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Grand Rapids-based Sun Title Agency opens new Grandville location

Replacing its current Grandville location at 4693 Wilson Ave., Sun Title Agency has recently announced the opening of a new 3,000-square-foot offices at 4600 Ivanrest.

"The challenge we're having is that our southwest market has grown so much and frankly, we just needed a couple more closing room and the ability to accommodate a few more employees,” says Tom Cronkright, co-owner of Sun Title Agency, which provides commercial and residential title insurance and closing services in Grand Rapids and throughout West Michigan.

Formerly occupied by a residential home, the newly converted space will accommodate as many as six employees and help to expand its presence in the Grandville community.

Though Cronkright and his co-owner acquired the space a few years back, it wasn’t until a recent rezoning — brought about by a new Goodwill location being built in an adjacent lot — made the space easier to renovate for new office spaces. Cronkright was supported by Craig Architects for the design, and Chad Moore from Prestige Construction acted as project manager.

The new space features an outdoor lounge area for employees, a large atrium and customer lounge, and three private closing rooms. The existing driveway was relocated and expanded to offer private parking areas for customers and employees.

“It’s a really cool building because we added just a bunch of large window openings with store-front glass and aluminum siding," he says. “When you’re in there, that office has more natural light — because it’s a standalone and not a downtown office — this one is a 360 and allows a tremendous amount of light in and makes it feel really open inside.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Sun Title Agency 

The Collective Artspace builds on S. Division artist community with new shared gallery, studio space

When The Collective Artspace Co-Director Rachelle Wunderink sits down to talk with prospective new members, there’s only really one big thing she wants to know.

“What’s your dream project you’ve always wanted to do but never could do because you don’t have the space? How can we try to help and make that happen?” asks Wunderink, who opened the Collective Artspace alongside fellow co-director Ryan Hay just a little over a month ago at 40 S. Division Avenue, on the heels of the closing of former event-based exhibition space Craft House.

In fact, it was through an email introduction by former Craft House director that Wunderink and Hay first connected — and it was just a couple hours into their first meeting when they both realized they both saw enormous potential in the idea of having a dedicated collaborative space accessible for young Grand Rapids artists

“We both wanted to collaborate, wanted to have a space — almost like an incubator — where we could really push the Grand Rapids art scene and push ourselves as artists with others in the community,” says Wunderink, shortly thereafter bringing the Collective Artspace’s third main organizer and longtime friend, Tia Wieringa on board.  

Currently 16-members strong, the new headquarters provides open upstairs gallery space with five studio spaces in the basement, which rent alongside membership fees for a total of about $115 per month. 

“You’re sharing a space with other people, so you’re not gaining a whole room, but with that comes more collaboration and discussion and being around artists who are also working,” Wunderink says. 

Which, makes sense, seeing as the mission of The Collective Artspace is about as straightforward as it sounds — to create an accessible, affordable avenue for local artists to grow and nurture their own unique creative sensibilities alongside those with different, unique, creative sensibilities. 

“A lot of what we want to do with our members is have them collaborate with each other or artists outside of the Collective space and think outside the box, or do something maybe they normally wouldn’t,” she says. “Instead of making what you always make, how can we pair you with someone who can really challenge and push you in a different  direction, or incorporate the art you make with what another artists makes?” 

Last weekend, The Collective Artspace hosted its first event of the collaborative kind, hosting a gallery for Detroit artist Matthew Milla that incorporated both his mixed-media tangible work and music from his band Frontier Ruckus. 

“We had 45 people come to that concert, which for us we thought was really great start,” Wunderink says. 

For more information on The Collective Artspace gallery, its members, or upcoming events visit www.collectiveartspace.com or find The Collective Artspace here on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Collective Artspace

Triangle Associates, Inc. keeps momentum, follows up finished projects with more summer construction

After recently completing a round of construction jobs that totaled $22.8 million, Grand Rapids-based construction company Triangle Associates, Inc. isn’t slowing down just yet. 

Either announced recently or currently underway, Triangle Associates has 11 more building projects in its state-wide summer line-up — including a few highly anticipated Grand Rapids rehabs — valued all together at $177.5 million when completed. 

Kate Pew Wolters Center at IKUS (Indian Trails Camp

Though the new Kate Pew Wolters Center at IKUS’ Indian Trails Camp falls into the completed category, having already held its grand opening earlier this month, the 17,500 square-foot facility is one of a kind

Established more than 50 years ago, Indian Trails Camp offers recreational camping for children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities, and the new, fully handicap accessible activity center not only allows staff to work year-round with camp patrons for the first time, but is also tricked out with a full-court gym and bleachers, new staff offices and meeting rooms, a lounge/cafe area, and full kitchen and laundry rooms — all designed specifically for those with disabilities and geared toward fostering valuable learning spaces for students and campers. 

“What is cool about these types of projects, at least for me personally, and I know  for a lot of others at Triangle, is that moment you see peoples faces light up for what (the space) is actually going to do and how it’s actually going to impact these campers,” says Jim Conner, Triangle’s vice president. “…When you see that kind of smile and that kind of pride come out for people that have had a much more challenging life than many, that’s probably what makes me most proud.” 

The Rowe (Atwater Brewery)

Located at 201 Michigan St., in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, Triangle’s construction teams are nearing completion on the $24 million complete renovation of the historic 1923 Rowe Hotel

At an impressive 14,000-square-feet, 77 new residential units are being added to the hotel’s upper levels, while 5,800-square-feet of The Rowe’s ground floor will become the new home of Atwater Brewery. Complete with a 120-seat dining area and 20-stool bar area with glass viewing walls behind, the brewery space includes a gift shop and an additional 1,500-square-foot outdoor patio. 

Connor says there were moments when the age and crumbling infrastructure of the old hotel made renovations a bit more difficult — the discovery of an abandoned underground canal that made incorporating underground parking a challenge, or the process of carefully removing existing terra-cotta fixtures on the buildings exterior and making a mold that was then shipped to an overseas manufacturer for production before finally arriving back in Grand Rapids, to name just a few. However, he says being able to keep the buildings authenticity in tact makes those smaller struggles worth it. 

New additions to The Rowe include a new penthouse level with eight condominiums, underground parking, and rooftop collaboration space with a completed, move-in ready space scheduled for mid-August.

“We’re working a lot of hours to make that happen,” Connor says. 

CA Frost Environmental Science Academy

It isn’t the first time Triangle Associates has worked closely with the Grand Rapids Public School District — in fact, Connor says Triangle has been working for GRPS on K-12 construction projects in some capacity for the past 15 years or more, and managed CA Frost Academy’s first construction project back in 2003. 

However, with the school’s future expansion bringing its K-8 student body out to include preschool and grades 9-12, and new facility features that include everything from environmental science labs, a robotics room, outdoor classrooms, and a nature trail, Conner says managing CA Frost construction feels a lot different this time around.  

“We build a lot of traditional K-12 school,  so to be creating learning environments like CA Frost [is] a little outside of the norm,” he says. “I think GRPS is doing a lot of things right on many fronts, but one of them is how they’re creating environments and learning places to give students different experiences and help keep kids engaged.” 

To learn more about what Triangle Associates, Inc. has worked on and is currently working on now, visit www.triangle-inc.com.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Triangle Associates, Inc. 

 

New chocolate shop Mokaya debuts this Saturday on Wealthy Street

This Saturday, June 25, Mokaya, a family-owned and operated chocolate confectionary, will celebrate its grand opening at 638 Wealthy St. SE. At the site of the former Johnny B’z, Mokaya will be sharing half of the hot dog restaurant's former space with LAMB BRIDE, a new bridal shop and studio. Mokaya is owned by Charles "Smitty" Golcyzynski, who will work with his son, Max, who serves as the shop's general manager. The Golcyzynskis will craft unique chocolate truffles, ice creams, sodas, and hot chocolates year-round.

"This was kind of a retirement plan," Max says about his father's new chocolate venture. Smitty, who pursued marine biology in college, went on to own Jersey Junction in East Grand Rapids and, later, his own catering business, The Catering Company, on Fulton Street East.

Almost two decades into his culinary career, Smitty began crafting chocolates, and soon began learning the art of confectionary from his friends and colleagues at the Culinary Institute of Michigan. Falling in love with all things chocolate, he looked forward to owning his own chocolate shop and sold The Catering Co. two years ago to pursue Mokaya. With his son at his side, the two sought out the cozy space on Wealthy Street and got to work on renovations.

Working alongside his father, Max is no stranger to the culinary world. "I grew up in his kitchen," he says. Even while pursuing an undergraduate degree in anthropology, Max was drawn to the food and beverage industry and continued working for his father, along with working for other local businesses such as Lyon Street Cafe.

Opening this Saturday at 11am, Smitty and Max will debut a large, varied menu that principally focuses on creative truffles. "Everything is house-made," says Max. In addition to traditional flavors like almond and coconut, Smitty will also showcase some more daring combinations, such as a sun-dried tomato jelly, chocolate toffee popcorn with duck cracklings and a beer flight of truffles. Despite this experimentation, Smitty will stay true to his mission, and Max notes that, "Everything has some form of chocolate." Sourcing mostly from South America and Europe, Smitty's combinations always starts with high quality chocolate at their base.

Starting out with a killer location and over three decades of experience, Mokaya looks forward to other outlets like wedding favors, graduation parties and beer and chocolate tastings. Prioritizing partnering with other local businesses like The Peoples Cider Co. and neighbor Rowster Coffee, Smitty and Max are excited to join the local scene. Named for "an ancient meso-American tribe that's currently recognized as the earliest group to bring chocolate all over the Americas," says Max, Mokaya seeks to spread the love of chocolate throughout GR. Check them out at their opening this Saturday at 11am.

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/MokayaGR/.

Photos by Leigh Ann Cobb

Locally-owned Kingma's Market coming to Ada

Though the locally-owned Kingma’s Market has been part of the larger Grand Rapids community for 80 years, the popular store’s owners have recently announced the opening of its second location, which will debut in Ada Township at the northwest corner of Fulton Street and Ada Drive. 

While its existing market at 2225 Plainfield in Grand Rapids will continue operations, the new 13,000-square-foot facility is expected to open in 2017 with an extensive inventory of local, Michigan-made products, fresh produce, and meat. 

“Opening a second location in Ada is a great opportunity to expand the brand and be part of a historic village that is undergoing an exciting transformation,” says Alan Hartline, owner of Kingma’s Market. 

The new Ada location will feature a butcher shop that will offer all-natural, locally procured products, including fresh, in-store made sausage, jerky, and bacon alongside a large variety of gourmet, imported and local cheeses. All of this will be complemented by a selection of more than 300 specialty, craft imported and Michigan beers, as well as more than 750 wines. 

Hartline says the market has plans to hire between 25 to 30 employees for the new market location. 

“We are delighted to bring our local flavor and unique shopping experience to the Ada community,” Hardline says. “Kingma’s Market offers consumers a fun, foodie environment with a distance service-oriented charm. Ada offers us the perfect location to grow the Kingma’s Market brand. We are excited to join this transformational development.” 

For more information on the Ada expansion project, visit www.AdaMichigan.org.  

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Kingma’s Market

133-year-old St. Cecilia's Music Center to undergo $2.4 million renovation to historic building

The St. Cecilia Music Center at the corner of Ransom Avenue and Fulton Street has, since its inception, been home to vibrant concert series that include top-name jazz artists, chamber musicians from such prestigious groups as the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and touring folk musicians. 

This summer, SCMC leadership have launched a $2.4 million campaign to provide long-awaited and needed improvements and upgrades to the building, including new seating in Royce Auditorium, a new roof, professional sound and lighting systems for Royce Auditorium, a remodel of the lower administration offices and rehearsal space, and upgraded HVAC equipment. 

“We just keep getting stronger, making a profound mark on music appreciation within our great community and offering world-class music in our first-class facility,” says SCMC executive director Cathy Holbrook. 

The SCMC Board has set a campaign goal for endowment funds of $3 million to help sustain the organization on an annual basis. Catalyst funding is also being collected to allow for expanded programming in the near future. 

The capital portion of the campaign will fund $2.4 million for various upgrades and improvements for the 133-year-old St. Cecilia Music Center building at 24 Ransom Ave. NE. 

For more information, visit www.scmc-online.org

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of St. Cecilia’s Music Center 

New street signage in East Hills supports neighborhood's 'people first' mantra

After last week's public unveiling of the handful of non-motorist street signage and marking improvements, collaborators from the City of Grand Rapids and the East Hills Council of Neighbors want both residents and commuters to remember: East Hills is a people-first neighborhood and its transit structure should support and help enforce that idea. 

Rachel Lee is director of the EHCN, and she says implementation ideas surrounding the possible non-motorist street upgrades began as part of a larger discussion during the drafting of the 2014 Public Spaces Plan, which included a Complete Streets section — or, in other words, an emphasis on design solutions, policies and initiatives that make the neighborhood's streets safer for all users, no matter what your mode of transportation.

“…Since we consider ourselves a ‘people first neighborhood,'  one where we like to plan for pedestrians, transit, cyclists and then cars, we wanted to take those strategies to the next level,” Lee says.  

So, members of the EHCN worked alongside the City of Grand Rapids to brainstorm different kinds of non-motorized strategies East Hills could implement in partnership with the city to help encourage pedestrian and bicycle safety and create a more walkable neighborhood overall. With the ever-growing population of new non-motorized commuters adding to that foot traffic each day, making a few user-friendly adjustments seemed like the best place to start. 

“People always talk about that thing of when you go to a big city, and you step on the street and all the cars just stop for pedestrians,” Lee says. “That doesn’t really happen here, and that’s a cultural thing…So, how can we help impact the culture so that people understand that when they’re driving through the central city neighborhood, there’s also going to be people walking around, or using city transit, or riding bikes, and that they’re also part of that urban fabric?”

The majority of recent updates focus on the functionality of crosswalks in high-trafficked areas, many of the changes informed by a walking audit of the neighborhood to identify areas of high pedestrian traffic.

Funded by the city’s traffic calming and safety initiative budget, the $14,473 project afforded the enhancement of two existing crosswalks (resurfacing severely worn crosswalks with a higher quality, longer lasting thermal plastic paint); the creation of five new crosswalks; shallow markings along Wealthy Street, Eastern Avenue, and Diamond Avenue; “no bikes on sidewalks” signs posted throughout the commercial corridors along Cherry Street; and, finally, the city’s first-ever installation of “in-yield pedestrian” signs within select crosswalks on Cherry, Wealthy, and Lake Drive. 

Following the neighborhood's signage installation, Western Michigan University will study the impact of the East Hills “pilot program” launch, such as analyzing where the best possible placement of new signage might be, to help create strategies for potential city-wide implementation in the future.

“This is just a start for our neighborhood, and it’s taken us since fall 2014 to get where we are today, so we’re by no means finished with what we want to do,” Lee says. “Our streets and our sidewalks are not seasonal attributes to our city. They’re part of everyday life and because of that, we need to make them as safe. and as inviting, and as welcoming as we possibly can.” 

For more information about how you can help make East Hills even more people friendly, visit EHCN online at www.easthillscouncil.org.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of East Hills Council of Neighbors 

Holland's new kid-friendly museum celebrates West Michigan's design roots, encourages hands-on play

With its design-based aesthetic an intentional homage to West Michigan’s own rich history in the design world, the new hands-on interactive learning and play space inside the Holland Area Arts Council is clearly not just a kid thing. 

Housed in one of the HAAC’s former Holland gallery spaces, The Studio totals out a cozy 3,530 square feet, effectively affording a sort of miniaturized hands-on children’s museum to the Holland arts community, who because of its theme and more intimate size are also able to take the concept and make it their own. 

“West Michigan has such a huge reputation for design, we thought that could not only draw visitors into our state if we talked about hands-on education with design, but would at the same time draw in the manufacturing community to be more invested in our space so that they would be able to profile their industry’s design triumphs,” says Lorma Williams Freestone, executive director of HAAC. 

In an old gallery space located at one of the building’s corners, Williams Freestone says The Studio’s new home allows for a much natural light to complement its modern-industrial aesthetic — which, she adds, was more directly influenced by installations specifically crafted by local artists and designers for The Studio’s rotating interior.

“We wanted it to be clean and almost industrial, create a real clean slate with the white walls and the galvanized fixtures, which also gives it a very modern, clean look,” Lorma Williams Freestone says. 

The galvanized action, she says, was directly influenced from an artist installation that used palm-sized blocks of found objects to create a massive magnetized texture wall, with magnetic sheets for the galvanized fixtures produced by Zeeland manufacturer K2 Metal. 

“We needed a metal wall to put it on, so we had a galvanized sheet wall brought in for us, and that was the jumping off point where we stepped back and said, ‘This is really beautiful and let’s make everything in this space accented with that galvanized metal.’” 

Conceptualized back in February 2014, HAAC staff held rounds of strategic planning sessions, visited interactive art spaces from around the country, and engaged a group of local designers , educators, artists, and engineers to create The Studio.

The HAAC building, located at 150 E. 8th St. in Holland, will host different kinds of indoor and outdoor activities for families at The Studio’s June 11 grand opening. Open to the public with no RSVP required, there is a $5 admission fee for the event, which will last from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information about the space, visit Holland Area Arts Council or The Studio online or find them here on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Holland Area Arts Council 

$9.2M Fulton Square development progresses ahead of schedule for Dec. 2016 opening

When Orion Construction’s Fulton Square development is finished come this winter, the new mixed-use project will boast 55,000 square feet between its two buildings, housing 47 residential units, 3,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, a 4,000-square-foot restaurant, and 92 parking spaces in total.  

Straddling the neighborhood boundary between Eastown and Fulton Heights, the new Fulton Square is located next door to Opera Grand Rapids on the corner of Fulton Street SE and Carlton Avenue, occupying a lot that has been long vacant since its last tenant, Michigan Lithos, burned down several years ago. 

“We’re excited to be able to bring back another Eastown development from vacant land, like Eastown Flats,” says Jason Wheeler, spokesperson for the Grand Rapids-based Orion Construction, which opened its 35-unit Eastown Flats apartment building during summer 2015. “It’s always good if we can take something that was creating no taxable valuable and made it into something that provides economic impact.”

The $9.2 million project was funded by a combination of Brownfield redevelopment  and Neighborhood Enterprise Zone tax incentives, with additional financing from majority investors SIBSCO and Sparta-based ChoiceOne Bank. With Concept Design Group as the project’s architect, Colliers International is managing the leases of the developments. None of the leases have been signed yet, though Wheeler says ORES has been in talks with potential restaurant and retail tenants who are interested in the space. 

The project, which Wheeler says is ahead of schedule with an anticipated December 2016/January 2017 completion, received unanimous support from the city, planning commission, and area neighborhood association before breaking ground in April. 

With Aquinas College just a stone’s throw away, Wheeler says Orion hopes to bring more than just new housing options to the college’s students, faculty, staff, and community members at large. 

“What Fulton Square offers is a housing component and additional entertainment opportunities within that Eastown area that we think will be supported well by Aquinas College students and faculty, as well as being an additional entertainment offering to the Grand Rapids Opera House,” Wheeler says, adding that there’s an added bonus of potential for increased exposure to the GR Opera by some who otherwise may have not visited on their own. 

“I also want to thank the neighborhood association for being such a strong supporter and providing so much valuable insight into the design and different components of development so that we knew it met their standards and expectations,” Wheeler says. “Their input was really valuable and we took that into consideration during the design and continue to take that into consideration as we finish the development.”

To learn more about the future Fulton Square, visit fultonsquaregr.com.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images & renderings courtesy of Orion Construction Co. & Concept Design Group

Center for Physical Rehabilitation to open fifth clinic in downtown GR's Arena Place

Scheduled to open June 13, the Center for Physical Rehabilitation's fifth office will be a 2,500-square-foot building on the ground floor of the new Arena Place in downtown Grand Rapids. 

Providing outpatient orthopedic physical therapy, sports medicine, workers compensation, and injury prevention, this new location builds off of its existing four West Michigan locations in Grand Rapids, Wyoming, Belmont, and Walker. 

“There's a number of clients we’ve treated through the years that work downtown and have to come back out to the suburbs to get their orthopedic rehab, so we wanted to do a nice easy convenient access spot downtown,” says COO and partner Chris Nawrocki, adding that CPR will have on-site parking specifically allocated for clients at Arena Place. 

Nawrocki says at this new downtown location, a major focus will be worker’s compensation rehabilitation and prevention, more specifically using a certified program called Fit2WRK. 

“That’s about the industrial athlete — you treat those injured workers like an athlete, which is to try to expedite their care, keep them moving, keep them on the job task. Sometimes they need a change but engage to be productive and get to the source of what the problem is. Get them to return to full capacity work,” Nawrocki says. 

There’s also a greater focus on prevention of injuries for middle school and high school athletes — an area for which Nawrocki says he and the rest of CPR think there is currently a gap in the market. 

“How do you prevent someone walking in the door with overused rotator cuff? You see a lot of high school and college conditioning, strengthening, performance training centers propping up so we want to jump in with our specialized advanced medical background and make sure people are trained correctly and strong enough to go out and execute further sports specific exercises,” he says.

“We think there’s a gap in the marketplace with being trained properly in the correct biomechanics and making sure that core foundation is laid properly,” he continues. “Training a high school or middle school patient is different than treating college kid from a core foundational standpoint and it’s different with an adult, too. You can’t treat a 22-year-old body like a 14-year -body.”

Orion Construction is the project’s developer and general contractor, and Concept Design is the architect.

For more information, visit www.pt-cpr.com.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Center for Physical Rehabilitation 

New Pregis Films to generate $17.1 million in investment, 50 new jobs

Local and state partners in the city of Grand Rapids, alongside regional economic development organization, The Right Place, Inc., announced a $17.1 million investment in the acquisition and expansion of a local manufacturing facility by Deerfield, Ill.-based Pregis, LLC.

Made possible by the approval of a Michigan Strategic Fund incentive, Eagle Film Extruders will now take on a new name — Pregis Films — after its acquisition by Pregis, LLC, complete with an expansion of its Roosevelt Park facility located at 1100 Hynes Ave. that will allow for the opening of a new production line to increase capacity and meet customer demand. 

“One of the things that The Right Place has really worked hard to do over the past decade or so, is work to retain — and Eagle Film is a classic example of this — retain and expand those industrial businesses we have within city limits,” says Tim Mroz, vice president of marketing at TRP. “We have a strong belief that in order to have a vibrant city, you have to have businesses of all shapes and sizes, including industrial facilities.”

With a three-year investment total of $17.1 million, the acquisition and expansion is also expected to generate 50 new jobs at the Grand Rapids facility, where it will continue production of high-quality polyethylene blown film used for a variety of packaging applications 

Pregis CEO Kevin Bauduin says the company is currently experiencing an increased demand from industrial and e-commerce, among other market segments, for higher quality materials, so investing in the facility will help meet market segment expectations for packing performance and provide vertical integration for some of Pregis’s other products. 

The 160,000-square-foot facility currently houses four state-of-the-art multilayer blown film extrusion lines, converting equipment, and warehouse space, though Pregis plans to install a new  five-layer blown film line that is expected to be operational mid-summer following the facility’s expansion. 

Eric Icard is the senior business development manager at TRP and project lead on the expansion. He says when hearing from businesses interested in building or expanding manufacturing and distribution facilities in West Michigan, the appeal is in no small part due to the quality of the region’s workforce alongside an often overlooked geographic advantage with its proximity to both major U.S. cities and Canada.

“I don’t believe we give that much consideration, but that’s very nice for anybody looking at distribution,” Icard says.

“Plus, there’s just providing opportunities for the people we serve in West Michigan,” he says. “As an entity, at The Right Place, our focus is the standard of living and how we can improve the standard of living. When people are elevated through opportunities for higher wages, they have a better chance at increasing that standard of living, which in turn creates a better quality of life.”

For more information, visit The Right Place, Inc. online at www.therightplace.org. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Right Place, Inc./Pregis, LLC 

Want a downtown grocery store? GR Food Co-op aims to make that a reality

There is still much to be done before members of the Grand Rapids Food Co-Op Initiative are able to establish a physical grocery store in downtown Grand Rapids, but with the launch of its first big membership drive planned for June, organizers of the registered nonprofit group are optimistic about their plan’s viability in the coming years. 

“(Feasibility study results) were encouraging, and it does look like a co-op in Grand Rapids would be financially viable,” says Linda Jones, the Grand Rapids resident who spearheaded the initiative alongside the Creston Neighborhood Association’s Deborah Eid. 

Jones and Eid first began conversations about bringing a co-op grocery into the downtown core about one year ago, shortly after she moved back to Grand Rapids so her husband, Jim Jones, could pursue more work in the area’s co-operative housing.

“I said I wanted to start a food co-op in Grand Rapids because I was concerned about not having a decent grocery store close by,” Jones says. “Deborah Eid said, ‘I’d like to work on that too.’” 

Now around 20 members strong, Jones was able to garner more interest through Facebook, and members have leaned on advice from existing food co-ops in Kalamazoo and Traverse City, as well as experiences at national food co-op conventions, to build their organization in the sociocracy business model. Essentially, the model employs group consent in order to use analysis and compromise to resolve differing opinions in an effort to avoid a seizure of too much power by one party.

“With consent, if I can work within the given parameters I will, and if I can’t, I’ll tell you why I can’t and then we all work together to craft a better proposal,” she says. “By the end of the process, you’ve got the best you can come up with at that time…Every opinion is included, every voice is heard, and every voice matters — which is important with a co-op effort, since it is so collaborative.”

The big difference between a regular grocery store and a co-op grocery store lies in ownership — though the co-op grocery would be open for everyone to shop at, the co-operative model dictates that the store is run by member-owners, whose share amount represents their stake in the business that gives them a vote. 

Jones says the Grand Rapids Food Co-Op Initative’s recent online survey garnered about 100 responses, with about 50 percent indicating interest in a buy-in amount that was $350 or less, and a surprising 35 percent willing to pay $500 or more  for a member share, which would additionally provide discounts on items in the store once established. 

The goal is to move into a commercial building around 10,000 square feet in size and the group is considering options in any under serviced neighborhood within a few miles of Grand Rapids’ downtown core. The store would be big enough to have a wide range of traditional grocery items as well as a deli, hot bar, salad bar, and gathering place with the possibility of a demonstration kitchen for cooking  classes. 

“We want this store to be a place that brings people together to share the bounty of our vibrant local food producers,” Jones says. 

Right now, the co-op initiative will focus on getting the word out about the June membership drive — Jones says the organization needs about 1,000 committed members in order to move forward with signing leases on a physical space — and are also looking for additional funding through local foundations interested in food equality alongside USDA funds for some seed grant money. 

Until then, the group is encouraging questions and feedback via its Facebook page here and hope to demonstrate the value a co-operative grocery can have for downtown neighborhoods where access to fresh produce and grocery selection is currently lacking. 

“To have a place residents they feel they can have a say in will help empower them in many other ways, too,” she says. “Maybe there’s other changes in their neighborhood they can make after they see they can have a say in this effort.”

For more information or to stay updated on the June membership drive, visit the Grand Rapids Food Co-Op Initiative here on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Linda Jones/ GR Food Co-Op Initiative 

A more meaningful life: Coppercraft Distillery owners focus on community - and, of course, cocktails

After Walter Catton was hit by an SUV while training for an Ironman in 2009, he spent 40 days in the hospital — and when he left, he and his wife, Kim Catton, knew they wanted their lives to change. The couple, who have six children together, wanted to be able to build and own something of their own — a place where they could grow a community.

So, in 2012 they founded the Coppercraft Distillery, a Holland-based artisan spirits distiller that began producing whiskey, bourbon, rum, vodka, gin, and applejack in 2013 – the same year they opened their tasting room. Since then, Coppercraft has quickly taken off, winning awards for its handmade spirits crafted with local ingredients (the Cattons use corn from Zeeland’s Boersen Farms, for example) and landing support from throughout the community — and beyond. Restaurants in Michigan, Illinois and Colorado sell their various spirits, and that list is constantly growing.

“We wanted to live out the American dream,” Kim Catton says as she sits in the space that was carved from the former Belden Brick and Supply in Holland, where the distillery is producing tens of thousands of gallons of spirits annually. “Walter wanted to make something using his hands, and we thought, ‘Well, why not take a chance?’”

That decision to take a risk has paid off, and their drinks are landing high praise from neighbors to professionals. Recently, Coppercraft’s cask strength bourbon, which is aged in oak barrels, landed a Best of Category award from the American Distilling Institute, and its applejack and cask strength bourbon claimed gold medals from the San Francisco International Spirits Competition. Plus, the gin and rum have also won praise from the Denver International Spirits Show and the American Craft Spirits Association.

In addition to the people, residents and tourists alike, who visit the distillery for tours, tastings, live music, and more, Coppercraft was again tapped as the official spirit of Holland’s annual Tulip Time Festival. For three consecutive years, the distillery has crafted an exclusive Tulip Time signature cocktail. This time around, the distillery is offering “The Copper Blossom,” which showcases the venue’s rum that just won a bronze medal at the 2016 American Distiller’s Institute awards in San Diego.

Through May 31, establishments across Holland and Zeeland will create their own, customized Copper Blossom cocktail featuring Coppercraft’s rum as part of what the venue is calling the “Copper Trail.”

“We created the Copper Trail for this year’s Tulip Time Festival to involve and engage our community and our out-of-town guests,” Kim Catton says. “It not only demonstrates the various ways Coppercraft’s Rum can be served, but also gives our partners a chance to showcase their mixology talents.” You can check out the making of a Copper Blossom at Coppercraft in the video here:

The distillery and partnering establishments, the Holland Area Visitors Bureau, and the Tulip Time Office will provide Copper Trail cards that will allow customers to rate the cocktails — and those who visit a minimum of three participating venues can submit their cards to Coppercraft for a free stainless steel flask and a chance to win a $75 gift basket filled with a distillery gift card and other swag. For a list of the participating sites, go here.

With a strong foothold in the community, the Cattons are planning further expansion, including adding a kitchen that will allow them to offer small plates, something which they aim to do before the end of the summer, as well as potentially opening tasting rooms in Grand Rapids and Saugatuck. Plus, they’ll continue to grow their already popular programs, like distillery tours, live music events, vinyl nights and cocktail classes, all of which are held in the space that celebrates the area’s local history —some of their wood used in the space is 300-year-old wood Cypress wood from Holland’s Heinz pickle plant, and they have seats made from old South Haven High School bleachers.

The tasting room also proudly displays two stills, both of which are pre-Prohibition structures hailing from Louisville. The centerpiece of the business is the 350-gallon Vendome copper still — which, for those of us distillery layman, is reminiscent of some incredible steampunk art, but, for those in the alcohol know, it’s one of the main reasons the distillers can create spirits with complexity and character.

“We put our whole heart and soul into this, and we love sharing that with people,” Kim Catton says. “We want to share what we enjoy.”

For more information about Coppercraft Distillery, visit its website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Instagram account.

Trainers at A Pleasant Dog plan for new doggie daycare with future Baxter facility upgrade

It’s taken more than a year for Jenn Gavin, owner of A Pleasant Dog, to find the right space to expand. Finding a building with enough outdoor green space and room indoors for a doggie daycare and training operation hasn’t been easy, but now that she’s got one, it was well worth the wait. 

“As you can imagine, it’s pretty difficult to find that kind of space in the city,” says Gavin, who started A Pleasant Dog a little over two years ago as a one-woman operation. “Our ideal was to be on Wealthy Street, but we didn’t know if we could afford it.” 

She found something that seems like a perfect fit just off Wealthy Street at 406 Barth Ave., a site that’s located one block away from the new Wealthy Street Animal Hospital. With plans to hire an additional trainer with the opening of the new space, A Pleasant Dog has expanded its staff to four trainers, two interns, and a dedicated office administrator. 

“We were looking for a space that would allow us to do more training; we’ve outgrown our rental spaces and needed a somewhere new in order to open a very small-scale daycare, which was prompted by a need many of our clients expressed,” says Gavin, who will leave her current Heritage Hill location for the Barth Avenue site, but will continue to teach out of a number of local veterinary offices, as well as a space provided by Stepping Stones Montessori School. 

The 1,200-square-foot space on Barth Avenue was formerly home to a barbershop that doubled as a recording studio. After the owners closed the business and the building was vacant for some time, Gavin saw an opportunity for her own business to grow into the big, open floor plan and adjacent outdoor lot on Wealthy Street.

“(The owners) did a beautiful job of restoring the building,” says Gavin, who sits on the city’s Historic Preservation Commission and says she feels lucky to have found such a nicely restored mid-century building, especially one that lends itself particularly well to its new proposed use. 

Alongside landscaping work for aesthetics, Gavin plans to build ornamental fencing that looks like rod iron around the lots green space, eventually filling it with obstacle courses for agility training — just one of the many options now available for customers that range from supply classes to advanced obedience, with an additional regime of lessons designed specifically for owners with reactive dogs. 

“My heart is in helping people with reactive dogs because it’s such a difficult situation to be in,” says Gavin, who has rescued and raised her fair share of reactive dogs. “It’s actually a cause for many dogs who are re-homed, because (owners) don’t know there’s a kinder and more humane way to deal with it.”

Though Gavin still has to go before the planning commission today for final approval on plans for the location, she says she’s already received support from the Eastown Community Association, the Baxter Neighborhood Association, Wealthy Street Business Alliance, and other businesses and residents along both Wealthy Street and Barth Avenue. 

If all goes well, she plans to open A Pleasant Dog in its new home by June 1 and is currently raising funds through an Indiegogo campaign that offers those who donate a whole host of perks made possible through partnerships with other local businesses, such as leashes designed by Woosah Outfitters’ Erica Lang and free park memberships from Shaggy Pines Dog Park in Cascade, as well as other offers for class registration and even free dog training for life. 

You can find out about A Pleasant Dog’s Indiegogo campaign here, or visit A Pleasant Dog online or via Facebook to learn more. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Logan Zillmer Photo and Electric Elm



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Traverse City gastropub, 7 Monks Taproom, to open at 616 Lofts on Michigan this fall

When 7 Monks Taproom opens its new location on the ground floor of 616 Lofts on Michigan Street next fall, the owners expect to feel right at home in the local craft brewing scene with their plans for 57 taps featuring seasonal craft beers from Grand Rapids — and around the world.

“One thing we’ve always prided ourselves on is our selection,” says 7 Monks spokesperson Jason Kasdorf. “We rely heavily on Belgian beers, but also European beers in general.”

With huge walls of windows, 25-foot ceilings, and a modern-industrial aesthetic, the new 7 Monks Grand Rapids taproom will act as the anchor retailer for 616 Lofts on Michigan, located at 740 Michigan St. SE in Midtown. 

Named for its specialty in serving Trappist style beer, the craft beer bar and gastropub opened its flagship Traverse City location in 2011 as the brainchild of co-owners Matt Cozens and Jim Smolak.

With a second location in Boyne City just a few short months away from its grand opening, Cozens and Smolak say the Grand Rapids location seems like a natural next step. 

“We are thrilled by the opportunity to join the thriving beer scene in Grand Rapids,” says Cozzens. “From day one we have been honored by the great partnerships with some of the city’s leading breweries, and we look forward to joining them in Beer City, USA.” 

For more information, visit www.7monkstap.com. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of 7 Monks Taproom 
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