thoughtful about what they buy. They aren’t interested in buying something that is cheaply made or trendy. They want things that are unique and reflect their personal taste, instead of items that it seems like everyone has. It’s important to them that their purchase decisions don’t feel wasteful. Vintage items are a great, sustainable option because you aren’t using any new resources to make them. When considering new items, people are now thinking: Who’s making these? Are they being paid well? Where are the materials from? Is its style something that’ll be short lived? What is the afterlife of this item? This approach is something I think will stick. People are also spending more time at home and making changes to their spaces because of that. There’s a focus on getting away from shiny and new to more homey and comfortable

140 Bridge Street Dimondale, MI 48821

items. We’re also seeing a lot more color. People are moving away from the bright whites and grays. By making a few simple changes or additions, you can quickly warm up a space and make a big impact. Hopes and dreams Right now it’s only me, but I’d love to add some employees and add more hours during the weekday. The store hours are set by the fact that I work a typical corporate business day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. No matter what job I’m at ­­— my day job or at the shop — I make sure to compartmentalize and stay focused on what I’m doing. I have such a supportive situation at my full-time job that it made it possible to even have the energy outside of work to be able to open Wren and help it grow. But that doesn’t mean I’m only looking at Wren as a hobby. It’s a business and I’m trying to set up ways to get off on the right foot. I’d like to expand to sell online and establish a more interesting and interactive social media presence. I’m constantly re-working the store and the space so it feels fresh and new every time someone comes in. The right timing I love that Wren is in Dimondale. It’s a small town, with a lovely downtown, and people are very interested in seeking out fun and new places to go after being stuck inside for so long. I highly value what a wonderful place Dimondale is and the people in it. It’s fun to have something new to learn. I want to learn as much as I can and continue to evolve and listen to customers about their needs and wants. I’m only a few months in, so it’s all still fresh, but having the business be focused on something that I enjoy and for which I’ve had a lifelong passion has made this an easy leap.

Used with permission of United Way of Northern New Jersey 2

Michigan Retailers Need Help Finding & Keeping Workers Additional Justice System Reforms Could Help

For More Information, Contact Felicia Williams at felicia.williams@ceoactionracialequity.com

Labor shortages are a large challenge to retailers today as demand for consumer services outgrows the supply of workers. Efforts like the passage of the 2020 Clean Slate legislation in Michigan, which MRA and other organizations supported, helped increase the talent pool by expunging criminal records of many Michiganders. However, other justice system policies that criminalize poverty continue to contribute to mass criminalization and many of the workforce challenges faced by retailers.

BY: C E O AC T I O N F O R R AC I A L E Q UA L I T Y CEOARE is a fellowship of over 100 companies from across America, ranging from retailers to accountants, manufacturers and other suppliers, that mobilizes business leaders with diverse expertise to advance public policy. In a story shared on ACLU Michigan’s website, a young man was arrested the day before he was starting a new job in customer service. It took his family two days to source funds for bail. Missing his first day of work as a no-call, no-show, he was fired leaving his new employer to deal with the consequences most likely incurring recruiting costs to replace him.

Unfortunately, Michigan’s current policies around court fees and cash bail worsen these workforce challenges. These policies create additional consequences for those arrested and even jail time due to a lack of wealth. They also lead to recruitment, absenteeism and turnover challenges for employers.

Employees in this category may struggle to pay a fine, fee or bail of any amount, and in turn, suffer consequences ranging from poor attendance, under performance, and possibly termination. Michigan legislative solutions

Justice system policies exacerbate workforce challenges With historical turnover rates in retail over 50% and as high as 70% in 2020 per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, retailers need to continuously attract talent, while retaining current employees. Absenteeism goes beyond turnover and its related costs impacting the ability to provide quality customer service and impacting brand and long-term profitability.

at a big box store, office clerk, cleaning and maintenance staff and others that support everyday retail operations.

A substantial number of individuals employed by retailers are likely impacted by these policies. A recent survey by Public Sector Consultants and the Buy Nearby program reports that Michigan’s retail industry employs 758,000 workers. Furthermore, the United Way’s ALICE in Michigan 2021 reports that 38% of Michigan households earn less than the basic cost of living. Two-thirds of these are employed, many in retail jobs like cashier at the local supermarket, sales

Two bill packages could help mitigate these issues. Both were introduced in the Michigan House in 2021 and await a hearing in the Judiciary Committee. The Juvenile Justice Fees bill package (HB 4987-4991) eliminates many fees associated with juvenile courts that have been keeping families in debt far after a youth has served their punishment. The Pretrial Fairness bill package (HB 54365443) addresses recommendations from Michigan’s bipartisan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration that include upholding speedy court timelines and prioritizing non-monetary release conditions for people charged with non-serious offenses. Retailers need their workforce to show up daily. Reforms like those before the Michigan Legislature can help reduce employee absenteeism and help retailers retain their talent.

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Copyright 2021 ACLU of Michigan. Originally posted by the ACLU of Michigan at https://www.aclumich.org/en/storiesbroken-bail-system 1


Fostering Diversity in the Workplace Contact Thomas at tclement@retailers.com

“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.”

– Maya Angelou

BY: T H O M A S P. C L E M E N T MRA Vice President, Operations & General Counsel

Diversity is a strength to the institutions we hold close in our country. Whether who we live near, socialize with, praise next to, or work closely with, a diverse environment only improves the collective whole. Throughout our history the value of every individual has been identified through our founding documents, landmark legislation, court rulings and the writings or words of our greatest authors and orators. Our founding declaration poetically sets forth that “[W]e hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. Over the course of history, we have experienced both success and failures in the pursuit of this ideal. Among our successes we count the abolition of slavery, the adoption of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and, in Michigan, the enactment of the Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act in 1976. Despite all of these successes, the pursuit of equality continues and a diverse workplace is a significant factor in achieving that goal. The moral argument in favor of a diverse workplace should be a sufficient enough


incentive for employers, but multiple studies show that the benefits go much farther than a moral prerogative. Data shows that diversity in the workplace tends to bring about increased profitability,

creativity and problem solving abilities brought about by input from individuals with their own backgrounds, perspectives and ideas. A 2017 Harvard Business Review study found, among other data

points, that gender diverse companies are fifteen percent more likely to outperform their competitors and ethnically diverse companies are thirty-five percent more likely to do the same. Businesses are always striving for a new way to look for business opportunities. What better way to achieve this than to draw on the ideas of a collection of individuals, each of whom sees the world through a different lens. While desiring a diverse workforce is both the right objective and good for business, achieving it is not always as easy. I have received a number of inquiries from business owners who complain that their applicant pool is devoid of diversity despite their best efforts. While some of this may be attributable to geographic location, type of business or any number of other factors beyond the control of the business owner, there are steps that can be taken to increase the likelihood of a diverse applicant pool. First, make your intentions clear both internally, with your policies, and externally, with the nature of your job postings. Every business should have an antidiscrimination policy that is made clear to every existing employee. The policy can be simple yet should clearly state that the business prohibits discrimination and provides equal employment opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, sex or age. Externally, you should make clear on your job postings that your business welcomes diversity and all individuals are encouraged to apply. Certain job descriptions for employment with the state of Michigan say very simply “We are committed to ensuring a diverse workforce and a work environment whereby all employees are treated with dignity, respect and fairness.” This language is direct, clear and something you might consider for your own postings. Second, you should take care to ensure that your job postings do not unintentionally signal one type of candidate over another. First, gender and other group specific terms should not be used. Second, job descriptions should be focused on the job itself rather than discouraging

applicants who may not possess certain “nice to have” skills. Studies show that men regularly apply for jobs despite only possessing sixty percent of the desired skills, while women tend to apply only if they meet one hundred percent of the desired skills. Third, use a hiring process where the initial review of resumes is done blindly so that the focus is exclusive to the merits. Finally, consider evaluating candidates based upon a structured interview and scoring process whereby every applicant answers the same questions under an identical scoring structure. Using this scoring process does not mean you cannot consider factors such as likeability and ability to fit within the organization, but it does help narrow subjective decision making. For many businesses, a diverse applicant pool may be unlikely even if all of these steps are adopted. If this is the case, one additional course of action may be a review of where you are posting open positions.

Your business website, the local newspaper and word of mouth are obvious ways to get the word out, but these mediums may not reach the diverse applicant pool you seek. Consider expanding the posting beyond one newspaper, perhaps into a community that is more diverse than your own. There are also a number of online posting opportunities that promote diversity hiring and which can be located through a simple Google search. This may not be an ideal approach for smaller businesses or in rural locations, but potentially a viable alternative for some. There is no exact science to achieving a diverse workforce for the mutual benefit of the employee and the business. What’s important is to understand the benefits a diverse workforce brings to society and your business and to actively pursue one.

F E B 2022 / M A R 2022 — 9

F E AT U R E | B A R D E N L U M B E R





“We definitely don’t want to make it about us but about the whole community. We’re a brick-andmortar store, and without the entire community’s BY: S H A N D R A M A R T I N E Z support over the last 100 years, we wouldn’t be Barden Lumber, located here,” said Asuka Barden, whose great-greatin Boyne City, is marking grandfather F.O. Barden started the Boyne City business, located at 205 S. East Street. its centennial. They’re Paul Barden, 4th generation leader of F.O. Barden Lumber Co. in Boyne City

grateful to the Northern Michigan community for supporting their business throughout the years. Barden Lumber’s upcoming celebration has been 5 generations in the making.

In addition to elevating the annual May event for builders, commemorative plans for the centennial celebration included a showroom facelift and promotional calendar featuring historical photos of the family-owned business through the decades. For years, the Barden family has been discussing ways to commemorate this rare milestone. “It has definitely been challenging, but our company has been through the Great Depression, the Great Recession and several fires,” Asuka said. “We pride ourselves on being able to say that when the going gets tough, Barden Lumber buckles down and gets it done.”

son, Russell, decided to open their own retail lumber operation, F.O. Barden, and Son. Several years later, F.O. went East to work other mills, leaving Russell to run the operation. F.O.’s youngest son, Aldwyn “Al” Barden, also joined the company. Over time Russell too left the business, eventually leaving Al in charge. Al Barden — Asuka’s great-grandfather had a degree in business from Michigan State University. He modernized the lumberyard

Family-run from the start Barden Lumber was founded by F.O. Barden, who was sent to Boyne City by the Michigan Trust Co. to reorganize the failing City Lumber Co. and Railroad. By 1922, his family joined him in Boyne City. He and his oldest www.retailers.com

F.O. Barden Lumber Co. sales duo Damien Olds and Rodney Bruning help longtime customer Tom Neidhamer (in blue) at the sales desk

with a more accurate accounting method and cutting-edge marketing. “He was very involved in the community and civics,” said Asuka. Her grandfather Ed joined in 1959, working his way up the ladder and retiring in 2016, passing ownership to Asuka’s dad, Paul, who is now company president. Paul Barden spent much of his childhood helping at the lumberyard. “My dad would call up the school and ask for me, saying, ‘I got a semi down here, can you come down and help unload it?’ Back then, it’s just the way things went,” Paul said. When he graduated from high school in 1981, he opted to join the U.S. Air Force. “I just didn’t like the idea of a job being handed right to me,” Paul said. “I’m glad that I went that route, because getting in the service allowed me to grow up a lot and basically see the world. I decided there is no place like home.” During his four years of service in Japan, he met his wife, Yumi, who is Japanese. “When we came home, there was no guarantee that I was coming to work here,” Paul said. “It just worked out there was an opening. I started here in 1986 and have been here ever since. Obviously, with a family business, there’s extreme highs and extreme lows. You just can’t escape and get away from your job. It’s tough, but the rewards are good.”

those days, but right now it’s just unbelievable how efficient we are compared to the way we were doing things,” Paul said. “The old school customers have transitioned, and now they like it too. And of course, all the new customers, it’s what they expect. “She really brought it to a different level. She does stuff that I never cared about doing, as far as the advertising and getting involved with social media and all that stuff, which has been a blessing.” With the leadership of her father, Asuka and the team navigated the pandemic, which created both a boom in home improvement projects and snarled the global supply chain, dramatically increasing prices of lumber and other products. Two months before the pandemic, Asuka saw chatter from China, so Paul decided to stockpile N95 masks. Ultimately, Paul gave them away to a local retirement home to protect the health of the community’s eldest residents. Others were donated to healthcare workers at Munson Medical Center, where his other daughter, Kyle Cameron, works.

we don’t see in the winter, but as soon as they walk in the store in June, they’re happy to see us and be back in their small town where they spend their summers and everybody knows their name,” said Asuka. “We have a unique market for that reason, and customers expect value regardless of their budgets. “We’ve tried to really keep our formula of how we price things the same way we’ve done for decades,” Asuka said. “We don’t go high on margins. People know that they can come here and get a good, fair price on a lot of things without having to drive far.” Customers online lauded the business as a “hometown lumber store with hometown values,” for having “knowledgeable, helpful staff,” and “great quality products (and) the best wood in Northern Michigan.” Andy Poineau, an iconic home builder and long-time customer who is now retired, worked with four generations of the family, beginning with Al Barden in the 1970s. He says the Barden family has earned the

New generation comes home Like her dad, Asuka left Michigan after high school. She attended the University of Miami, where she studied music engineering, then settled into sunny South Florida as a music producer. She came back in 2013 to fill an urgency in the family business. “I rushed home to see what I could do to help, and before I knew it, I was sitting at a desk, trying to learn accounting, which was not my expertise,” Asuka said. Paul said it was a relief both professionally and personally to have his daughter back in Boyne City. “She really brought the energy and the smarts regarding computers, and everything needed to take the business to the next level, because as of 2015 we were still handwriting tickets,” Paul said. Since returning to the family business, Asuka has focused on using technology to streamline operations. Still, there was a little worry about how the staff and customers would react to the much-needed modernization she was initiating. “I can remember the anxiety

F.O. Barden Lumber’s dynamic father-daughter team Asuka Barden (left) and Paul Barden pictured in the company’s drive-thru lumber barn

“We just prepare, and we’re prepared for anything, really,” Asuka said. “So, when the pandemic hit, we got creative, and always tried to make sure we’re looking at all streams of information, not just one, so that we can make the best assessment.” She attributes much of Barden’s continuing success to a loyal workforce that numbers about a dozen, some longtime employees, who know customers by name. Serving a ‘unique market’ Northern Michigan’s picturesque beaches and lakes made the region into a tourism magnet with many second homes. That gave Barden an opportunity to expand its market. “We have a lot of second homeowners that

support of area builders. “They’re hard workers. They want to keep everybody happy,” he said. “I have several friends who are builders who are still going to Barden almost exclusively.” But to Poineau, the Barden family has been more than just a trusted supplier. “They just supported me for a long, long time, a lot of times when I couldn’t pay my bills, and it just created a loyalty,” said Poineau, who used Barden as a supplier on the roughly 70 houses he built around Lake Charlevoix. “They were responsive, they had good materials. They supported me when I had a material issue. They are just good folks.”

F E B 2022 / M A R 2022 — 11

F E AT U R E | U R B A N U M




MRA Member Brigid Beaubien says her Detroit shop has morphed from toddler to adult in terms of understanding its brand and audience.

Urbanum Detroit was just 18 months old when the pandemic hit in early 2020. In the challenging past two years, Brigid Beaubien has learned more about her store and customers than she may have in a decade. “I think I have a better sense of who I am and what my mission is,” Beaubien said. “That was a huge takeaway from the pandemic. The business has grown from a toddler to an adult.” Like other retailers, desperation forced her to try new things to keep revenue coming in. She was one of the first to use Facebook Live and even used Facetime to take people on remote shopping trips with curbside pickup. The extra effort kept revenue coming in and grew her customer base. “The community was amazing in their support of my very small business. I have said repeatedly in my newsletters that Urbanum is standing because they stood by,” she said. Giving customers an experience

Guidance from MRA

Merchandise tells a story

As she launched Urbanam, Beaubien signed up for Retail Boot Camp at TechTown Detroit, which helped her formulate a business plan. It’s also where she learned about the Michigan Retailers Association and the services and benefits it offers. “The most beneficial service hands down was access to the POS (Point of Sale) system, and MRA’s guidance getting it up and running was helpful,” said Beaubien, who initially thought her shop was too small to take advantage of MRA.

The planning begins by thinking about the story the merchandise will tell. Urbanum is designed to appeal to three different customer bases: college students, young professionals, and residents of elegant homes.

Along with her talents for design on a small budget, Beaubien brings her experience as a Detroit Public School teacher and administrator into her role as a retailer, from the planning process to storytelling.

Beaubien inherited the merchandising gene from both parents. Her mom owned Kindred Spirits, a store in Wyandotte and her dad started his career as head of displays for the Highland Park Sears store before segueing into a banking career.

“Price point is probably the least of it,” she said. “It’s more aesthetics. Most good retailers that have lifestyle stores or home stores like mine plan their merchandise around stories. It was intrinsic to me.”

It quickly became apparent she didn’t have the resources to be both an online and brick-and-mortar store. Some of her online sales cost her money because of shipping expenses. And more importantly, the 6545 Woodward Ave. in Detroit’s New Center was designed around an experience that touched all the senses, from the aromas of exotic teas to the feel of soft blankets. Ultimately, the pandemic made her understand Urbanum’s appeal. Urbanum’s mission is to offer quality provisions for the city home, says the longtime Detroit resident. The name is a gender-neutral derivative of urbane meaning being of or for a city. “One of the things that bothered me living here in the city is that I was missing basic services. I couldn’t get a lamp or sheet without leaving the city limits,” she said. In the last decade, Beaubien and her husband, Tim Costello, also launched 8° Plato Beer Co. with locations in Ferndale and Detroit. When the Detroit location of the high-end bottle shop and craft beer bar was named a finalist for Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design Designation, it validated her visual aesthetic.

“If you’re a good teacher, you begin with the end in mind,” she said. “So, you think about where you want the students to be in June, and then you work backward to make sure it all happens. And I think in retail, you begin with the holiday in mind, and then work your way backward.” In fact, most merchandise for holiday 2022 has been planned and purchased with the themes and stories for the products.

“I always knew I was going to open a store at some point,” she said. “It’s a fulfilling and meaningful way to be part of your community.”

F E B 2022 / M A R 2022 — 13


If You Plan it, Will They Come? BY: J E N N I F E R R O O K

These last two years have had a major impact on events. Will 2022 be more of the same? Lansing’s leading event planner, Ashlee Willis, shares what’s new and offers tips on event planning in future.

Many industries have been impacted by the pandemic, in particular, tradeshows and meetings, which raises the question: Will things ever be the same again? After two years of mandates, travel restrictions, social distancing, vaccine requirements, and existing virtually, live events an on the upswing with industry experts projecting a full recovery by 2023. And there is data to supports these findings. According to the Global Recovery Insight 2021 report, 72% of survey participants plan to attend in-person events and shows in 2022. This is good news on a national level, but what in Michigan? If you’re considering launching an event in 2022, what’s the likelihood that your fellow Michiganders will show up?

even with restrictions, because the interactions and camaraderie just couldn’t be replicated on a screen. Yet, there were plenty of people who didn’t feel safe enough to attend an event in person. So, Willis and her team got creative and tried new tactics like hosting events outside and hybrid events.

We sat down with Ashlee Willis, CEO and Founder of Michigan Premier Events, a full-service, award-winning, corporate and government event management company based in Lansing and asked her to recap critical lessons learned and to get her take on the new rules of event planning. Lessons learned “When everything switched from live to virtual events, we asked ourselves, ‘What are the needs of the attendees?’” said Willis. “This became vital because everyone suffered early on from their fair share of Zoom fatigue.” Willis said that it became apparent that people wanted to get back to being in-person,


be part of the event, not simply subject to it. “Attendees’ expectations changed, they want events done with them and not just to them,” said Willis. “A TV-show approach is not enough. If it was, you could just send everyone a recording and let them watch it, knowing that most would watch faster and skip to the good bits.”

The beauty of hybrid “As much as people wanted to resume inperson meetings, the virus dictated otherwise,” said Willis. “Applying a hybrid model of live and virtual and paying equal attention to the experience of both enabled us to provide a rich experience that appealed to everyone whether they were in person or not.” Willis added, “The beauty of a hybrid event is that you save money ­— both from an attendee side and from a planning perspective. Speaker fees were lower too, due to no travel costs.”

Willis also said that the pandemic gave way to the rise of hosting smaller, more micro events. “People were more comfortable in a smaller setting versus being in a large group. We saw a lot more one-on-one events,” said Willis.

Willis also noted that virtual events were prime for digital advertising opportunities due to having a captive audience. “Banners and flyers have a greater chance of being ignored at a live event because there’s so many things competing for your attention,” said Willis. “We found that digital ads were getting more attention on virtual events due the fact that the screen offers a limited experience.” Greater involvement If there was a main takeaway that would summarize events over the past 18 months, Willis says that today’s attendees want to

Ashlee Willis, CEO and Founder of Michigan Premiere Events

NEW RULES FOR EVENT PL ANNING 1. Ask, who are you trying to attract? Get specific. Define who your ideal attendee is and why they should attend your event. And ask the hard questions. If you find that your answers are too vague, it impacts the quality of your event. You can’t be everything to everyone. 2. Keep your topic relevant. Your event will fail if your audience isn’t engaged. When hosting a virtual event, it’s critical to be relevant. You need to do everything you can to facilitate a two-way dialogue. Look at the topic from the audience perspective and recognize what’s in it for them.

N E W T O O L T O T RY !

Meetings in a Box

3. Storytelling is key. A good story is memorable and flows seamlessly. When you tell a good story, it keeps the audience engaged. This includes reviewing your content, your speaker list, and the flow of your event. Are the components of a good story playing out in each aspect of your event? 4. Track your data. Track the data and review it. Better data leads to better events. Plus, data enables you to track spending, identify overages and gaps, and helps you understand how to create a better event budget. Are your tickets overpriced? Did your speakers add value to your event? Would attendees recommend your event over others? The devil is in the data.

Meetings in a Box is a public engagement technique designed for community groups, associations, or friends to gather at a convenient time and location to share their opinions about a plan or project in their community. Participants are given a kit that contains everything needed to hold a meaningful discussion. Included are instruction sheets for the facilitator, discussion questions, worksheets for participant responses, feedback questionnaires, and directions for recording and returning responses.

5. Get your tech right! If you are going to invest in anything, make sure to budget your technical needs correctly. Make sure you test your technical connections ahead of time and hold virtual rehearsals to ensure everything is working seamlessly. 6. Try something new. Michigan is unique because we experience all four seasons. Take advantage of these seasonal changes. Acknowledging the weather in the scheme of your event adds a level of “hyper-locality” that can add creativity and enhance the overall event experience for your attendees.

These kits can be completely paperbased, downloadable, and posted on a project or agency website for any interested individual or organization to use. Kits may also include other meeting materials such as project posters, postits, stickers, and other engagement materials relevant to the specific meeting design of the kit. For more information, go to njtpa.org

F E B 2022 / M A R 2022 — 15


Is it Time to Revisit the Topic of Surcharging? BY: J O H N M AY L E B E N Owner, Next Corner Consulting Former Senior VP at MRA

Surcharge. Cash Discount Program. Convenience Fee. Once considered taboo, shifting the cost of credit card processing fees to consumers is now becoming universally accepted. If adding a surcharge sounds tempting, now may be the time.

It’s February. How are you doing with those New Year’s resolutions? As people work through their resolutions to lose weight or eat better, business owners typically use this time of year to assess the health of their business now that the holiday rush is over. One increasing area of concern for business owners is credit card transaction fees. While working in credit card processing, every year at this time, without fail, I would get calls from upset business owners over the high cost of processing fees. Typically, we would find that their business had grown so their processing fees grew as well. The same question always came up. What can I do to reduce this expense? According to a 2020 Nilson Report, in 2019 alone, retail merchants paid $116.43 billion in processing fees for credit, debit, and prepaid cards — up 7.7% from 2018. More importantly, 79.6% of all processing fees were through credit card transactions. Interchange fees Card networks like Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. set the interchange fees (also known as “swipe fees”) that businesses pay to credit card issuers when consumers use credit cards. Merchants also pay fees to the networks and other intermediaries involved in processing

Is passing the cost to the cardholder worth it for your business? Here’s some things you should know: Card Type: Passing the fees to the cardholder only applies to credit card transactions. Payments made with other cards do not qualify. Are credit cards a large enough portion of your transactions to justify the change?


the payments. Retailers and card networks have been battling over interchange fees for years, but Visa and Mastercard have long had the upper hand. (WSJ article). However, in 2013, Visa and Mastercard lifted a long-running ban on credit card surcharging as part of a classaction settlement with merchants who had accused the networks and large banks of fixing fees and preventing businesses from steering customers to cheaper payment methods. Is cash still king? There’s plenty of evidence that the U.S. is slowly becoming a cashless society. According to the Wall Street Journal, cash transactions have been declining for years, yet the pandemic only accelerated the trend as consumers switched to online shopping. However, this increase in credit card usage has created extra costs for merchants. To surcharge or not to surcharge… Although many businesses rebounded from lost sales in 2021, the cost of processing fees continues to impact their bottom line. Rather

Rules & Regulations: There are strict compliance rules including capped limits on the amount of the fee you can pass to the cardholder and how you must disclose information about the fee to customers at the time of sale. Tech Challenges: The wrong technology can result in a poor customer experience. Locate an IT partner who can make the process seamless and you’ll

than refuse to accept card payments and risk losing sales, some retailers chose to pass the cost onto customers. While allowing customers the option to avoid fees by paying with cash, debit cards, or pre-paid cards, many businesses are finding that more customers are becoming more accustomed to having the cost of processing credit card transactions passed on to them, instead of being absorbed by the retailer. Many feel the convenience is worth the expense. In addition, consumers are finding that paying the credit-card fees is a small price to pay if it means more rewards in the form of airline miles, hotel points, or cash back. There’s also substantial evidence that Millennials and Gen-Z prefer to go cashless thanks to payment apps like Venmo, Zelle, and PayPal. If you think the time is right to implement a surcharge, the Michigan Retailers Association is here to assist you. We can help answer questions about how to register with Visa and MasterCard, understanding the complex compliance requirements, and share tested best practices for communicating the change with your customers.

eliminate many of the unnecessary headaches. Other Options: Surcharges aren’t the only alternative to hefty processing fees. Some businesses offer discounts and other incentives for paying in cash. While surcharges are widely favored by a growing segment of retailers, it’s not your only option. Discuss with your team and decide the best path.

BY: K U R T M . D E T T M E R Senior Vice President, Insurance Sales & Business Development

Business owners are always looking for ways to save costs. Delivering a superior service or product as inexpensively as possible is always a wise business practice. Sometimes, however, cost saving measures work against a business’s best interest or can even lead to unwanted attention from the IRS, Department of Labor or other government entities. One landmine that can cause a business-owner issues is improperly classifying an employee as an independent contractor, whether intentionally or not.

generally be hired for a specific objective and generally dictate their own hours and approach.

When evaluating your employee classifications, there are two distinct questions you should consider. First, what are the advantages and disadvantages of classifying an individual as an employee versus an independent contractor? Second, based upon Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) guidance, are my employees classified correctly?

Determining the nature of the relationship is, of course, not as simple as picking one over the other. Rather, the IRS has provided specific guidance to assist businesses in making an appropriate determination. In the vast majority of circumstances, the nature of the relationship is obvious. However, the proper classification can get murky when characteristics of both types of relationship exist.

Classification as an independent contractor or an employee comes with advantages and disadvantages. When engaging with an independent contractor, a business owner will likely see cost savings because they will not be required to withhold income tax or pay social security, Medicare or unemployment taxes. They will also not be required to reimburse employee expenses and will save on administrative expenses such as workers’ compensation premium. However, with the cost savings also comes the relinquishment of control over an independent contractor’s time and their approach to the work. On the other hand, an employee can be required to work certain hours and directed to perform specific tasks at the employer’s direction, while an independent contractor will

Readers who have faced these issues before may recall the IRS’s pre-2013 “economic realities” test or the post-2013 “20 factor test” in making a classification determination. These days, while the 20 factor test remains valid, the IRS has broken the factors down into three primary classifications: behavioral control, financial control and the relationship of the parties. Behavioral control related questions include whether as the employer you control how a worker does his or her work, whether you instruct the worker on when and where to work, what equipment to use, and where to get work equipment from and if you train the worker to complete the work in a specific way. Financial questions include whether

you cover business expenses for the worker, reimburse the worker for their businessrelated expenses or if compensation is directly tied to the completion of a specific task. Relationship questions include whether you provide any benefits to the worker if the relationship is ongoing or has a specific beginning and end date. For more information about employee classification, www.irs.gov has a lot of useful information. If you are still having trouble determining an appropriate classification, you can also file a Form SS-8 with the IRS and they will make the determination for you. Finally, it is always a good idea to memorialize the nature of the relationship in writing, whether through an employment offer or independent contractor agreement. While the characteristics of the relationship will ultimately define the classification, a written understanding between the parties will help prevent any confusion or disagreement.

F E B 2022 / M A R 2022 — 17


Are You Treating Employees Like Independent Contractors?


From the Archives Michigan Retailer Volume 1 No. 10 (1956)

Every now and then, we stumble upon gems from our archives. In honor of Women’s History Month in March, we’re honoring our very own Mrs. Dorothy Noyce.


The event will include one-on-one buyer-supplier meetings for selected businesses. The event will not be open to the public and suppliers will be notified with further details if selected by DTE Energy for participation.

MICHIGAN DOWNTOWN A S S O C I AT I O N ’ S L E G I S L AT I V E DAY & S P R I N G WORKSHOP 2022 Legislative Day, March 2nd, 2022 Mackinaw Room, Anderson Building, Downtown Lansing Cost: $60 (Includes lunch) Lunch and meetings with House and Senate leaders in a casual atmosphere. Spring Workshop, March 3, 2022 Grand Ledge Opera House, Grand Ledge Cost: $110 (Includes breakfast & lunch) Workshop: Downtowns in the Future Register for both at discounted rate of $170. Visit michigandowntowns.com/ events for more information.

DTE is looking for: • Commercial charging hubs installation • Electrical contractors • Electrical material distribution • Major component crane, rigging, and project management • Land acquisition companies • Land surveying • Landscaping • Solar module storage/local freight • Underground excavation • Wind and Solar Technicians For additional detail on the above needs, and to be considered for a one-on-one meeting with DTE Energy, interested suppliers should complete an application by February 11. To apply, visit pmbc.connect.space/ dte-renewable-energy-matchmaker.

line to apply is April 1, 2022. If you’re employed at an MRA-member business, or work part-time for one while also attending college, you may be eligible to apply. Visit the Member Perks tab at retailers.com, and click on the Scholarship Program dropdown for more details and to begin your application. Questions can be directed to MRA’s Rachel Schrauben at rschrauben@retailers.com or 800.366.3699 ext. 346.

G E T YO U R AT- H O M E C OV I D -19 T E S T S Four free at-home COVID-19 tests are now available to all U.S. households. Order yours at www.covidtests.gov. For those with pharmacy coverage through their health plan, you can get up to eight at-home tests per covered member, per month. The tests must be authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Insurance companies and health plans have their own specific guidelines on reimbursement, so check with your insurance company or health plan for more coverage details.

D T E R E N E WA B L E E N E R GY M AT C H M A K E R March 17th, 2022 Join Pure Michigan Business Connect and DTE Energy for a buyer-supplier matchmaking event on March 17th, 2022, focused on renewable energy (solar, wind and electric vehicles). The first part of the program took place virtually in November, 2021 and provided attendees an overview of how to access opportunities in renewable energy.

M R A L AU N C H E S ANNUAL SCHOL ARSHIP COMPETITION MRA is now accepting applications for 29 $1,500 – $1,000 scholarships for the 2022 – 2023 academic year. The dead-

F E B 2022 / M A R 2022 — 19


The Catch-all Drawer


FEBRUARY 27 & 28, 2022







Customer Service Questions? Contact Customer Service at 800.563.5981& press Option 2

MRA’s customer service representatives, such as Tamara Baker (pictured above), have received perfect customer survey responses and 5-star ratings for a year straight! Look for their feature in the upcoming April issue.

P E N N Y S I E R A KO W S K I Manager of the MRA Customer Service Department

General Tips for Credit Card Processing

Fraud Control

• Verify the 2021 Payment Card Transaction form 1099-K for accuracy. Contact customer service if you require changes to this form.

Terminal functions that assist with fraud control:

• If you receive a gratuity greater than 20% of the original sale amount, and the customer is paying by credit card, the recommendation is to process a separate sale for the gratuity. Obtain signatures on both credit card receipts.

• Address Verification (AVS) requires the street number and zip code. If it doesn’t match the credit card, you will receive a mismatch response and have the option to cancel the transaction.

• A minimum transaction amount or a surcharge amount cannot be imposed on debit, prepaid or gift card transactions. • Partial Authorization may be enabled on your terminal. If the credit card receipt displays “Amount Due,” you must collect the remaining balance by another form of payment. • Before the sale is complete, review the credit card receipt to verify the amount is correct and a signature was obtained. • Reconcile your processing statement with your daily settlement report and your bank statement. Contact customer service if you have any discrepancies. • We suggest processing a reversal instead of a void. The cardholder will see the pending reversal on their account immediately, however a void can take up to 10 business days for processing. In addition, you cannot void a pin debit transaction.

• Process with a Chip-Card-enabled terminal/device.

• Security Code Verification (CVV) requires the 3-digit code on the back of the credit card, or the 4-digit code on the front of an American Express credit card. If it doesn’t match the credit card, you will receive a mismatch response and have the option to cancel the transaction. • Password Protection requires a password for all returns, reversals, force capture, store/forward, reports, etc. • Fraud Control, when enabled, will prompt for the last four digits of the credit card to be verified. If incorrect, the prompt will state invalid card number, which the transaction should be cancelled. • Verify the credit card receipt to make sure the customer’s name and credit card number on the front of the card are identical to the printed credit card receipt. If not, call 800.563.5981 option 4 and say, “CODE 10.”

F E B 2022 / M A R 2022 — 21


New Members MD Processing LLC, Addison

Red Wing Shoe Store, Holt

Chippewa Transportation Inc., Albion

Knabusch Insurance Services Inc., Ida

Worldwide Home Health Care LLC, Rochester

Southwestern Michigan Urban League, Battle Creek

Head Coach Investments LLC, Ira

Petar’s Painting LLC, Rochester Hills

McEnroe Logistics Inc., Kalamazoo

Link Transport Inc., Roseville

JP’s Pet Boutique and Grooming Spa, Bloomfield Hills

Thomas Harris dba CCC, Kalamazoo

Bethany Lutheran Church, Roseville

Alumaclear Products, Kaleva

American Amusements & Vending LLC, Saginaw

Brown City Elevator Inc., Brown City Cast Iron Family Restaurants Inc., Cadillac Fisen Corporation, Caledonia Cmon Construction Inc., Canton Mariner North LLC, Copper Harbor Advanced Air Technologies Inc., Corunna United Christian Church of Detroit, Detroit Metro Powder Coatings LLC, Detroit Brightmoore Gardens LLC, Detroit

Wren Home LLC, Lansing Tony’s Transportation LLC, Leslie Autotac, Livonia Oakland Automation LLC, Livonia Peaceful Acres LLC, Ludington Richards & McDougall PC, Manistee Americhem Sales Company of Michigan Inc., Mason

PPL Petroleum Inc., Saint Clair Veum Law Firm PLLC, Sault Sainte Marie Quick Built LLC, Shelby Twp. Alternative Transportation Services Inc., Southfield Hour Transportation Management Inc., Southfield Xpress Non-Emergency Medical Transportation, Southfield

Electro Arch Manufacturing Co., Dexter

Hoaglund Mesick Shop & Save LLC, Mesick

Hunter Metals LLC, Farmington Hills

Coborn’s Inc., Minnesota

BTD LLC dba Iconic Wellness, Sturgis

Indica-MC LLC, Fowlerville

Mid Michigan Ins Agency of Mt. Pleasant, Mount Pleasant

DR & RV Ltd dba Sonny’s Body Shop, Traverse City

ID Systems Inc. dba Inter Dyne Systems, Norton Shores

A D Helm Caulking & Repair Services, Walker

M-Team Solutions LLC, Novi

Dash Auto Logistics, Walled Lake

TI Publications dba Times Indicator, Fremont

Shiraz Jewelers Inc., Oak Park

Jordan Tool LLC, Warren

Pronto Pest Management Inc., Oak Park

El Rancho Inc. 6, Gaylord

WTF Agency LLC, Warren

Able Safe, Pinconning

Webster’s Market Inc., Grand Rapids

Tony’s Decorating and Painting Inc., West Bloomfield

Markit Merchandise LLC, Grand Rapids

Diamond Group Management Inc., Plymouth

Alcona Tool & Machine Inc., Harrisville

Port Huron Liquor Inc., Port Huron

White Lake Family Dentistry, Whitehall

HOPE for Dev Disabilities dba SPARC, Hillsdale

Flegal & Melnik CPA’s, Portage

Sterling Edge Inc., Wixom

L & T Auto Repair LLC, Portage

G & M Express LLC, Holland

FE Logistics LLC, Wyoming

Diversified Dock & Trailer, Quincy

Cedano Foods LLC dba Tacos El Cunado 6, Holland

DeWind Well Drilling Inc., Zeeland

Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce, Richmond

Brandon C Howell dba Howell Painting, Freeland Royal Controls & Process Services LLC, Fremont

CCS of Holland Inc., Holland www.retailers.com

Executive Tax & Financial, Stevensville

Heritage Custom Saddlery, West Olive



603 South Washington Avenue Lansing, MI 48933

Bo Brines Chair Little Forks Outfitters, Midland

517.372.5656 or 800.366.3699 Fax: 517.372.1303

William J. Hallan President and CEO Michigan Retailers Association Bill Golden Vice Chair Golden Shoes, Traverse City

ABOUT US Michigan Retailer (USPS 345-780, ISSN 0889-0439) is published in February, April, June, August, October, & December by Michigan Retailers Association. 603 South Washington Avenue, Lansing, MI 48933 Periodical postage paid at Lansing, Michigan Postmaster: Send address changes to 603 South Washington Ave., Lansing, MI 48933. This publication may be recycled with white office paper.

Peter R. Sobelton Treasurer Mondial Properties, Birmingham

M I C H I G A N R E TA I L E R S SERVICES, INC. BOARD OF DIREC TORS William J. Hallan President and CEO Chad Ayers Allendale True Value, Allendale Rachel Hurst Kroger Co. of Michigan, Novi John Leppink Leppink’s Food Centers, Belding Joe Swanson Target, Retired

Becky Beauchine Kulka Past Chair Becky Beauchine Kulka Diamonds and Fine Jewelry, Okemos M I C H I G A N R E TA I L E R Kim Edsenga Meijer, Inc., Grand Rapids Dan Marshall Marshall Music Company, Lansing Orin Mazzoni, Jr. Orin Jewelers, Northville Joseph McCurry Credit Card Group Bryan Neiman Neiman’s Family Market, St. Clair Barb Stein Great Northern Trading Co., Rockford Thomas Ungrodt TDU Consulting, LLC, Ann Arbor

William J. Hallan Publisher Jennifer Rook Editor Fairly Painless Advertising Design and Layout Rachel Schrauben Copy Editor and Content Manager Shandra Martinez Contributors Steve Jessmore, David Trumpie, and Lisa Reibsome Photographers

D. Larry Sherman Board Member Emeritus


With every issue, we reach retail owners, managers, and executives who make spending decisions for 15,000 stores and websites across the state. To request a media kit, email Rachel Schrauben at rschrauben@retailers.com.

F E B 2022 / M A R 2022 — 23

603 South Washington Avenue Lansing, Michigan 48933 Phone: 517.372.5656 or 800.366.3699 Fax: 517.372.1303

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