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Start Garden opens idea, mentoring space in downtown Grand Rapids

The need for a space dedicated to growing an ecosystem for entrepreneurs, investors and mentors has prompted Start Garden to put down roots in an abandoned storefront in Grand Rapids' downtown Center City district.

Start Garden
, a $15 million seed accelerator for early-idea startups, is an idea developed by Rick DeVos, the mind behind ArtPrize and 5X5 Night, and supported financially by the DeVos family. The fund awards $5,000 a week to two start-up ideas, one chosen by Start Garden and one chosen by the public, in the hope of launching some 100 viable new businesses per year in the Greater Grand Rapids area.

"When we launched in April, we called it Stage One of something ongoing, of a buildout of an ecosystem friendly to entrepreneurs and new ideas," says Paul Moore, marketing director. "With as big an effort as we were undertaking each week, we would need a physical space where we would be a font of social activity, where everyone could have space to work on ideas."

Moore says the 5,000-square-foot space at 50 Louis Ave. NE, next to Lee & Birch, has a café-like feel during the day, but can be rearranged as a classroom or an auditorium space. The doors are open to the public around the time of a Start Garden event, such as, Update Night, when awardees present updates on how the initial $5,000 investment has helped their business move forward. The most promising are selected for further investment up to $500,000.

The rest of the time, the space is dedicated to being a place where entrepreneurs, investors and mentors connect, network and generate new ideas.

"It's right on the ground level, highly trafficked, a place to put on social and staged events to bring the entire city into the conversation about helping these companies along," Moore says. "It's the only way the cultural change we want is going to happen -- a thousand people doing a thousand small things in one direction."

Source: Paul Moore, Start Garden
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Related Articles
Introducing Start Garden

New law firm brings years of legal expertise to a growing business district in Norton Shores

A growing business district in Norton Shores has a new resident alongside eateries, a coffee shop and an established financial institution. The law office of Gielow Groom Terpstra & McEvoy moved into the second floor of the Michigan Commerce Bank building (281 Seminole Rd.) with just five people onboard last April. The company now has nine employees and hopes to add more as business grows.

The four attorneys -- Eric Gielow, Brad Groom, Rachel Terpstra and Keith McEvoy -- have from eight years' to over 30 years' legal experience each, says Eric Gielow, and represent businesses and commercial clients. However, each attorney has specialties: Gielow in environmental law, Groom in trial experience, Terpstra in family law and domestic relations, and McEvoy in corporate, real estate and liquor law.

"We all practiced at another firm together and decided to form this firm," says Eric Gielow. Gielow says the firm has incorporated many lean practices to keep costs down, similar to the lean practices of the company's manufacturing clients.

Those lean practices include a goal of being a paperless office, helping the company to minimize costs. Gielow says that savings is passed along to the firm's clients.

The building was part of a brownfield redevelopment that includes new retail and commercial spaces, Gielow says, and is across the street from a new Verdoni's Italian Restaurant and local java place, The Coffee House.

Source: Eric Gielow, Gielow Groom Terpstra & McEvoy; Laura Holmes, Fine Line Creative
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Dear Prudence offers unusual jewelry finds in small, chic East Grand Rapids shop

What's black and white and chic all over? Dear Prudence, a fun new jewelry haven in East Grand Rapids.

Dear Prudence, owned by Prudence Kauffman, is a diminutive 400-square-foot boutique with a black and white color scheme that allows the intriguing jewelry and gifts inside to take center stage. The store (701 Bagley St. SE, East Grand Rapids) carries jewelry and items that Kauffman hopes can be found only at Dear Prudence.

"We mostly carry jewelry, mostly made in the U.S., but we do have one fair trade line to support women and their families in Central and South America," says Kauffman, 40, who says both she and the store are named after the Beatles tune, "Dear Prudence." "We made sure we're carrying things that are different than anyplace in town, and have agreements with some of the artisans to be the only store in Grand Rapids carrying these products."

Besides unique Chanel button jewelry by Chicago artist Patti Lynch and Luminous Creation mixed metal jewelry by Grand Rapids artist Jaclyn Dreyer, the store also carries one-of-a-kind fingerprint jewelry made from customers' fingerprints. Customers press their fingerprints into a wax mold, and Dear Prudence sends it to the manufacturer to be dipped in silver and fashioned into necklaces, bracelets, cuff links or tie tacks.

"We just did one for a friend who had twins, and we took the babies' prints and made them into jewelry," Kauffman says.

Kauffman and her husband, Brad, relocated to the Grand Rapids area after 20 years in Winston-Salem, NC, because Brad's job was transferred here. The dream of the store has been percolating for years and became reality after Kauffman recovered from uterine cancer.

"Brad said if we get through this, we're going to do every single thing we ever wanted to do," Kauffman says. "I'm cancer free now, so we started researching the store and putting together every idea we had."

Hours: Mon. - Sat., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sun. noon to 5. Online shopping at DearPrudence.com will be available soon.

Source: Prudence Kauffman, Dear Prudence
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Planned Rockford Brewing craft beer pub hopes for first pour soon

With half of its brew house already in place and the fermenters arriving on August 7, Rockford Brewing Company hopes to produce its first beers for customers by late summer, says co-owner Seth Rivard.

Rivard, with partners Brien Dews and Head Brewer Jeff Sheehan, formerly of New Holland Brewing, says the two-story pub at 12 E. Bridge St., Rockford, will brew a number of Belgian-, English- and German-style ales, plus lagers and IPAs. The pub will also offer house-brewed sodas, sweet and dry ciders, red and white wines, plus deli food selections from Poindexter's Specialty Marketplace, which shares the building.

Rockford Brewing has a premium location along the White Pine Trail next to Reds on the River, across from the scenic Rockford Dam, the Rogue River and the popular Squires Street Square shopping district. Rivard says the main entrance opens to the White Pine Trail, and he expects the brewery to attract a lot of traffic from local craft beer aficionados and tourists, alike.

"The Rogue River and boutique shops are unique and draw people, and we think a craft brewery will be a draw for the town," Rivard says. "While we plan to sell most of the beer on-premises, we have a license for distributing beer and the primary first place is in Rockford. We want to be the flavor of Rockford."

Rivard says the seven-barrel brew system will produce 1,000 barrels (31-gals. per barrel) a year. The pub will have upper and lower levels, as well as outdoor seating along the trail, and will accommodate 150-200 people.

"The lower level will have an English pub, up north cabin feel, with a lot of white pine," Rivard says. "The upstairs is like a Bavarian beer hall. We'll have 12 taps on the main floor and six taps on the upper floor. We have a large window between the pub and the brew house so customers can see into the brew house, and passersby will be able to look into the brew house from outside."

To follow the brewery's progress on Facebook, click here.

Source: Seth Rivard, Rockford Brewing Company
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Idema Pew Library on GVSU's Allendale campus could raise bar on energy efficiency

Construction of the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons on Grand Valley State University's Allendale campus includes so many energy-saving design aspects and high-efficiency materials that the facility will consume half the energy of a typical library its size.

That's the word from Scott Veine, project manager for Pioneer Construction, who is overseeing the project.

"We took the base model of a library that met all the program needs of GVSU and worked with Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, a subsidiary of the Department of Energy, to cut 50 percent of the energy consumption," Veine says. "We've successfully completed that over the course of the last year and we're now implementing what the DOE gave us."

The 150,000-square-foot building will have five stories, 80 percent of which have raised floors with 18 inches of space below for running electrical, HVAC and IT lines, Veine says. Heat and air conditioning will come from the floor up, to maximize energy use in the six- to seven-foot-high zone people occupy.  

Other energy-saving features include a tight building envelope to retain maximum heat, a lighting sensor system that will dim artificial lights when enough natural light is present, and glass curtain walls to let in plenty of natural light.

The library will seat about 1,500 students, will offer 20 group study rooms and will have 600,000 books available to students through an automated retrieval system to reduce the space needed to store the books. Electronic books will also be available for students.

Veine says construction is about 45 percent complete, with 75 percent of the building already enclosed. Right now, about 120 tradesmen are on the job each day, and construction just hit a milestone of 100,000 man-hours. The project is on track for an expected LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

To view a video of the U.S. Green Building Council's tour of the project, click here.
For more information on the library, click here.

Construction manager/constructor: Pioneer Construction.
Architect and interior design: SHW Group.
Landscape architect: Hamilton Anderson.
Civil engineering: FTC&H.

Source: Scott Veine, Pioneer Construction
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Toronto genetics testing company selects Grand Rapids' West Side location for first laboratory

Toronto, Ontario-based Arctic DX has selected Grand Rapids' American Seating Park on the city's west side as the site of its first genetics testing laboratory, Arctic Laboratories. The $1.9 million facility is under construction at 801 Broadway NW and will process its first tests for genetic age-related macular degeneration this September.

In 2009, the company released its Macula Risk test to identify patients who have inherited the genes that cause macular degeneration, an eye disease that, left undiagnosed and untreated, causes blindness. Arctic DX has been using outside genetics laboratories to process the test results. The 7,500-square-foot facility is the first testing laboratory owned and operated by the company.

"Twenty percent of patients with macular degeneration are at risk of progression to blindness," says CFO/COO Jim Pelot. "Macular degeneration starts in patients around age 50 to 60 and is asymptomatic, so the patient doesn't know it's there until it's discovered by their eye doctor. The purpose of Macula Risk is to catch the disease early enough to make sure the patient doesn't lose their vision."

Two-thirds of the new facility is dedicated lab space that includes a separated ventilated lab that will keep the genetic testing area free of airborne DNA, says Pelot. The rest of the space will be staff offices and meeting rooms.

"We sat down with three different short-listed jurisdictions to discuss how to work with the city and the state for us to settle there, and decided on Grand Rapids," Pelot says. "Other considerations were the pool of [potential employees] who are familiar with molecular genetics, we wanted the laboratory to be easy to get to, and we have a number of Michigan doctors who are customers."

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation recently awarded Arctic DX a $220,000 Business Development Program incentive to build the laboratory in Grand Rapids.

The laboratory will create 28 jobs in the area. See the related story New Grand Rapids genetics testing lab seeks workers for research, office positions.

For more information on the Macula Risk test, click here.

Source: Jim Pelot, Arctic DX
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Health of Plaster Creek Watershed gets $375,622 boost from DEQ grant to Calvin College, partners

In 2003, Calvin College biology professor Dave Warners and his kids were walking along Plaster Creek and saw a man catch a salmon in the creek's polluted waters. Warners says he realized then that the danger level of the pollution is a social justice issue, not just an environmental one, because that man was going to take that salmon home and feed it to his family.

Plaster Creek Stewards, a region-wide effort to reverse the pollution in the creek's watershed, got a big boost recently with a Department of Environmental Quality grant of $375,622 awarded to Calvin College.

Several community partners will share the monies to improve the watershed: West Michigan Environmental Action Council, Kent Conservation District, the Kent County Drain Commission, the Center for Environmental Study, the City of Grand Rapids, Kent County Parks Department and Calvin College.

The Plaster Creek Watershed runs from creek headwaters near Dutton to the creek's entry into the Grand River just south of downtown Grand Rapids.

Professor Warners is part of the Plaster Creek Stewards leadership team, along with Gail Heffner and Nathan Haan, both of Calvin College. The college's campus lies along a portion of the creek.

"People should avoid Plaster Creek," Warners says. "It's carrying a high level of E. coli (Escherichia coli) and other bacteria that would elicit human health complications. It's a mistake to think that even with this amount of money we're going to be able to make vast improvements. Because of all the development and neglect of this creek, each year it has gotten worse. A big part of the pollution is stormwater runoff."

The funding will pay to create four bioswales at different points along the creek, to increase awareness of pollution practices by residents and businesses in the Plaster Creek Watershed, and to fund faculty and student research. It will also pay for ongoing research to determine where the E coli originates.

An oral history research project will collect stories from watershed residents of the past 60 years to help students understand what the watershed used to be like and create a vision for the future.

"I'm looking forward to the day when the creek is not worse, and then we can turn this thing around," Warners says. "This grant gives me a lot more hope that that day is closer."

Source: Dave Warners, Calvin College
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

90-year-old building in Grand Rapids' Creston district renovated for Sun Title expansion

As the installation of seven environmental bioretention islands down the middle of Plainfield Avenue continues between the Creston and Cheshire business districts, a circa 1920s building in the nearby 1400 block is undergoing its own renovation.

The building's tenant, Sun Title, currently resides in 6,000 square feet at 1410 Plainfield Ave. NE. But with the renovation of the entire building from 1400 Plainfield NE (at Spencer St. NE) north to 1410 Plainfield, Sun Title will expand to nearly 10,000 square feet.

"We've continued to grow since 2005," says Tom Cronkright, a partner in Sun Title with Lawrence Duthler. "We've got around 30 full-time folks and we have an opportunity for additional work space. Adding the corner unit at Spencer Street will allow us to conduct training, client mixers and networking events in that part of the building."

The building was once a two-story structure, but fire destroyed most of the second floor in 1982, says Duthler. The new construction will add a parapet at the second story level at Spencer and Plainfield to give the building definition. Inside, the original oyster tile floors, original wood and ornate pillars that were uncovered during demolition will be preserved and restored.

The new functionality will include an employee lounge area and office space for future growth.

"It was pretty dilapidated, and it's such a prominent corner that the renovation will beautify the area," Duthler says. "We're fortunate to have a number of neighbors here who have done a nice job of restoring their buildings, such as Red Jet and Stone's Throw, and we own the Creston Market building and did some façade improvements there. It's a great district to be in and it's a positive sign that folks want to be in this neighborhood."

Cronkright and Duthler expect construction will be completed by mid-September.

Source: Tom Cronkright and Lawrence Duthler, Sun Title
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

O'Connor's Home Brew Supply Store keeps things brewing with larger store, more products

A larger store in a newly renovated building is just what O'Connor's Home Brew Supply Store needs to keep things hoppin' in Grand Rapids' Midtown Neighborhood, and the store owners couldn't be happier.

Ben and Allison O'Connor opened the store 16 months ago, aiming to provide area home brewers with a supply outlet dedicated solely to the craft of home brewing. Now the shop has relocated just down the street to 619 Lyon St. NE, to a shop that doubles the retail area, plus provides a packaging and brewing workroom space in the back.

"We went from 700 square feet to over twice that," says Allison O'Connor. "We also have a finished basement to store our inventory so we can now buy in bulk to keep costs down and we can carry specialty items."

The new store has storefront windows for display, exposed brick walls and wood floors that are original to the old building. The rear of the building will eventually have a green space where the O'Connors hope to hold brewing classes and seminars.

The new store opened about three weeks ago and now offers over 70 grains from Germany, England, Belgium and other countries. There's a cooler dedicated to hops, and a variety of ingredients for brewing meads, wines and ciders, as well as hardware supplies and a number of starter kits.

"We work with the Michigan Hop Alliance and they will harvest their hops in the fall," O'Connor says. "We also have custom recipes, and if you're 21 and can show I.D., we can give you a sample of what we have brewing. We do that so people will know that home brew tastes like real beer."

Store hours: Tues. - Fri., 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 11a.m. to 6 p.m.    

Source: Allison O'Connor, O'Connor's Home Brew Supply Store;
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Nexus Academy accepting students for new college prep charter school on Grand Rapids' West Side

Grand Rapids high school students now have an opportunity to attend a non-traditional college preparatory school that specializes in a technology-based curriculum of blended learning -- a combination of online and face-to-face instruction.

Nexus Academy of Grand Rapids, part of the online learning Connections Education network, is putting finishing touches on outfitting the school at 801 Broadway NW in the American Seating Park. The school will have two shifts of 150 students each, with one shift running from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and the second from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The school has two English teachers, two math teachers, several success coaches and a personal trainer for physical education requirements. Fitness equipment is located within the school.

"The atmosphere is a combination of a college lounge and Starbucks, one open space with visibility for all the adults in the space and Plexiglas walls," says Mickey Revenaugh, executive VP of Connections Education. "There is a lot of individualized learning and extensive use of technology where students are working on their laptops all day. The real push is toward college or a trade school."

Revenaugh says the individualized learning allows students to work at their own pace and choose the subjects they're interested in learning without requiring an entire classroom of students for that subject.

"If one student wants to take Japanese IV, they can do that," she says. "Technology-based learning gathers data on what they're learning and where they're having problems."

Nexus Academy is a free public school chartered through Central Michigan University and is accepting applications now for the Sept. 3 start date. Click here for more information.

Revenaugh says Connections Education serves 45,000 in 22 states. Another Nexus Academy opens this year in Lansing, MI., plus three others in Ohio.

Source: Mickey Revenaugh, Connections Education
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Advanced Technology Recycling rehabs vacant Grand Rapids warehouse as Northeast US operations center

A vacant warehouse on Grand Rapids' southwest side will soon be the hub for Advanced Technology Recycling's northeast U.S. region; a collection and dispersal point for electronics recycling and rebuilding computers for resale inside and outside the states.

Advanced Recycling Technology, a subsidiary of Pontiac, Illinois-based BK Solutions, Inc.,  is a zero-landfill electronics recycling company that uses its expertise in the technology industry to refurbish discarded computers, and then sells them to companies who want to keep costs down, says Brodie Ehresman, northeast region general manager.

The 65,000-square-foot former mattress warehouse (702 Hall St. SW) has been vacant for several years after being used as tire storage and a stadium seating painting facility.

"We have a strong commitment to repurpose as much electronic equipment as we can," Ehresman says. "We have a proprietary process to sanitize the computers and have an IT team to repurpose the machines."

Ehresman says the company had to bring the century-old warehouse up to code with a new sprinkler system, elevators, and boilers, and is in the process of rebuilding the seven loading docks.

The company is an ISO 14001-R2 Certified Recycler and, besides computers, accepts phones, phone systems, laptops, copiers and other electronics. Items are collected at drop off sites organized at private corporations and organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. The recyclables will come to the Grand Rapids site for staging, and then sent downstream to various facilities for dismantling and recycling.

A grand opening is planned for August 6. An electronic waste drive is planned for July 20 - 21 at Habitat for Humanity ReStores on Division Avenue, Wyoming, and on Alpine Avenue,  Comstock Park.

Source: Brodie Ehresman, Advanced Technology Recycling
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Maru Sushi & Grill on track for August opening in Grand Rapids' East Hills

Right now, passersby see only bare concrete walls, ladders and construction debris through the two walls of windows in a new building along Cherry St. SE. But over the next weeks, Maru Sushi & Grill will come into being as millwork, furniture, paint and a kitchen take shape inside.

The restaurant, owned by Robert Song, who also owns an Okemos restaurant by the same name, should be open by late August or early September, bringing the area an authentic Japanese steakhouse experience with a twist.

"We're known for sushi, but we're not a sushi restaurant," Song says. "I have Japanese steakhouse chef experience of ten years, so we'll offer grilled steak, chicken and seafood, plus salads and soups. In Okemos, the grill part of it became so popular we had to change up to larger equipment."

Song's wife, Kelly Hong, an MSU interior design educator, is designing the interior to create an atmosphere to complement cuisine that's deeply rooted in "the traditional belief that the goodness of the ingredients makes the food," Song says. "However, we always give it a different interpretation of what it could and should be in this day and age. I have a traditional background in Sushi, my executive chef doesn't, so we're a good mix."

Maru will be open for lunch and dinner, with inside seating for 85 and outside seating for 20. The restaurant and patio area nestle neatly beside Brewery Vivant, and will offer patrons a full bar.

Source: Robert Song, Maru Sushi & Grill
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Related Articles
Okemos' Maru Sushi & Grill plans new restaurant near Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids' East Hills

Booker Barber College opens in Holland, aims to bring traditional barbershops back

Zach Booker wants to bring the traditional barbershop back to West Michigan neighborhoods and he aims to do it by making sure plenty of trained barbers are ready.

Booker, owner of Zach's Barbershop (4064 Chicago Dr. SW, Grandville), will open Booker Barber College at 170 Veterans Dr., Holland on July 17. The college is accepting student applications now, and on that date will be open to the public for $5 haircuts and $7 straight razor shaves.

Booker says many of the first students have transferred from the Booker Institute of Cosmetology, a Booker family institute, and will be working on customers under direct supervision of two barber college instructors. The barber college is located in the former Holland location of the Booker Cosmetology Institute, which also has locations in Muskegon and Hudsonville.

"I own a barbershop and became a barber because I saw the West Michigan area is saturated with cosmetologists," Booker says. "Other barbershops are staffed with cosmetologists, and clients aren't getting the authentic barbershop experience, where they can go in and know that the barber has been trained for 2,000 hours to cut short hair. It's the community connection; you develop friendships, I know my clients, I know their kids."

Booker says there are only five barber colleges in Michigan and Booker Barber College will be the only one in West Michigan. Students will receive classroom instruction and testing in addition to the hands-on training in hair cutting, color, perms and relaxers. The full course takes about a year to complete.

Hours: Tues. - Sat., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome.

Source: Zach Booker, Booker Barber College
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Sacred Roots combines visual art, hair styling to create unique salon in East Grand Rapids

Local artists have a new outlet for displaying their work surrounded by Hollywood Glam décor at East Grand Rapids' new Sacred Roots Salon.

The salon (2237 Wealthy St. SE, Suite 150), situated between Derby Station and Hot Mama's in Gaslight Village, caters to clients' hairstyling needs and doubles as an exclusive art gallery where one local artist a month can showcase his or her works without competing with other artists.

"I love art and supporting local artists," says owner James Garnant. "So the first Thursday of every month we have a cocktail party and a new installation by a new artist goes in."

Zeeland artist Katherine Throne is there through July, says Garnant. Beginning August 2, the salon will feature photographer Mike Kelley, with another artist following in September.

Garnant says he has been a hairdresser for 20 years and the salon helps him fulfill his dream of bring art to the public in a cozy and relaxed atmosphere.

"Hair is an art form in itself, and like attracts like and so it attracts artists," Garnant says. "I'm really big on making this a community gathering space where people feel they're not just getting their hair done but can come and hang out."

Hours: Weekdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Source: James Garnant, Sacred Roots Salon; Carey Potter, Brick House Marketing Group
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Megabus adds Grand Rapids to low-cost express routes between Detroit, East Lansing, Chicago

Megabus will bring its low-cost express bus service to Grand Rapids beginning July 12, with routes to and from Detroit, East Lansing and Chicago.
Megabus, a subsidiary of Coach USA, allows passengers to book seats online, which guarantees the seat and eliminates the need to stand in line to buy tickets, says President and COO Dale Moser. The service is designed with a minimal number of stops, so passengers arrive at their destination in nearly the same amount of time they could drive -- an advantage over traditional bus travel, Moser says.
"Historically, other bus companies stop eight to ten times, making a three-hour trip four-and-a-half hours, and customers didn't like that," Moser says. "We took a European approach with center city locations for drop offs, and found safe and highly visible locations close to other forms of transportation. We also offer free Wi-Fi on our buses."
The Grand Rapids pick-up/drop-off location is the parking area on the southwest corner of Wealthy St. SW and Market Avenue SW, diagonally across from the Amtrak station and a short walk to The Rapid central station.
A quick check on trip prices came back with tickets as low as $12 round-trip to Chicago, with the most expensive prices at $17 for the same trip (July 12 arrival and departure) and arrival times just over three hours. A ride to and from Detroit was $12 on the low end and $16 on the high end, with travel time to Detroit of 3 hrs. 15 mins.
Moser says Megabus serves over 90 cities, nationwide.
Source: Dale Moser, Megabus.com
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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