A Very Local New Year’s Eve

Pretty soon, the whole world will be celebrating another birthday as we move from 2014 to 2015. It’s a global event, but Grand Rapids has got lots of ways to celebrate in local style. Check out a few of these ideas for ringing in the new year:

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Food & Drink

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Music

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Art

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P.S. Don't know what to do for your New Year's Resolution? Think about committments that compel you to shop, eat, and live more locally!

Featured Localists: Dan & Randi Melnyk

Dan and Randi, proud residents of Holland, look forward to their holiday shopping each year. Instead of viewing it as a chore or list of items to cross off, they consider it a fun event. “It’s a party, not shopping,” said Randi, laughing.

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“You know people in the store,” continued Randi, “It’s like a family. Everybody talks.”

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Aside from the friendly atmosphere, Randi and Dan value local shopping because it empowers them as influential members in their community.

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As a professional financial advisor, Dan sees a lot of clients that want advice on how to control their personal economics based on the national economy. “I tell them, you can’t control the national economy. But you know what you can control? You can control your local economy.” It’s his favorite advice to give.

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But the best part about local shopping, in Dan and Rani’s opinion, is the delight of spotting new products each time they visit a store. “There’s always something unique that catches your eye,” said Randi, “That’s the difference with local business.”

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Below you can find just a few of their favorite places to stop, shop, and talk for the holidays.

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The Seasoned Home: It’s always an adventure finding a unique gift, art, seasoning, tea, or something else creative in this store. The staff is having a good time, and you’re sure to as well. Dan and Randi especially recommend their chipotle sauce – great for enhancing any holiday meal. 

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Home and Company: Where else can you get a free chocolate chip cookies when you walk in the door? This store is a great place to go if you’re looking for local artists’ products. Dan and Randi will be on-the-lookout for locally-blown glass.

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Montello Meat Market: Found at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market and Holland Washington Square, these butchers know their meat. They even used to have a radio segment on the Meat of the Week! Dan and Randi prefer their products because they’re local with no preservatives.

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Honorable Mentions: Salubrity Vida Day Spa, City Flats Hotel, Salt & Pepper Pub, deBoer Bakkerij, Thomas A. Davis Jeweler

Local First gets $94,000 federal grant to promote West Michigan CSAs

West Michigan community supported agriculture (CSAs) groups got a boost from the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently via a two-year $94,000 grant to Local First Educational Foundation, the West Michigan Growers Group (WMGG) and Michigan State University (MSU) Extension.
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nLocal First, WMGG and MSU Extension will collaborate to help farmers expand their CSA programs, according to a news release announcing the grant on Wednesday, Dec. 17.

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“We are looking forward to working with these partners to grow our local food economy and support farmers,” said Elissa Hillary, executive director of Local First. “Local farms are the heartbeat of agriculture in West Michigan, and both farmers and consumers will benefit from the increased exposure of CSAs.”

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“The goal of this collaboration is to both grow the demand for CSA’s through educating West Michigan residents about the health, relational, and economic benefits of eating local, and strengthen the supply by supporting farmers with resources to manage that growth. Furthermore, the grant supports further development of the WMGG,” according to a Local First news release.

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CSAs are designed to give farmers a stable income, the ability to plan ahead for their budget and harvest, and connect with their community. In turn, community members gain an understanding about the seasonality of local produce.

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“As a network of over 50 small farms, the WMGG builds community, cooperation, and camaraderie between farmers through sharing experience, knowledge, and resources,” the news release said. “MSU Extension helps grow Michigan’s agricultural economy and provides resources to individuals, communities, and businesses.”

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Local First also announced it has hired Rachelle Bostwick, master of Earthkeeper Farm and a director of the WMGG, to be its new farm coordinator. She will build and retain relationships to improve the lives of farmers and the growth of small farms, the announcement said.

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“I look forward to helping improve the economic viability of small farms through building community and business relationships, increasing public understanding and use of local foods, and creating a stronger local food economy,” Bostwick said.

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The Local First grant is part of $52 million awarded by the USDA to organizations throughout the U.S. to grow organic and local food economies. Local First is one of eight USDA grant recipients in Michigan, and the only recipient in West Michigan.

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Other Michigan grant recipients include:

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• $89,152 to Sprout Urban Farm, Battle Creek, MI, to increase Sprout Foot Hub sales to institutions and the public by establishing a market-stand and packaging facility on its farm site.

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• $20,582 to Broad Street Events, Inc., Chesaning, MI, to promote the farmers' market in downtown Chesaning.

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• $53,310 to the City of Harrison, Harrison, MI, to operate, and increase consumer and farmer participation in, a new downtown indoor-and-outdoor farmers market, retail incubator, and community kitchen.

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• $47,758 to Grow Benzie, Benzonia, MI, for advertising and promotion of its farmers’ market and incubator kitchen.

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• $73,700 to the Michigan Land Use Institute, Traverse City, MI, to expand the 10-counties Taste the Difference local food marketing program.

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• $99,660 to Michigan Integrated Food and Farming Systems for the Michigan Farmers' Market Association, East Lansing, to develop a farmers’ market manager mentorship program, expand the Market Management Certificate Program, and invest in long-term strategic planning and professional development.

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• $90,378 to the Allen Neighborhood Group, Lansing, MI, to expand and promote its Winter Farmers' Market, Hunter Park Garden-House CSA, and Allen Market Place Kitchen projects.

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Read original article here.

Featured Localist: Erin Smith

As an out-of-state-Grand-Rapids-college-immigrant, it has taken me a little while to uncover the business gems hidden around the city. I have made a lot of wrong turns while trying to figure out this city’s crazy streets, but happily most of the wrong turns I’ve taken have turned into amazing, unexpected discoveries. I’ve spent some of my favorite Saturdays wandering the streets, ducking in and out of shops, wishing I could buy, well, pretty much everything.

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That is why I enjoy holiday shopping. It’s the perfect opportunity to buy anything that delights me. As an unemployed college student, that opportunity doesn’t arise very often. And because the money is being spent on a gift, I don’t have to count it, right?

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But seriously, I love holiday shopping because it DOES count. It counts as a chance to support the local businesses that I value and share their awesome products and treats with my whole list.

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I’ve got family, friends, coworkers and teachers to give to (and a cat and dog), so I’m hoping to stop in to several shops this season. Here’s a list of a few places where you will probably see me. I will be the girl with way too many candles, cards, and socks in her basket.

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Art of the Table: I first walked into Art of the Table intending to kill time before meeting a friend at Wealthy Street Bakery. I walked out their newest biggest fan. My roommates should probably be expecting delicious preserves or drinks from here. But don’t tell them.

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Rebel Reclaimed: I’ve developed a habit of concocting reasons to send cards to people just so that I can go and pick out a cute greeting from Rebel Reclaimed. The products are witty, the owners are friendly, and the style is classy. Friends and family should beware of Rebel cards, posters, and jewelry.

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Bartertown: What can I say about Bartertown that hasn’t been said before? So I’ll just say it again: It’s incredible, sustainable, vegan-friendly food located right downtown. For my local veggie co-workers and friends, I will eagerly gift them this delicious food. And I might just have to join them when they go.

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Honorable mentions: Common Ground Coffee House, Rock Paper Scissors, The Cakabakery, Argos Book Shop

Featured Localist: Johannah Jelks

Growing up, Johannah Jelks didn’t picture herself as a prominent investor in the Grand Rapids community. The Beer City native was sure she was Chicago-bound. But as her passions and talents developed, she found herself planted firmly in this community — and loving it.

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Since then, Johannah has had a hand in several community development projects around the city. In 2010, she started Generation X Y for MI, a branding initiative to support talent retention and entrepreneurial investment. More recently, in 2014, she launched another campaign, She Rides Her Own Way, to bring self-esteem and health awareness to women through cycling.

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As a GR-lover, Johannah is excited for the holiday buzz, affirming that this area is great for shopping. But she hopes to direct the shopping towards local-investment. “There is such a need for people to understand how to re-direct their holiday spending into the community,” she says, “Local dollars are key to building sustainable neighborhoods and talent retention.”

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Products are always a winner for her gift list, but this year Johannah is trying to branch out and gift services as well.

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Beauty of Tziyon: Organic bath and beauty products made in Grand Rapids —  the perfect gift for cousins and girlfriends. Johannah eagerly supports these locally and sustainably-made products.

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A.K. RIKK’S: Johannah pointed to this apparel and accessory store as a go-to for gifts for her parents. The shop’s style makes it classy enough for anyone on her list.

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Destiny Davis: A professional hairstylist and makeup artist at Jobe’s Barber and Beauty Salon, Johannah plans on giving a personal care giftcard to several of her friends and family.

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Local Art: For out-of-towners, Johannah prefers to send them a piece of local art or concert tickets from any of the local art galleries or venues. She believes that the best way to share GR love is through its art and music.

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Honorable Mentions: The Winchester, Stella’s Lounge, San Chez, Iconoclasp.

Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday

Thanksgiving weekend offers a time to reflect on our blessings, spend time with family and friends, celebrate old and new traditions, and of course, start holiday shopping. Hopefully you had a chance to support local businesses on Small Business Saturday this year. But if you weren't able to make it out, the holiday isn't over yet – you still have a few weeks to purchase gifts and make meaningful connections at local businesses.
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nWhen we think about how we're spending our money and how much more money circulates in our community when we spend dollars locally, it puts a new light on Cyber Monday. When you shop at out-of-state online retailers, 100{6be771524f35e681d5eb1711abbe9ad08f29540a742404ae9fff00be7e8f65de} of your money is flowing out of West Michigan. When you spend your money at local businesses (brick and mortar or their online stores), 73{6be771524f35e681d5eb1711abbe9ad08f29540a742404ae9fff00be7e8f65de} more of that money stays right here in our community.

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Here's a short list of local businesses that have online shopping options:

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  • Beanilla/SpiceJungle – for the person in your life who loves to cook, bake, & drink tea.
  • Nawara Brothers Home Store – find tech gifts for your electronic-savvy relatives (or that new oven you've been eyeing).
  • Koeze Nut Company – can't decide what to get for coworkers, or your crazy aunt? Nut & chocolate baskets, check.
  • Romence Gardens & Greenhouses – brighten up your holiday decorations with bright plants, trees, and other winter arrangements.
  • Gazelle Sports – work off your holiday eating in style, or gift socks & hats to your workout-fanatic friends.
  • Celebration! Cinema – for the movie lover, or teens that you're not quite sure what to get.
  • jb and me – calling all fashionistas. jbandme now has an online store!
  • Schuler Books – find gifts for book lovers and quirky stocking stuffers here. Plus – 20{6be771524f35e681d5eb1711abbe9ad08f29540a742404ae9fff00be7e8f65de} off and free shipping on December 1 only!
  • Bill & Pauls – for the adventurer in your life. From hiking and camping gear to clothing to snowboards, they've got you covered.
  • Eastern Floral – spruce up your table or send to a loved one.
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One of the most recent additions to the Thanksgiving weekend events is Giving Tuesday. At Local First, we are incredibly grateful for your support throughout the year – whether that be through volunteer hours at our events or in our office, or monetary support. You have helped us build relationships between consumers and local businesses, grow our community & economic ecosystem, encourage the development of sustainable business practices throughout West Michigan, and contribute to the vibrancy of our community.
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nIf you would like to support the local movement, you can make a tax deductible donation here. Any amount helps! Or, if you'd be willing to share your time with us, sign up to be a volunteer in 2015.

Big Dutch Fleet Credit Union Welcomes Community

How many people can identify your voice on the phone without hearing your name?

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Your family? A few friends?

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What about your banker?

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At Big Dutch Fleet Credit Union in Holland, Michigan, they can recognize a credit union member’s voice without any problem.

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“We get members call and immediately say, ‘Do you know who this is?’ and of course we do,” said Dawn Prins, an experienced staff member at Big Dutch. She explained that a what makes a credit union special – especially Big Dutch – is that they get to know their members as people, not just customers.

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Big Dutch’s history makes it a uniquely tight community of members. On November 30, 1953, a group of truckers got together and started their own trucking transportation credit union in the living room of a house. They called it Big Dutch Fleet Credit Union. Big Dutch became bigger, expanded to more truckers, and renovated the house into an office.

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But the growth didn’t stop there. Last year, Big Dutch fully joined the community, opening up their services to any community member – not just truckers.

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Now, working citizens of all professions in Ottawa, Allegan, Kent, and Muskegon counties can be members of Big Dutch. The credit union knew it was the right thing to do to open their caring, tight-knit community to any county member that wanted to join.

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Seeing the heartfelt diligence with which Big Dutch cares for their member’s money is a testament to the value of local business. As members of the community, the credit union is committed to making sure all their members flourish economically – from the young girl with a car loan to the elderly couple with their retirement plan.

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Opening up beyond the trucking world into the community is a big step for Big Dutch, but they’re excited about moving forward and keeping the credit union (and its members) a success.

West Michigan trio honored for bringing social, environmental change to region

A retailer, manufacturer and a nonprofit were recently honored for their work bringing social and environmental change to West Michigan.

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Gazelle Sports, Cascade Engineering and Local First were honored in October with The Measure What Matters Award at the 2014 B Corp Champions Retreat in Burlington, Vt.

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The accolade was given to the three certified Benefit Corporations, or B Corps, for their collaborative work advocating for positive social and environmental change in the region.

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This honor for Gazelle Sports comes on the one­ year anniversary of the retailer’s B Corp certification, a designation awarded by B Lab, a nonprofit group that promotes sustainable business practices.

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“Here in West Michigan, we are fortunate to follow the example set by one of the nation’s first B Corps, Cascade Engineering, and its CEO, Fred Keller,” said Chris Lampen-Crowell, Gazelle Sports’ co-­founder and owner.

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He added that Local First West Michigan is convening four other companies that have joined Cascade Engineering, along with Grand Valley State University’s Business Ethics Department, to learn from each other and increase the awareness of the B Corp movement.

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“We’ve all agreed to use the B Corp measurement tools to assess our business practices and impact so that our success goes beyond anecdotal claims,” Lampen-Crowell said.

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Each company must meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency before it can be awarded with Benefit Corporation status.

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B Corp certified companies are actively leading the way in which success in business is defined; developing equitable and sustainable best practices to help solve social, environmental and business problems.

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They work to make a real difference for all of their stakeholders: owners, customers, employees, communities and the world.

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Launched in downtown Kalamazoo in 1985, Gazelle Sports also has locations in Grand Rapids and downtown Holland. The sports footwear and apparel retailer provides free runs and walks, weekly clinics, training programs, and organizes or supports over 200 events throughout the year.

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Lampen-Crowell noted that the businesses also use a triple bottom line to help measure their progress. This accounting framework incorporates three dimensions of performance: social, environmental and financial, also known as the 3Ps: people, planet, profits.

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“This practice provides for a great outcome since we as a company really want to be engaged in doing something through business to make the environment better and create more of a social relationship­ based economy, focused on people and connections, rather than only financial transactions,” Lampen-Crowell said.

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Other B Corps in West Michigan include Better Way Imports, Brewery Vivant and Bazzani Associates.

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For original article, click here.