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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.

Hours:
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

East Grand Rapids townhomes completed, 16 dwellings increase density three-fold for shops, eateries

Orion Construction has completed the construction of Bagley Townhomes, 16 brick townhomes stretching from 727 to 797 Bagley Ave. SE, East Grand Rapids, and has handed the keys to the purchaser of the final unit, says Orion Real Estate Solutions President John Wheeler.

The project to demolish six single-family houses and replace them with two all-brick buildings containing eight townhomes each was approved by the East Grand Rapids planning commission in 2007, but construction couldn't begin until five years later due to the economic recession.

Today, with all 16 dwellings filled, more than three times the number of people live in that same block compared to the number of residents in 2007 -- potential customers living just a few steps from the quaint downtown and its eclectic mix of shopping, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks.

"(The country) got a transient situation with the last recession," Wheeler says. "People want to stay in their neighborhoods where they raised their children, but they have large homes they don't need anymore. The new urbanism is a really big deal, to try to provide products where you don't always need to be in your car, where you can get some exercise, have some fun, and get to know your neighborhood better. (Cities) need to pave the way for good developers who have the vision for homes that could improve the city for everybody."

Wheeler says Orion Construction was involved with the project from the planning stage through handing off the finished final townhome to the owners after customizing the interiors.

"People get creative with their homes," Wheeler says. "You build to a generic specification, then the owners worked with interior designers to customize the interiors by moving walls and adding upgrades. Everybody had their own ideas of what was cool and we implemented many, many details like contemporary lighting in the high ceilings and high-end cabinets."

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

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Downtown Muskegon attracts more retail, Maggie's Gourmet Food opens in Century Club building

Maggie Vincent's love for retail sales began with the lemonade stands she had as a kid. Now the experienced entrepreneur and owner of Maggie's Gourmet Food & Gifts on 4851 Harvey St. has set up a petite boutique in downtown Muskegon's historic Century Club Retail Center, 356 W. Western Ave.

"I have been in business with Maggie's Gourmet Food and Gifts for over 15 years, and we're known for having the largest selection of Michigan-made products under one roof," says Vincent with pride. "Since I was a child, I wanted to own my own store, and my parents always said if you can dream it you can achieve it. I started selling small items in lots of (other) stores and decided, why not put it in my own store instead? That's when I realized I didn't have many Michigan-made items and decided to add them."

Maggie's offers a wide selection of products in the stores and online, plus the shop puts together top-notch custom gift baskets for shipping or local delivery.

Products include spices, preserves, salsas, chips, soaps, lotions, hot chocolates, coffees, dried cherries, dried fruits, chocolates, candies, and Michigan beers and wines.

Although not all the products are made in Michigan (like the cheeses, for example, which are made in Wisconsin because Vincent can't find a shelf-stable cheese that's made in-state), Vincent works hard to bring the Michigan products to the fore.

Vincent says some of the most popular gift items she offers are personalized photo gifts produced in-house. Customers bring in a favorite photo, logo, or sketch and the store will put it on water bottles, mugs, glasses, cutting boards, shirts and other merchandise to create a one-of-a-kind gift.

The Century Club shop offers a selection of the most popular items sold at the Harvey St. store. The store is a small part of the larger Century Club Retail Center of small, locally owned shops.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Maggie's Gourmet Food & Gifts and Century Club Retail Center

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Wagging tails, happy meows infuse formerly vacant Midtown neighborhood store with new life

Professional dog and cat groomer Jennifer Lotterman has found a welcoming home for her business in the Midtown neighborhood, which she didn't want to leave. When she decided to relocate her year-old Cats Vs Dogs Pet Grooming Salon and Boutique from E. Fulton St. NE, it was an easy choice to move it to 36 Grand Ave. NE, just a few blocks away.

The tiny building nestles cozily between two-story homes in Grand Rapids' historic Brikyaat (Brickyard). It was once a typical neighborhood grocery store, and most recently a hair salon, but has been vacant for a number of years.

Cats Vs Dogs' previous location had the unique conundrum of being both too big and too small, Lotterman says. It was more space than she needed for the retail pet boutique, yet she "couldn't use the back of the building because it was too cold. We had to move all the animal kennels into the grooming area, and it made it a little too crowded."

The new location offers a small fenced-in back yard, plus an entry that's on a quieter street than Fulton.

"Clients are telling us they like it better because the traffic's not as busy for walking animals in and out," says Lotterman. "It's in a quaint area and is more homey."

Lotterman says she is a certified cat groomer through the National Cat Groomers Institute of America. She's also certified through the International Society of Canine Cosmetologists and has special training as a dermatox specialist to detect and identify skin and coat diseases.

Lotterman painted the inside of the shop her favorite color -- pink -- and created a separate area for bathing and drying cats and dogs, plus added a retail boutique offering pet treats, leashes, collars, and grooming tools.

"I love my job and every day I go to work and I love what I do," says Lotterman of her 20 years' experience. "I love the animals and the people. I'm always learning new techniques and using the latest and greatest products."

Hours: Tues. - Fri. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Cats Vs Dogs Pet Grooming Salon and Boutique

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Collectors, vintage aficionados combine forces to launch Flashlight Alley resale/art shop in Eastown

For 10 years, collectors and vintage aficionados Alicia Menninga and her mom, Alice Menninga-Richards, have offered quality used and new clothing and furniture to their customers through their booth at Eastown Antiques. Much to their delight, the business has grown to the point of needing a larger outlet, so they'll open their new shop, Flashlight Alley, at 1507 Wealthy St. SE, next door to Yesterdog.

The shop features an eclectic mix of antique furniture, men's and women's vintage and retro clothing, jewelry, and work by local artists and musicians.

Menninga, a pianist and composer of ethereal instrumental pieces, will use her passion for music and those who create it to help local musicians showcase their music and sell their recordings.

"I want to make (the store) more about, not just the clothes, but have it be more of a space for local musicians to sell their CDs here," she says. Local artists will play a role in the store, which will offer goods from photographer Regina Joy and Amber Button-Girl of Daydream Studios, as well as handcrafted pieces from Menninga, who is also a visual artist.

Menninga says she and Alice want the shop to become a community gathering space. "We want to do it almost like a gallery, and have after-hours art shows and eventually have poetry readings."

The women are particularly excited about the opportunity to use the store's basement as a creative workspace for items that will eventually move to the showroom floor.

The name Flashlight Alley has personal connections to both Menningas: "Flash" is the nickname of Alicia's father and Alice's former husband, who died five years ago; "Alley" is Alice's childhood nickname.

The store opens Sat., April 19, with special hours from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Regular hours are in flux, but expected to be Sun. noon to five, Tues. - Sat. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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

Grand Rapids designer Jessica Swagman launches first women's spring fashion collection with style

Jessica Swagman's first fashion collection says spring and summer with fresh colors, her own fabric designs, and a smidge of sassy.

Swagman, 28, is a wedding and event planner who spent three years assisting fashion designer Sofia Sizzi prepare her Giulietta fashions for New York's famed Fashion Week. She called on that experience when her bridal clients found they needed their bridal gowns and bridesmaid dresses altered, and that eventually led to her designing the dresses from square one.

Now her first women's spring collection debuts tonight at a boutique runway show at the headquarters of Lucid Group, 900 Muskegon NW, Grand Rapids, showcasing two semi-sheer blouses, two skirts, and two dresses, as well as belts, jewelry, and a scarf.

"The design esthetic is a modern take on vintage with a little edge to it," Swagman says. "I've used vintage colors, but keeping it more modern, muted colors, dusky aged colors. I bought the basic fabric, but I've dyed almost every fabric or I've created (with dyes) the print that's on it."

Swagman says the skirts fall at the knee -- one is A-line, the other slightly gathered -- and the dresses offer a knee-length skirt and an ankle-length option. Clothing comes in sizes XS to L and is available beginning April 18 at JessicaSwagman.com.

While Swagman works with a seamstress to construct the clothing, she designs and handcrafts the faux leather belts, rose-hued metallic jewelry, and hand-printed scarf herself.

Swagman, who grew up in Grand Rapids and landed a psychology degree at Calvin College and a degree in fashion design at Grand Rapids Community College, says the fall fashion line is already in process, adding that she's "taking it one step at a time. Every season we'll gauge the progress, but I feel like it's the right time, and if I don't do it now I'll always regret not doing it."

The launch event begins with live music by Bennett at 6:30 p.m., with the runway show at 7:30.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Surekha Boeve and Andrew Ingram

Neurocore moves HQ to Windquest Building, bringing another 14 professionals to Grand Rapids' heart

The vitality of Grand Rapids' downtown is the energetic environment that Neurocore says creates an attractive and compelling location for its staff. After outgrowing its original headquarters in Grandville, the brain-based diagnostics and brain training company relocated its administrative offices three weeks ago to the fourth floor of the Windquest Building, 201 Monroe Ave. NW, bringing another 14 people to the city's core district.

The change represents just one aspect of the growth Neurocore is experiencing across the state as it brings its brain diagnostic services and brain training programs to people looking for answers, diagnoses, and treatments of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other cognitive conditions.

Neurocore's Knapp's Corner clinic recently doubled its size, its Kalamazoo and Holland locations completed makeovers, and a new location at 36700 Woodward Ave. in Bloomfield Hills opens soon.

"We really encourage people to get a brain-based diagnostic, not just a diagnosis based on behaviors," says President Rick Kuiper. "New and expanded clinics increase our ability to respond to demand for the diagnostic component of what we do, as well as the services component. It's an important distinction to make -- we perform the diagnostics to get a clear, data-driven, brain-based assessment of what's going on. Then the parents or individual can make an informed decision and we can talk about moving into our brain training program."

The new headquarters is about 2,800 square feet of open, collaborative workspace. Although no clinical testing or patient care takes place there, Kuiper says he envisions a time when making daily connections with other downtown professionals could expand the company's Peak Performance program, which helps executives and business owners take their focus to the next level while reducing stress and improving sleep.

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

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Popular East Grand Rapids eatery to set a new table in Rockford

The popular East Grand Rapids restaurant Ramona's Table has begun renovations on a century-old building next to the White Pine Trail in Rockford with plans to convert it into the eatery's second location.  

The former nail salon at 17 Squires St. will soon feature a second-story loft that wraps around three walls with views to the outdoors and the main dining area below. After opening the drop ceiling, equipment from the building's days as a grain mill was discovered hanging from the ceiling, where it will stay as a conversation piece and a link to the building's beginnings.

"We like that juxtaposition of new and old," says Jackie Ziehm, a partner in the business with her husband Charlie Palm. "There's a lot of antique beams and the space will have a very warm feeling with contemporary twists. We've been working with the Rockford Area Historical Society to add photos of the building and the town from that period."

While Ramona's Table flagship location doesn't offer beer and wine, the Rockford location will, Ziehm says. A patio area will provide respite for customers who want to visit after a walk or bike ride on the White Pine trail just outside the back door. But Ziehm says the restaurant's signature food offerings, like its kitchen-roasted meats and scratch-made soups and desserts, will be the main attractions.

Flavorful sandwiches like The Loafer -- smoked meatloaf topped with chipotle tomato chutney on a pretzel bun -- and four daily soups that always feature White Bean Chicken Chili and French Onion, are high on the list of customer favorites.

Ziehm hopes to open sometime in May.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Ramona's Table

Holland to get first nationally recognized hotel downtown if $15.5m development plan proceeds

Downtown Holland could be getting its first national hotel, smack-dab in the middle of its bustling retail and restaurant district. Holland-based Suburban Inns announced that its latest endeavor will bring Courtyard by Marriott to a prime piece of vacant real estate at 121 E. 8th St., between Macatawa Bank and the summertime-fun splash pad.

The hotel will bring 140 guest rooms to the business district, and will attract a "new level of customers to Holland through the Marriott rewards program," says Suburban Inns COO Peter Beukema. "They conduct business during the week, and stay and vacation with their families."

Plans include an indoor pool, an indoor/outdoor hot tub, Marriott's The Bistro restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and a Big E's Sports Grill that will serve 40 to 50 craft beers from around the Midwest.

The five-story building features balconies for all the rooms overlooking 8th St. and the splash pad, Beukema says, so families can enjoy special events from a bird's-eye view.

Beukema says he believes "Holland is one of the greatest downtowns for a parade, because the sound reverberates off the buildings. I said we have to have balconies so guests can see and experience things like the Tulip Time parades."

The project is working with the Holland Planning Commission on site plan approval. Beukema expects construction to begin this summer and the hotel to open in 2015.

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

Hawthorne Collection online women's boutique to bring affordable fashions to Hudsonville

It started the way many businesses start, with friends talking about an idea. And now, a year after opening their online fashions store Hawthorne-Collection.com, next-door neighbors Leslie Plank and Stacy Gnewkowski are ready to open their first bricks-and-mortar location.

The shop at 3504 Chicago Dr. offers enough space for a main level showroom for the shop's specialty: affordable women's clothing, jewelry, and accessories. The lower level will be the order fulfillment and shipping area for the online store.

"About a year ago, Stacy and I were sitting and watching our kids play, and we said, hey we should sell women's jewelry online," says Plank with a laugh. "We started doing that and it grew, then we added accessories and it grew, then we added clothing. We kept thinking we'd love to open a store, no we can't do it, but couldn't shake the idea."

Plank says their experience at the 2014 West Michigan Women's Expo pushed them to take the leap from virtual business to storefront.

"We went to the women's expo in March, and we couldn't believe how many people came through and were so complimentary," Plank says. "Everyone kept saying how cute our booth was, we love your products and prices, and where's your store. Well, we don't have a store. Then they said, you need one."

Plank, a full-time mom of two, and Gnewkowski, a school psychologist and mom of three, came up with the shop's name because they both live on Hawthorne Ct. They have worked the business in the evenings, filling orders from their basements. They're still working out details like store hours, and Plank says they'll have limited hours at first so they can still have time for their families. They hope to open in early May.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Hawthorne Collection Boutique
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