Closing The Book

October 10, 2005
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After more than 120 years of operation, the Ladies Literary Club will soon cease to exist. Club President NancyWright verified that the club, which began in 1870 and was officially organized in 1882, will soon be dissolved, and that its Sheldon Street building is up for sale. She said that the club will announce further information on its demise once the details are worked out.

The structure, a “Richardsonian Romanesque-style meeting house” according to the historical plaque in front of it, was constructed in 1887 for $6,000. Over the years it has hosted many literary and theatrical performances, as well as providing a home for the club’s regular meetings and activities. Most recently, the theater has been rented to outside groups producing performances and lectures.

Although the property has not yet been listed in the Multi Listing Service, rumors of potential buyers have already begun circulating. One candidate may be the nearby Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA). The Business Journal was unable to reach Executive Director JeffreyMeeuwsen to verify the truth of this speculation.

  • Tamber Moore, one of sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine’s “20 ToWatch,” has parted company with Delta Strategy and now resides (work-wise) with Jones & Gavan. The firm had been courting her for more than a year.

Also on the grapevine: Management issues are plaguing Delta, which may tank the initiative housed at GRCC (and may have been part of Moore’s decision to move along).

  • Talk about planning. Thursday’s announcement of the new Alticor hotel name (see page 3) was precluded by a change in the hotel skywalk signs: “To Hotels.” Hmm, hope that hole in the ground isn’t one of them.
  • Speaking of development, we’ll betcha 50 dollars that SamCummings will make a purchase on
    Monroe Place
    , near the new art museum, soon. You’ve got Til Midnight to take the bet.
  • Ten years later, it’s millions more. As in, The Millions More Movement, which will mark the decade anniversary of the Million Man March on Washington, D.C.

Locally, some leaders in the African American community are planning to either attend or commemorate the anniversary. JermaleEddie, coordinator of the Tapestry Leadership Program at CalvinCollege, is hoping to bring about 16 Calvin students with him to D.C. on Oct. 15. JonathanJelks will be among those attending. RudyTreece and TaalibElAmin are looking to catch a ride, too.

Eddie also is hoping to hook up with contingents from MichiganState and the University of Michigan

  • Sniff. Sniff. Smell that? Is that … Hot ‘N Now?! The once ubiquitous burger chain is down to just over a dozen operating restaurants after its parent company, Holt, Mich.-based Hot Brands, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early 2004.

Michael Van Domelen started the company in 1984 in Kalamazoo. The idea was simple: sell burgers for 39 cents. At its peak in the mid 1990s, Hot ‘N Now had more than 150 franchise locations. Several changes in ownership later, it seems that the whole company can be bought for just $150,000. And who better to buy the troubled chain but a company from (seriously) Ham Lake, Minn.

Purchaser Sten Corp. was until last year (again, seriously) a medical supply company. CEO KennethBrimmer then decided to Super Size the company, purchasing the Fargo, N.D.-based Burger Time chain. It then sold off its medical business to Grand Rapids-based Aspen Surgical Products. During that sale, Brimmer caught a whiff of opportunity and decided to rescue the Hot ‘N Now franchise from bankruptcy court.

Sten got the Hot ‘N Now name and all other intellectual property associated with the chain, as well as the franchise agreements and any back royalties and franchise fees. Brimmer said that he is now in the process of renegotiating the franchise agreements with the handful of units still operating.

So will Hot ‘N Now rise from its flame-broiled ashes? Not likely, Brimmer said. He doesn’t expect any of the failed franchisees to desire a return to the cheap burger biz. He did say that he is contemplating opening one model “company store,” but does not yet have firm plans.

  • Recent media reports have suggested that outdoor über-store Cabela’s is considering the addition of a West Michigan location. Adding credence to that suggestion is the sighting last week of a “Cabela’s Field Tester” vehicle driving through the streets of Grand Rapids. Despite the RealTree camouflage that adorned it, the Cabela’s Chevy Avalanche could be easily spotted without the assistance of the high-powered optics or night-vision goggles that “the world’s foremost outfitter” may be bringing to West Michigan. The Business Journal would like to verify the Sidney, Neb.-based retailer’s expansion plans, but with bow-hunting season just days away, Cabela’s top executives are more likely off rasslin’ varmints than fielding calls from the media.

  • Two weeks ago, Excelsio Communications President Bill Stark presented a 17-page report of mostly technical gobbledy-gook to the Grand Rapids City Commission. Long story short, this whole Wi-Fi thing works, but sometimes better than others.

What remains to be seen is whether the city’s intended partnership model will. It is widely believed that the city’s RFP will ask vendors to incur all costs of the operation in return for use of the city’s street poles. In turn, the city will become a client of the provider, rather than a provider itself.

The vendor then sells high-speed Internet access to residents, probably for around $20 per month.

Last week in San Francisco, in the midst of such an RFP process, Google pitched a network offering citywide access at no cost, deeply undercutting the other two-dozen bidders. Rumor has it that Google is looking to follow suit in other municipal projects across the nation.

Back in Michigan, OaklandCounty has demanded free Internet access in its RFP.

Bad news for GR city officials: If it’s free on the east side of the state, it better be free here, too.    

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