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Maru Sushi & Grill on track for August opening in Grand Rapids' East Hills

Right now, passersby see only bare concrete walls, ladders and construction debris through the two walls of windows in a new building along Cherry St. SE. But over the next weeks, Maru Sushi & Grill will come into being as millwork, furniture, paint and a kitchen take shape inside.

The restaurant, owned by Robert Song, who also owns an Okemos restaurant by the same name, should be open by late August or early September, bringing the area an authentic Japanese steakhouse experience with a twist.

"We're known for sushi, but we're not a sushi restaurant," Song says. "I have Japanese steakhouse chef experience of ten years, so we'll offer grilled steak, chicken and seafood, plus salads and soups. In Okemos, the grill part of it became so popular we had to change up to larger equipment."

Song's wife, Kelly Hong, an MSU interior design educator, is designing the interior to create an atmosphere to complement cuisine that's deeply rooted in "the traditional belief that the goodness of the ingredients makes the food," Song says. "However, we always give it a different interpretation of what it could and should be in this day and age. I have a traditional background in Sushi, my executive chef doesn't, so we're a good mix."

Maru will be open for lunch and dinner, with inside seating for 85 and outside seating for 20. The restaurant and patio area nestle neatly beside Brewery Vivant, and will offer patrons a full bar.

Source: Robert Song, Maru Sushi & Grill
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Booker Barber College opens in Holland, aims to bring traditional barbershops back

Zach Booker wants to bring the traditional barbershop back to West Michigan neighborhoods and he aims to do it by making sure plenty of trained barbers are ready.

Booker, owner of Zach's Barbershop (4064 Chicago Dr. SW, Grandville), will open Booker Barber College at 170 Veterans Dr., Holland on July 17. The college is accepting student applications now, and on that date will be open to the public for $5 haircuts and $7 straight razor shaves.

Booker says many of the first students have transferred from the Booker Institute of Cosmetology, a Booker family institute, and will be working on customers under direct supervision of two barber college instructors. The barber college is located in the former Holland location of the Booker Cosmetology Institute, which also has locations in Muskegon and Hudsonville.

"I own a barbershop and became a barber because I saw the West Michigan area is saturated with cosmetologists," Booker says. "Other barbershops are staffed with cosmetologists, and clients aren't getting the authentic barbershop experience, where they can go in and know that the barber has been trained for 2,000 hours to cut short hair. It's the community connection; you develop friendships, I know my clients, I know their kids."

Booker says there are only five barber colleges in Michigan and Booker Barber College will be the only one in West Michigan. Students will receive classroom instruction and testing in addition to the hands-on training in hair cutting, color, perms and relaxers. The full course takes about a year to complete.

Hours: Tues. - Sat., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome.

Source: Zach Booker, Booker Barber College
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Sacred Roots combines visual art, hair styling to create unique salon in East Grand Rapids

Local artists have a new outlet for displaying their work surrounded by Hollywood Glam décor at East Grand Rapids' new Sacred Roots Salon.

The salon (2237 Wealthy St. SE, Suite 150), situated between Derby Station and Hot Mama's in Gaslight Village, caters to clients' hairstyling needs and doubles as an exclusive art gallery where one local artist a month can showcase his or her works without competing with other artists.

"I love art and supporting local artists," says owner James Garnant. "So the first Thursday of every month we have a cocktail party and a new installation by a new artist goes in."

Zeeland artist Katherine Throne is there through July, says Garnant. Beginning August 2, the salon will feature photographer Mike Kelley, with another artist following in September.

Garnant says he has been a hairdresser for 20 years and the salon helps him fulfill his dream of bring art to the public in a cozy and relaxed atmosphere.

"Hair is an art form in itself, and like attracts like and so it attracts artists," Garnant says. "I'm really big on making this a community gathering space where people feel they're not just getting their hair done but can come and hang out."

Hours: Weekdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Source: James Garnant, Sacred Roots Salon; Carey Potter, Brick House Marketing Group
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Megabus adds Grand Rapids to low-cost express routes between Detroit, East Lansing, Chicago

Megabus will bring its low-cost express bus service to Grand Rapids beginning July 12, with routes to and from Detroit, East Lansing and Chicago.
 
Megabus, a subsidiary of Coach USA, allows passengers to book seats online, which guarantees the seat and eliminates the need to stand in line to buy tickets, says President and COO Dale Moser. The service is designed with a minimal number of stops, so passengers arrive at their destination in nearly the same amount of time they could drive -- an advantage over traditional bus travel, Moser says.
 
"Historically, other bus companies stop eight to ten times, making a three-hour trip four-and-a-half hours, and customers didn't like that," Moser says. "We took a European approach with center city locations for drop offs, and found safe and highly visible locations close to other forms of transportation. We also offer free Wi-Fi on our buses."
 
The Grand Rapids pick-up/drop-off location is the parking area on the southwest corner of Wealthy St. SW and Market Avenue SW, diagonally across from the Amtrak station and a short walk to The Rapid central station.
 
A quick check on trip prices came back with tickets as low as $12 round-trip to Chicago, with the most expensive prices at $17 for the same trip (July 12 arrival and departure) and arrival times just over three hours. A ride to and from Detroit was $12 on the low end and $16 on the high end, with travel time to Detroit of 3 hrs. 15 mins.
 
Moser says Megabus serves over 90 cities, nationwide.
 
Source: Dale Moser, Megabus.com
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Valley City Linen goes greener in Grand Rapids to save 8M gallons of water annually

In the peak of the summer season, Grand Rapids-based Valley City Linen washes about 450,000 pounds of commercial laundry a week. As of last week, the company (10 Diamond Ave. SE) has a water efficient Milnor PulseFlow Technology Continuous Batch Washer (CBW) that will handle about half of that workload using only 0.3 gallons of water per pound, dropping the company's water usage by nearly 8 million gallons per year, says Jeff Jeltema, owner.
 
Jeltema and his brothers Greg and Tim own Valley City Linen, which was started by their grandfather Paul Jeltema in 1935. The company has occupied the 10 Diamond site since 1937, when it was just a storefront and subbed out the laundry. Now Valley City has 180 employees and distribution centers in Traverse City and Metro Detroit, but handles all the laundry processing in Grand Rapids.
 
Valley City Linen was quick to jump on the new technology which was introduced by the manufacturer last December.
 
"We did a major expansion to our washroom in 1995 and put in a CBW then, which used 0.6 gallons of water per pound," Jeff Jeltema says. "But the new technology is so much better, we're cutting our water consumption in half on the CBW and it handles a lot more laundry."
 
Jeltema says the environmental advantages also include using less energy to heat a smaller amount of water and having less dirty water to discard. In turn, the CBW will cut costs and increase the company's cleaning capacity without requiring a building expansion. That could result in future jobs.
 
Source: Jeff Jeltema, Valley City Linen
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Planned $55M GVSU science lab lands $30M in state funding, groundbreaking in 2013

Grand Valley State University has run out of room for educating its science, technology, engineering and math students, but Monday's signing of a state capital outlay bill enables the university to collect $30 million toward a proposed $55 million science building on the school's Allendale campus.
 
Governor Rick Snyder signed the bill in Detroit, enabling the work on the nearly 150,000-square-foot science facility to move forward toward bonding the remaining $25 million and drawing up architectural plans for construction, says Matt McLogan, VP for university relations.
 
"We've had this [facility] planned and ready for the opportune moment, and happily the governor and legislature came together to reinvest in our universities in science, engineering, technology and math programs," McLogan says. "The [existing] Padnos Hall of Science has been full for a long time, which is the reason for the new building."
 
McLogan says the building will be constructed across Campus Drive from the Padnos Hall of Science and will house laboratories, classrooms and faculty offices for programs in biology, chemistry and physics. GVSU hopes to hold the first classes there in the fall of 2015.
 
"Grand Valley has made a significant investment in the health professions, science, technology, engineering and math, and those programs constitute almost half of our enrollment," McLogan says. "These programs produce high-quality graduates in professions where there are not graduates to meet demand in Michigan."
 
Source: Matt McLogan, Grand Valley State University
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Changes at Grand Rapids' historic Wealthy Theatre could draw larger productions, aid sustainability

The reopening of Grand Rapids' Wealthy Theatre eight years ago began a period of transformation for Wealthy St. SE. This year, the theater hopes to once again become a catalyst for bringing more visitors to the neighborhood.

Thanks to a $550,000 capital campaign that is currently in its final fundraising push, the theater (1130 Wealthy St. SE) will be getting some much needed improvements that should help entice larger scale productions to its stage.

Jenny Waugh, marketing manager for Rockford Construction, the company handling the construction, says the main goal for the upgrades is sustainability.

"One thing they want to do, especially because of the old lighting throughout the theater -- the aisle lights and the huge spotlights -- all of those are just traditional lights," Waugh says. "They are very hot, they are very expensive to run and they aren't very flexible. So if you were to replace all of them with LED lights, your operating costs go down tremendously. It's actually safer because they don't get hot like traditional lights do."

In addition, Waugh says the LED lights will offer visual benefits to productions. The light colors will be able to change through the flick of a switch to any color in the spectrum, rather than the current method, which requires the manual switching of a series of color screens.

"It's appealing to higher end or higher production shows," Waugh says.

The theater is also planning to renovate its parking lot, adding green space, center islands, curbs and parking spaces.

Waugh says the theater will add solar panels to the roof and will implement an airlock system at the front and back doors, which will also reduce operational costs. Maintenance improvements will also be made, including fresh paint, carpet and other minor upgrades to keep the building looking nice.

Source: Jenny Waugh, Rockford Construction Company
Writer: Charlsie Dewey, Freelance Reporter

Grand Valley State University's Seidman Center in Grand Rapids designed for collaboration

The new Grand Valley State University L. William Seidman Center entered its final year of construction this summer. The new 110,000-square-foot building (50 Front St. NW, Grand Rapids) will house the entire GVSU Seidman College of Business and serve its more than 3,200 students.

In designing the building, special attention was paid to the need for teamwork spaces and places for business clubs and groups to meet. Several classrooms are designed to facilitate group work, and there are designated spaces for the college's six community outreach centers.

In addition to 15 general classroom spaces, the building also includes 14 team rooms that students can reserve.

"One of the things we'll have that we haven't had so far is what we call a room wizard," says Dean H. James Williams. "It's what Steelcase calls its technology. Students will be able to use this technology [online] to reserve spaces without actually showing up to reserve those spaces."

Williams says there will also be rooms equipped with Lecture Capture technology, which videotapes and audiotapes lectures and archives them for students and community members to access later.

The building will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified, and Williams expects it will achieve silver status. A couple of unique sustainability features include a first floor shower for bicyclists and a station for electric cars.

The three-year project is moving along on schedule, with construction expected to conclude at the end of April 2013 and a move-in date that May.

Source: H. James Williams, Grand Valley State University Seidman College of Business
Writer: Charlsie Dewey, Freelance Reporter

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Instructional painting studio offering food, drinks opens in East Grand Rapids

Aspiring artists can try their hand at acrylic painting over a glass of wine or beer at the newly opened Brush Studio (2213 Wealthy St. SE, East Grand Rapids).

The 1,600-square-foot instructional art studio offers two-hour instructional painting classes that take students from a blank canvas to a piece of art worthy of their household wall. Classes cost $35.

"You sign up online based on the painting that you are interested in learning," explains Lisa Jabara, owner of Brush Studio. "We have an instructor that instructs you on that painting -- say, it's Starry Night -- brush stroke by brush stroke from start to finish."

Brush is able to accommodate small groups that would like to reserve a table as well as larger private parties of 20 or more who wish to rent out the entire space. Jabara also plans to offer team-building classes to local businesses, which can be held on or off site.

In addition to painting classes and open painting, the studio has also partnered with nearby Ramona's Table to create food options for customers to enjoy while they work. The restaurant developed a menu of appetizers, sandwiches and salads. The studio will offer several Michigan beers and wines as well as some non-local options. The wine and beer menu includes Oberon, Bells Two Hearted, Little Black Dress and Dreaming Tree.

"It's such a fun atmosphere to have a bunch of people painting. And there's music, and everybody is drinking wine and beer," Jabara says. "It's a great time."

Brush is not just a place for adults; the studio offers family-focused classes on Saturdays and Sundays for parents and their kids.

The store is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for open painting. To learn more visit, www.brushgr.com.

Source: Lisa Jabara, Brush Studio
Writer: Charlsie Dewey, Freelance Reporter

Tech company Springthrough to make leap downtown

You know it's a good sign that when you order new furniture for your growing office, by the time it gets delivered, you need to order more.

That's the situation that rapidly growing technology company Springthrough is facing these days. Their growth has been so dramatic in the past few years that they've decided it's time for a new home, and have chosen 62 Commerce SW in the Heartside District in downtown Grand Rapids to call their own.

They plan to lease both floors of the 13,500-square-foot building that sits wedged between 38 Commerce SW and Pyramid Scheme. The vacant, ornate brick and wood-beamed building dates back to the early part of the 1900s, when the historic Heartside District and Commerce Avenue went through a building boom. Commerce Avenue has seen another bit of a boom in the last 10 years, making it one of the fastest redeveloping areas in downtown.

According to LeeAnne Williams, marketing director at Springthrough, the company embarked on the strategy to find new space in November of last year, which had only become more imperative in 2012. They currently are housed in two former industrial buildings on the NE side of Grand Rapids. While certainly not a bad area, Williams explains that "having our workers in two separate buildings isn't the best situation for employee morale."

Springthrough has nearly 50 employees, and are "hiring weekly," according to Williams. They've had great success finding local internship talent out of Grand Valley State University, but do find it challenging to find good software developers and architects.

"We feel that downtown has the look, fit, feel and atmosphere for our people," says Williams. Moving into the new building in September of this year will give them the ability to put everyone under one roof, and provide expansion space for the foreseeable future.

Springthrough, founded in 2000 by Mike Williams, provides software solutions in five practice areas: managed services, support services, interactive services, app development and technology solutions consultants. Their customers are located throughout the Midwest and U.S., including providing Facebook application services for a division of Disney.

Source: LeeAnne Williams, Springthrough
Writer: Jeff Hill, Publisher
Photography: Jeff Hill, Publisher

TreeHuggers, Bartertown Diner partner to bring Grand Rapids a vegan bulk foods grocery

The frustration of trying to find grocery foods suitable for vegan and vegetarian diets could be coming to an end in Grand Rapids. A fresh grocery option could be available as early as next week at TreeHuggers (947 Wealthy St. SE), an option which will offer package-free products for customers to take home in their own containers.
 
"I hate having to get everything in plastic," says TreeHuggers owner Angela Topp. "Grocery stores have everything in plastic, and I've been trying to reduce the packaging. Ryan [Cappelletti] (owner of Bartertown Deli) is able to bring in the sustainable nutritious food, and I can do it without getting all this packaging with it."
 
Topp says the store has combined its food orders with Bartertown's orders from local farms and food producers, so the type of products Bartertown orders hasn't changed, only the quantities have.
 
The store will offer products that include maple syrup, honey, hot sauces, nuts, condiments, sodas by the tap, spices, teas and much more. Ready-made menu selections from Bartertown will be available daily, such as sandwiches and cookies. Plus, there will be a selection of prepared breads from vegan bakeries, says Topp.
 
Customers will be able to pick up a limited number of containers at the store, but are encouraged to bring their own to encourage the reduction of plastics consumption at home, Topp says.
 
Once the grocery aspect of the store launches, Topp says the store hours will become 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.
 
The initial funding of just over $8,000 for the project came from a Kickstarter campaign that Topp says created a lot of buzz and support for the new business.
 
Source: Angela Topp, TreeHuggers
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Six studio apartments on the drawing board for Grand Rapids' Avenue for the Arts

For the past four years, Lucky Chana, owner of Lucky's convenience store on Grand Rapids' Avenue for the Arts (24 S. Division Ave.), has fielded all sorts of questions about the two empty floors above his store -- questions from college students wondering if he has any budget-friendly apartments up there. By this fall, Chana hopes to answer that question with a hearty yes.
 
"We get so many students from GRCC, GVSU and Cooley who ask the same question," Chana says. "They are looking for a medium price apartment, and all the apartments they're building around town are a little bit high end."
 
Chana's plans are to create six studio apartments above the store. He says he's received approval from the Historic Preservation Commission for his plans to restore and beautify the building's façade -- a $40,000 investment for brick repair, new windows and a new store canopy. He hopes to begin construction within the next four weeks.
 
"I think 30 to 40 years ago, there was some type of apartments upstairs," Chana says. "I thought, if I could rehab those into 300- to 500-square-foot-apartments, it will be easy to rent at a reasonable price to these college students. My building looks like an eyesore, along with a couple of other buildings right now, and it's time to do it and make it look better for the area. Hopefully it will bring better business to me and to my neighbors down here."
 
Architectural design: R2 Design Group
Construction: Wolverine Construction
 
Source: Lucky Chana, Lucky's
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Miscellany combines vintage, retail and art for unique store in Grand Rapids' Heartside

With its clean urban décor and an eye to presenting artists' works to the public, Miscellany combines fashion, vintage, new artworks and style for shoppers in Grand Rapids' Heartside district.
 
The store (136 S. Division) is the creation of Patrick Lelli, who designed the shop in a small live/work space built by Dwelling Place. Lelli, an all-around artist with skills in photography, store design, graphic design and music, returned to Grand Rapids after several years of using his talents in Los Angeles and New York City.
 
He divided the space into three sections: one for living, one for the retail store and one for the art gallery. Lelli has a passion for collecting and selling handmade art books. He says his collection is modest right now, but he would like to make the art gallery and the art books a strong focus of the store.
 
The gallery's current show of works by Grand Rapids printmaker Todd Freeman coincides with the release of Freeman's book of his drawings of industrial nets entitled Gather. (Show runs through mid-August.) Lelli is a little surprised at the success of his first two art shows.
 
"About a week ago, the guitarist from the Red Hot Chili Peppers came in when they were here playing at the Van Andel and bought half of Todd's show and took it with him," Lelli says. "And our first show, which was Amanda Acker, had a lot of traffic and she sold out half of her show, as well."
 
The retail side of the shop offers American-made men's and women's clothing from the fifties and sixties by brands like Pendleton and Woolrich, Lelli says.
 
"These live/work spaces are set up for this, like the traditional spaces where people lived in the back of their stores," Lelli says. "It makes it possible financially. My commute's about 30 seconds, and I love being central to everything that's downtown."
 
Store hours: Tues. through Sat., noon to 6 p.m.
 
Source: Patrick Lelli, Miscellany; Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

$1M rehab makes Grand Rapids' Paul Phillips Rec Center the city's newest activity hub for children

A $1 million renovation of one of Grand Rapids' best-kept secrets has transformed the place into a virtually brand new 29,000-square-foot hub for children. Through a partnership between the City of Grand Rapids and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth, the Paul I. Phillips Recreation Center (726 Madison Ave. SE) becomes the newest center for health, education and leadership development for the city's children ages 8 to 18.

The Paul I. Phillips Recreation Center, which has been unused since 2009, features an expansive gymnasium where basketball games, scooter races and volleyball matches will be just a part of a balanced menu of children's activities from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., weekdays.

The renovation includes the creation of a new computer and learning center, an arts and crafts room, classrooms, restrooms, an administrative office and second-level game rooms overlooking the gymnasium, says executive director Rick Huisman.

"We look at the club as a gift where kids can have fun as they learn and make new friends," Huisman says. "Whether they're looking to get help with school work, play video games or play in the gym, they are nurtured as they become our future leaders. There will be structured classes in the gymnasium, in the classrooms, and arts and crafts, but we also want them to have time to do what they want to do and hang with their friends."

The center is open to any Grand Rapids child ages 8 to 18 for $5 a year. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Mon. - Fri., beginning Monday, June 11. Beginning June 18, children will receive a lunch and a snack daily, which is included in the membership price.

The center is the Boys and Girls Clubs' third facility in the city. Club leaders and city dignitaries were on hand for a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tues., June 5.

Source: Rick Huisman, Boys and Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids' John Ball Zoo opens Idema Forest Realm, gift shop; readies for funicular's first trek

High atop the hill that is the backdrop to John Ball Zoo's entrance is a lush, green forest that visitors have never been able to explore … until now. The John Ball Zoo (1300 W. Fulton St.) recently opened its new Idema Forest Realm, threaded with a tree-shaded boardwalk/pathway that leads visitors to the hilltop viewing area to catch an eyeful of scenic views of Grand Rapids.   

The Idema Forest Realm is part of a $12.5 million project, paid for with private funds, to create new adventures for zoo visitors. The three-year project includes an expanded gift shop, a new visitor plaza entryway, three play zones along the forest path, and a multi-function events center called The Bissell Tree House, all of which opened last month.

A much anticipated three-car funicular (tram), which will take riders up and down the hill, will open within the next couple of weeks, says Brenda Stringer, executive director of the John Ball Zoo Society.

"It's in the testing phase right now," Stringer says. "We have to have a computer setting for each foot of track to keep the cars level so the passengers stay level on their way up and down the hill."

Stringer says that even more changes are coming, changes geared to delight visitors and make the zoo the best it can be for its four-legged inhabitants. The Meijer Grizzly Bear Exhibit opens in 2013 and includes a much larger grizzly bear viewing area, the removal of the moat that separates the bears from the fenced boundary, and the addition of a glass wall that will allow the bears to get up close to visitors. Atop the hill, the Jandernoa Children's Tree House (opens 2013) and the Crawford Tiger Exhibit (opens 2014) are in the design phases with construction slated to begin soon.

A $5 million gift from Bea Idema and the Bill & Bea Idema Foundation spurred development of the Idema Forest Realm & Funicular. The $12.5 million raised will fund all of the projects, plus a central services warehouse.

Source: Brenda Stringer, John Ball Zoo Society
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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