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Lee & Birch sees Wealthy St. as new opportunity for former downtown fashion boutique

With a store brimming with all-new summer fashions for women, former downtown Grand Rapids boutique Lee & Birch opens today in its new location in one of the city's fastest growing business districts.

After years of deterioration and abandoned storefronts, Wealthy St. SE is enjoying a comeback with growing businesses such as Wealthy Street Bakery, Art of the Table, The Winchester, Donkey Taqueria, Elk Brewing, Rowster Coffee, Johnny B'z Dogs 'N' More, Nourish Organic Market -- the list goes on -- as well as longtime mainstays such as Phil's Stuff Antiques and Collectibles.

Now Lee & Birch brings its own style and fashion sense to the former Ron's Hand Car Wash at the corner of Wealthy St. and Eastern Avenue SE, converting a former service station building into a fashion showroom for women sizes XS to L.

The lease at the boutique's former space at 50 Louis NW was up and owners Nikki Gillette and Kristin Nipke decided it was time to move to a location that offered more flexibility for future expansion, dedicated parking, and the visibility of a busy corner.

"We looked downtown, but couldn't find a place that was right for what we wanted, and this Wealthy St. space opened up," Nipke says. "Wealthy is such a booming street and we started talking to business owners, and the (shopping) traffic over there just inspired us to move."

The building has a new glass garage door to the former carwash space with its high ceilings -- a door the owners will open on nice days to bring fashions outside and customers inside. Nipke envisions fashion shows, a patio area, and outdoor space for special events.

Nipke and Gillette are working with the Grand Rapids Historic Preservation Commission to retain the façade's historic appeal, while transforming the interior into a modern shop that features a magnetic floor-to-ceiling wall for "hanging" jewelry displays.

Grand Opening events begin this afternoon at 5 p.m. with a lemonade bar, entertainment, and 20 percent off your total purchase. Love's Ice Cream will be selling its craft-made wares as part of the festivities.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Lee & Birch and Adam Bird

Propaganda Doughnuts' owner to open late-night ramen bar on Grand Rapids' S. Division

Plans to open Grand Rapids' first ramen noodle bar could soon bring fresh, healthy eats to the city's lunchtime diners and late-night munchers. Torrance O'Haire, chef and owner of Propaganda Doughnuts at 117 S. Division Ave., is advancing the French pastry shop to a planned phase two: The Bandit Queen -- Ramen Shop, Public House, Purveyor of Fine Teas, and Respite for the Modern Day Adventurer.

The Bandit Queen will open next door in 117-B, and will share Propaganda Doughnuts' kitchen, but otherwise the two eateries will be separate entities.

"My joking answer is always 'because I want to eat it,'" says O'Haire with a laugh when asked 'Why ramen noodles?'" "After my years of work in the service industry, you'd work a long day, you don't want to eat junk food, I'd want to get out of the restaurant I've been chained to every day, everything is closed, and you want a place to go to eat what's not garbage food, not bar food, not hot dogs. There must be lots of other people that are the same way."

A just-launched Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign bills the place as a "turn-of-the-century bar, serving not whiskey, but Ramen noodles and other East-Asian street-food specialties not currently represented in West Michigan."

Patrons will belly up to a bar that seats 15 - 16 people, and order from the "bartender" off a menu that includes vegan and gluten free options, with selections that change daily. While the focus is on ramen noodles -- a wheat-flour noodle processed with an alkaline solution to bind the gluten tight and produce what O'Haire dubs a "toothsome quality" -- gluten-free options will include tteok, a Korean gnocchi-style dumpling made from rice flour.  

Guests will choose between a classic ramen broth or vegan broth, and then can top it with fresh, locally sourced ingredients that include fish, herbs, slow-braised pork belly, roast pork shoulder, pickled vegetables, poached eggs, pickled carrots, and pickled watermelon. Because meats and poultry are locally sourced and selected when in-season, just as the vegetables are, all toppings will cycle with the seasons.

"The ramen trend is booming nationally, and, as loathe as I am to latch onto trends and buzzwords, it's fun to bring something to Grand Rapids that we don't already have," O'Haire says.

The Bandit Queen makes its debut with a selection of Asian street food at the Local First Street Party on June 7. The restaurant opens in mid-July.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Bandit Queen

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Former Project Rehab buildings part of $10m-$15m plan to bring more apartments/condos to East Hills

The plans are not anywhere near set in concrete, but the preliminary vision for four properties on the southeast and southwest corners of Eastern Avenue SE and Cherry Street SE could be the pieces of a possible $10 million to $15 million residential project.

Cherry Street Capital has options on the properties. The company's partners, Chad Barton and Jim Peterson, have been working with the East Hills Council of Neighbors (EHCN) and the Grand Rapids Historic Preservation Commission to develop a workable plan for converting the properties to apartments and/or condominiums with commercial spaces.

The properties -- a former Project Rehab building and parking area at 200 Eastern, a house at 758 Cherry and two adjacent land parcels at 215 and 217 Eastern -- form an important gateway transition area between Cherry Street's business district to the east and its residential neighborhood to the west, north, and south.

The properties fall within two different historic districts: Cherry Hill Historic District and Fairmount Square Historic District.

"How we move forward will be determined in large part about how the neighborhood feels about things," says Peterson. "We're exploring the mass, density and developing a project that works for the neighborhood."

Cherry Street Capital envisions a plan that could possibly convert the house into an office or boutique retail space. Undeveloped land surrounding the house could be the right location for market rate apartments in a building designed to fit the surrounding neighborhood.

The brick and concrete building at 200 Eastern was built as a dormitory, which makes it suited for a conversion to apartments or condominiums, and that could include a building addition.

"We will continue to explore options that work for us as a developer, while continuing to get feedback from the EHCN, working with the East Hills business association, and working with the HPC," says Barton. "The truly challenging part of infill projects is because there is so much subjectiveness and so much passion. Change is hard and we're trying to be intelligent about it."

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Cherry Street Capital

Enhancements for Grand Rapids' West Side include more tax dollars from recently approved CID

A West Side Corridor Improvement District (CID) approved in March will allow specific business districts to capture incremental tax increases on properties and use that money for capital improvements like streetscaping, economic growth, and even making the areas under the US-131 underpasses safer for pedestrians. The advantages allow CID areas to use tax money that's already being paid and use it as reliable, sustainable funding for improvements.

The CID covers main corridors running along Seward from Leonard south to Butterworth, and extends along westward along Leonard, Bridge, and Fulton streets. A three-year planning process by a steering committee of West Side business owners, residents, and city leaders created the basis for the CID, but it also revealed that, if economic growth was to keep the character of the West Side while moving it into the future, there needed to be an overall plan for the entire neighborhood.

That plan, the West Side Area Specific Plan (ASP), has been under development for months and wrapped up with a final neighborhood input meeting last Monday.

"If Seward's going to be the connecting piece, can it be the playground where people meet, can you create some green space, some walkability and some kind of green beltway?" asks City Commissioner and steering committee member Dave Shaffer. "If you want to make Leonard Street more walkable, it's a long stretch of concrete, and vehicles go fast, how do you team up with the schools to create a safe route to school, how do you pay for bump-outs, add some green space?"

Shaffer says the proposed ASP, once approved by the City, will answer those questions by getting more West Siders involved and submitting ideas. The whole point is to be able to use the tax money collected a few years from now to make improvements that the people who live on the West Side want -- and that make sense for the overall community as well as the business corridors.

"It's a neighborhood thing; we're all in this together," says Mike Lomonaco, who works on the West Side and owns property there at Union Square Condominiums. "It's not difficult to do business here. The residents are passionate about Grand Rapids, we want the West Side to be as vibrant as it was decades ago, and it's in everyone's best interests to work together. In past years, it has been adversarial and people have picked up their toys because they weren't going to play anymore. But now we're talking to new business owners who are jazzed about the possibility of being able to look out of their stores and see new trees and people walking the streets."

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of West Side CID Committee

Head of the Pride barbershop/salon aims to tame unruly manes at new West Side location

Whether your mane is atop your head or growing on your face, a new salon on Grand Rapid's West Side wants to help you style it just the way you want it.

Head of the Pride Boutique Salon & Modern Men's Barbershop is under construction at 444 Bridge St. NW and plans to bring the latest in men's and women's hairstyling services to the growing business district.

Owner Sarah Dilley, of Sarah Dilley-Couture, is a cosmetologist with a passion for barbering. After five years at Cheeky Strut, Dilley will open the new shop in June, offering complete hair care services for women and men, including hair extensions, color, cuts, and men's beard trimming and shaping.

"(In the industry), there's a serious lack of attention to men's hair and that's kind of like a nationwide deal," Dilley says. "I want to help men with their skincare, and will have beard products for men because we're in a city of beards."

Dilley, 28, sees a lot of opportunity for serving both men and women at the Bridge St. location, especially with the recent opening of the men's and women's denim shop, DENYM, across the street, and with Renee Austin Wedding boutique next door.

Head of the Pride offers six styling stations. The shop will rent chairs to independent stylists who share the vision of working as a team to provide a relaxing, fun atmosphere that appeals to both women and men. Guests can book appointments online, by phone call, or with their individual stylists by text message, phone, or email. Dilley plans to develop Android and iPhone apps that offer booking conveniences.

"I have been living on the West Side for eight years, and I just love the energy that's here right now," says Dilley, who grew up in East Grand Rapids. "I want to create an intimate space to sit down with your stylist and talk to them about your goal for your hair. Every client gets the same experience, no one is rushed through."

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Head of the Pride

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Jeffrey George offers USA-made men's clothing in new downtown Grand Rapids store

Jeffrey George men's clothing has offered its private label, USA-made fashions to online shoppers for several months, and now owner Jeffrey George Boore has added a small bricks-and-mortar shop in downtown Grand Rapids.

The store is one of a collection of cool boutiques in MoDiv (Shops @ Monroe Center & Division), 40 Monroe Center Ave. NW. And while many of MoDiv's shoppers are women, Boore isn't concerned about attracting guys to the store.

"A lot of it is going to be reaching out and getting them to go check it out as a good spot for men's clothing," Boore says. "All the clothes are made in the USA. I focused a lot on finding factories that have some historical significance. There's a big push for made-in-America clothing, and I wanted to bring that to Grand Rapids."

Boore currently works with established manufacturers in Massachusetts and New York who have been making clothing for many decades. He says he travels to their locations and sits down with their designers to design casual, all-cotton shirts, pants, and neckties. While the product is made in the states, Boore sources the fabric from Japan.

"Japan is known for making some of the best fabric there is," Boore says. "My prices are quite a bit lower than other places. Manufacturing in the U.S. is expensive, but I can sell directly to the customer and not have so many hands involved in it."

Jeffrey George shirt sizes range from S to XL; pants waist sizes range from 29 to 38 inches.

The shop opens May 22.

Hours: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., Mon. - Sat.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Jeffrey George

Michigan beers, ciders, wines take flight at planned West Side restaurant, The Black Heron

Michigan beer, cider, wine, and spirits devotees Seth and Laura Porter have two dreams they're bringing together: setting their beloved Michigan-made libations before a wide audience, and being a vital part of the rebirth of Grand Rapids' West Side.

Their solution is the planned opening of Black Heron Kitchen & Bar, a pub and limited-menu restaurant now under construction at 428 Bridge St. NW, which will build upon the couple's Michigan libation expertise as creators and writers of Michigan Beer Blog, their love of Canadian Poutine, and Laura's Polish heritage.

"We're really proud of the relationships we've made with Michigan brewers, cider makers, and wine makers," Seth Porter says. "We want our beer list to be as exclusive as it can be. We want to be known for our selection of Michigan ciders and Michigan beer. We also want to do house-ground sausages. Laura has Polish heritage, so we want to have Polish-style sausages, German sausages, and a chorizo, and we want to do Poutine."

Laura adds, "The traditional Canadian style is with crispy fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy. We'll be adding things like a coddled egg, bacon, and chives."

The building's storefront windows overlook both Bridge and Summer streets, framing the former automobile showroom with huge windows. Under layers of flooring, the Porters found the original terrazzo floors they will refurbish. Above three layers of dropped ceilings, they discovered arched beams just waiting for their beauty to be uncovered.

But also inside are myriad small rooms from the former physical therapy business that recently occupied the 4,000-square-foot space. The walls will come down this week with Laura's help. She quit her job as a dental hygienist May 1 to devote her time to the demolition.

Both Porters worked stints in the restaurant business to learn how to run a restaurant: Seth as a line cook at HopCat and Laura as a server at Rockford Brewing Company.

Black Heron Kitchen & Bar should open sometime in November.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Black Heron Kitchen & Bar

West Side casual - DENYM brings it with upscale denim fashions for men and women

Open the door at 443 Bridge St. NW and step into a minimalist's dream of spare furnishings that show off the sleek denim fashions that beckon you to try them on.

DENYM, a retail shop offering upscale men's and women's denim clothing for a night out or a business casual day, opens this Saturday right next door to The Conscious Collective.

Owner Katie Harney designed the store with male shoppers in mind, putting the men's fashions in the front of the store because men are uncomfortable winding their way amid racks of feminine fashions to get to the men's clothing.

The shop's high ceilings, original brick walls, wood floor, and stylish dark gray paint create a warm, welcoming backdrop for the jeans, tees, shirts, tops, and dresses. Barn-style sliding doors open to light, roomy fitting rooms. A casual seating area with couches and armchairs encourage you to bring along friends who can relax while Harney helps you find just the right fit.

"You might need to try on tons of jeans before you're comfortable with just the right pair," Harney says. "I really want to help people look good. I want to provide that great customer service that keeps people coming back."

That desire to provide stellar customer service shows up in Harney's attention to detail: she invited several friends to try on clothes in the fitting rooms to make sure there was adequate space and privacy.

The store carries a number of brand names, including Hudson, Joe's Jeans, 7 for All Mankind, Fidelity, Henry & Belle, Siwy, Greylin, and others.

Not everything is made from denim, but the shirts, tops, and sweaters that aren't have been specially selected by Harney to complement denim. There's also a unique selection of non-denim skirts and dresses suitable for work, a night out, or even an afternoon wedding.

"We've gotten a lot of positive feedback from men," Harney says. "I think Grand Rapids is lacking men's selection in nice clothing."

The store opens Saturday at 11 a.m. Regular hours will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mon. - Sat.; noon to 4 p.m. Sun.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of DENYM

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Harmony Brewing excited about putting $1.2 million brewpub in West Side's Little Mexico building

Eastown's Harmony Brewing nearly bursts at its seams with devoted customers calmoring for house-brewed beers and craft pizzas. That success was a deciding factor for siblings Barry Van Dyke, Jackson Van Dyke, and Heather Van Dyke-Titus of Bear Manor Properties as they explored purchasing the former Little Mexico Café, 401 Stocking Ave. NW.

The trio, and their dad, Alan Van Dyke, will invest $1.2 million in the renovation of the 5,400-square-foot, two-story structure. Part of the building was the Rauser's Sausage Factory in the early 1900s, a main employer in the area.

As homage to its beginnings, the brewery/restaurant will feature a menu filled with house-made sausages made from recipes culled from the German and Polish cultures of the West Side and from Mexican recipes.

The building sits on the corner of Bridge and Stocking, with a parking lot to the north and west of the building. The brewery will be on the main level, along with a prep kitchen and a gathering space where customers can pick up sausages to cook at home.

"We will put all glass on the Bridge Street wall, so when people are driving up Bridge Street they can look in and see the beer being made," says Heather Van Dyke-Titus. "The Rauser Sausage original entrance on Bridge Street, the door closest to the parking lot, will be the new entrance to the greeting area."

Barry Van Dyke will be designing and making the furniture.
"Little Mexico was one of our family's favorite places," says Van Dyke-Titus. "When our family comes in from out of town there are 16 of us, so it was hard to find a place to all go out for dinner together. We'd end up at Little Mexico, so it's really kind of sad for us. We were there the week before they closed. This was an utterly intact restaurant. Our job is to rethink that and open it up and work with what's there."

Plans are to open the brewery in November.

Rockford Construction, construction manager.
Lott3Metz Architecture, architectural design.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Harmony Brewing

Children, parents move to happy rhythms at growing Joyful Sounds music experience studio

The happy, upbeat rhythms at Grand Rapids' Joyful Sounds Music Studio rock to the accompaniment of giggles and gurgles as parents, infants, and young children learn to make their own music. But none of it is about learning to play an instrument -- it's all about learning to play with music.

Joyful Sounds' owner Michele Venegas, a violinist, guitarist, and member of Celtic band, Andro, brought the international program Music Together to the city many years ago. For the past six years, she has engaged babies, toddlers, parents, grandparents, and nannies on a musical journey filled with fun from her studio in the Blackport Building, 959 Lake Dr. SE.

"We offer active music making," Venegas says. "We teach them how to be music makers, how to sing a tune, and how to keep an accurate rhythm, and it happens best when they're doing it with their most important people. The kids are having fun, that music is getting in there, and they're modeling what their parents are doing."

There are classes just for pre-mobile infants and their caregivers, plus classes that include children from infants to age five and their caregivers. The classes are 45 minutes long. After 30 minutes of music and movement, class participants choose music-making toys and instruments -- egg shakers, drums, bells, etc. -- from a basket and make music and rhythms any way they want to.

Venegas, who taught Suzuki method violin lessons for 20 years, says she has had to turn people away because the classes fill up so quickly. She has hired a music therapist and plans to schedule more classes to help meet demand, including classes for children with special needs. She also plans to expand the program to areas north and south of Grand Rapids.

"By coming to the class, these kids are able to sing in tune and keep an accurate beat," Venegas says. "When you go to a school and hear a program, you realize that doesn't just happen. The classes make for a solid foundation for a musical instrument later on because the kids don't have to learn how to stay in pitch, how to stay in time, they already know that."

And besides, it's just good, exuberant fun.

To see a video about Joyful Sounds created by WZZM-13, click here.

To find out more about Music Together classes, visit Joyful Sounds Music Studio's website here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Joyful Sounds Music Studio

New independent primary care medical offices coming to downtown Grand Rapids, Wyoming

In an age when many primary care physicians are employees of large hospital or healthcare systems, Arashdeep Litt, M.D., will open two medical offices that are independent of a larger corporate structure.

West Michigan Primary Care will operate as patient-centered healthcare offices, which will allow Dr. Litt to spend time listening to her patients and their needs. The offices will be at 233 E. Fulton, Suite 102, in the Grand Rapids Masonic Center, and at 585 36th St., Wyoming.

Litt, a primary care physician in East Lansing, an assistant professor in internal medicine at Michigan State University, and a board certified internal medicine physician, will treat everything a primary care doctor treats, but with an added focus on internal medicine.

Primary care services include treating influenza, colds, viruses, and injuries, giving annual physicals, pelvic exams, and offering acute care same-day appointments. Litt will also treat patients suffering from chronic diseases such as COPD, asthma, and diabetes. Internal medicine services include cardiology, endocrinology, and treating hypertension.

"My goal is that everything is patient-centered and is about the patient," Litt says. "It's important to give the patient the time to talk and tell their problems. Usually, after 60 seconds, the doctor interrupts the patient, and that's not good for patient care. My plan was to open a patient-centered office, and I searched for physicians in Greater Grand Rapids that were practicing on their own and there were only about 10."

In both offices, Litt will share office space with other physicians -- Dr. Madelon Krissoff in Grand Rapids, and Dr. Gursharn Dosanjh in Wyoming -- but will maintain a separate practice, helping to keep costs down.

Both offices open in July. Hours will include some evenings and Saturdays, and will vary depending on the location.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Dr. Arashdeep Litt

UICA gets outfitted for improved gallery space, meeting room, 24/7 KCAD architecture classroom

Since the recent merger with Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD), the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) building at 2 W. Fulton is ready for upgrades to enhance the gallery space, create more meeting space for community groups, and establish a round-the-clock classroom for KCAD's architectural degree program.

A 2,500-square-foot retail space on sidewalk level along Division will soon be classroom and workspace for KCAD's new Masters of Architecture graduate program. Students and instructors will have access to the space 24/7 for collaboration, learning, and creation.

"I think this is exciting because it will be on the street (level)," says Craig Datema, CEO of Triangle Associates, the construction managers for the entire Gallery on Fulton project, which includes the UICA, Gallery Apartments, the attached public parking ramp, and the retail space. "Part of our original goal with the development of UICA was to have that space in continuous use. I think it's going to add activity and vibrancy in the core of the city."

Datema goes on to say that the fourth and fifth floors within the UICA were originally brought to minimum code requirements so they could be used as public gathering spaces. Now an area in the NW corner of the fourth floor will get a new floor and acoustical separation from the residential apartments above it so it can be used as a gallery. And the fifth floor area that overlooks it will become a meeting room. The fifth floor will also get an A.D.A.-compliant restroom.

New lighting will enhance the atmosphere in all the spaces, plus the wireless Internet will be upgraded to enable faster, easier access for communications devices during heavy usage times, like during ArtPrize mobile voting.  

"Triangle Associates has been involved since 2008 and we are very hands-on as part of the development team and for the interior build-out for the UICA space," Datema says. "It's very positive to see them start to bring it to this next step. It's that last little hurdle that we're hopefully getting over."

Construction should be completed by mid-September.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Triangle Associates

$28M Hampton Inn hotel to break ground, become first hotel on Grand Rapids' Medical Mile

Monday morning, the first hotel to come to Grand Rapids' Medical Mile breaks ground in Mid Towne Village.

A $28M Hampton Inn & Suites aims to bring 142 rooms to an area flanked by Spectrum Health, Women's Health Center of West Michigan, the Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion, Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences, the Van Andel Institute, and the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.

Mt. Pleasant-based Lodgco Management will own and operate the hotel, with developers of Mid Towne Village, Third Coast Development, holding an interest in the property.

"We started acquiring property for Mid Towne Village in 2002 and always thought it was a great property for a hotel," says Third Coast Development Partner Dave Levitt. "We originally thought the Women's Health Center would be where the hotel is and the hotel would be where the Women's Health Center is. In 2007, when the economy tanked, we had a hotel partner and they bailed."

The hotel will rise from what's now a surface parking lot at 425 Dudley Place NE, directly behind El Barrio restaurant, and will include a 200-car parking deck with a five-story hotel on top. The indoor pool and outdoor terrace will overlook the city and Belknap-Lookout hill to the west. Other amenities include several suites of rooms, a workout facility, and meeting rooms.

"This is really a great sign for West Michigan's general economy, and for the Medical Mile," Levitt says. "If you take the hotel, and then you look at the project that 616 Development is doing at the old Duck's Restaurant property, and Third Coast's redevelopment of the Miller Zylstra building and property, it's all driving a lot of good stuff long-term for the redevelopment of Michigan St. You start to add in all that density of people 24 hours a day, it's going to drive demand for restaurants and bars and shops."

Levitt expects the hotel will open in late summer 2015 and will create over 30 full-time jobs.

Architectural design: Integrated Architecture
Construction manager: Pioneer Construction
Civil engineering: Holland Engineering

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Third Coast Development

Brewery Vivant gets a new summer look, just in time for a refreshing brewski on the deck

If your winter blues have given way to thoughts of quaffing a refreshing Farmhand Ale on the deck with friends, Brewery Vivant wants to make your day.

The East Hills craft brewery at 925 Cherry St. SE will soon complete a few changes to its outdoor spaces to make them the inviting, friendly gathering spaces owners Jason and Kris Spaulding had envisioned when the brewery first opened.

A new roof extending from the pub's east side will soon top off a small expansion with exterior walls that are actually glass garage doors. When opened, the doors will allow patrons to move freely between the outdoor deck and the pub. When closed, the cozy space can become a seating area for private gatherings of up to 30 people.

"On busy nights, we end up with too many people piled up at the bar, so we'll make the room have the ability to have tables and chairs for groups or if someday we want it to be a permanent extension of the pub," says Kris Spaulding. "On one side, the window that looks into the brewery will remain, so people will be able to sit there and look into the brewery from that space."

Another change is a long greenhouse-style permanent canopy over the deck between the brewery and Maru Sushi. The canopy, of translucent glass, will protect patrons from light rain showers and bright sun.

Spaulding remarks that the changes will make the outdoor spaces more inviting. "Our dream of the beer garden being a biergarten work right now, but it doesn't have quite the ambience we want it to have. We have the long picnic tables for the community feel. In a beer garden in Germany, that's what you'll find. When you have people sit next to each other, some people aren't comfortable, but can become comfortable and end up meeting their neighbor. We hear all these stories that people became friends with someone because they sat next to them at a community table."

Construction should be completed by early June.

Design: Lott3Metz Architecture
Construction manager: Pioneer Construction

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Brewery Vivant

Le Fleur on the Avenue offers bright bouquets, floral gifts to downtown Muskegon shoppers

The small boutique is lined with brightly colored fresh flowers, decorative floral arrangements, and unusual gift items as it welcomes shoppers to downtown Muskegon's Century Club Retail Center, 356 W. Western Ave.

"You have to walk through it to go to any other shop or space in the Century Club," says owner Deborah Moon of the 300-square-foot Le Fleur on the Avenue. Nine other boutiques fill the main level of the historic building, giving shoppers the perfect outlet for buying items ranging from fresh flowers to handmade candies to Michigan-made gourmet foods and more.

Moon, who has been in the florist industry for over 30 years, purchased Le Fleur Shoppe, 4210 Grand Haven Rd., 15 years ago. Her first satellite boutique, Le Fleur on the Avenue, opened in August 2013 and provides Moon with an affordable downtown retail space that she views as a great marketing tool for the full-on floral services she offers at the main store.

"(At the Century Club) we have a fresh flower cooler with bundles of loose flowers and some in vases or baskets," Moon says. "It changes weekly because the flowers are not there over five days. We also have floral-related giftware that fits the season; right now, we have spring and summer gifts with beach themes, party picnic themes, and summer themes."

The shop also carries a selection of decorative silk flower wreaths and other permanent botanical arrangements for homes and offices. For flowers for weddings, funerals, or other special occasions, customers can call the main store. Delivery is available in the Greater Muskegon area, as well as two wire services for ordering and delivery to other states.

Le Fleur on the Avenue: Tues. - Fri. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sat. 10 to 4.
Grand Haven Road: Mon. - Fri. 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Sat. 8:30 to 2.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Le Fleur on the Avenue
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