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Owner of re.dwell furniture design reimagines warehouse office space at 950 Boston Avenue

With nearly 5,500 square feet of warehouse workspace and 1,647 square feet of personal office space, Dan Chase sees big things ahead for his new collaborative workspace at 950 Boston Street SE in Grand Rapids. 

Owner of furniture design business re.dwell, Chase specializes in giving new life to old materials and has done work for many area businesses, including wood and metal carts for the recently opened butcher shop, E.A. Brady's. So, when he noticed the old building for sale, the idea to buy the space and fill it with other creative entrepreneurs and start-up businesses was a natural extension of his work. 

While Chase is still recruiting committed individuals and businesses for the space, he knows right know that he will be joined by Logan Zilmer of Logan Zilmer Photography and suspects he has room to fit four or five more entities in the shared workspace. 

"The plan my friend and I have – he's the photographer that's going to be sharing the space with me – is to move the walls around to create a bigger gallery space for his photography and my furniture and any other space for whoever else is there to display their work or products," Chase says "Possibly break up some of the bigger offices into smaller, little studios if needed." 

He says he's hoping to hold more art showings in the open gallery space in the hallways, as well as open up an outdoor space next year as the fill the building with tenants. 

Olga Hallstedt, a broker with Results! Commercial Real Estate, represented the investors who purchased the building and said this kind of collaboration makes more financial sense within the context of Grand Rapids development. 

"When a smaller business is able to share the square footage costs with other small businesses, there are economies in terms of splitting utilities, maintenance, etc.," Hallstedt says. 

Chase says 950 Boston Street SE, with re.dwell as an anchor tenant, makes cultural and creative sense, too. 

"It's kind of like what Rockford Development did when they brought Wolverine World Wide (with the Grid70 space), just on a much tinier scale and not with big budgets," he says. "So, a lot of people from diverse creative backgrounds where they can try to help each other even though they're in totally different businesses. I think things have been shifting to the smaller, boutique-type people doing their own thing, making their own way. The space fits the art community here. I think it should do well with that."

Written by Anya Zentmeyer 
Images courtesy of Dan Chase 

Former Literary Life owner moves nonprofit headquarters into former bookstore space

In service to its mission of encouraging, promoting, and celebrating the literary endeavors of writers in the Great Lakes region, the Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters has opened its new headquarters at 758 Wealthy Street SE. 

The organization used to rent out the bookstore space at the Creative Youth Center, but GLCL President Roni Devlin says the shared space led to some confusion when it came to distinguishing each organization from the other in terms of their respective missions. 

"We realized fairly quickly that people were confused about who did what," Devlin says. "Creative Youth Center has a very specific mission themselves and we never wanted to detract from that. We wanted people to know that they shared their space with us but it was confusing for people to know what we were trying to do and what our mission was as an organization."

When the CYC moved into its own new building at 413 Eastern Avenue SE, Devlin moved the GLCL back into the 1,000-square-foot Wealthy Street building that used to house her bookstore, Literary Life, before it closed in 2012. 

Devlin says renovations on the space were primarily aesthetic, but the new digs include a small stage with a piano to be used for literary events and gatherings with comfortable tables, chairs, couches and ottomans gathered around a crackling fireplace. 

 "We wanted to have a space where people could come to write, we wanted to be able to hold events that celebrate their efforts, and we wanted to be able to utilize our connection to the literary world to promote their work and endeavors," she says. "We wanted to be able to schedule workshops and classes and contests that would encourage writers that are actively pursing their craft. We get to fulfill all of those three big components of our mission statement to utilize the space."

To learn more about GLCL's mission, events or its new membership program, visit their website at www.readwritelive.org. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Images courtesy of Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters

GSM Creative kicks off new 'creative incubator" Studio 342 with open house event

Creative directors and co-founders of film and video production company GSM Creative, Matt Lohr and Steve Wygman think of their new space Studio 342 as a "creative incubator."

Located at 342 Market Avenue, the new studio space is designed to support the production of most visual mediums. The studio space includes a green screen as well as black and white photography backdrops, with plans to install a 20-foot "cyc wall," or a big white infinity wall, that curves at the bottom to meet the floor and create a horizon effect.  

Prior to moving into the new space, GSM Creative had been operating out of a small location in Eastown, and Lohr says they felt nested in with a few other film and video production companies and had limited exposure. However, on the day they planned to sign another three-year lease for an Eastown space, the owner of the property at 342 Market called and asked if they were still interested.

Lohr says the new space is perfect. 

"There's an opportunity in being centrally located, [which] I think has opened up some doors for us in terms of being able to reach out to more of the Grand Rapids community," he says. "I think the thing we're all most excited for is being pretty close to the growing art scene in Grand Rapids. When we got started, we were struggling filmmakers ourselves and we want to create a space that's open to other artists, and not just filmmakers - photographers, contemporary artists, painters and other visual creatives."

He says GSM Creative is seeking to expand and grow into a more comprehensive creative hub, hoping to include web and graphic design as well as contemporary illustration and art. 

"We want to become a company that is a one-stop-shop destination for visual communications," Lohr says. "So, if a client comes to us and they need anything from web to video to illustration to print, we can handle it in-house."

Other creatives can also rent space at Studio 342, and though they still have some work left in getting all of the necessary tools for some of the art forms they hope to eventually fill the building with, they do have functional workspace currently for photography shoots. 

Lohr says they don't have a concrete pricing structure just yet, but they plan on making it as cost-effective and affordable as possible. 

"For us, at this stage, this kind of fell into our laps, pretty much," he says. "(The space) became available at the right time and it's an opportunity for us to grow as well as help other young creatives who have a lot of potential. Not even just young, but creatives in all different stages in their careers. We want to make this space affordable and available to them as often as possible."

Studio 342 will debut with a public open house event today at 3 p.m. Visit the event page on Facebook for more information. 

"This is something we've always talked about doing when we first sat down to talk about starting our own film and production company," Lohr says. "We were thinking it might be 5-10 years down the line, but with this building or space that's opened up to us, we can do it now. There's nothing in our way now as far as building something that can be really strong. So, really, our ambition is the limit."

Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Images courtesy of GSM Creative 


Floral shop and boutique opens in old Roxy Theatre building on Plainfield

Elizabeth Schenk never really intended to open her new flower shop, Posh Petals, on Plainfield Avenue; in fact, she never really intended on becoming a florist at all. 

“I did weddings for my brothers and a couple of friends and then somebody got my name and a lot of people just started calling me,” Schenk says. “I actually did something like 20 weddings in my first year, maybe 25. It wasn't necessarily anything I had planned on, I just kind of fell into it.” 

That was six years ago. Schenk says it wasn’t until the end of last year, when realized she’d done floral arrangements for over 100 events, that she decided Posh Petals needed its own work and retail space. She settled on the storefront at 2150 Plainfield Avenue, the former Roxy Theatre, which showed movies at capacity back in its 1940s-era heyday. After that, the building was host to a roller rink, from which Schenk says the original hardwood floors are still intact. 

Dimly lit in hues of ivory and grey, the solitary bright pink wall of Posh Petals represents what the business aims to be – a balance of traditional and modern, with an emphasis on the subtle. 

Posh Petals has a variety of floral arrangements available for walk-in customers or delivery, as well as a cooler filled with fresh blooms and arrangements with a work station where customers can choose their flowers, a vase, add water, and build their own bouquets. 

Posh Petals also sells jewelry from Rose Water Designs in Spring Lake, Green Girl of California tote bags, Library of Flowers fragrances and body products, Trapp Candles, and custom-order wood items like wedding cake toppers and picture frames that can be personalized.   

“We also offer some things that people can buy for weddings or parties or baby showers,” Schenk says. “We have a bunch of vintage china, we have a lot of glassware, and table numbers, and anything else people might want for an event.” 

Want to learn a few tips and tricks from Schenk? Posh Petals will offer a monthly Wine and Design class where Schenk will take attendees step-by-step through one of her own floral arrangements. For upcoming Wine and Design dates, or to register online, visit Posh Petals on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Images courtesy of Nicole Marie Photography

Two Scotts Barbecue looks to fill an industry gap with new traditional Southern BBQ joint

Scott Luecht can describe the menu for he and co-owner Scott Hartmann's new Two Scotts Barbecue in two words (give or take one adjective): well-executed and simple. 

Luecht and Hartman just closed on the 1,000-square-foot building and former home to the Root Beer Stand drive-thru at 536 Leonard Street NW last Friday, with plans already underway to completely gut and remodel the interior. 

“Essentially what we're going to do is keep the bones of the structure - the roof and the outside brick and everything - and we're going to gut the inside and give it a slightly more modern feel,” he says. “If you've ever been to a barbecue place in the South, we want that feel, but we don't want you to stick to your seat when you leave kind of thing. It's clean, it's a little bit modern, but in reality it's all about the food.”

What kinds of well-executed, simple items can you expect to see on the menu at Two Scotts Barbecue? First of all, Luecht says they’ll have a permanent menu with all of Southern barbecue’s “usual suspects”: pulled pork and chicken sandwiches, quarter chicken, brisket and St. Louis-cut rib. 

“We really want to focus on the smoked meats and just offer the best in town,” he says. “All of your usual suspects as far as traditional southern barbecue with the weekly specials where we're going to try something a little more exotic, or entertaining, if you will.”

The menu will also feature made-from-scratch side dish staples like potato salad, coleslaw, mac n’ cheese, and tater tots with root beer on-tap and in bottles for sale – an homage, Luecht says, to the buildings predecessors at Root Beer Stand.

With Mitten Brewing Company and Long Road Distillery across the street from the site of the future Two Scotts Barbecue, Luecht says he and Hartmann figured there were plenty of options for adult beverages, and thought a root beer tap would not only be a nice change of pace, but a nice gesture, too. 

“We also want to keep with the whole Root Beer Stand theme and we really want to have some locally crafted root beer,” he says. “Honestly, I love a beer with almost anything, but with smoked meat there's just something about a nice, sugary, flavorful drink.” 

Luecht and Hartmann hope to eventually convert the parking lot space behind the building into a raised patio for outdoor dining, though demolition on the building's interior has yet to begin at this time.  

In the meantime, the pair will continue working with architect Bryon Speed on the new design and Willink Construction Company to make it happen. Right now, Luecht estimates Two Scotts Barbecue will be officially open for business sometime after the holidays. 

“We're two simple guys and what we want to do is just make really good food and that's the focus of our restaurant, which is to make simple, quality, smoked meat,” he says. “We feel like there's a shortage of it around town so we're here to supply that need. We’ve seen the success and see how great the West side can be with its response to new businesses and desire for new things and we’ve really come to love it here.” 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Images courtesy of Scott Luecht

New self-storage facility to open on ground floor of west side residential development

With the entirety of the upcoming 7th Street Lofts ground floor space earmarked for its fourth Grand Rapids location, Storage Pros Self Storage is looking to the new crop of young professionals moving to the city’s west side to fill the approximately 36,500 square feet of self-storage space come December, when Orion Construction’s residential development project is scheduled for completion. 

Located at 600 7th Street, Vice President of Operations for Storage Pros Management, Peter Spickenagef, says the increase in both project numbers and variety is what made the location so appealing to the Michigan-based company. 

“You don't have a self-storage facility down there, yet you have a lot of residential areas – a lot of apartments, a lot of condos, a lot of industry coming in, too,” he says, adding that Storage Pros has a diverse client base, renting units to many Grand Rapids-area businesses as well as individual residents. 

The largest owner and operator of its kind in Grand Rapids, Spickenagef says the company owns just under a dozen properties in the greater Grand Rapids area, and although they will only be managing the new space at 600 7th Street, he says Storage Pros sees the west side as a growing market worth the investment. 

It's a “Michigan-based company that loves investing in Michigan,” he says. 

The new facility will be fenced in and well lit, with 24-hour security monitoring and climate controlled units for fragile storage items. Among a host of other features available for renters, Storage Pros allows for month-to-month leasing, online payments, 24/7 access, truck rentals, and military and senior citizen discounts. 

“It was intentional to bring a business of this type into the development because of the type of tenant we’re hoping to attract and doing our best to cater to that lifestyle – a lifestyle that involves a busy, young professional more concerned with career than a traditional home,” says Jason Wheeler, public relations coordinator with Orion Construction. “…We try to increase the efficiency of the urban living conditions and having a tenant like Storage Pros offers this ability.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer

Traverse City marketing agency takes off with second location in Heartside

The new Grand Rapids office for Flight Path Creative’s full-service marketing agency may be small, occupying just 400 square feet of office space on the fifth floor of 25 Ionia Ave., but account director and co-founder Dan Smith says for a second location, it’s the perfect fit. 

“That’s one of the benefits, one of the things we loved about Grand Rapids,” Smith says. “What it’s doing right now is making it very easy for businesses to expand here. With some of these groups like CWD (Real Estate) and some others that are rehabbing some of these buildings, they're making it very easy to make that decision because it's relatively low cost to get in and get going."

He says Flight Path Creative has first right of refusal on three other office spaces that would allow for a 1,000-square-foot expansion as they grow the company's Grand Rapids operations.

Smith founded Flight Path Creative alongside Creative Director Aaron Swanker in 2000, tailoring the company from the start to take a more comprehensive, hybrid approach to the branding, marketing strategy, website design & development, advertising, and logo design services they offer. 

They rely on both traditional and new, interactive strategies for building a client’s brand because being able to do a little bit of everything, Smith says, is how they’ve been able to land accounts like Neurocore and The Stow Company, which both operate under the Grand Rapids-based Windquest Group

“You have to have all of those skill sets available because we know that as a company you can't just do web or traditional media, you need to have a combination in order to be very effective, so we wanted to make sure that we could always offer both,” he says. “We were really fortunate because there are some really solid developers and interactive designers on the team.” 

Including Smith and Swanker, Flight Path Creative’s team is 14 strong. He says as the company begins to find its footing in Grand Rapids, they’re going to start out small, but have intentions to grow into both a larger space and a bigger staff, adding that he and Swanker expect Grand Rapids to be “a good pool of resource for hiring new talent.” 

“One our developers is going to be down there in a very short term and Aaron and I will spend time down there back and forth, but the intention is that over the course of time, we’ll really staff up that location,” he says. “But, we're going to do it with the right resources. We're not just going to open the door and start bringing people in, it's got to happen over time.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer 
Images courtesy of Flight Path Creative 

Eastown's Vintage on Lake Drive gives sneak peek before official October opening

When it comes to weddings, Sweet Pea Hill’s Carrie Koster knows first-hand how difficult in can be to achieve the perfect décor. 

She’s been in charge of aesthetics for two family weddings in the past two years and says while do-it-yourself decorating is something she enjoys, it can be time consuming and difficult to find those vintage-inspired items currently trending in wedding décor.  

“We have done a lot of our own work for those weddings and really enjoyed it, but also saw the challenge of coming up with those items that you would like to style your wedding without having to run all over to every garage sale in town looking for 10 metal water buckets or whatever,” she says. 

So Koster has teamed up with her daughter, Audrey Noorman, to focus her 15 years of resale and antique experience into one place: Vintage on Lake Drive, a family-run business. Vintage on Lake Drive will bring together the wedding resale business she and her daughter run, Sweet Pea Hill, with her husband Bruce’s furniture rehab business, Good Pasture Farm

While Sweet Pea Hill focuses on wedding resale and consignment, her husband’s Good Pasture Farms specializes in up cycling and repurposing of industrial and farm-style furniture. Bruce will also give consultations on custom rehab projects for customers who have an inherited antique item, have purchased an item they want customized, or have an antique they can't use in its current form. For example, she says, he's able to take a porcelain stove and turn it into a wet bar. 

“Many people are up cycling and repurposing things but there aren't a whole lot of people you can go to with your dream and say, 'Can you help me with this?'” she says. 

Vintage on Lake Drive briefly opened its doors to customers for walk-throughs only during the recent Eastown Streetfair, but Koster says she doesn’t anticipate opening the 1,100-square-foot space at 1503 Lake Drive officially until the first week of October.  

In the meantime, she hopes to receive more funding to purchase additional resale items through the organization Start Garden, which uses an online voting system to invest in area startups. Though voting closes today at noon on Sweet Pea Hill’s online application, she plans on reapplying if she doesn’t get enough endorsements the first time around.  

“You want that particular style or you want to create an environment for your events, but you don’t necessarily want to own those things forever,” she says.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Images courtesy of Vintage on Lake Drive 

Downtown Grand Rapids' Yoga Heat changes ownership, reopens as Seva Yoga Monroe North

The hot yoga studio Yoga Heat at 1140 Monroe Avenue NW has reopened as Seva Yoga Monroe North, serving as a second location for new owners Melissa and Tobi Tungl, who have owned and operated the original Seva Yoga studio at 2237 Wealthy Street SE since 2012. 

They're purchasing the new location from longtime friend and fellow yoga instructor Elizabeth Sanders, who made the decision to sell her studio in order to focus more on yoga practice and teaching. 

Interest in Seva Yoga’s hot yoga classes has grown steadily since 2012, and Melissa Tungl says the approximately 1,700 square feet at the Monroe North location is built in a way more suited to hot yoga, which is typically conducted in a 90-degree environment to help increase flexibility using heat and humidity.  

“The studio’s practice room ceilings are not really high,” Tungl says, adding that she estimates the ceilings at the Gaslight Village Seva Yoga studio are over 15 feet high. “At Monroe, they actually dropped the ceiling down, so there’s less space to heat.” 

Tungl and her husband have also recently installed a specific floor designed for hot yoga classes. “It is made of material that is antimicrobial, anti-smell, anti-slip,” she says. 

With 12 employees at its new Monroe North studio and nine in Gaslight Village, Seva Yoga offers around 60 classes per week between the two locations, with difficulty levels ranging from introductory to advanced. Tungl says current Seva Yoga customers can use their membership packages at either location. 

“We have a lot of variety now,” she says. “There’s something for everyone.” 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Images courtesy of Seva Yoga

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Seva Yoga opens larger studio, retail store is East Grand Rapids

This little piggy went to market at Muskegon's Boar's Belly

One day, Mike Hennessy went into the kitchen of his restaurant, Hennessy's Irish Pub, in downtown Muskegon to find his cooks chattering about a show they'd seen on television. It was a show all about bacon.

"They were all excited, saying, 'We have got to have a bacon restaurant,'" Hennessy says. "So, I said, 'OK. So if you're going to have a restaurant, guys, what's a good name for it?'"

That was where the idea for Boar's Belly was born. Located in downtown Muskegon at 333 W. Western Ave, it had its official grand opening on August 7 and is now open every day of the week but Monday. While there's definitely an emphasis on bacon on the menu, serving only bacon wasn't feasible for Hennessy. The restaurant serves diverse, farm-to-table food, meaning all of it is bought, grown and made locally. 

"We try to deal with as many as of our local farmers as possible so we know where all of our food is coming from," Hennessy says. "We even bake our own hamburger buns. We have more control over the quality and where the ingredients come from. This way we are sure of what we are serving."

Boar's Belly aims to support Muskegon area businesses and keep the money in the local economy in all of its enterprises. Muskegon's downtown farmer's market provides important local food that Boar's Belly regularly buys for use in the restaurant, especially fresh vegetables.

"We're all excited about the continuing development of the downtown area," Hennessy says. "The farmer's market is a tremendous addition to downtown and there are a lot of other projects going on. We're looking forward to the next few years."

The restaurant is open 11 a.m. to midnight on Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. To find out more, visit its Facebook page.

Written by Nicholas Garbaty, Rapid Growth Media intern 
Images courtesy of Boar’s Belly

Living @ 600 Douglas opens last three units up to more than just a college crowd

As Rockford Constriction’s new 18-unit complex at 600 Douglas Street NW looks for tenants to fill the three remaining units, VP of Business Development Jen Boezwinkle says the modern living space has drawn in a surprisingly diverse group of tenants since the first building opened for tenancy in July.  

"Because of the proximity to GVSU, we thought we would have a lot of students,” Boezwinkle says. “Actually, 90 percent of our tenant make-up right now is not students. It's primarily young professionals, with some exceptions… We're finding a lot of people who don't think this is just GVSU territory. We're finding most of the people coming here really think of this as urban living.”

Although she hasn’t made any exact calculations, Boezwinkle says Living @ 600 Douglas is one of the first multi-unit residential development projects to come to Grand Rapids’ west side in nearly a decade. The modern, 15,000-square-foot complex has three two-story buildings and one three-story building, each offering a mix of apartment styles and sizes that range in price anywhere from $975-$2,100 per month. 

Although the complex is not LEED certified, she says Rockford Construction’s standard building practices include the use of recyclable materials and focus on energy efficiency. 

With a small on-site parking lot, the complex sits on only four-tenths of an acre right up against houses located in a longtime residential Stockbridge neighborhood – an identity which Boezwinkle says Rockford Construction worked closely with city officials and neighborhood residents to build 600 Douglas within the framework of. 

“The idea is not to change that or to in any way dilute from that market,” she says. “We think a really healthy downtown neighborhood is a mix of things and can support people being in different stages of their lives and understanding that some people don't want home ownership; some people don't want to rent something as large as a house.” 

Though 600 Douglas is already within walking distance of Grand Rapids’ center city, Boezwinkle says the idea was to be part of fostering even more pedestrian and cyclist accessibility in the city as an entirety. 

She also says as Bridge Street continues to fill up with more restaurants, bars and retail outlets, she hopes both 600 Douglas and the Stockbridge neighborhood as a whole continue to be home to a diverse group of residents, a concept Living @ 600 Douglas was quite literally built around. 

“We think fundamentally diversity is a really good thing. Diversity in ethnicity, diversity in age, diversity in income levels - all of that helps in the sustainability of a neighborhood. We've been talking a little bit internally about complete neighborhoods and there's a lot of research going on around the country about complete neighborhoods and what makes good, long-term, sustainable neighborhoods,” Boezwinkle says. 
 
“I think history kind of shows that the strongest neighborhoods have a lot of diversity,” she says. “So, that is kind of what we see going forward with future development, a good mix of things going on.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Images courtesy of Rockford Construction & Bill Lindhout

'It's not too far': Grand Rapids plans new wayfinding signage to encourage more walking downtown

As organizers with Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. plan the installation of a new wayfinding system in the urban core of downtown Grand Rapids, they hope new signage will not only act as practical guides for tourists and visitors, but also serve the same larger goal that has been behind much of Grand Rapids’ recent downtown development initiatives – walkability.

“It is meant to be a little more casual and really focused on the time it takes people to walk from one place to another,” says Bill Kirk, mobility manager at Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. 

The Downtown Development Authority approved up to $10,000 for purchasing the corrugated plastic signs from North Carolina-based startup Walk Your City, which provides assistance in the planning, production and implementation of fully customizable pedestrian and bicyclist wayfinding signs in cities throughout the U.S. geared at encouraging more pedestrian foot traffic. 

Kirk says walkability and pedestrian/cyclist accessibility not only makes for a more livable downtown core, but also a stronger retail district. 

“Countless studies and other downtown experiences have shown the increase in pedestrian and cyclist traffic does have a positive effect on retail activity,” Kirk says. “Just from a logical perspective there’s that aspect of, the more people you get walking and riding around your city the more you get to know your city. I think a lot of people find that when they give it a try, they discover things they might not have known were there before, say a little shop or pocket park or something like that. It all fits into the mantra of really creating a walkable, bikeable, livable downtown all built around and on the human scale.” 

Instead of measuring the distance to downtown attractions by mileage, these new signs will offer pedestrians and cyclists more tangible directions like  “It’s a 10 minute walk to Rosa Parks Circle,” Kirk says.

The signs also feature QR codes that can be scanned for more detailed Google Map walking directions, which serves not only the functionality of the signage, but also acts as a built-in performance metric that will help the city understand how the signs are being used and whether or not the pilot project is worth continuing and expanding when the 18-month lifespan of the signage rolls around. 

One of the perks of the system is the ability to easily adapt to how the city is using the signage, Kirk says, adding that they will keep a consistent finger on the pulse of the project and take things like ArtPrize and weather into consideration when evaluating those numbers down the line. 

“I think at the end of the day we just want people, by walking, to connect with their city and with each other more,” Kirk says. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Image courtesy of Walk Your City

SoHo Salon reopens at new location with a focus on VIP, signature salon service

The 300-square-foot, two-seat salon space that makes up SoHo Salon’s new location at 729 Lincoln Avenue may be smaller than its prior location at 419 E. 8th Street, but owner and hairstylist Benito Barron says having a smaller, more intimate space was kind of the point.

“It’s a really boutique-style, signature salon,” Barron says, adding that he painted the walls of the main salon in a light lavender, cocoa bean color and modeled the rear entry to embrace a resort feel. 

Soho Salon’s September 5 grand opening on Lincoln Avenue was not just the beginning of a new location, but the beginning of a new SoHo Salon experience – one that Barron says he tried to model after his Chicago location Salon Atelier, which has enjoyed steady success since opening on the third floor at 2950 W. Chicago Avenue in 2013. 

What this means is that salon and spa services at SoHo Salon are now by appointment only, which Barron says will not only allow for a more intimate setting, but also give him the wiggle room to continue growing his Chicago location, as well. 

“It does create a more intimate setting,” he says, “and we’re not turning away people, we’re just offering something more exclusive. It’s kind of like fine dining.”

With 25 years of experience in cutting hair, Barron has been an educator for 14, teaching at Stanley Harris and Careerline Tech Center. He says much of what he will be able to offer at the “new” SoHo Salon is directly influenced by some of the more challenging and unique styles and techniques he has learned in Chicago, and this new location is more about bringing that level of service to his Holland clientele. 

“I’m not looking to leave them, I’m looking to upgrade them,” he says. "Truly beautiful hair makes a woman feel fantastic and it’s an art form, and that’s what I want to bring to everyone’s attention.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Images Courtesy of Benito Baron

Grand Rapids' first out-of-hospital birthing alternative opens in East Hills

In 2007 when Sara Badger moved to Grand Rapids, she was pregnant with her third child. A generational midwife with sights set on an out-of-hospital birth, she says she was taken aback by the fact there were no visible options, and an even less visible midwife community. 

However, as the population grew and interest expanded, Badger was able to create her own solution – Cedar Tree Birth & Wellness, which completed renovations on a second floor birthing suite earlier this month to become Grand Rapids' first and only alternative to home and hospital birth. 

“We are technically a birthing center because we do birth outside of the hospital, but what I really wanted was a home birth experience outside of the home,” Badger says, adding that they’ve had a steady stream of clientele showing interest in the existing wellness center and expect that to translate to the birthing suite, as well.  

The new birthing suite gives laboring about-to-be mothers full use of a single-family apartment that includes a private bedroom, kitchen, dining room, living room and a full bath for the duration of labor. Badger said the second floor of the 915 Cherry Street SE home was completely gutted and remodeled with a new kitchen, bathroom and cathedral ceiling. The third floor will be used as a space for family and to rest for a few moments or give the mother space during labor.

After starting her own midwifery service Simply Born @ Home in 2010, Badger teamed up with Juliea Paige of Crowning Lotus Doula Services to open Cedar Tree in January. The East Hills home, neighbored by Hopscotch Children’s Store and Grove restaurant on either side, has functioned primarily through the Community Wellness Center on the first floor while the recently completed renovations were underway.  The living room, dining room, kitchen, consultation room and common room that comprise the Wellness Center are available for rental by anyone looking for event space, a venue to host a workshop or class, or even just to groups looking for a gathering place. 

She says the biggest misconception about home birth is the idea the midwives don't receive any kind of medical or formal training, or that the process isn’t inherently safe. A lay midwife herself, Badger says although Michigan doesn’t require any specific licensing for midwives, a lot of people still seek national certification. 

“I think that women just have more control over their care and how they and their babies are treated in a very precious moment,” Badger says. “In order to get to birthing in a very whole state you have to get very primal, and you can’t always do that with all of the electronics that we add to birth.”

Along with the space rentals, Cedar Tree also offers a host of classes, groups, and consultation topics, including a breastfeeding club, newborn classes and individual birthing plans for mothers planning on a hospital birth. However, Badger says they are always looking for more classes and events to host in the community. 

Learn more about upcoming classes, find contact information, and see a complete list of rental spaces and pricing at www.cedartreebw.org. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Photos Courtesy of Lisa Kay Photography  
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