Street Talk

Street Talk: Who wants Wahlburgers?

Cider rules.

February 24, 2017
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Actor Mark Wahlberg was spotted hanging out in Grand Rapids last week, setting tongues wagging as to what the TV and movie celebrity was doing in town.

From photos posted on social media, we know Wahlberg took in a game of golf at Thornapple Pointe Golf Club and spent time at Meijer’s corporate headquarters in Walker.

Speculation has it that Wahlberg is eyeing West Michigan as a possible spot for expanding Wahlburgers, a restaurant chain he co-owns.

Wahlberg also was in Detroit the following day. He visited Michigan’s only Wahlburgers’ location, which is in downtown Detroit’s Greektown neighborhood.

During his Detroit visit, he told reporters two new restaurant locations — in Taylor and Royal Oak — officially will be announced soon and that he plans to open “many, many more” Wahlburgers in Michigan.

So far, representatives for Wahlburgers and Meijer are remaining tight-lipped about whether West Michigan could be the home of one or more of those restaurants.

Frank Guglielmi, senior director of communications for Meijer, said there was “nothing to share,” and Mindy Valone, senior media strategist for CM Communications NYC, which handles media relations for Wahlburgers said, “We are definitely very excited about the prospect of new locations, but we don’t have any further details to share at this time.”

So at least for now, West Michigan residents with a hankering for a hamburger will have to plan a road trip across the state to visit Wahlburgers.

The cure

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton spent part of his recess in Grand Rapids.

The Congressman from Michigan’s 6th District was in town to receive an award from the Association of Independent Research Institutes for his work in leading the bipartisan passage of the 21st Century Cares Act, which former President Barack Obama signed into law as one of his final acts in office. The bill authorized $4.8 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health and facilitated the development and approval of experimental treatments.

Upton was presented the award before a modest gathering at the Van Andel Institute, where he was presented with the plaque by VAI Chairman David Van Andel. Upton said during his remarks that while some believed a stronger bill could have been passed under the new administration, it was imperative to get the bill in its current form passed as soon as possible to get the ball moving. Following the presentation, he expanded on those remarks.

“We all know close friends, and we hear from lots of constituents about some life-threatening disease where there isn’t time left,” Upton said. “And so many folks, they really want an answer, they want to find a cure for all these different diseases, (which) is now going to happen with this different legislation. Streamlining the process, expediting approval of drugs and devices, getting them to market and job creating but, more importantly, finding the answers for families that struggle.”

The bill already is experiencing some hurdles, however, as the 90-day federal hiring freeze implemented by President Donald Trump may hinder the FDA’s ability to bring in enough staff to hasten the process of drug approval. Upton said exactly how that may play out is unclear, but his office is working diligently to get an answer.

As for the plaque itself, it may soon have some company. Upton said when Obama signed the bill into law in December of last year, he received one of the pens the former President used to do so. When Upton returns to Washington, D.C., he intends to have the pen framed and displayed in his office.

Hall pass

Upton will be back in the region in April for some constituent work.

But that event might not be all glad-handing and baby kissing. Recent town hall-style gatherings hosted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in Kentucky, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, in Iowa, drew plenty of questions, concerns and criticism about politicians’ ability to run the government. Even Congressman Justin Amash’s first town hall in Grand Rapids drew spirited — and pointed — debate, though the one in Hastings last week featured less ire. Kudos to Amash for not shirking his responsibility.

Dan Schoonmaker, executive director of the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, hopes tempers have cooled by spring and a more civil discourse can be achieved.

Via a Facebook post late last week, Schoonmaker opined: “Would be more amused by all these town halls blowing up if I wasn't hosting one with Fred Upton in April.”

Casting call

A trio of Muskegon Community College students snagged the $2,500 top prize at a recent casting competition.

MCC students Tyler Carr, Brad Cook and Lori Stone took first place at the 78th annual Wisconsin Regional Foundry Conference and Exposition casting competition, hosted by three Wisconsin chapters of the American Foundry Society on Feb. 10-12 in Milwaukee.

The group’s award-winning entry was a one-piece 3-D printed chair leg part for Media Technologies of Shelby, which makes educational furniture.

The lone community college competing, the MCC team bested entries from seven four-year colleges and universities, including Michigan Tech and Western Michigan University.

“This is huge,” said Jeff Johnston, an MCC instructor who is the college’s liaison with the West Michigan Chapter of AFS. “The chapter members are beyond thrilled with our first-place finish.”

The judges evaluated each entry on its benefits to the customer, use of the casting process, quality and workmanship, and poster and booth presentation at the competition.

Award winners Carr, Cook and Stone came up with their idea after meeting with Media Technologies last fall.

The MCC team created a one-piece aluminum casting that weighed 0.54 pounds to replace Media Technologies’ existing three-piece metal part that weighed 1.54 pounds. The result was a 37 percent cost reduction, as well as a decrease in production time.

The prize money will go to the West Michigan AFS Student Chapter.

Carr, Cook and Stone were quick to thank MCC instructors Joel Yates and Mark Houston for going the extra mile to make their dream a reality.

“Once you get into the chapter, you find out there’s a lot of networking in a small community and how many people are really there for you at Muskegon Community College,” Stone said. “All you have to do is ask, and they are there to help you no matter what.”

Apple of their eye

Vander Mill Cider’s Paul Vander Heide threw a party last week.

It was a star-studded event of sorts for Grand Rapids, as he announced the expansion of the Sunday brunch menu at the Grand Rapids restaurant, 505 Ball Ave. NE, and a partnership to produce spirits for the company with Long Road Distillers’ Jon O’Connor and Kyle Van Strien.

The event also announced the cider maker’s 10th anniversary celebration, which will be held in June outside the Ball Avenue facility in conjunction with Brewery Vivant.

At last week’s party, movers and shakers were everywhere, including City Commissioner Joe Jones and what seemed to be the entire WOOD TV 8 crew.

Local First President Elissa Hillary was in attendance, as were Experience Grand Rapids’ Janet Korn and Kate Herron.

Two of Grand Rapids more electric personalities were there as well: ice guru Randy Finch and chef Tommy Fitzgerald.

Apparently, Grand Rapids likes cider. 

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