A big night for small business owners

November 6, 2011
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Mark Sellers, Tami VandenBerg, and her brother, Jeff VandenBerg, were named the John H. Logie Business Champions at the 22nd Annual Neighborhood Business Awards last Thursday, an honor that marks their leadership for furthering economic development in the city’s business districts.

The trio owns The Pyramid Scheme, a new live music venue and nightspot at 68 Commerce Ave. SW. The VandenBergs also own the Meanwhile Bar on Wealthy Street. Sellers and his wife, Michele, own and operate a number of downtown restaurants, including HopCat, Stella’s Lounge and The Viceroy, and are planning to revive the Grand Rapids Brewing Co. in the Brass Works Building on North Monroe Avenue next year.

“I’m incredibly honored, surprised and thrilled to be one of the recipients of this award,” said Sellers. “It’s very gratifying.”

Spirit Dreams owner Jaye Van Lenten won the P. Michael Wanroy Volunteer in Business Award. Spirit Dreams is at 1430 Lake Drive SE in Eastown.

The Gerald R. Helmholdt Grand Award went to businessman Jason Spaulding, who owns Brewery Vivant at 925 Cherry St. SE.

“Our Grand Award this year, Brewery Vivant in East Hills, was hard to categorize by the awards selection committee because, quite honestly, it is such a great project in so many different ways,” said Mark Lewis, executive director of Neighborhood Ventures, a nonprofit organization that supports and helps market the businesses in the city’s 20 neighborhood business districts.

The Neighborhood Business Awards are the brainchild of the Neighborhood Business Alliance and have become the longest standing celebration of neighborhood economic development in Grand Rapids. Fifteen awards were presented last week. Ninety-three businesses were nominated.

“We honor each of those, from single-location independent retailers to a large entity with a national presence, for their investments and dedication to our urban corridors,” said Lewis.

“We are very pleased with the number and quality of nominations received this year. Interestingly enough, our research in the districts uncovered as many as 40 new businesses within our 20 traditional neighborhoods over the past 12 months, which is far greater than what was recognized at the awards ceremony last year,” he added.

The coveted Best New Construction Award went to the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts at 2 W. Fulton St., also known as The Gallery at Fulton. The Urban Exchange at 926 E. Fulton St. was honored for Best Business Exterior. The Best Window Display Award went to Peninsula Trading at 972 Cherry St. SE.

The Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill, at 760 Butterworth St. SW, won Best Interior Renovation, while Best Exterior Renovation was given to the Eastown Veterinary Clinic at 1350 Lake Drive SE. Reagan Marketing+Design, at 912 Wealthy St. SE, won for Best Reuse of a Building.

“The transformation of a building by Reagan Marketing+Design that was once an old dairy and adjacent service station was remarkable. The bonus is that it adds even more professional services to an already vibrant retail corridor,” said Lewis.

The MSU & Neighborhood Ventures for FIT Stores, 1514 Wealthy St. SE, won for Best Nonprofit Project, and Tree Huggers at 947 Wealthy St. SE won the 2011 Green Award. The Best Promotion Award went to The North Quarter at 205 Carrier St. NE. Salvatore’s Italian Restaurant & Pizza at 654 Stocking Ave. NW was named the Best Neighborhood Restaurant.

Hoogerhyde Safe & Lock, 1033 Leonard St. NW, outdistanced 11 others to win the award for Best Longstanding Business. In the most competitive award category, with 19 nominations, Sanchel’s Breakfast Anytime at 1167 Madison Ave. SE won the highly desirable Best New Business honor.

“One of my favorites is in Madison Square, a district that has no less than nine new ventures opening their doors in the last 12 months. The opening of Sanchel’s Breakfast Anytime reintroduces full-service, sit-down dining to that corridor. It’s already become a great community gathering spot with regulars, and the staff is totally committed to the neighborhood,” said Lewis.

Wealthy Street Theater hosted the awards ceremony, which also featured a reception with food samples from neighborhood restaurants. Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell handed out the awards. At least two dozen businesses and organizations sponsored the event.

As for the business districts, 11 of the 20 served as homes for this year’s winners, with Eastown, Wealthy Street, East Hills and Heartside each having two.

“Now that all the pomp and circumstance and well-deserved recognition has been delivered, take a look around you as you visit our neighborhoods and realize that the real ‘winners’ that benefit from this commitment in our neighborhoods by others is actually you and I,” said Lewis.

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