Downtown retailers ready for ArtPrize crowds cash
Restaurant and tavern owners aren’t the only business people anxiously awaiting Wednesday’s official start of ArtPrize. Downtown’s merchants also are eagerly anticipating the arts competition that is expected to bring droves of people into the district through Oct. 7.
Greg Clarin is one of those enthusiastic merchants. The president of Van Hoecks Shoes, 95 Monroe Center, registered his business as an ArtPrize venue this year after declining to do so for the inaugural event. His reasoning for not signing-up last year?
“Did you have any idea how ArtPrize was going to come out last year? Me, neither,” Clarin said, answering his own question with a response that many likely would have given a year ago.
“Nobody was quite sure what ArtPrize was going to be like. Nobody knew it was going to be the best single event the city has ever run. It didn’t tie up any streets. It used the local vendors and restaurants, brought a lot of people downtown and brought a good mix of people downtown,” he added.
Clarin is turning over his window-display space to ArtPrize entries and will leave the store’s lights on so people can view the pieces when Van Hoecks is closed. The store will be open its regular hours Monday through Saturday, and mostly likely next Sunday, Sept. 26, the first Sunday of ArtPrize.
“That was the one last year that people came down for. We won’t be open any extended hours at night. We just don’t see a lot of shoppers out of it. Usually when these events happen, they’re here more for the event and not to carry a bag around,” said Clarin, who has a sales promotion running this month, with the store’s 68th anniversary sale starting Oct. 1.
A new downtown merchant is moving in this week. Nikki Dykstra, owner of women’s clothing store Lee & Birch on Seminole Road in Muskegon, is opening a second shop in a temporary suite at 50 Louis Ave. NW on Tuesday, just to be in business when ArtPrize starts. Her store will be located permanently in a suite next to the temporary location. Dykstra hopes her permanent store’s build-out will be finished by the end of October.
“I’m so excited. I actually live in Grand Rapids. I live right up the street from the new space. I’ve been driving back and forth to Muskegon, and now I get to be in a place where I know a lot of people. We actually have a lot of Grand Rapids customers in the Muskegon store, so they’ll be excited that they won’t have to drive as far,” said Dykstra.
Jayson Case Craft — Revival, a new business that uses the latest technology to create jewelry and other metal designs, will hold an open house Tuesday at 16 Ionia Ave. SW. The business is owned by Brandon and Jayson Case, father and son, and they’ve been crafting custom jewelry from their home for the past 25 years.
Another new retailer held its grand opening last Friday. Angie Seabert opened Misty Keen in Suite 170 of the Ledyard Building, 125 Ottawa Ave. NW, in late July. Seabert sees her shop — which offers unique antiques, souvenirs, flowers and plants in an eco-friendly fashion — as appealing to the artistic types who will take over downtown’s streets during ArtPrize. Seabert said her inspiration for Misty Keen came from “cool vintage stores in California and Traverse City,” and that her shop fills a niche here because “there is nothing like it downtown.”
“We are thrilled with the new retailers that are just opening. Their excitement about being downtown, along with their already successful ventures, makes them great additions to what downtown has to offer,” said Anne Marie Bessette, a retail specialist with the Downtown Development Authority.
Downtown Alliance Executive Director Sharon Evoy told the Business Journal that retailers have been creative in their approaches to link their business to the competition — an effort that will continue even after ArtPrize has closed.
“Many have a coupon in the ArtPrize guidebook. This will give special offers to the people with guidebooks and have a bonus. The (coupon) expiration date is after ArtPrize. So people can visit downtown businesses during ArtPrize and then come back downtown after ArtPrize to continue to try out new restaurants and shops,” said Evoy.
Just a few of the downtown merchants offering specials are: Premier Skateboarding, 14 Weston St. SE; Groskopf’s Luggage and Gifts, 112 Monroe Center NW; and Gina’s Boutique, which has already held a pre-ArtPrize Fashion Night, at 40 Monroe Center NW. In addition to the discounts, Groskopf’s is offering refreshments to those who stop in.
The Grand Rapids Art Museum, 101 Monroe Center NW, is offering savings on travel mugs and coffee mugs and discounts on ArtPrize merchandise. F. David Barney Clothier at 125 Ottawa Ave. NW is having a sale on men’s suits and sports coats. Vertigo Music at 129 S. Division Ave. is featuring specials on CDs and records. And Preusser Jewelers at 125 Ottawa Ave. NW is celebrating its 160th anniversary during ArtPrize and will give away a pair of 1.6 karat diamond earrings during the event.
Emily Stavrou Schaefer, promotions coordinator for Schuler Books & Music which is serving as an ArtPrize venue, said at least five of the artists will be in the store at 86 Monroe Center on Wednesday evening from 6-8 p.m. Aaron Cedolia, Christine Stephens, Brenda Oelbaum, David Laufer and Kevin Collander will be on hand to discuss their pieces.
“Most of my artists are new to ArtPrize this year, and they really wanted to experience the enormity of the show in person, so many are planning to attend — traveling from across the country to be a part of this amazing event,” she said. “Since most will be here to install their pieces, we thought it would be a more interactive experience for those who come down for opening night if we had as many of our artists on hand as could be there to curate their works.”
Grand Central Market & Deli, 57 Monroe Center NW, is offering an ArtPrize box lunch, a grab-it-and-go idea for $9. “We decided we were going to do the box lunch because even though we’re a venue, we don’t want people to have to be stuck waiting for food,” said Christina Klunder, who owns the store with Tom Powell and Cheryl Powell.
“It is going to include either a turkey, ham, or roast beef sandwich with chips and a homemade cookie or snack-pack-size Randy’s Granola. We want to make things as easy as possible for the amount of foot traffic that we will be getting,” Klunder added.
Custer Workplace Interiors uses the arts competition as a way to reward its customers. The company is inviting them to its location at 217 Grandville Ave. SW for Wednesday’s opening and treating them to a special ArtPrize kickoff event. Custer will rent a trolley that will transport guests from the firm’s location to the Grand Rapids Art Museum and back throughout the evening. The trolley will run every 12 minutes. Guests will be treated to food and beverages under the big white tent Custer will set up on its front lawn.
“Last year, our customers loved the event. We heard the comment ‘the best party ever’ many times over,” said Mary Tolsma, customer experience specialist for Custer Workplace Interiors. “One of the attendees commented that he and his wife had not been downtown in over 10 years. They loved the downtown atmosphere and said that they were excited to come back downtown at a later date to view more of the ArtPrize entries on their own, as well as try some of the restaurants they had seen.”
The retail showroom at Custer is also running a special sale throughout ArtPrize.
“The retailers are really pumped and ready for ArtPrize. They are expanding hours and creating special promotions to add to this incredible downtown experience,” said Bessette. “People work daily to make Grand Rapids the great city it is, and ArtPrize has created a phenomenal momentum that is putting Grand Rapids over the top.”