Street Talk

Street Talk: Downtown Market trending upward

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.

March 2, 2018
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The Grand Rapids Downtown Market reported 2017 vendor sales of $14 million, which the market said is about a 14 percent increase over 2016 sales, which were at $12,232,764.

Mimi Fritz, Downtown Market president and CEO, said the sales growth can be attributed to an increase in foot traffic.

The market reported 961,000 visitors in 2017, which Fritz said is double the projected amount of traffic in the 2010 feasibility study commissioned by the Grand Action Committee.

The Downtown Market consists of two entities: a for-profit corporation, Grand Rapids Downtown Market Holdings LLC, and its nonprofit arm, the Grand Rapids Downtown Market Education Foundation.

As a private corporation, the for-profit side does not disclose financial details such as vendor lease income, profit, operating expenses, debt or other forms of income.

Spokesperson Brian Burch said the market hall currently has 20 vendors leasing space as well as the two full-service restaurants, Slows Bar BQ and Social Kitchen.

The market hall can be configured to accommodate up to 30 tenants with smaller suites. Or it can accommodate fewer tenants occupying more space. Due to recent vendor expansions, the latter currently is the case.

Upstairs in the incubator kitchen, the market can accommodate as many as 30 startup businesses at a time, which is about how many are working out of the kitchen now.

Fritz said the market also is counseling more than 100 prospective entrepreneurs per year who might or might not decide to move forward with a startup.

Lew Chamberlin, a past Downtown Market board member and current member of the finance committee, said the market is in a good position to start moving forward on capital expenditures such as maintenance, expansion of services and possible expansion of the event space.

“I think the market is doing increasingly well,” he said. “We measure our success in a couple ways. One is what kind of impact are we having on the community? How many folks are we getting in, through and involved with the facility and how things are looking as far as developing downtown? Two, is the market financially sustainable?

“By all of those measures, we’ve been doing a pretty good job.”

Kara Wood, city of Grand Rapids economic development director, said the market has been a catalyst for retail development in its neighborhood.

“The Downtown Market’s job creation and small business development are scaling faster and providing more outcomes than anyone had imagined,” she said. “It is successfully spurring business, increasing desirability and expanding the city’s commercial boundaries.”

Town hall-style

If you’ve never been inside Grand Rapids City Hall to see how the city commission operates, no worries. They’re coming to you.

According to Steve Guitar in the city communications office, the city of Grand Rapids will host its first Commission Night Out of the year 7 p.m. March 6, at Oakdale Park Church, 961 Temple St. SE in Grand Rapids. 

Commission Night Out is a quarterly series in which the city commission holds its night meeting in one of the city’s three wards. 

Each ward has two commissioners:

The first ward commissioners are Jon O’Connor and Kurt Reppart.

The second ward commissioners are Ruth Kelly and Joe Jones.

Senita Lenear and David Allen are commissioners in the third ward.

The March 6 Commission Night Out will include a City Hall in Your Neighborhood open house beginning at 6 p.m.

City staff will be on hand to answer questions and provide information on city services, taxes, job opportunities, citizen engagement opportunities and more. 

Community members also will have opportunities to speak one on one with Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, the city commissioners, Interim City Manager Eric DeLong and other staff before and after the meeting.

Contact Acting City Clerk Stephanie McMillen in the City Clerk’s Office at (616) 456-3010 to request special services due to a disability.

More details about the March 6 Commission Night Out are available at

Rolling along

SalesPad recently hosted a demonstration of a robot built by East Grand Rapids High School Robotics Team 5980.

The team will take its work to compete in the 2018 For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition.

The theme of the 2018 FIRST game is “Power Up.” Teams will have their robots compete to collect “power” cubes that can be exchanged for “power-ups,” which will help them beat a final boss in a video-game-inspired challenge.

If this sounds like just a game, don’t be fooled.

The FIRST Robotics Competition challenges students to raise funds, design a team brand and build and program a 120-pound robot, all in a six-week period and with a $4,000 budget.

Matt Williams and his staff at SalesPad have provided important financial support as well as mentorship to our students,” said James Strodtbeck, coach for Team 5980. “SalesPad truly understands the importance of a quality STEM education and values our team's mission to promote women in STEM-related fields.”

Once complete, the robot will compete against teams from other schools. Students work under the guidance of experienced mentors and gain STEM skills, life skills, self-confidence and knowledge they can apply to their future careers.

“The kids are amazing,” said Williams, SalesPad CEO and sponsor/mentor for Team 5980. “They can take a robot, make it drive around, pick up objects, drop off objects, which if you think about our business — which is operational ERP — includes out in the warehouse, people picking product for delivery. It’s a real-world experience.”

Williams said he is looking forward to the possibility of students on the team coming back to SalesPad as interns.

Jack Lang, EGRHS sophomore and Team 5980 member, said he’s looking into taking his experience in robotics into the field of mechanical engineering. He’s looking into attending Michigan Tech after high school, as previous EGHS robotics team members also have gone there.

“This’ll be my second year competing,” Lang said. “With this specific project, I’ve been kind of all over the place. … I was first working on the grabber prototype for the power cube, and then I got shifted over to the elevator group and figuring that out with prototypes.”

Team 5980 will take its robot to Grand Valley State University for the district qualifying competition, March 22-24. Once the team qualifies on the district level, they will be able to compete at regional events.

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