Brewing up more business is goal of downtown hotspot

March 2, 2009
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Local staging firm shoots for gold in 2016.

One of downtown’s newest beer bars just became the city’s newest beer brewer. HopCat, which six weeks ago celebrated its first anniversary at 25 Ionia Ave. SW, is now selling four beers it brews.

“We’re really excited about the ability to brew and serve our own beer, as well as beers from other breweries around Michigan and the world,” said Mark Sellers, who owns the bar with his wife, Michele.

HopCat brewmasters Jeff Williams and Brett Emanuel concocted the beers, which include one called “Dubble Dutch.” Williams and Emanuel said it’s a classic full-bodied Belgian Dubble with a sweet, malty flavor. Of course, it is.

The four new HopCat brews join the 44 other beers on tap, including some from Founders Brewery on Grandville Avenue.


“It’s going to be a lot of fun for us to make our own beer,” said Sellers, “and fun is what owning a bar is all about.” Of course, it is.

Exit, stage left AND right

Levitation Staging Inc. continues to spread its wings, having been in a position since 1989 to provide equipment for the entertainment industry, event producers, entertainers, corporations and other organizations putting on large events.

Tommy Allen, the company’s sales and marketing director who is able to produce these type of activities based on his expanding industry contacts, notes that he “is keeping his ear to the ground.” He’s currently working on a proposal for work related to the possible awarding of the 2016 Olympics to the city of Chicago.

“My belief is they will get it because of Obama’s win,” said Allen, who was able to hook up with the Obama campaign tour in October to provide staging support on downtown GR’s Calder Plaza for an appearance by the candidate that drew thousands of people. “We serve all candidates on both sides of the aisle — even the aisle sometimes,” Allen said.

The company is finding even more success and visibility operating out of its new location at 2740 29th St. SE, behind Russo’s.

Kindel leader departing

Jonathan L. Smith is moving on. Smith was named "interim" president and CEO of Kindel Furniture in early 2007, replacing former leadership abruptly removed by the owners of the 107-year-old family-owned company, due to lackluster sales.

"For me, it is time to move on and let Kindel, its management team and its compelling products go forward and meet the challenges ahead," said Smith. He added that he will be leaving in mid-March, "but will be here at the same pace until then."

He mentioned that when he leaves, Jim Fisher, a member of the Kindel family and a board member, will become acting CEO "for the near term, leaving me with the knowledge that Kindel will remain strong and in good hands going forward."

Among other things, Smith helped expand Kindel's international customer base.

In January, Kindel officials told its 130 employees that about two dozen would be laid off, and everyone else would be going to a four-day work week.

Smith, said working at Kindel has been "one of the most challenging and rewarding business experiences of my life."

"I will continue to wave the Kindel flag wherever I go and would only ask that you do the same," he said in an e-mail announcement.

Wallace W. "Jerry" Epperson, Jr., a residential furniture industry analyst from Richmond, Va., is familiar with Kindel. While he was not privy to Kindel's performance in particular, he said that the fourth quarter of 2008 was "the worst in anybody's memory" for the industry, with sales down an average of 25 percent.

A healthy outlook?

Speaking last week at the Press Club of Grand Rapids, Metro Health President & CEO Mike Faas offered a few thoughts about market leader Spectrum Health, which is run by his fellow University of Iowa Hawkeye Rick Breon.

On Spectrum’s attempt to collect a huge percentage of local doctors in the Spectrum Health Medical Group: “The reason you haven’t seen physicians flocking to what’s being proposed at Spectrum … that model is problematic in who governs and how much say do I have, as a physician. … They have Priority Health. If they end up employing all the doctors they say they’re going to have, they will have a formidable force here.”

 On Spectrum’s plans to leverage the SHMG to become a health care “destination”: “If it happens, I’ve got to believe it’s a decade or two out in the future. This vision is one that everyone is going to have to stick with it. But then, look at what happened to the merger … Five, six, seven, eight years into it, it finally started to gel and Spectrum became Spectrum.”

On Metro Health’s alliance with the University of Michigan Hospitals and its relationship with Spectrum: “I think we believed that we could always be tightly aligned with Spectrum. … With our relocation, we became different, and we were able to keep more of our own patients. But we really felt that our long-term survivability would be in a tight relationship with Spectrum. It didn’t occur, and then we started looking at OK, who else is out there? And we didn’t want to just match things or have somebody say, ‘Oh, yeah, they have a third cancer center …. but it’s obviously the lowest quality.’ So we said, ‘Well, who’s the premier provider in Michigan? There’s only one: U of M. Let’s go see if we can get them convinced to come over here.’ ”

Back in the saddle

Kent County Clerk Mary Hollinrake swore in Amway Hotel President Joseph Tomaselli to another term on the Convention and Arena Authority last week in a low-key ceremony. (Well, it was only 8 a.m. and on a Wednesday to boot. But there were doughnuts.)

Tomaselli represents the Convention & Visitors Bureau on the panel that oversees operations of Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place.

After he agreed to uphold the law of the land, CAA Chairman Steven Heacock quipped, “We’re going to double your salary, Joe.” Great sentiment. But unlike the financial industry, these board members don’t get paid — unless someone considers Motley Crue tickets payment.

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