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WorkSquared relocates to downtown Kalamazoo

The newest office furniture store in downtown Kalamazoo has been around for almost 60 years. WorkSquared recently made the move to the Main Street East Building from a location in Portage.

"We wanted to do a better job being visible to our customers," says Roseann Blahnik, vice president of sales and operations for WorkSquared.

The new space is easily accessible for customers and offers a new showroom to better display the various type of furniture the company sells.

WorkSquared specializes in furniture that works for offices, conference rooms, and other commercial workspaces. Schools, colleges and university offices frequently turn to WorkSquared. The company also works with hospitals, medical facilities and similar healthcare businesses.

Beyond offering furniture, the company also works with design companies and architects to help plan the layout of offices for those being newly built or redesigned.

With the move, the Kalamazoo office more than doubled the space it previously had. Now it occupies 3,500 square feet downtown and as it has grown so has its staff. Three new employees bring the number to seven.

Blahnik says seven counties are served from the Kalamazoo office. "We have a lot of people driving by our storefront who are very curious. We love being right here and being accessible to them."

The business previously owned by Kalamazoo-area resident Charles Lavene, sold to Laurie VanLangevelde in 2000, when it became WorkSquared. The certified Women Owned Business is the largest Herman Miller dealership in the state. In addition to its Kalamazoo store, it has five other locations: Grand Rapids, Lansing, Novi, Traverse City, and Troy.

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Roseann Blahnik, WorkSquared


Consignment shop in Mall Plaza offers Styles For All Seasons

Talking traffic signals, sidewalks suited for guide dogs, and transportation that is friendly for a person losing her eyesight are a few of the reasons Sharmese Anderson decided to move from the Detroit suburbs and relocate in Kalamazoo.

Anderson's exceedingly busy life as a professional image consultant, interior designer, assistant to a pastor of a large congregation, and a woman responsible for family members' care came to a halt with one visit to the doctor.

What she thought was night blindness was diagnosed as retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that often leads to blindness. She could no longer drive. Anderson came to Kalamazoo to learn how to maintain her independence as her eyesight failed and found the help she needed at the Michigan Training Commission for the Blind.

She decided to leave the Detroit area in 2009. After she moved to Kalamazoo, she continued to help people look their best and after settling in, people at her church, Mount Zion, encouraged her to open a boutique where she could continue to do the work she loved.

Styles For All Seasons was born in 2013. She opened the 1,800-square-foot consignment shop in December in time to catch the eye of holiday shoppers.

Anderson has opened a store where she invites customers to come in to look for attire for their first job interview and to come back after  they get after they get the job. 

Toward that end, she is working with organizations such as Michigan Rehabilitative Services, the Gospel Mission, Goodwill and Ministry Community to assist those seeking inexpensive work attire. Though Anderson offers elegant work wardrobes, she also has many other type of clothing. "Everything but jeans and T-shirts," she says. Accessories, including boots, shoes, and more also are on sale in the store.

Men and women's apparel is sold. She says the store also is the perfect place for the college student on a tight budget.

She describes her shop as a place where customer can leave looking like they have spent hundreds of dollars when the total price is more in the $75 range.

She accepts clothing on consignment and pays each Friday to those whose clothing sells. Those who contribute new or gently used clothes receive a 40 percent commission on the sale of those items. Anderson is assisted in the store by Stefanie Waites.

As Anderson continues to spread the word about the work she does to make people look their best, the store will be participating in Girlfriend Getaway, coming in February, and the spring Art Hop.

Styles For All Seasons is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. It's found in the retail space formerly occupied by Amy Zane and across from Sangha Yoga in Mall Plaza.

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Sharmese Anderson, Styles For All Seasons

Hinman Co. turns former furniture store into retail center

The story of 5475 Beckley Road in Battle Creek, once an empty storefront for a former furniture showroom, can be told best by looking at the before and after pictures.

A flat, nondescript building at the corner of Beckley Road and Riverside Drive that was easy to drive by without noticing it has been redeveloped to an eye-catching retail center, now named Minges Shoppes. 

The property stood empty for at least three years when the Hinman Co. came up with a plan that would allow it to be redeveloped in way that made more economic sense than tearing it down the property and putting up a new building. The company purchased the property from Furniture Row USA, LLC,  in May 2013 and work shortly began on the facelift for what was once known as Furniture Row.

The property was attractive due to its location on a corner with a traffic signal in a strong retail corridor. It came with a number of challenges, however. The building and related parking were sized for a furniture store.

Usually, a retail center is about 50- to 80-feet deep. The building on the Beckley Road property was 140-feet deep. And while parking was sufficient for a small number of customers and handful of employees who worked at Furniture Row, it was not adequate for a retail center.

To accommodate the needs of a multi-use strip center Hinman worked with the City of Battle Creek to create parking on the Riverside Drive side of the property. With that parking in place Hinman was able to take the approximately 4,500-square-foot building that had housed one retailer and turn it into one with spaces for seven suites.

A new facade and large sign added the "wow" factor to the retail center that previously was lacking. New lighting, roof, restrooms, sidewalks and mechanicals--plumbing, electrical, and heating and air conditioning were all part of the project.

Three suites already are taken. Sprint and Sleep Doctor are now open. Comerica Bank, whose space is currently under construction, expects to be open by this summer. Tenant build-outs will continue as leases are signed. "Our goal is to have the center 100 percent leased by the summer of 2014," says Anmar Atchu, vice president of marketing and leasing at Hinman.

The project is one of a number of redevelopment projects the Hinman Co. has undertaken in Battle Creek, including the Battle Creek Tower, 70 W. Michigan; Capital Shoppes, 2550 Capital Avenue SW; and the K2 Building, 67 W. Michigan.

In the '90s, the Hinman Co. acquired its first property in Battle Creek and since then has redeveloped 400,000-square-feet of property in the city. Part of what has made that possible, Atchu says, is the collaboration and strong relationship the company has developed with the City of Battle Creek and Battle Creek Unlimited, the economic development arm for the area.

"Hinman made a commitment to Battle Creek years ago to help redevelop the area and create more opportunities," says Atchu. "We are extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished and with the continued relationship between the City of Battle Creek and Battle Creek Unlimited, we will continue looking for ways to collectively make Battle Creek a better place to work, live and play."

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Anmar Atchu, Hinman Co.

Images:

The new Minges Shoppes at Riverside Drive and Beckley Road in Battle Creek.

Before: The building from its Furniture Row days.

After: The redeveloped building.

Plans show space for further tenants at the redeveloped shopping center.




Aspen Dental opens office in Benton Harbor

A new dentist's office will open in Benton Harbor Jan. 30 at 1817 M-139 . Dr. Scott Nigle will lead the practice that will offer services including preventative care, general dentistry, restoration and dentures.

Other services include comprehensive exams, hygiene services, treatment of periodontal (gum) disease, extractions, fillings, oral surgery, whitening, and crown and bridge work. The office features digital radiography and offers advanced screening for oral cancer.

Nigl earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the the University Of Detroit Mercy School Of Dentistry in 2002. He says he is looking forward to providing much needed access to high-quality dental care and education.

Berrien County, where Benton Harbor is located, is one of 56 in Michigan the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services says has a shortage of dental health professionals.

The office is the 23rd to open in Michigan under the Aspen Dental brand. The company reports that a 2013 study shows each new office has a more than $1.3 million in positive economic impact on local communities where they are located realized through job creation and capital investment. The local community benefits through investment in office construction, furniture and fixtures; jobs created and wages and benefits paid; taxes; and investment in marketing and advertising.

Aspen Dental is one of the largest and fastest-growing networks of independent dental care providers in the U.S. with more than 400 practices in communities across 27 states.  In 2013, Aspen Dental-branded practices recorded nearly 2.9 million patient visits and welcomed more than 600,000 new patients.

Writer: Kathy Jennings. Second Wave Media
Source: Aspen Dental

Bruce Zache joins O-A-K in Kalamazoo

Local professional construction firm Owens-Ames-Kimball Co. has added Bruce Zache as project superintendent for its new Kalamazoo office.
 
The addition to the Kalamazoo staff comes less than two months after it opened its new branch office at 161 E. Michigan Ave, Ste 102.
 
Zache is responsible for leadership and direction on-site. His duties include subcontractor management, schedule control, quality assurance and safety management. 
 
He brings 15 years of construction management experience to the project superintendent post. 
 
He earned his Bachelor’s of Science in Construction Management from Michigan State University and is a LEED Accredited Professional.
 
"He is passionate about the success of his projects and about building strong relationships with both clients and subcontractors,” says Tom Stanek, Director of Kalamazoo Operations. 'We welcome his positivity, energy, experience and knowledge on our team."
 
Owen-Ames-Kimball is an employee-owned firm with 62 corporate shareholders. Most of the project superintendents and project managers who manage daily operations of the firm's construction projects are owners of the company, invested personally and professionally in the success of each project.
 
The company also has historic roots in Southwest Michigan, having completed construction projects including additions and gymnasium construction at Old Kalamazoo Central High School in 1912 and Fort Custer in 1940.
 
Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Rachael Martemucci, Owen-Ames-Kimball Co.

Business Aviation program comes to WMU

The Michigan Business Aviation Association wants to bridge the gap between graduation and a career in Business Aviation. Toward that end they are working with Western Michigan University to promote business aviation careers.
 
Careers in fields such as corporate pilot, managing flight facilities for a corporate entity or entities, and aircraft maintenance are some of those the Michigan Business Aviation Association wants to encourage the next generation of aviators to consider. 
 
The organization will meet at 6 p.m. Jan. 22 at WMU's College of Aviation in Battle Creek to announce the launch of its outreach effort that will encompass internship and scholarship opportunities as well as opportunities to network with corporate aviation leaders from a number of global corporations.
 
Representatives from Amway, Bissell, Dow, Masco, and Whirlpool are expected to attend and are among those who will be part of the program.
 
The MBAA brings together businesses and individuals who are working to preserve and develop  an air transportation system. They focus on such topics as airport infrastructure and other aviation issues affecting the State of Michigan. 
 
The initiative is intended to provide opportunities in business aviation that has previously not been available to college students.  

"We're out to provide an opportunity for aviation students to gain a greater understanding of business aviation by meeting with Michigan business aviation leaders," says MBAA board chair Roger Salo, of Masco. "We're developing mentors and internship programs to provide pathways to business aviation careers."
 
Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Cheryl Roland, Western Michigan University


AVB hires Veenstra, Belinski, and Schipper

AVB has hired an assistant superintendent and two project engineers.

Nathan J. Veenstra is the new Assistant Superintendent for the company. He will be doing scheduling, site safety, and ensuring quality control for AVB's commercial construction projects.

Veenstra is OSHA certified and has years of construction experience. Previously, he has worked on  ski lift installation and construction for Squaw Valley Resort and trails for Squaw Valley Mountain Bike Park in California, and as a Project Engineer for Kalleward Group.  

Veenstra will be responsible for work on the Borgess Medical Office Park construction in Battle Creek.

AVB also recently hired two project engineers, Rebecca Belinski  and Andrew Schipper. Their roles with the company include setting up and maintaining online Project Document Manager (PDM), as well as handling RFIs, and project correspondence.

Belinski graduated from Western Michigan University with a B.A. in English and then went on to receive a Post Baccalaureate Certificate in Paralegal Studies with honors from Kellogg Community College.  She recently worked as a Process Supervisor for Best Buy as well as a Legal Intern at Walling & Foster, P.C. At AVB she will use her communication and leadership skills to organize and facilitate projects as Project Engineer.  

Schipper earned a degree in the honor’s program for Pre-Engineering from Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and went on to receive his Civil/Construction Engineering degree from Western Michigan University in April 2013. He started with AVB as a Monroe-Brown intern in 2012, which taught him about the construction industry. Schipper managed all project submittals and documentation for LEED credits on large construction projects and is now on site at the new Keystone Bank branch on Drake Road in Kalamazoo.

AVB has been building Southwest Michigan since 1981. Its commercial division focuses on construction management in the healthcare, education, office and retail markets. AVB’s custom residential building division specializes in single-family homes, condominiums and neighborhoods. AVB’s development group focuses on property development for commercial, residential, and mixed uses.

Writer: Second Wave staff
Source: Doug Phillips, AVB


W.K. Kellogg Foundation names vice president of finance

Donald G. Williamson has been named vice president of finance and treasurer of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
 
Williamson has served as the director of financial services at the Kellogg Foundation since June 2012, providing leadership for finance and accounting operations. 
 
Before joining WKKF, he was the vice president of finance and operations at the Beaumont Foundation within the Beaumont Health System in Royal Oak.
 
He earned an MBA in finance from Wayne State University in Detroit and his BBA in accounting from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The Michigan native is a licensed certified public accountant in the state of Michigan.
 
A Foundation official describes Williamson as "an engaged and accomplished leader, bringing both technical and philanthropic experience to this position." 
 
"His commitment to the foundation's values and to the stewardship of the legacy of our founder Will Keith Kellogg is noteworthy, as well as his responsibility, prudence and sound judgment," says said La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the Kellogg Foundation. "I look forward to Don's contributions that will help us champion community-led solutions for children so that they can all reach their full potential."
 
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes.  Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to help break the cycle of poverty by removing barriers based on race or income that hold back children, so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
 
Writer: Second Wave staff
Source: W.K. Kellogg Foundation

For Omega Computer Services it's about more than technology

Rapidly growing business has meant a change in surroundings for Omega Computer Services.

The company that got its start working for businesses like Stryker and the Kellogg Co. outgrew its space in the Kingsedge office building off Kings Highway and in November relocated the the heart of downtown. Now the IT support business is across from the Arcadia Creek Festival Place, at 167 E. Kalamazoo Ave.

Business is up by 600 percent as the company built on the loyalty of large corporations has branched out into new areas and now serves businesses of all sizes across Southwest Michigan and even the east side of the state.

"2013 was a big year for us," says Ron Harris, CTO. Changes the company made at the end of 2012 to create new managed services packages paid off in a big way the following year. Omega Computer Services has found its niche in part by offering new hardware as part of its packages.

Harris says that often companies hang on to their technology beyond the useful life of the equipment. Starting out a managed service contract with new equipment increases efficiency and means as an outsourced IT department Omega Computer Services spends less time on emergency repairs. 

For some companies, Omega Computer Services provides all IT functions and for others it works with in-house IT staff. For its customers, Omega develops, manages, and protects computers, phones, networks, and data.

Omega Computer Services is locally owned and has been in business since 1994. With the recent growth spurt its staff has expanded to six full-time employees. Contract employees can bring that number to 12 at times.

The company went from a space with 800 square feet to 3,000 square feet to accommodate its growing staff and to offer customers a nicer, larger office with a more professional look to it, Harris says.

The move also was intended to increase the company's visibility in the community. "We want people to know we are here," Harris says.

Omega emphasizes building relationships with customers that last, based on finding the technology that is the best fit for the company. They find out about the people who will be using the technology and how it will be used to come up with the right solution. "We do what's best for their business, not their technology," Harris says.

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Ron Harris, Omega Computer Services

Kalexsyn provides new tool to its scientists

Companies that do research for other pharmaceutical companies--contract research organizations--are among the innovators that are making a name for themselves in Southwest Michigan. 
 
One of those, Kalexsyn, recently announced every chemist on its staff will have access to SciFinder, which combines databases with advanced search and analysis technologies. It provides researchers with chemical information that is publicly disclosed, high quality, and from a reliable source.
 
Kalexsyn has entered into a three-year agreement with Chemical Abstracts Services, the maker of SciFinder to receive access to the service.
 
Chemical Abstracts Services says 47 of the top 50 pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and 46 of the top 50 chemical organizations around the world rely on SciFinder to save time and money by learning from previously disclosed research that is collected, organized and made discoverable by CAS.
 
The company says a team of scientists worldwide curates and controls the quality of the Chemical Abstracts Services databases, which it says are recognized as the most comprehensive and authoritative by chemical and pharmaceutical companies, universities, government organizations and patent offices around the world.
 
"There's no other service that offers what SciFinder brings to the lab," says Dr. Robert Gadwood, president and chief scientific officer at Kalexsyn.

Founded in 2003, Kalexsyn's scientists on average have 15 years each of experience in medicinal chemistry needed in drug development research. The company offers clients both tailored short- and long-term contract arrangements.  

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Kalexsyn
 

Final design set for East Hall

The original core of East Hall, the birthplace of Western Michigan University, will be the sole focus of renovations of the building into the new alumni center.

The renovation is intended to preserve the building's historic designation and at the same time incorporate a high level of sustainable building features.

A decision about the final building configuration was made so that design work could be finished in anticipation of a spring 2014 start to construction. Construction of the new WMU Alumni Center is expected to be complete by summer 2015.

The north and south wings of the building, built in 1908 and 1909, respectively, will be demolished before construction on the alumni center begins, with the likely timetable for demolition likely to be late February or early March. During the design process, WMU officials said it would take nearly $20 million in additional funding to preserve the exteriors of the wings and conserve the interiors for future use.

University officials and teams from design firm TowerPinkster visited other alumni centers around the nation to see some projects of similar size and budget including those at Iowa State and Kansas State universities as well as renovated facilities at the University of Notre Dame and the Kresge Foundation.

The budget for the WMU Alumni Center has been set at $21.4 million. Funds include $15 million borrowed by the University in the fall as well as $1 million donated by the WMU Alumni Association. The remaining $5 million-plus will come from additional private gifts. Funds raised in excess of the project budget will go into landscaping for the site.

"People are genuinely excited about the potential for this project," says Jim Thomas, WMU vice president for development and alumni relations. "We're working to build a center that preserves and transforms the University's birthplace into a facility that serves both the campus and community and showcases that long and strong relationship."

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Cheryl Roland, Western Michigan University

Students learn power of native plants

When spring comes back to Kalamazoo students at the Kazoo School will be able to see the results of the work they did on a cold day in December.
 
In a project that brought together the Kalamazoo County Land Bank, 4-H, and Kazoo School, in December students participated in a daylong event. Community service, environmental education, and hands on learning were all part of the day. 
 
Students from preschool through eighth grade participated by planting bare root plants that will be stored at the Riverview Launch site over the winter. They will be dormant over the winter months  and planted once mature in the spring.  
 
Mike Holmes from Naylor Landscape Management talked to the students about the importance of native plantings, including pollination, soil stabilization and habitat restoration.  
 
Mike DeDitius from the Land Bank spoke to the children about how a community can transform a vacant structure when they come together and the importance of volunteerism and community service.  
 
Evan Granito from 4-H spoke about using the 4 H’s, head, heart, hands, and health to get the project done in a way in which students learn many lessons.
 
"Environmental sustainability is central to the experience at Kazoo School," says Brendan Sheerin, Principal of the Kazoo School, "and we welcomed this opportunity to work with Kalamazoo County Land Bank and 4-H on this important Community Project."
 
The Land Bank is looking forward to other such partnerships around youth programming at the site. 
 
"This early effort demonstrates the potential for the community to come together and make positive changes in our community while also providing valuable learning opportunities,” says Kelly Clarke, Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Land Bank. 
 
Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media 
Source: Kelly Clark, Kalamazoo Land Bank

Open Doors offers more affordable housing

Fifteen working families will have the opportunity to avoid or overcome homelessness as Open Doors Kalamazoo expands its affordable housing program through the purchase of a 15-unit apartment building.
 
The property at 3611 Duke Street in Kalamazoo has eight two-bedroom apartments, three two-bedroom apartments, and four one-bedroom apartments.
 
Open Doors Kalamazoo purchased the new property for $320,000. The organization says that "a remarkable deal when you consider that it will provide homes to 15 households."
 
An additional $52,000 worth of upgrades to the buildings are expected to be made, including new roofs.  
 
The purchase and upgrading of these apartments was made possible by a grant from the Van Domelen Foundation.
 
Open Doors Kalamazoo partners with low-wage working men and women to give them the power to support themselves and their families and overcome or avoid homelessness. Through housing, partnerships, and advocacy, Open Doors Kalamazoo has been helping individuals and families overcome homelessness since 1970.
 
Open Doors Kalamazoo now provides 95 units of housing to help low-wage workers avoid or overcome homelessness. Those units range from single rooms to studio apartments to one- to three-bedroom apartments across Kalamazoo. 
 
"We recently were able to provide a two-bedroom apartment to a mom with two children who has held a steady job for two years," says  Rick Stravers, Executive Director of Open Doors Kalamazoo. "She takes home about $1,000 a month and was paying $580 monthly for rent, leaving only $420 for all the other expenses for her family. In Open Doors’ housing she will now pay $350 monthly for a two-bedroom unit."
 
Residents in Open Doors Kalamazoo’s affordable housing program enjoy affordable homes coupled with personal support for maintaining employment and stability. The cost is affordable to workers earning minimum wage. 
 
“The need for lower cost housing for working families facing homelessness is intense,” Stravers says.
 
Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Joanna Randazzo, Open Doors Kalamazoo

Decorating roots run deep for Hite family

One of the newest stores on the Kalamazoo Mall, Hite House Couture, comes with a history that goes back to a coal mining town in the early 1900s.

In rural West Virginia, Edna Lilly wanted her house to be beautiful. She was married, raising eight children with her coal miner husband, and taking in laundry to keep food on the table. 
 
With unfailing resourcefulness she stained her walls with crushed red berries for a blush of color. With her pedal driven Singer sewing machine she took old seed sacks and made charming curtains for her windows. She altered clothes and old linens donated from church into something new. For Edna, financial circumstances became her creative inspiration. 
 
Edna passed that creativity and industrious nature on to her youngest daughter, Ellie. She not only learned to sew by age 12, she took tailoring classes paid for by working odd jobs and began designing the high-end fashions she longed for and otherwise could not afford. 
 
Ellie never stopped designing and creating through the years as she began her own family, cared for her aging parents and nursed her husband dying of pancreatic cancer. In 2006 she was able to turn her attention to her creative endeavors and was joined by her two daughters, Vicki and Julie. They made their designs for the home in Kalamazoo and opened a retail showroom in New Buffalo, primarily providing custom design services for homeowners in the Greater Chicago Areas and Southwest Michigan.  
 
Now, in addition to custom design, they are making ready-made styles for the home in their workroom in Kalamazoo.   
 
Through the years they have developed a loyal following among realtors in the Chicago area, as they work with them to stage homes for sale. Through word of mouth they also have built clientele among home owners decorating their second homes in communities along Lake Michigan. Customers often start out asking for designs for one room and "they come back asking for each room of the house to be decorated," says Julie Hite. A four-story town house on Navy Pier in Chicago is one example.
 
The decision to open a store on the Kalamazoo mall in early December came about as the three women decided logistics of making their creations in Kalamazoo and taking them to New Buffalo to sell was becoming more difficult. They also were looking for a spot less dependent on seasonal traffic. A feasibility study conducted for Hite House Couture by WMU and the culture of downtown Kalamazoo convinced them to move to the vacant storefront between V&A and Gazelle Sports, which used to be a favorite lunch spot. 
 
"We’ve always love the culture of downtown, with the art hops and festivals. It’s a very nice fit," Julie Hite says. "We wanted to be in the middle of the hustle and bustel and now we are smack in the middle of it."
 
Pillows, draperies, table runners, bed linens, all the accoutrements of a well-dress house, are offered at Hite House Couture. Items that are not made by the family but that are ordered through the store can be customized. For example, drapes can be hemmed.
 
The three women also are working to get their inventory online.
 
The 1,750-square-foot store, with workroom in back, offers room for expansion. The shop employs Ellie and Julie Hite. Vicky has a second job but also helps with the home design store. 
 
The woman-owned business that features their own made-in-Michigan goods will participate in the Jan. 10 art hop.

The family's roots in Kalamazoo also are strong ones. Hite says she grew up visiting Jacobson's Store for the Home on the mall with her mother. Now from her shop, Hite can look across the mall and see the same doors that opened onto the store that sparked her future.
 
Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Julie Hite, Hite House Couture

The Station adds shop for dance wear and more

The Station in downtown Kalamazoo is right on track for where the business had hoped to be at this point. As part of the plan, a new dance wear shop has opened in part of the space that once was home to regional streetcars and has been completely renovated into an hourly studio rental business.

The dancewear store opened right before Christmas; the retail component had been envisioned as the second part of the business since The Station opened in 2012. It fits naturally with the studio rental portion of the business, that caters largely to dance instruction but also offers space for many other uses.

Two studio spaces and its Market Studio, an outdoor covered alcove where renters can sell produce and wares, hold a performance, or accommodate overflow to their indoor event, are available.

Fitted with professionally installed mirrors, sprung dance floors, and barres the studios have attracted dance instruction.  Pilates classes, martial arts, ballroom dancing and body works classes all are currently taught there.

"We have classes five to six days a week," says Jennifer Ward, owner of The Station. And there still is capacity for others to rent the space.

Group instruction of any kind, meetings, rehearsals and other activities all are welcome, says Ward. The studios measure 17 by 35 square feet and 20 by 40 square feet.

The very tall design of the building has led Ward to get creative in setting up the retail portion of the business, using the vertical space to create a haberdashery type feel to the store.

When selecting her merchandise, Ward made a point of carefully seeking out companies that either make their goods in the United States or those that have high standards in terms of working conditions and wages for their workers. She carries dance wear by Motionwear (made in Indianapolis), Mondor, Sansha, Freed (made in England), and Eurotard.

The shop was one needed in local marketplace, as dancers previously either traveled to Grand Rapids or purchased their dance attire online, says Ward. Online purchases of dancewear can be challenging as it is difficult to tell the type of fabric being used and how the apparel will look once it is on.

In addition to dancewear, the shop will carry apparel that is dance inspired. "You don't have to be a dancer to come in," Ward says.

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Jennifer Ward, The Station

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