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Binder Park Zoo breaks ground on African Tented Camps and school

Imagine the tented camp like those you would find on excursion in Africa. Now imagine them at Binder Park Zoo. Groundbreaking for the new African Tented Camps and School in Wild Africa at Binder Park Zoo will take place Sept. 25. 

Tented camps is one of the four new major exhibits the zoo announced in June. The school, not part of the original plan, grew from a donor's interest in making it part of the tented camps and now it is in the works.

The tented camps, like those one would find in Africa, are made of canvas with a permanent structure of beams and a roof.

They will be available for the public to use, both for family and group overnights. Binder Park Zoo now offers both programs but the addition of these tents with help to create a more authentic experience while providing some of the comforts of home, say zoo officials.

The tented camps will be situated along the 18-acre savanna and will feature nearby restrooms with showers as well as bunk beds for sleeping. The addition of the school will "take the overnight programs to a new level with many more educational opportunities," says Diane Thompson, Binder Park Zoo President and CEO.

Currently the African Overnights take place in the Kalahari Kitchen in Africa where there is a cement floor and screened pavilion. The new tents will have more security from the weather. The tented camps will allow the zoo to offer more family overnights than it can at this time and be able to house more people. The tented camps also will provide more privacy for each family.  

When Binder Park Zoo announced its $3 million capital campaign in June, a committee of board and community members and zoo staff had been meeting since 2013 to pull together the project. That work allowed the campaign to get off to a quick start. So far, more than $1.4 million has been raised and the campaign will continue until the goal is reached.

The campaign is divided into two parts--new exhibits and funds to maintain existing exhibits, which zoo officials are calling "Heart of the Zoo." In addition to the tented camps, the new exhibits will be for lions, bears and a tortoise named Al.

Lions are the number one requested animal by zoo goers and the new exhibit in the campaign is expected to increasie gate revenue to help the nonprofit zoo become more self-sufficient. The addition of lions at Binder Park Zoo also will allow for the Zoo to give visitors an educational awareness about the urgency to preserve this species. Once common in Africa, Asia and parts of Europe, the lion is now a protected species with numbers falling from 400,000 in the 1950’s down to an estimated 47,000 today. It can be found  only in remote places in Africa and India.

"Spending the night at the Zoo is a very unique experience and we think families are looking for these close to home opportunities for mini vacations and ways to spend time together as a family," says Thompson. "It’s also a great opportunity for groups like Boy Scouts and Girls Scout to earn badges and experience the outdoors."

More than 7 million people have visited Binder Park Zoo and an additional 500,000 have been served through outreach programs since was established in 1975.  It is located outside of Battle Creek on 433 acres of natural forests and wetlands. In the past 38 years, the Zoo has grown to be one of the leading cultural attractions in the region. 

Source: Diane Thompson, Binder Park Zoo

Stewards of Kleinstuck invite community to celebrate with them

The Stewards of Kleinstuck typically come together to take care of the property that is one of the largest remaining natural areas in the City of Kalamazoo or educate others about its importance.

But this time of year they come together to celebrate the preserve.

There will be a relaxed outdoor gathering at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28 on the playground of Kazoo School, 1401 Cherry St., which is near the Kleinstuck property.

Those who attend the free event will be able to take walks around the preserve and partake of cider and muffins. Music will also be part of the experience.

Erin Fuller, a member of Stewards of Kleinstuck, says that the annual event draws those who visit the preserve, whether it be for walking or running. Sometimes those who want to know more about what is being done to take care of the preserve turn out for the celebration which is in its eighth year.

The Kleinstuck Preserve is a 48-acre preserve owned by Western Michigan University, found between the Oakland, Winchell and Westnedge Hill neighborhoods. The preserve contains a marsh, pedestrian paths, and dozens of native trees, plants and wildlife. It has the largest bald Cypress tree in the state among other natural features.

The Stewards of Kleinstuck are dedicated to restoring the biological diversity of the preserve. It conducts regular work days throughout the year. Fuller says the group is particularly excited about the work it has done to get rid of invasive species that previously were choking a sedge meadow.

The work days can draw anywhere from 5 to 25 people. Volunteer Kalamazoo often coordinates with the Stewards when special work details are being undertaken. Students from neighboring Kazoo School, St. Augustine's and from Western Michigan University also have helped when work needs to be done.

Frog Hikes, snowshoe walks and wildflower tours are popular events through the year.

It may be a bit early to see much fall colors along the path, but there are other attractions. 


"The fall wildflowers are starting to bloom," Miller says. "We have worked really hard to clean out the sedge meadow and get rid of invasive species. On a sunny day this time of year the sun shines through the seed heads and it is lovely."

Source: Erin Miller, Stewards of Kleinstuck
 

BOOKtober Fest a celebration of books and beer

Of the many great things to come out of the Southwest Michigan craft beer industry, one of the most captivating has been its ability to inspire collaborative and innovative thinking, while also create unique products and ways to view the community.

It's not just patrons of area breweries that are finding themselves inspired to do something different and exciting, local institutions are also picking up on the vibe, as is currently on display with the Kalamazoo Public Library's first Booktoberfest--a six-week- long event celebrating learning, creative thinking, community history and, of course, craft beer.

"We feel that our patrons appreciate the opportunity to come together to celebrate what makes Kalamazoo unique," says Kevin King of the Kalamazoo Public Library. "I expect the response will be great because these programs will provide patrons the chance to get close to the individuals who are crafting the beers, an opportunity you do not often have visiting the breweries. When we proposed this program idea to the participating breweries, all of them agreed that it was an excellent idea! Not one hesitated."

Breweries such as Tibbs Brewing Co., Arcadia Ales, Bell’s Brewery, and Gonzo’s BiggDogg Brewing Co. are all on board with programs throughout the event as are other area establishments such West Michigan Beer Tours, the Alamo Draft House, Rhino Media, and more.

Booktoberfest began Sept. 16 with an interactive history lesson that took a look at the area's storied brewery culture. Booktoberfest wraps up on Oct. 28 with a local brewery panel discussion at the Washington Square branch library, moderated by John Liberty, co-owner of West Michigan Beer Tours.

In between, event-goers can enjoy home brewing events sponsored by Bell's, a screening of Rhino Media's Michigan Beer Film, a beer and food pairing featuring the beer of Gonzo's BigDogg Brewing, two book discussion nights, and other fun programs either hosted by breweries or taking place at the library.

"The great breweries of Kalamazoo have brews that are just as engaging and nuanced as many of the great stories in literature. It seemed natural to us at KPL that enjoying both at the same time would be an amazing combination," King says. "Most people enjoy sharing their love of good books with friends, so why not do it with a pint of delicious Kalamazoo beer?"

Two beers in particular will be shared by those taking part in Booktoberfest. At Bilbo's Pizza The Legend of Pumpkin Hollow will be on tap Oct. 6 when the brewpub hosts a discussion of Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks.

Tibbs Brewing has also worked up a special offering, Overdue Brew, a chocolate stout which it has been serving during the month of September. Both breweries are offering these beers for a $1 off the regular price when customers show their KPL card.

For more information on Booktoberfest, and a complete listing of events please visit here.

Writer: Jeremy Martin, Second Wave Media
Source: Kevin King, Kalamazoo Public Library
 

What happened at Park(ing) Day?

Creating mini parks from parking space for a day proved to be just as fun as its organizers hoped and brought forth a lot of good ideas for the community, too.

Park(ing) Day, an international event that saw 975 “PARK” installations in more than 160 countries in 2011--the last year such numbers were gathered--is growing across the globe and this year parking spaces in St. Joseph were turned into four "parks," places to play pingpong, to sit back and read a book, to talk to neighbors or stretch out in a hammock.

Krasl Art Center, St. Joseph Public Library, Whirlpool Creatives Association and Wightman and Associates, Inc. are collaboratied to bring the event to the area in celebration of the day citizens, artists, and designers temporarily transform parking spaces into temporary public parks.

They created four "parks" -- one in downtown St. Joseph on the corner of Broad and State streets and three next to the Krasl Art Center and the St. Joseph Public Library.

With their location in actual parking spaces the conversation with those who dropped by often centered on parking in St. Joe and whether more parking is needed. A place to record ideas for the community was provided and that will be compiled, says Jamie Balkin, of Wightman and Associates, Inc. 

A number of "ah-ha" moments happened throughout the day. For example, one couple that stopped by said they liked to visit St. Joe because it is dog friendly.

Wightman and Associates, Inc. architects are passionate about the possibilities of renewing urban areas that often are the theme of such Park(ing) Day events.

"A number of people were saying that this is our first experience and we would like to grow it from here," Balkin says. "This is just a starting point and we will see where it goes in the future. We were using parking spaces as a place to have a conversation on how people would like to see spaces differently. It was a opening conversation."

Park(ing) Day originated in San Francisco when a group of people decided to draw attention to the amount of space dedicated to cars and other vehicles in the city compared to the amount of space set aside for people. Now the day has become a time for people at the grassroots level to highlight the needs of the community and use the parking spaces to highlight those needs.

Source: Jamie Balkin, Wightman & Associates, Inc.
 

Montage Market in Allegan specializes in the local

Allegan is a small, quiet town of about 5,000 hardy souls, tucked up against the Kalamazoo River. Approaching the city on M-89, one of the first signs of entering downtown is the truss bridge, built in 1886, that crosses the river and leads into the center of the city. Take a quick left after crossing the bridge onto Brady Street, and the first to draw your eye are the brightly colored umbrellas over sidewalk tables outside a specialty market.

Montage Market, located at 137 Brady Street, is owned by Dan and Marcia Wagner. The couple also own one of Allegan’s most popular restaurants, The Grill House, and a catering service and banquet hall inside a renovated grain silo called, aptly, The Silo. They opened Montage Market in spring of 2010, and the store has done a bustling business since.

“There aren’t many places like Montage,” says Monica Reich, manager of the store. “We offer many unique Michigan craft beers and wines from Michigan wineries, but we also have a deli with fresh items daily.”

The historic building where Montage Market is located was built in 1890, originally the Wedge Office Machines location. The Wagners gave its historic value and charm extra attention, keeping that sense of a grocery store from a day gone by. The store even has its original wood floors, polished to a fine sheen.

Featured are Michigan wines rating 90 or above, primarily at affordable prices of no more than $20 per bottle. The owners give priority to smaller area vineyards, but also stock national and international wines. Another nook in the store is filled with more than 100 varieties of craft beers, including seasonal releases and limited series.

Ever-changing items in the deli section offer sandwiches, salads, soups and sweets, with an impressive array of hummus in eight flavors, free to taste in the store. Enjoy your lunch at one of the in-store tables or at the sidewalk tables, along with a freshly brewed coffee from the front counter.

“We use a simple pour-over method for single cup brewing,” says Reich. “It’s similar to the French press, for a richer flavor.” The beans, she says, come from Ferris Coffee and Nuts in Grand Rapids.

Customers may order custom-made gift baskets from any of the products available in the store, or select a Michigan-made only basket. Along with the Michigan wines and beers, other Michigan products available are Wild Thyme dry soups, Brownwood Farms, Kalamazoo Kettle Corn, Blueberry Store, St. Julian, and McClure’s. Handmade pottery and soaps make wonderful gifts or home accents.

Under the Montage brand are Italian aged balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oils that pair with the several varieties of fresh baked bread that arrive daily, ready for slicing and dipping.

Montage Market is open Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 269.355.1655 for more information.

Writer: Zinta Aistars, Second Wave Media
Source: Monica Reich. Montage Market
 

Honor Credit Union breaks ground on operations center

The new operations center for Honor Credit Union is going up in Berrien Springs.

Honor Credit Union broke ground at 8385 Edgewood Road, just north of the M-139 highway exit off US-31. The site was selected to provide a centralized location and easy access to the highway.

The new operations center will centralize support, physical offices, and technological services for the credit union.The operations center is anticipated to be complete by the fall of 2015. It is a 37,000-square-foot building on more than six acres of land.

Credit union officials say the operations center will give them greater ability to support the retail branch network, new technology, and be more efficient as it works with the communities and members it serves.  

Honor Credit Union is working with EC Moore of Berrien County and Collective Office for the design and construction work on the project.

The existing retail branch in St. Joseph will remain in place. It will be updated once the operations center is complete. The current branch in Berrien Springs will also remain open and will continue to be the retail location for Berrien Springs.

"Our highest priority continues to be the financial solutions and member service we are able to provide," says Scott McFarland, CEO of Honor Credit Union. "Giving the incredible Honor team the resources they need to provide solutions for financial success to the State of Michigan is important and that is what our operations center is going to do."

Honor Credit Union serves more than 51,000 members across the State of Michigan.  

Source: Kaylee Williams, Honor Credit Union

Park(ing) Day to be celebrated in downtown St. Joseph

Almost 10 years ago a group came together in San Francisco to draw attention to the amount of space dedicated to cars and other vehicles in the city compared to the amount of space set aside for people.

They put enough money in a parking meter to hold the parking space for two hours and created a "park" in the parking space complete with sod, a tree, and a park bench. The picture of their two-hour exploration of what could be done with a parking space for a short span of time traveled the globe through the Internet. 

People started contacting the organizers, asking them to create a Park(ing) Day for their community. Instead the group knowns as Rebar created a how-to-manual to help communities create "parks" of their own. 

They also encourage communities interested in the concept to do more than replicate the park with a tree, bench, and sod. They suggested using the day to identify the needs of the community and use the parking spaces to highlight those needs. For example, participants have built free health clinics, planted temporary urban farms, produced ecology demonstrations, held political seminars, built art installations, and opened free bike repair shops in parking spaces. A wedding ceremony has even been conducted in a Park(ing) Day "park."

The now international event dedicated to reclaiming parking spaces for the people is coming to St. Joseph and Benton Harbor for the first time on Friday, Sept. 19.

Krasl Art Center, St. Joseph Public Library, Whirlpool Creatives Association and Wightman and Associates, Inc. are collaborating to bring the event to the area in celebration of the day citizens, artists, and designers temporarily transform parking spaces into temporary public parks. Actual parking spaces will be converted into "parks" for the day.

Locally, there will be four "parks" open to the public from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. -- one in Downtown St. Joseph on the corner of Broad and State streets and three next to the Krasl Art Center and the St. Joseph Public Library.

"We formed this partnership to learn more of what people want in their communities today in order to inform our future design work," says Bill LaDitka, Director of Architecture for Wightman & Associates Inc. "The team at Wightman has done similar types of placemaking activities recently to generate conversation in communities, looking to learn more about the future."

Source: Jamie Balkin, Wightman & Associates, Inc. 
Photos: Sacramento PARK(ing) Day 2009 by Eric Fredericks 

Volunteers help create access for Pilgrim Haven Natural Area

A half-mile nature trail through the woods built by the community is bringing the grand opening of Pilgrim Haven Natural Area one step closer. The natural area was a gift to the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy from Suzanne Parish.

More than 40 volunteers turned out late July to create a 6-foot-wide trail through the woodland on the eastern edge of the property, linking it with existing mowed trails to the west.

A pedestrian-only access was built into the perimeter fence on 77th Street with labor and materials from Cottage Home.

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy worked with  the South Haven Area Recreation Authority (SHARA) over the summer to explore a partnership for maintenance and management of Pilgrim Haven Natural Area.

A SHARA official says the partnership is an exciting prospect. "Being able to create a public natural area on Lake Michigan for the South Haven region is one of the reasons SHARA was established," says Ross Stein, South Haven Township supervisor and SHARA Chairman.

In addition to support from local businesses, former campers, and SWMLC volunteers, many local residents are doing their part to help support Pilgrim Haven improvements. Local resident John Lewandowski is personally supporting the cause by taking on a six-day bicycle climb through Utah’s Bryce Canyon to raise money to support Pilgrim Haven.

"There is no doubt that this place has special meaning to the people of the greater South Haven area and former Pilgrim Haven campers," says Peter Ter Louw, SWMLC executive director. "The creation of this natural area is moving forward thanks to an amazing outpouring of community support."

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy serves nine counties in southwest Michigan, and has protected almost 13,000 acres since its inception as an all-volunteer organization in 1991. The Conservancy currently has eight staff and 150 active volunteers and is supported by over 1,200 household memberships.

Source: 
Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

Marley Precision expands to second facility, $3 million investment

The auto industry rebound has proven to work in Battle Creek's favor as Marley Precision announces a $3 million investment in a second location in the city's Fort Custer Industrial Park.

The company, based in Japan, manufactures and supplies direct fuel injection components to the auto industry. Marley Precision will introduce a new product line and expand its local presence.

The company has been in Battle Creek since 1995 at 455 Fritz Keiper Dr. in the industrial park. Over the next 12 months machines will be added and interior improvements also will be made to this facility.  

At the end of 2013, the decision was made to expand to 1255 Hill Brady Road. The company added an air compression room, oil storage room and a complete interior renovation to the site and the company foresees further investment there.

Marley Precision Plant Manager Andy Ward says the company has two shifts and 20 employees. That number is expected to rise in 2015 as demand rises for Marley's products.

"When production is ramped up in 2015, we’ll be producing 1 million components per month," Ward says.

Michael Hodges, who started as a temp, was hired in to the company, and now is quality control subleader has found it to be a good employer. “Marley Precision has a deep commitment to its people," he says. He also appreciates the opportunity that comes with working with a small manufacturer. "I am able to receive recognition, have ownership over the work, and take pride in the work I do,” Hodges says.

Karl Dehn, President and CEO of Battle Creek Unlimited, the economic development organization for the community, says Marley Precision offers high skilled jobs that provide opportunities for Battle Creek workers.

Marley Precision is part of Maruei Industries Co. Ltd. of Japan led by president Shigemitsu Takagi.

Citywide, Battle Creek continues to see impressive economic development activity, including 15 new companies announcing plans to locate or expand there in the last 18 months.

Source: Battle Creek Unlimited
 

Tailor for the stars sets up shop in St. Joseph

C. Winston Smith is known as the tailor to the stars and his latest enterprise is in St. Joseph. In fact, he invited one of his clients, Martha Reeves of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, to his grand opening Sept. 4. Unfortunately, she is currently in England as part of a world tour.

"She said, 'Why don't you come over to England with me,'" Smith says with a laugh. "I told her: 'I have a business to run."

Smith is the owner of Bespoke Tailoring, recently opened at 216 Court Street in St. Joseph. His shop offers custom suits, alterations, custom shirts, reweaving, and gift certificates.

He's come a long way since he charged $25 to make his first pair of trousers while living in Brooklyn. Smith was "fresh out of tailoring school" and friends started to ask him to make their clothes. He also was modeling at the time and wore his own clothes, which resulted in more requests for him to make his clothing for others.

He built on his reputation as a tailor in Huntsville, Alabama when he went to work for Sid’s Tailoring. His first work for the famous came when Little Richard visited Huntsville to perform. Little Richard left two of his shirts in California but needed them for a performance in Memphis. Smith was asked to create two new shirts for the singer. That was the beginning of a relationship that continues till this day and from that time Smith became known as a "tailor to the stars."

Showing the persistence that has helped make him the success he is today, Smith challenged himself to get a new client when Martha Reeves visited Huntsville. He got a meeting with the singer, taking with him the laptop on which he does all his designs. He showed her sketches and in one day he made her a dress. He has been making her dresses ever since. He has been not only her designer but the group’s designer---the one in charge of wardrobe, often travelling with her and making alterations as necessary on the road.

Television actors, recording artists, politicians, business professionals and individuals from all walks of life have been his clients.

"My philosophy is nothing ventured, nothing gained," Smith says. "They are going to tell me 'yes' or 'no.' I have a 50-50 chance they will say 'yes.' I'm good with those odds."

Another client who changed the direction of Smith's business was one who encouraged him to market his tailoring to the affluent. "I told him that they had everything they needed and they didn't need my work. He said that if everyone believed that there would be a huge niche that went unfulfilled. I started marketing to the affluent and my business took off."

Smith opened shop in St. Joseph when his wife accepted a position as chair of the Department of Communication at Andrews University.

Though he has relocated his business, Smith retains a number of clients from outside Michigan. "I have clients I have worked with for years," he says. "It's always good to get new clients, though."  

Not everyone is familiar with "bespoke tailoring" that is the name of his new shop. "I tell people it's English tailoring of the highest quality," Smith says. The suits, shirts, and dresses he creates are all custom made. He conducts a battery of measurements to assure the right fit. He also offers a consultation with clients to find out what they are looking for and to talk to them about the styles that will look best on them, and to prepare them if the style they envision in their head is not quite what will make them look their best.

Though a constant chuckle can be heard throughout a conversation with Smith it is obvious he takes great pride in his work.

"It’s important to me that when I create a piece of clothing that it not only represents the quality of my work." he says, "but that the fit is exact and comfortable to be worn for many years to come.”

Source: C. Winston Smith, Bespoke Tailoring 

Tailor photo copyright MIGUEL GARCIA SAAVEDRA.

It's time to taste the tomatoes at the Fall Garden Affair

Before the last tomato ripens on the vine there will be a chance for those with a discerning palate or those who simply like eating tomatoes to decide who has tastiest at the Fall Garden Affair.

Organizers expect as many at 45 different varieties of tomatoes, including heirlooms, those of different sizes and not all of them will be red.

Tomato tasting is just one part of the free event from 10 a.m to noon Saturday, Sept. 13 at the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services building, 3299 Gull Road in Kalamazoo, in the Nazareth complex.

For the first time the annual event, now in its fifth year, will feature a farmers market with fresh produce, herbs and flowers.

Creative takes on the guardians of the garden are anticipated in the parade of scarecrows. 

And Jeff Fleming, a local expert on all things tomato, will share information about the abundance of tomato varieties.

There will also be face painting, an "ask a Master Gardener" booth, door prizes, and refreshments including BLT sandwiches.

Celebrity judges will select the most attractive garden basket. Entries must contain fresh items from your home or community garden, such as produce (vegetables, fruit, herbs) and flowers.

Everyone who attends the free event will get a set of tickets that they will use as they pick their favorites. Votes will be tallied to choose the winner in the various categories. Three categories of tomatoes will be judged. Votes can be case for the best small and medium tomatoes of the cherry and paste varieties, large hybrid varieties that are  meant to be sliced, and heirloom varieties of any size.

You don't have to bring tomatoes, but if you want yours to be part of the taste contest  bring approximately 20 small tomatoes, four to five large tomatoes or six to eight medium tomatoes of each variety.

Linda Whitlock, of MSU Extension, says the event is meant to be a celebration of the harvest. Conversations about planting and gardening like those that can be found at the Fall Garden Affair "pique interests and foster learning," she says.

The event is co-sponsored by Kalamazoo Master Gardener Program/MSU Extension and Kalamazoo in Bloom. Kalamazoo in Bloom is celebrating its 30th anniversary of beautifying public spaces throughout the area and has been a partner in the tomato taste off since the event began. A view of their work can be seen here

Source: Linda Whitlock,  MSU Extension

One idea leads to another at Riverview Launch

At Riverview Launch work begins this week on space that will become the new home for Open Roads, a program that teaches young people both how to maintain their bikes and rules for respecting others. And soon renovations office space for the Kalamazoo County Land Bank will be underway.

Open Roads hopes to be in its new space by December and the Land Bank by late spring or early summer of 2015.

Meanwhile, various projects at Riverview Launch have brought community members to the 6-acre piece of property. They have working to create a place for the community at the former site of an abandoned, blighted property that went through tax foreclosure in 2012.

Riverview Launch, adjacent to the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail, connects the downtown to Spring Valley Park, Markin Glen Park and the Kalamazoo Nature Center.

Work accomplished this year on the property makes the most of its natural features. Wildflowers, prairie grass and native plants have been planted. A rain garden has been put in place.

A bee condo, a project of Trybal Revival in cooperation with 4-H and funded by Local Initiatives Support Corporation, has been undertaken in hopes of encouraging native bees.  

Land has been cleared to improve sight lines of the Kalamazoo River that runs along the property. Community gardens and raised beds used by chefs of local restaurants also have been created.

This summer Kalamazoo City Parks and Recreation assisted with games and the screening of movies there.

Recently, community members gathered at the property to consider what else might be done with Riverview Launch. The event was a follow-up to the spring placemaking event, Go Places

There were tours of the property to see the progress that has been made and ice cream to stave off the afterwork hunger pangs.

As the evening progressed, Brian Lam and Dann Sytsema of Improv Effects led the group in a number of exercises designed to generate further creative ideas for use of Riverview Launch and to give examples of ways people can work together when collaborating on a project.

Through a number of improv games participants learned how much easier plans can be made when using "yes, and" rather than "yes, but." The latter tends to put one on the defensive and can impede progress in planning and discussion. "That's a great idea because," was another way of saying "yes, and" introduced that further keeps the conversation moving when ideas are being discussed.

After practicing the improv techniques the participants broke up into groups to come up with ideas for the property. One group wanted to make sure the property was used year round, possibly with a fat tire bike event or a polar plunge. It suggested ways of tying the property in with downtown festivals, the farmers market and various area parks. Programming to draw people to events at the property also were suggested.

Bike and kayak rentals were frequent suggestions. Another group came up with plans that it suggested would benefit the entire community.

Kelly Clarke of the Kalamazoo County Land Bank thanked the participants for their ideas and said that often going into such sessions people spend a lot of time focused on what can't be done. Using "yes, and" creates an environment where some dreaming can take place.

Becky Fulgoni of Landscape Forms who helped organize the event said the evening presented an opportunity to try out using "yes, and" so that ultimately it is not so strange, and the lessons learned can be used in other settings, like work or in other groups across the community.

"There are a lot of things that can benefit from using "yes, and," Fulgoni said.

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Let's Do Launch event, Sept. 9, 2014

Salted Cupcake finds a welcome home in Schoolcraft

Korina Thompson was looking for a good location for her new cupcake store. Grand Rapids had one on every corner. Kalamazoo only had one. So she put plans in place to open in the Milwood neighborhood when she found out the property was not zoned for--wait for it--mixing dough.

She could sell her cupcakes, she couldn't make them there. That obviously was not going to work. The next day she found a store in downtown Schoolcraft and has never looked back.

She turned what formerly was an antique store into The Salted Cupcake and moved into the apartment over the store. With the help of her then boyfriend the antiques were cleared away, the old bricks exposed, and display cases went in.

Soon Schoolcraft natives turned out to welcome her, customers traveling up and down the streets looking for antiques stopped in for cupcakes and coffee, and commuters traveling up and down U.S. 131 slowed down long enough to come in and try her cupcakes.

Orders for baby showers, bridal showers and work parties started to come in.

"I love this location," Thompson says. "I had no idea what Schoolcraft was."

Thompson grew up in Ionia, halfway between Grand Rapids and Lansing. In her family her mother did not enjoy cooking so it often fell to Thompson. She liked it so much she decided to go into a food related business. She got her business degree and went on to culinary school.

She spent three years creating her business plan and that planning is paying off. Her financials are doing better than projected and a startup loan from her mother is almost paid off.  

Thompson has built her cupcake business around the taste combination of sweet and salty. It started when she fell in love with the taste of salted caramel. It became her signature cupcake and many of the cupcakes on her menu have a sweet and salty taste.

She also tries to make her cupcakes as healthy as cupcakes can be. Her recipes are all her own and ingredients are locally sourced to ensure they are "healthy and delicious," she says. She knows cupcakes can never be considered health food but with non-GMO dairy, non-homogenized milk, local wildflower honey, locally grown and milled flour, and eggs from free range chicken that are fed organic flax seed they are as healthy as she can make them.

Thompson also uses sweets from Confections with Convictions for those candies that she can't make herself.

Each day she posts a menu of cup cakes on Facebook. A recent menu featured flavors such as White Wine Goat Cheese, Salted Caramel Vanilla Bean, Strawberry Fields Forever, Champagne Manhattan, Thai Coconut, and Wheat Free Vanilla Strawberry.

She's also started selling cupcakes with flowers or balloons for special events.

Individual cupcakes sell for $3 each or $2.90 for larger orders for events. When she opened Thompson told customers she was open each day until the last crumb was sold, but they insisted she set a closing time. Summer hours for the shop at 224 N. Grand St. in Schoolcraft are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.  269.568.8696 or thesaltedcupcake@outlook.com

Source: Korina Thompson

R W.Eats finds niche among those who want to eat well

R.W.Eats is proving you don't have to travel to a big city to find healthy food and supplements.

The healthfood store in downtown Otsego had its grand opening June 20-21 and business has been going very well ever since, says Casie Dussia, who co-owns the store with her husband John.

Organic, gluten-free and vegan foods all have a place on the shelves at R.W. Eats.

Casie Dussia says eggs from free range chickens, all natural beef and pork from area farms, and a variety of health foods are offered. Even their organic coffee is from Michigan.

Bulk foods, spices, and herbal teas also are bringing in customers to the the 1,200-square-foot store.

Vitamins and supplements are providing a comfortable niche for the store, Dussia says. People are finding sport nutrition products that they previously could only find by traveling to Kalamazoo or Grand Rapids.

Dussia has been helping people get in shape since 2010 when she started a running group, Run With Endurance. Since then she has promoted endurance and motivated women. She also has coached middle school cross country and track and field.

"I've been offering free personal training over the years, and that has allowed me to build personal relationships and get information out there to help people make healthier choices," Dussia says.

The store currently has one employee, Kendall Dowler, in addition to Casie and her husband. Their son Jase, 14, also has been a real asset in starting and running family business, Dussia says.

Opening a store front is apparently not enough for the Dussias. "We in the process of developing and online store," Casie says.

Classes in nutrition, health, and fitness also are in the works. 


Source: Casie Drussia

Kalamadoodle: Beer, drawing, networking for creatives

Because creative people need a way to connect, Mike Klok and Nick Clark created Kalamadoodle.

Kalamazoo has its share of clubs and organizations dedicated to networking for business people, but Klok and Clark wanted something that catered to creatives. Kalamadoodle, a drink and draw event is what they came up with.

Networking based on sharing common interests is often recommended as a better way to make connections, and Kalamadoodle brings together those who share a creative impulse and a liking of craft beer.  

The first event for Kalamazoo was Aug. 20 at Arcadia Brewing Co. and the organizers hope to have enough interest to create monthly get togethers. They were encouraged by the turnout to the first event.

Those who attend found tables lined with paper and art supplies, colored pens, colored markers, crayons, colored pencils and more, Clark says.

And the beer for the very first event was $1 off a 20 ounce glass for Kalamadoodlers. There will be similar beer specials for Kalamadoodlers at each drink and draw event.

The event is intended not only for artists but for the desk jockey who does not get a chance to use his or her creative talents on a regular basis.

"This is a chance to let your creativity come out and show off your art skills," Clark says.

Clark is a freelance graphic designer with an Etsy store he calls EpicNickNacks, featuring items he makes by hand, such as tables, cutting boards, and coasters. Klok is a freelance designer who also works for Kalamazoo College. The two connected through Underground Printing, a custom apparel print shop that Klok ran after Clark left.

The idea to bring together artistic beer drinkers grew from a sense that there are a lot of creative people in Kalamazoo who were not getting together. Klok had participated in a similar group in Detroit area, enjoyed them, and believed Kalamazoo could and should embrace the idea. He and Clark liked the drink and draw idea and wanted to make it even more engaging, something people would look forward to each month.

One way is by sharing doodles on social media. (Their Facebook page is here.) They are asking people to share their doodles at #Kalamadoodle. There might be to be a weekly contest for best doodle. Monthly events also might be themed. It all depends on what beer drinking artists who attend are interested in.

"We're not in this for the profit, we want to build up the community," Clark says. "We are blessed to live in a state that has the kind of talent that you can find here, and Kalamazoo is one of the best, if not the best city in Michigan. It's about working together to keep people here, rather than having them move to Chicago, New York, or L.A."

Klok says: "We believe in Kalamazoo and want to help grow the Creative and Craft Beer Communities.  We encourage you to try one of the many great local breweries and let your creativity flow. Show us your doodles!" 

Source: Nick Clark, Mike Klok
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