A big thank you to everyone who had a hand in launching Landline Creative Labs

As we’re getting ready to rent our 10th and final office at Landline Creative Labs, now seemed like a good time to step back, reflect for a minute, and say thank you to everyone who played a role in getting us to where we are today.

First and foremost, we’d like to thank all of our partners at Landline, the folks who decided to sign on the dotted line and move in. Not only were they incredibly patient and understanding throughout the process, but the passion they show for their work continues to inspire us. It’s one thing to have an idea for something like Landline in the abstract, but it’s another altogether to actually try to build it in the real world, and we couldn’t be happier with the team we’ve assembled. They’re some of the most intelligent, thoughtful and interesting people we know, and we’re grateful that this project has brought us all together in this downtown Ypsilanti space.

We’d also like to thank Frank Dodd and Brandon Fischer, the downstairs tenants that we inherited when we purchased 209 Pearl Street back in May of 2016. Transitions like this aren’t always easy, but their support and encouragement helped tremendously as we set out to build Landline on the floor above them. And we couldn’t be happier for both of them, as, like us, they continue to grow as entrepreneurs, Frank expanding his barbershop to include our neighborhood’s only convenience store, and Brandon expanding his metalworking operation to the production of custom furniture. [Brandon built the table in our conference room and in the Landline Global Headquarters office, by the way.] It’s been fun to watch them both expand, try new things, and contribute to the creative energy at 209 Pearl Street.

We would also like to thank the folks at Ann Arbor SPARK, especially Jennifer Olmstead, for their unwavering support and assistance as we fought to pull together the funding for this project and get it off the ground. Jennifer believed in us when we argued that our community could benefit from a place like this, where creative professionals could put down roots, and collectively build an industry here in downtown Ypsilanti, and she did everything in her power to help us make it happen… And it certainly didn’t hurt that, through her, and others at SPARK, we were able to secure an Ypsilanti Incentive Program grant for $56,000, allowing us to actually do things like repair the fire damage that had kept the second floor of 209 Pearl Street vacant for the past several years.

And, while we’re at it, we’d also like to thank the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, who had the foresight to both create and fund the Ypsilanti Incentive Program noted above. Their increased investment in the eastern side of the County, as you can see around you tonight, is already beginning to pay dividends, and we’re hopeful that it will continue.

We’d also be remiss if we didn’t thank the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority and the Ypsilanti City Council, both of whom were enthusiastic supporters of Landline from the outset, with City Council voting unanimously to award an Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act tax incentive as we were considering the purchase of the building, and the DDA for investing in both our historic window renovation ($2,000) and our wheelchair lift ($5,000). And we’re especially thankful for the efforts of Beth Ernat at the City, and Joe Meyers at the DDA for not only walking us through the various processes, but being available for us night and day as we encountered issues with the redevelopment of 209 Pearl. [I won’t get into it here, but there were a lot of issues that we had to work through.] Beth especially has gone above and beyond to make Landline Creative Labs a reality, and we can’t say enough about how great she’s been to work with.

Not to overstate how significant the development of Landline is, but, in our eyes, it really demonstrates what can happen when motivated people with good ideas, a little working capital, and decent work ethics, collaborate with City and County government to move toward a common goal.

And, of course, we’d like to thank Tim Gretkierewicz and Jeffrey McKelvey at Bank of Ann Arbor, who took on some amount of risk when they agreed to work with us as first time developers that wanted to do the contracting ourselves. While we may have occasionally grumbled about their constant and thorough oversight, they did an awesome job of keeping us on task, and we’re appreciative for that… as well as the money, of course… even though it has to be paid back. And, for what it’s worth, it’s pretty awesome to be doing business with a bank that’s just down the street, where we know people by name, and they always have a plentiful supply of both candy and apples.

And it goes without saying that none of what you’re seeing tonight would have existed if not for the incredibly hard work of those people who did the plumbing, ran the electrical lines, put up the walls, rebuilt the windows, etc. We were fortunate to work with the very best on this project; Roger Wallace (electrical), Safaa Pauls (plumbing), Adam Lacca (plaster), Dustin Schultz (windows), Mike Reyna (floors), John Taylor (HVAC), Brad “handy” Hale (handyman), and Steve Hughes, Kevin Lynn, and Blake Woodruffe (carpentry). Had it not been for them, this would surely have been a much different, and much less successful, project.

We would also like to thank all of those in the community who, over the last year or more, we relied on for advice, like Bill Kinley, Paul Saginaw, Dug Song, Richard Murphy, Phil Tepley, Michael Gay, Andre Grewe, Bee Roll, Sean Cool, Tony VanDerworp, Hedger Breed, Jeff Irwin, Paul Schutt and Gary Bruder, all of whom gave freely of their time and wisdom. We could have never pulled this off without their insight, friendship and unwavering support.

And, big thanks are also due to all of those who had a hand in making Landline feel like the place it is today, after all of the walls were up, the doors were hung and the floor was put down… W.A.P John at Ann Arbor’s Grafaktri for the lobby signage, Carol McEachran at Salt City Antiques for helping us find our sofa, Linette Lao at Invisible Engines for our logo, Jean Henry, Dick Beedon, Muffy Mackenzie and Barry LaRue for donating furniture when our budget ran out, Karl Anderson for offering to put a free pay phone outside the building, artists Jason Wright and Jim Cherewick for the artwork that hangs in our new microgallery, Linette Lao, Kim DeBord, Melissa Wessel and Kelli Harden for their numerous design recommendations, and, lastly, Doug Coombe for documenting it all with his camera… Oh, and all the guys who gathered that cold winter morning to carry the telephone pole now hanging above our staircase across town to the building, and all the folks who helped us find the glass insulators that now hang throughout the building.

Sorry, I didn’t expect that list to be so long when I started. There really were a lot of people who helped Jesse and me get things to where they are today, though, and I just wanted to finally acknowledge all of them… Stuff like this really doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I know, from the outside, it sometimes looks as though things like this just magically happen, perhaps because of one or two really motivated people, but that’s just not the case. It really does take a lot of good people, all working together, to make something like this happen.

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  1. Frosted Flakes
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    The location, building, building history, name, logo and free phone outside all worked out perfectly! Good job.

  2. Susan Cybulski
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Congratulations, Landline! Such an awesome addition to the community!

  3. 88
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Good on you for putting your money where your mouth is.

  4. site admin
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:06 am | Permalink


    Peter Larson: G.E.N.T.R.I.F.I.C.A.T.I.O.N

    Peter Larson: Think of all the poor families that are going to be pushed out now.

    Poor families == underpaid coders with University degrees now, not actual poor people.

    Where are the demonstrations?

    Mark Maynard: I know you’re kidding, but I’ll give you a serious answer, Pete.

    Mark Maynard: The second floor of this building was gutted. The roof was coming in. Many windows were broken or missing. We borrowed over $200,000 to fix it, putting our homes at risk to do so. And we were successful in moving ten small, creative companies downtown.

    Mark Maynard: We looked for a building for well over a year, trying to make the math work. We didn’t want to buy a place where, in order to make it financially feasible, we had to displace anyone. And we were able to do that here. Both of the first floor tenants who were there when we bought the building have remained, one of which is a black barbershop. Not only is he staying in the building, but he’s growing, having expanded his shop to include a convenience store.

    Peter Larson: Honestly I don’t care I think it’s great that you are doing this. I just have no clue why a babos would cause such a freak out but this is ok.

    Peter Larson: I think it’s great you are doing this?

    Mark Maynard: But, yeah, I know that some will make comments about gentrification. Having lived here off and on since 1993, I get it. I love this community and don’t want for it to change. But the answer, I don’t think, is to have more dilapidated, vacant buildings. The answer is to grow, but to grow with local ownership… people who are invested in the community, and are at least somewhat thoughtful about what they’re doing, and the consequences of their actions. The bottom line is that Ypsi needs to grow if we’re going to avoid the fate of other older Michigan cities that have fallen victim to the rule of emergency managers.

    Mark Maynard: As for Babo’s, I don’t think it’s a fair comparison. I mean, they only tried to make it work for about two months before pulling up stakes and leaving. I think that demonstrates how dedicated to the area they were. This, I think, is different. Jesse and I both walk to work for our homes just blocks away. This is our community and we care about it. I’d like to think I’ve demonstrated that over the past 14 years, or however long I’ve been blogging now.

    Peter Larson: I had thought that people in Ypsilanti were concerned about poor people. Turns out they are concerned about coders.

    Mark Maynard: I’m not going to take the bait, Pete. I love you.

    Peter Larson: Take the fucking bait

    Peter Larson: Peter Larson Do it

    Mark Maynard: Love to you, my brother.

  5. Citywatch
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Mark, this is what you were born to do. Inspire others, collaborate, and move forward with a long term vision that you have been developing for years! Congratulations to you and your
    co-inspivisionaries on completion of this phase of a future those that those who are not stuck can see. Who knows what part of our future the free phone actually connects to “Hello? Marty McFly?”

  6. stupid hick
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    That Mark Maynard’s acoylytes could drive Babos out of Ypsi in two months proves that Babos is not “dedicated to the area” (the “area” means east of Carpenter, I guess). How much hazing does an Ann Arbor immigrant have to endure before they are accepted as neighbor?

  7. stupid hick
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    PS Mark, you know I love you so please don’t take ignoring Facebook friend requests personally.

  8. Lynne
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    I, for one, am grateful for your commitment to our town and for your efforts to make it better. Thank you!

  9. Josh
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t realize Babos was gone. Too bad? The Lampshade lasted longer.

  10. Iron Lung Larson
    Posted June 16, 2017 at 3:24 am | Permalink

    I think this is great. I’m happy this is happening.

    I would also like to see more yoga.

  11. stupid hick
    Posted June 16, 2017 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Oh don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great too, I’m just disappointed it happens under a cloud of discrimination against people from the “wrong” side of Carpenter. Now ask Mark privately why he refuses to support the 2017 Shadow Art Fair. Does anyone detect animus against Canton too?

  12. Posted June 16, 2017 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    What’s the next project for the Mark and Jesse team?

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