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Street Talk: Long Road derailed
Not all heroes wear capes.
Long Road Distillers was set to start out 2019 with a bang, but a municipal ruling has fizzled out its plans.
The Grand Rapids distillery was one of three local businesses that submitted bids to the Grand Haven City Council to be tenants in the historic Grand Trunk Depot at 1 North Harbor Ave.
The city council for a while considered using the building as flex space before accepting proposals for a 20-month lease on a portion of the 3,200-square-foot building.
By spring 2018, Long Road was one of five contenders for the space, and co-owner Kyle Van Strien appeared confident his company would win the bid.
Long Road’s vision for the space was to make it into a tasting room, serving handcrafted cocktails and small plates, along with a retail component where it would sell merchandise and bottles to take home. The location would have served the same purpose as Long Road’s Boyne City tasting room but on a larger scale.
However, last week’s city council meeting did not net the votes Van Strien and partner Jon O’Connor needed to go forward. Grand Haven’s charter requires four out of five votes to lease city property, and Long Road only was able to secure three.
City Council members Geri McCaleb and Dennis Scott voted no on Long Road’s proposal, arguing the depot always has been connected to the Waterfront Stadium, where many family-oriented activities are held, and leasing the space to a distillery would compromise the family-friendly atmosphere.
With the plans now struck down, it’s unlikely Long Road will scope out another option for Grand Haven.
“We didn’t have a fallback plan,” Van Strien said. “I wasn’t joking when I said this was the place for us, but we’ll regroup and focus on doing what we’ve been doing.”
Van Strien also was disappointed that it apparently took the city council a year to decide it didn’t want alcohol served at the depot.
“It was disheartening to go this far in the process and find out they didn’t want any alcohol in the space,” he said. “There were five finalists in spring of 2018 and two of them were alcohol distributors. … Last spring, all five of us had turned in proposals and suggested we’re still interested. … This shouldn’t have surprised anybody. This was on the last several city council agendas.”
The depot was constructed in 1870 as the western terminus of the Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee Railway. The line later was owned by the Grand Trunk Western Railroad. The station served Grand Haven as a passenger depot until passenger service between Detroit and Grand Haven ended in 1955. The city of Grand Haven purchased the property in 1967 and leased the depot to the Tri-Cities Historical Society. The rehabilitated structure was reopened as a historical museum in 1972.
Employment scams were the riskiest cons in 2018, according to the latest report from the Better Business Bureau, “Tech-Savvy Scammers Work to Con More Victims: 2018 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report.”
Such scams had more instances and higher losses than in previous years when it ranked the third-riskiest.
“This was a surprise,” said Melissa Lanning Trumpower, executive director of the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, which produced the report.
“It’s the first time since we began this report three years ago that one scam dominated across so many demographic subgroups. It was the riskiest scam in three of the six age groups — and for both men and women. It was also the riskiest scam for military families and veterans, and students.”
The risk report shows one possible answer: Amazon was in the news a lot in 2018, with its high-profile search for a second headquarters. It also was the sixth-most impersonated organization mentioned in BBB Scam Tracker reports, after not even making the top 15 in previous years.
In 2017, only 24 BBB Scam Tracker reports were employment scams that mentioned Amazon. In 2018, that jumped to 564.
“Scammers are opportunists,” Trumpower said. “Whatever is in the news or being talked about on social media, they see as an opening to imposter a recognizable and respected organization or brand.”
The Internal Revenue Service is the leading impersonated organization, and other government agencies combined rank second.
Other leading brands scammers impersonated include Publishers Clearing House, Microsoft, Apple and, ironically, the Better Business Bureau.
Amazon has only one authorized job application site, amazon.jobs. Any other link is a scam, Trumpower said.
“Employment scams are particularly egregious because they prey on people who are already feeling pinched and may be desperate for work,” she said. “If the scam gets far enough, scammers collect the same information that real employers do — address, birth date, Social Security number, bank account — everything needed for identity theft.”
The 10 riskiest scams of 2018 were employment, online purchase, fake checks/money orders, home improvement, advance fee loans, romance, tech support, investment, travel/vacation and government grants.
The data also show teens are the most likely to lose money to scammers, and seniors are the least likely to lose money. However, when seniors do lose money, they lose the most of any age group.
“This investigation shows that parents and educators need to make sure teenagers know what to watch for when it comes to scams,” said Phil Catlett, president of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan.
“While many people think of senior citizens when they think of scams, it is clear the focus has shifted to teenagers. It is important that these young men and women know how to protect themselves from scams.”
The Scam Tracker Risk Report is based on data supplied by consumers to BBB Scam Tracker and is based on the BBB Risk Index, a proprietary algorithm that calculates exposure, susceptibility and monetary loss to offer a more accurate assessment of scam risk.
In an effort to support the local medical community, Don Myers, owner of The Comic Signal, last week donated more than 300 comic books to the patients and libraries at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.
Accompanying Myers on his mission were a handful of heroes, including Captain America, Batgirl, Batman and Wonder Woman.
Due to medical issues and the corresponding positive care Myers experienced in 2018, he hosted the collection to support local hospitals that provide similar care to others.
“This year, I really wanted to give back to the community that has helped my business grow and helped me personally heal,” Myers said. "Our customers and the Grand Rapids community have been generous and supportive as I’ve worked to make my dream of owning a comic book store a reality, so this is the least I can do to pay it forward.”
Myers encouraged his customers to donate throughout the month of February in conjunction with celebrating his store’s three-year anniversary. Myers then matched the number of donated books bringing the total to 350 comic books.
This is not the first time the store has raised the spirits of young people. Myers said the family-run business has donated comic books and other products and resources to many local organizations, including D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s Home, Extra Life Grand Rapids and the Northview Education Foundation.