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Adored Boutique opens East Hills retail space with hopes of paying it forward

As far as owner Emily Smith is concerned, the decision to open the new Adored Boutique and follow a career into retail wasn’t ever something she actively intended to work toward, but rather something she began to understand over time. 

“I was really restless in my career, and I was on a mission trip in Cuba, and the trip was really surrounded in this idea of just loving on women and reminding them that they’re not alone,” says Smith, who opened her 1,200-square-foot women’s clothing store, Adored Boutique, Dec. 1 at 968 Cherry St. in East Hills. “Every woman we connected with (during the trip) would get something to call her own that was special and feminine and made her feel good and made her feel loved…By the time I left that trip, I understood that I needed to change my career and that it involved opening a women’s boutique and over time God really just fine-tuned it in me.”

Then, almost one year ago, Smith said she was singing the hymn “O Come Let Us Adore Him” at her church’s Christmas service when she was struck with inspiration for Adored Boutique, which features contemporary apparel, shoes and home goods exclusively from vendors who are ethical manufacturers, many of whom employ individuals who were victims of human trafficking or other forms of exploitation. 

“It was really about just taking each step at a time to understand it, so I started researching ethical manufacturers — and I didn’t really know that word, ethical manufacturers, but I kept searching and finally started making connections with those vendors,” says Smith, adding that the one thing these vendors all had in common was a focus on creating employment opportunities for women who recently escaped poverty, sex trafficking, or other forms of exploitation  

After signing a five-year lease in October, Smith began renovating and moving into the space just last month, whipping the former hair salon into shape with help from her interior designer sister and longtime friend and contractor who assisted with the build-out. 

Committed to partnering with local and global organizations that have missions to directly or indirectly support the rescue and restoration of victims of human trafficking, Adored Boutique gives back 15 percent of its profits to charity partners on local, regional, and national levels. 

Now nestled on the corner of Cherry Street and Lake Drive, Smith says the revamped retail space fits right in with not only the vibe of her new neighborhood, but also with its residents and other entrepreneurs in the ever-growing business community. 

“I will say that every single business owner in this community has just been genuinely welcoming and encouraging and supportive, and I would say the same about the people who live in the area and have come into the store,” she says. “It’s such a positive atmosphere.” 

For more information about Adored Boutique, its vendors, or what charities it contributes to, visit Adored Boutique online here.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Adored Boutique 

Power to the people: WestSide Collaborative & Harmony Hall launch fundraiser for neighborhood grants

If you are looking to contribute to a local, grassroots cause this holiday season, it doesn’t get more local and more grassroots than the partnership between Harmony Hall and the WestSide Collaborative. 

For the month of December, Harmony Hall will be selling ornaments to raise funds for the WestSide Collaborative’s resident empowerment grant program, with empowerment being the key word.
 
The WestSide Collaborative is a group of local nonprofits and neighborhood organizations located in, and working on, the west side of Grand Rapids that seeks to address the marginalization of west side residents due to the concentration of power held by entities and individuals other than the residents themselves.

Sergio Cira-Reyes, of the WestSide Collaborative, says the grant program will fund programs designed by residents and for residents of the west side of Grand Rapids. “The goal is to connect residents with other residents to improve the neighborhood and build community,” he says.
 
These efforts come at a particularly crucial time, with “mom ‘n pop” shops giving way to larger developments and rents continually rising. In an article Rapid Growth published last year, Andrew Sisson, of the WestSide Collaborative, explained the tension behind the changes occurring on the city’s west side.

Cira-Reyes says this new program is open to all west side residents living in an area that is roughly west of the Grand River, north of Wealthy Street, south of Richmond, and east of Valley.  Ideas and applications for the  empowerment grants program are submitted on their website and then the neighborhood votes to see which project will be awarded up to $1,000. 

As far the types of projects that can be submitted, Cira-Reyes says it is up to the people living in the neighborhoods.  “If they want to fund a mural, to build pride, and they can get the residents energized to vote, that is fine,” he says.
 
Cira-Reyes encourages anyone submitting ideas to think of proposals that will bring the neighborhood together, whether it is, for example, a repurposing existing spaces for soccer fields or improving local parks. “It’s really about residents addressing the issues in the neighborhoods,” he says. “We want to build a culture so that if there is a problem in the community we can get together and fix it.”

Heather Van Dyke-Titus, co-owner of the west side’s Harmony Hall, says this is exactly the type of program her business believes in supporting. “The WestSide Collaborative are old school organizers,” she says. “They are raising money and working on projects that directly impact the neighborhoods.”

Harmony Hall will kick off the fundraiser with a celebration on Dec. 8. The event will feature the local band The Bootstrap Boys playing holiday music from 6-9 pm, the release of the Gingerbread Brown beer, and festive food specials. Representatives from the WestSide Collaborative will be present to share information about the grant program.

Submissions for ideas close on Dec. 16. The top ideas, as voted by the residents, will be pitched to a panel of judges, which will include people living in the neighborhood, to determine the winner of the grant on Jan. 19. Cira-Reyes says organization has a full-court press to get the word out about the grant, including meetings with students in the local middle school and Union High School. 

To learn more, you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Dec. 10 opening of Pop Up Shop GR brings unique retail space to Avenue for the Arts

Located at 315 S. Division along the Avenue for the Arts, the new Pop Up Shop GR will hold its grand opening Dec. 10. The event will be hosted by Pop Up Shop owner Tova Jones. 

The new Pop Up Shop was created by Jones to encourage entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, and other independent entities to take the first leap at owning and promoting their own work. 

“I want to get e-commerce business owners, artists, and musicians excited about a space where they can come and sell their product,” says Jones.

Jones adds that because many e-commerce business owners don’t often get the opportunity to hold a space of their own outside of festivals and other tabling events, Pop Up Shop’s vision is to provide a venue that helps entrepreneurs expand their brand and have a local touchpoint with their customer base.

For more information about Pop Up Shop GR, email Jones at grpopupshop@gmail.com or visit here on Facebook.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Pop Up Shop GR

'A vibrant part of the neighborhood': Historic Kingsley Building renovation to include apts, offices

Doing business as Offsite Lake Drive, LLC, Maplegrove Development and Bazzani Building Co. have partnered to complete renovations on the top four floors of the 90-year-old Kingsley Building at 1415 Lake Dr. in Eastown.

Construction on the building’s ground floor retail space were completed in recent years by its owner, Bazzani. With Maplegrove Development now on board as property managers, the duo will turn its focus to the $10.7 million renovation of the remaining four floors. The project will result in a mix of new office spaces and residential apartment units and is expected to take about 14 months to complete. 

“Offsite Lake Drive, LLC is proud to be a part of the Eastown neighborhood and believes that the completion of the Kingsley Building renovation will make a once obsolete property a vibrant part of the neighborhood,” says Chief Operating Officer/Member David Emdin of Maplegrove Property Management.

At 17,000 square feet, the Kingsley Building’s second floor will house approximately 18 small offices — ranging from 200 to 500 square feet — lining the exterior of the space, with private residential storage filling in interior. 

The third, fourth, and fifth floors will transform into 41 new one- and two-bedroom apartments. With heat, air conditioning, and one indoor parking space included, the units’ rental rates are expected to range from $1,170 to $1,270 for one-bedrooms and $1,730 to $1,830 for two-bedrooms.

With plans to insert more than 100 windows around the exterior of the building, as well as small balconies for most of the apartment units, designs also call for a three-story atrium and a large rooftop gathering patio where residents can look out on surrounding Eastown neighborhood. 

With an expected grand opening in spring 2018, Bazzani will seek Gold level LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for the renovation of the Kingsley Building, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings in 2012. Built in 1926, the building was formerly home to the Grand Rapids Storage and Van Co. and Zondervan Publishing.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Bazzani Building Co. 

Juhlia to bring innovative drink menu to GR nightlife

In a design era that seems to rely heavily on contemporary angles and industrial fixtures in gathering spaces with open floor plans, Adam Wolpa and Andy Stob want their new Cheshire Village space to have an aesthetic that’s softer around the edges. 

“We’re thinking less industrial, less steel and barnwood,” Wolpa says of Juhlia, a cafe that he's co-opening with Stob at 2124 Plainfield Ave. “More vibrant, more feminine, more rounded architectural elements. We want it to be beautiful and quiet, and we want it to be comfortable.”

The plans from Wolpa, an artist and former Calvin College professor with 25 years of on-and-off restaurant experience, and Stob, a general contractor and owner of Stob Construction, for the upcoming Juhlia promise a warm and welcoming atmosphere and an innovative food and drink menu. Menu details will be unveiled at a later date.

The new culinary spot will include a variety of drinks with health benefits, and Wolpa notes it will provide different options for folks who want to spend a night (or day) out with friends.

Though work on the space is currently underway, both of Juhlia’s co-owners hold down full time jobs alongside their new joint enterprise, so Wolpa says, realistically, they’re looking at a fall 2017 opening. 

In the meantime, Wolpa and Stob have been working with architect Greg Metz to finalize Juhlia’s design and build-out plans, tapping into resources offered by Grand Valley State University’s Small Business Development Center with the intent to launch a Kickstarter Campaign as the final stage of fundraising efforts in the coming months. Plus, the two owners have been thrilled to meet their new neighbors in Cheshire Village. 

“A lot of us over there are working really hard,” Wolpa says. “…There’s a really good energy with lots of things coming together.” 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor

Local floral designer, Posh Petals, ups the ante on elegance with new West Side digs

With wedding season finally drawing to a  close, floral design company Posh Petals is finally finding time to celebrate the grand opening of its new 3,000-square-foot retail space at 806 Bridge St. NW with a ribbon cutting ceremony Nov. 16 at 9:30 a.m. 

Though Posh Petals began moving into the space back in July, owner Elizabeth Schenk said the wedding season kept her 10-person staff too busy for any kind of formal celebration. Now, however, Schenk, her employees and the community will have a chance to celebrate the relocation from the original shop at 2150 Plainfield Ave., which the owner says ended up being a “blessing in disguise.” 

“The building was sold and so we needed to relocate,” says Schenk, who opened on Plainfield Avenue in the former Roxy Theater building in fall 2014. “It was a blessing in disguise because we had outgrown our old space anyway, and it just made more sense to relocate.” 

With a range of services that include everything from floral design and event planning/design for weddings, corporations, and non-profits, Posh Petals also serves walk-in customers, hosts parties and group gatherings, and offers design classes and workshops, like its upcoming Thanksgiving centerpiece class on Nov. 22 and annual wreath decorating class on Dec. 6. 

“Our (classes) are more like a workshop…The way we design is just being artistic and creative and letting the flowers speak for themselves, so we try to instruct people about that,” says Schenk, who became enamoured with floral design in college. “I got into it because in college I just started working at a greenhouse, and I just fell in love with the floral design.” 

With almost 1,000 additional square feet in her new space, Schenk says she loved the new space as a blank slate and used the opportunity to add a bit of maturity to the Posh Petals aesthetic with vintage tin ceilings, custom-built design tables and cooler, and an open floor plan that features large windows along the entire facade of the building, 

“I love that it was a blank canvas. The walls are ivory; the floor is light grey. It’s a big, huge, open space; we could separate each area and customize it and it’s just really clean,” Schenk says. “Our old space we really had a fun, shabby chic look going on but this space still has that older look, but with a more elegant twist to it. We kept everything really simple, pretty and romantic.”

Visit Posh Petals on Facebook or online for more information on services, class schedules, and online ordering. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Amanda Montgomery/Arrae Photography


Related articles:
Floral shop and boutique opens in old Roxy Theatre building on Plainfield

ReThink West Michigan works to bring back young talent to region with 5th annual event

During the past couple of years that Cindy Brown has served as executive director of the West Michigan-focused talent attraction organization, Hello West Michigan, she says it has become a lot easier to convince young people who have moved away from the area that there are good reasons to come back and stay. 

“In the years I’ve been doing this, it’s done a complete turnaround where it’s easier now to target individuals (who relocated from West Michigan) and remind them of great opportunities here,” Brown says, adding that all of the recent enhancement to downtown areas — which includes everything from a plethora of new commercial retail and residential projects to renewed interest in enhancing public parks and adding bike paths — make the job much easier. 

So, with the Thanksgiving holiday just on the horizon, Hello West Michigan has teamed up with economic developers at The Right Place to host the fifth annual ReThink West Michigan event on Wednesday, Nov. 23. 

With 16 area companies and several non-profit organizations all signed up to represent career opportunities geared at attracting former West Michiganders back to the region, ReThink West Michigan offers a non-traditional “career fair” setting that skews toward a more casual networking environment. The event will be held from 5:30-8 p.m. on the fourth floor of The B.O.B. in downtown Grand Rapids.

Brown says the past four years of the event have attracted more than 460 professionals and resulted in somewhere around 40 hires — or relocations — to date. 

“This event is truly unique because it is solely for former West Michigan residents that have moved away. We’re highlighting the things people want to know about when they think about relocating: career opportunities and lifestyle in West Michigan,” Brown says. 

The event is free and some walk-ins will be available on the night of, but Brown encourages anyone interested in attending to register online prior to the event. 

For more information on ReThink West Michigan or to register for the Nov. 23 event, visit www.rethinkwm.com

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of ReThink West Michigan/Hello West Michigan

Longtime tattoo artist opens tattoo parlor-art gallery hybrid in renovated Lake Drive space

It took nearly 20 years of being in the business for BJ Johnson to realize what it was he wanted for his career, and his dreams are now coming true with the opening of his new tattoo parlor, studio, and retail space called Green Lion Studios at 1444 Lake Drive. SE in Grand Rapids’ Eastown. 

At 3,000 total square feet, the contemporary space’s prime focal point is the 1,600-square-foot dedicated tattoo studio and art gallery, with the remaining 1,400 square feet featuring a garage workspace where Johnson hand makes his own brand of tattoo guns, Soba One, that are also available for purchase at the shop. 

“He’s been in the business since 1997, and when he started, he wanted to know more about how the tattoos were created, so he actually started to design the tattooing machines themselves,” says Michelle Hoexum, Green Lion’s public relations representative and business consultant. “The mechanics of making these machines also led him to create small sculptures and wanting to create a gallery space for both local and national artists to come display their work.” 

Hoexum says the art on display at Green Lion isn’t limited to just tattoo art, but also will include everything from illustrations to jewelry to pottery. 

“The space itself is pretty amazing, and I think that’s a draw in and of itself,” Hoexum says. “The way he designed the space is really interesting juxtaposition in that it’s kind of sterile and clean, which you would want in a tattoo parlor, but there’s also a really warm welcoming aspect to it because it’s also an art gallery.” 

Though the tattoo parlor and retail space has been officially open for business since the beginning of September, this Saturday Johnson is hosting a “grand opening ceremony,” as both an official public grand opening and in celebration of Green Lion’s first exhibition. 

The illustration oriented collection, titled “D-Bags & Dimwits II,” will launch with the grand opening party on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. at Green Lion Studio on Lake Drive. 

"I feel like I’m home in this new location, especially since I grew up nearby,” Johnson says. “After seeing the building, I knew I wanted to create something in this space. It was a labor of love, a dream for over two years. After a seven month complete interior renovation, the studio and gallery is in personal alignment, as well as in sync with the culture of growth and revitalization of the Eastown neighborhood.” 

 For more information, visit www.greenlionstudios.com

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of GreenLion Studios 

Neapolitan Pizza Co. franchise coming to Holland this December

The California franchise MidiCi: Neapolitan Pizza Company is coming to Holland this winter thanks to a Grand Rapids couple who will open the traditional Neapolitan pizza shop in Holland’s recently redeveloped Shops at Westshore this December. 

“From the moment we stepped foot in MidiCi, we fell in love with the concept – from the food, to the people and ambiance, to the very values of the brand, it was just the right fit,” says Lisa Hartt, who is opening the new franchise alongside her husband Zachrey Hartt.

At over 3,600 square feet, construction and renovations on the restaurant space at 12371 James St. is currently underway, with the scheduled completion and official opening slated for mid-December. 

Designed as an upscale dining atmosphere with a menu loaded with traditional Neapolitan cuisine includes personalized pizza and signature selections, as well as gourmet appetizers, artisan burratas, salads, and a variety of craft beers and wines. 

The new restaurant will create 30 new employment opportunities, and the Hartts are currently hiring for everything from salad chefs, concierge, and baristas to quality assurance, kitchen, and dining room staff. 

More information about MidiCi: The Neapolitan Pizza Company, including applications for hire, is available online at www.mymidici.com

“We know the quality food and inviting atmosphere is something people in West Michigan will enjoy,” Hartt says. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of MidiCi: The Neapolitan Pizza Co.

Longtime yoga lover opens first 'mindful Vinyasa' hot yoga studio on GR's West Side

It didn’t take long for Lauren Morse to fall in love with yoga. She spent the past few years of her life as both a daily practicer and an assistant teacher at a local studio, all the while urged by friends and family to seriously consider opening her own space. 

“My mom was always telling me to open a studio and I thought, ‘Yeah, of course, one day I will,’” says Morse, who finally decided to take the leap about a year ago after losing her mother to stage four breast cancer. “After she passed away, I thought, ‘Rather than keep putting this off, I’m going to take the big jump.’” 

Last April, Morse found a vacant space on Grand Rapids’ west side, where the new West Side Hot Yoga held its grand opening last weekend. 

“The west side is a great place to be … and this building is just gorgeous,” she says. “It just has the perfect feel of a yoga studio — I was inspired the second I walked in.” 

Morse opened the 1,400-square-foot studio, located at 769 Seward Avenue NW, with help from investor Brian Prevost, who has worked alongside her as a partner since the beginning. 

“His goal is to find people who have these inspirations or desires to start a business, but would have a hard time coming up with investment or just don’t have the means to do it themselves,” she says. “He’s helped lead the way with the funding of the project and it’s been an amazing opportunity to work with him through all of this.” 

Morse did a lot of the renovation work herself and was able to partner with several local vendors,  including Stella & Dot Jewelry, PURE Haven organic personal care products, LulaRoe clothing, and doTerra essential oils to host a sneak peek preview last week, prior to Saturday’s grand opening. 

With her own background in mindful Vinyasa, Morse says West Side Hot Yoga is a modern spin in a classic space, the first hot yoga studio on the west side to offer a state-of-the-art Reme Halo air-filtration system that purifies the air to a hospital-grade health standard.

“West Side Hot Yoga offers a refreshing atmosphere for all, from beginners on their mat for the very first time to the veteran yogi who is looking to take their practice to a whole new level,” Morse says. “We are so excited to open the doors and get flowing.”

For more information on West Side Hot Yoga or to view a full menu of services, pricing, and class schedules, visit West Side Hot Yoga online or find it here on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Lauren Morse/West Side Hot Yoga 

Park Crawl: Grand Rapids celebrates re-opening of four neighborhood green spaces with public tour

In celebration of the recent completion of $2.5 million in renovations to four Grand Rapids parks, city commissioners and officials, park contractors, neighborhood leaders, and students from Sibley and Mulick elementary schools will gather today, Thursday, Nov. 3, for a grand reopening tour of the revamped green spaces.

Starting with Douglas Park at 301 Lexington Ave. at 9:15 am, the tour — which is also open to the larger public — will then caravan to Dickinson Park (1640 Willard) at 10 am, Mulick Park (1632 Sylvan) at 11 am, and finish the tour with Camelot Park (2230 Rowland SE) at 11:45 am. The tour will stop to explore and check out new features at each park. 

“It’s wide open to the public, and there will be a number of school children attending the Douglas and Dickinson Park tours,” says David Marquardt, director of Grand Rapids’ Parks and Recreation Department. “The schools were really gracious and good about working with us to bring some kids to this grand opening and be part of the excitement.” 

Among the new park features include new picnic shelters, restroom facility improvements, playground enhancements, new walking paths, new landscaping, ball field upgrades and new site furnishings, including benches, bike loops, drinking fountains, and trash cans.

Funding for the $2.5 million renovations was made possible by the 2013 Yes! GR Parks millage, which was approved by 60 percent of voters and generates about $3.8 million annually for park improvements. 

A number of renovations on other public parks, including Cherry and Wilcox parks, have already been completed and include water fixtures like splash pads, to boot. 

“All of this results from the 2013 citizen passed and approved tax millages for the parks,” Marquardt says. “ It’s the whole reason we’re here now, and it’s the community input that brings forth all the ideas we’re unveiling during this next round of park openings.” 

For more information, visit the Grand Rapids Parks & Recreation department online or find them here on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Grand Rapids Parks & Recreation 



Related articles: 
Yes! GR Parks millage passes

Dream green: What do Grand Rapids parks need?

Ground breaks on eight neighborhood park renovation projects with 'watchful eyes' on progress

Parks with benefits: How neighborhood identity factors into planning a socially productive park
 

Very Sweet: The Cakabakery moves to expanded space on East Fulton this fall

After outgrowing its current location at 1436 Wealthy St., the Cakabakery announced plans to close its Eastown site and expand into an even larger 2,500-square-foot space at 919 E. Fulton Street.
 
“We really love the Uptown business districts and neighborhoods, so we wanted to make sure we could put down roots in this area,” says Jason Kakabaker, who co-owns the space alongside Peter Jacob. “This building is an investment in Cakabakery’s growth, and it will allow us to expand our offerings and serve more customers.”
 
The 2,500-square-foot building will allow The Cakabakery to increase production and expand operations, specializing in a variety of desserts, specialty cakes, custom cupcakes, cake pops, cookies, cheesecake and caramel corn.
 
When it opens at its new Fulton Street location on Nov. 23, the revamped bakery will have walk-in cooling units and freezers, as well as a larger kitchen that will offer more room for dessert tastings.
 
“We feel really fortunate to have the opportunity to find a permanent location in this neighborhood, and we are grateful for Colliers West Michigan’s help in finding this building,” says Jacob. “With this larger space, we’ll now be able to open earlier on Saturdays and serve up new desserts such as cinnamon rolls, more last-minute cakes and decorated cookies daily.”
 
This is the final week that the bakery will operate at its Eastown locale. Until the new site opens, Cakabakery will set up a pop-up shop at the Bluedoor Antiques shop at 946 E. Fulton Street.
 
For more information on expanded hours or to see a full list of menu items, visit thecakabakery.com.
 
Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Cakabakery/Colliers International 

From Second City to Beer City: These GR comedians plan to open improv comedy venue

Grand Rapids comedian Joe Anderson knows that when it comes to opening an improv, sketch and experimental comedy venue and cocktail bar in downtown Grand Rapids, failure is not an option.

“We want to come out swinging because unless we do that, we can't open,” says Anderson, who has worked for the past two years alongside fellow comedian Ben Wilke to draft plans and garner support for The Comedy Project. The two recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for the venue, and its $25,000 funding goal is growing steadily within reach.

“Even with the Kickstarter, we could have done it for more money, but the worst thing that would have happened would be not meeting that Kickstarter goal because we need everything to be a win,” he says. “In the same way, there are so many people — whether it's a restaurant, but certainly a theater and comedy — so many people have had enough bad experiences or just mediocre experiences that they're not excited to go back… So, we need to make sure that anyone who comes, the first time they come, they're just like, 'Oh my gosh, this is great. I could do this once a month.’”

A Western Michigan University graduate, Second City alumnus, and seven-year board member of the non-profit Dog Story Theater in Grand Rapids, Anderson began working with Wilke — a Chicago native who also has roots in the Windy City’s famed Second City comedy troupe — began working more dedicatedly on The Comedy Project two years ago.

The goal of the space, Anderson says, is to be a kind of “repertoire comedy place,” with a small group of six to 10 performers who are on stage performing both improv and sketch comedy shows regularly,  with scheduling wiggle room for other comedians and improv troupes to host their own shows.

“There would be this core group of people doing the ‘heavy lifting’ of the performances, but then there would be an unknown huge amount of other people putting shows on, putting shows on the other nights, stepping in when for some reason someone else can't do the show — kind of building this stable of performers,” he says, adding that although they are open to hosting some alt stand-up comedians for special event shows, they’re avoiding the more traditional comedy genre in favor of the more experimental.

In addition to daily improv shows, The Comedy Project will offer improv and sketch comedy classes geared at career development and innovation within professional organizations, using the tenets of improv to help people in all walks of life sharpen their communication skills.

“There will be an 18-year-old kid who just thinks he's funny, and then the 35-year-old mom who also does improv and then some 65-year-old executive at a company who’s also trying to learn how to talk more extemporaneously, how to seem more approachable or be more open to other people's ideas, since those are all things that happen in good improvising,” Anderson says.

Though the duo are still waiting to finalize details on the space, they’ve already solidified a few very important partnerships, including working with Matt Smith, owner of PitStop BBQ & Catering, to bring a full menu to a space with only a prep kitchen in its plans.

Anderson and Wilke have also received support from Michele Sellers, who was instrumental in the launch of local establishments that include Stella's and Hopcat, and like Revue Holding Co.'s Brian Edwards has been consulting on the project and plans for the future space -- which promises something just as unconventional as its performances.

“In our minds, we want this space to look like the comedy place cobbled together after some kind of apocalyptic event happened, and everyone just grabbed whatever they could to make this place seem like a theater — but they did grab the best things they could,” Anderson says.

There are a few logistics and funding hurdles to clear before solidifying any concrete timeline for opening, though ideally the The Comedy Project would be fully operational this spring for LaughFest 2017.

In a city that just keeps growing, Anderson says he’s confident he and Wilke have come to Grand Rapids at a time when something like The Comedy Project has a real shot.

“It’s just what's happening right now in Grand Rapids. It's the same reason why there's all these restaurants and all of these new developments; there's a Trader Joe's, and there's another brewery,” he says. “I think people just feel like they've been given permission to try things, and I think that applies to us as well. Looking at the kind of climate here in Grand Rapids right now it's like, ‘Yeah, we gotta do this. Grand Rapids can pull this off.’”

Click here to learn more about The Comedy Project’s Kickstarter campaign, which is open through Nov. 11, or find The Comedy Project here on Facebook.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Comedy Project

Spoonlickers to open fourth self-serve frozen yogurt shop in GR's west side Fulton Place

With a grand opening scheduled for Nov. 4, the locally-owned dessert parlor Spoonlickers will open its fourth location on the ground floor of Fulton Place at 616 W. Fulton Street. The new shop is part of Rockford Construction’s mixed-use residential and retail space on Grand Rapids’ west side.

The newest 1,300-square-foot location will feature the same self-serve frozen ice cream, custard, gelato, and yogurt flavors using the all-natural products that has made its Ada, East Beltline, and Wealthy Street locations so successful.

David Darling is the founder and CEO of Spoonlickers and says after crunching some numbers afforded to him by extensive demographics research, adding a fourth west side location just made sense.

“What I found is that the demographic of the west side — and particularly in that neighborhood  — was almost an exact match to our store in Eastown with regards to the number of families, the median income, student population, number of households with children…those are all of the real critical indicators we look for when we place a store as strong as Eastown,” Darling says. “Especially with GVSU being right there, the location seemed to have a lot to offer.”

As a self-described “big brand management guy,” Darling says the new location will have an aesthetic consistent with his other three stores. “We offer a tremendous product at a very fair price that lives up to some very high standards in terms of quality and taste.”

Darling says the new Fulton Place Spoonlickers is hoping to add about 10 full- and part-time jobs,  and he is currently looking for qualified people.

“We’re excited,” he says. “It’s a great, up-and-coming neighborhood, and we’re happy to part of what equates to or what feels like a revitalization.”

To check out a full menu online, visit www.spoonlickersgr.com.  

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Spoonlickers/Rockford Construction Co.

Mary Free Bed extends patient care in MI and beyond with unveiling of rehab hospital expansion

Marking the completion of the second phase in a $66.4 million expansion and renovation project, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital is hosting a grand re-opening celebration today, Thursday, Oct. 13 at 10:30 a.m. on its campus at 235 Wealthy St. SE  in Grand Rapids. 

With the second phase of the renovations focused entirely on updating the original hospital building, the medical site’s revamped three-story atrium now features a Biggby Coffee bar, day lockers for patients and visitors, and a patient library, with additional support like valet parking, mobile check-in, and a dedicated greeter aimed at “enhancing the patient experience.” 

The new ground floor of the hospital is largely dedicated to outpatient services, featuring a new Activities of Daily Living (ADL) apartment with two new therapy pools for outpatients to practice home-life skills, but also includes the new location for its Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports department — one of the largest in the nation — where both inpatients and outpatients can register for adaptive sports clinics or teams, and try specialized sports wheelchairs or check out the adaptive equipment on display. 

There is recreation therapy on the second floor, and the hospital’s third floor is home to the private room pediatric inpatient unit. Also on the third floor, there is an additional 15 private rooms available for pediatric and adult speciality services. 

The hospital celebrated the opening of the renovation project’s first phase in March of 2015, a $42 million upgrade to the building the houses Mary Free Bed’s orthotics and prosthetics and bionics department, its OrthoSEAT and the Driver Rehabilitation program, and its assistive technology and augmentative communication department. The project’s first phase brought the total number of private inpatient beds at the Grand Rapids campus to 167, and new features included specialized therapy gyms with high-tech features like ceiling-mounted gait and balance training systems and robot-assisted walking therapy. 

Kent Riddle, the CEO of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, says recent facility upgrades have transformed the rehabilitation hospital from a regional provider to a national provider. 

“The technology and robotics, the electronic simulations and therapeutic equipment and lift systems that up make up this new facility is just about as technologically rich as any facility in the world for rehabilitative care,” Riddle says, adding that its combined new and existing programming puts Mary Free Bed at first in the nation for the number of rehabilitative programs under one roof while its patient volume alone earns it a spot in the top five. 

“We really tried to stretch beyond the norm to make (this space) the best, so it’s an exciting day because we’ve been planning this and looking forward to this for about four years now.”

He says that while, currently, patients from every Michigan county come through the hospital’s physical front doors, richer telehealth programming will further extend Mary Free Bed’s reach. 

“When we really assess the gaps and the need for rehabilitative care throughout Michigan, we expect that many more (patients) will be coming through that front door from all around the state,” he says.

For more information on the new facility and Mary Free Bed’s full host of rehabilitative care programming, visit www.maryfreebed.com. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital 



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