Ice Cream Social Impact

It pretty tough to improve upon ice cream. It’s the perfect treat, at least to me. Although a treat implies that it’s something out of the ordinary, and I prefer to make eating ice cream a very ordinary, preferably daily occurrence.

With the season’s change, daily ice cream consumption can become a struggle as local ice cream shops start closing for the season.  Fortunately, a few ice cream shops are still open year round here in Grand Rapids. One of those, Furniture City Creamery, is located on Cherry Street in the East Hills neighborhood. They’ve been there since 2014 and this past year were voted #1 in the ice cream/frozen treats category in Revue’s “Best of the West” poll.

Furniture City Creamery was started by Rachel and her husband Matt. When you walk into the shop today, you’ll most likely see Rachel, or her partner in crime Denise behind the counter, mixing up the ice cream, making waffle cones, scooping cones, and providing free tastes of their delicious creations. The shop is small, and you are able to see the entire ice cream creating process right in front of you.

On any given day, Furniture City Creamery has a dozen or so flavors including two to four vegan options as well as gluten free options (Everyone should be able to enjoy ice cream). All the ingredients are sourced locally and the flavors change daily. Some popular options include chocolate covered pretzel, fudgesicle, vegan no-bake cookie, lemon blueberry, and salted caramel. Rachel and Denise come up with the recipes themselves and make everything from scratch. They also use a lot of other local business' products in their ice creams. Donuts from Van’s and D’art’s, and flavors taken from drinks at Sparrows, Roasters, Global Infusion and Brewery Vivant. They’ve also collaborated with The Cakabakery for a special cookie dough flavor.

One of the unique things you’ll notice about some of Furniture City’s flavors, like the carrot cake, is that there isn’t actually pieces of carrot cake in the ice cream. A lot of ice creams you can buy in the store will use a vanilla base ice cream and then mix in pieces of carrot cake and call it good. Furniture City’s ice creams are made to taste just like they are called, like the carrot cake, or their cookie dough ice cream D’OUGH. It tastes just like cookie dough, however, there is no cookie dough in it at all! This allows gluten free folks to enjoy some flavors they otherwise wouldn’t be able to!

While Furniture City is most definitely an ice cream shop, it’s not all they do. While still small, they are committed to giving back to the community in a big way. Currently, they are offering daily soups and macaroni and cheese options (all homemade) with $1 from each purchase going Congress Elementary School or to help Denise’s church pass out lunches for the homeless each Sunday downtown. This past October they raised $300 in a day to donate to GR Pride in honor of Spirit Day and Anti-Bullying Awareness month. They are also involved with the annual Bissell Blocktail Party, the Humane Society and community dog walks as rescue dogs are very important to them. Oh, they have special doggie ice cream cups too!

At Local First, we focus a lot on using business as a force for good. This means that what they are doing to help out the environment and what they are doing to help out the community around them are just as important as how much money they are making. That’s how we define success. When you stop in at Furniture City Creamery and buy and ice cream cone or a bowl of soup, you’re not just making your stomach happy, you’re supporting a local business owner, and supporting the community you live in. The same goes for every local business. Those are good things. Kind of like how daily ice cream is a good thing.

You can check out their daily selection of ice creams and soups on their website or Facebook page

Dine Local First with our Members!

Local First partners with restaurants in Grand Rapids and the Lakeshore sure to satisfy any craving. Eat local with some of our members and ask how you can take home some localist swag.

Restaurant Partners, Inc. brings Grand Rapids an array of dining options with over 7 restaurants! Between the Recovery Room Cafe, Beltline Bar, Forest Hills Inn, Grand Coney, and The Omelette Shoppe, there's something for everyone. If you're looking for a menu full of breakfast specialties as well as power-lunch dishes with Southwestern influences, check out Sundance Grill.

Show that you Commit to the Mitt and eat at Twisted Rooster on East Beltline. With a menu packed with locally sourced flavors, you’ll love their Culinary Team’s take on classic American fare. Treat yourself to Late Night Happy Hour offered Sunday-Thursday 9PM and dig into a ½ off Medium 1-Topping Pizza.

If you’re looking to feast on old-school tavern favorites, head over to Crooked Goose, your classic neighborhood pub. The Goose offers daily specials sure to make you a regular.

Downtown dining is done right at The Wheelhouse Kitchen & Cocktails. Their menu features a contemporary twist on classic American bistro fare using local ingredients. The large bar and porch make the restaurant your “go-to” great place to relax or celebrate on a night off.

Make every Monday your Friday with ½ off pasta from 4-8 PM every Monday at one of Uccello’s Ristorante locations.

Happy Feasting!

Ring in 2017 New Year’s Eve Guide

nUsher in 2017 with a special New Year's Eve event hosted by these Local First members on Saturday, December 31, 2016.  

Amway Grand Plaza – Special overnight packages include hotel room, complimentary parking and tickets to The Ballroom Bashes. 

The Black Heron – Grab your fedoras and flapper dresses for the Prohibition-themed New Year's party that will include a 4-course dinner, DJ and dancing. 

Boatwerks – The restaurant and bar in Holland will have live music, dinner features, party favors and a champagne toast at midnight. 

The B.O.B. – Each floor of The B.O.B will celebrate a different decade of music for this year's party. General admission tickets are $20. 

Butch’s – Ring in the New Year at Butch's with wonderful cuisine and optional wine pairings with each course. Reservations required. 

CityVu Holland – Dine on the roof of CityVu Hotel and choose from delicious menu options, created and crafted by an award-winning Executive Chef.

Cork Wine & Grille – Enjoy a buffet from 7 p.m to midnight, live music and a champagne toast at midnight. 

Divani – The special 3-course menu will include delectable items like Asian duck rangoons, steak au poivre, and orange cheesecake for $48 per guest. 

FireRock Grille – Celebrate the New Year with a 4-course dinner, complimentary glass of champagne at midnight and live music by Jaded 8. 

Founders Brewing – Grand Rapids Soul Club will lead the party at Founders' Taproom starting at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $10. 

Grand Rapids Children’s MuseumThe annual NYE party for kids and parents features party hats, crafts, dancing, play and the balloon drop at 7:30 p.m.

Holland Area Arts CouncilFrom 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., kids can make party hats and noisemakers, watch a puppet show, have a tasty treat and watch the balloons drop at noon. 

Logan’s AlleyWas 2016 a rough year? Feel like you need to do some smashing? Then head to the deck at Logan's Alley to smash apples, with the proceeds going to charity. 

Long Road Distillers – Long Road will have a laid back NYE party with happy hour prices from 10 p.m. until midnight, including $2 off cocktails and no cover charge. 

New Holland – 'A New Year's State of Mind' is the theme for the party on 8th Street in Holland. Enjoy a live DJ, food, midnight champagne toast and no cover. 

New Holland – The party at the new Knickerbocker on Bridge Street will have special menu items, midnight toast and music spun by DJ Sammy Ruckspin. 

Nick Fink's – Join the Tomas Esparza Blues Band at the Comstock Park bar to countdown 2016 and welcome in 2017.

Reds at Thousand OaksReds' specialty 4-course dinner will have selections like brown butter scallops, seared tuna and creme brulee, plus a midnight champagne toast. 

ReserveExecutive Chefs Zach and Lucas will present the curated multi-course meal that also includes a vegetarian option. 

The ScoreCheers to the New Year and The Score's 10th Anniversary with the tapping of 10 limited release beers from their cellar. 

Wealthy TheatreCheck out a night of local music that willl include performances by The Crane Wives, Vox Vidorra, Seth Bernard and more. 

Wheelhouse – Raise your glass for the full menu with special features, live entertainment and the champagne toast at midnight. 

Neighborhood Shopping Guide: The Lakeshore

The West Michigan Lakeshore community is home to a plethora of locally owned businesses. Below are just a few of our Local First members who are participating in our Shop Local campaign this year. Ask them how you can take home some awesome localist swag that will keep you merry all year round.

Michigan Pantry – Located in the beautiful downtown Holland shopping district, Michigan Pantry offers a unique selection of one of a kind gifts from local artists, gourmet food products, craft beer, and wine.

For The Love Of Shoes – For The Love Of Shoes is a shoe lover’s dream store! Located in Saugatuck, this friendly neighborhood business sells men and women’s shoes designed to be both fashionable and comfortable. They also sell active wear, intimate apparel, and shoe accessories. 

Globe Design & Vision – Owned by two opticians with years of experience, Globe offers optical care and a diverse selection of hand-selected inventory.  Whether classic, rare, artistic, or any style in between, you’re sure to find a frame for you at Globe.

Nature’s Market – Nature’s Market is an organic produce, grocery, and supplement store. They feature locally grown and raised produce, milk, meat, and diary, and make an excellent choice for a healthier holiday grocery experience.

Borr’s Shoes – Located in Grand Haven and Holland, Borr’s shoes has been providing quality shoes and shoe services for over 92 years. They carry a wide assortment of styles and sizes from brand names and a wide array of accessories such as sunglasses, socks, and scarves.

Reader’s World – This Holland bookstore as been family owned and operated for over 48 years. At Reader’s World, you can find books for all ages and interests, as well as newspapers, maps, puzzles, cards, and more.

Neighborhood Shopping Guide: Downtown, Eastown, East Hills and the Southeast Side

The holidays can be a busy time of year. The social calendar fills up and the deadlines for year-end projects are quickly approaching.  Shopping for gifts can add to the stress, but it doesn’t have to.  These businesses are close together, making for an efficient use of an afternoon or after work trip. While you’re there, ask how you can take home some proud localist swag!


6.25 Paper – This paper goods store offers greeting cards, calendars, and more in their honest and irresistible style.

Old World Olive Co. – Old World Olive Co offers a gamut of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Stop into their store taste any variety before you buy.

Field & Fire – A craft bakery looking to bring back deeply flavorful and nourishing baked goods, Field & Fire can be found at the Downtown Market, and they offering catering services.       

Eastown/East Hills

Smitty’s Beverage – Stop in to Smitty’s Beverage for a diverse array of spirits, craft beer, wine, and an educated and friendly sales staff.

Spirit Dreams – Specializing in crystals, aromatherapy, natural body care, incense, candles, books, and more, Spirit Dreams is a local treasure for those interested in the holistic lifestyle.

Wealthy Street Animal Hospital – For your furry four-legged family members! Wealthy Street Animal Hospital treats small animals and offers a close veterinary option for those living in East Hills and Eastown.

Art of the Table – A beloved specialty gourmet shop that provides delicious products such as beer, wine, port, cheese, crackers, as well as cutting boards, wine glasses, napkins, and more.

Southeast Side

Dolphin Vacations – Your local travel agency specializing in land and cruise vacations, as well as business travel and weekly specials. Dolphin Vacations has become one of the leading travel agencies in West Michigan.

Harvest Health Foods – The premier natural grocer in West Michigan, Harvest Health is your go-to natural and organic foods store, providing a large selection of certified organic produce, bulk items, herbs and spices, and much more. 

Why Your Small Business Needs a Contingency Plan

Emergencies and disasters don’t discriminate. They can affect any organization or business, including yours.

The most obvious examples we hear about are large disasters, such as earthquakes, that rarely happen, but we expect would significantly disrupt operations at most businesses. Since these large disasters don’t occur regularly, we become complacent.

But what about more common examples – such as snow storms, power outages, floods, fires and hazardous materials accidents? These smaller events do occur regularly, and can impact your business at several levels from your employees to your bottom line.

Preparing for and responding to negative events, whether they are small or large, predictable or not, requires planning and focus. A contingency is anything that happens outside the range of normal operations that can affect the company’s ability to operate.

Contingency planning involves asking yourself what could go wrong for every aspect of your business, and then preparing an action plan for what you will do if that happens.

Think about it: what functions and resources, if interrupted or lost, could impact your ability to provide goods and services or meet regulatory requirements for your business?

Having such a plan ensures that your business is prepared to handle potential threats caused by a major event, which can help reduce time to recovery and minimize loss.

But contingency planning can significantly benefit your business in many other ways, too.

Not only can it provide the edge the small business owner needs to establish a niche in the market and sustain growth, it can also help with the following:

It can reveal inefficiencies.

A business under threat can be viewed like a patient on an operating table. The priorities are clear: maintain the blood supply (cash flow), oxygen (communication links) and at all costs protect the vital organs (the staff and premises).

Business continuity planning starts with a thorough analysis of the business to decide which parts are vital. Is that product or service really essential to what we do? Why do we need four of those, not two?

When viewed like this, the non-critical parts reveal themselves – all the procedures and resources that have appeared over the years, but which aren't really necessary.

Help you gain a marketing edge.

Contingency planning can give you the edge over your competitors. It shows your commitment to deliver no matter what happens. Put yourself in your customer's shoes: do you sign the contract with the business that has a business continuity plan? Or the one that doesn't?

Result in increased value.

A business that will cope with whatever is thrown at it is a more valuable and reliable investment than others. Ensure this is factored in when asking for a loan, selling some equity, etc.

Can be used as a negotiation tool.

Knowledge is power. Understanding the principles of business continuity means you can spot weaknesses in other businesses. If your main supplier is asking for a price increase, ask about their business contingency plans. If you spot holes, you can ask why you should pay extra when there may be more reliable suppliers out there.

Promote relaxation!

While other business owners lie awake at night, you can rest easy knowing your business contingency plan is ready, and your business is prepared should the worst happen.

Planning for a disruption or catastrophic event should happen when business is going well, not when disaster strikes. Having a pre-defined, well-documented business contingency plan that clearly communicates how your business will respond during an event can help mitigate risk — and is one of the best investments your company can make. 

For help with planning, the Small Business Association (SBA) offers a variety of useful resources to help you prepare your business.


About Stingray Advisory Group LLC: Stingray Advisory Group LLC is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan and a proud Local First member. By creating dynamic customized solutions for business growth, we empower businesses and entrepreneurs with the tools to further their development. To learn more or schedule a consultation, visit Follow us today on Facebook, LinkedIN, Google+ and Twitter for more helpful tips!

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