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Century Block "incubator" concept creates low-risk investment for Muskegon retail, helps seed growth

If it weren’t for the six-month lease and the central checkout stations, Clothes Junkie owner Cindy DeBoer says she would never have been able to open a second location at the Century Club Shops in downtown Muskegon this month.

A Zeeland resident, DeBoer has been the sole owner and operator of the Clothes Junkie near her home for the last four years, though the boutique at 141 E. Main that offers cash for gently used, brand name clothing and accessories has been open for a total of seven. 

“I don’t have employees; I have two daughters that help me out occasionally,” she says. “So, really for me to expand wasn’t an option, but because they have that central checkout up there I thought, well this is the perfect opportunity for me to try to expand without me having to hire additional staff.”

Clothes Junkie was joined in the opening of its second location by another upscale thrift store from Grand Haven called Second Impression, whose owner of 17 years, Linda Forbes, had the same low-risk investment plan in mind. 

However, as retailers continue to multiply in the Century Club Shops storefronts, developer and Century Block building owner Gary Post says the growth has been and will continue to be deliberate – all part of the “incubator” business concept the buildings were remodeled around.

“First, I don’t want to suggest that in the interest of re-establishing retail downtown, anything and any business goes,” he says, adding that Century Club Shops have always been evaluated as a whole and are geared toward “upscale, boutique-style businesses” that offer unique and locally made products. 

The incubator concept includes a lot of things – proximity to the Muskegon Chamber of Commerce offices, short-term leasing and flexibility, and reduced rent for new business owners still working to build a customer base. Incubator businesses also enjoy the use of one, central checkout that can process customers for all the vendors in the building.

And while all these business policies work to the benefit of satellite locations like Clothes Junkie and Second Impressions, they were made in the spirit of new development for people like Jody Gosselin, co-owner of the vintage/rehabbed furniture store Rejuvenated, which will celebrate its grand opening at the Century Block Shops on September 20. 

After traveling to Ludington, Fremont, and Pentwater to look at open retail spaces before settling on Muskegon, Gosselin says she and Rejuvenate co-owner Steve Hunt were just as deliberate in their search for the right retail space as Post has been in filling his own. 

“The goal, again, is to help businesses get started with a goal to grow them and hopefully spin them off into other locations – preferably downtown – as they become available,” Post says.

He knows some of the businesses are content to stay the same size in their existing Century Club storefronts, and that’s okay with him because they add variety to the merchandise that's available. In the same way, satellite locations for established businesses create an easier avenue for downtown customers to check out products they used to have to drive out of town to purchase.

“We welcome all those,” Post says, “but we love to help start-up businesses as well.” 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Image courtesy of Cindy DeBoer 

Grand Rapids developer unveils plans for Cherry and Eastern corners

As a "next step" in the process to redevelop the Southeast and Southwest corners of Cherry Street and Eastern Avenue, developer Cherry Street Capital will present conceptual drawings of the projects to the East Hills Council of Neighbors on September 8th. These plans began to pick up steam after the non-profit Project Rehab decided to put the two properties on the market.

Back in June, Rapid Growth spoke with Cherry Street Capital about the plans to rehabilitate and add onto the Project Rehab building at the Southeast corner into 17 condominiums, priced between $200 - $400,000. They also plan to renovate the yellow house at the Southwest corner of Cherry and Eastern for office and possible retail, and construct five new infill buildings that will contain 33 market rate apartments.

The projects will be presented to the Historic Preservation Commission in October, as the properties reside in both the Cherry Hill Historic District and Fairmount Square Historic District. If all goes as planned, construction is expected to begin in Spring 2015.

Cherry Street Capital is also working on a large mixed use project at the corner of Lexington and Seward on the West Side near GVSU's downtown campus.

Conceptual drawings by Integrated Architecture
Source: East Hills Council of Neighbors

Well House new development fund creates an avenue for sustainable growth

Since January 2013, 47 people have moved into Well House out of homelessness, and 88 percent have not experienced homelessness since. 

In an effort to provide stability and longevity to Well House’s mission of providing safe and affordable housing to the homeless in Southeast Grand Rapids, the organization is creating a new development fund made possible by a $60,000 grant recently awarded by the Grand Rapids Community Foundation

“Well House is a great example of ‘Housing First’ – providing access to low-cost permanent housing with supports available, but no mandatory services or other barriers to housing,” says GRCF Executive Director Diana Sieger. 

The development fund will allow for Well House to be more sustainable, recycling rent profits – $250 per month for an individual tenant and $350 for two tenants – back into the development fund, creating more resources for Well House to continue to acquire and rehabilitate more vacant and boarded-up homes.

“We think this represents a creative use of grant dollars, meeting a growing need for affordable housing in the community,” Sieger says. 

Tami VandenBerg, executive director of Well House, says the organization plans on continuing to purchase homes through the Kent County Land Bank, adding that the existing six Well House homes currently occupied by tenants have cost anywhere from $3,000 and $25,000 to purchase and $30,000-$50,000 to rehab and renovate. 

If you ask VandenBerg, Well House is designed to offer the most obvious – yet often overlooked – solution to homelessness in Grand Rapids. 

“We firmly believe the solution to homelessness is housing,” says VandenBerg, whose organization works to provide safe and affordable housing to the homeless. “Although this seems obvious, it's not.”

She says Well House has received a few hundred housing applicants since she became executive director in 2012, attributing the high demand in part to Well House’s prioritization of individuals who are often turned away from other subsidized housing solutions because of felony convictions or addiction issues. Out of the 42 adults that have passed through Well House since January 2013, 64 percent were denied housing by other organizations. 

“If we think someone could get in to somewhere else, then we really try to direct them that way,” she says. “We’re so small, we really try to keep our rooms for people who are much less likely to get any other housing.”

VandenBerg says Well House just wants to offer the kind of long-term solutions that “meet people where they’re at,” including fostering a renewed sense of community and self-sufficiency for a population more typically dealt short-term fixes. 

“Having people live in emergency services while they're in a shelter or soup kitchen, it's not a solution,” she says. “It's basically just management at that point. It's managing a problem; it's not solving a problem. We're interested in long-term solutions.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer 
Images courtesy of Lisa Beth Anderson and Katy Batdorff

Grand Rapids International Hostel secures Creston neighborhood home

Cousins Phil and Mark Bouman have secured a location, designed a logo and shipped in bunk beds from the U.K. in preparation for what they hope will be the first international hostel to successfully open in Grand Rapids.

Now, all they need is your support. 

“I think a big part of it is educating the city,” says Phil Bouman. “A lot of folks here in West Michigan don’t really know, what is a hostel? What is a hosteling experience?”

Both passionate about experiencing new things and traveling abroad, Phil and Mark came to the decision to start moving forward with plans for Grand Rapids International Hostel while lying in the bunk beds of an international backpackers hostel on the beaches of Rio De Janeiro. 

“I think it was the first night we were both there, we were sleeping in bunk beds and we looked at each other and said, ‘Hey, I think we should open an international hostel in Grand Rapids,'” Mark says. 

The pair has been able to get ahead of other similar groups such as Stay Hostel and Grand River Hostel, the latter of which has stalled in progress due to a lack of start-up funding.

100 percent privately funded, the Bouman cousins were able to purchase a 4,100-square-foot home in May, located at 117 Page Street NE in the Creston neighborhood.

The 150-year-old Victorian converted hostel boasts five bedrooms and four bathrooms for occupants. The four rooms with bunk beds can house a total of 26 occupants while the fifth room, designated as “semi-private” with its own half-bath, can host four occupants in a bunk bed and one queen bed. They don’t yet have any solid pricing in place quite yet, but expect nightly rates to fall somewhere in the $20-$30 range. 

With the full support of the Creston Neighborhood and Business Associations, Phil and Mark say the newness of the hostel concept is the biggest hurdle left for Grand Rapids International Hostel.   

“There are currently rules in place for a bed and breakfast and there are rules in place for a hotel/motel, but there are not necessarily rules in place for a hostel,” Phil says. “I think a hostel is something that is somewhere in between those two. We’ve been working with city planners, city commissioners and even state reps in order to get verbiage that will work for us to open the hostel.”

So far, Phil says the city of Grand Rapids has been very responsive to their efforts, and if all goes as planned they will be ready to open next spring. 

Both Phil and Mark hope that GRIH can act as an renewed breath of life into the Creston neighborhood, and ideally act as the kind of economic driver that brings in new people to patronize not only their new business, but the surrounding existing businesses, too. 

“Creston neighborhood is a really tight-knit neighborhood that I think has some big upsides in terms of the North Quarter here,” Mark says, referencing community favorites like Graydon’s Crossing and Rezervoir among them. “I think a lot of people around Grand Rapids aren’t super familiar with the Creston neighborhood, but we hope to be a part of kind of the resurgence to the North Quarter and the Creston neighborhood.”

Find more information about Grand Rapids International Hostel or stay updated on its progress by visiting www.grhostel.com or Grand Rapids International Hostel on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images Courtesy of Grand Rapids International Hostel 

Holland native opens Guitar Cities location in GR's city center

When James Lenger opened the first Guitar Cities in Chicago’s financial district eight and a half years ago, it was because he realized there was a whole demographic of business professionals who were interested in pursuing music but lacked any kind of easy access to instructors.

“I think it’s just there’s a number of people that have wanted to learn music and, you know, as opposed to them thinking, ‘I have to trash this idea, I can’t do it anymore,’ it allows us to bring music over to them. It’s still something they can actively pursue,” says Lenger.

A Holland native, Lenger is now bringing music even closer to home, opening his fifth Guitar Cities location next week in Suite 400 of the Calder Plaza Building at 250 Monroe NW.

“I think Grand Rapids has always been important to me to get back to because not only is it full of a lot of entrepreneurship and has a great financial area, but it’s also an area that participates in art and the arts,” he says. “I think that’s evident with things like ArtPrize and even things like the growing number of (craft) breweries. There are a lot of neat things kind of coming on in the area and it’s always been a priority to get back here to do this.”

After a few years of growing success at the Chicago location, Lenger decided to open up a second location in Manhattan’s Midtown in 2011. After that spot proved to be another successful venture, he opened a San Francisco location later that year and a fourth location in London a few months after that. 

He says all of the locations were selected because they were places with good business districts and had space that allowed him to open a new location somewhere that would be accessible to the demographic Guitar Cities was created to serve.    

“It’s also been important that we’re in locations that are easy to access for the people who are living and working around the area,” Lenger says. “I also think it is important for Guitar Cities to be a place that really communicates well with the instructors, too, so we’re not looked at as some kind of corporate entity that just wants to make a bunch of money. We’re trying to be here for both the students and the instructors.” 

Brian De Young will serve as Guitar Cities' Grand Rapids piano instructor, but Lenger said he hasn’t yet completed the interviewing process for potential hires for the guitar instructor position. In the meantime, he says he’ll act as interim guitar instructor, commuting between Grand Rapids and Chicago so he can still offer lessons for those interested until a permanent hire is made. 

Learn more about what kinds of services Guitar Cities offers or schedule an appointment online at guitarcities.com

Writer: Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images Courtesy of James Lenger 

Baker Holtz to upgrade office space to larger suite on Waters Building new second floor

As big changes for the Waters Building at 161 Ottawa Avenue NW get underway, existing fourth floor tenants Baker Holtz CPAs & Advisors look forward to big changes as well, gearing up for its own modern office upgrade into a roomier space on the second floor. 

Currently residing in a 3,000-square-foot space at suite 409-A of the Waters Building, Managing Partner Ryan Holtz says the Baker Holtz offices will move to a larger, 5,000-square-foot suite on the second floor sometime in December. 

Holtz says new owners at Edmark Development Co. and Visser Brothers Inc. plan to start renovations in September after current tenant leases run out for the four existing suites that will be combined into one for the new Baker Holtz office space. 

The move comes after Edmark Development Co. and Visser Brothers Inc. announced plans in the spring to overhaul the 280,000-square-foot historic Waters Building into a 107-room Hilton Homewood Suites Hotel and 42-unit apartment building with a smaller allocation of space for offices. 

Holtz says although plans for the hotel and apartment renovations are forcing the the offices to make the move, it worked out to Baker Holtz's advantage, not only offering more space for expansion, but also the chance make a shift to the kind of modern, collaborative work space he has been wanting for years. 

“Specifically for our space, we needed it to be a little bit different,” Holtz says. “Right now, we have a very nice space that gives you a bit of homey feel, if you will. We just need it modernized in addition to having those collaboration spaces within the suite. That’s going to be important, as well.”
Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor

Pinkie's Ice Cream brings splash of color to Wealthy Street

When the owners of the new Pinkie’s Ice Cream and Desserts in East Hills decided they wanted to sell ice cream in the corner storefront of 1127 Wealthy St. SE, it was because ice cream is the kind of thing that makes people happy and they wanted to be in the business of making people happy, too. 

“It’s playful, it’s uplifting, it’s inviting and it’s very, very pink,” says Pam Dolan, general manager and co-owner of Pinkie’s, which opened its doors for business on July 22. 

The space is located across from Wealthy Theatre, and shares a building strip with the Wealthy Street Tattoo studio and the soup shop, Uncle Cheetah’s. It used to be overflow space for Uncle Cheetah’s before they leased the space in April and lightened its mood. 

“It was real dark,” she says. “The walls were dark, the décor was very dark, and now it’s very bright.”

She and her two business partners signed the lease on the space in April after realizing their collective talents – Dolan's penchant for customer service, Mary Jo Pult’s instinct for tasteful interior design, and Gosia Walker’s social-media-savvy communication skills – made for a “magic combination.” 

With 30 flavors of Sherman’s Ice Cream, made in South Haven, Dolan says it has been important to the Pinkie’s ownership team from the beginning to show commitment not only to the East Hills business community, but also to quality Michigan businesses as a whole. 

“We did a field trip to Sherman's and we probably tasted too many of their ice cream flavors, but I think their ice cream is superior,” she says. 

With 14 employees – all high school or early college-aged – the quality of the ice cream is only rivaled by the quality of the location, which Dolan says was perfect for the kind of old-fashioned neighborhood feel they wanted to create with Pinkie’s. 

“Before we even came up with the concept for an ice cream shop, I was watching the TV and they had a segment on the news about Wealthy Street and how it was growing in popularity and how it's becoming more and more friendly to merchants as well as consumers,” Dolan says. “It’s another piece of further evidence that Wealthy Street is an exciting place to have a business but also an exciting place to meet people.” 

Pinkie’s is open Monday through Saturday from 12:30 to 9 p.m., or about when it gets dark, and on Sundays from 12:30 to 6 p.m. 

Writer: Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Pinkie’s Ice Cream and Desserts

Nature of the Dog receives first dog walking certification in GR, expands coverage area

After completing a four-day, 27-hour dog walking certification course run by San Francisco-based company Dog Tec, Nature of the Dog’s co-owner Luke Moord is now the first and only officially certified dog walker in Grand Rapids. 

Dog Tec’s “Dog Walking Academy” came to the MVP Sports Spot at 3701 32nd St SE July 31 to Aug. 2, arming participants with not only professional dog walking certifications, but also information on marketing and business techniques specific to a dog walking organization, as well as education and training about canine behavior and first aid. 

“We went in that direction just because it’s a reputable source,” Moord says. “It’s the only one around, but they also teach a lot of positive dog-related training practices.”

Originally started in 2011, Moord’s wife Jackie opened Nature of the Dog under the name Jackie’s Walk: Grand Rapids Dog Walking Service. The name change came in January, when Jackie became pregnant and Luke took over the bulk of the dog walking, so they both wanted the new name to reflect the partnership behind their business. 

It didn’t take long to fall in love with his new role, Moord said. 

“I grew up with animals, specifically dogs, and just loved kind of the interaction of learning more about the dogs,” he says. “In terms of a career choice or vocation, I really kind of wanted to do something where I’m moving and I’m active, and not only that, but I’m actually outside interacting.” 

The operation has been steadily growing since 2011, and Moord says they’re now walking between 15-20 dogs on a regular basis and have expanded their service area to cover the majority of the greater Grand Rapids area. He says Nature of the Dog has and will walk dogs in neighborhoods as far north as 3 Mile and as far south as 44th Street.

“We really try to stick to the highway systems when we’re out of downtown,” Moord says, adding that if someone lives a few miles off the highway, they do make exceptions and try to work with customers as far as the service area is concerned. 

However, one of the most important changes Nature of the Dog is making to its customer policy is a simple but significant one as far as Moord is concerned: customer commitment. 

What that means for customers is they will have to sign on for the dog walking service at least twice weekly, with prices ranging from $17-$30 depending on whether it’s a 30- or 45-minute walk and how many dogs require attention. 

“We commit ourselves to our clients and really ask for a commitment from them,” he says. “A big piece of that was asking them to stay on with us. If we’re going to take you on as a client we’re going to reserve a spot with you in our schedule, so we need to know you’re committed to us.”

Moord says the trouble with drop-in visits is not just limited to scheduling purposes, but also doesn’t allow he or Jackie to foster the kind of relationship with a person’s dog that allows for a productive walk or interaction. 

Nature of the Dog is currently in the interviewing process with intentions to hire a third employee to join their team – a sign they are not only poised for growth, but also committed to growing here in Grand Rapids.   

Writer: Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Nature of the Dog 

Rockford Brewing Co. looks to expand facilities to include outdoor patio, full kitchen

Seth Rivard, co-owner of Rockford Brewing Company, says the number one request the brewery receives from customers is for a food menu to go with the beer menu. 

“Many patrons go to dinner first and then visit RBC, or visit RBC first and leave to go out to dinner,” Rivard says. 

So, after receiving approval from the Rockford Planning Commission in late June, Rockford Brewing is moving forward with the planning stages on a renovation project that will expand facilities to include a full 1,500-square-foot kitchen space and an outdoor roof-top deck space overlooking Rockford’s Rogue River and the White Pine Trail, with seating for up to 70. 

Rivard said they are still doing design work and have not selected a construction company or made any solid budgetary plans at this stage, but along with the planning commission’s approval to move forward was consent to remove a peaked roof from the former Poindexter’s Specialty Marketplace (12 E. Bridge Street) to accommodate the roof-top deck space.

Having a full kitchen and seating for patrons to eat, he says, is a crucial next step to growing Rockford Brewing Company – one that is highly anticipated by clientele. 

“They are looking for more and we are expecting that hand-crafted food kitchen that focuses on farm-to-table fare is going to fill the void,” he says. “…(We) are really excited to continue to support local Michigan businesses and agriculture and really put the focus on just that – Michigan and supporting Michigan.” 

Writer: Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Image courtesy of Rockford Brewing Company  

Saint Mary's Foundation celebrates 50th anniversary in new home

Though Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Foundation officially moved into its new office space in May, the converted residential building at 307 Jefferson SE is just starting to feel like home for staff and community.

“The new space has truly exceeded all of our expectations,” says Michelle Rabideau, president of Saint Mary’s Foundation. “The vision was for us to have a home that obviously would provide office space but that would also provide space for donor relations activities, small gatherings, anything that would provide an opportunity to engage our community.” 

Rabideau says it was important for the foundation to work together creatively with architects and interior designers at Progressive AE and Custer as well as construction partners at Erhardt Construction to preserve the historic integrity and character of the building while still converting the home to a modern office and conference space. 

“Some of the unique crown moldings and window trims were maintained but we certainly needed to have a complete facility facelift, if you will,” Rabideau says. “It did not have the open space that we needed for events and was not conducive to an office environment.” 

There are three levels in the 6,000-square-foot Saint Mary’s Foundation home. The first is primarily office space and the living room area, the second houses a catering kitchen and the Office of System Philanthropy, and the third is an innovation suite, designed for staff productivity and creativity.  

Formally titled the John and Marie Canepa Place for the largest donors for the project, John and Marie Canepa, the historic Grand Rapids building cost Saint Mary’s Foundation about $1 million in renovations, including the interior design and furnishings. 

Deb Bailey, chair of the Saint Mary’s Foundation Board, said the Canepas have been supportive of every single initiative at Mercy Healthy Saint Mary’s since John Canepa served on the hospital’s Board of Trustees in the 1970s. 

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Saint Mary’s Foundation, which Rabideau says feels fitting considering the mission of the organization. 

“To have a place that we call a home that is also a home for our donors and our volunteers to help celebrate this special occasion I think just really brings home the whole idea that once you become a donor or volunteer at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, you become a member of our family,” she says. 

Writer: Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Erhardt Construction 

Aquinas College wraps up summer construction on student housing, sports complex

With a record number of students planning to move to campus this fall in time for the 2014-15 academic year, construction on a new student residence at Aquinas College is wrapping up and will be available for occupancy when the semester kicks off Aug. 23. 

Meg Derrer, associate vice president of communications at Aquinas College, says 865 students are signed up to live on campus this year, more than the 831 that lived on campus last academic year. 

The $5 million project created space for 72 more students to live in 24,176 square feet of furnished living space, with each apartment including a kitchen, living room, and shared bathroom for every two rooms. The LEED-certified building also features two communal lounges and a laundry facility. 

Completion of construction for the $14 million Alksnis Athletics and Recreation Building was slated for August 2014, but Derrer said that time frame has been pushed to October, with no solid date for a ribbon cutting or open house thus far. 

However, she says the new 70,000-square-foot building at 1580 Fulton St. SE will still come complete with a 200-meter NCAA-certified track with additional wooden floor courts for basketball, volleyball, cheerleading and dance. Also included in the new building is a turf infield, portable courts, practice areas for baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse as well as an extensive curtaining system that will allow for the space to have multiple uses simultaneously. 

“It will offer a great venue for our students to play, practice and compete,” Derrer says. 

Construction Company: Rockford Construction 

Writer: Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor

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New Acorn Studios collaborative workspace to provide creative community in Grand Rapids

For freelance food stylist Laura Goble, self-employment can start to feel sort of solitary with no real, permanent work community.

"Right now I’m in Cleveland working on a Red Lobster shoot and I love everybody I’m working with, but we all go our separate ways until we meet again," Goble explains over the phone.

So, when Goble purchased the property at 919 E. Fulton, she knew she wanted to make the new Acorn Studios a place where folks could meet again – or for the first time, depending on who you are and how you can utilize what she calls most simply, "a collaborative workspace."

Goble bought the building that was formerly host to The Home Store and Gallery boutique and retail shop about three years ago. She lives on the second floor, which she renovated before tackling the ground floor space; all redesigned with the keywords clean, simple, and modern in mind.

With concrete floors, open rafters, and large, bright windows, the 1,500-square-foot Acorn Studios workspace is, as the website describes, "a blank canvas space, intentionally designed for people to gather, learn and make." Included in that space is a large "work kitchen," a front room with a sofa, and a large, empty main room, generally designed as a gathering space or photo/video production studio.

Renovations to the additional 1,700 square feet of outdoor patio space are still underway, but when completed Goble says she sees it as the perfect space for weddings and outdoor receptions.

To host your own event, rates start at $200, but there are also two cooking classes currently available at $65 apiece, and Goble hopes more will fill the schedule as Acorn Studios builds a community all its own.

"I guess I just think of it from my own perspective of being self-employed, traveling a lot, I kind of sometimes miss that work community thing," she says. "For myself to have dinner parties there and bring in friends and people I know to do their thing and kind of showcase their talents and skills as well, is really, really attractive to me -- providing that space for people who don’t have that day-in-day-out. I think there are a lot of us in the creative community, here."

Acorn Studios will officially open for business with a launch party on July 24. To RSVP, visit acornlaunch.com.

Writer: Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Acorn Studios

Unruly Brewing Co. gets a little more rebellious with Muskegon's new downtown artisan pizza joint

When Gary Post embarked on the $2 million renovation of downtown Muskegon’s historic Russell Block, he had a different vision for the building at 360 W. Western Avenue. However, as the new artisan pizza joint Rebel Pies prepares to join ranks with microbrewery Unruly Brewing and the slow-pour coffee shop Drip Drop Drink this weekend, he says the change in direction isn’t a bad thing.

When Post set up Russell Block Market, Inc. as a nonprofit, tax-exempt entity to create and oversee a market concept he outlined a few years ago, he says the nonprofit board took their portion of the building in a different direction, introducing Unruly Brewing Co.

"Now the brewery has served as a catalyst for other businesses including Rebel Pies," he says. "All in all it has been a great thing and they have brought a whole new demographic downtown."

Though Rebel Pies won’t officially open until the end of the summer, co-owners Mark Gongalski, his brother Matt Gongalski, and Addison Eilers hope to make even more fans during an unveiling event for the Rebel Pies brand. The event is designed to coincide with Muskegon’s Bike Time motorcycle event July 17-20.

Mark Gongalski says the Bike Time event typically draws in more than 100,000 people and around 65,000 bikes to the city’s downtown, where Rebel Pies will borrow Unruly Brewing’s outdoor beer garden space for the event, "a prime location for cooking on a slew of outdoor grills and smokers," Gongalski says, until interior renovations are completed later this summer.

The menu for the event includes four different styles of pizzas by the slice, smoked chicken wings and drumsticks, cast iron Dutch oven desserts, and the roasting of a 250-lb pig -- which was raised entirely on Unruly Brewing Company's spent grain.

Writer: Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Unruly Brewing

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Mary Free Bed packs more features, specialized medical programs into expansion, renovation plans

When Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital completes the $62.5 million expansion and renovation construction currently underway at 235 Wealthy St. SE, president Kent Riddle says the updated space is going to be "dynamite."

New to the hospital will be 190,000 square feet for orthopedic and prosthetic care, with 80,000 square feet of new parking to accommodate.

All construction efforts will meet LEED certifications, says Dan LaMore, senior VP of The Christman Company, who is working with consultants to ensure the use of recycled materials and local sourcing in construction as well as the future reduction in water and energy usage.  

A total of 200,000 square feet of renovations to the current hospital, outpatient therapy, and Mary Ives Hunting buildings will create 39 additional acute rehabilitation beds and 48 new skilled nursing rehabilitation beds, allowing for an additional 3,000 patients to be served by the rehabilitation hospital annually.

Mary Free Bed has been operating at capacity for several of the last 12 months, drawing patients from nearly every Michigan zip code.

"This will be a draw for more patients coming into Grand Rapids, so it certainly is an economic engine for Grand Rapids, but more importantly, it will raise the level of rehabilitative care that people will have access to," say Kent Riddle, hospital CEO.

The new space gives the hospital staff more room to develop new programs like the Betty Bloomer Ford Cancer Rehabilitation Program and to forge more partnerships with surrounding community health institutions to further broaden the work Mary Free Bed can do.

Riddle says 20 hospitals are now a part of the Mary Free Bed network. He expects that number to grow with more specialty medical programs within those communities and at the central Grand Rapids campus.

The renovation includes patient amenities, including a café, salon, rooftop terrace, library areas, chapel, and a movie locale.

A new "Gathering Place" will be open 24 hours, where patients and families can socialize as part of the rehabilitation process.

LaMore says around 440,000 man-hours will have gone into the .project. It's a lot of time, but for him and his crew, it's time well spent.

"We're builders, so all we have is to be able to help people like Mary Free Bed be successful with their facilities. When you go in Mary Free Bed, you see what they're doing there with the people that are being cared for," he says. "Being part of that, that's terrific."  

Writer: Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Eric Miller

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New $3.8M Muskegon Farmers Market draws 10,000 visitors a week, street dances, art market planned

Since the May 3 opening of the new $3.8 million Muskegon Farmers Market in its new downtown location, the Saturday market alone has drawn some 10,000 people every week. Now with summer in full swing, a street dance, Dancing Downtown, will lure dance and music enthusiasts to the market one Thurs. evening a month, and a weekly Art Market every Weds. night adds even more variety.

The Muskegon Farmers Market, 242 W. Western Ave., offers locally grown vegetables, fruits, farm-fresh meats and eggs, cheeses, fish, coffees, and handmade crafts every Tues., Thurs., and Sat. On Saturdays, added attractions include live music on the concert stage, a couple of eateries for breakfast and lunch, and The Power of Produce Club for kids ages 5 to 12.

"They receive a shopping bag and a token and can take that and spend it on something at the market, then return to complete the activity, like making a salad or planting seeds, with whatever they purchased," says Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, a driving force behind bringing the market to the downtown shopping district.

Larsen says that Saturdays draw 150-160 vendors selling seasonal produce, live plants, and specialties like jams, jellies, and baked goods.

"It's amazing, it's wild, it's fantastic!" Larsen says with a laugh. "It's a festival-type atmosphere. It's definitely a happening. People come downtown and have breakfast at the nearby restaurants or stay after the market to go for lunch. Some people come late and then head to the breweries for a drink. It really has generated activity downtown and the businesses have reported increases in sales, as well."

As the season moves toward cooler days, the indoor market will become a Winter Market that will be open year-round. The community kitchen, still under construction, will be open and ready for entrepreneurs and cooking classes by fall.

Farmers Market: Tues., Sat. 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Thurs. 6 a.m. to evening.
Art on the Market: every Weds. 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Dancing Downtown: free lessons 7 - 7:30 p.m., dancing with live music 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Muskegon Farmers Market

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