Diverse range of West Michigan bands to feature at Local First Street Party

LOCAL FIRST STREET PARTY BOASTS WHO’S WHO LINEUP OF WEST MICHIGAN BANDS

nn

Heaters, The Accidentals, The Concussions, Seth & May and Molly Bouswma-Schultz will lead a who’s who lineup of West Michigan bands playing this year’s Local First Street Party in downtown Grand Rapids on June 6.

nn

Once again, the 12th annual party held on the street just outside Bistro Bella Vita will be held the same weekend as Festival of the Arts, with Founders Brewing beer, food trucks and booths, sidewalk chalk art, hula-hooping and recycled art also part of the celebration.

nn

Performing this year will be fast-emerging Grand Rapids psych-rock band Heaters, feminist pop-punk’s The Lippies, soul-blues singer Molly Bouwsma-Schultz & Friends, surf rock’s The Concussions, Traverse City-area folk duo Seth Bernard and May Erlewine, Traverse City folk-rock/gypsy swing trio The Accidentals, Grand Rapids blues/rock/folk singer Hannah Rose Graves, breakdancing group 61Syx Teknique, DJ Colin Clive and hula-hooping ensemble Audacious Hoops.

nn

Hanna Schulze, program and events coordinator for Local First, said last year’s party drew more than 12,000 people, the biggest crowd yet for the event.

nn

The street party on Weston Street SW takes place the same weekend as Festival 2015, which will take over much of the downtown area just to the north June 5-7. (Bands and performers who applied for Festival performances were notified of their time slots last week – a bit later than promised – with the schedule expected to be finalized in May.)

nn

“We have selected different dates in the past to avoid Festival weekend, to see how it might affect us, but these last two years we have partnered up with Festival to help co-promote both events in an effort to get all of Grand Rapids downtown to enjoy all that our local businesses and artists have to offer,” she said. “It has proven to be a very advantageous partnership.”

nn

The street party will take place from 3 p.m. to midnight. 

nn

Originally published at localspins.com

Madcap Coffee—Into the Unknown

Have  you ever dropped by Grand Rapids local coffee shop Madcap just for the allure of the place? Maybe it was chic architecture or the trendy urbanites behind the counter that caught your attention. Perhaps it was the coffee. Your friends have been telling you to try it for ages, and every cent is worth it, they say. Maybe it just somehow feels different–otherworldly. What if I told you that feeling you get when walking into Madcap is more than an illusion–it’s a feeling built on an ideal and has functioned on this ideal since it was birthed by friends Trevor Corlett and Ryan Knapp who shared their story at this year’s INsight conference. A conference designed for businesses owners to assemble and talk about different aspects of owning a business. Corlett and Knapp sat on a panel and talked honestly about their story and  successes and failures that got them where they are today.

nn

In 2008 Trevor Corlett and Ryan Knapp opened up what is now their popular establishment Madcap, known as a trendy hangout spot for hipsters on the corner of Monroe and Ottawa. But before it was a Grand Rapids favorite, it was nothing. “We looked at a map… and noticed no one had [specialty] coffee in Grand Rapids,” Knapp says, recounting his early experiences forming the shop. And that is how Madcap ended up in Grand Rapids. Corlett and Knapp saw Grand Rapids as an opportunity to start something new in a place that was not already filled with shops, doing what they wanted to do. Once the two decided on Grand Rapids the choice to open up downtown came shortly after. “Everyone told us not to open up downtown. People are scared to go downtown, they said. Downtown was a lot different than it is today,” recounts Knapp.

nn

Yet both Corlett and Knapp were determined to live out their dream of creating and serving a great product. They began by focusing mainly on roasting, buying and selling. Corlett, after participating in two failed businesses, dove deeply into his passion for great roasting, while Knapp honed his skills for buying. Knapp was largely influenced by trips he took to Rwanda and Uganda to study coffee the decade before. “It started from loving coffee and going deeper,” Knapp told business owners at the INsight conference. Corlett and Knapp spent their early days deeply invested in creating good coffee. “A big bulk of our work is roasting and distributing,” Corlett recounted. “We spent most of our time asking customers things like ‘How is your grind, how is the extraction, what’s the water temperature?’” These little things were important to both Corlett and Knapp; for them, great coffee-making doesn’t end when the barista hands the coffee over. Much has to do with how the customers prepare it at home.    

nn

Once Corlett and Knapp finally got the hang of the day to day operation, they began to branch out, focusing on other parts of their business that took them away from the store. “We spend about a 3rd of the year outside of the country visiting different farms,” says Knapp. “And we distribute to just over a hundred businesses.” Corlett and Knapp are very passionate about the impact every part of their business has. They focus on fair and direct trade, which is why their business has taken them out of the country. “Coffee is going to go through so many pairs of hands before it gets to us,” says Knapp. “A big part of what we do is to work directly with the farms we buy from. In El Salvador we travel to the farm and work directly with the farmers, but in Ethiopia you’re dealing with big systems” says Knapp.

nn

Now that Corlett and Knapp have gotten this kind of popularity, they spend much of their time focusing on the business and education side of coffee instead of the artistry of making coffee. Yet the goal remains the same for both; success. For both Corlett and Knapp, success is having something to be proud of.

A Mother’s Day Gift That Will Live On

Are you still searching for that perfect Mother’s Day gift? Something that will truly reflect the emotion and personality of your mother? Well, think again. Ball Park Floral & Gifts is your stop for flowers with a unique and local spin.

nn

Established in 1904, Ball Park Floral has been serving the Grand Rapids community for over a century with their creative styles and designs. “We are proud of our heritage and the great reputation we have,” said Heidi Poll, Manager of Ball Park Floral.“We make every arrangement as if they were going to be delivered to our own mothers.”

nn

But what actually sets Ball Park Floral’s arrangements apart from the rest? Their commitment to artistry and their commitment to you.

nn

Originally Ball Park began as a greenhouse, but transformed into  a florist as they saw the need in the community change. Ever since then, they have been labouring to create arrangements that represent their customers and reflect their needs. “Flowers are all about emotions,”Poll continued. “Our job is to get the feeling that is being portrayed.”Flowers are emotional just as people are emotional, and Ball Park Floral’s job is to understand that emotion and capture in their arrangements. What is more unique than flowers that have been poured into to capture your loved one’s emotion and identity?

nn

If that isn’t enough, Ball Park Floral isn’t about the competition floral industry brings. Instead their focus is on community and delivering a quality product and they are dedicated to that commitment, sourcing most of their high quality products from Michigan. “We use a flower shop network meant be less nationally publicized. It’s more local.We aren’t competing against Teleflora,” Poll added.

nn

Ball Park Floral also has a large array of gifts in their gifts shop allowing their penchant for detail and artistry in their arrangements  to come straight from the store. So what will you give your mother this Mother’s day? An impersonal gift card or an  arrangement rooted in a mission with the desire to reflect every gift that is crafted?

Tami VandenBerg’s Unique and Creative Approach to Success

Tami VandenBerg, the owner of the The Meanwhile, The Pyramid Scheme and executive director of the Well House, has always put community first. As she explained at the second annual INsight Conference, her first business venture, The Meanwhile, was born out of a desire to create a comfortable community space for her friends – artists, musicians, activists and small business owners alike.

nn

As the co-owner of The Meanwhile (the other owner being her brother), VandenBerg had a large degree of control over her business’ direction. “Wanting something different”, she envisioned a bar with outdoor seating six months of the year, local Michigan products and no televisions – which would also intentionally engage with its local community. She also decided that The Meanwhile would be best located in Eastown for the neighborhood's diversity, historical architecture and community. This vision lead to a distinctive bar praised for its community involvement, fundraising events and wide selection of Michigan brews.

nn

This undertaking wasn’t without its challenges – each bringing its own creative solution. Soon after they started working on the historical Wealthy Street building, they discovered that it was rotten from the inside-out. Instead of scrapping the building and rebuilding it, VandenBerg decided to save the historical structure and spent the next five years remodeling it. This cost the not-yet-existing business an unforeseen financial challenge.

nn

One creative solution VandenBerg came up with was Meanwhile Money. After her lawyer confirmed that it was legal, if not rare, to make an official currency, The Meanwhile began offering Meanwhile Money to the community. Members of the community could invest in the specially minted currency. Ten US dollars would buy you twelve dollars of Meanwhile Money, which could be redeemed at the future bar. This unique venture was particularly successful, and was even featured in a story on NPR.

nn

An ongoing challenge for VandenBerg is diversifying The Meanwhile’s staff. By making its staff more representative of the community it's located in, VandenBerg believes that The Meanwhile will become a more welcoming and attractive space for people of different ethnicities and backgrounds.  This, VandenBerg says, is a challenge which can only be overcome by “sheer persistence”, and has been gradually garnering hard-earned success over the years.  

nn

VandenBerg's outspokenness on justice issues, personal approach to business and sincerity has garnered her a positive, if not often controversial, reputation.  As one of the only two female bar and pub owners in the entire city and the face of The Meanwhile and The Pyramid Scheme, VandenBerg has discovered that recognition has helped her newest venture.

nn

VandenBerg is currently the executive director of Well House, an organization that buys and remodels historical homes and gives them to Grand Rapid's homeless. Not only has VandenBerg’s reputation as a business owner given her leverage in the community, but her experience with The Meanwhile and The Pyramid Scheme has given her the skills necessary to fund and support a non-profit organization.       

Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

What does it mean to be diverse? Inclusive? Are these the same as having equity in your workplace? And what exactly does equity mean? These are all questions that the Local First team has begun to ask ourselves. Last year, Local First created an updated organizational strategic plan – and diversifying our organization was a primary priority.

nn

Recently we have embarked upon the process of earning certification through the Partners for a Racism-Free Community as a racism-free workplace. This certification means more to us that a piece of paper and a pat on the back. Inclusion and equal opportunities for everyone are not only integral to the success of a community and its economy, but they are basic human rights. Should the color of my skin, my religious beliefs (or lack thereof), socio-economic status, or any other factor determine my access to the workforce, healthy and affordable food, or the type of education that my kids can receive? Absolutely not. However, do they? Yes.

nn

The work that we are completing is one small piece of the puzzle. There is much more than we and the community can do to eradicate these injustices.

nn

With more exciting news came an email that Local First was accepted for a pilot program through the Non-Profit Technical Assistance Fund (NPTAF). This pilot program pairs organizations with diversity and inclusion consultants to delve into the policies, procedures, and practices of our organization.

nn

As part of the program, each staff and board member of Local First will take the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) – a statistically reliable cross-culturally valid measure of intercultural competence. The IDI gives each individual their placement on the cultural competency “scale.” Eric Foster, our assigned consultant from Progress Strategies +, has created a workflow that will bridge off of the results obtained from the IDI. This workflow, titled Local First E3 (Equity, Environments of Inclusion, and Engagement) with Diverse Communities, sets out a three month schedule of various sessions meant to educate our staff on cultural competencies, inclusion, equity, and cultural development.

nn

As an organization that helps lead our community economically as well as socially, we need to be aware of these injustices that are present in that community. Those once camouflaged acts of inequality have become more and more apparent. With this certification and these trainings, our members and the community as a whole will know what we have known all along – that Local First, with your help, is dedicated to bolstering the success of the entire community.

nn

I welcome you all to help me celebrate the work that has been accomplished on this front, while we take a moment to realize that we all still have far to go to flush out the inequalities many of our community members, friends, and family still face today.