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New consignment shop on Grand Rapids' West Side brings conscious consumerism to the fore with style

When it comes to making conscious buying choices that are earth- and community-friendly, sisters Erin Gant and Katrin Ophoff are ready to make a career out of it. Based on a firm belief that it's critical for all of us to be conscious of how our choices impact the planet, our community, society, and culture, the two have opened The Conscious Collective Consignment shop at 445 Bridge St. NW.

With 1,700 square feet and some large storefront display windows, the shop is bright and inviting, welcoming customers to browse the aisles of gently used men's and women's fashions, plus-sized and maternity clothing, and home décor items.

The store also features new products handmade by local artisans, such as Kathleen "K.C." Andrews' Gatsby skirts made from men's dress shirts, Kristen Lundy's tree of life necklaces made of metals and chipped stones, and Joy Pryor's outdoor candleholders from repurposed glassware.

Consigners and artists will be able to track the sales of the items they drop off at the store through an online system, says Ophoff.

"They get an email invitation and a consigner number ID and can see how we've priced the item and how much it sold for," she adds, noting that consigners get 40 percent of the selling price, while artists get a bit more. "They can then request a check for the item, or if they want to use the sale as in-store credit, they get an extra five percent of what each item sold for."

The sisters did most of the store renovations themselves, recycling wood salvaged from walls inside the building and using repurposed apple crates for shelving -- all of which complements the timeless atmosphere created by the original wood floors and high tin ceilings.

Feb. 8 (10 a.m. to 8 p.m.) and Feb. 9 (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.) are the grand opening dates with fun activities planned for both days.

Store hours, beginning Feb. 10: Mon. - Sat. 10 - 7; Sun.11 - 4.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Erin Gant and The Conscious Collective Consignment

Planned renovation of 820 Monroe NW into apartments, retail could generate $1.7M annual spending

The Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Exemption Certificate request (OPRE) regarding the proposed renovation of the former Sackner Products Plant into a residential and retail venue predicts the project could generate some $1.7 million in annual spending once it's completed and fully leased.

The proposed renovation by 616 Development includes converting the four-story circa 1924 building into 89 market rate apartments, plus ground floor retail and hospitality spaces.

The Monroe North Tax Increment Financing Authority approved the OPRE, freezing the tax value of the existing building plus any new tax increment revenues for 10 years, an estimated amount of $27,700 per year. After 10 years, the property could generate $115,000 per year in new tax revenues.

The project could run some $21.8 million and, says Chris Knape of SeyferthPR, spokesperson for 616 Development, "other incentives will be required that are pending. Start/completion dates will depend on timing of approval of the incentives and finalizing construction financing." Knape did not elaborate on what the other incentives are.

"There is an incredible amount of energy in the Monroe North neighborhood thanks to projects like the restoration of the Grand River and Michigan State University’s purchase of the former Grand Rapids Press properties," says Derek Coppess, owner of 616 Development, in a recent email. "We believe bringing a mixed-use 616 Lofts community to 820 Monroe will add to the vitality of the neighborhood while helping to meet strong demand for market-rate apartments downtown."

820 Monroe has been used as commercial space for a number of businesses, but as of the December OPRE request, the 156,000-square-foot building was only 50 percent occupied and had been certified by the city assessor as an obsolete facility.

Other projects by 616 Development revolve around apartment communities called 616 Lofts that are in historic buildings scattered throughout downtown Grand Rapids, including loft spaces above Flanagan's (Pearl St.), apartments above the Grand Rapids Brewing Co. (Ionia and Fulton), and apartments in the historic Kendall Building (Monroe Center NE).

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Renderings courtesy of 616 Development and Integrated Architecture

Cherry Park welcomes new public ice skating rink

Amid continued frigid temperatures and abundant snow, some Grand Rapids residents are finding the silver lining in the polar vortex with Cherry Park's newly completed ice skating rink. The East Hills Council of Neighbors hosted a Winter Party on January 25 at Cherry Park, located at 725 Cherry St. SE, to celebrate their recently completed rink. They hope the rink will give community members who brave the cold the opportunity to enjoy an urban neighborhood park during the winter months.

"In the winter time you see a lot of your parks full of snow and not being utilized," says Matt Stephens, an East Hills community member who was enjoying the ice rink with his family. "It's a great space to utilize a little better with an ice skating rink or snowman competitions or whatever. It’s a great opportunity all the way around for kids to get out and play a little bit and have some fun."
Public skating rinks, which were once popular in Grand Rapids' communities throughout the 1940s, 50s and 60s, fizzled out of popularity in the past few decades. The East Hills Council of Neighbors hopes to return to a time when both ice skating rinks and urban parks were an incredible community resource.
"[The park] is an active option for people to participate in a four season neighborhood. Cherry Park is open year round and the ice rink really helps to promote that," says Rachel Lee, an East Hills Council of Neighbors representative.
The opportunity to establish the Cherry Park Ice Rink was provided by Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. The rink was built with the sponsorship of neighborhood businesses like Brewery Vivant and Urban Pharm. Individual donors were also encouraged to sponsor the effort and dozens of skates were donated for rental in support of community skating.
"It's just another amazing collaboration of how business and neighborhood come together to make something happen for the community," says Lee.
John Wiegand is an intern at Rapid Growth Media.
Photos by John Wiegand.

Holland BPW unveils new clean energy electric generating "park" with greenway trails, education

The Holland Board of Public Works (HBPW) has unveiled its architectural design for its proposed natural gas-fired electric generating facility for the city of Holland, a 26-acre site at 5th St. and Fairbanks Avenue. The new plant will replace the outdated coal-burning waterfront James DeYoung plant.

Highlights of the design include:
•    a 50-ft.-high glass wall on the south side that enables visitors to watch the equipment and processes at work
•    a red ceramic fiberboard "spine" that creates an observation gallery
•    walkways, roads, and parking areas heated by a snowmelt system powered by the plant
•    walking paths that could eventually connect to the nearby Macatawa Greenway
•    a green roof, permeable pavement, bio-swales and rain gardens to capture stormwater runoff
•    fencing, gates, and picnic tables made from the 20,000 cubic feet of concrete recycled from the demolition of existing structures on the site

"We want this to be an educational resource," says Dave Koster, HBPW general manager. "We will have lots of tours, and we'll have about 26 acres for buffer space around the facility, close to greenway systems and destination points. The public can use it and be on the grounds to enjoy the natural trails around the property."

Koster says planning began about 10 years back when ideas were put forth to increase capacity of the DeYoung plant by adding another coal-fired facility. After several studies, a steering committee of 20 local stakeholders gathered public input and decided to build the 114 megawatt gas-fired energy park and to establish it in a location away from the Lake Macatawa shoreline as an eastern gateway to the city.

The HBPW has purchased some 50 of the 60 properties needed, offering fair market value plus extra percentages to homeowners on those parcels, and has purchased commercial parcels and helped relocate those businesses. Demolition of existing buildings begins after the Tulip Time Festival, and after local nonprofits Homecor and Jubilee Ministries have opportunities to harvest usable furnaces, water heaters, and other equipment from the structures.

Koster expects the plant will be fully operational in 2016.

To learn more, visit p21decision.com.

Architectual design: HDR, Inc.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Thierica Display Products expands inner-city plant, keeps jobs in Grand Rapids

Thierica Display Products, a maker of custom-etched plastics and other items for the automobile industry, found a way to expand its existing Grand Rapids plant despite being landlocked in a mostly residential neighborhood.

A 9,500-square-foot addition to the plant's facility at 900 Clancy Ave. NE was made possible by employing some engineering ingenuity. The expansion was needed to accommodate new equipment, more workers, and to renovate the employee break/dining area.

"What's been unique about this is it's in a residential area, and every time they go to expand they say 'maybe it's time for us to move and build a new plant,'" says Mike Kelly, president of Wolverine Building Group. Kelly says this is the fourth time he and Wolverine have worked on an expansion at Thierica. "They looked at their employee base, and many of them walk to work from the neighborhood, and it would create a hardship for their employees."

In the past, says Kelly, Thierica has purchased surrounding residential properties in order to expand.

But this time the company was able to build the expansion in an area that was the stormwater retention basin. The old basin was removed and a new one constructed under a surface parking lot, with piping run underground along Lafayette Avenue. A new surface lot was added on top.

The expansion enables the company to gear up for new business while keeping advanced manufacturing jobs in the inner city.

Thierica officials were not available for comment.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Growth in medical malpractice law, corporate law means more jobs at Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge

As law firm Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge rounds out specific practice areas and looks to grow others, new attorney positions have opened up.

The firm's 92 attorneys work out of four offices across Lower Michigan: the firm's headquarters in the renovated Ledyard Building in downtown Grand Rapids, and outlying offices in Ann Arbor, Traverse City, and Muskegon.

Two new attorneys will join the medical malpractice area in Grand Rapids, two more will join the Ann Arbor medical malpractice group, and a new shareholder in the corporate and real estate practices comes aboard next month.

These new hires, along with the addition of some seven attorneys in the past 16 months, keep Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge moving forward by having the right people in place at the right time, says Chief Operating Officer Lori Gibson.

"It's an exciting time here," says Gibson. "We are evolving and growing as a firm, and we are expanding and rounding out our practices in certain areas. I'm just thrilled about the new people coming on; these are some fantastic hires, and we're very excited about them."

When asked if there are any other immediate openings for newly graduated or experienced attorneys, Gibson says that the firm's focus is to get these new hires comfortable with the company culture and actively serving clients.

"With a firm our size, bringing on five new people in the next month or so, that's a lot," Gibson says. "We need to get those folks onboard, get them trained and integrated into the firm. But we have some areas that we would like to enhance, so we're keeping our eyes open and if the right person comes along we'll talk them."

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Kendall Building's Osteria Rossa, the "red tavern" casual Italian eatery, aims for March opening

It's been in the works for months, and now Chef Christopher Perkey, owner of Osteria Rossa, says he's looking at a possible March opening date for the casual Italian eatery.

Osteria Rossa, which translates loosely to "red tavern," occupies the main floor of the recently renovated historic Kendall Building, 16 Monroe Center Ave. NE, at the crossroad of Fulton St. and Division Avenue, the bull's-eye center of Grand Rapids.

Monument Park
, which is in the midst of a total renovation, is just steps away from the front door and will be an integral part of Osteria Rossa's outdoor dining experience.

"We have gotten permission from the Grand Rapids DDA to expand the dining area into the park," says Chef Perkey. "It will wrap around by the trees and grass. We'll be the only restaurant in Grand Rapids where you can eat in a park. The whole front of the restaurant will open so customers can move in and out, and we'll be able to serve beer and wine out there."

Perkey says the cuisine and atmosphere will be the most casual type of Italian dining you can find in Italy. Wood-fired pizzas, house-made pastas and sausages, breads from Field & Fire, soups from scratch, and farm-to-fork ingredients fill the menu.

Perkey hopes that his family-friendly meals and hours will entice families visiting the Grand Rapids Children's Museum to venture down a few doors for lunch, supper, or a mid-afternoon snack.

"We'll be kid-friendly," says Perkey, a father of three. "If they want noodles with butter they can have that, or maybe an interesting shaped pizza, and we will have spaghetti and meatballs."

Anticipated hours: Lunch, dinner, and evenings, Mon-Fri.; dinners and evening, Sat.

Design: Lott3Metz Architects
Construction manager: 616 Development  

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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West Michigan Archery Center attracts diverse group of shooters, aims for mid-summer opening

Construction of the West Michigan Archery Center's new $1.15 million tournament-level building will be ready for its first round of shooters this summer, but in the meantime, the organization has attracted a diverse group of shooters of all ages.

The new hub of activity is underway at 3500 10 Mile Road, Rockford, and shares a driveway with the Art Van Sports Complex next door. A 10,000-square-foot building will be fully ADA compliant to encourage athletes of all abilities, and will feature a 6,000-square-foot indoor shooting bay with 24 lanes and a concession area. One huge advantage that allows West Michigan archers to compete on home turf during cold weather are heated shooting booths that keep archers warm but allow them to aim for outdoor targets up to 90 meters away.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the club is that athletes of all physical abilities and all ages can participate.

"One of the things I think is the coolest about our group, is that, even though it's centered in a predominantly white suburb, we've managed to attract a diverse culture," says Josh Zuiderveen, the nonprofit archery association's secretary. "We haven't tried to do that; it's just happened on its own. We have a five-time national champion who happens to be a teenage girl who is African American, we have a lot of young women who do really well in tournaments, and we have a 10-year-old boy who has been shooting with us about two years who has dwarfism. He competed in the World Dwarf Games in Lansing and won for archery, beating out adults."

Zuiderveen says many of the young people in the organization have learning disabilities, including attention deficit disorder and autism.

Many of the young archers participate in the Junior Olympic Archery Development program, which has 16 men and women who are certified coaches and help the athletes develop their skills for competition.

Besides competitive archery, the center also offers practice space for bow hunters. The association plans to hold tournaments at the new facility. A past location has been Rockford High School, which had over 100 competitors from around the state last year.

Until the new center is completed, participants will continue to meet for practices and competitions at Rockford Sportsman's Club banquet hall.

The center received a $500,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, and a $250,000 grant from the Easton Sports Development Foundation.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Lansing's FLEXcity Fitness brings no-contract cardio/core classes to new Grand Rapids studio

With an eye to expanding their fitness studios throughout Michigan, FLEXcity Fitness owners Jenny Quinn and Trista Parisian opened their second location on Jan. 16, the two-year anniversary of the opening of the duo's flagship Lansing studio.

The new fitness center at 629 Michigan St. NE, Grand Rapids, next to Urban Mill Cafe, offers more than just plenty of space with lots of natural light. It also brings FLEXcity's brand of group workout cardio and core strength combination classes to the city.

Quinn says she and Parisian developed their "concept of 'flex' based on an interval-based studio -- 25 minutes of cardio, 25 minutes of core strength, and six minutes of flexibility in each class."

Parisian chimes in, saying each class starts with "half the participants on cardio and half on the floor getting personalized attention," and every few minutes, participants switch places. "Every day of the week the intervals are different. Today we did five-minute intervals with people on cardio for five minutes, then on the floor for five minutes working a lot of core and strength."

FLEXcity Fitness offers contract-free workouts: participants pay by the month or buy punch card packages that carry a six-month expiration and allow clients to work out according to their availability. Classes are limited to 16 people, and every first class is free.

Workout equipment ranges from typical treadmills and spin cycles to TRX and barre.

"We wanted to expand the concept and the brand across the state," Quinn says. "Grand Rapids is a growing city. We looked for a likeminded population similar to our clientele in Lansing. We worked with M Retail, and when we walked into the space, we knew it was a perfect fit. It's easy for people coming from all directions to reach us because it's close to downtown and right off the highway."

FLEXcity Fitness offers early morning, afternoon, and evening classes. See the website for schedules and pricing.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

More development planned for open parcel next to Brewery Vivant in East Hills

A surface parking lot sandwiched between Brewery Vivant and Grove Restaurant on Cherry St. SE could be the next prime urban living location if developer David Green's vision moves forward.

Green, owner of development firm Archipelago Equities and a former real estate developer with DP Fox Ventures, plans to build a 16,000-square-foot mixed-use building with three condominiums, indoor parking, and retail space.

Green is the brother of John Green of Locus Development, the company that developed the entire parcel encompassing a former mansion, chapel, and funeral home into what is now Brewery Vivant, Maru Sushi, and Windsor Cottage.  

The main level of the four-story structure will have 1,500 square feet of retail space along Cherry St. SE, with an indoor parking entrance on the north side for condo owners. Three condos will occupy floors two, three, and four. Green and his wife will live in one of the condominiums.

"We are purchasing the land from an entity that includes myself, John Green and Andy Winkel, operating under Locus Development," David Green says. "Over the last two years, my wife and I have been exploring different living opportunities around town that are urban, and nothing really quite fit. We were out for dinner one night and I was reminded that we still had that lot. It's close to downtown, it's a great neighborhood, we love the shops, we love the restaurants, it's just got a great feel to it."

The project still has to land approvals from the Grand Rapids Historic Preservation Commission, the city Planning Commission, and the neighborhood and business district stakeholders, Green says. The process should take several months of planning and meetings before work can begin.

Construction manager: Rockford Construction
Architect: Integrated Architecture

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Planning a wedding is a piece of cake with EngagementGR wedding professionals collaborative

From selecting the right photographer to ordering a cake, choosing table decorations, creating a theme, getting a church and a reception venue and food and a dress and tuxes and… planning a wedding can be a nightmare. But a new collaborative of West Michigan wedding professionals aims to help brides and grooms sleep easy.

brings together six different wedding specialties so the happy couple can find everything they need for their big day in one place. The group formed in summer 2013, bringing together several small local businesses in the wedding industry: March 27 Designs event designers, Bethany Wish hair stylist, It's Personal by Sweet Cakes Design wedding cakes maker, James Richard Fry Photography, Flowers by Jireh, and Vue Design custom bridal gowns.

"Our dream is to have someone buy into the whole package as a team and hire us all, but brides choose their vendors at different points during the planning process," says Mara Olson of March 27 Designs. "We're all still running our own businesses, but when [we] need to recommend [another wedding professional], we have this group of vendors who are used to working together to choose from."

Olson says brides and grooms have the freedom to choose any of the vendors they're comfortable with, and aren't required to hire all of them. The advantage lies in working with a team of wedding professionals who, rather than compete with each other, collaborate to make each wedding the best it can be.

EngagementGR began as a yearlong project, and Olson says they are coming into the busy bridal season now, six months in. This summer, the group will reassess the collaborative effort and determine their next steps.

To contact any of the wedding professionals involved, or to find out more about them, visit EngagementGR here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Bargain hunters paradise: one website pulls Craigslist, eBay, others together for shoppers, sellers

It all started as an idea for getting rid of the junk left behind when relationships dissolve. But now breakupgoods.com has become the go-to site that pulls together items from Craigslist, eBay, AutoTrader, and other sell-your-stuff websites, and lets shoppers and collectors arrange their wish lists into Pinterest-style boards.

Tom Liravongsa, a computer programmer, came up with the idea in 2010 after two friends purchased expensive used cars at hugely discounted prices because the cars had been left behind after relationship breakups.

But back in 2010, the developer tools to pull information from sales sites automatically wasn't available. Liravongsa pulled a few thousand items manually, then the site went viral with over two million users in a month, and the supply just wasn't there.

"The important piece is that the site knows the general location of where you are and shows all the products for sale near you," Liravongsa says. "You don't need to now look at all these different websites -- it pulls from hundreds of websites where people sell items -- we find that users are using it as a search engine to search Craigslist, eBay, and others all at the same time."

Breakupgoods.com also offers a "tag it" button that resides on your browser bar and acts much like the Pinterest "Pin It" button: when you're on a site and see something you want to buy, you simply tag it and add it to one of your boards on breakupgoods.com.

The site searches by location to find items for sale near the user's location. Users can also search by category or city and state. And users can post items to sell.

Liravongsa says the site received a $95,000 investment boost from Start Garden and re-launched in December 2013. In its first month, breakupgoods.com drew some 260,000 users.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Midwife, doula hope to bring new life to Cherry St. with first West Michigan birthing suite

Midwife Sara Badger of Simply Born @ Home and doula Juliea Paige of Crowning Lotus Doula Services hope to bring new life to Cherry St., both figuratively and literally, with the creation of Cedar Tree Birth & Wellness birthing suite at 915 Cherry St. SE.

The three-story house next to Grove restaurant will soon be home to a whole host of pregnancy and birthing aids that will give healthy moms-to-be several options for bringing their babies into the world in a non-hospital setting. These moms don't want the medical intervention often encountered in hospitals, yet don't want to, or can't, give birth at home.

Paige and Badger say this will be the first such facility in West Michigan.

The birthing suite -- not to be confused with a birthing center -- will see two to four births a month. The second story of the house is under construction to become an open floor plan apartment with all the comforts of home: living room, kitchen, bedroom, and bath. Expectant moms can give birth using the services provided by Badger and Paige.

"We work only with really low-risk birth moms," Paige says. "We develop a detailed birth plan, go over every avenue of what could happen, and make the decisions on how to handle that if it happens. When you're in [the midst of giving birth], it's hard to remember what you've learned, so I'm like the lighthouse in the fog -- we've made a game plan, we're going to stay on the path, and we work intuitively to fulfill that need."

The main floor of the house will be home base for meetings with parents, workshops on birthing and healthy pregnancies, and is available for rent to groups who need meeting space.

The attic area will be an office/resting area for midwives and doulas, so they can take a break during the lag times of labor.

Cedar Tree Birth & Wellness will open in April 2014.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Former auto service building in East Hills on drawing board for redevelopment

The former Dan Gietzen Auto Service building at Wealthy St. SE and Henry St. SE, Grand Rapids, could be the next defunct gas station to be repurposed in the growing Wealthy Street business district. The station at 701 Wealthy St. SE sits directly across Henry St. from another former gas station that was renovated and opened as Donkey Taqueria (665 Wealthy St. SE) in late 2013.

Eagle Development of Michigan, owned by Bob Graham, purchased the building in December with the intent to preserve the historic look and feel of the gas station. Graham, who owns Jonny B'z Dogs and More just a few doors west, says he'll spend the next few months gathering ideas from the East Hills neighborhood, the city, and the Historic Preservation Commission before deciding how to redevelop the building.

"We're not sure what we'll be doing with it," Graham says. "We may move Jonny B'z over there, but that will depend on what the city says we can do with it -- if we can't be open until 3 a.m. like we are now, then we'll do something else with it. We know we can't really do anything if we don't have the support of the neighborhood and the city and the historic preservation commission. We think it's a little presumptuous to say we're going to develop it to be this or that. We want to share ideas and hone it in and head in one direction."

Graham hired architect Jeff Hunt of Architect at Large to develop a preliminary concept of what the building might look like after renovation with the overhead doors and large glass windows still intact. The East Hills Council of Neighbors will get a look at the drawings at a public meeting at 6:45 p.m. on Jan. 13. Graham also plans to meet with the Grand Rapids Planning Commission in Feb., and the Historic Preservation Commission.

He hopes to have all approvals in place by June so the renovation can begin.

Rachael Lee, director of the East Hills Council of Neighbors, says she is excited to see the creative reuse of the old gas stations in the neighborhood and the new vitality on its way to the Wealthy/Henry corner with the development of Donkey Taqueria and the future ELK Brewing Company (700 Wealthy St. SE).

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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With new name comes new focus on repair of game systems, phones, computers for former Play N Trade

Change is on the horizon for the former Play N Trade franchise in Muskegon, and that change involves a new focus on repair services for handheld game systems, game console systems, mobile phones, and computers.

Electronic Entertainment Exchange, Inc. (E3) purchased the former Play N Trade franchise at 5506 Harvey St. and will relocate it this spring to 222 Seminole Road under the new name of E3 Trade N Repair. The new location, formerly the site of Bitz Computer Repair, will undergo some façade improvements before the store moves in.

Customers are still able to trade in games and purchase game-related accessories like they did at Play N Trade, but will have the added convenience of being able to drop off their broken gaming systems for repair and save a bit of money, says Ron Kuszewski. Kuszewski owned the Play N Trade franchise and will stay on at E3 as general manager.

"We have accessories and games for all game systems going back to Atari days," Kuszewski says. "We can work with any game-related item. Vintage game systems parts are not readily available elsewhere, and there's really nobody who fixes handheld game systems like Nintendo DS, DS Lite, DSI, or 3DS. We repair all of them."

Kuszewski says customers can also drop off broken tablets, MP3 players, and laptops for repair.

The store, still located on Harvey St. until the move, has made the shift to the repair services and is accepting electronics for repair now. E3 Trade N Play employs three certified repair technicians. Kuszewski says most repairs take just two to five days.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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