Ribbon cutting

A mass ribbon-cutting by the Shiawassee Regional Chamber of Commerce is held Thursday, celebrating the seven new or expanding businesses at The Armory.

OWOSSO — The Armory is booming with businesses, including seven new or expanded companies, giving the Shiawassee Regional Chamber of Commerce — the building owner — plenty of reasons to celebrate.

At a crowded Chamber Connect@4 event at The Armory Thursday, a mass ribbon-cutting was held for new tenants HG Realty, Convergent Church, Intelligen-Ashlor Staff, A Collective Counseling Lifeline and Business Idealism Group.

They joined two businesses that have expanded within The Armory: Advanced Technology Solutions and Journey Through the Seasons. With these additions, the lower and first floors of The Armory are full.

“For the last year, our team has hit the ground running. We’ve had to be flexible and face the challenges that came with (the pandemic),” said Albert Martenis, The Armory’s property manager.

“We’re continuing to work on how we take this property post-pandemic and use it to its full potential, making it a win for the community, The Armory and the businesses here.”

Currently, there are 21 businesses housed inside The Armory, including seven Michigan-based not-for-profit or nonprofits, and five women and/or minority-owned Michigan-based companies. More than half of the new businesses at The Armory fit this category.

“We have a very diverse and dynamic group now,” Martenis said.

The area of the building’s top floor that features multiple professional workstations is being reconfigured to increase accessibility and services for those tenants, he said.

The Armory is the current meeting place for the Owosso Rotary Club and a regular meeting host for the Cook Family Foundation, Respite Shiawassee and other local nonprofit organizations.

HG Realty, which handles commercial and residential properties, started three years ago, operating out of a mobile office until moving into The Armory’s first floor in September as the result of growth.

“We needed a centralized space in the community and we wanted a training facility for new Realtors,” said owner Henry Gillen, whose company employs five Realtors, including himself.

So far, so good.

“The Armory’s great,” he said. “The amenities, the history of the building and the history of it — overall, the atmosphere is excellent.”

Convergent Church moved into the lower level Sept. 1 after the Revs. Dan Dameron and Jamison Bebiak — both Owosso natives — discovered there was a strong interest in forming the Southern Baptist church.

“It’s going great,” Dameron said. “We’re aiming to have our official launch Easter 2022. Right now, we’re building our core team.”

Intelligen-Ashlor Staffing, a recruiting, placement and payroll company, boasts seven branch offices in Michigan, including its latest addition located on the first floor of The Armory.

The staffing business, which focuses on the industrial sector but also handles professional staffing and direct hires, is owned by Ron Newton, who started the company with Newton Services in Flint.

A Collective Counseling Lifeline, owned by therapist Theresa Braden-Horsten, offers counseling and allows outside therapists the opportunity to rent space for in-person sessions.

That way, Braden-Horstman said, therapists can be sole proprietors of a business without leasing or purchasing a permanent space. Collective Counseling is located on The Armory’s first floor.

Business Idealism Group, which helps businesses “synergize, educate and transform,” was founded in 2007, moving the top floor of The Armory in September. Owners are Richard Doherty and Wink Martindale (no relation to the game show host).

“This is a very good thing they’re doing (at The Armory),” Martindale said. “We chose to start our business without spending much money for rent. The Armory projects the image we want to have.”

Advanced Technology Solutions has been located inside The Armory since it opened, in 2018. Starting out in small quarters on the third floor, growth spurred the company to move to a suite on the lower level. More growth prompted a third move to the first floor.

Clients come from as far north as Tawas and Detroit to the south.

“The Armory has been very good for our business,” said Melvin Renfrow, who owns the information technology service provider with Tom Wendling.

“We love being here because of the direct access we have to the Chamber, Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership and the Small Business Development Center. It’s hugely beneficial.”

Journey Through the Seasons, a full-range counseling service with additional offices in Grand Blanc and Glennie, moved into The Armory in September 2020 and expanded a year later to a first-floor suite.

Owner Molly Biondo said therapy services, including for substance abuse disorder, are in high demand.

“There’s a need, especially with the pandemic,” she said.

John Adams, the Chamber vice president, said during remarks that the Connect@4 event was a celebration of the seven new or expanding businesses.

“We’re thrilled to have them as part of The Armory family,” he said.

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