The Transitions

April 22, 2002
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All talk? Geez, Lou-ise! A couple of hospital CEOs can’t even get together for coffee without causing the streets to rumble. The report by Mark Sanchez on page 3 explains what really happened when Metropolitan Hospital board members had coffee with St. Mary’s execs, and later Borgess leaders (at least on the record). Now that the issue of Metro’s move to south Kent County is relatively assured, the merger rhetoric has cooled. The “how” and “why” of the fast-track location approvals remain somewhat a mystery.

He didn’t do it, says a spokesman for Gov. John Engler

"It" is rumored to be a threat to disband the Michigan Certificate of Need Commission by executive order (the CON group has decision making power in Metro’s move) if members did not proceed on April 11 with a change in hospital relocation standards that would accommodate Metro Hospital’s proposed move to Wyoming.

Several sources associated with hospitals around the state and the CON process indicated the threat was real. Engler, by the way, is good buddies with Reed City attorney and lobbyist David Porteous, who has represented Metro.

When asked about it last week, Engler’s spokesman, Matt Resh, denied that any such threat was ever made.

“The governor did not say that,” Resh told a Business Journal reporter. “That is not anything that anyone communicated.”

  • There may be more than coffee steam rising from the Spartan Stores executive offices.

Back in the kitchen — way back — food executives are buzzin’ about Kroger’s offer to Spartan, which is said to be hard to swallow. This week the Business Journal updates Spartan’s purchase of Toledo-based Seaway Food Town stores, a deal President and CEO Jim Meyer considered a “major step forward.” Evidently he or management team members do not consider the Kroger offer as such. It is said the $50 billion, Cincinnati-based Kroger is discussing merger opportunities with Spartan, but Kroger execs want D&W to be a part of the deal. It is said such a prospect just needs a bit of time to stew, so Spartan execs can get over the bad blood of its previous life as a spurned D&W suitor. Kroger owns 2,418 stores in 32 states doing business under almost two dozen names.

  • Meanwhile, up the alley, the great transition of the Monroe North Neighborhood Business Association has encompassed Teazer’s Bar & Grill. Last week marked the one-year anniversary of a fateful meeting between two buddies over business, one fresh out of the furniture industry, and the other seeing new opportunities (in 2001) as a consultant to manufacturers. Bill Anderson and Pat Walton recalled they were told Teazer woes by the wait staff and ended up buying the business, rather than continuing their search for manufacturing space.

The former Beason’s took a decidedly Irish flair under its previous ownership, unhappily including drunk driving convictions that resulted in having no place to post a liquor license (or no liquor license to post). The circumstances also scared off most of the lunchtime regulars, politicians, judges, attorneys, manufacturing executives and newspaper types.

Not much looks the same to those who get past the ol’ entrance. Even the original 1800s teller cage, from which many a paycheck was cashed, is gone. Refurbished, painted and structured, patrons no longer call orders into the kitchen; they are served at the tables and booths. The menu pays homage to former owner Mel Byrnes’ road-kill menu, but the new eats include cold pasta treats, entrees, and desserts.

Some say the night rumblings of sliders and other bike types has created some trepidation among potential customers, but some among the tattooed “bikers” are reportedly the professional types who have earned their degrees and their Harleys and Ducatis.

  • He was first to build restaurants offering steaks and entrees catering to the blue-collar crowd, and the successful business formula spawned several West Michigan locations. “Mr. Steak” Johnny Brann Sr. died Thursday, April 18, at a local hospital.

In other restaurant news, long-time Penn Club chef, and the originator of the regional Chef and Child program, Warren Hussid, 46, was killed in a vehicle/motorcycle accident Tuesday, April 16. Hussid established and ran the nutrition program, which also provided food products from area restaurants for nutrition programs in the city, particularly during the summer months at city playgrounds. The program was established through the Grand Rapids chapter of the American Culinary Federation.

  • A smooth transition: Dad knew, but Pete didn’t. And that may be surprising when one of the region’s largest private companies is about to shake things up a bit. Contrary to what one might expect in protocol for a “heads-up,” Alticor President Dick DeVos essentially told none about his decision to “retire” at age 46.

Whether DeVos remains a member of the Michigan Business Roundtable (a group of executives of Michigan’s top companies) remains to be seen, but he hosted the group last Thursday at the Van Andel Institute. The VAI is fast becoming internationally recognized, and such visits by “Fortune 5” executives provide additional cross-pollination of Michigan’s Life Sciences corridor.

The announcement sent a chill of concern through the nonprofit community for Alticor’s continued involvement as a community benefactor. One back-room voice, however, noted that Bob and Cheri DeVos-VanderWeide are planning to move back to Grand Rapids where she serves as a member of the Alticor board of directors, and “very much wants to see their children enrolled in school here.” Bob VanderWeide, president of the Orlando Magic, would run the franchise from Grand Rapids.

  • Universal Forest Products Chairman Peter Secchia noted De Vos called the day after the public announcement, assuring GR’s most dedicated cheerleader that he intended to remain committed to community service projects. Having put GR on the map, again, as host of a party for friends (including Vice President Dick Cheney), Secchia’s upbeat mood could not be compromised last week, even by “JJ,” the city commissioner getting regular “15 minutes of fame” for his ongoing unkindly comments in regard to the community’s biggest benefactors. “(Jim) Jendrasiak is a paid union organizer whose job it is to infiltrate companies and cause problems. So he’s an expert at causing problems,” Secchia said.

Secchia’s initial comment in regard to last week’s JJ news was that, “This is a world-class city; we’re building a world-class convention center; we’ve got to have world-class city governance.”

Indeed, the latter was akin to Secchia’s non-birthday party invitation, which read (in part) “What is most gratifying to me is the number of wonderful people that I have grown to know as “friends.” Many are from different streets of the city. Together we have built buildings, won championships, raised funds, helped the less fortunate, and hopefully made an impact for good governance.”

In case anyone wondered, GR MAYOR John Logiewas invited to last week’s party, but had long-planned a trip to Italy with his wife (who took the time to learn at least conversational Italian).

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