Residents call Fraser ‘a big-hearted community’
BY DANIELLE KOPACKI
OU News Bureau
Fraser Public Library serves as a community center and offers educational historical programs, a magician and clown for children, and occasionally works with student volunteers in Fraser High School’s National Honor Society. PHOTO/DANIELLE KOPACKI
Nestled amongst Clinton Township, Roseville, Sterling Heights and Warren, Fraser’s 14,480 civic-minded, tight-knit residents maintain a community distinct from its larger neighbors.
“I don’t want to downplay the other cities around us, but they’re not like us,” said City Finance Director Tim McCulloch. “It doesn’t become part of the collective: it stands out because of its schools and its value on serving its citizens.”
McCulloch also said that although Fraser experienced the economic downturn of recent years, the city has maintained services and has had few foreclosures or vacancies.
“I think Fraser’s headed in the right direction. It’s just a sign of the times right now, but I’m sure it will be fine,” said Bernard VanFleteren, public works director. “Services are still there; we haven’t taken anything away from everybody.”
VanFleteren lives in Shelby Township now, but grew up in Fraser and has worked for the city for nearly 37 years. He said that people continue to appreciate the services that Fraser offers, such as brush pickup, limited tree service and street maintenance.
“Things will turn around and I think they’ll just keep on ticking away like they always have here,” McCulloch said. He expects that it will take six or seven years for property values to entirely rebound, but remains positive about the future.
The median household income for Fraser residents is $54,302, but McCulloch said that residents pour both their money and their time back into the community.
Fraser First Booster Club is working to build a Boundless Park designed for special needs children. It will be Macomb County’s first.
“For this little community to be the one who is the leader in that is really quite an accomplishment,” said Acting Mayor William Morelli Sr.
Morelli, a member of the City Council since 2005, said the 30 to 60 residents who attend each City Council meeting are evidence of Fraser’s community involvement.
Bill Morelli Sr
“They have a specific topic to speak on, and they’re not afraid to disagree with us and to say what they want to say,” Morelli said, “And that’s really good.”
People are drawn to Fraser, according to Morelli, because of the quality of life and the local businesses Fraser offers. Another attraction drawing people in is Fraser Public Schools.
“We are well-versed in the requirements of supporting our kids,” Morelli said. “We have a very good school system here.”
Fransie Crouch originally moved to Fraser 41 years ago because she and her husband wanted their children to go to Fraser schools.
She likes that so many people know each other, if not by name, then by face. Crouch works at Fraser Public Library and lives near enough to walk to work. She recalled looking out the library windows shortly before buying her home.
“I thought what a lovely neighborhood. I’d like to live there,” said Crouch. “Well, guess what? We bought a house right over there.”
Fraser’s library serves as a community center for many residents and nonresidents.
“Our focus is community service, and our Fraser is such a small community that it’s really nice to bring all these people in,” said Library Director Jean Slivka of Macomb Township.
Fraser Public Library has programs spanning from grief counseling to tarot to Roscoe the clown, who promotes literacy for children. Slivka said that even the staff is exceptionally loyal and dedicated to both the library and the community.
“It’s a wonderful place to work,” Rosemary Anderson said. “The people are very nice here.”
Anderson, a reference librarian, said she makes sure to give a personalized greeting or farewell to anyone she sees enter or leave the library.
Slivka has worked at the library off and on since the 1980s before becoming director in 2008. She takes pride in the library’s history. Formerly a schoolhouse, a large part of the library’s exterior is now a historical landmark.
“That’s such an important part of it,” Slivka said, “And people don’t realize how exciting that kind of thing can be.”
All three librarians agree that the library plays a crucial role in Fraser’s community.
Also important in the community are local businesses.
Fraser doesn’t have much of a downtown, just a few local stores, including a couple restaurants, a grocer, a pharmacy, a hardware store and a number of other small businesses.
“We have a small circle of stores, but not a real downtown area, because it’s only four square miles,” Morelli said. “You don’t have much area.”
Morelli said that people are working to develop the downtown area, but that it has been extremely difficult. Fraser residents are already loyal to their local stores anyway.
“People go to the local store,” said Crouch. “If you need something you run to Reindel’s first.”
Reindel True Value Hardware Store has served the Fraser community for 112 years, making it one of the oldest hardware stores in Michigan.
It moved to its present location in Fraser’s tiny downtown, on Utica Road just off of 14 Mile, in 1928.
“We pride ourselves on our customer service,” said Karen Johnson.
Johnson has worked at Reindel’s for almost 30 years and knows most of her customers by sight.
“I know ’em all,” Johnson said, with a laugh. “I can tell you what company they work for, their name, their kids’ names, their grandkids.’ I know probably about 80 percent of my regulars.”
Karen Johnson cultivates personal relationships with nearly all of her customers at Reindel True Value Hardware Store. PHOTO/DANIELLE KOPACKI
Even though business ebbed during the winter months, she has noticed a pick up in business recently, which she attributes to people doing their own home improvement projects rather than hiring others.
Johnson said she has many customers who come in looking specifically for her.
“Everybody loves Karen,” said co-worker Nancy Botimer. “People will turn around and leave if Karen’s not here.”
Johnson’s relationship with her customers is but one example of Fraser’s closeness.
“Fraser is a big-hearted community and that’s what people come here for,” Morelli said.