Spirit Dreams

Imagine, if you will, life 20 years ago.

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The year was 1994.

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Super Nintendo. Overalls. Boyz II Men on the radio.

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And over in Eastown, Jaye Van Lenten and Jackie Bess were just getting started with their store with a conscience, Spirit Dreams.

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Just as I’m sure you have changed in the past twenty years (though if you’re still listening to Boyz II Men, more power to you), Grand Rapids has also moved forward in time.

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For Jaye Van Lenten, this forward progress has been a very good thing. Specializing in unique products and resources for all aspects of the self, Spirit Dreams was on the cutting edge of holistic health and wellness in West Michigan.

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Jaye reminded me that 20 years ago, things like massages and yoga—where physical health is combined with mental and spiritual health—were not nearly as common as they are today.

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“Oh yeah,” I said, as if I did know this at some point, though I was only 2 years old in ’94 and yoga was about the only thing I was capable of.

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So I had to take Jaye for her word when she told me about the progression of awareness and spiritual diversity that she has witnessed over her years as a business owner in Grand Rapids.

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“A lot has evolved over the last 20 years. We have definitely seen a change in attitude and growth of awareness about holistic health and spiritual diversity, and it’s been great to be a part of.”

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But listen up consumers, because it’s time for the hard truth: it’s not all about you.

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The owners of Spirit Dreams are concerned with not only the complete health of their patrons, but also their suppliers, their city, and our earth.

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Their commitment to being “the store with a conscience” results in supporting artists directly through featuring local artists and working with fair trade organizations for their international products. It also means recycling and being conscious of the ethical implications of all their business decisions.

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So what does the future hold for Spirit Dreams?

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The year is 2014.

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Hot yoga. Infinity scarves. One Direction on the radio (but we all know II is better than 1D. Just sayin’).

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And over in Eastown, Jaye and Jackie are continuing to enrich the lives of their customers and their producers. If Jaye has anything to say about it, the next 20 years will probably look like the last 20, but completely different: basically, continuing to help change hearts and minds in Grand Rapids.

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“20 years is a tremendous milestone for us. Hopefully we can continue to do what we do and continue to love it.”

What is a B Corp?

Recently someone started talking to me about B Corps.

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“Oh yeah,” I said. “I know what those are.”

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(True confession: I had no idea what those are.)

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Thankfully, I have the internet to help me out.

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Thankfully, you have me to summarize all the things I found out.

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So here it is: “B Corp” is short for “benefit corporation,” which is a designation given to companies that are focused on environmental and social change in addition to monetary profits.

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Standards for achieving this legal status are challenging and require a conscious effort on the behalf of the business owners to work for the betterment of society. B Corps are certified by B Lab, a nonprofit organization that believes in unifying companies around the world with their goal of making high ethical standards for business practices the new norm. You can think of B Corp certification like Fair Trade certification is to coffee.

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You can also watch a super entertaining video describing B Corps here.nnnn

 

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So now that you know what a B Corp is, finding out that Gazelle Sports recently achieved B Corp status is way more exciting.

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DID YOU HEAR THAT?! GAZELLE SPORTS IS A B CORP!

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(Appropriate excitement level reached.)

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Gazelle Sports co-founder Chris Lampen-Cromwell talked with the Grand Rapids Urban Innovation Exchange about how this whole thing began.
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n“I went to one of the presentations and was like ‘wow, this is significant,’” Lampen-Crowell said. “It started my thought process. We really want to be a business that makes a difference to our employees, but also to our community. With that in mind, [the B Impact Assessment] was a true measure we could take and really see where we were at. It was more about measuring ourselves to determine what we could do to become a better company.”

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For those familiar with the Gazelle, such a designation is no surprise, given their commitment to their customers and community. Lisa Rose Starner weighed in on the achievement of her favorite running store.
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n“Gazelle has not only a strong following in the running community, but they are leaders in our local business environment,” Starner said. “I want to support business that is mindful and transparent with their business model and is thoughtfully structured to not only be a financially viable business, but invest in their employees and give back to their community in meaningful ways.”

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We love B Corps for many of the same reasons we love local businesses: they inherently care about the people and communities they serve. They strive to reduce environmental impact. They are interested in the triple bottom line.

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So we celebrate with the two West Michigan businesses that are also B Corps: the recently-certified Gazelle Sports and the longstanding Cascade Engineering.

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We also want to equip more local businesses to be able to measure and strive for sustainability in their business practices—focusing on profits, people, and the planet.

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Read more about Gazelle and B Corps here.

Keeping Up With The Cosbys

Do you remember that episode of The Cosby Show when Cliff gets a juicer?

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He was all excited about his state of the art, stainless steel, life-altering new contraption, but Clair merely rolls her eyes and wonders how long it will be before the juicer will end up in Cliff’s “appliance graveyard” underneath the kitchen counter.

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Luckily for us, Anissa Eddie of Malamiah Juice Bar had a different reaction when her husband Jermale did the same thing.

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It all started in 2012 when a friend introduced Jermale to the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. The film chronicles the health and weight loss journey of Joe Cross, a morbidly obese man who starting juicing and vastly improved his health as a result. Inspired and amazed, Jermale did research and began juicing at home.

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Soon the passion was a family affair, and it was Anissa who initially came up the idea of opening up a juice bar in Grand Rapids.

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“We started talking about juicing with some close friends and realized that pursuing better health was not a hard sell,” said Anissa. After having a friend lose a large amount of weight through a juice diet, it hit them that this passion of theirs could be “life-changing.”

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And the name? The Eddies have two sons, Malachi (age 4) and Nehemiah (age 1), which if put together makes “Malamiah,” the most obvious option when naming a juice bar (Neheachi doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as nicely).

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“Malachi thinks he owns the place—like, the whole market. He jumps up on the stools and talks to the customers,” said Anissa. “Then at home he plays pretend juice bar, with Legos instead of fruit.”

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Considering the Eddies’ lack of business background, the fact that they have more than Legos and toy blenders to work with is still a constant source of gratefulness. Anissa credits her husband’s energy and optimism in pushing Malamiah past the dream phase and into the very real Downtown Market.

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“He just kept saying, ‘We can do this, we’ll learn as we go,’” said Anissa.

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While the Eddies are still learning themselves, many of their big picture goals are focused on teaching and making a difference in the Grand Rapids community.

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“We built our whole mission statement around the idea of holistic community wellness,” said Anissa. “On a basic level that means making fresh, healthy, delicious beverages for people.”

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But making your new favorite Island Vacation smoothie is just the beginning for the Eddies. Beyond the market counter, they have begun to hold community education events centered on the benefits of juicing and getting enough fruits and vegetables.

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Specifically, the Eddies are targeting communities of color to increase awareness and address health disparities.

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“Many people in the African-American community struggle with diabetes, high cholesterol, and access to healthy food,” said Anissa. “We are humbled and excited to bring information to people of color as business owners of color.”

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The final tier of Malamiah’s mission is youth employment. The Eddies are interested in giving teens a positive work experience they will prepare them for life beyond high school.

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“We hope to model basic work skills—helping them understand what things like customer service, reliability and punctuality look like in the working world, so that they can take it with them into their careers.”

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All of these pieces of the Malamiah puzzle make one thing clear: the Eddies are here to stay. While some might think that juicing is just a fad, Anissa is confident that it is a trend with staying power.

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“There is an important difference between fads and trends. Trends develop roots in society. They create layers and grow over time, becoming a sustainable part of the culture. This is where the mindset is moving.”

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By the end of the episode of The Cosby Show, Rudy has made a huge mess with the juicer and Cliff is labeled as an accomplice in her delinquency. He is sentenced to five years of appliance probation.

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Let’s hope Malachi and Nehemiah run a clean shop so that the juices keep flowing.

Welcome!

Local First is about community. We’re about community members supporting community businesses. We’re about stories – the stories that shape us, the stories that have become memories of the time your parents took you to Pooh’s Corner every Saturday during the summer, the stories that made our businesses who they are.

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We want to share those stories in this blog. We want to give a platform to community issues and how local businesses are helping be a part of the solution.  We want to get to the heart of what we really do in a way that we haven’t been able to do before. Delve into topics like – what is sustainability and what does it look like in local businesses? Why do we talk about it? Why is it important? What is a B Corporation and how can you as a consumer or a business owner engage with B Corps? What is a sustainable local food system and how is West Michigan exemplifying this in really cool ways?

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Part of our mission is to encourage joyful community life. That means this blog is for you. We want to talk about the latest new businesses and our longstanding community pillars that impact you and your neighborhood. We want to tell your story. If you want to be featured on our blog or be a guest blogger, please send your ideas to samantha@localfirst.com for consideration.