For a working parent, childcare is their utmost concern. Andrea Kittendorf, director of Kidz Clubhouse, on 4735 West River Drive in Comstock Park, has some advice about choosing childcare.
“When looking for a quality childcare program families should visit www.michigan.gov and research child care licensing reports,” said Kittendorf. “I also suggest looking at daily programming, cleanliness of the facility, staff training andcertifications, and staff turnaround.
“I started Kidz Clubhouse because I have always been passionate about children and their wellbeing,” said Kittendorf, adding she was able to start the business in July 2008 with help from her father Phillip Parsh, who is the owner. “I find joy in watching children grow and meet their milestones.”
Kidz Clubhouse offers childcare to children six weeks to twelve years old, but specialize in birth to five years old. Reservations are required to guarantee availability. They have both spur-of-the-moment as well as scheduled full-time or part-time care. Kittendorf, who lives in Comstock Park, said she decided to locate in Comstock Park because she likes the community.
“When we found our current location, it was just a shell with outer walls, so I was able to customize the building to Kidz Clubhouse needs,” she said.
The building is approximately 3500 square feet. Besides the building there is an outdoor area with a play structure along with other materials for the children. Inside, there’s the drop-off area, a room for infants and toddlers, and a room for preschoolers. Each area is designed around positively influencing all areas of a child’s development – physical, social, emotional, and cognitive – with age appropriate toys and learning activities. Kittendorf said the main objective at Kidz Clubhouse is to make every day “a positive and fun filled day” for the children while providing them a safe and secure environment. She said Kidz Clubhouse aims to meet children’s needs and parents’ schedules with flexible childcare hours.
They are licensed to care for 45 children at one time. There are currently seven full-time employees and eight part-time. The number of employees can fluctuate with the number of children. The lead teachers have a minimum of an early childhood education degree. Kittendorf has her early childhood education degree from Grand Rapids Community College.
Before starting Kidz Clubhouse, Kittendorf worked for Wyoming Public Schools. Besides doing clerical work, she worked in the child care room at the alternative school where high schoolers with small children could leave them while attending classes. That background and having children of her own made her realize the importance and need for dependable and flexible child care in the area.
Kidz Clubhouse contributes to Northwest Little League teams, Comstock Park Athletic Boosters, and the Comstock Park Education Foundation. “I am also passionate about helping build the lacrosse program at Comstock Park,” Kittendorf said, noting that two of her sons play.
Kittendorf, grew up in Walker and graduated from Kenowa Hills High School. She and her husband moved to Comstock Park in 2004. They have three sons (a senior, a sophomore and a fifth-grader) who attend Comstock Park Schools. When she isn’t working she enjoys crafting, golfing, and spending quality time with her family.
Cookie Monster might want to move to Comstock Park just to be near Cookie Chicks. Owners Holly del Rosario and Tami Pelham, who started the cookie making business in 2015, moved to 3979 West River Dr. in downtown Comstock Park in 2017 to accommodate their expansion into making Fruit Bouquets for 1-800-FLOWERS.
They had been operating out of del Rosario’s home in Ada where she has a commercial-grade kitchen, but when they acquired a contract with 1-800-FLOWERS in December 2016 to do Fruit bouquets they needed a space dedicated to their growing business. del Rosario said the Comstock Park location has worked well for the business.
“When I was considering locations for my business, I didn’t really know about it (Comstock Park), she said. “When I read an ad on Craigslist about a great space, centrally-located to all the highways, plenty of parking with an address on the busy West River Drive with reasonable terms, I knew that I would not find any better fit than here.”
del Rosario said the location, along with support of the community has worked out so well that they are looking into expanding into a nearby space. They’ve already brought other small food start-ups such as Lost Village Pierogi and Julie’s Pies of Rockford into the kitchen “to give them a chance to test the viability of their business.”
Cookie Chicks make “bake to order” cookies made with natural ingredients – pure cane sugar, pure vanilla – and no preservatives. Their motto is “a Cookie Chick cookie is worth the calories.” The business is by order and many of their customers are corporations who order gift boxes of cookies for clients or cookies for events. The product is made and delivered the same day. With the partnership with 1-800-FLOWERS, they expanded into doing bouquets of flower-shaped fruit, and they do a combo of fruit and cookie bouquets, including custom made bouquets. Pictures of their creations can be seen on their Facebook page. Cookies can be custom packaged with a special logo or for a holiday or special occasion like a birthday. Their delivery area extends west to Lake Michigan, north to Cedar, south to Middleville, and east to Lake Odessa.
The revamped space is a homey kitchen with white cupboards the two found at a Habitat for Humanity Restore. A massive ten by four foot stainless steel table dominates the main room, and there is a stainless steel refrigerator, commercial sink, and a microwave. del Rosario said the idea was to make the kitchen “look less commercial, more like a homey feel for other uses.” The 750 square foot space is available to rent for events like cooking or wine and bouquet classes. There are a couple of bistro tables and chairs in front of the shop so people walking or riding bikes on the White Pine Trail can sit and have a cookie and coffee. There’s even treats and water bowls for canine friends.
del Rosario and Pelham met while volunteering at the Cannonsburg Challenged Ski Association, a program that provides adaptive ski lessons for people with disabilities. Pelham, who lives in Lake Odessa and works for the State Department of Human Services in Lansing, brought cookies for the kids and volunteers who raved about good they were. In 2015 del Rosario was looking for a job after being downsized from her job in communications marketing at Amway, and they went into business.
del Rosario has a degree in marketing from the University of Connecticut and a Master’s degree in international marketing from Thunderbird University in Arizona. She lives in Ada with her husband who is an engineer. The couple has one grown son and one who will be a freshman at Kent Innovative High School. When she’s not working (which is rare) she enjoys cooking, skiing, time with family and friend, going out with their two therapy dogs, and volunteering.