Muskegon Lakeshore

VIDEO: Celebrating the strength and spirit of a rising Muskegon

To mark the end of our On The Ground Muskegon Lakeshore series, we present this video as a celebration of the spirit of Muskegon, of the amazing people and incredible work we’ve seen throughout the area.

When Rapid Growth Media first began its On The Ground Muskegon Lakeshore series, there were quite a few people who told us, “we can be our own worst enemy.” They told us that, over the years, Muskegon had grown weary and could feel defeated in the face of unemployment and poverty and pollution and others pointing their fingers at the city and, essentially, saying, “we’re better than you.”


Here’s the thing: Muskegon may sometimes feel like it can be its own worst enemy, but it’s not. Sure, there may be some naysayers, but this city is, inspiringly, filled with countless people giving their all to the empowering individuals and organizations that call Muskegon home. From scientists dramatically improving the region’s environment to business owners transforming once-shuttered storefronts into thriving community hubs and youth leaders tackling everything from race relations to urban farming, Muskegon’s denizens are an incredibly diverse group of people who endlessly breathe joy, empathy, dedication, understanding, equity, and so much more into this city.


To mark the end of our series, we partnered with Revel, a marketing firm in downtown Muskegon, to create the above video as a celebration of the spirit of the city, of the amazing people and incredible work we’ve seen throughout the area.
And, as this is our final OTG Muskegon Lakeshore article, we wanted to recapture the incredible feats happening on a daily basis here by revisiting the stories we’ve written throughout the past three months portraying a city that not only knows how to get back up on its feet, but how to soar. [To read the full story, click on the following headlines.]


We raise our proverbial glass to you, Muskegon: here’s to a city that can teach the world a thing or two about the power of people coming together, linking arms, and building a place of which we can all be proud.

The Pearl Mist cruise ship on its way to Muskegon this past summer. Photo by Eagle Eye Photography


With embrace of the waterfront, a new era comes to Muskegon


Muskegon is undergoing massive change. Major waterfront development is on the horizon, there's increased investment in the city, recreational opportunities abound, businesses are opening, companies are moving there. Why is this all happening? Look to its water.


Takeaway quote: “Historically, industry had its back to the water, but with all the cleanup that’s been done, we realized the water is the front. That’s been a real mind twist: as a community, as corporations, as individuals, we had to realize we faced backwards for years. Once we turned our face to the water, our whole mentality changed and people started to see it for the resource that it is.” — Dennis Kirksey, chairman of the Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership and vice president of Kirksey and Associates
Tameka Smith at McLaughlin Grows Urban Farm. Photo by Jenna Swartz


Seeds of justice: How Muskegon is banding together to fight food insecurity


After facing some hard truths about health in Muskegon, residents are turning the city around. From an urban farm teaming up with doctors to provide patients with fresh produce to the downtown farmers market expanding access to fruits and vegetables for low-income families, the city's quest for better health is breaking down barriers and building community.


Takeaway quote: “I lived right down the street from here. I’d ride my bike by the farm, and I was like, ‘What the hell are those people doing?’ Now, I’m addicted to farming. I love the peace; I love that I’m growing something that feeds people. This is what I do now—I’m a black farmer. I have a black thumb and a green thumb.” — Tameka Smith, farmer at McLaughlin Grows Urban Farm
Wasserman's employees hard at work. Photo by Jenna Swartz


Living history: Wasserman’s Flowers & Gifts is a story about Muskegon’s past and future


The Wasserman family and their flower shop have been an integral part of Muskegon for 137 years, and the city's oldest family-owned business weaves a narrative about the history, present and future of Muskegon—about the determination, joy, hardships, and perseverance of its people.


Takeaway quote: “It’s amazing when I watch the History Channel or see a documentary and it shows what was happening in the country in the 1880s and 90s, and I say, ‘Oh my gosh, the flower shop was open then.’ It was open through the Depression, the World Wars. It’s hard to wrap your head around. Our everyday livelihood goes back that long into the history of the United States and the community. And so many things have changed. There’s a wow factor for me; that’s a lot of years.” — Angie Wasserman-Nelund, co-owner of Wasserman's Flowers & Gifts
Rubee Maloley, an employee at Bodhi Tree Juice Co, hard at work in Kitchen 242. Photo by Jenna Swartz


A changing downtown: How Kitchen 242 is transforming Muskegon’s culinary landscape


Supporting chefs and business owners from throughout the region, Kitchen 242 at the downtown Muskegon Farmers Market is quickly becoming an innovative cornerstone of the city’s growing food scene.


Takeaway quote: “Food is the perfect bond. What’s exciting about downtown Muskegon now is the farmers market. You can go there and it doesn’t matter what your skin pigmentation is; food is the common bond. It’s a powerful tool, and it’s shaping this community for the better.” — Damon Covington, a chef and owner of Grace55, a soul food operation that includes a catering business and food truck.
Hamburger Mikey's owners and employees are a tight-knit (and often hilarious) group. Photo by Jenna Swartz


Muskegon’s phoenix: The life and flight of Midtown’s Third Street


In Midtown Muskegon, life is good. Where once there were abandoned buildings, shops and restaurants are opening and selling everything from vinyl and burgers to clothing and naan pizza. People who left the city are coming back to start businesses. Third Street is rising.


Takeaway quote: “When I was growing up, it was difficult to find a job for just about anybody. There was no sense of urgency to make Muskegon grow at that time, around 2004. People were struggling; they were trying to hold on. We didn’t know what we wanted to be. Over the past five years, Muskegon has decided we’re gonna be a great place for people who live here and for people who visit us as well. That’s a challenge for any city, but I think Muskegon’s pulling it off. There’s a lot more unity here. We realize no big corporation is going to put a factory here and save us. We’ve gotta save ourselves.” — Kiel Reid, owner of The Griffin’s Rest
Keyvon Carpenter of Community enCompass's Youth Empowerment Project. Photo by Jenna Swartz


Speaking up: The voices and actions of Muskegon’s youth are changing our city


Volunteering. Tackling race relations. Mentoring. Urban farming. Rehabilitating homes. The students in Community enCompass' Youth Empowerment Project are doing all of this and more. Pay attention to these Muskegon teenagers: they're creating a better present, and future, for all of us.


Takeaway quote: “I want them to understand their voices are needed in the community. People will tell teens, ‘You’re leaders of the future.’ And I tell them, ‘No, you’re leaders now.’ They see that youth can make a difference.” — Youth Empowerment Project Director Charlotte Johnson
Beginning in 1893, this Corliss Valve steam engine provided electricity to the Stewart Hartshorn Roller Shade Company in Muskegon. You can now see it functioning inside the Muskegon Heritage Museum. Photo by Jenna Swartz


The keepers of history: Muskegon Heritage Museum brings city’s vibrant past to life


Did you know many of the nation's bowling pins were once made in Muskegon? As were the first Raggedy Ann dolls? From boats and beer to engines, pianos, and paper, the vast array of products made right here in this city have made their way across the globe for more than a century. Now, the Muskegon Heritage Museum is telling the stories behind these goods, weaving a powerful narrative about the people and places who created the city's rich history.


Takeaway quote: “People bring their kids and grandkids. Many people are overwhelmed when they come here; they say, ‘Wow, this was made in Muskegon?’ They don’t know that. That’s why we’re doing this.” — Muskegon Heritage Museum Curator Anne Dake
Pigeon Hill Brewing Company owner Michael Brower and his wife, Alana, the taproom manager. Photo by Jenna Swartz


Where everybody knows your name: How Muskegon’s downtown bars and breweries are building the city


In just a couple years, downtown Muskegon has done a complete 180. Where once there were empty streets and abandoned buildings, there's now a thriving commercial landscape. The local brewery and bar scene has played a major role in this transformation, and the city's watering holes are continuing to reshape the city and its economy.


Takeaway quote: “We’ve been through some really rough patches, but we started as a rough-and-tumble town willing to pull itself up by its bootstraps. We’re not going to give up, on each other or on the town.” — Michael Brower, co-owner of Pigeon Hill Brewing Company
Tacitus Bailey-Yabani. Photo by Jenna Swartz


Fyah! Fyah! Fyah! How Tacitus Bailey-Yabani is bridging worlds and bringing Ghana to Muskegon


After going from living on the streets to becoming a famous photographer in his home country of Ghana, Tacitus Bailey-Yabani moved to Muskegon in 2014. Now, the owner of the Abeshi shop in the downtown Western Market has set his sights on changing the world by connecting people, breaking down barriers, and building communities through his art, his food, and his uplifting energy.


Takeaway quote: “I want people to know we’re here; we’re into changing humanity. For us to move forward as mankind, we have to live in respect. If we can live in peace and harmony, we can do anything. That’s what Abeshi is all about.” — Tacitus Bailey-Yabani
The Muskegon Innovation Hub's Tom Hopper, left, Allison Wisneski, and Kevin Ricco. Photo by Jenna Swartz


What is behind the resurgence of Muskegon? Look to its growing support for entrepreneurs.


Whether you're talking about a more equitable and inclusive downtown or the city's ever-growing number of shops and restaurants, entrepreneurs are the major players inspiring change in an evolving Muskegon.


Takeaway quote: “We’ve focused on creating an inclusive community, and, of course, we’re thinking specifically that the economy needs to be inclusive. The recovery from the recession needed to bring people of color and women as part of the prosperity that was starting to be realized, specifically with the downtown and the starting of new businesses. We wanted to make sure that this downtown was full of everyone: men, women, people of every color and every economic status.” — Chris McGuigan, president of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County
The Hackley Administration building. Photo by Jenna Swartz


With eyes on preservation, Muskegon tackles future of Hackley Administration Building


The Muskegon Public Schools could soon sell the Hackley Administration Building, and community leaders are determined to see it fall into hands that will preserve the historic structure.


Takeaway quote:“I’ve always said the heart of Muskegon is at Western and Third—the Frauenthal, the hotel, the Chamber, but the soul is Hackley Park and everything around Hackley Park. That building, the Hackley Administration Building, in and of itself is the jewel in the crown.It’s not in danger of being torn down this week, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be. It’s better to be proactive than to react when the wrecking ball is there.” — Terry MacAllister, a longtime champion of historic preservation in Muskegon
Tracy Montgomery's home on Jefferson Street was one of the historic houses featured during the Nelson Neighborhood Improvement Association's holiday tour. Photo by Jenna Swartz


A trip back in time: Muskegon’s historic homes take center stage at Nelson neighborhood tour


Some of Muskegon's oldest, and grandest, homes were on display during the Nelson Neighborhood Improvement Association's Christmas tour. Along with people from throughout West Michigan, our photographer got to explore the houses that have played host to downtown residents for more than a century.


This is the final story in Rapid Growth's "On the Ground-Muskegon Lakeshore" series, which aimed to amplify the voices of the community members who make up Muskegon's waterfront neighborhoods. Over the course of three months, our journalists were embedded in the city's lakefront communities in order to dive deeper into topics important to residents, business owners and other members of the community. To reach the editor of this series, Anna Gustafson, please email her at [email protected], or connect with her on Facebook.


Support for this series is provided by Downtown Muskegon Now, the Muskegon Business Improvement District, the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Pure Muskegon, Watch Muskegon, and the Community Foundation for Muskegon County.


Photography by Jenna Swartz. To connect with Jenna, visit her website and Facebook page.

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