Two Plate Special

June 22, 2004
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It was a two-for: In the month that The Right Place Inc. celebrated its 20th anniversary, The Grand Rapids Press pushed the button to launch its very expensive, German-made Heidelberg press. It was a two-for because Publisher DannyGaydou is the outgoing Right Place board chairman (replaced last week by incoming chairman DavidVanAndel.

The celebration was made more so by the attendance of business community leaders representing two decades of leadership, including the founders of The Right Place, most especially JayVanAndel, who watched his son take the lead 20 years after the economic development cornerstone was laid. Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and business stalwart HaroldMarks (Prangley & Marks) attended, as did the first Right Place director, MiltRohwer (now leading the Frey Foundation).

It’s current president, BirgitKlohs, likely one of the best known and respected economic development leaders in the state, spent her moments at the podium introducing former board members, acknowledging staff (most especially MaryAnnMedendorp) and praising the vision. Before she could step down, however, Gaydou stepped up, asking the surprised Klohs to remain, and made a speech regarding the accomplishments of “this remarkable woman,” to sustained applause.

Gaydou, regarded as a sincere and thoughtful individual, then introduced the local daily editor, MikeLloyd

Lloyd’s job was to promise that “Jay Van Andel will never again be depicted on the pages of the paper with four eyes,” referring to the sometimes unintentionally comical color registration, and explain the features of the new press. Lloyd also promised additional announcements of change in the fall.

David Van Andel stepped up next and asked whether that announcement would include changes in editorial page policy (to allow counter editorials or editorials from community leaders) saying, “I might argue that those changes should be made.” To which Lloyd retorted, “We could argue.”

And so it goes, or continues, with a prettier wrapper.

  • At that same function, David Van Andel also took the opportunity to “break” some news of his own. The CEO of the Van Andel Institute wowed visitors with a prediction that, based on the growth of the biosciences and technology sectors locally — and Grand Rapids’ leadership roles in those industries — Furniture City will become the largest city in the state in the coming years.

  • Here’s another reason today’s front page story about RobertTobin and the Williams Group’s community tithing is even more worthwhile.

We ask this question about a recent news release: Is it a fine gesture of community service, or branding run horribly amok? We’ll let you be the judge (we already know what we think).

The new police dog for the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety will be named … REMAX.

Yes, REMAX. As in the real estate firm.

Realtors at REMAX of Grand Haven have donated $11,000 to the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety K-9 Program to acquire a new police dog and training.

The new police dog “will be known as REMAX and not by shortened nicknames, in community settings,” states an agreement between the city and the real estate agency. “We further agree, as REMAX agents, not to use the donation of this K-9 as part of any advertising campaign, but to allow the dog’s name to speak for itself.”

What happened to being a benefactor because it’s the right thing to do? It’s marketing, not contributing. And it steals from the nonprofits. Too often the needed contributions come at the expense of taking a nonprofit’s very name away. Obviously, the name is everything to identify a group’s expertise.

Well, about all we can say is that we’re glad Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt and Howlett didn’t jump on this bandwagon. Imagine the first time the dog gets loose and some poor rookie public safety officer has to scour the neighborhood looking for the wayward pooch. “Here, Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt and Howlett! Here, Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt and Howlett …”

  • The story in last week’s Business Journal regarding LeoBeil’s new self-named eatery, which is located on the bottom floor of a parking garage, mentioned prominently the engineering and design team for the ramp, Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber. It didn’t mention the design team for the restaurant, Design Plus. But that’s probably because it was a story about the parking ramp’s engineering, and not the restaurant’s design.

Don’t worry, VernOhlman, we still love you and the gang who are doing great work in Cherry Street Landing. Keep leading the charge!

  • San Chez has re-engineered the space adjacent to the popular tapas restaurant, opening Mezze Café and Cabaret last week with a bevy of belly dancers, cabaret performers, musicians and theater types. The décor, entertainment — and food — create a true “destination” in the SoFu district (Various types of smoked fish were a big hit, as well as the variously flavored hummus.) Patrons might consider this akin to a vacation in the Mediterranean, without the airport hassle.

Owner Dan Gelder opens in the morning with espresso, offers “quick” lunches (including soup flight samplers), afternoon latte’ and snacks, and transforms to exotic café with full dinner menu after 5 p.m. (the bongo drums are a permanent part of the room, and they are played). The belly dancers and cabaret performers also are a permanent part of the cabaret lineup.

It wouldn’t be Grand Rapids without some rumor and Gelder handled his. The buzz was that there was some “boycott” of the new restaurant by other eatery owners, though the downtown group is famously supportive of one another. As it turns out, a patron earlier in the day had suggested the Middle Eastern theme was the wrong thing to do while military troops are engaged in Iraq, and then made a similar statement on one of the Clear Channel owned stations.

The Arts Council of Grand Rapids (which was not asked to give up naming rights) was the charity of choice benefiting from $65 per person tickets for the full evening of events.

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