Countdown: Stories readers loved from Southwest Michigan's Second Wave in 2019

Before we leave the last decade behind entirely, we thought we would take a look back at the stories readers loved in 2019. As has become our tradition, we asked the reporters who wrote them to reflect a bit on the pieces. We hope you enjoy this look at the top 10 stories of the year gone by. 

No. 10 Natasha Northcutt and her 3-year-old son Clark.

10. JANE SIMONS | THURSDAY, AUGUST 22, 2019
Who says you can never go home again? Not these Battle Creek believers who are finding lots to like
Battle Creek takes its share of criticism, deserved and undeserved, for not being as vibrant or attractive as its neighboring communities. This story was an opportunity to show that not every young person who grew up and left Battle Creek leaves for good and that there are plenty of reasons to come back.

No. 9 Harold and Laurel Macon raised three children in the Historic Northside neighborhood.

9. JANE SIMONS | THURSDAY, MARCH 07, 2019
Couple from Battle Creek's Historic Northside continue to find ways to help in the community
I got to know Laurel Macon through a yoga class at the YMCA and it was there that I overheard her story and wanted to know more. I am grateful to both Laurel and Harold for trusting me with their story.

No. 8 An advocate of resourceful living, Ben Brown is a model to the community.

8. THERESA COTY O'NEIL | THURSDAY, APRIL 25, 2019
Ben Brown’s Eastside tiny house experiment paves the way for future Kalamazoo small homes
Ben Brown used to play the cross strung harp in a rock band. He had a tomato growing in his window in winter. And in his tiny house, his bed transformed into an office. What a delight to enter the eccentric, experimental, eclectic world of Ben Brown!

No. 7 Steve Walsh, Executive Director of the Vine Neighborhood Association for the past 12 years, has seen a lot of changes in the neighborhood.7. THERESA COTY O'NEIL | THURSDAY, JULY 11, 2019
Kalamazoo’s Vine: A haven for families, students, retirees, Millennials, and nicknames
Having called Kalamazoo home for a long time, it was a delight to discover how Vine has transformed over the years from its old mantle of student party central to a place that's attracting young families who vibe with the neighborhood's artsy, diverse, progressive spirit. 

No. 6 Plans for The Creamery in the Edison neighborhood.

6. AL JONES | THURSDAY, JANUARY 31, 2019
Edison Neighborhood looks forward to The Creamery with its mix of residential and business spaces
Along Portage Street, not far south of the new Creamery project, a driveway runs inconspicuously behind a small row of 3- to 10-year-old businesses. From the 1970s until 2005 it was a dead-end alley that provided back-door access to an adult bookstore and an adjacent stripper club that dominated the Washington Square area for decades. After years of redevelopment, the former red-light district has finally tip-toed into the bright light of respectability and community pride. With The Creamery soon set to dominate the area, it’s becoming difficult to recall what it used to be.

No. 5 Anita Snell makes a dipped cone.

5. JANE SIMONS | THURSDAY, MAY 16, 2019
Three generations of same family has served several generations of neighbors at corner Dairy Queen
It has become rarer and rarer to see the next generations of families taking over businesses that have been in the family for a long time. This story is a testament to a family who believes in keeping what they started.

No. 4 Kalamazoo River Valley Trail officially now part of the Great Lake-to-Lake Trails. Riders dip their rear tire in Lake Michigan before taking off for Lake Huron.

4. MARK WEDEL | THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2019
Ride of 275 miles from Great Lake to Great Lake draws the biking faithful
I’d pedaled out to a picnic table near Gobles where I sat to eat lunch and to try to spot the first GLTL riders. The fastest ones were out front, of course. It’s pretty awkward to wave my sandwich and yell out, ”Hey, are you on the Great Lake-to-Lake Ride?” as they rolled by at around 15 mph. Seeing me with my bike, they replied, ”You need help?” and start to slow down. ”No, no, keep going! I don’t want to stop you but I’m writing a story about this for Second Wave and… Oh, just keep going!” I stuffed my sandwich in my bag and caught up with them at a rest stop in Mentha. 

No. 3 Tim Wygant, right, and his son Jordan, prepare pizza dough at Pizza Sam’s.

3. JANE SIMONS | THURSDAY, APRIL 11, 2019
Familiar faces: The new owner of Pizza Sam's has worked there since he graduated from high school
I loved the idea of this guy who essentially worked at this pizza place all of his life to finally become the owner and manager. A huge plus is that he’s so nice and the pizza is so good!

No. 2 Solomon Carpenter hopes his salon is a model for other Eastside potential business owners to follow their dreams.

2. THERESA COTY O'NEIL | THURSDAY, MAY 02, 2019
Kalamazoo Eastside resident opens positive salon that models a way up the ladder
From the moment I sat down with Solomon Carpenter at Factory Coffee, I knew I had a special story on my hands. With his earnest desire to model integrity and the positive outcome of hard work to others in the neighborhood where he was raised, Solomon was honest about the pain caused by his past choices as a drug dealer. The story was easy to write because he told it so well.

No. 1 The home of the Fire Hub and Food Pantry, a spinoff of FireKeepers Casino.

1. JANE SIMONS | THURSDAY, JANUARY 24, 2019
The Fire Hub restaurant, a casino spinoff, feeds its customers and funds food pantry
I wanted to highlight a unique concept that I hope will be replicated elsewhere. The layout of this food pantry was intentionally designed to preserve the dignity of those who are in need of its services.  This is so important in a time when more of us are working two and three jobs just to get by.

Bonus Don't mess with Japanese Knotweed or you could make it worse.

Bonus story

This story has been in the top 10 every year since it was published in 2016. It if had been written in 2019 it would have ranked No. 8.

8. MARK WEDEL | THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2016
The Japanese Knotweed: Don't try to kill this invader on your own
In a month this story will be four-years-old. And it’s still getting hits. So maybe this little weed is still a problem, one that we should look at again. If anyone in the Southwest Michigan area has been fighting this monster, let me know here.
 

Read more articles by Kathy Jennings.

Kathy Jennings is the managing editor of Southwest Michigan's Second Wave. She is a freelance writer and editor.
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