Hem And Cheese

February 4, 2005
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The 117th annual meeting of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce was, well, rather cheesy.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

President JeanneEnglehart and outgoing board chairman BobRoth, of RoMan Manufacturing, took care of the introductions and year in review, respectively, and 2005 board chairman JoeErhardt, of Erhardt Construction, handled the look ahead.

Erhardt even entered the new Steelcase Ballroom at

DeVos Place
, where approximately 900 people were getting their first looks at the new facility, riding in a golf cart, poking fun at Roth’s entrance last year on a motorcycle.

“I rode in on a golf cart for two reasons,” Erhardt deadpanned. “Bob wouldn’t let me ride his motorcycle and

DeVos Place
said absolutely no motorcycles on the carpet.”

The cheesiness continued when Englehart and Roth unveiled the chamber’s redesigned Web site, www.grandrapids.org, by pulling a lever on a huge on/off switch and having the site appear on overhead screens.

“It’s great when technology works, isn’t it?” Englehart said. “I’ve been sweating this all morning.”

Why all the cheese references?

That would be because the day’s keynote speaker, W. Jones Loflin, focused on the best-selling business book “Who Moved My Cheese?” The book is a primer on change within organizations and has sold 17 million copies worldwide. It features mouse characters Scurry and Sniff, and human-like characters Hem and Haw (Hem is very afraid of change).

So, Loflin wrote the book, right?

Well, not exactly. The author would be SpencerJohnson

“You ask why I’m here?” Loflin said. “Dr. Spencer Johnson gets $125,000 plus expenses for speaking engagements. I’m the economy version.”

Wonder if anyone else was (cheese) whizzed about the author’s absence?

  • A family with both entrepreneurial and political roots here made a unique contribution to the DeVos Place grand opening last week — a lot of dough.

Harold Voorhees Sr. and family donated 3,200 one-of-a-kind cookies created exclusively for the event. They were Dutch windmill cookies bearing the name “DeVos” and made from the original Steenstra Windmill cookie recipe sold by the family’s business.

Voorhees said businessman and former U.S. ambassador to ItalyPeterSecchia came up with the idea.

“Mr. Secchia had a wonderful idea. It was just so unique. And you know, it’s always hard to say no to Ambassador Secchia.”

Harold Voorhees Jr., president of the food brokerage, shared his father’s enthusiasm for the project and got the cookie dough rolling.

“The biggest expense is creating the design and cutting the mold and getting it to run,” Voorhees Sr. said. “The first ones are the most expensive. It was a new experiment and it took some time and some research to get it to come out the way it did.”

It was a one-time batch of cookies, as far as Voorhees knows. Might the Dutch dessert treat become a regular feature at

DeVos Place
events?

“I don’t know. Is there a market for designer cookies?” he said, laughing. In any event, his family is holding onto the cookie die as a memento.

“This was just our family’s way of saying thank you to all the families that have invested so greatly in our community. They are such a blessing. We are so blessed to be living in an area where families are prosperous and give back to the community.”

  • PerrinoMascarino, the veteran actor whose tireless efforts to promote the Grand Rapids phenomenon “Uncle Nino” did loads more to find an audience for this family film than even his emotional performance in the title role, returns to GR this month.

The Inner City Christian Federation invited Mascarino to speak at a special event Feb. 24 recognizing the work of its numerous volunteers. Mascarino, who visited Grand Rapids on two separate occasions over the 54 weeks his film spent at Celebration! Cinema, made a lot of friends in West Michigan, among them Peter Secchia.

Not only did Secchia personally buy up open seats during several screenings of “Uncle Nino” to boost its ticket sales and, thus, its appeal to national distributors, he also agreed to cover Mascarino’s roundtrip airfare from Los Angeles to West Michigan this month.

The Business Journal has learned that Mascarino and Secchia go way back … all the way to the old country. Both men’s families trace their ancestry back to the same region of Italy

Mascarino recalls meeting Secchia at the dedication of GrandValleyStateUniversity’s CookDeVosCenter for Health Sciences. “Someone said, ‘That’s Peter Secchia,’ and I said, ‘Great!’ and I leapt out of the booth and grabbed him.”

Mascarino told Secchia that he must go see “Uncle Nino.” Secchia told Mascarino that he didn’t go to movies.

Knowing Secchia, that’s pretty much where the exchange would have ended, had Mascarino not begun speaking in Italian to the former U.S. ambassador to Italy

“After that, he and (his wife) Joan were very nice to me,” Mascarino said.

But did Mascarino persuade Secchia to sit through the film? Eventually.

“At first I couldn’t get him to go see the movie,” Mascarino said. “I kept calling him: ‘Have you seen the movie yet? Have you seen the movie yet?’

“He finally did and he called me back the next day,” Mascarino remembered. “He said it made him cry.”    

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