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GR8 Tastes tempts Grand Rapids' sweet tooth with tasty cake balls, chocolate and coffee

Cake balls are better known down south then they are in Michigan, but a new sweets shop in Grand Rapids' Creston business district is out to change that.

GR8 Tastes (1503 Plainfield Ave. NE), formerly Brittany Café, specializes in cake balls: crumbled cake mixed with flavored syrups or frosting, formed into balls about the size of donut holes, then dipped in dark chocolate, milk chocolate or white chocolate.

"A cake ball is a decadent cake confection," says GR8 Tastes owner Trish Hollemans. She and partners Donelle Bentley and Corinne Felt opened the shop three weeks ago. "We always carry chocolate truffle made with chocolate cake and golden delight made with yellow cake. We can create custom orders and add Irish crème syrup, pumpkin, cherries, cheesecake -- just about anything you can think of, we can make into a cake ball."

Hollemans says the cake balls are filling, so the shop also offers a smaller petite size, which is available singly or in a petite gift box containing four cake balls of four different flavors. Hollemans says the gift boxes are popular as wedding favors. The shop also does special orders for meetings and offers a shippable gift tin.

Customers can order in person, via phone or on the GR8 Tastes website.

GR8 Tastes also sells chocolate-covered pretzels and caramels, as well as a variety of coffee drinks. Patrons can get everything to go, or sit and enjoy the goodies at one of the shop's four tables while checking out the décor of antique cameras and photos of Grand Rapids, taken by co-owner Corinne Felt, an avid photographer.

The shop's core hours are Mon. - Fri., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with later hours on Weds. and Fri. For more information, visit the web site here or call (616) 447-7599.

Source: Trish Hollemans, GR8 Tastes
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Vacant warehouse, hotel now 45 apartments as Grand Rapids' Division Park Avenue, Serrano Lofts open

Three historic buildings that were showing their age are now 45 apartments and lofts, bringing a host of urban living and live/work options to Grand Rapids' S. Division Avenue.

The Palatine Building (c. 1911) at 209 S. Division was originally a rooming house for furniture buyers. Developer Brookstone Capital combined the building with 217 S. Division (c. 1888) to create the 47,000-square-foot Division Park Avenue Apartments, a 30-unit building with six live/work apartments along S. Division.

"The live/work spaces are two-story units," says Aaron Jonker, construction project manager with Wolverine Building Group. "The building was cut up into small rooms and had a lot of water damage. We were able to save a couple of historic walls, a couple of stairwells were restored in-place and we restored a three-story atrium with skylights. A huge mirror from the atrium was removed and restored offsite, then re-hung."

Around the corner at 17 Williams St. SW, a former four-story warehouse (c. 1917) now offers 15 one- and two-bedroom urban loft units under the name Serrano Lofts.

Both projects expect to attain LEED Gold certification, states Wolverine Building Group in a recent press release. Some of the sustainable features include indoor bike storage, LED lighting in all common areas, a reflective roof, high efficiency windows and recycling areas for tenants. All apartments have electronic keyless entry.

Federal Historic Tax Credits, Michigan State Historic Tax Credits, MSHDA Low Income Housing Tax Credits and Brownfield Tax Credits combined with other financing options to fund the projects.

An open house for both projects will be Friday and Saturday, Oct. 21 and 22 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Contact Kristine Hibbard at 616-643-8500 or visit www.livedowntowngrandrapids.com for leasing information.

Architect: Concept Design Studio
Historic consultant: Past Perfect
Sustainability consultant: Catalyst Partners

Source: Aaron Jonker and Wolverine Building Group
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Goodwill, YMCA team up to offer healthy menu at new GW2 Café in downtown Grand Rapids

You've had a great workout during your lunch hour and you'd like to grab a bite of something healthy to take back to the office.

The folks at the new GW2 Café in the David D. Hunting YMCA lobby (475 Lake Michigan Dr. NW) have just the thing: fresh sandwiches and wraps, fresh fruit, fruit smoothies, salads, coffee drinks and more -- all made with the health-conscious customer in mind.

Goodwill Industries and the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids teamed up to remake an existing café into a convenient fueling-up spot for Y members and folks who just want to stop in for a bite. Goodwill, whose mission is to provide job training and placement for individuals with barriers to employment, will use the café as a final training ground for its hospitality services program.

"Last year, we trained about 30 people in hospitality services. The partnership with the Y will enable us to train above and beyond that number," says Goodwill's Communications Officer Jill Wallace. "They'll learn food prep, get certified in the ServSafe Food Handler Program and learn to work with customers, all at our kitchen on Sheldon (72 Sheldon Blvd. SE). They work their way up and then they can go out to the public training at our CrossTown Deli Café in The Rapid station and now at GW2 Café at the YMCA."

Proceeds from the café with help fund Goodwill's 20-plus job training programs, says Wallace. She adds that in 2010, Goodwill's job training programs placed 1,300 people in jobs throughout the eight counties the organization serves: Kent, Claire, Gladwin, Ionia, Isabella, Mecosta, Montcalm and Osceola.  

GW2 Café opened October 10. Hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Source: Jill Wallace, Goodwill Industries
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Vue Design brings custom-designed bridal wear to Center City in Grand Rapids' MoDiv incubator

After two years of operating out of her Ada home, bridal fashion designer/creator Shannon Gales decided to bring her custom bridal creations to the heart of Grand Rapids. So last Friday, she opened her first Vue Design retail showroom and studio in the Shops at Monroe Center and Division, known as MoDiv (40 Monroe Center).

Gales, 44, began sewing at age 10. She spent 23 years in the corporate fashion design industry and then stepped out on her own two years ago with Vue Design. Now she finds herself in a temporary 200-square-foot space at MoDiv -- a space she'll leave within the month to walk her creations down the aisle to a boutique space twice the size.

"I have examples of some of the work we've done, a few boleros and ready-made bridal gowns, handbags," Gales says. "The larger shop will be a working design studio with sewing machines where customers can observe us working. We'll also have a showroom of examples and ready-to-purchase items, a consultation room with fabric samples and a changing room."

The "we" Gales refers to includes two student interns from Calvin College's art program. Calvin doesn't offer a fashion design course, says Gales, "So this allows students interested in fashion to experience it in a working studio." She adds that she'll be adding two more interns soon.

The custom bridal gown design experience begins with Gales learning the bride's dreams for her wedding day. She works with the bride's body type to design the most flattering gown, even helping the bride learn what styles look best by fitting her with prototype skirts, bodices and sleeves.

During the design process, dress mockups are fitted to the bride and then the dress is created. The process can take as much time or as little time as the bride wants, Gales says.

Gales says the gowns typically start at about $1,200, but she says she never wants a bride to be deterred by price and can design simpler gowns to fit a more limited budget.

Source: Shannon Gales, Vue Design
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Jenison Public Schools to break ground on $17M performing arts center for entire community

Jenison Public Schools will break ground next year on a proposed $17M performing arts center that will be available to the whole city for live performances and concerts. The 9,000-square-foot facility will be a stand-alone structure that will replace the current administration building on the Jenison High School property at Bauer Road and 20th Avenue.

The project, funded through a complicated combination of a voter-approved bond plus state and federal monies, will include a 1,200-seat performance auditorium, a costume shop, a scene-building shop, school administrative offices and event/convention space.

"This will be a true community performing arts center with a music hall that will transform into a theatrical performing area," says JPS Superintendent Tom TenBrink. "Each of our schools will be able to have all their performances at the center, instead of traveling to various churches [like they have to now].We'll also get the community involved by bringing in performances that will appeal to senior citizens, and bringing in concert performers and dinner theaters."

"It's architecturally very modern and different than any other building on the campus, which will make it very striking," says Mitch Watt, president of Triangle Associates, the project construction manager. "Jenison schools don’t have a facility that allows them to bring in large groups for performances or to bring in professional groups. This will allow them to schedule performances year-round, creating a really good resource for the community."

Demolition of the current administration building begins in February 2012; construction starts in March. TenBrink expects the project to be finished in time for the schools to host their Christmas holiday concerts there in December 2013.

"In Jenison, the center of our community is our schools," TenBrink says. "We don’t really have a downtown, people move here for the schools. We needed to build a facility that will draw people to the community. Eight years ago, we had one percent poverty level in homes with school age children and it’s over 30 percent now. The bottom line is the Jenison community took a step of faith to invest in our kids’ future and passed the bond proposal."

Architect: URS Corporation

Source: Tom TenBrink, Jenison Public Schools; Mitch Watt, Jeff Jelke, Scott Jernberg, Anne Rothwell, Triangle Associates
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids' Sofia Bella Couture adds infants, girls clothing to shopping options at MoDiv

For shoppers looking for hip infant and young girls clothing that's a bit off-the-wall instead of off the rack, a new specialty shop in downtown Grand Rapids' MoDiv is the right place.

Sofia Bella Couture, a cozy 400-square-foot boutique in the Shops at Monroe Center and Division (MoDiv, 40 Monroe Center), offers delightful clothing, onesies, bibs, hats and more in bright fabrics and animal prints -- many sporting a healthy dose of frills and bling.

Owner Brandice Labadie, 28, named her new venture after her eight-month-old daughter, Sofia, who she says is the inspiration for the shop.

"When I went shopping for her, I couldn't find anything I liked," Labadie says. "I wanted girlie, and tutus, but it didn't matter what store I went to, it was the same prints, same cuts, same styles."

Labadie says she's offering fabrics that are "a little edgier than the typical fabrics for girls," for instance, "the rocker-chic look with pink guitars, and skulls and crossbones with hot pink bows."

Some of her products are ready-made and some she designs herself. Other items Labadie upcycles by adding embellishments to ready-made items, like the cute piggy banks that she adorned, adding earrings to one, a flower halo to another, and glittery hot pink crystals to another.

Other items include "cupcake" hats with "sprinkles" and a cherry, zebra-print crib shoes and baby bottle holders shaped like cats, dogs and frogs.

"I'm working on our own clothing line, and have samples in the store that can be custom ordered from size newborn up to a girls' size 10," Labadie says.

The line features fun styles: long pants with ruffles, and layered skirts that resemble flouncy petticoats. Peasant tops and an entire line of Christmas and holiday wear will be out soon, Labadie says.

Store hours:
Mon., Tues., Weds., Fri. - 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Thurs. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.;
Sat. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Source: Brandice Labadie, Sofia Bella Couture
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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HyperOptik aims to bring a new kind of spectacle to Grand Rapids' Wealthy St.

Funky, urban and eclectic are the words Christopher Conens uses to describe the trendy eyewear he and his dad Rob Conens and business partner Daryl Kamp will soon offer at their proposed HyperOptik Spectacle Studio at 1134 Wealthy St. SE.

But the shop is more than just a store -- it's also a finish lab for custom-grinding prescription lenses and a photo studio where Rob Conens, an avid portrait photographer, will photograph customer "models" wearing their new eyewear.

"Rob has always done the portrait work for the ad campaigns for our other store, Cascade Optical, but we've always set up a temporary photo studio," says Christopher Conens. "Now we'll be able to photograph every customer who wants to be part of our ads. Over the years, we've found that far more people want to do it than don't want to."

Cascade Optical has brought high-end eyewear to Grand Rapids patrons for 17 years and Christopher says he and Rob have envisioned an urban store for the past five years or so. He says the 1,200-square-foot location one door east of Wealthy Theatre is the perfect spot.

"We've found that the urban pockets of Grand Rapids are just incredible renaissance zones of energy, with more people moving there and a younger generation with a strong community spirit," Conens says.

"HyperOptik will offer less expensive and funkier eyewear than we have in Cascade," he says. "We already work with a number of artists and very creative colorful customers, and we wanted more of a presence in an urban environment, something a little more dynamic."

The store's product brands include l.a.Eyeworks, Booth & Bruce, X-I-T and Cutler & Gross. The shop will offer retail only, and will not have optometrists onsite.

Conens expects the shop will open in mid-October.

Source: Christopher Conens, HyperOptik Spectacle Studio
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

City approves proposed $27M Grand Rapids Urban Market for next step, could see early 2013 opening

Despite concern over the question of adequate parking, the Grand Rapids Planning Commission approved the requested liquor licenses and site plans for the proposed $27M Grand Rapids Urban Market with the condition that a parking management plan be submitted and approved.

The market, a project led by Grand Action, the group behind development of the Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place, will cover most of a city block at 435 Ionia Avenue SW and 109 Logan St. SW. It could be the first major project to extend the downtown shopping district south of Wealthy St.

The 3.5-acre site, bounded by Wealthy (north), Ionia (east), Logan (south) and US-131 (west), is the former home of the Sonneveldt Produce Company with six worn out warehouses that will be demolished in November.

The vision is to replace them with a 130,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor market that could include eateries, a brewpub, a retail incubator, a rooftop greenhouse, meeting space, office space and two commercial kitchens -- one for culinary education purposes and one to serve as an incubator for fledgling food-production businesses.

All of this is contingent on enough parking space onsite, or a viable parking plan that will accommodate peak shopping periods and increased traffic, says the Planning Commission. Requirements are 318 spaces onsite; plans thus far have just 200 spaces onsite, plus on-street parking. The expectation is that many shoppers will come by bus, the proposed Bus Rapid Transit which could be running by 2014, and by bicycle. Construction can begin once a parking plan is approved. Completion of the project could be spring 2013.

The property is owned by the Downtown Development Authority, which will lease it for 99 years to a corporate entity created by Grand Action, says Jay Fowler, DDA executive director. Fowler says the city “plans to reconstruct Ionia, Logan and McConnell streets over the next two years to greatly improve adequate access to the market and to Acme Insulations (100 Logan St. SW), and to separate the antiquated storm water and sanitary sewers.”

Architects: Design Plus and New Jersey-based Hugh Boyd.

Source: Sept. 22 Planning Commission meeting; Jay Fowler, Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority;
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Elk Brewing to brew up beers, ciders, meads in former restaurant on Grand Rapids’ Wealthy Street

Eric and Lisa Karns have big plans to bring a small brewpub to life on Grand Rapids’ Southeast side, and they got the go-ahead from the Grand Rapids Planning Commission on Sept. 22 to pursue state approval for the liquor license.

Elk Brewing will transform the former Southern Fish Fry building on the corner of Wealthy St. SE and Henry St. SE into an 80-seat microbrewery/pub with an 80-seat outdoor patio along Henry St. The brewpub will be allowed to sell its wares onsite only. Eric Karns, a veteran homebrewer, will head up the brewing team and has plans to offer patrons site-made specialties beyond beer.

“We’ll start out brewing ciders, meads and beers,” Eric Karns says. “We want to have seven to eight beers on tap. Brewing beer is the only thing I’ve really loved doing. We’ll be getting a 100-gallon brewing system and will do construction over the winter, with an opening sometime next year.”

The pub will also offer a selection of wines, but will not sell hard liquor.

Planning Commission also approved a 40-square-foot addition to the Wealthy St. side of the building, which will incorporate a glass façade. The Grand Rapids Historic Preservation Commission approved conceptual plans on March 17, 2010.

The Karns have worked out preliminary agreements with nearby restaurants including The Winchester, Johnny B’z Dogs and More and Wealthy Street Bakery to provide their menus and a delivery service for patrons of Elk Brewing, says Karns.

Design: Lott3Metz Architecture

Source: Eric Karns, Elk Brewing; Greg Metz, Lott3Metz Architecture
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Uptown Kitchen invests Grand Rapids 5x5 winnings in licensed public commercial kitchen in Eastown

Kelly LeCoy is busy these days. She’s working a fulltime job at Steelcase and developing Uptown Kitchen, a licensed commercial kitchen and event space in Grand Rapids’ Eastown business district. This shared-use kitchen will be available for lease to fledgling and established food producers who need a licensed facility.

LeCoy, who’ll be 23 next week, says she’s investing the monies she won at three local business plan competitions -- $5,000 at 5x5 Night in Grand Rapids, $1,000 in the Calvin College BizPlan Competition and $3,000 in the West Michigan Regional Business Plan Competition.

Uptown Kitchen begins construction this week at 1514 Wealthy St. SE, in the former City Knitting location.

LeCoy envisions the endeavor as a way for caterers, food producers and other related businesses to cut overhead costs by having use of a fully licensed kitchen that’s available 24/7, without the cost of creating a kitchen or owning the property. It also allows small food-focused businesses to earn more money than the state cottage law permits, thus allowing businesses to grow.

The kitchen space has three distinct areas: a prep kitchen, a pastry kitchen and a catering kitchen.

“This actually started as a final project in the honors program at Calvin College, where I graduated this spring,” LeCoy says. “I began interviewing local small businesses and realized the need for commercial kitchen space because people wanted to sell their food products and couldn’t because of the cottage food law. Under the cottage law, you can sell food made in home kitchens at farmers markets [and] roadside markets, but there’s a huge leap to selling a food product in a store because it needs to be made in a licensed commercial kitchen.”

Uptown Kitchen will include an event and meeting area with a demonstration kitchen for people wishing to hold cooking classes or other events for up to 50 people.

If all goes as planned, the kitchen will be available for rent in November. For more information, you can contact Kelly LeCoy at 616-776-2655 or Kelly@uptownkitchengr.com.

Source: Kelly LeCoy, Uptown Kitchen
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photography credit: Kelly Powers, courtesy of Calvin College

The Dirty Hippie, Grand Rapids -- Get your caffeine fix and star in a reality show at the same time

Getting a latté and being in a reality show at the same time has never been so easy!

Step inside The Dirty Hippie (133 S. Division) in Grand Rapids and you could be part of the next big scene in Tyler and Vinny Trierweiler’s imaginative web-based show that puts a new twist on life in GR.

The Trierweilers, 23-year-old twin brothers from Portage, came to Grand Rapids this spring to start The Musician’s Cooperative based on an organization Tyler Trierweiler says they started in South Bend, IN. They wanted a larger city to work and play in, so they scoped out Grand Rapids and made the move.

After gathering ideas about what they could do for a living that was different and sustainable, the guys launched The Dirty Hippie reality show premise where staff and customers in a bona fide coffee shop are the stars. The shop opens officially Oct. 1, the same date the show debuts on the web at dirtyhippievenue.com.

“We’ve been filming for the past two-and-a-half weeks,” says Trierweiler, who graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in video production. “First episode is about setting up the business.”

He adds that if a customer walks in during an event at the shop they can “be assured filming will be going on and you may be in the episode. We edit the best stuff just like any TV producers do. This is more than an everyday coffee shop, but you can come in and do your homework here, too.”

Trierweiler says Grand Valley State University interns are handling the filming. Customers can sit down in front of the self-confessional camera and talk about whatever they want to, or grab one of the foot cameras to film themselves or their friends.

The 1,000-square-foot shop will be open seven days, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., with special events, music, open mic nights, showings of the reality series and other happenings scheduled throughout the week.

Source: Tyler Trierweiler, The Dirty Hippie
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Madison Square Apartments gutted, geared up for $21M overhaul in SE Grand Rapids

The residents of Madison Square Apartments on Grand Rapids’ Southeast side have endured years of poor housing in a residential community with a less than stellar reputation. But the folks at Dwelling Place say all that is changing. Dwelling Place purchased the 60-unit, three-story building in June and has since gutted the building in preparation for a complete overhaul. The project, including the building's purchase price, will run some $21M.

Besides new interiors for the apartments -- which include new kitchens and bathrooms -- and all-new common areas, Triangle Associates is building  three additions, including a community room large enough to accommodate all residents for special events and a gathering room where residents can meet to for crafts or exercise classes.

“This is a Section 8 property and we’re doing this renovation to preserve the affordable housing in the Grand Rapids area,” says Dwelling Place’s Director of Housing Development Jarrett DeWyse. “We bought the property from MSHDA (Michigan State Housing Development Authority), who could have sold this to another developer and we’d have lost the affordable aspect of this housing.”

The apartments (500 Hall St. SE) were built as one-bedroom senior housing in 1984, which included housing for persons of any age who had physical disabilities. Forty of the apartments were occupied. Last December, Dwelling Place helped those residents find temporary housing in some 16 locations throughout the city until construction is finished. Most of those residents will opt to return to what DeWyse says will be, basically, a brand new building.

Upgrades include new HVAC, new windows, an outdoor deck and a community garden area for residents. DeWyse says that conversations with service providers such as Senior Meals and Gerontology Network will put services in place for the residents, something they didn’t have before.

The additions do not add any new apartments, but allow space for enlarging 25 of the apartments to about 700 square feet; the remaining apartments run about 540 square feet, says DeWyse.  

Residents have been invited to join a contest to give the new building a new name.  

Funding for the project came from American Reinvestment and Recovery Act stimulus funds, low-income housing tax credits and MSHDA, says DeWyse.

“The residents can’t wait to get back,” DeWyse says. “They feel we are invested and we are concerned about them, and they feel really good about that.”

Construction should wrap up in March 2012.

Construction manager: Triangle Associates
Architect: Destigter Architecture & Planning

Source: Jarrett DeWyse, Dwelling Place, Inc.
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Baxter Community Center's new greenhouse will sprout healthy food options for Grand Rapids neighbors

About the time their summer vegetable gardens are just a fond memory to most Grand Rapids gardeners, the Baxter Community Center will be setting up its first year-round gardening environment in its new heated greenhouse.

The 1,060-square-foot greenhouse is the latest addition to Baxter Community Center’s ongoing efforts to bring fresh produce and budget-friendly foods to a neighborhood classified by the Public Health Department as a “food desert,” a place lacking sources of easily accessible foods and fresh produce. Construction began Sept. 6 and the greenhouse will be completed by the end of November.

“We’re working to set up holistic support for our neighbors, and the greenhouse will be a learning space to teach people how to garden and to provide starter plants for them to use,” says Melanie Beelen, executive director. "Our partners in the program are the YMCA and Our Kitchen Table -- the Y will focus on teaching nutrition, youth gardening and exercise; Our Kitchen Table will work with neighbors to provide one-on-one support for their home gardens.”

The greenhouse learning experience ties in with Baxter’s onsite community garden where neighbors plant and grow food for their families. And it will have a direct connection with Around the Table, a program that teaches people how to cook fresh produce now and preserve some of it for later use through canning. That program, in turn, works hand-in-hand with Double Up Food Bucks, which teaches people how to get more for their grocery dollar.

Dan Vos Construction is building the $200,000 structure, which was paid for with funding raised by Baxter Community Center. Dan Vos Construction has worked with Baxter on other projects, including the 2006 LEED-certified gymnasium.

“My dad was on the (Baxter) board for many years,” says Dan T. Vos, executive VP. “The passion the Baxter Community Center feels for their ministry is very contagious -- when you walk in there, you feel like you just want to help them. I think what they’re doing is going to give some health benefits to the neighborhood.”

Source: Melanie Beelen, Baxter Community Center; Dan T. Vos, Dan Vos Construction
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Haworth, Interphase to open creative design showroom in Grand Rapids' new MoDiv retail incubator

Haworth and its Grand Rapids dealer, Interphase Interiors, announced plans this week to open an 1,800-square-foot showroom and retail store in the new Shops at Monroe Center and Division, or MoDiv, in downtown Grand Rapids.

MoDiv, a new retail incubator endeavor launched by Rockford Construction, will make some 8,500 square feet of the Peck Building on the corner of Monroe Center and N. Division Avenue available for businesses wanting to get a toe in downtown's retail waters. The Haworth/Interphase showroom and 6.25 Paper Studio (formerly Syd Design) are the first tenants.

"The space will be a working showroom and a retail space for us," says Ray Kennedy, Haworth's director of North American marketing. "It will be a space to bring customers to experience our Haworth products, and it will be available to other tenants and the community if someone needs a large space for events."

Haworth products are custom designed, Kennedy says, so most retail shopping will be via special orders. But he says "there may be some pieces they can walk out the door with."

The showroom will have kitchen, living room, library, foyer and office areas that will demonstrate how workspaces have taken on a casual feel akin to a home environment.

Moreover, Haworth envisions the space as a launching pad for innovative ideas on the changes in workplace environments.

"It's going to be a great place to bring the community together, and a great place to test products out," Kennedy says. "It will be great to have the connection with the incubator space and the retail outlets that are there. There will be lots of opportunities to co-market and coexist, and they'll have access to our space so they can use it and build up that corner of downtown Grand Rapids."

Rockford Construction says it will invest some $400,000 in the incubator.

Source: Ray Kennedy, Haworth; Michael Zalewski, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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6.25 Paper Studio is first small retailer to join MoDiv retail incubator in downtown Grand Rapids

At just 335 square feet, the new outlet for 6.25 Paper Studio in downtown Grand Rapids will give owner Abbey Fowler the opportunity to see if her new venture will pay off and possibly lead to an even bigger store. The stationery and gift boutique is one of the first two tenants announced this week for retail incubator Shops at Monroe Center and Division, or MoDiv, 40 Monroe Center.

6.25 Paper Studio, once known as Syd Design, is Fowler's first step in introducing her lines of custom made invitations and personally designed greeting cards to a larger client base than she attracted by working out of her Kentwood home.

Fowler hopes to have the studio open by the start of ArtPrize (Sept. 21). She'll offer her own greeting cards for holidays, birthdays and gift sets of blank cards.

Fowler, who, with her husband Mac, is in the process of adopting an 18-month-old girl from Africa, has also created a line of greeting cards for adoptions.

"I'll also offer products from 50 or 60 small companies, artisans and crafters," Fowler says. "I have some cute owl pillows from Belding artist Katie Mulder and Michigan Awesome T-shirts. I'll also do custom gift wrapping and sell gift packaging."

The shop will include a small design studio where Fowler plans to create her cards and meet with clients to design custom wedding invitations. She says the retail incubator concept of MoDiv, the ability to rent such a small space and the promise of having foot traffic generated by other future tenants has made a coveted downtown shop affordable.  

"I was looking downtown about a year and a half ago, and even looked to partner with a photographer," she says. "By the time we added up the price per square foot and added on utilities, it was over my budget. Here, everything is covered in my rent. Hopefully this will give me a jumpstart into transitioning into a larger space."

Source: Abbey Fowler, 6.25 Paper Studio; Michael Zalewski, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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