And our Ypsilantian of the Year is…. Bee Roll

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As you may recall, about a month ago, I said that I’d like to bestow an Ypsilantian of the Year award, and asked for your nominations. Well, yesterday, on my new radio program, I announced the recipient. The first ever MarkMaynard.com Ypsilantian of the Year award was given to Bee Roll, the owner of Beezy’s… That’s her at the top of the page, proudly receiving the trophy. [Photo courtesy of Kate de Fuccio]

For what it’s worth, it was not an easy decision.

If you haven’t yet, I’d encourage you to read through all of the nominations that were submitted. The folks who wrote in were incredibly passionate, and dozens of worthy candidates from around our community were suggested.

Krystal Elliott made the case for Police Chief Tony DeGiusti, for his commitment to community policing and his tireless work to build relationships with both the EMU police department and the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office. Kayj Michelle, the driving force behind Ypsilanti’s First Fridays art walk, which has now grown to 16 venues, was nominated for all that she’s done to breathe new life into the Ypsilanti’s art scene. And Matt Siegfried was nominated for his work documenting Ypsilanti’s historic black community. The list goes on and on. And it wasn’t just the kinds of folks that you’d expect to have nominated for an honor such as this. A reader by the name of Lynne nominated her next door neighbor, who she said shoveled her sidewalk for her in the winter. And Rob Hess, the man behind Go Ice Cream, nominated 9 year old Juna Hume Clark, for distributing a little newspaper called “The Oakwood Seed” throughout Normal Park. “It’s a newspaper of love and imagination,” said Hess. “The little photo-copied paper was illustrated with pictures of her bunny and her cat, along with pictures of a peace sign, a recycling symbol and an anarchy symbol. I love that we are the kind of town where kids are encouraged to do things like this. Finding and reading this little story from a kid I don’t know was one of my favorite things of the entire year.”

In the end, though, I decided to go with Bee. In part, I was persuaded by the following nomination, which came from Caleb Zweifler, one of her employees at Beezy’s.

(I’d like to nominate) my boss, Bee Roll. Bee Roll runs a restaurant. Bee Roll runs a damn-fine restaurant. This, in and of itself, for anyone that’s worked in one, is a marvel. The amount of managerial curveballs she has to juggle whilst raising 2 adorable youngin’s (usually on her person) is simply astounding. I’ve never seen anyone take on so much responsibility with such grit and persistence. Even when a situation seems impossible, she always finds a way to mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually MacGyver her way out of it. She learns from her mistakes with scientific precision and rises to every challenge that presents itself.

Her employees, whom she interviews personally and hand-selects with impeccable discernment, are not your typical hires. We are Peter Pan’s lost boys, we are Santa’s misfits toys. Yet she stops at nothing to accomodate us to the best of her abilities and circumstances. We are compensated well, we are well-fed, we are given flexible schedules to allow us to nurture our personal goals beyond Beezy’s, and when she works in the kitchen she doesn’t take a cut of the tips so we can have more to take home.

She is incredibly sharp and methodical. She has keen business sensibilities and is constantly searching for ways to improve herself and her environment. Her work ethic is steadfast and tireless. She is loyal and she is a force to be reckoned with. She doesn’t talk feminism, she walks feminism. She, in the most benevolent sense, is the self-empowered woman incarnate. And she’s infinitely more likely to take more weight on her shoulders than to ask for help.

She is the most generous person I’ve ever met. With what little she is able to provide the community, she offers freely and without want of anything in return. From the 826 Tutoring Program to First Fridays; Bee invests in Ypsilanti’s past, present, and future.

Above all, Bee Roll cares about this town. She cares about her customers. She cares about her staff. She cares about the troubled youth that grow up here, and the starving artists that work here. Bee, next to Pete Seeger and my own parents, is my hero. I, along with everyone in this town should consider themselves proud, and profoundly lucky to have her in our lives. And though she’s probably the least likely to accept this kind of praise, she is absolutely the most deserving of it.

I’ll be posting audio of last night’s radio show later, so you can hear the conversation that I had with Bee about why I decided that she should win the 2014 award. But, here, in a nutshell, is why I chose her. She’s the kind of person, in my opinion, that Ypsi needs more of. She purposefully moved to Ypsi, and invested here. She opened a restaurant across the street from a strip club, on a relatively desolate street, and she made it work. She hustled her ass off and built something great that people in this community could be proud of, a little business that not only turns out consistently good food, but serves as a meeting place for people across the region who, like Bee, are doing great, inspiring things. Beezy’s hosts concerts. Beezy’s was one of the first First Friday venues. Beezy’s is home to the 826 after-school tutoring program. Beezy’s, in short, is a place were good things happen. And that’s just the tangible, well-known stuff. There were also all of the little things that one hears about through the grapevine. Stories about pots of soup being carried down the street for the at-risk kids at the Ozone drop-in center, and things that she’s done for her employees. And, as if that weren’t enough, there’s also the fact that Beezy’s has been an incubator for other food-based startups, like Theresa Rickloff’s Riki Tiki Pies, and Stefanie Stauffer’s salsa company Nightshade Army Industries. Theresa, you might recall, said the following in an interview on this site not too long ago. “It would only be a slight exaggeration if I were to say that Beezy’s gave me everything.“… I love that awesome little things spring forward from Beezy’s and I suspect that we haven’t seen the end of it yet.

So, congratulations, Bee. You deserve it. And I’m sorry that I just wrote your name in sharpie over one of D’Real Graham’s old basketball trophies. You deserve better.

update: When contacted by the press and asked for a comment, Bee had the following to say.

I’m really thrilled at how that went down last night, very little fanfare, and plenty of awkward conversation and of course, I am honored to be regarded so well.

I write a letter to my staff every week when I send out the schedule. Usually on Thursday mornings. I’ve always done it as a way to document upcoming events or ongoing group issues and to spend a few minutes reflecting on the week. Sometimes they’re pep rallies and sometimes they read like a hall monitor’s citation. And sometimes they’re work diary entries and it’s the only way I can get my voice heard above the daily fracas.

The last year, especially, managing being pregnant and toting a toddler around, moving while doing all the things I try to do just to keep up with a growing business and the balancing the needs of 15 individuals on staff and like, being radically aware of every shortfall and changing my own work dynamic and execution and struggling with depression to boot, I’ve felt like the biggest phony. Walking to and from work in tears, wondering how to keep going, how to keep my staff motivated and happy and myself from a total meltdown. Big sobbing tears up and down Michigan Avenue.

I’m really just coming out the other end of the tunnel. There were a lot of broken lights and dark days (metaphorically and literally) and self preservation, one long, too fast day at a time, has been my biggest goal.

Day after day of not feeling good enough, well enough, or deserving of much wears on a guy, ya know? And I constantly worry about my staff and my community and feeling that I have so much more to do and well, I could go on at greeeeeeaaaat length. But the point is, it’s been all I can do to put my head down and GET THROUGH.

I entertained all sorts of dialog about everyone thinking I haven’t been working hard enough, visibly enough. That I wasn’t having a positive impact on my staff. That I’ve been distant, aloof, uncaring. I mean, I know that’s depression talking, I do, but that’s what’s there.

So of course I don’t feel like I deserve an award. All I’ve done is say yes to some stuff. Everybody else is doing the work. And then I read Caleb’s passionate nomination and it chokes me up. And every word of it is meaningful and what I fight for and what I stand for… I’ve always felt like I found my place, my home, since I moved to Ypsi – and to have grown up so scattered and rootless, a veritable rhizome of life experiences, to be understood and accepted, and, well, wanted and appreciated isn’t something I figured anybody ever really achieved in this world. And I’m amazed that whenever I shake off the emotional rain cloud, Ypsi’s got that for me. That’s my award. Caleb’s nomination and knowing that I’m having some impact just being and doing my best to kick ass at getting better at life, helping other people do that too, that’s so fucking great to me.

This town is full of amazing people doing great work. Most of them have impressive resumes and CV’s and experience and education and are wildly more active engaging the community. But I’m a scrappy high school drop out from a broken home and a self made boss that’s been so lucky to have so many people on my side. I don’t know how I did it, but I’m grateful I’ve found my place. I’m also happy to be the practice run/guinea pig/scapegoat for this experiment. The backlash doesn’t seem too terrible yet.

And that’s probably way more than you want/need and I don’t care what you use if any at all- I just needed to get it out. Thanks for the opportunity. Thanks for being Mark Maynard.

[note: As I’ve said before, I’m not suggesting that my selection of Ypsilantian of the Year is, in fact, the best Ypsilantian. I don’t know every Ypsilantian, and I’m sure there are a lot of folks out there doing good work. There may even be a few that are more awesome than Bee. I agonized over this decision for a while because of this. And I thought up any number of different ways to go about making the selection. I thought about appointing a panel, soliciting nominations from non-readers of my blog, and drafting formal selection criteria. I tried, to the best of my ability, to come up with a system that would deliver someone that the entire community could rally behind. But then 2014 came and went, and I decided I had to just do something. And I realized that, even if I did everything right, people would stil have issues with the selection. So I decided to just pick the person I felt the most strongly about. So don’t be mad if I you think I picked the wrong person. This is just one award. There can, and should, be others. In fact, I’d encourage you to go out, find an award of your own, and give it to someone whose efforts you appreciate. Or, if you want to be really ambitious, work with the City to make an officially sanctioned Ypsilantian of the Year award, complete with a parade, and songs written in the recipient’s honor. The important thing, in my opinion, is not so much who the person is, but the fact that someone in our community is being thanked for their roll in making good things happen. And the more we start doing that, the better.]

This entry was posted in Local Business, Locally Owned Business, Special Projects, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

14 Comments

  1. Posted January 18, 2015 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Bee is adorable! A million congratulations! And how great of a writer is Caleb?!? Wow! This post gave me all the feels, as they say on the internet. xxoo

  2. Posted January 18, 2015 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    The audio of the show won’t be up until tomorrow. Sorry. I’ve had some stuff come up.

  3. Posted January 18, 2015 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations.

  4. tommy
    Posted January 19, 2015 at 1:24 am | Permalink

    Take that, Ann Arbor.

  5. Posted January 19, 2015 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    Why is everything in Ypsilanti measured relative to Ann Arbor? Why not Canton or Pittsfield?

    It seems that Ypsilanti would do well to attempt to stand on its own merits, rather than constantly attempt to define itself relative to a neighboring town.

    Bee should be congratulated for running a business in a tough environment for the past couple of years and surviving. That’s a feat in any town.

  6. Posted January 19, 2015 at 4:08 am | Permalink

    How do u like them apples, Belleville?!?

  7. bennie
    Posted January 19, 2015 at 4:24 am | Permalink

    I really love that bee is the winner!! I can’t think of a better one at all!

  8. Elviscostello
    Posted January 19, 2015 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    Mark, you chose well!

  9. anonymous
    Posted January 19, 2015 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Just don’t ask to borrow her electricity.

  10. Rob Hess
    Posted January 19, 2015 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Bee is amazing. I firmly believe that our attitudes and our actions are contagious; when you are bag of dicks you give others license to give into their own bag-of-dick tendencies, and when you are a person who strives for something, you similarly give others the chutzpah to do the same. Bee inspires the shit out of me and I’ve heard from countless others that she does the same for them. She’s honest, direct, hilarious, confrontational of things that are uncomfortable, ethics-driven, and she takes pride in putting the service of others first. It’s people like Bee that make Ypsi great not just through their own actions, but for the effect they have on everyone they come in contact with. Thank you for being awesome, Bee. I am more awesome because of you. All of Ypsi is more awesome because of you.

  11. C Adam Plomaritas
    Posted January 19, 2015 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    This is wonderful. I would say congrats to Bee Roll, but really, congrats Ypsilanti for having such a fine citizen who has made this a better place to live.

    If I ever have a meeting with someone, or friends or relatives from out of town, and find out they haven’t been to Beezy’s, the matter is settled, that’s where we’re going. And delicious food, a friendly-cozy atmosphere (her workers hand draw ninja turtles and superheroes on my kids’ chocolate milk!), and the restaurant are only the gateway to the community that this place and these people cultivate.

    Well done.

  12. Caleb Z
    Posted January 19, 2015 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    :)

  13. CED
    Posted January 19, 2015 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Bee and Beezy’s certainly make me happy to be in Ypsi. :) Wonderful to see her hard work, perseverance, vision, and devotion honored in this way.

  14. Posted January 19, 2015 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    there is some deep beauty here. woot for Bee and for ypsilanti.

17 Trackbacks

  1. […] and the storefront next to hers, which was recently condemned. And then I surprised her with the MarkMaynard.com Ypsilantian of the Year award, which made her cry… She would cry repeatedly over the course of the evening, giving me […]

  2. By The Oakwood Seed on January 27, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    […] this month, in a post about the first annual MarkMaynard.com Ypsilantian of the Year award, I mentioned several people who had been nominated for the distinction. One of those was a 9 year […]

  3. […] month or so ago, I presented this site’s first annual “Ypsilantian of the Year” award to Bee Roll and gave her this trophy with the promise that I would eventually make a new nameplate for it, to […]

  4. […] the end of Paul’s visit, we’ll be visited by former Zingerman’s employee, and Ypsilantian of the Year, Bee Roll, the owner of Beezy’s, who will be dropping by to fill us in the progress of her […]

  5. […] the end of Paul’s visit, Ypsilantian of the Year Bee Roll, the owner of Beezy’s, dropped by to fill us in the progress of her recently […]

  6. By The Six Pack Portrait Project on March 11, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    […] them across the street to his place, to have their photos taken. Here are a few examples. [One is Bee Roll, the woman behind Beezy’s. The other is Paul Saginaw, the co-founder of Zingerman’s. […]

  7. […] of ZipCap, has been spending quite a bit of time in Michigan lately, working with our friend Bee Roll, the owner of Ypsilanit’s much beloved Beezy’s Cafe, to secure more favorable lending terms. […]

  8. […] of Ann Arbor that this probably isn’t a story that they want to be sharing, seeing as how Bee only started working with ZipCap after having been turned down for a loan by […]

  9. […] tomorrow’s New York Times, you’ll find a story about my friend Bee “Ypsilantian of the Year” Roll and the work she’s done through the California-based company ZipCap to raise working capital […]

  10. […] Saturday evening, between 4:00 and 7:00, Bee Roll will be hosting a potluck at the Art Hut on Water Street Commons to both raise donations for Ozone […]

  11. […] immigrants… And, as if that weren’t enough, we’ll also be talking with our friend Bee Roll about work being done to organize locally for Bernie Sanders, and local historian Matt Siegfried […]

  12. […] just as the beer was running out, Bee Roll dropped in with the better part of a six pack and a chocolate bar to discuss her work in Ypsi on […]

  13. By Ypsi/Arbor Exit Interview: Rita Jane Riggs on August 2, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    […] “In the theme of their business…” So, like Bee would be dancing in a baby pool full of sausage […]

  14. By The Saturday Six Pack Holiday Special on December 18, 2015 at 7:54 am

    […] Bee Roll walked over from Beezy’s, sipping on a mason jar full of booze. She presented us a box of […]

  15. […] at 6:30, we’ll be joined by Bee Roll, the owner of Beezy’s, with whom we’ll be talking about business, politics, food and […]

  16. […] of course, we talked about how her life has changed over this past year, since being named Ypsilantian of the Year by yours truly. We talked about the responsibility that comes along with the title, the process by […]

  17. […] weeks ago I had Bee Roll, the owner of Beezy’s, on the radio with me to discuss her plans to expand into a second […]

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