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Rising Dough: Brazilian bread start-up aims to double sales after graduating Can-Do Kitchen

Four years turned out to be just the right baking time for Brazilian Oven LLC

Launched in 2012 through the Can-Do Kitchen, the region’s only maker of Brazilian cheese bread has “graduated” from the food-business incubator and now is rolling out its signature product in a larger facility at Bakewell in Portage. 

Brazilian Oven’s founder, Silvana Quadros Russell, moved to the United States from Brazil in 1995. She missed Pão de queijo from back home and in 1999 started baking her own version of the naturally gluten-free cheese bread, made with tapioca flour and a blend of three types of cheeses. The chewy, cheesy rolls with a crisp crust were a hit at local social events. 

Realizing an American market was hungry for her unique product, Russell connected with Kalamazoo’s Can-Do Kitchen, a nonprofit that fosters food start-ups through education, access to commercial kitchen facilities, scholarships and other resources. Previous Can-Do Kitchen graduates include The Cheese Lady, Free Love Bakery, TCB Food Processing and Kaleamazoo Chips.

Russell credits Can-Do Kitchen with allowing her to move forward as an entrepreneur without worrying about overhead costs. “Although cheese bread rolls have been around in South America for over 200 years, it’s a new product here in the United States,” she says. “I needed to test the market and make sure this new product would be well accepted here before making any big commitment. Can-Do Kitchen played an important role in my decision to start this business.” (Read more about Russell and the origins of Brazilian Oven in this 2014 article.)

The new location at Bakewell offers Brazilian Oven more manufacturing capacity and storage space, enabling Russell to increase production. She says she hopes to double her sales compared to last year. Cheese bread lovers already can find the all-natural, quick-frozen rolls in more than 30 stores, including select Whole Foods locations in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. Baked from frozen at 400 degrees, they’re ready to eat in 15-17 minutes. 

Growth is baked into Brazilian Oven’s strategy. “Since day one when I started this business I had one idea in mind: Go big or go home!” Russell says. “I knew in my heart that selling at the Farmers Market and some local events was only the beginning. Now that we have room to expand, we will look for distribution in order to have our products in different venues.”

Family is also a critical ingredient in this enterprise. Russell says the company has two part-time employees who help with manufacturing. “But my husband, my daughter and my son are the ones I have counted on since the beginning. You know, not all that glitters is gold; we all have our idiosyncrasies. But they’ve been there for me through thick and thin, and I’m thankful for that.” 

In fact, “I tell them, ‘A family that makes cheese bread together stays together.’”

Writer: Cathie Schau, Southwest Michigan's Second Wave
Source: Silvana Russell, Brazilian Oven LLC and Can-Do Kitchen

Health and wellness center at Lakeside for Children ready to go up

Ground has been broken on a new 12,500 square-foot health and wellness center at Lakeside for Children. 

Classrooms, a multipurpose room, a regulation-size high school athletic court, and lockers will all be part of the new building. Funds from the $2.3 million fundraising campaign "Sound Mind. Sound Body" will go toward construction of the new center.

"This new center will help us provide essential health and wellness programming to our growing population of teens, ages 12 to 18," says  Amy Upjohn, honorary campaign co-chair. "Countless studies demonstrate that fitness and wellness combined with quality classroom experiences and counseling greatly helps at-risk students to recover and progress toward a healthy future."

With the new center students at Lakeside for Children will take a big step toward a healthy future, she adds.

Miller-Davis will provide construction management for the center designed by Eckert- Wordell Architects. The new center replaces a small, outmoded gymnasium that was built in the 1960s for a smaller group of elementary school aged children.

The 48-acre Lakeside for Children campus on Oakland Drive in Kalamazoo has been a residential setting for troubled children for more than 100 years. One of the oldest social service agencies in Kalamazoo County, Lakeside currently serves more than 120 at-risk boys and girls, ages 12 to 18 in a residential setting. 

Lakeside officials say students learn "vital life skills and behaviors in a caring and hope-filled supportive environment."

Young people are referred to Lakeside through the juvenile justice system and human service agencies in Michigan and several other states, Lakeside students live in family-style cottages and attend year-round school at Lakeside Academy, a strict-discipline charter school authorized by Kalamazoo Regional Educational Services Agency and located on the Lakeside campus.

Education at Lakeside is conducted in partnership with Sequel Youth and Family Services and its curriculum is designed to meet the behavioral and emotional needs of its students. 

Source: Lakeside for Children

OptiMed Specialty Pharmacy plans to grow in Oshtemo

OptiMed Specialty Pharmacy has decided to build its national headquarters in Oshtemo Township. 

The company will share a 34,830 square-foot building at 6480 Technology Ave. The building received township Zoning Board of Appeals approval in April.

The OptiMed headquarters project is expected to generate approximately $1.2 million in capital investment and create 77 new jobs. As a result the company received a $500,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant. 

Michigan was chosen over competing sites in California and Louisiana. OptiMed indicated the area’s economic diversity, broad talent pool, and community support caused it to select the Oshtemo site. Southwest Michigan First offered staff time and resources in support of the project.

CEO of OptiMed Specialty Pharmacy Andrew Reeves says the company is excited to build its headquarters in the Kalamazoo area.

"Our patient-focused care and our unique ability to address unmet patient needs have been the driving forces behind our growth," Reeves says, "and we look forward to continuing our commitment to provide high-level patient care to the local and national communities."

"Specialty pharmacy" is the term used to describe a pharmacy that is can handle certain medications and has designed services to meet the particular needs of patients who take medications to treat complex medical conditions like anemia, cancer, hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, among others.

OptiMed specializes in caring for individuals with rare and complex conditions such as immune disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, HIV, hepatitis C and multiple sclerosis.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Island Festival to move near Growler Stadium, no longer in it

With the return of a member of the Deering festival dynasty, the Kalamazoo Island Fest is getting off the ball field and returning to its June spot on the calendar.

The reggae/Caribbean music and food festival will be near the Growlers Stadium, on a grassy field at Mayor's Riverfront Park June 16-18.

Emily Deering wants to keep her family's festival traditions strong, she says, but another of her reasons for getting back to the family business is to raise awareness and funds for Huntingdon's disease. 

Her father Wayne Deering co-founded the fest, with Paul Toth, in 1996, but handed off Island Fest to Tom Jennings and David Bauman last year. 

Emily joined Jennings and Bauman as a coordinator for this year's fest. Last year was a "success," she says, but "we lost some of our ambiance by being inside the ball diamond." So this year, the festival will be out on the grassy field north-west of the stadium.

It will be packed with 50 craft and food booths, featuring art, goods and cuisine from all over the world, she says. There will be 30 hours of reggae, with local, regional and international artists. Saturday night headliner Warrior King, from Clarendon Parish, Jamaica, describes himself as "an ambassador of uplifting reggae."  

"Island Fest is, I think, one of the most diverse events happening in Kalamazoo," Deering says. "I'll walk through there on set-up day, and there are about ten different languages being spoken, from all over.... We need that. We really need events, in this day and age, that celebrate people and don't have an agenda -- we're just here to celebrate each other's cultures."

She's had much experience with the complexities of putting on a big show. Deering's family had been in the festival business "forever. I was in my Mom's belly for Taste of Kalamazoo (another Wayne Deering festival) when that started. It's so nice this year, as an adult, to be able to help my family with this."

That help for her family includes raising awareness for Huntingdon's, a hereditary, degenerative disease of the nervous system, described as  "having Parkinson's, ALS, and Alzheimer's simultaneously," Deering says.

Offsprings of sufferers have a 50 per cent chance of carrying the gene for the disease. "It affects my family pretty directly," she says. A cousin of her mother's carries the gene, and his children are at risk. 

There is no cure, and few treatment options. There is some hope, she says, pointing to a recent story that came out of Hopkins, of a family raising sheep that may help sufferers.

The sheep have a genetic mutation that produces an over-abundance of a natural nerve-protector that Huntingdon's sufferers lack. "But in order to keep moving those treatments forward, there needs to be an awareness and some funding," Deering says. 

There's one big connection to the disease and roots music -- Huntingdon's was relatively unknown in the 1950s, when beloved American folk singer Woody Guthrie was hospitalized with it at age 43. He died from the disease at 55. Proceeds of Island Fest will go to Huntingdon's Disease Society of America, founded by wife Marjorie Guthrie.  

Freelance journalist Mark Wedel has covered a bewildering number of subjects since 1992. For more information, see his website.

Festival coordinator Emily Deering on the Mayors’ Riverfront Park site of the 2016 Kalamazoo Island Festival.  Photo by Mark Wedel

Festival season is well upon us. If you weren't paying attention you already missed Greek Fest last weekend (June 2-4). Here's what's coming up:
Kalamazoo Pride: June 10 and 11
Kalamazoo Island Fest: June 16, 17,18
Family Fest: June 16
Kalamazoo Irish Fest: June 17,18
Kalamazoo Blues Festival: July 7, 8, 9
Black Arts Festival: July 11-17
Kalamazoo Ribfest: Aug. 4, 5, 6
Kalamazoo County Fair: Aug. 8-13
Audiotree Music Festival: Aug. 20
Kalamazoo Scottish Fest and Highland Games: Aug 27
Food Truck Rally: Sept. 16

New ashiatsu studio hopes to attract massage holdouts with unique therapies

Eva Borcherding wants to introduce the St. Joseph and Benton Harbor communities to a massage style that’s firmly within their comfort zone. 

Her startup, Eva's Ashiatsu Massage, an ashiatsu and Ashi/Thai massage studio, just celebrated its grand opening at 3665 S. Lakeshore Drive No. 5, St. Joseph. "People aren’t as familiar with ashiatsu and Ashi/Thai massage. I’m hoping to do some demonstrations and help people to fall in love with those types of massages as much as I have," Borcherding says. 

Ashiatsu is a centuries-old type of barefoot massage in which the therapist walks on the client's back, using bars and other props for support to vary pressure and weight. Ashi/Thai massage is a type of assisted yoga. For Ashi/Thai, the client wears loose, comfortable clothing, Borcherding says. 

She hopes her style of massage attracts people who’ve avoided it so far. "They think it’s a luxury. They don’t understand how proactive it is when it comes to health, how it can help prevent injury and even surgery." Shyness may be a factor, too. "Part of (the reluctance) for some people is it’s difficult to let a stranger touch them, let alone have to take their clothes off. The wonderful thing about Ashi/Thai massage is that it’s clothed massage. The client is wearing loose comfortable clothing."

Eva's Ashiatsu Massage also offers deep tissue and medical massage, as well as Indian Head Massage, facial massage and reflexology – modalities "where people can get massage for relaxation or myofascial release or neuromuscular health, without having to get so far out of their comfort zone." 

A licensed massage therapist, Borcherding studied massage in Arizona and has been practicing since 2010. Having her own studio allows her to market her services more broadly than when she practiced out of her home, she says. 

The economic development organization Cornerstone Alliance in Benton Harbor helped Borcherding plan and finance her start-up, through its Small Business Services and Women's Business Center. 

"They gave me a lot of encouragement," she says. "They helped me create a business plan and obtain a microloan, and they’ve got ongoing trainings and network events I’m looking forward to attending." The Cornerstone Alliance Small Business Services program focuses on income-disadvantaged and women-owned businesses. 

Looking ahead, Borcherding wants to promote ashiatsu in the community and become known as an "ashiatsu artist," she says. "The first couple years I just want to build my clientele and get established, and from there I think I might like to expand, but I’m playing it by ear." 

Eva's Ashiatsu Massage is open Mondays through Fridays, and Sundays, 10 am to 6 pm. Appointments are available by calling (269) 930-0246 or visiting The studio is also on Facebook.

Writer: Cathie Schau, Southwest Michigan's Second Wave
Source: Eva Borcherding, Eva's Ashiatsu Massage


Activate: Midwest gives audiences first peek at brand new plays

Because new plays are integral to the future of American theater there is Active: Midwest. The Western Michigan University Departments of theater and English will host the event June 16, 17 and 18. The festival, now in its second year, offers emerging playwrights and actors an opportunity to work next to professional playwrights.

"New play development is vital to the future of American theater, and it is happening at every major theater in the country, so why not here on our college campus?" asks WMU theater professor Mark Liermann. "We are very excited to be training our students in this work – to be engaging with these tremendously talented playwrights creating new work."

The festival is also seen as an event that puts Kalamazoo and WMU in the spotlight. “There is no doubt that Activate: Midwest will both strengthen the work of local artists through professional engagement and also provide local arts patrons with an exciting new venture," says  Dr. Joan Herrington of WMU theater. "And…it will be one more arrow pointing to Kalamazoo on the national map."

Activate: Midwest begins to come together when WMU puts out a call for plays and receives submissions from across the region. A play selection committee read plays over the winter and selects four to be featured in the summer festival, which takes place at Western Michigan University’s Gilmore Theater Complex.

In a festival like this audiences are a central part of the playwriting process as they may be witness to the first public presentation of these works. The response of the audience and their input in post-play discussions also will significantly impact the future of the new works. WMU's Theatre Department says it can be exciting for audience members to share work early in its life and gain great insight into the artistic process and the role of both artists and audiences in shaping a play.

Theater professionals from Chicago will be in Kalamazoo the week of June 13 to provide feedback to the playwrights. WMU students and local alums are the cast in the productions that are staged with some props but are not full productions. After the festival, one play will be selected to receive a workshop production in Chicago later in the summer, presented by WMU.

Directors are Kevin Dodd (Festival Director), Joan Herrington (WMU theater Chair and founder), Mark Liermann (WMU theater faculty), and Tucker Rafferty (local KRESA teacher and playwright).

The Activate-Midwest Festival also combines resources with WMU’s New Play Project, a class which is co-sponsored by WMU’s Playwriting Program and the Department of Theatre. It is one of the few theater departments in the country with this kind of consistent focus on new work. 

"The merging of the New Play Project – now in its thirteenth summer – with the Activate: Midwest play festival," says Dr. Steve Feffer of the WMU Playwriting Program, "will allow our student playwrights and actors to work side by side with professional playwrights in experiencing the new play rehearsal process and in developing their own work."

This year's festival schedule

Thursday, June 16, 7:30 p.m.- Keynote speaker Steven Dietz, with his new play in process Mad Beat Hip Gone, followed by a Q&A. Mad Beat Hip Gone: A road trip – running from your past – searching for something unknown – and running into the greatest beat poets of all time on your way. Fueled by Steven Dietz’s characteristic humor and his signature bittersweetness, this is is the story of two young men stuck between two places and unable to find a home in either.

Friday, June 17,  7:30 p.m. – Borrowed Babies by Jennifer Blackmer, followed by a discussion with the playwright. As Judy London nears the end of her career as a Professor of Home Economics, an encounter with one of her former “practice babies” leads her to question her life’s journey, and the sacrifices she’s made on the way.

Saturday, June 18, noon – Good Enough by Cara Beth Heath, followed by a discussion with the playwright. Only a Gibson is Good Enough. This play takes us back to a time where America was making war while the women of Kalamazoo were making guitars. Following the journeys of Irene, Helen, Alice, Jenny, Mary Jane, Delores, and June. Good Enough takes an unyielding look at these women’s lives, loves, and the way they must live in a world at war. With tension taut as the strings of a Gibson guitar, these women must navigate their place in an ever-shifting landscape, constantly wondering if history will remember their unique contribution to American music and the war effort. They are kept alive by the music that emanated from the instruments they crafted.

Saturday, June 18, 5 p.m. – Faces and Names by Max Bush, followed by a discussion with the playwright. CJ is struggling with an event that happened five years ago. Kristin, a journalism student, is found early one morning on campus, unconscious, naked, with blood on her. CJ decides to help Kristin by approaching the suspected attacker. Kristin does a series of interviews with two young Iraqi women concerning Khatana, or the mutilation of young girls. As CJ becomes more involved with the alleged attacker, the interviews with the Iraqi girls become more and more problematic.

Saturday, June 18, 8 p.m. - Pocketful of Sand by Emily Dendinger, followed by a discussion with the playwright. Eight minutes. That’s how long it takes for a soul to dry up before it can be preserved by the sea. This play introduces us to an old man named Coco who harvests souls from bodies he pulls from the sea, and how he comes to teach his trade to a young orphan girl named Sunny. As the more sinister aspects of Coco’s work begin to emerge, however, Sunny must decide for herself whether or not the work they are doing outweighs the costs.

All events are free. No reservations are necessary. Activate: Midwest is made possible by contributions from the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, WMU Cultural Events Committee and the WMU English Department.

Source: Emily Duguay, WMU Theatre Department

Store dedicated to water paddle sports opens in Benton Harbor

A new store in Benton Harbor is all about those who want to get out on the water in a kayak, stand-up paddleboards, or canoe. Third Coast Paddling recently opened at 241 E. Main Street in the Benton Harbor Arts District.

Third Coast Paddling is the third retail location in the Third Coast Surf Shop family of stores. Other locations are at 212 State Street in St. Joseph and at 110 N. Whittaker Street in New Buffalo. 

The group of three stores is building on a nationwide trend that has seen a rise in the use of kayaks, paddleboard, rafts and canoes in the past five years. In 2014, 21.7 million Americans -- 7.4 percent of the population -- enjoyed paddling. This represents an increase of more than 3 million participants since the study for the Special Report on Paddlesports began in 2010. 

Kayaking is the most popular form of paddling, increasing from 3 percent of Americans participating in 2010 to 4.4 percent in 2014. Overall, kayaking is most popular among young adults, ages 18 to 24 and a majority of participants in this age group -- 62 percent -- are female.

Third Coast Paddling recently celebrated its grand opening with festivities including a cook-out for customers and demonstrations of kayaks and paddleboards. It has four employees.

The new Benton Harbor store previously was home to Yakz, which was purchased by Third Coast Paddling earlier this year. Vern Jorgensen, the owner of Yakz, had thoroughly remodeled the space when he first opened the business. 

Third Coast bought the building and the inventory that has since been sold at reduced prices. "We have filled the space with new inventory this spring -- it is exciting to get deliveries of 50 kayaks to the store at a time," says Erin Gerard, Marketing Coordinator for Third Coast Surf Shop and Third Coast Paddling.

Third Coast Paddling  also is a one-stop shop for anyone interested in learning more about kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals, which are available for groups of up to 70 people at the following rental sites: 

• In Benton Harbor: at the Paw Paw River boat launch, 601 Graham Avenue, and at Jean Klock Park Beach. 

• In New Buffalo: at the Galien River boat launch, 17440 Red Arrow Highway, and at New Buffalo City Beach.

What's for sale varies from shop to shop. The St. Joseph surf shop is the Third Coast flagship location since as it is open all year. The summer is  busy with the large number of visitors in town, however, the store also has a solid local base to support it in the fall, winter, and spring. It is also a destination for surfers throughout the Midwest, as it has a huge selection of surfboards and related gear that typically can't be found  without going to the West or East Coasts. 

Third Coast opened its first store opened in New Buffalo in 2005, a surf shop along the town's main thoroughfare. Like St. Joseph, the store caters to local customers, but the retail scene in New Buffalo is significantly more seasonal with more second-homeowners, so the store closes for several months in the winter. 

Benton Harbor's Third Coast Paddling retail store is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, For more information about the Third Coast Paddling retail store or kayak or paddleboard rentals, call 269-468-9399, visit their website, or follow Third Coast Paddling on Facebook and Instagram.

Source: Third Coast Paddling

Fare Games offers incentives for food business to locate in Washington Square

What does it take to open a food-based business? How about a deal on the rent for three years in a highly visible location, pro-bono legal counsel, and free interior design services. Would an accountant, marketing, and a cleaning service at no cost help?

The winner of Fare Games will be eligible for those services and more if they decide to apply for the chance to locate in the Washington Square neighborhood in Kalamazoo.

The 1,356-square-foot property at 1301 Portage Street is a key historic property in Washington Square that originally was built to be a bank and has been a drug store and an insurance company. The building still has the high ceilings and historical moldings.  

Finding an occupant for the vacant space is the next step in a process that started three years ago when the Kalamazoo County Land Bank began working with partners to revitalize the historic commercial hub of Washington Square at the heart of Kalamazoo's Edison neighborhood.

New and existing businesses, including a guitar shop, dance studio, and sub sandwich business have located in the once-vacant commercial suites on this block. The one remaining vacant space in Washington Square, 1301 Portage Street, is undergoing renovations in preparation for its next life as a restaurant or other food business.

Fare Games, sponsored by the Kalamazoo County Land Bank, aims to attract a food-based tenant into that space. That could be a restaurant, caterer or food production business. The Fare Games committee is targeting businesses in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, however, those from across the state are welcome to apply.

"We would like to drive traffic to Washington Square as well as engage the community," says Kelly Clarke, executive director of the Land Bank. "We understand that there are different types of food-based businesses and we want to have the competition be as broad as possible so we're keeping the door open to folks who have revenue streams from catering or other means."

If the winning business is not a traditional restaurant the applicant will be asked to demonstrate how it will be engaged in the community. Clarke suggested as an example that they could offer cooking classes or a sit-down area where tea and scones are served to show they will be part of the local community.

The Fare Games committee, formed to oversee the process, says it prefers a business that can show it will provide one or more of the following: unique, healthy and locally-sourced menu options; sit-down dining options; offerings that will draw traffic to Washington Square; assist in efforts to promote Washington Square as a safe and vibrant place for business; have an element of workforce development or community engagement; and create links between the new and existing businesses in Washington Square.

Applications are due Aug. 19, however, food-business applicants are asked to submit a letter of interest by July 15. Those who apply will be asked to be part of a community tasting of their food at the Aug. 5 Washington Square Art Hop.

The Michigan Small Business Development Center, PNC, Chase and Fifth Third are offering coaching services to those who apply. They will receive a review of their business plan and suggestions on their application.

Fare Games is modeled after Iowa's Best Bites, a similar competition that has launched three restaurants. A Land Bank board member heard of the program, suggested it, and Clarke says there has been a lot of energy around it. 

It is too early to tell what kind of response there will be to the request for proposals, but there already has been interest from the food truck community, Clarke says. Food trucks are known to be a place where some brick and mortar restaurants get their start.

“Fare Games,” says committee chair Becky Fulgoni, "is a way to get the community excited about the possibilities for this historic space and to support a talented food entrepreneur with incentives that make it possible to overcome some of the barriers that often prevent people from launching or growing a new business."

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Kelly Clarke, Kalamazoo County Land Bank


New Kellogg Community Federal Credit Union Branch plans fall opening at Corner@Drake

A new, full-service credit union Kellogg Community Federal Credit Union branch is expected to be ready for members by the fall of 2016.

Ground has broken on the new branch at 1650 South Drake Road in Kalamazoo, in the Corner@Drake development. It will be in the same development at Stadium Drive and Drake Road with retailers Costco and Field & Stream are located and represents and geographical expansion for the Battle Creek-based credit union.

“KCFCU is growing, and we believe this area will be a perfect location for us to expand our services," says Tracy Miller, CEO of Kellogg Community Federal Credit Union. “We are proud to be a part of this great community and look forward to serving existing members as well as new members and businesses.”

In addition to service by tellers, the branch will offer members loans, mortgages, investment services, and commercial accounts including lending. It will have a 24 hour ATM, drive through, and night depository services. 

Partners for the project include AVB. Joe Gesmundo, AVB Principal says  Kellogg Community Federal Credit Union has designed a building that will “enhance the aesthetic fabric that will help create the sense of place we are driving for with the Corner@Drake development.”  

KCFCU serves more than 36,000 members through 10 branches in Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Portage, Galesburg, Three Rivers, and Marshall. It is a is a full-service financial institution with more than $479 million in assets.
Source: Kellogg Community Federal Credit Union

Photos Courtesy KCFCU

Architectural rendering of new Kellogg Community Federal Credit Union Branch at the Corner@Drake.

Pictured from left to right are: Curt Aardema-AVB Development Director, Ryan Vlietstra-AVB Commercial Superintendent, Mike Ogrin-KCFCU CFO, Tracy Miller-KCFCU CEO, Linda Williams-KCFCU CDO, Greg Dobson- AVB Principal and COO, Derek Mathieu-AVB Commercial Project Manager, Joe Gesmundo- AVB Principal, Daryl Rynd-AVB Principal, and Tom Fritz-AVB CFO.

Offices to be incubator space for businesses in Battle Creek

Dale Pitchure has finished the renovations and expansion of CherryPointe Offices & Suites, 71 S. 20th St., Battle Creek and he’s ready to show them to the community.

There are 26 individual offices and suites that Pitchure plans to offer at a rate that makes them affordable for business start-ups--starting at $199 a month. The project is intended to serve and encourage the growth of area businesses.

Renovations included new ceilings, electrical, carpeting, paint, trim, and doors, with new furnishings and decor throughout. Each office also comes with its own  4’ x 5’ window, providing plenty of natural lighting. The development also offers a commons area, professional conference room, and staff break room and ample parking.

CherryPointe has  optional two, three, and four office suites and features secure Wi-Fi for a small upcharge. Pitchure believes new businesses also will benefit from the location of the offices, five minutes from I-94 highway and close to Ft. Custer Industrial Park. 

There will be a ribbon cutting celebration for the project at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 24. 

“With affordable rent, we can provide space for entrepreneurs to grow their businesses in a professional, relaxing, and modern environment,” says Pitchure, President and founder of the CherryPointe complex.

“There’s nothing like this dedicated to the incubator concept in Battle Creek,” Pitchure adds. Pitchure says he feels inspired by this group of entrepreneurs: “I’m learning from them every day, and am glad I can contribute to their growth while enhancing our community in return.”

Sources: CherryPointe Offices & Suites, a division Annex Investments, LLC, and Greenstreet Marketing

The Farmers Market is open, so it's almost time for Farmers Night Market

When the best parts of a festival, farmers market, and a food truck rally come together it must be the Farmers Night Market in Kalamazoo.

Night Markets at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market will be from 6 to 10 p.m. June 16, July 21, Aug. 18, and Sept. 15. 

At the opening of the Night Market, on June 16, Zion Lion presents live music to entertain market goers.

Fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, cheeses and other market items will be for sale. Beer and wine sales will benefit local food incubator the Can-Do Kitchen, which recently obtained its nonprofit status. There will also be a bike valet.

And for those who find four night markets are just not enough, this year a fifth Night Market at the Ballpark is scheduled for July 14 at the Mayors Riverfront Park. The evening will feature vendors and a wide variety of foods and artisan goods on the Growlers baseball field. The event is a collaboration with the Kalamazoo Growlers baseball team. 

Many vendors at the Night Markets accept SNAP benefits. There also are many produce vendors who accept Double Up Food Bucks, a program that matches SNAP Bridge Card purchases of Michigan-grown fruit and vegetables dollar-for-dollar. This season, vendors are accepting WIC Project FRESH and Market FRESH Coupons. Local farmers sell more produce and low-income shoppers can afford to buy more produce than they would have through the Food Bucks program.

On the June 16 Night Market opener, People’s Food Co-op also will have its annual meeting. PFC has been building a locally-focused food community since 1970. It has nearly 3,000 member-owners who have invested in the business. 

Source: People’s Food Co-op

South-central Michigan bank spreads West with new branch in Portage

Coldwater-based Southern Michigan Bank & Trust (SMB&T) has extended its southwestern reach with a new Portage branch -- the first newly constructed LEED-certified bank branch in southwestern Michigan, the bank says.

Now open at 531 W. Kilgore (next to Lowe’s and Earth Fare at the corner of Westnedge and Kilgore), the Portage branch joins SMB&T’s roster of locations across the south-central Michigan area, including offices and branches in Coldwater Battle Creek, Camden, Centreville, Constantine, Hillsdale, Marshall, Mendon, Tekonsha, Three Rivers and Union City.

A grand opening celebration for the Portage branch is scheduled for Fri., May 20, from 3-6 p.m. 

The new branch office is part of a development project led by Roger Hinman and Hinman Companies, and the 2,805-square-foot building was designed and constructed to meet LEED certification requirements (green building standards), the bank says.

Cammy Fleckenstein, formerly of Fifth Third Bank, serves as branch manager of the new Portage location.

Eric Anglin, first vice president of retail banking services and chief deposit officer, says the Portage branch eventually will employ six workers. In addition to Fleckenstein, “we have two full-time Universal Bankers (tellers who can do anything from cashing a check to opening an account to closing certain loan types), two part-time Universal Bankers, and eventually, we’ll hire a part-time courier.” 

Anglin says the site offers two ITM’s (Interactive Teller Machines) that allow customers to complete ATM transactions 24 hours per day, while also providing the ability to speak with a live teller via video screen from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In a June 2015 announcement of the new branch’s construction, SMB&T’s CEO and chairman John H. Castle said the bank was eager to bring its services to the Portage and Kalamazoo area, as “the region is enjoying significant growth and is home to a vibrant business community.” 

SMB&T is a subsidiary of Southern Michigan Bancorp, Inc., a bank holding company headquartered in Coldwater. The bank originated in Coldwater in 1872 as Southern Michigan National Bank, and today offers consumer, business and wealth management services at 14 branches within Branch, Calhoun, Hillsdale and St. Joseph Counties and a loan production office in Angola, Indiana.

Writer: Cathie Schau, Second Wave Media
Source: Eric Anglin, Southern Michigan Bank & Trust 

New general manager to join WMUK in July

Western Michigan University’s public radio station, WMUK, is getting a new general manager. 

Stephen Anthony Williams will take the post beginning July 1. He has been general manager for WESM-FM at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore since 2011. He was interim general manager of the station for 18 months before that and had previously been the news and public affairs director and morning news host for the award-winning station.

Williams' background also includes positions with an XM Satellite station and two AM stations in Arlington, Va. Before beginning his broadcast career, Williams taught English as a Peace Corps worker in Africa's Republic of Cameroon. He is a 1999 graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Durham, where he majored in communication and minored in music.

Williams will replace Gordon Bolar, who is retiring June 30 after five years as WMUK general manager and more than 20 years in public radio and public television management.

The station Williams currently works at is similar to WMUK in format, offering a mix of music, news, and public service programming. He says he's excited about the fundamental strengths he found at the station in Kalamazoo.

"The thing that stands out to me most is that WMUK has a truly dedicated staff, and that the administration of Western Michigan University is fully committed and supportive of the station's success," he says. "Importantly, there is also a community of listeners and supporters that stand behind the station, and it's clear to me that both the station and the University are deeply engaged in serving both Kalamazoo and greater southwest Michigan. In my experience, these are critical ingredients for success."

Source: Western Michigan University

Corner Shoppes@Drake retail is next at US-131 and Stadium Drive

Within weeks construction will begin on a retail center, the latest project at the Corner@Drake, developed by AVB at the interchange of US-131 and Stadium Drive.

The new retail center, known as Corner Shoppes@Drake, will feature  20,000 square feet of retail space in two separate buildings. In addition to the usual spaces for retailers in the shopping center, the spots on the ends of the buildings will have drive-through capabilities attractive to restaurants or retailers.

The Corner Shoppes will front on Drake Road and are expected to be completed by winter of 2016. Negotiations are underway with potential tenants and AVB expects the available shopping center space to fill. 

The company says local and national tenants are talking with them. "We are keeping our eyes open to all opportunities that present themselves as we continue those discussions." The company expects several tenants will be new concepts to this market.  

Construction on the 40-acre Corner@Drake development began in November of 2013. It is proceeding as anticipated by AVB and the Corner Shoppes portion of the development is not its final phase. 

The new regional retail center is home to Costco, Field & Stream and Consumers Credit Union. AVB reports that large crowds accompanied the opening of Field & Stream and the momentum for development continues to build. 

Corner@Drake serves as a central retail hub to the 524,000-plus residents in the region. It is centrally located at Stadium Drive and Drake Road and is quickly and easily accessed by the entire region. It also is close to downtown Kalamazoo, Western Michigan University, and Kalamazoo College.

Source: AVB

Changes ahead for Trade Centre Development

Changes are underway at the 32-acre property at the northwest corner of I-94 and South Westnedge Avenue in Portage that is home to two office buildings, a Courtyard by Marriott, and Homewood Suites by Hilton. 

The next phase of the development, a 100,000-square-foot office building, recently received site plan approval. The project will break ground later this year on the property that Roger Hinman and Joe Gesmundo purchased in 2003.

Meanwhile, when the University of Phoenix moved out of 950 Trade Centre Way it created an opening for Spring Arbor University.

Spring Arbor University has been serving the students of greater Kalamazoo area since 1998, with classes in business, nursing, organizational management, social work, and counseling. Spring Arbor was in its former location at 3497 S. 9th Street for over a decade before deciding to move.

“By relocating to the Trade Centre, we are continuing our focus to improve the student experience by enhancing our education with a functional and intentional space,” says Troy Van Go, executive director of Spring Arbor’s western region.

Because the Trade Centre space was previously used for educational purposes, Spring Arbor was able to take advantage of the existing infrastructure left behind by The University of Phoenix, including the classrooms and furniture.

"Our students will experience a more updated facility, improved communication infrastructure, and exceptional equipment and furnishings,” says Van Go. “All in all, this is a great space that will create a dynamic venue for our professional and graduate studies. 950 Trade Centre is also easy to find, being that it is a visible landmark from I-94 and S. Westnedge Avenue."

Source: The Hinman Co.
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