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Thierica Display Products expands inner-city plant, keeps jobs in Grand Rapids

Thierica Display Products, a maker of custom-etched plastics and other items for the automobile industry, found a way to expand its existing Grand Rapids plant despite being landlocked in a mostly residential neighborhood.

A 9,500-square-foot addition to the plant's facility at 900 Clancy Ave. NE was made possible by employing some engineering ingenuity. The expansion was needed to accommodate new equipment, more workers, and to renovate the employee break/dining area.

"What's been unique about this is it's in a residential area, and every time they go to expand they say 'maybe it's time for us to move and build a new plant,'" says Mike Kelly, president of Wolverine Building Group. Kelly says this is the fourth time he and Wolverine have worked on an expansion at Thierica. "They looked at their employee base, and many of them walk to work from the neighborhood, and it would create a hardship for their employees."

In the past, says Kelly, Thierica has purchased surrounding residential properties in order to expand.

But this time the company was able to build the expansion in an area that was the stormwater retention basin. The old basin was removed and a new one constructed under a surface parking lot, with piping run underground along Lafayette Avenue. A new surface lot was added on top.

The expansion enables the company to gear up for new business while keeping advanced manufacturing jobs in the inner city.

Thierica officials were not available for comment.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Growth in medical malpractice law, corporate law means more jobs at Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge

As law firm Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge rounds out specific practice areas and looks to grow others, new attorney positions have opened up.

The firm's 92 attorneys work out of four offices across Lower Michigan: the firm's headquarters in the renovated Ledyard Building in downtown Grand Rapids, and outlying offices in Ann Arbor, Traverse City, and Muskegon.

Two new attorneys will join the medical malpractice area in Grand Rapids, two more will join the Ann Arbor medical malpractice group, and a new shareholder in the corporate and real estate practices comes aboard next month.

These new hires, along with the addition of some seven attorneys in the past 16 months, keep Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge moving forward by having the right people in place at the right time, says Chief Operating Officer Lori Gibson.

"It's an exciting time here," says Gibson. "We are evolving and growing as a firm, and we are expanding and rounding out our practices in certain areas. I'm just thrilled about the new people coming on; these are some fantastic hires, and we're very excited about them."

When asked if there are any other immediate openings for newly graduated or experienced attorneys, Gibson says that the firm's focus is to get these new hires comfortable with the company culture and actively serving clients.

"With a firm our size, bringing on five new people in the next month or so, that's a lot," Gibson says. "We need to get those folks onboard, get them trained and integrated into the firm. But we have some areas that we would like to enhance, so we're keeping our eyes open and if the right person comes along we'll talk them."

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Kendall Building's Osteria Rossa, the "red tavern" casual Italian eatery, aims for March opening

It's been in the works for months, and now Chef Christopher Perkey, owner of Osteria Rossa, says he's looking at a possible March opening date for the casual Italian eatery.

Osteria Rossa, which translates loosely to "red tavern," occupies the main floor of the recently renovated historic Kendall Building, 16 Monroe Center Ave. NE, at the crossroad of Fulton St. and Division Avenue, the bull's-eye center of Grand Rapids.

Monument Park
, which is in the midst of a total renovation, is just steps away from the front door and will be an integral part of Osteria Rossa's outdoor dining experience.

"We have gotten permission from the Grand Rapids DDA to expand the dining area into the park," says Chef Perkey. "It will wrap around by the trees and grass. We'll be the only restaurant in Grand Rapids where you can eat in a park. The whole front of the restaurant will open so customers can move in and out, and we'll be able to serve beer and wine out there."

Perkey says the cuisine and atmosphere will be the most casual type of Italian dining you can find in Italy. Wood-fired pizzas, house-made pastas and sausages, breads from Field & Fire, soups from scratch, and farm-to-fork ingredients fill the menu.

Perkey hopes that his family-friendly meals and hours will entice families visiting the Grand Rapids Children's Museum to venture down a few doors for lunch, supper, or a mid-afternoon snack.

"We'll be kid-friendly," says Perkey, a father of three. "If they want noodles with butter they can have that, or maybe an interesting shaped pizza, and we will have spaghetti and meatballs."

Anticipated hours: Lunch, dinner, and evenings, Mon-Fri.; dinners and evening, Sat.

Design: Lott3Metz Architects
Construction manager: 616 Development  

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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West Michigan Archery Center attracts diverse group of shooters, aims for mid-summer opening

Construction of the West Michigan Archery Center's new $1.15 million tournament-level building will be ready for its first round of shooters this summer, but in the meantime, the organization has attracted a diverse group of shooters of all ages.

The new hub of activity is underway at 3500 10 Mile Road, Rockford, and shares a driveway with the Art Van Sports Complex next door. A 10,000-square-foot building will be fully ADA compliant to encourage athletes of all abilities, and will feature a 6,000-square-foot indoor shooting bay with 24 lanes and a concession area. One huge advantage that allows West Michigan archers to compete on home turf during cold weather are heated shooting booths that keep archers warm but allow them to aim for outdoor targets up to 90 meters away.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the club is that athletes of all physical abilities and all ages can participate.

"One of the things I think is the coolest about our group, is that, even though it's centered in a predominantly white suburb, we've managed to attract a diverse culture," says Josh Zuiderveen, the nonprofit archery association's secretary. "We haven't tried to do that; it's just happened on its own. We have a five-time national champion who happens to be a teenage girl who is African American, we have a lot of young women who do really well in tournaments, and we have a 10-year-old boy who has been shooting with us about two years who has dwarfism. He competed in the World Dwarf Games in Lansing and won for archery, beating out adults."

Zuiderveen says many of the young people in the organization have learning disabilities, including attention deficit disorder and autism.

Many of the young archers participate in the Junior Olympic Archery Development program, which has 16 men and women who are certified coaches and help the athletes develop their skills for competition.

Besides competitive archery, the center also offers practice space for bow hunters. The association plans to hold tournaments at the new facility. A past location has been Rockford High School, which had over 100 competitors from around the state last year.

Until the new center is completed, participants will continue to meet for practices and competitions at Rockford Sportsman's Club banquet hall.

The center received a $500,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, and a $250,000 grant from the Easton Sports Development Foundation.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Lansing's FLEXcity Fitness brings no-contract cardio/core classes to new Grand Rapids studio

With an eye to expanding their fitness studios throughout Michigan, FLEXcity Fitness owners Jenny Quinn and Trista Parisian opened their second location on Jan. 16, the two-year anniversary of the opening of the duo's flagship Lansing studio.

The new fitness center at 629 Michigan St. NE, Grand Rapids, next to Urban Mill Cafe, offers more than just plenty of space with lots of natural light. It also brings FLEXcity's brand of group workout cardio and core strength combination classes to the city.

Quinn says she and Parisian developed their "concept of 'flex' based on an interval-based studio -- 25 minutes of cardio, 25 minutes of core strength, and six minutes of flexibility in each class."

Parisian chimes in, saying each class starts with "half the participants on cardio and half on the floor getting personalized attention," and every few minutes, participants switch places. "Every day of the week the intervals are different. Today we did five-minute intervals with people on cardio for five minutes, then on the floor for five minutes working a lot of core and strength."

FLEXcity Fitness offers contract-free workouts: participants pay by the month or buy punch card packages that carry a six-month expiration and allow clients to work out according to their availability. Classes are limited to 16 people, and every first class is free.

Workout equipment ranges from typical treadmills and spin cycles to TRX and barre.

"We wanted to expand the concept and the brand across the state," Quinn says. "Grand Rapids is a growing city. We looked for a likeminded population similar to our clientele in Lansing. We worked with M Retail, and when we walked into the space, we knew it was a perfect fit. It's easy for people coming from all directions to reach us because it's close to downtown and right off the highway."

FLEXcity Fitness offers early morning, afternoon, and evening classes. See the website for schedules and pricing.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

More development planned for open parcel next to Brewery Vivant in East Hills

A surface parking lot sandwiched between Brewery Vivant and Grove Restaurant on Cherry St. SE could be the next prime urban living location if developer David Green's vision moves forward.

Green, owner of development firm Archipelago Equities and a former real estate developer with DP Fox Ventures, plans to build a 16,000-square-foot mixed-use building with three condominiums, indoor parking, and retail space.

Green is the brother of John Green of Locus Development, the company that developed the entire parcel encompassing a former mansion, chapel, and funeral home into what is now Brewery Vivant, Maru Sushi, and Windsor Cottage.  

The main level of the four-story structure will have 1,500 square feet of retail space along Cherry St. SE, with an indoor parking entrance on the north side for condo owners. Three condos will occupy floors two, three, and four. Green and his wife will live in one of the condominiums.

"We are purchasing the land from an entity that includes myself, John Green and Andy Winkel, operating under Locus Development," David Green says. "Over the last two years, my wife and I have been exploring different living opportunities around town that are urban, and nothing really quite fit. We were out for dinner one night and I was reminded that we still had that lot. It's close to downtown, it's a great neighborhood, we love the shops, we love the restaurants, it's just got a great feel to it."

The project still has to land approvals from the Grand Rapids Historic Preservation Commission, the city Planning Commission, and the neighborhood and business district stakeholders, Green says. The process should take several months of planning and meetings before work can begin.

Construction manager: Rockford Construction
Architect: Integrated Architecture

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Planning a wedding is a piece of cake with EngagementGR wedding professionals collaborative

From selecting the right photographer to ordering a cake, choosing table decorations, creating a theme, getting a church and a reception venue and food and a dress and tuxes and… planning a wedding can be a nightmare. But a new collaborative of West Michigan wedding professionals aims to help brides and grooms sleep easy.

brings together six different wedding specialties so the happy couple can find everything they need for their big day in one place. The group formed in summer 2013, bringing together several small local businesses in the wedding industry: March 27 Designs event designers, Bethany Wish hair stylist, It's Personal by Sweet Cakes Design wedding cakes maker, James Richard Fry Photography, Flowers by Jireh, and Vue Design custom bridal gowns.

"Our dream is to have someone buy into the whole package as a team and hire us all, but brides choose their vendors at different points during the planning process," says Mara Olson of March 27 Designs. "We're all still running our own businesses, but when [we] need to recommend [another wedding professional], we have this group of vendors who are used to working together to choose from."

Olson says brides and grooms have the freedom to choose any of the vendors they're comfortable with, and aren't required to hire all of them. The advantage lies in working with a team of wedding professionals who, rather than compete with each other, collaborate to make each wedding the best it can be.

EngagementGR began as a yearlong project, and Olson says they are coming into the busy bridal season now, six months in. This summer, the group will reassess the collaborative effort and determine their next steps.

To contact any of the wedding professionals involved, or to find out more about them, visit EngagementGR here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Bargain hunters paradise: one website pulls Craigslist, eBay, others together for shoppers, sellers

It all started as an idea for getting rid of the junk left behind when relationships dissolve. But now breakupgoods.com has become the go-to site that pulls together items from Craigslist, eBay, AutoTrader, and other sell-your-stuff websites, and lets shoppers and collectors arrange their wish lists into Pinterest-style boards.

Tom Liravongsa, a computer programmer, came up with the idea in 2010 after two friends purchased expensive used cars at hugely discounted prices because the cars had been left behind after relationship breakups.

But back in 2010, the developer tools to pull information from sales sites automatically wasn't available. Liravongsa pulled a few thousand items manually, then the site went viral with over two million users in a month, and the supply just wasn't there.

"The important piece is that the site knows the general location of where you are and shows all the products for sale near you," Liravongsa says. "You don't need to now look at all these different websites -- it pulls from hundreds of websites where people sell items -- we find that users are using it as a search engine to search Craigslist, eBay, and others all at the same time."

Breakupgoods.com also offers a "tag it" button that resides on your browser bar and acts much like the Pinterest "Pin It" button: when you're on a site and see something you want to buy, you simply tag it and add it to one of your boards on breakupgoods.com.

The site searches by location to find items for sale near the user's location. Users can also search by category or city and state. And users can post items to sell.

Liravongsa says the site received a $95,000 investment boost from Start Garden and re-launched in December 2013. In its first month, breakupgoods.com drew some 260,000 users.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Midwife, doula hope to bring new life to Cherry St. with first West Michigan birthing suite

Midwife Sara Badger of Simply Born @ Home and doula Juliea Paige of Crowning Lotus Doula Services hope to bring new life to Cherry St., both figuratively and literally, with the creation of Cedar Tree Birth & Wellness birthing suite at 915 Cherry St. SE.

The three-story house next to Grove restaurant will soon be home to a whole host of pregnancy and birthing aids that will give healthy moms-to-be several options for bringing their babies into the world in a non-hospital setting. These moms don't want the medical intervention often encountered in hospitals, yet don't want to, or can't, give birth at home.

Paige and Badger say this will be the first such facility in West Michigan.

The birthing suite -- not to be confused with a birthing center -- will see two to four births a month. The second story of the house is under construction to become an open floor plan apartment with all the comforts of home: living room, kitchen, bedroom, and bath. Expectant moms can give birth using the services provided by Badger and Paige.

"We work only with really low-risk birth moms," Paige says. "We develop a detailed birth plan, go over every avenue of what could happen, and make the decisions on how to handle that if it happens. When you're in [the midst of giving birth], it's hard to remember what you've learned, so I'm like the lighthouse in the fog -- we've made a game plan, we're going to stay on the path, and we work intuitively to fulfill that need."

The main floor of the house will be home base for meetings with parents, workshops on birthing and healthy pregnancies, and is available for rent to groups who need meeting space.

The attic area will be an office/resting area for midwives and doulas, so they can take a break during the lag times of labor.

Cedar Tree Birth & Wellness will open in April 2014.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Former auto service building in East Hills on drawing board for redevelopment

The former Dan Gietzen Auto Service building at Wealthy St. SE and Henry St. SE, Grand Rapids, could be the next defunct gas station to be repurposed in the growing Wealthy Street business district. The station at 701 Wealthy St. SE sits directly across Henry St. from another former gas station that was renovated and opened as Donkey Taqueria (665 Wealthy St. SE) in late 2013.

Eagle Development of Michigan, owned by Bob Graham, purchased the building in December with the intent to preserve the historic look and feel of the gas station. Graham, who owns Jonny B'z Dogs and More just a few doors west, says he'll spend the next few months gathering ideas from the East Hills neighborhood, the city, and the Historic Preservation Commission before deciding how to redevelop the building.

"We're not sure what we'll be doing with it," Graham says. "We may move Jonny B'z over there, but that will depend on what the city says we can do with it -- if we can't be open until 3 a.m. like we are now, then we'll do something else with it. We know we can't really do anything if we don't have the support of the neighborhood and the city and the historic preservation commission. We think it's a little presumptuous to say we're going to develop it to be this or that. We want to share ideas and hone it in and head in one direction."

Graham hired architect Jeff Hunt of Architect at Large to develop a preliminary concept of what the building might look like after renovation with the overhead doors and large glass windows still intact. The East Hills Council of Neighbors will get a look at the drawings at a public meeting at 6:45 p.m. on Jan. 13. Graham also plans to meet with the Grand Rapids Planning Commission in Feb., and the Historic Preservation Commission.

He hopes to have all approvals in place by June so the renovation can begin.

Rachael Lee, director of the East Hills Council of Neighbors, says she is excited to see the creative reuse of the old gas stations in the neighborhood and the new vitality on its way to the Wealthy/Henry corner with the development of Donkey Taqueria and the future ELK Brewing Company (700 Wealthy St. SE).

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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With new name comes new focus on repair of game systems, phones, computers for former Play N Trade

Change is on the horizon for the former Play N Trade franchise in Muskegon, and that change involves a new focus on repair services for handheld game systems, game console systems, mobile phones, and computers.

Electronic Entertainment Exchange, Inc. (E3) purchased the former Play N Trade franchise at 5506 Harvey St. and will relocate it this spring to 222 Seminole Road under the new name of E3 Trade N Repair. The new location, formerly the site of Bitz Computer Repair, will undergo some façade improvements before the store moves in.

Customers are still able to trade in games and purchase game-related accessories like they did at Play N Trade, but will have the added convenience of being able to drop off their broken gaming systems for repair and save a bit of money, says Ron Kuszewski. Kuszewski owned the Play N Trade franchise and will stay on at E3 as general manager.

"We have accessories and games for all game systems going back to Atari days," Kuszewski says. "We can work with any game-related item. Vintage game systems parts are not readily available elsewhere, and there's really nobody who fixes handheld game systems like Nintendo DS, DS Lite, DSI, or 3DS. We repair all of them."

Kuszewski says customers can also drop off broken tablets, MP3 players, and laptops for repair.

The store, still located on Harvey St. until the move, has made the shift to the repair services and is accepting electronics for repair now. E3 Trade N Play employs three certified repair technicians. Kuszewski says most repairs take just two to five days.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids' growing West Side attracts another business, 70 employees relocate with it

A new vibrancy west of the Grand River, paired with corridors of established businesses, has proven to be an effective attractor of companies looking for a downtown presence on the fringe of Grand Rapids' core. Next spring, logistics leader C.H. Robinson (CHR) plans to join west side entities like OST, Rockford Construction, and Grand Valley State University and relocate its nearly 70 employees to 10,000 square feet in Clark Place at American Seating Park, 801 Broadway NW.

The redevelopment of a vacant 1891 American Seating warehouse and the surrounding property into a mixed-use commercial and residential hub began in 2001. With the C.H. Robinson lease, office space occupancy is now at 95 percent, says Chris Beckering, director of business development for Pioneer Construction, the project builder.

"We hire a lot of young talent right out of college, and we want a high-performance environment," says Matt Albers, general manager for CHR Grand Rapids. "We have music playing nonstop and we like that work hard/play hard atmosphere. We don't want to lose any talent because of having an old-atmosphere office."

Albers says CHR plans to hire five to 15 people in 2014 and that many again in 2015. The wide-open office setting with Grand River and city views can accommodate 100 people. CHR plans to reach that number in five years and has the option to expand another 4,000 square feet, if needed.

"We're moving downtown for the vibe of downtown because that will help recruiting," Albers says. "We didn't want a space that was the old mold, and we wanted everyone in one big room to create energy. We're a Fortune 250 company, and to step up the office for that Fortune 250 company we want to step up the atmosphere."

That atmosphere includes daylight throughout the space, a kitchenette set up as an employee lounge, and state-of-the-art technology.

Design: General Office Products
Builder: Pioneer Construction

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Renderings courtesy of General Office Products

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New in Rockford: The Home Studio offers home furnishings, Pillows by Dezign, interior design savvy

The Home Studio in Cascade has stepped out in style with the Dec. 2 opening of its second home décor showroom.

The cozy and comfortable shop at 10 Bridge St., Rockford, offers 1,600 square feet of home furnishings, décor accessories, and lighting. In addition, the shop features some 400 designer fabric pillows by The Home Studio's sister business, Pillows by Dezign.

"This is the coming together of two businesses to open a new store," says owner Marian Silverman. Silverman is also a business partner in Pillows by Dezign with her son, Brian Manley. "People come in [to the Cascade store] and say it's so hard to find cool accessories and pillows. There's been such a huge need. We opened the Rockford store in response to our customers."

The Rockford showroom enables customers to see a sampling of the styles and brands of furnishings The Home Studio offers. In addition, customers have access to the design experts and resource library located at the Cascade store. But instead of making the 30-minute drive, the designers and resources will come to the customer.

"If you walk into the Rockford store and say I need a bedroom set, we'll be able to sit down at the store or in your home. We'll use our resources to get you exactly what you're looking for," Silverman says. "We work with hundreds of manufacturers, just about the same as Gorman's or Klingman's, and we carry the major brands. People think a big furniture store is going to be less expensive, but we are competitive with everyone's prices."

Silverman adds that instead of having periodic sales, which eat up time and money, the everyday product prices are discounted by 35 to 40 percent.

"When you walk into your home, you want to feel good," Silverman says. "We're here to help guide you with your décor. That's really important to us. We're here to help you create your environment."

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon. - Fri.; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sat.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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A year after purchase, Seva Yoga owners expand yoga school, add classes, start mountain biking team

It's been a year of passion and inspiration, says Melissa Tungl when she speaks of the purchase of East Grand Rapids' Seva Yoga studio and retail shop. Tungl and her husband Tobi bought the business in January 2013.

Since then, Melissa, who manages the business, has put heart and soul into adding classes at 2237 Wealthy St. SE, expanding the yoga certification school, and offering classes to benefit local charities. Next up is the 2014 sponsorship of a mountain biking team.

"Tobi is a mountain biker and, starting next year, Seva will sponsor Seva Cycling," Tungl says. "It's interesting how my passion for teaching yoga has blended so nicely with his passion for mountain biking."

The number of daily classes for gentle yoga, Hatha yoga, and Vinyasa has grown. This week, the studio has 26 classes on the calendar, which Tungl says is a typical number for any given week.

Along with an increased demand for classes comes a heightened demand for registered yoga teachers. Tungl has expanded the existing school, now offering prospective teachers the ability to become a registered yoga teacher with the 200-hour RYT program or an optional 500-hour RYT program.

"There are a lot of opportunities for yoga teachers in West Michigan. Seva graduates are teaching at gyms, studios, and schools," she says, adding that she got her own certification through Seva Yoga and became an instructor before buying the business. "I had always practiced yoga, and getting my certification was calling to me. I took my training at Seva Yoga, so I feel that I have roots here. When I'm teaching, it's such a unique experience. I feel a very deep connection to everyone in the room."

Throughout the year, Seva Yoga has sponsored special donation-only classes to benefit specific charities. The studio donates the space for the classes and the yoga teachers donate their time. These classes generated nearly $3,000 for the Humane Society of West Michigan, Kids’ Food Basket, and Purple Community.

"Seva means 'selfless service,'" Tungl says. "That's been one of the big highlights for me and makes it so rewarding. It's very satisfying to go to work and to just love it. I don't know how many people can say they get to show their passion to people every day."

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy of Seva Yoga

Amid early snows, Furniture City Creamery owner dreams up ice cream recipes for new East Hills shop

The frigid winds and blowing snow of a multi-state blizzard have not cooled Rachel Franko's enthusiasm for whipping up new recipes for her handmade ice creams, cones, and toppings known as Furniture City Creamery.

Franko and her husband, Matt, have nearly completed the paperwork to purchase 958 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids, a tiny 500-square-foot building in the popular East Hills business district. If all the ingredients fall into place, the new creamery will open in May 2014.

Rachel Franko, who has a degree in process development and worked the last 12 years developing industrial processes and products, says she loves the hands-on aspect of "doing mixing day-in and day-out." After starting her own consulting firm, she found that she was doing more talking about mixing than actually mixing. And that's when the idea of making her own ice creams came like a "little parachute from the universe."

"I saw the popularity of these types of ice cream shops on the West Coast and I thought, that is perfect," she says. "We sold our ice creams out of the Mitten Brewing Company last summer and used their commercial kitchen, knowing that, ultimately, we'd want our own spot."

Franko plans to have the creamery kitchen front and center in the shop, with bars and barstools along the walls and front window. A small covered patio space off the back, accessible from the building and from a pedestrian alley along the building's east side, will have additional seating.

Besides making all the ice creams from scratch using locally sourced ingredients, Franko makes vegan ice creams, all of her own toppings including the chocolate chips, and her own cones. Except for the dairy-based ice creams, all other items are vegan-friendly.

Plans for the new store include offering site-baked goods and baked goods from other small local bakers. The store will be open year-round, says Franko, who plans to supplement slower ice cream sales in the winter with coffees, hot chocolate, and fresh pies.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy of Furniture City Creamery
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