Street Talk

Street Talk: In this game of musical chairs, it was just a test

CK is OK.

January 24, 2014
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Apparently the news that made headlines recently involving Grand Rapids Chair Co. and its fallen former leader actually involved a product test — and certainly not the use of cheap chairs at one of Furniture City’s furniture makers.

Former president and founder David Miller and his wife, Mary, are suing for injuries suffered after a chair, made in China and sold by U.S. Furniture at a local Menards store, collapsed when David was sitting in it. Grand Rapids Chair says it is common business practice in the furniture industry to purchase and review products built and sold by other companies.

“This is a personal lawsuit and Grand Rapids Chair Co. is not involved in the legalities of the case, though the incident did happen at our headquarters and we do take safety seriously,” said Geoff Miller, the couple’s son and company president.

“Since Grand Rapids Chair Co. is neither the plaintiff nor the defendant in the case, we're simply working with officials as they deem necessary, and we wish David Miller a full recovery from any injuries he sustained.

“I know the situation seems a bit unusual, maybe even ironic — 'Chair company president sues another chair manufacturer after falling out of a chair' is a headline that raises some eyebrows,” said the younger Miller. “But customers bring lawsuits against corporations due to defective products every day, and this case just happens to involve a product from the very industry in which David Miller has built his career. In the meantime, business continues as usual here in West Michigan, where we're preparing for our most successful year yet.”

David Miller, 64, said he bought the chair in order to review it after noticing its American packaging graphics in spite of the fact that it was made in China.

“I was intrigued by a chair that retailed for $49, came in a box plastered with the American flag and the presidential eagle, and was made in China, so I purchased it to see how well it was made,” he said.

Apparently, the answer is not as well as those made in Furniture City.

New views

Cannon Township resident Diane C. Jones, the new Kent County commissioner named last week to replace indicted District 4 Commissioner Gary Rolls, will be sworn in tomorrow.

Jones, 44, has been on the Cannon Township Board since January 2011 and was just re-elected last November. She will resign from her township post in order to serve in her new county position, to which she was appointed unanimously.

Jones has had a career in commercial insurance, being employed most recently in new business development at Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services from 2008-2009. She worked previously at Liberty Mutual, R&D Consulting, Willis of Michigan and Aon Risk Services. She began her career at St. Paul Insurance Co., which is now Travelers.

Asked her opinion of the proper roles of government and business, Jones said, “When the business model is thriving, I don’t like government regulation to get in the way of that.”

Her appointment on the Kent County board to complete Rolls’ term will expire at the end of the year. However, Jones said she already is planning to run for the District 4 seat in the election this year.

Clothes make the man?

Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids is stepping out in style. Or at least with style.

Goodwill recently added David Abbot, a Central Michigan University grad and Grand Rapids native, as its director of friends and corporate relations. But what Abbott is best known for, at least around West Michigan, is his sense of style.

His long and successful career in luxury retail includes owning/managing A.K. Rikks, as well as serving as a senior buyer for Holt Renfrew, and negotiating with global fashion houses such as Prada, Etro, Gucci, David Yurman, Tory Burch and Paul Smith.

Abbott’s Goodwill role is to deepen the relationships between the organization and individuals and corporate partners.

Abbott, for one, isn’t hung up on the difference between a career in high-end clothing and one at Goodwill, which is better known as a thrifty place for teens on a budget to find retro attire.

“I am so blessed to have both significant community engagement festivals, LaughFest and ArtPrize, as a part of my history,” Abbott said. “Being a five-time cancer survivor, ideating LaughFest with Gilda’s Club five years ago offered a direction beyond just surviving.”

Abbott brings a broad sense of community, an understanding of rehabilitation and self-sustainment, and a good dose of humor to Goodwill, an organization that changes lives and communities through the power of work.

With Abbott on board as the idea man, maybe it’s time for local CEO Kathy Crosby and Goodwill to spread their wings. We’re hearing that the organization is getting ready to open three more retail stores in Michigan, but there’s nothing official yet.

The beat goes on

Libraries are noted for their quiet solitude, but who knew they are a safe haven to boot?

The Kent District Library recently earned the Linda E. Anderson Award from Employers for Better Health for its employee and patron safety measures. The award was in recognition of KDL’s achievement in providing system-wide CPR and first-aid training, and for the installation of defibrillator machines in all 18 of its branches and its Comstock Park Service Center.

While awards are nice, having loved ones around is even better.

All KDL employees — more than 300 people — recently underwent hours of training in basic first aid, CPR and how to use an automatic external defibrillator machine.

Just after completing the training, Tammy Schneider, a collection development librarian at the service center in Comstock Park, used it to save her 8-year-old son’s life when he started choking during a meal at home.

“KDL staff have long expressed interest in being proactive and prepared in the event of an emergency,” said Brian Mortimore, KDLdirector of human resources and organizational development. “No other training we provide can produce the possible return on investment that this can: to save a life.”

About Time

Did everyone catch the December issue of Time magazine that focused on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, featuring none other than West Michigan’s own Cynthia Kay?

She appeared prominently in the issue, given her experience as the owner of media production firm CK and Co. and her advocacy on behalf of small businesses.

But the real kicker? Time sent a photographer all the way from Los Angeles to capture her image. Given what Kay does, might that have been a waste of resources?

Following the Time piece, National Public Radio used an interview with her that was more focused on what people don’t understand about Medicaid, what it is, and how small businesses see it. No photos required for the NPR piece.

At least Kay had some practice for the NPR gig — sort of. Remember when Gov. Rick Snyder called her from the wings of a press conference he was holding last fall to encourage the legislature to expand Medicaid? Her SBA work is shining some national light on West Michigan.

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