| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Heartside : Development News

318 Heartside Articles | Page: | Show All

Monument Park well on the way to becoming a welcoming respite in the heart of Grand Rapids

One would think that the renovation of a tiny triangle of greenspace would be a breeze, but the redesign and rebuilding of Monument Park in downtown Grand Rapids has been a multi-year process, involving planners, citizens, military veterans, landscape designers, utility companies, and scads of others.

Monument Park, bordered by Monroe Center Avenue NW pedestrian walkway, Fulton St., and Division Avenue, is home to a 25-ft.-high monument honoring Civil War veterans. The park has changed shape and size over the decades, and, off and on, has been a greenspace with no trees and a greenspace with trees. In recent years, a retaining wall created a raised barrier, which made it difficult for pedestrians to step up into the park and impossible for people in wheelchairs or on bikes to access it.

Tree removal, leveling the park to sidewalk level, and extensively rebuilding the underground utilities and the outdated coal storage areaways that run under the park is complete, and the new base for the monument and fountain is in place.

Plans to relocate the monument and the fountain that surrounds it to a central viewing area in the park will make the monument more visible and give it the place of honor it needs, says Jay Steffen, assistant planning director. Thirteen new trees, Emerald Sunshine Elms and Spring Flurry Serviceberry (tree form), will offer shade and accentuate the monument and walkways.

"The new design makes [the park] universally accessible," Steffen says. "Walkways will go through the park and up to the monument; there will be a lawn area and other landscaping, bike racks, and two historical benches that will be donated by Bruce Butgereit and History Remembered, Inc. Bruce Butgereit is the person who raised all the funds in the early 2000s to renovate the monument."

Steffen says the redesign also provides for a café space outside the Kendall Building and other buildings that border the park to the north.

"It's really kind of cool when you think about people milling about Rosa Parks Circle on the west end of Monroe Center," Steffen says, "and that this will be an anchor on the east end. It will be more inviting to people to spend time there, and yet we're not losing sight of the importance of the monument."

Project completion is set for December 15, 2013.
Companies involved in the project: Katerburg VerHage, FTC&H, Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority, Geotech, Inc., OCBA.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Renderings courtesy of the City of Grand Rapids Planning Department.
Historic photos from the Grand Rapids Public Library

Related Articles
Two downtown parks seek new ways to honor Grand Rapids' casualties of war

Kendall College plans to further its presence down South Division with two new studios

Kendall College of Art and Design and Ferris State University recently shook up the downtown development scene with the announcement that they would be merging with Grand Rapids' home of contemporary art, UICA. But without missing a beat, Kendall has additional plans to remake the corner of South Division and Fulton, thus extending its presence further down Division Avenue.

Part of the UICA complex at the corner includes two retail spaces facing South Division. Other than using it as a raw ArtPrize venue and some classroom space, UICA has so far been unsuccesful in finding retail tenants since they moved into the Gallery on Fulton complex in 2010.

But in an interview with David Rosen, President of Kendall College, he outlined plans to take over the two retail bays and outfit them for studios for two new programs for Kendall: the Masters of Architecture program that is scheduled to begin in fall 2014, and their newly accredited apparel and fashion programs. The goal is to have the studios open to the outside world, both letting in the light and energy of downtown as well as adding street-level vibrancy to a corner that has seen fits and starts of revitalization over the years.

Those fits and starts are all about to drastically change as these two studios join the growing list of projects on that corner. 616Development is nearing completion of its remake of the long vacant Kendall Building into a mixed use complex that will include apartments, its new company headquarters, and a new ground floor tenant to be announced soon. The complete revamp of Monument Park is also well underway, with plans that include two new streetscape plazas, movement of the monument to a more prominent spot on the corner, new trees, and brick pavers that will better tie the park into Monroe Center to the West.

Also on the corner is the revitalization of the "Old JA Building" into new offices for Kalamazoo-based architecture firm TowerPinkster.

With the addition of the two new retail studio spaces, Kendall will have effectively stretched its Division presence from Lyon Street at the north all the way to south of Fulton Street. As David Rosen, a big fan of "urban placemaking" remarked, the "goal is to make downtown Grand Rapids an increasingly vibrant place for young and old creatives alike. We want to give our Kendall College graduates the idea that they can indeed stay in Grand Rapids after they graduate, by making downtown a vibrant center of arts and culture."

Writer: Jeff Hill
Photography: Jeff Hill

Re-imagining Grand Rapids' busiest corner: TowerPinkster injects new life in derelict JA Building

The iconic building with the curved corner façade at the intersection of Fulton Street and Division Avenue is, literally, the center of Grand Rapids -- the place where the NE, NW, SE, and SW quadrants shake hands. As of January 2013, 40,000 cars passed through the intersection daily.

One building facing that corner, known as "the Junior Achievement Building" or the "JA Building" and now called 4 E. Fulton, is no longer the derelict eyesore it has been for years, but is undergoing a dramatic transformation of its entryway and second floor by its new second-floor tenant, TowerPinkster Architects & Engineers.

The building, owned by Locus Development, has a historic designation, so façade repairs had to conform to historic requirements. But inside, the 7,500-square-foot second floor has joined the 21st Century with a sleek energy-efficient new interior for 40 of TowerPinkster's employees; 25 will move in sometime in October, leaving room for future growth.

"The elevator core is wood reclaimed from Asian shipping crates, and we designed the entry with the kitchen space forward to act as a lobby/welcome area," says Matt Slagle, design architect. "We saved the glass from the building's 1937-era windows; we crushed them and used them as aggregate in the countertop in the front of the space. Throughout, there are Interlam 3-D wall panels that look like crinkled paper to give dimension to the space. The countertops in the kitchen and bathroom are recycled aluminum shavings in a resin base."

Other features include:
•    Roller window shades attached to solar sensors for auto control of daylight levels.
•    Open workspaces for collaboration.
•    Height-adjustable work surfaces so employees can sit or stand.
•    Soft seating areas where employees can work away from their desks.
•    Polycom video conferencing system with a 70-in screen.
•    Private offices.
•    A 1,500-square-foot event space available to the community.

The lobby will be open during ArtPrize and will exhibit the works of three artists.

Click here to view an animated video of the interior.

Source: Matt Slagle, TowerPinkster; Chris Knape, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Related Articles
Grand Rapids Junior Achievement Building lands anchor tenant, long-awaited restoration to begin

Popular East Lansing deli gets a slice of Grand Rapids' entertainment district with first GR store

Menna's Joint, an East Lansing-based deli known for its youthful vibe and giant "dub" burrito-style sandwiches, hopes to get a healthy slice of the restaurant crowd in Grand Rapids' entertainment district with the opening of its first Grand Rapids location at 44 Ionia Ave. SW.

The new store, kitty-corner from HopCat and next to McFadden's, will offer food service and local delivery into the wee hours -- a trend that has helped make its four existing stores successful, says Hank Andries, company owner with Gary Adam.

"We're typically open until 4 a.m. on weekends and will deliver to 3 a.m. or 4 a.m.," Andries says. "We'll be offering delivery, sit-down, and takeout. We'll deliver to the downtown GVSU campus and student housing, and offer our products to the growing business environment downtown."

Menna's Joint will offer is nearly-famous dub sandwiches -- a grilled tortilla overloaded with meat, veggies, and cheeses and wrapped up like a burrito -- but without beans or rice. The menu touts nearly two dozen dubs, including mouthwatering spicy-hot dubs, tasty veggie dubs, and protein-loaded breakfast dubs, as well as salads, soups, and Momma Menna's delectable chocolate chip cookies.

Andries says the decision to open Menna's Joint locations in college towns near the campuses (MSU, Western Michigan, GVSU, Central Michigan University) fits with the eatery's youthful, student-oriented brand, which he says attracts the young and the young-at-heart.

The Grand Rapids location will open mid-October.

Source: Hank Andries, Menna's Joint
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Arena Place unveils $28M residential, restaurant, retail, office complex near Van Andel Arena

The Arena South Visioning Plan is becoming reality. On Tuesday night, Orion Construction and Hanon McKendry unveiled plans to build a $28 million retail, residential, and office building on the west side of the Van Andel Arena, next to Bistro Bella Vita. The project is the first in the Arena South geographic area, an underdeveloped economic area that extends south of the arena to Logan St. SW.

The new development, called Arena Place, will run the length of a full city block on property that is now underused surface parking. The project runs south from Ottawa Avenue and Weston St. SW to Oakes St. SW, and consists of two five-level towers connected by 7,700 square feet of retail spaces for small shops.

The north tower will feature a first floor restaurant space with Class A office spaces on the second, third, and fourth floors, topped off by a fifth floor event venue. The south tower features 64 studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments and 12 condominiums.  

The anchor tenants announced Tuesday are Hanon McKendry and Mindscape at Hanon McKendry, each of which will occupy a full floor. Meritage Hospitality Group, owner of 119 restaurants in several states, including Twisted Rooster and Crooked Goose, affirmed that it's evaluating the development as a possible opportunity to open a downtown Grand Rapids restaurant.

Besides being LEED certified and energy efficient, Arena Place will offer secure underground parking for all tenants, double banks of elevators for quick access to offices and residences, catering by the restaurant, recycling and garbage chutes, and innovative holding kitchens for refrigerator/freezer storage of food deliveries from entities such as AmazonFresh.com or the nearby Downtown Market.

The retail shops will be selected with an eye to providing tenants with everything they need, including dry cleaning, a coffee shop, wine and sundries, and other essentials.

"This, to me, is the crowning jewel of everything I've worked for in this town since 1987 when I started Rockford Construction," says John Wheeler, Orion's director of business development and a partner in Arena Place Development. "We'll be creating a lot of jobs [and] a lot of tax base on a surface parking lot. We've been working very hard to compete with the guys in Chicago who attract our young talent who want to live someplace really cool and want to walk and bike everywhere."

Bill McKendry, founder and chief creative officer at Hanon McKendry, echoes Wheeler's enthusiasm. "[Hanon McKendry has] deep roots in Heartside and Arena South. Our history as tenants in this area dates back to 1989 -- well before the arena was built -- so it makes sense that this would be home to our first venture as a partner in a building project. It's going to be very gratifying to partner on a project that will continue the renewal and transformation of this neighborhood in the years ahead."

The project could break ground in December 2013 and open in spring 2015.

Architect: Concept Design
Construction manager: Orion Construction

Source: John Wheeler, Orion Construction; Hanon McKendry
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Images courtesy of Concept Design Group

$40M high-rise apartments, retail to replace surface parking lot on Grand Rapids' busiest corner

A new $40 million high-rise apartment building and retail shops could soon replace an ugly parking lot on the corner of Division Avenue and Fulton Street -- downtown Grand Rapids' busiest corner and gateway to the city and entertainment district.

Midland-based Brookstone Capital, the company behind the multi-million-dollar developments of Serrano Lofts, Division Park Avenue Apartments, Metropolitan Park Apartments, and others, has received Downtown Development Authority approval for a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program to develop 108 new housing units in a 14-story tower at 20 E. Fulton, across from The Grand Rapids Children's Museum. Some 9,000 square feet of the ground floor will be available for retail.

The project will divide the units into 54 market-rate apartments and 54 affordable-rate apartments to bring a mix of incomes to the neighborhood without the social stigma of setting the affordable apartments aside in a separate building.

"Mixed-income developments and diversity are common elements in urban communities from coast to coast  -- New York, to Chicago, and Los Angeles," says Brookstone Capital in an email to Rapid Growth. "The community is served by integrating building design that does not distinguish market-rate units from affordable units by either appearance or amenities. Higher density developments offer the opportunity to attract retail/service businesses to locate within close proximity to the City Center, meeting [the needs of] a fast growing downtown population and its daytime workers."

Brookstone says the location is ideally situated on several transit routes, is just one block from a Bus Rapid Transit station, and is near the new bike lanes through the city center. The proposed building is just a short walk to restaurants, theaters, the library, the entertainment district, downtown employment, colleges, museums, and art galleries.

The Grand Rapids Planning Commission and the Grand Rapids City Commission still need to approve the final plans before construction can commence. A groundbreaking date has not been set.

Architect: Progressive AE

Source: Brookstone Capital
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Image courtesy of Brookstone Capital and Progressive AE

Treasures of Heritage Hill homes the sole offerings of new Grand Rapids decor store

Grand Rapids' historic Heritage Hill neighborhood is known for its expansive mansions, majestic Victorian architecture, and for the intriguing home décor items and antiques found in many of those homes. The idea to create a home décor and interior design store that offers an array of merchandise found only in Heritage Hill homes struck John Kershek, John Potter, Doug Meekes, and Greg McNally as a unique opportunity -- for them, for Heritage Hill homeowners, and for customers.

Colline Patrimoine, French for "Heritage Hill," is a shop filled with antique furniture, mid-century modern furnishings, china, crystal, silver, lamps, paintings, and more, all displayed with a French Market vibe that gives customers four prices for each item. The store's location at 447 S. Division Ave. is just one block from the new Downtown Market.

"The tickets will say what street it came from, the price today, and three more dates with price reductions for the dates that are farther away," says John Kershek. "Customers can gamble and hope that the item is still here when they come back, or buy it today. We want to turn the whole store over every 10 to 12 weeks."

Kershek says that with thousands of households in Heritage Hill, the opportunities to fill the 1,300-square-foot store are endless. He has several hundred names on a growing email list, and can request merchandise via email or alert sellers to what buyers are looking for.

"When you have a big house, you fill it up with stuff, and now there are a lot of people saying 'we have a set of china for 18 and don't need it,' or 'I have five sets of china and want to sell three,'" Kershek says. "We have Grand Rapids-made Stickley and Forslund furniture, and just acquired a collection of unbelievable vintage aprons from the '30s and '40s."

Kershek says there are items from the '60s and '70s, as well. If it's lived some of its life in Heritage Hill, the store owners will consider offering it. Items include globes that show the old Cold War country names, and even some art created by artists who live in Heritage Hill.

Store hours: Tues., Weds. 5 -9; Fri. 1 - 9; Sat. 10 - 6; Sun. 12 - 5; and by appointment. Hours will change after the Downtown Market opens.

Source: John Kershek, Colline Patrimoine
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Images courtesy of Colline Patrimoine

Handmade goods, zines, indie publications are all part of new Have Company on Avenue for the Arts

Have Company is not your grandmother's traditional general store. The new shop in a live/work space at 136 S. Division Ave., Grand Rapids, will offer customers a selection of handmade goods by local and non-local artists, as well as a number of independent publications and underground zines. But that's not all.

Every few months the store will feature one of its artists, who will have one of the two expansive storefront windows to style with his or her own creations. The first featured artist, Sally England, has created a modern macramé and glass globe art piece that store owners Marlee Grace and John Hanson hope will entice customers inside to explore England's contemporary macramé plant hangers and leather-and-rope jewelry.

"The general store embraces kind of the old dry goods aspects of handmade clothing, fabric goods, (and) household goods like handmade soap and handmade laundry soap," Grace says. "We carry things from people in lots of different places; we like to support other makers that inspire us or have stores of their own that we really like."

Jacob Vroon, owner and creator of Harbinger Leather Design, shares the live/work space with the store in an unusual way: his living space is the rear section of the store and his leather studio is in the basement. Harbinger Leather goods will be a staple offering at Have Company.

Other artists and their works include Rose Beerhorst's rag rugs, Eliza Fernand's ceramics and clothing, and Bjorn Sparrman's pottery.

Regarding the zines and indie publications, Grace says these, like the visual arts, are forms of self-expression that she and Hanson want to promote.

"These (publications) can be small or big, professionally bound, or not -- where anyone can write about anything or draw about anything and they don't have to wait for some publishing company to tell them it's good enough to put it out to world," Grace says. Have Company will carry publications already created, and will have in-store workshops where people can ceate their own.

The store opens Sat., July 13, noon to 10 p.m. The opening corresponds with the Avenue for the Arts street market of art and music. Regular store hours will be Tues. thru Sat., noon to 9 p.m.

Read more about the store and its Artist in Residency program here.

Source: Marlee Grace, Have Company
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Have Company

Related Articles
Harbinger Leather Design Heralds Great Goods to Come

Baker Lofts $18.5M rehab brings affordable living to vacant warehouse on Grand Rapids' SW side

A former furniture warehouse that many thought had seen its last days is a new, eco-friendly living space kitty-corner from Grand Rapids' new Downtown Market.

Baker Lofts (40 Logan St. SW), an $18.5 million renovation of the Baker Furniture warehouse, brings 87 affordable rate (lower income) apartments to an area serviced by two bus lines and in a region of the city once classified as a "food desert," prompting development of the Downtown Market. The project awaits LEED certification.

Mike Jacobson, president of LC Companies, LLC, developer of the project, says the 125,000-square-foot building began construction in September 2012 and has already leased three of the five floors. The fourth and fifth floors are still under construction and will be completed in a few weeks.

"We did a market study that told us the vacancy rate of affordable housing was basically zero in the central city," Jacobson says. "Our experience is that the building of housing runs in cycles with the economy -- in the mid-2000s people lost their homes, and turned to rental housing as the only housing they could have. There wasn't a lot of housing being built during that time, and construction of affordable housing in this market hasn't met the demand that's there. There really hasn't been, in eight or nine years, an increase in affordable housing. In that period, all that was built replaced what was being demolished or being rebuilt."

To-date, some 45 of the 65 residents in the building work in downtown Grand Rapids in restaurants and retail shops, says Jacobson.

Jacobson adds that, although he lives in Grand Rapids and practiced law here for 35 years, Baker Lofts is LC Companies, LLC's first venture into the Grand Rapids housing market. The firm develops only affordable rate housing and has focused its efforts in Muskegon, Traverse City, Petoskey, and Michigan's east side.

Rockford Construction: construction and construction management
Catalyst Partners: LEED consultants
Rebecca Smith Hoffman, Past Perfect: historic preservation consultant

Source: Mike Jacobson, LC Companies, LLC; Tyler Lecceadone, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Images courtesy of SeyferthPR

Related Articles
Planned $18M Baker Lofts could create 87 affordable apartments near Downtown Market

Making Thyme Kitchen makes a move to the Downtown Market

After eight years of making and selling ready-to-cook meals for busy households from a storefront in East Hills and a downtown church kitchen, Making Thyme Kitchen is moving to new digs: the Grand Rapids Downtown Market (435 Ionia Ave. SW). The Market is scheduled to open in August 2013.

"We're very excited about the move," says Karen Bryan, who owns Making Thyme along with her husband, Ken Bryan. "We'll have a big, brand-new kitchen built to our specifications, and we'll get more exposure to people shopping for food. It also puts us closer to our producers and fresh food ingredients. And the larger space will enable us to offer a bigger variety of menu items."

Making Thyme Kitchen plans to continue to offer its popular meals, including Beef Peanut Satay, Sicilian Chicken with Pine Nuts and Raisins, and Mushroom Nut Loaf with Marinara. In addition, they will introduce new, ready-to-eat, fully cooked meals, as well as products by the pound, such as Green Beans with Butter and Lemon, Gingered Snap Peas, and Cuban Black Bean Salad.

The Bryans eat what they cook, so customers know it's good. Not only does a meal from Making Thyme Kitchen save time in the home kitchen, it cuts down on waste, too.

"Making Thyme Kitchen redefines what 'fast food' can be," says Mimi Fritz, president and CEO of the Downtown Market. "In five minutes, a customer can stop at the Market and pick up the kind of dinner you would make for yourself if you had all the time in the world."

The Downtown Market follows a long tradition of urban markets that were once central to the food systems in American cities. Today, these up-and-coming markets cultivate positive relationships among people from all walks of life, provide a forum for artisan food entrepreneurs and their crafts, promote sustainable food production, and encourage healthy living.

Sources: Karen Bryan, Making Thyme Kitchen; Mimi Fritz, president and CEO of the Downtown Market
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images: Courtesy of Making Thyme Kitchen

Grand Rapids' historic Harris Building makeover makes room for The Local Epicurean

The 110-year-old Harris Building in the historic Heartside Business District is built atop an underground river that has made its presence known at times throughout the building's history. The challenges presented by groundwater rising up from below and years of rainwater pouring in through a dilapidated roof above didn't deter the renovation efforts.

The ground floor of the Harris Building (111 S. Division Ave., Grand Rapids) will soon be the new home of The Local Epicurean, a local organic pasta company that will have a retail shop, restaurant space, and a teaching kitchen. The renovation will be completed by late spring, and the building will be a 2013 ArtPrize venue.

Wolverine Building Group's Project Manager Dulane Coval says the underground river has not eroded the foundation of the building due to the foresight of the builders a century ago.

"When they built this building, they knew about the river, so the footings are really deep," Coval says. "We haven't even found how deep they are. We had groundwater two feet below the lower-level floor and we had to put the elevator shaft in at six feet below, but we never found the bottom of the foundations. I suspect they're great big old limestone, but I don't know."

Building owner Bob Dykstra of Harris Lofts has floated a number of ideas about what to do with the building, including development of a co-working office space. To-date, no additional plans for the upper floors have been announced.
In addition to conquering the water issues, the building, which has been empty for three to five years, now has an open stairway to the lower level, new HVAC, new roof, and it's first-ever fire protection system.

"The whole area is in a state of transition right now...The building next door (101 South Division) was renovated about three years ago, and there's new housing going in down the street on the corner of Cherry Street," Coval says. 

Wolverine Building Group has headed up construction of both of those projects, plus the development of housing at Division Park Avenue (209 S. Division Ave.) and Serrano Lofts (17 Williams St.).

Source: Dulane Coval, Wolverine Building Group
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Longtime Holland meat market embraces change -- a new home in Grand Rapids' Downtown Market

Montello Meat Market has been a Holland staple since the '50s, first as Montello Park IGA in one location, a move to another part of town in the '80s (746 Michigan Ave.), and a name change. And, holding true to its history of change amid the constancy of supplying top-notch meats to customers, the market is ready for a new pasture: the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids.

The Downtown Market (435 Ionia Ave. SW) hopes to be the region's go-to center for everything food, from fresh veggies at the outdoor farmers market to baked goods, coffee, site-made ice creams, and now, a local butchery. But Montello Meat Market owners Tony and Tina Larson are not pulling out of their beloved Holland community entirely.

"We're creating Montello Meat Locker, a meat market on wheels, instead of having the (Holland) store," says Tina Larson. "People still call in their orders; they want a tenderloin roast for Friday night, or lamb chops for a family dinner. We'll continue to offer freezer bundles for people who don't have big deep freezers."

The Larsons haven't ironed out all the details on deliveries or pickup locations, but will have those figured out soon, Larson says.

Tony and Tina have owned the meat market for 10 years and each of their four children -- Alex, Sam, Hayley, and Grace -- now young adults, have worked, or still work, at the store. Sam, 25, will be the market's executive butcher; Dad Tony will still make the market's 24 types of brats and sausages from scratch, including Tony's Original Brats, Cherry Pecan, Belgian Country Sausages from a recipe from Belgium, English Breakfast Sausage from a recipe of a butcher shop in England, two chicken sausage recipes, and lamb sausage.

The Downtown Market will become Montello's primary butchery, with 1,900-square-feet of cutting, aging, mixing, and packaging space and a 24-foot-long meat counter. The beef, all from Michigan farms and hormone-free, will be dry-aged on site in coolers with large windows. The store will also sell frozen meats, plus homemade meat loaf, ham loaf, and pea soup.

The Market Hall in the Downtown Market opens in August.

Source: Tina Larson, Montello Meat Market
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids Downtown Market adds some "spice" with popular Saugatuck spice shop

As the list of foodie-oriented vendors in the new Grand Rapids Downtown Market continues to grow -- a bakery, an ice cream maker, a specialty food and wine shop, a coffee shop, a florist, and a butchery -- it seems only natural that a spice shop could bring it all together as a complete one-stop shopping experience.

Spice Merchants
, a corporate and franchise spice seller based in Saugatuck, plans to have hundreds of its bulk spices, proprietary spice blends, and artisanal teas at the market when it opens in August.

"We'll pair well with everything at the market -- vegetables, olive oils, meats, coffee; we'll have fantastic spices and sugars that will go with everything being sold," says owner and founder Lisa Freeman. "Customer can buy large or small quantities. Everything is in a large jar with a label and lid. You tell me what you want, and I measure it into a bag. We sell as little as one-half ounce and more."

Spice Merchants' blends are from Freeman's own recipes, she says, adding that the blends contain no manmade fillers, artificial colors, or chemicals. Freeman says the spices only make one stop between the grower and her stores: the east coast, where the spices are cleaned and processed in a "clean warehouse" that's peanut-free and FDA-approved.

Spice Merchants' top sellers are Smoked Paprika, Hot Smoked Paprika, Black Truffle Sea Salt, Saugatuck Steak Rub (smoked paprika base, Worcestershire, garlic, sea salt, cracked black pepper), Raspberry Chipotle blend, Coffee Barbecue blend, and Tuscan Blend to add to olive oil for dipping bread.

"People can get healthy and fresh products (at the Downtown Market)," Freeman says. "It represents just a great wholesome venue where you can go to get everything. A passion for spices and cooking, that's what got me started. The idea of walking into a store and being able to have all kinds of spices at your fingertips in smaller quantities and more economically appealed to me."
Source: Lisa Freeman, Spice Merchants
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids technology startup offers medical practices unique options to improve bottom line

Digital Limelight Media (DLM) doesn't work with just anybody. The Grand Rapids-based technology startup has been in existence for just over a year, working with medical practices to improve the practice's bottom line by determining which advertising method is attracting new patients, where those new patients are coming from, and how much money those patients spend at the practice.

And while DLM could do this for every medical practice that wants to hire them, they don't. DLM says it offers exclusivity to every client in every city, working with only one plastic surgeon, for example, or one family practitioner.
"We don't report on first-page rankings, we report on revenue," says company founder and CEO Kyle Peacy, 27. "We don't care who ranks on Google first; we care if they made money and where that money's being made. We measure returns on new business only, not business referred by a friend or a doctor, but patients who found the website and contacted the doctor."

DLM (15 Ionia Ave. SW, Suite 320) operates out of a collaborative workspace that generates an overflow of creative energy among the five people in the company. Peacy and business partner Ryan Rogers, 28; Drew Page, 22, business development; Tyler Rix, 22, graphic design; and Jake Moore, 26, account manager.

While the group's camaraderie is lighthearted, as exemplified by Rix's white board graffiti of a grizzly bear wearing a sunglasses and a necktie, and a he-man panda with a Two Hearted Ale in his fist, it's an integral part of the serious business of keeping the energy flowing for clients.

DLM offers the whole media package: website development, search engine optimization, email marketing, reputation management, and social media management.

But lead management is the company's bread and butter; when a lead comes in through the client's website, it generates a call to the medical office, which prompts the office to contact the potential new patient within five minutes of them hitting "Send." That, says Peacy, leads to setting appointments, which leads to getting new patients into a client's office.

Source: Digital Limelight Media
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Opening day of Grand Rapids' Downtown Market welcomed 8,000 - 10,000 visitors

On Saturday, May 4, the new $30 million Downtown Market opened its 80-stall outdoor vendors area for the first time, welcoming an estimated 8,000 – 10,000 visitors, says market spokesperson Brian Burch.

The outdoor vending area is part of the larger Downtown Market (435 Ionia Ave. SW), which will offer restaurants, pubs, a coffee shop, bakeries, food boutiques, culinary kitchens, greenhouses, and more when it opens later this year. The market, whose focus is on locally produced foods, will also offer a culinary classroom and other educational endeavors.

Pots and hanging baskets of brightly colored flowers dotted the market where vendors like Visser Farms offered them for sale. Crane Dance Farms offered their grass-fed beef products, other farmers and growers had tables filled with potted herbs and tomato plants ready for planting. Gammy's Artisan Pies offered deep-dish fruit and savory pies.

Simpatico Coffee, which will have a shop in the indoor Market Hall, offered samples of freshly brewed coffee and tea. Go Nuts filled the air with the smell of fresh mini fried cakes prepared hot on the spot for a long line of customers anxious to try them. Breads, focaccia, and fresh vegetables filled other tables, as well as a variety of jams, jellies, salsas, and dried herb mixes from Frozen Creek Farms.

Non-food offerings included cedar birdhouses and garden ornaments.

One of the most colorful vendors was Ed Dunneback & Girls Farm Market with its eye-catching hot pink John Deere tractor and matching aprons. The Dunnebacks offered samples of donuts, and had several varieties for sale.

The outdoor market will be open Tuesdays and Saturdays, 8 to 1 p.m.; Thursdays, 4 to 7 p.m.

Source: Brian Burch, Downtown Market
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
318 Heartside Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts