A J Bellomo is a sculptor, designer, and former art educator. His works have ranged from commercial construction and community space design/landscape, to residential building/renovation and private gardens. From religious art to signage with sensitivity and warmth, wood carvings have dominated his works.
A Flowering Beginning To a Growing Company
In 1969, a full-time student at Wayne State University and working part-time as a florist for the J. L. Hudson Company’s fresh flower shop, Tony Bellomo had his first encounter with Detroit’s Cobo Hall yearly spring event, the “Homebuilder Flower and Garden Show”. This single event set into motion a career filled with lumber, brick and mortar, flowers and faith.
After graduating in 1970 with a degree in art education and unable to find a local teaching position, Tony continued his parallel career at a family owned shop. The shop specialized in weddings and large parties (bar and bas mitzvahs) particularly for a predominant Jewish clientele. He was soon recognized for his gift of arranging props, flowers and plants in large wedding halls and synagogues and became the head designer for the florist.
Art and Education
In the fall of that year, Bellomo and his young bride landed a teaching position in a Chicago suburb. While heading the art department in Chicago he tripled the enrollment of the program. He wrote a K-12 art curriculum which gained the notice of the L’Anse Creuse, Michigan based school system. Expecting their first child, the Bellomos moved back to the Detroit area to share the joy of their new son with the re-extended family. For the next twelve years, Tony spent his summers developing his building and sculpture skills. While working toward his master’s degree, Bellomo took post-graduate classes in building and estimating and eventually became a licensed residential builder.
In 1981, one of Bellomos former art students (now working for a local lumber company) asked for help designing a display to sell lumber products at the annual spring Cobo Hall “Home Builder Flower and Garden Show”. The owner of the lumber company was sponsoring a contest to promote interest in his products. The winner would receive an all-expense paid vacation to the Bahamas. Bellomo, the design/builder staying true to the theme of lumber sales and south sea vacationing, inadvertently built a display with a deck patio/trellis regaled with palm trees and fresh Polynesian flowers. This was a skill he was quite familiar with from his florist past. The owner of the company was so pleased with the display, he asked Tony to handle his booth at the show and man the display as its designer and builder. That following summer, Tony and three teaching partners built over thirty decks. The following year, they built over 100 decks and soon Bellomos building career was launched.
Leaving a tenured position as the head of the art department with L’Anse Creuse Schools in 1982, Anthony John Bellomo started a fledging building company.
A New Reputation
In 1982, Bryan and Ester Tanury became one of “Black Forest Building Company’s” first cherished clients and friends. The Tanurys have used Bellomo’s company for most of their building projects. Many of Tony’s clients return year after year for new projects, as a need for new and different space continues. Over the next ten years, The Black Forest Building Company gained a stellar reputation for quality workmanship and incomparable design. The company expanded its’ services to full exterior design including landscaping, brick patios, wood carved signage for multi-family projects, upper-end remodeling projects and new homes, from planning to planting the last flower in the garden design to a tee.
One of Bellomos clients, an owner of over thirty multi-residential apartment complexes, noted that Black Forest was their best form of marketing because of the interesting and well designed outdoor features. Signs and gazebos were sought after by many statewide municipalities. While winning many local, state and national awards, the Black Forest Building Company had grown professionally. Wanting to give back to an industry, Tony became president of the remodeling council for the Builder Association of Southeast Michigan, as well as, an active member in the Michigan Landscape Association.
The Big 50
Tony was invited to Washington to receive the designation of one of the country’s top 50 remodeling companies in the nation by Remodeling Magazine. While he was there, he participated in a presidential, round table panel, sponsored by Linda Case, discussing the state of the remodeling industry. At that time, the big box building material suppliers were greatly impacting the remodeling business.
Making Business Personal
Bellomo shifted gears and turned his building company into a private practice. He used his degree in design and the arts and focused on individual clients, giving them one on one personal attention from design to final inspections. “He asks questions about our lifestyle, and then listens to me. Tony made our project personal, asking how we want to live in our home. At first we dreamt the dream, he built it with us, and now we live in our own space that we helped design. Living here is very satisfying” (a quote from a client).
As time has passed, Tony came to the realization that a building is simply an armature for a life style.
In 1984, Tony purchased to old Miller Brothers Creamery on Euclid Ave. in Mt. Clemens, Michigan. Many of the locals still recall summer evenings eating ice cream delights at Miller Brothers. In his first major remodeling projects, he took a turn of the century gravity fed dairy and made it into a multi-tenant office building.
His office still remains along with his studio gallery of his personal art creations and his wife Nancy’s day spa, “Salon Maison Rouge” (a nurturing place with a focus on wellness and personal well-being).
Remodeler Of The Year
In 1990, Black Forest Building Company was honored as remodeler of the year by the Builders Association of Southeast Michigan.
Nana’s, A Growing Place
The Bellomos have teamed up on other such ventures. The builder/educator’s turned their skills to childcare, a personal passion of Nancy’s. A concept drawing that Bellomo drew was placed on their bedroom dresser. Every morning they would see the drawing and it motivated them to turn their dreams into reality. The Black Forest Building Company team built Nana’s, a Growing Place, in 1991 after years of dreaming and planning. The space was designed with the personal touches you would find in your home. Before the first shovel broke the ground, a hand- picked team of sub-contractors were selected for their excellence in their chosen trade, and also for their sensitivity to children.
Bellomo empowered every person involved to work as if they were building for their own children or grandchildren, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews. They were asked at the beginning of the task from foundation to fence, roof to rhododendron, if they saw a way to make the space more child-friendly and safe.
With that spirit, many heartfelt stories of soft music playing, flowers in the garden and always something good to eat in the kitchen, were shared among contractors, as Nancy’s childcare center was built. Building with them added a dimension of freedom that began to influence Tony’s future work. The children loved it. The parents often commented on the loving care that went into each detail of the structure.
Lawrence Technological University commented that the child safety features incorporated in the design were commendable. The City of Troy awarded the outstanding building of the year to “Nana’s”. The Bellomos realized that good childcare was elevated to new level when the buildings purpose addressed the needs of the family.
A second childcare center evolved into a family care center. With multi-use zoning in place, the property encompassed a small restaurant, bank, Laundromat, drycleaners, convenience store clothing resale shop, hair salon and an insurance provider. With these services readily available, the working parents were able to pick up dinner, drop off laundry, get hair styled, do their banking and pick up diapers in one stop. As primary childcare providers, the intent was to offer a time saving convenience center so the parents may have more quality time with their child to read a book or play in the park.
Construction With A Curriculum
The masonry company that Tony had hired to do the block and cement work on the daycare projects, was so intrigued with his approach to building and design, they asked Tony to design a shopping center they were planning to build in Romeo, Michigan. The appearance of the center was its marketing success. It filled quickly because the Black Forest Building Company (under Tony’s direction) constantly maintained and primped the shopping center while seeing to the needs of the tenants. His philosophy was and is simply understood that if he could help them be successful in their business, they, in turn, would contribute to the success in the center.
Tony’s educational background often comes into play in his building projects. Construction with a curriculum is his motto. He hand-picked businesses that complimented one another. By not creating competition among the tenants, a synergy was created in the shopping center that addressed the needs of the surrounding residential community. Within a few short years, the owner of the supermarket, who was the main anchor tenant, bought the center from Bellomo and his partners as a sound investment because of its success as a thriving shopping center.
All the time this large project was happening, Tony continued to do residential projects incorporating his personal sensitivity and care for his client’s personal needs in his buildings.
“Separate But Together”
Tony and Nancy’s personal space has also been adapted to their lifestyle and commitment to the needs of others. In addition to an art and music studio, they built an apartment next to their home for Nancy’s parents. Bellomo, always using himself first to try out an idea, coined the term “separate but together”. The Macomb Daily Newspaper picked up on the story and featured it in their March 2, 1997 issue.
Because of the needs of their own aging parents, the Bellomos are considering the possibilities of working with a professional geriatrician and adult foster care provider to transform the art studio into a more effective adult foster care facility to see to the evolving physical needs of the elders of their family.
Recently, the Black Forest Building Company was asked to renovate “A Room At The Inn”, an adult foster care facility. The owner works closely with small intimate settings to provide care in a family setting.
In the current economic climate, Bellomo is seeing more need to build living spaces that house more than one nuclear family. The concept of “separate but together” is a reasonable solution for two households to peacefully co-exist under one roof. Respect, privacy and dignity are words that Bellomo often uses as he designs and builds living space.
“In The Tradition Of The Old World Craftsman”
When Bellomo left his profession as an educator in 1982 to become a builder, his mission and slogan became “in the tradition of the old world craftsman” building, and is still a primary and a necessity in his company. As his reputation and company grew, the second leg of the stool became “design makes the difference”, as well as, building well with sensitivity to the lifestyle and personal needs of the client.
As Tony matures in this business, he finds himself asking his clients to “dream their dream”. Time is so fleeting and he asks, “if not now, when?”
As an artist, builder and spiritually-charged human being, most solutions depend upon the creative process not the amount of money. How you want to live can be accomplished. If the right questions are asked, a solution will eventually present itself. Unlock all previous paradigms, think creatively and by all means take the time to dream your dream. – Tony Bellomo
A J Bellomo Studios & Black Forest Building Company has received numerous awards and recognitions over the years:
What Others Are Saying…
“They are the cream of the crop for quality craftsmanship, but also, some of the nicest people we have ever met. Black Forest is absolutely in a league all their own.” – Steve and Cheryl Schultz (Troy, MI)
As a home owner, I could not have been happier with the end results and the over all experience of working with this very talented man. I would not hesitate to have Tony on my future projects, and I think he would be a valuable asset to any company using his talent and experience.” – Tom Bagnasco (MI)
“We are thrilled with the results and couldn’t be happier.” – Ken & Dianne Kanaby (Macomb, MI)
“Tony’s sculptures have a quality which makes them alive to the viewer. Each piece gives the experience of catching one’s breath, holding and waiting for the moment when the art will itself inhale and move. The beauty and the compelling movement of the work drew me to him and thus began a wonderful friendship. Tony asked for my input and accepted my comments and then molded a work which is my vision and both our hearts.” – Theresa (Quincy, KY)
“Tony has the skills of listening to the people who will worship and work in an environment. He carefully takes the history and designs an outstanding piece of art that reflects the culture, the charism and the history of the organization. I highly recommend Tony and his team for the creation of the sculpture, prayer and memorial garden. He will reveal the face of God in the beauty of his artistic creations for your and all who visit your site.” – Jean (Grayling, MI)
“His unique blend of exceptional artisan ability coupled with superb interpersonal skills has resulted in several winning combinations of projects. I have been particularly impressed with his ability to present and communicate, not to mention again his versatility as an artist working with various mediums.” – John / ROOT Candles (Medina, OH)
“Tony is a skilled and gifted artist, who works with stone, metal, glass, water, and soil, to sculpt places that are beautiful to look at, and invite contemplation and meditation. Working with Tony has always been a wonderful experience – he has great capacity to listen, and uses his creativity, ingenuity, and craft to make one’s dreams-reality.” – Martin & Connie (Brighton, MI)