Small Business & Startups and Travel & Tourism

Couple discovers city on blog

November 27, 2014
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Unlocking GR
Spencer Blanchard, left, and Melissa Blanchard. Photo via

A married couple is going out “a lot more” as they develop a blog on living in Grand Rapids.

Unlocking GR launched last month and is “dedicated to discovering a great city.”

Grand Rapids lists

The initial posts are aimed at younger people and filled with lists of things to do and places to go, such as “9 of the happiest hours in Grand Rapids” and “Our top 5 Grand Rapids sandwich shops.”

The blog aims to promote the city, especially small business, said Spencer Blanchard, who co-created the blog with his wife, Melissa Blanchard.

Spencer said the couple has 70 ideas that they're “going to go with,” including writing about small startups and small nonprofits "that are making a difference in the community.”

“But to start off, we are really focusing on food, drink and fun, then we’re going to bring in the community aspect,” he said.

The blog is also looking to offer writers a chance to post their material.

“I’m never coming back”

Spencer, who works as a freelance digital marketing consultant, is the designer and businessperson behind the blog.

He said the blog is based on “our passion for Grand Rapids.”

“We have traveled the world, seen amazing, beautiful things, but, at the end of the day, our city is awesome and has a lot to offer,” he said. “We have amazing food and an awesome nightlife. It’s really organic. It’s very Midwest.”

Spencer grew up in Grand Rapids’ East Hills neighborhood, and Melissa grew up in Muskegon.

The pair has traveled to about 17 countries combined.

They met in the summer of 2010 when both were working at Spring Hill camp. Spencer had recently returned from a Youth With A Mission trip in Africa, and Melissa had recently returned from Southern California after traveling the world, teaching music and dance with the performing nonprofit Young Americans.

Melissa, a special events coordinator at Mel Trotter Ministries in Grand Rapids, is the writer.

She writes for people both familiar with the city and new to it, like she once was.

“I was living in Southern California and having endless opportunities, with the sun and the ocean, so I was like, ‘I’m never coming back to West Michigan. Nothing’s getting me back.’ But then I met Spencer,” she said.

“I just fell in love with the city. There’s so much going on here, and it has so much potential, and it’s grown so much from even ten years ago. It has the bigger-city Chicago feel, but also the small-town feel where if you’re walking down the street, you could recognize someone.”

Trying the city

The couple has been adventuring around town in developing the blog.

“We do go out a lot more, which we love,” Spencer said.

“He loves,” Melissa teased. “No, I do love going out too. And it forces us try new things and go new places, which is perfect for me.”

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