Sunday, June 21, 2009
MiMM: Hugh, what was your inspiration for creating The ForSaleInator?
HH: To create a product that would help people sell their car or truck faster by providing the potential used vehicle buyer a convenient card reflecting the sellers’ contact & vehicle information in an enclosure so they cards would not blow away or become damaged.
My other inspiration came when prior to being laid off as an Account Financial Director in the GM Business Unit of a Tier One Auto Supplier at the beginning of May, 2008. I was on my way to a meeting at the GM Technical Center in Warren and saw a Saturn Ion For Sale. I didn’t have enough time to stop and write down the information I needed. I figured I could stop on my way back to the office. Unfortunately the car was gone and so was my opportunity to look at and potentially buy it. At the same time the Seller lost an opportunity to sell it.
Had my product been on the vehicle, I could have quickly stopped and retrieved a card on my way to the meeting.
MiMM: What is your favorite feature of this product?
HH: How easy it is to use. Fill out five or six information cards of the fifteen that come with the ForSaleInator, place them into the container, put a FOR SALE Sign on the interior window and capture the stem between the window and door frame (passenger or driver side). Clean, wax and fill the fluids of the vehicle that is being sold then determine how many people have taken an information card and move it to a better location if only one or two have been retieved.
MiMM: Who is your target audience? Who did you create this product for?
HH: I am targeting anyone who is trying to sell their car or truck faster and more effectively. I am also targeting the same people who list their vehicle for sale on one of many free used vehicle ad websites (eg, VEHIX, Craigs List, Kijiji, etc) who want to potentially sell their vehicle to people who do not use the internet and are passing by the vehicle.
MiMM: What question do you get asked the most about this product?
HH: Is the ForSaleInator weatherproof. The labels are laser printed on weatherproof labels. The container is made of plastic with a UV stabilizer additive and is re-useable. The cards will not blow away due to a strap that is formed across the inner container. If a card gets wet I have included a Form File on my website that can be used to fill out additional or replacement cards.
MiMM: That's phenomenal Hugh. Please share with our readers a product success story.
A gentleman had been trying to sell his “2005” Pontiac GTO for several weeks. He placed a free website ad and received five calls with questions to answer about the car. He would get interrupted by people knocking on his door for more information about what the vehicle had on it and in it. Four weeks after the car was listed on the free website listing service he purchased the ForSaleInator and people weren’t knocking at his door. After only five calls from the website ad and more than twelve cards retrieved by potential buyers from the ForSaleInator, he sold the vehicle to a lady who stopped and took an Information Card.
I have spun off two other versions of the ForSaleInator. A Dealership and Residential Contractor version. There are currently four local Dealerships who have purchased the ForSaleInator for their Used Car Lots. They allow a potential customer who shops after hours with an option to take the card with them or leave their contact information on the card and place it in a Dealer mailbox.
The Residential Contractor version allows Landscapers, Painters, Electricians, Pest Control and other contractors who call on or are working at a home to leave the ForSaleInator on their vehicle with a special information card which reflects their expertise, discounts, hours, specialties and contact information for a potential customer who would like their services but do not want to disturb them while they are on a job or working for someone else.
I have been interviewed by TV Warren, Sky News, Manny Lopez for his column in the Detroit News and by reporters from the Warren Weekly, Macomb Daily and Daily Tribune.
I have only been in business for approximately nine months and have sold the Private Seller and Contractor versions of the ForSaleInator throughout the United States.
MiMM: Hugh, we appreciate you taking the time to speak with us today. The ForSaleInator, a product Made in Michigan, is available at http://www.ForSaleInator.com.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Upon entering Six.One.Six, you’ll note a minimalist quality to the place. Sleek, clean lines without clutter and an openness to the entire dining area. Sort of, a less is more philosophy which means the focus here is on the food. To the left is a lounge area with couches and tables for drinks that are bright from the natural light let in from the large windows which offer a view of the river. Beyond the windows is a clean al fresco area for outside dining. Everyone looks comfortable and happy. Ahead is a cook quietly making appetizers in an open area while to the right is a darker, more tranquil area set away from crowd in the lounge. It's soothing really and the sounds from the lounge are barely heard.
We are greeted by manager Michelle Bayink. She has a wonderful smile and personable quality about her. Restaurant owners please take note of the importance of the first impression offered here by the front house. Michelle welcomes us and our hostess takes us to our table. She would return later for a follow up. Our server is Lindsay who gets us started with the drink order. I felt a Riesling from Brys Estate in Traverse City would be in order and consistent in my mission.
Chef Joel comes out to greet us and to explain a few things about Six.One.Six. He briefly reviewed the menu and noted how the restaurant utilizes local food product and commits to buying the best local food available. They get their meat from Sobies Meats, cheese often comes from Dancing Goat Creamery and other assorted dairies, grains and produce from local farms. Further, when the accessibility of Michigan products are not widely available they still look local to Illinois and Ohio. By doing so, Six.One.Six also keeps their carbon footprint to a minimum as well. Finally, he noted a frugality in the kitchen, which he jokingly attributes to his Dutch heritage. This allows the kitchen to purchase quality goods at the higher end because virtually nothing is wasted. This is clearly reflected in the menu.
The menu offers items in three sizes: Petite, Intermediate, and Nourishing with about six or seven offerings in each category and each demonstrating a range of top-shelf ingredients such as endive, Chinese five spice, arugula, saffron, and even fiddleheads which are the young unfurled fronds of a young fern. The menu isn’t limited, it’s focused. In summation, it’s a candy store for foodies. Chef Joel starts us off with the petite dish: Five Spice Smoked Sausage accompanied by an amuse-bouche of smoked rabbit sausage. Both made in-house, highlighting culinary skill, assuring the lack of kitchen waste and maximum yield of high-end offerings. The Five Spice Smoked Sausage is both simple and smart. It’s a clever play on English bangers and mash as it is served with green garlic, leeks, red onion over thin-sliced new potato with an Asian twist. The smoked rabbit sausage was equally delicious.
During this time, we are also greeted by Executive Chef Andrew Voss who spoke very highly of Chef Joel. I applaud him on his menu and for supporting local. He invites us to the garden after our meal for a quick tour. Yes, they have a garden on the premises with the goal of growing a sustainable amount of heirloom varieties of herbs vegetables. Now that’s local flavor. Michelle takes a moment to catch up with us as well. The staff is not bothersome in the slightest. After all, we came to talk to them and fully understand the Six.One.Six experience.
The meal continued. I ordered a Charred Asparagus Salad and Lynn ordered the Flank Steak Flatbread. The asparagus is of the blue and green variety and grown locally. It’s prepared in a brown butter, golden raisin, shallots and beemster, a Dutch recipe cheese and cooked to perfection without over thought. Lynn’s flatbread was huge for an Intermediate dish as it also served as her entrée. It was a homemade flatbread cooked in a fired-oven with flank steak, bleu cheese, arugula, horseradish crème and fried onions. It’s virtually a steak dinner on flatbread. In continuing with my all local theme, I ordered the Dancing Goat Creamery Agnolotti. The Agnolotti is like ravioli but more like little stuffed pillows of soft goat cheese. It’s served with a wild leek and Parmesan broth, fiddleheads, carrot, fennel pollen, and beemster. It really is a delicate balance between heavy and light, but I must confess, I’m full. Lynn opted to try the Warm Chocolate Praline Lava Cake with homemade vanilla gelato. This was top-notch as the cake was just rich enough, without being too sweet and you could actually see the vanilla bean specks in the gelato. Also, to finish your meal, world-class ONO teas, from Novi, are available on the menu as a substitute for coffee.
We finish the meal and adjourn to the outside garden with Chef Andrew and Chef Joel. I listen as they talk about culinary philosophy and the importance of buying and supporting local which both chefs are strong supporters of. They begin to talk about “farm banquets.” These are organized meals prepared at regional farms which use only local foods. It falls in line with the Slow-Foods movement. Further, they noted that they have the capability of hosting, and have done so in the past, a similar meal on-site at the restaurant, given the appropriate amount of lead time. We wrap up the conversation knowing we have solidified new friendships and are warmly welcomed back in the future. This was another extraordinary experience in Grand Rapids.
Just outside of the hotel, across the street, is a convenience store called Zellars Party Store. We were contacted by Terri Smith, through our website, who found us in a Google search. After a couple of swapped emails and a firm itinerary, we scheduled a time to meet up with her after dinner at Six.One.Six. Terri took us on the quick tour of the store which is standard in most respects. It offers basic goods that you expect you might need in a pinch: beer, wine, liquor, snacks, ice cream, milk and that one thing you always forget about that is necessary to the completion of a food project like eggs and sugar. For a small store they carried over 30 Michigan-made items. The unique part of the story is that Terri created a Made in Michigan sticker for those products. This was before we ever met. Further, since they are in the hotel district, she often encourages people to try local products first such as Uncle Ray’s chips, Hudsonville ice-cream, Bareman’s dairy products, Absopure water, and assorted Michigan based beer and wine such as Founders and Chateau Grand Traverse. I give her a roll of stickers provided by the Michigan Tape Inc., in Plymouth, so she does not have to make them on her home computer. It is people like Terri who are going to part of the Movement that will help raise awareness and turn our economy around.
Thank you to Michelle Bayink, our server Lindsay, Sous Chef Joel Wabeke, and Executive Chef Andrew Voss at Six.One.Six for an incredible dining experience. Also, a special thank you to Terri Smith and the staff at Zellars for raising awareness and supporting local first.
Come back tomorrow for Part VI of VI in our blog series from our On the Road series covering our recent trip to Grand Rapids. Tomorrow’s blog will feature San Chez Café and Randy’s Granola.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
We were able to walk to Festival in less than ten minutes from Peaches B&B. Festival, as we discovered, is an event that pays tribute to all of the arts in West Michigan. There were martial arts, culinary arts, literary arts, music, fine arts and my personal favorite art of keeping mustard off my shirt. It never fails and the streak continues. I digress. Festival is on Ottawa Ave. and stretches from the art museum and Michigan St. with branches off on every street. It’s about 10:30AM and this place is already slammed. We’re confident that this is indeed the place to be.
We enter Festival by the Fountain Stage to the sounds of a bluesy-folk musician named Otis Blueswell Jr. I’m distracted though as the air is filled with the scent of grilled food. My caveman-like instincts are alive and if it weren’t for a decent upbringing, I would be drooling. According to the program that we purchased from the local chapter of Red Hats, there are 27 food vendors and each one of them welcomes me. There is everything from Bosnian, to East Indian, Polish, Italian, American, Asian, Dutch, and more. I’ve had ideas that this is what the pathway to Heaven may look like. I’m easy. We were informed by Festival Co-Director Kate Scheid that all of the food vendors were local non-profits and that the booths were their fundraisers. There were church groups, ethnic organizations, and community groups.
The weather was perfect for strolling and people watching. The diversity of entertainment was remarkable. We took in ballet at the Circle Stage, classic rock by Buffalo Cannon on the Clock Tower Stage, and the Grand Rapids Accordion Ensemble at the Calder Stage. The Accordion Ensemble was a twenty member troupe of seasoned players. They were amazing. There was so much going on. You could have enjoyed gospel, jazz, choral music, indie rock, big band, and even spoken word. There was without a doubt something for everyone.
We took time for a little business and stopped to see a friend of the Made in Michigan Movement, Sarah Diem Cash of Diem’s Designs. Sarah is a jewelry maker from Grand Rapids and also on the committee for the Fulton Street Artisan Market. FSAM is a family-oriented outdoor market for artists and also a long-time supporter of the Made in Michigan Movement. We said goodbye and met up with Kevin Kammeraad and Ryan Hipp of The Tomato Collection. Kevin and Ryan collaborated on a children’s book with a Michigan theme. Kevin also appeared on stage for storytelling. What was noticeable throughout the Festival was the impressive number of hands-on activities for people in general but for children. We talked with sculptors and photographers. We really had no idea how big the Arts were in Michigan but they are particularly strong in West Michigan.
We took a moment to interview Co-Chair Kate Scheid who was kind enough to take time from her obviously busy schedule. Kate is from Saginaw and this is her second year of the three year commitment of being part of the Festival management. She remarked how so much of the Festival is possible due to the generosity of volunteers. Kate also noted that great weather helped in the success of this 40th Annual Festival. In minutes, our time with her had passed and back to work she went.
The Festival was a great experience of West Michigan culture and diversity. We want to thank Kate Scheid for taking the time for an on-camera interview and for a job well done. Additionally, we want to thank Sarah Diem Cash, Kevin Kammeraad, and Ryan Hipp for their time as well.
A busy day in the sun, with more to come, forced us to head back to Peaches B&B. We were thirsty and wanted something quick but most places on Fulton St. do not open until dinner. We noticed a bar and grill called The Cottage. It sits off the corner of Fulton, on LaGrave, and the sign is noticeable yet quiet. More importantly, they happen to be open. The Cottage is owned by the Verhill family who also own One Trick Pony which is right next door on Fulton St. It's a darkened building with a low ceiling that boasts a fine collection of steins. It's an old tavern that is still pouring today by a second generation of Verhills. What started as a stop for iced tea became a great experience. They had New Holland Gold Cap Ale on tap and it was cold. Lynn being the more moderate of the two of us held fast to the iced tea. We had no intentions of eating but a bold claim was thrown at me. The manager said that The Cottage holds the title of having Grand Rapids' best burger aptly called The Cottage Burger. I can’t just leave now. So we decided to split the burger and the fries which were allegedly, at the time, the best in Grand Rapids. The Cottage Burger with battered waffle fries was nothing short of amazing. The burger, which comes on a dark rye bun, was cooked perfectly and had two slices of cheese, lettuce, tomato, phenomenal bacon, diced green olives, and hickory mayonnaise. I repeat—amazing. I have never had another burger in Grand Rapids but I assure you this was indeed one of the best.
What? You don’t expect me to work on an empty stomach do you?
Come back tomorrow for Part V of VI in our blog series from our On the Road series covering our recent trip to Grand Rapids. Tomorrow’s blog will feature Six.One.Six and Zellars Party Store.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
A brief walk down Fulton St. from Peaches is the much talked about San Chez: A Tapas Bistro. We arrived at San Chez early for dinner. Originally, San Chez wasn’t even supposed to be in on the tour of downtown Grand Rapids, but a late week cancellation left us with a Friday evening hole in the schedule and owner Dan Gendler came to the rescue after our host, Jane Lovett made a phone call. He invited us to dine at his establishment which is known for its Spanish tapas. Neither Lynn nor I have had tapas before, so we were skeptical because of the whole “small plates” concept. I just kept thinking, Spanish or not, I’m leaving hungry for sure. Dan Gendler introduced me to my much needed attitude adjustment.
The restaurant is alive with color and tile work. The blues, whites, tera cotta, turquoises are simply neat. It’s not over the top, but fittingly just right. The dining room had only a few patrons upon entering, but we were not there even five minutes, when the place just filled up. Timing is everything. The sizzle and precision chatter is coming from just behind us as Executive Chef Shawn Phillip’s team is ready for business.
We were seated immediately and greeted by Liz, our server. She’s polite and cheery. We explain that we are new to Grand Rapids and tapas so she walks us through it making recommendations and that sharing is strictly encouraged, but only after we start with what could possibly be the best Mojito north of the Tortugas. Everything on the menu sounds fantastic but I really want paella. I reserve ordering the paella as the place already has promise for a return trip. The manager, Jes Savino, stops by to greet us and sit for a moment to talk a little about San Chez. This young woman is electric. Her personality radiates with a smile that lights up a room. She takes the time to explain some of the popular items on the menu but pays special attention to items that are made with fresh local ingredients, wild caught, organic, and Michigan seasonal fares. San Chez is a participating member of the Local First organization that strives to support the local economy as much as possible. That’s the synergy I look for. Earn it here. Spend it here. Keep it here. It was time to order.
Everything on the menu appeared to be what I want. So I threw caution to the wind and let Jes and Liz choose our experience for us. Nothing was out of bounds. San Chez is considered by many to be a “destination restaurant.” We, as well as the table next to us, drove over two hours to be here. That’s how you know it good and we haven’t even had a bite yet. I asked the ladies to order any nine items from the tapas menu and one dessert. It was on.
We started off with a Pan a la Plancha with Serrano ham. It is homemade bread with an heirloom tomato sauce and Spanish ham. The meal was perfectly timed and spaced out with never a rush. Jes told us that a diner spends an hour and a half in the restaurant on average per stay. It’s relaxing and enjoyable; something foreign to guy who is used to quick meals, but really enjoyable. The Champinons were a seared mushrooms with a chorizo and parsley stuffing. Blue cheese fritters. Berejena Azul which was a perfectly blackened eggplant cross-slice with pequillo peppers and Dancing Goat cheese topped with a drizzle of organic honey. Bistec de Lomo was a medium-rare tenderloin, saffron onions, and a blueberry glace. Ostras de Kumamto were the seasonal Kumamto oysters, with gazpacho ice and Spanish sherry. I want a snow cone of gazpacho ice next time!
My three favorites were the Pimiento Relleno. This was a cheese stuffed pablano pepper with a corn-black bean/raspberry chili guava salsa. Incredible. Further, there was the Atun de Escabeche which is a perfectly cooked herb-seared Ahi tuna served rare, served on a spicy mango puree and salsa verde with carrot and leek ribbons. Wonderful. Finally, the Gambas Asadas al Fuego. These were spicy Moroccan fire-roasted shrimp with white rice and a sweet banana mustard cream. I would honestly drive two hours to have this dish again.
The grand finale was a Torta de Chocolate con Trufas. As far as most desserts go, I normally pass. I invest in the meal. The ladies were held speechless after one bite of the torta and the truffle. This clearly was not a cupcake and a Dove square. I tried the cake, it was good but the truffle was exquisite. I save my chocolate moments in life but willingly used a moment there. Attitude adjusted; I did not leave hungry.
After two hours, dinner at San Chez was perhaps one of the best dining experiences I have ever had in this entire state. Clearly, a top three Michigan restaurant but more importantly, a Michigan based favorite. This must have been the place. Tell anyone in Grand Rapids that you ate at San Chez and their eyes light up. They know.
Thank you to Dan Gendler, Jes Savino, our server Liz, Chef Phillips, and the entire staff at San Chez for more than dinner. Thank you for an experience.
Come back tomorrow for Part IV of VI in our blog series from our On the Road series covering our recent trip to Grand Rapids. Tomorrow’s blog will feature The Festival of the Arts and The Cottage.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
After our trip to Founders, we headed to Peaches Bed and Breakfast on Gay Avenue just south of the Davenport campus off of Fulton in the historic Heritage Hill district. It’s east of the downtown area by only a few blocks and easily accessible by to everything by foot. We chose to stay at a bed and breakfast because it’s a local business and their profits stay here in Michigan unlike those of national hotel chains. Besides, Lynn and I like the unique charm of a B&B and find that we get more for our money and more personal attention, if and when needed. How long did you wait for that extra towel at your last hotel stay?
We checked in around 5:45PM when we were greeted by our host, Jane Lovett. Jane has been a long time supporter of the Made in Michigan Movement and was instrumental in us piloting the On the Road series in downtown Grand Rapids. Jane captures the classic art of inn keeping. She finds out your preferences, tastes and schedule in advance to spare constant consulting. Do you like an early meal, have food allergies, and prefer to be left alone during your stay? Perhaps, you seek recommendations and a guided walk through the house daring to catch a glimpse of the estate’s history? Jane is more than willing to oblige; she is a local woman with a friendly smile who maintains profound knowledge of Grand Rapids and all it has to offer. She is the third owner of this historic home.
Parking is off the street and we entered by way of the south facing porch. The Wisteria grows neatly up columns providing shade and privacy while offering unobstructed views of the ground’s gardens. First impressions, this place is enormous and considerably larger than any B&B we have ever stayed at. Peaches Bed and Breakfast is an 8,000 square foot, classically preserved Georgian manor. The house was constructed in 1916 by a local man of wealth and it shows spoils and stature of a home of means. Through the entry way is the wide staircase leading to the second floor. To my left is the dining room that could easily facilitate sixteen guests comfortably. The living room to my right is bigger than my first two apartments—combined! Antiques and period pieces tastefully decorate the manor yet the home is removed of all stuffiness as you are encouraged to relax and enjoy yourself instead of touring the home with museum rules.
The second floor has five large bedrooms each with their own private baths. The rooms are all comfortable and spacious. They have a desk, plenty of closet space, and the usual amenities such as coffee makers and additional seating areas as these rooms are as big if not larger than the average hotel room. Our bed was a four-post queen that just seems to hug you as you lie in it. This is one item, and it is major with me, that the majority of my hotel stays have floundered on—the concept of comfort. We were quite comfortable. A look to the ceiling is a louvered skylight system that is unique to any home I have ever been in. This opens the floor to an abundance of natural light. The third floor is a lofted area which is the proprietor’s quarters.
The house is a true classic. It has a huge kitchen where Jane prepares unique breakfast items such as stuffed French toast and “Magic Pancakes,” a Peaches signature item, complete with beverages and the starter peach cup. All items are served on fine china, real silver, and on linen. There are fireplaces everywhere, a library, a sun porch, pantries, front and back staircases, and a ballroom down in the basement where the original owners spun wax discs on the old Vitrola, perfecting the Lindy hop. The basement is finished and incredibly roomy as well. It has the consistent 10-foot ceiling that the rest of the home has. It has a bar, original hand-painted murals, comfortable seating and the original pool table.
The house is a well preserved marvel of yesteryear’s success. Jane notes, that very little has been altered on the home since 1916, yet nothing is lacking. You still get little bottles of mouthwash, shampoo, shower caps and even WI-FI service to accommodate guests to update their blogs and Facebook pages. The entire home is also smoke free! Our last hotel room smelled like a speakeasy, so this was a refreshing break. Further, you will also note a lack of televisions in the rooms, although they are available upon request. I found that it encouraged us to wake up earlier and stay out later. After all, we did come to experience downtown Grand Rapids.
We washed up and changed our clothes for supper. It’s about 6:20PM and we have a dinner reservation at Dan Gendler’s acclaimed restaurant San Chez: A Tapas Bistro on Fulton St. only 10 minutes away, on foot--right on time!
Come back tomorrow for Part III of VI in our blog series from our On the Road series covering our recent trip to Grand Rapids. Tomorrow’s blog will feature the coveted trip to San Chez.
Monday, June 8, 2009
We arrived in Grand Rapids just before 3PM. Our first stop was at Founders Brewing Company. I’ve been to microbreweries before but Founders immediately pushes the envelope of the term micro. There is nothing small about this place because the Taproom is enormous, the glasses of beer are big, and a server just walked past me with a sandwich the size of my head (you’ll have to trust me that I mean big.) Before I walked into the door, I knew their reputation was big too. Friends of mine that live in eastern Maryland are huge fans of Founders beer which in their area has more popularity than all of the local beer. And let’s face it; their reputation here in Michigan is well respected too. Founders was the most requested place, from our readers, to stop in downtown GR. They were adamant that we stop there. Twist my arm.
Even their co-owner, Dave Engbers stands about six foot three. He’s a local-kid-done-well with a kind of quiet and casual stance but I got it immediately. He shook my hand and put a beer in the other one. Why don’t most of my encounters begin this way? He’s humble and just feels that to truly know Founders, you must start with the product. I tried the Old Curmudgeon Ale: Malty and smooth; a great introduction. It’s early still but the place is humming because it’s Friday, Festival is on, and summer finally seems to be here. The porch, which can easily hold 150 people, is filling up and the tables, which were made from recycled timbers from the last expansion, are quickly occupied. The employees are hopping and they all have that certain spring in their step. Meanwhile, Dave is ready to show us the Founders process with the kind of eagerness a kid has when he wants to show you a new bike. You can tell this guy loves beer.
Through the windowed doors is a spacious and shiny facility where the Founders process begins and ends. Employees zip by with a smile and offer a greeting as the Beatles sound out a blaring cadence to Eleanor Rigby. The place is spotless and sweet smelling while the tanks shine with military-like quality. I pepper Dave with questions and the answers almost always come back to a high standard and employee dedication. Consistently humble. Not once did he compare Founders to other breweries or spend time trumpeting accolades. In fact, he spoke highly of Michigan Brewers Guild and referred to his competition as friends while these people who toil for him are often called family members. He noted that employee loyalty averages six years or better even though they are regularly encouraged to pursue their passions. Employees are often brought to the table for ideas and are prompted to offer suggestions and opinions from everything to beer naming to company involved community reinvestments.
Did I tell you that Dave is humble? Instead of showing us a trophy room full of international awards, tasting grand prizes, jury awards, people’s choice victories, industry number ones and blue ribbons, he takes us to the ingredients room which is a brewer’s candy shop. Hops, and malts, and grains. He described ingredients with a distinct passion and enthusiasm. We saw rows of enormous finishing tanks which were recently installed although they really weren’t supposed to be there for a couple of more years. Business is good at Founders.
The tour continued to the bottling area where the musical ambience shifted from the Fab Four to an electric reggae with a pulse. Again, friendly employees were on the go finishing up for the day. I’m guessing if Laverne and Shirley worked here, they never would have gone to California. We wrapped the tour up in the cold storage, which too was a recent addition due to their expansion, and headed back for a seat in the open-plan Taproom.
The interview really was over so we just talked. He orders us a few samples to try. The Centennial IPA was a little hoppier than I usually would order but evenly balanced and not overly bitter at all. Dave noted that they love hoppy beer at Founders. We tried the Cerise which is made with Traverse City cherries. Far from a novelty beer or even a Lambic, it’s a beer in itself. The Cerise offered a crisp smell with a smooth finish noting the Michigan treasures with every sip. My favorite was the Canadian Breakfast Stout that had a locally produced and fermented maple syrup which he let me try. Rich and buttery to the taste and smell, this syrup was simply too good to ever touch pancakes or waffles.
After a few responsible tastings, it was time to leave. I could have sat and listen to Dave passionately speak about everything that is Founders. It’s refreshing to hear someone speak so highly about owning a brewery, about brewing, about ingredients, about his actual family, about his work family, about his friends in the Guild, about Founders and the community, about Grand Rapids, and about Michigan. While not long-winded by any means, he was just that interesting. Beer drinkers beware though. Founders is all about quality, integrity, and craftsmanship. If you seek the generic flavor of Bud or Miller, they might have to wring the floor mop out for you. If you seek a drinkable treat, Founders is your place.
Thank you to Dave Engbers and his high energy staff at Founders Brewing Company for the pleasure of being a guest. Come back tomorrow for Part II: San Chez Tapaz Bistro and Peaches Bed and Breakfast.
We shot video footage and took stills. The stills are now available on our Facebook page and the video is in editing. The annotation of the series begins in the following blog post and is shared in multiple entries. We hope you enjoy!
Friday, June 5, 2009
3PM: Founders Brewing Company
6:30PM: San Chez Bistro
9PM: ????? Anything goes!
9AM: Peaches B&B
11AM-3:30PM: Festival of the Arts
---Interview with Festival Co-Chair Kate Scheid
---Interview with Fulton Street Artist Market members
---Zellers store interview
9PM: ???? Party like rock stars!
11:45AM Interview with Randy's Granola
Monday, June 1, 2009
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Lansing is taking notice of the Made in Michigan Movement. We have been listed on the state’s website, www.michigan.gov, for several months now but we were recently interviewed by the First Gentleman of Michigan Dan Mulhern. Mr. Mulhern is the husband of Governor Jennifer Granholm and the host of the radio program Everyday Leadership at WJIM AM 1240 in Lansing. The podcast is now available at WJIM website. We are the first interview on the 5.30 Hour 1 episode.
The Michigan Experience has been postponed until August of 2010. The interest was there for many Michigan businesses but there just was not enough time to make it the first-class event that it is intended and deserves to be. So, hang in there. It is on the calendar for next year and it promises to be the one event that businesses and the general public will want to attend.
I have managed to also leave SE Michigan with my beautiful wife and handsome son. We went to our family cottage on Mullet Lake twice within the last three weeks. For those of you playing along at home, I have fulfilled #7 on my checklist and have partially completed #4 and #10. For those of you, who have no idea what I’m babbling about; refer to the previous blog entry from March 29.
Next weekend (June 5-7) the Made in Michigan Movement is headed to Grand Rapids for the first installment of our On the Road Series. This segment is called Destination: GR. We are excited and anxious to meet out new friends in Grand Rapids and raise awareness of area businesses. There were so many places to choose from that clearly several return trips are in order. Look for our itinerary to be posted this week on our Facebook page.
How can you follow us? Besides our website, we are on Facebook, we send out a newsletter on the 15th and 30th of each month, and we also Twitter. Tweet us at @MIMMLLC.
There is much in store for the coming months. We have store appearances, speaking engagements, and travel all lined up for the coming months. We maybe coming to your town! When we do, we want to meet you.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
1. Go do something in the UP.
2. Visit the Detroit Institute of Arts.
3. Watch the sun set at Sleeping Bear Dunes.
4. Try 12 different independent microbrews.
5. Go mushrooming.
6. Purchase a vegetable share from a CSA.
7. Spend time on Mullet Lake with my family.
8. Go to an unusually themed festival.
9. Attend a county 4-H fair.
10. Share a meal with 50 people I have never met before.
11. Plan a Made in Michigan Thanksgiving meal with family.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Did you ever ask God for something really big and be ill prepared to properly receive it? For instance, you ask him to quench your thirst and all you bring is a shot glass when you should have brought an Olympic-sized swimming pool. I think I brought the swimming pool this time.
The Made in Michigan Movement has experienced phenomenal growth and momentum. At a time when businesses are contracting, we are expanding our reach to every corner in this great state. Our opportunity to really make a difference has presented itself.
We were featured on the front page of The Detroit News and interviewed on the radio. That is all fine and well but the best part we have experienced is the opportunity to engage in the many new relationships. I have had the chance to listen to one phenomenal business story after another. In time, I want those business owners to share with you what they so graciously shared with me. In the end, it is all about the people and the ability to relate to each other. I once heard that relationships are as thick as a single thread. When properly nurtured, that thread is woven with another thread and the relationship becomes as strong as rope. However, when not properly treated, the relationship easily snaps. We are the threads that make up the rope.
It is amazing what happens to you when you do not allow yourself to get in the way. Stand back, shut up (for once), and receive it. That is what has happened to this effort.
Our Facebook page has grown over 1,200 people in the last week which, since this morning, takes us over 8,000 loyal people. This is just on Facebook. We have several hundred people receiving our twice-monthly e-newsletter. Not bad, considering our last newsletter in February went out to 23 people.
Big is now moving on to bigger. We are hosting the Made in Michigan Expo in August. We are looking to feature over 200 businesses from around the state. Next year, we will feature over 600 businesses from around the mitten.
We are hosting a fundraising event to benefit Covenant House-Michigan. This will take place at the Detroit-Windsor International Film Festival. It will be co-hosted through the generosity of several Michigan-based coffee and tea companies. Our goal is to raise $5,000 dollars for this phenomenal organization.
The website is evolving. It is going to become a key component to our success. It will not just look better, but it will become more functional for all users. It will be better organized and quicker. We are relaunching the site in less than two weeks to better serve you.
This is not about me or even the Made in Michigan Movement. It is about us, all of us, the HOME TEAM. The ‘home team’ badly needs a win and together we are going to make that happen.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
I must let you know though I do not do this alone. Made in Michigan is a team. Actually, it’s more like a family. You hear from me or read my words but it’s the group that makes this work. Emil is my business partner and cofounder of the vision that became Made in Michigan. We’re polar opposites of each other in so many ways but together we find the balance to make this work. There are our spouses that faithfully support us and our children that we work hard for. In addition, there are instrumental people that work pro bono for us. They bring phenomenal talent to the table, diligently work hard, and are enormous supporters of this movement. Lastly, there are the many volunteers scattered about the state that do everything from generate membership to offer assistance on just about anything. To all of you, I extend my most sincere thanks.
We are the home team and we want as many people to be part of it. Recently, a woman told me that Made in Michigan was the daily bright spot in a world falling apart around her. That sentiment has been echoed several times from others. Times are tough, but my experience tells me that we, Michigan people, are that much tougher. I don’t believe that job losses, a credit crunch, or even a recession will keep us down. It won’t be easy, some days will be harder than others, but we will rise above it all. That’s how tough we are.
This is the time for Michigan to solidify its true identity. It’s time to lend a hand to each other. Buying Michigan made is only one part of it. Let’s pool our resources and redevelop this statewide community. Maybe it’s a hand with the snow or a ride to the store? Or, when the weather breaks maybe it’s an invitation for hot dogs and lemonade? It starts by walking next door and reintroducing yourself. I’ll start.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
We are days away from launching our website. Our programmers and designers believe in our mission and our working hard to provide you the most comprehensive resource available on the Internet today. I want to take a moment to thank them for their diligence.
I’m always amazed that in the midst of doing something positive, there are always those who feel the need to take their shots. It reminds me of a bucket crabs. A crab by itself can usually find its way out of a bucket. Put more than one crab in the bucket and as one tries to escape the others will pull it back in the bucket. So to our supporters, I say thank you. To the naysayers, what are you offering?
Recently, I was asked why we are doing Made in Michigan and what the rewards of our movement are. We’re doing this to raise awareness of Michigan products, their quality, and the impact that supporting those businesses have. An Economics student challenged me in a recent email. He said that supporting Michigan business is a closed-minded approach to solving our state’s economic woes and does little to stave of our national crisis as it relates to some theory in a text he recently read. While I am an educated man, I cannot attest to the effect our movement has on neighboring states nor do I have the slightest idea it has on the nation. I don’t live anywhere but Michigan, but if I did, my thoughts would still be the same: BUY LOCAL FIRST. I cannot wax poetic on economic theories nor would I pretend to. I do know that there is a guy just like me working the loading dock at a company in Grand Rapids and a woman working a sales route in Monroe that rely on the people of this great state to buy the products and services their companies offer. It is our responsibility first and foremost to take care of our neighbors here in Michigan. Made in Michigan was built on this premise: To take care of our Michigan family first. As far as the rewards go, I can honestly say it is all about the people we have met, and will meet, and the relationships we make. We look forward to spending a night in a B&B in Grand Rapids or sampling new micro-stilled Vodka in Detroit. Further, the handshakes, warm smiles, and the sampling of our state culture make this all worth while.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Our eyes are forward and we are not looking back. The Greek generals of ancient times would give the order to burn the boats once the soldiers were on shore. This would eliminate fear and any chance of self doubt. Victory is a must because our boats are ablaze.
The idea of reaching almost 10 million people with a message at first seemed overwhelming. We set goals and they were reached. We reset goals and they were obliterated. Now we find ourselves resetting the goals once again. It’s good to have this problem. 4,200 people in the first month seem to think we’re on to something. We anticipate over 10,000 people will have joined us in a united effort by March 1, 2009. All of a sudden, 50,000 people in our group by May 1, doesn’t seem beyond our reach. We’re that much closer to 1,000,000 Facebook users. We’re that much closer to the millions of Michigan people needed to make change.
People have already told us this is impossible. I firmly believe that our doubters actually want us to succeed. They want that one moment to say they knew all along that we would make it. We’re doing this for them too. The victory is big enough for all of us to share.
There is a Chinese proverb that states, “Fall down 99 times, get up 100.” We’re going to make mistakes. We already have. We’ve learned and moved on. We’re up and when we’re down, we’re still up. The daily arrival of compliments, suggestions and encouragement is nonstop. We simply cannot thank people enough. Your words are reminders of why we are doing this in the first place.
So we are taking our time and methodically making our moves. We’re being very selective with whom we partner with because we only want businesses of integrity. We only want to support businesses that not only share our beliefs but practice them. Your trust is most important to us. We are often asked what business we are in. We tell them the relationship business.
We’re already a success because of you. Continue to support this movement by inviting new friends. Start by changing your buying habits and encourage others to do so as well. Lead by example. During the month of February, visit one place in our state that you haven’t been to in awhile or have been putting off going to. Your choices make the difference.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Now I’m far from being sentimental. However, I do wish that soda pop still came in glass bottles. Seriously though, change is everywhere. Recently, I saw a vending machine that had an iPod and an iMac as offerings. Select E-5 for a total of $799. Naturally, the machine took Visa and not quarters.
Certain events in recent history such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina have changed us. The rise and fall of the stock markets and plummeting real estate prices have changed us too.
Michigan has been no stranger to change. The global shift in manufacturing has thrust change upon us. As the Information Age presses on, the temples of the Industrial Age still cling to the landscape, buying their precious time, naked and cold; Closed chapters of the by-gone era. How about the weather? Even winter just kind of happens one day.
Change is good and I dare say necessary. It gives us an opportunity to revisit our core beliefs and a chance to set a new course for the future. Change is never without shortcomings. However, the pain of change is always far less than the pain of regret. Are we as a state willing to reexamine our core beliefs? Are we willing to change enough to adapt to an evolving state future?
Change starts with the individual and the individuals’ habits. It’s the day-to-day habits. It’s your shopping patterns. Your hard earned dollars act as your ballots. Cast farewell to the institutions that have no roots or a false interest in our community. Bid adieu to companies that make nothing and invest little here. Say goodbye to stores that change the physical landscape, pillage our resources, and take profits across state lines. Michigan made quality is unparalleled. Buying local keeps our neighbors employed, creates stronger community bonds, promotes talent and skills, raises our standard of living and attracts investments that share our values of deep-rooted loyalty, hard work, and commitment to excellence. Speak up and be heard. Demand better for your money. Demand Michigan made. Demand Michigan owned and operated. Abandon the familiar. Drive the extra mile. Spend the extra dollar. Ask the tough questions. Read the labels.
Like it or not, we are each other’s keepers. We started Made in Michigan as an investment in people: From the cherry picker in Northport; to the pine forest lumberjack in Covington; to the line worker in Warren. The resurrection of this great state will be determined by our decisions. Empower your family, neighbors, coworkers, friends, or the person sitting next to you at the doctor’s office to explore this principle. Spend it here and keep it here. Make it the rule not the exception.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
On a recent trip to Somerset mall, I couldn't help notice the large number of people shopping. Economists say that's good. Retailers have seen better. The irony being that adjacent to the mall in Automation Alley, there is much unrest. Even with bailout money and the North American International Auto Show at Cobo, futures are very uncertain and that's bad. At the library the other day, I couldn't help but overhear high school seniors one-upping each other about Spring Break. After all, Spring Break is only about 65 days away. I'm sure they'll have plenty of fun.
But when is bad really bad? When do we recognize what's coming? Will bad be a lantern hung from a bell tower and two if its worse? Even though we're about 45% of the way to Depression era numbers, people are waiting for the feeling and it doesn't feel like it's that bad. Ask someone in the mortgage business if they have the feeling yet. They might. Maybe people just want a sign. Start looking in the front yards of your neighborhood. There are signs.
We have to accept what's happening but we don't have to like it or even take it. There is an economic crisis occurring in the state of Michigan. I'm encouraging each one of us to take back our state. Take it back one dollar at a time. Over the next year, I urge each and every citizen to start putting Michigan first. Stay in Michigan this year. Watch the sun set from the dunes overlooking Lake Michigan. Have some fudge. Catch some jazz down at Hart Plaza or visit the Detroit Institute of Arts. Have a weenie over a campfire somewhere in da' UP, eh. Pick your own strawberries or visit the orchards. Start spending your money wisely. Start living within your means and target your dollars to stay in Michigan by buying Michigan made products. The entire premise of the Made in Michigan movement is to provide you with the education and the resources to make that happen. We will make sure you have those items necessary to make change both for the state and for yourself.
It's not over. It's just time for a new beginning and a renewal of our thinking. We fell down but we're right back up. It's not if we change but rather when we change. Our work ethic, as a collective, simply will not allow that. We refuse to be a footnote in an Economics book. We will change. When we do, the nation will be inspired and follow Michigan's lead once again.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Some three weeks ago, when I created the Made in Michigan Facebook group, I set a few goals. I knew that this was a good idea. The problem with my vision was that this is the greatest idea and the timing is right. I didn't fully recognize what was in my hands. I wasn't wrong, but rather a lower level of right. The goal was for the group to be 500 people strong by March 1, 2009. My eyes were open but that's not vision considering we went 500 strong this morning at exactly 9:00 am. We were then supposed to have 1,000 guests by June 1, 2009. The eraser is already in my hand. I fell forward not backward. I'm setting new goals.....today!
At 500 members, we've already grabbed the attention of a few major food retailers and manufacturers. At 5,000 members, our dance card starts to get pretty full. At 50,000 members, real change is occuring and Lansing starts to notice. At 5,000,000 members, the state of Michigan has pulled as together, as a majority, and we make head way out of a recession.
Facebook has allowed us to get started. I'm amazed at how quickly people will become part of groups such as "1,000,000 People United Who Like Cheese Pizza" or "I Bet I Can Find 1,000,000 People Who Like Breathing." From the mundane to the magnificant, it's all there. Our Facebook page is just the first step. Made in Michigan is taking the next step today.
It's not a fad. It's common sense. Common sense is free but if not properly exercised it can be costly. It's the way it should always be--in times of recession and boom. You've witnessed the frustration of American companies sending their operations to other states and overseas. Then it should be easy to draw the line when it comes to Michigan businesses. Loyalties should be given to those who stand loyal to us. It's purchasing dollars that will tell the story of your loyalty. Being part of the Made in Michgan movement is also free. You are already part of it and as long as you live here, you will always be part of it.
Made in Michigan is taking it's first steps in reconnecting the relationships between consumer, producer, and retailer. We're going to be hosting Michigan product fairs inside grocery stores around the state. We're going to introduce you to both new and familiar Michigan made products. Further, we're telling retailers to step up awareness of Michigan made products. Also, we're asking the producers to focus on competitive pricing without sacrificing product quality. Our initial efforts will be in the retail food industry, then on to the retail service industry and on to heavy manufacturing. We anticipate hosting regional and state-wide product expos uniting all three retail groups under one roof. It's going to be huge!
Take your first step. Visit our Facebook page often and watch for big changes. Read the blog. Refer us to your friends, neighbors, and coworkers. There is never a fee, no membership dues, or even secret handshakes. Your next trip to the grocery store, spend just $10 on Michigan made products. That purchase is your oath.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
We lead by example. Words alone just don't do it. I dare not compare myself to Gandhi though. However, I feel it important enough to lead the Made in Michigan group by example. If a difference is ever going to made, than it starts with me.
I just came back from the grocery store. The grocery store is a Michigan based company. I'm off to a good start. We shop twice a week and I spent our budget allotment of $80. This is par for the course. However, keeping in mind the statistic that if each home spent $10 of their weekly food budget on Michigan made products, $36 million dollars would trickle back into our local economy each week. It was time to do my part. My wife gave me a list. I walked the clearly marked aisles and looked for the Made in Michigan signs by products. I found them. This store does a far better job at this than most other grocery stores. I managed to stick to the list with only two impulse purchases. Check out time. I stuffed two recycled paper bags full of groceries. My mission complete. When the handshakes were done and the dust cleared, I managed to purchase seven Michigan made items totaling $21.63. About 25% of the total bill. Wait, wait! I had a $10 off coupon for spending over $70. I'm cheap and I'm all smiles. A small victory in the name of Michigan. It started with me.
I'm not asking anyone to be a fanatic. However, fanatics are always welcome. Change your buying habits just $10 at a time. You'll get to know the products, it takes time. Truth: some products are more expensive, some products are less expensive, most are the same price. If your grocer doesn't have Made in Michigan labels, insist that they do. It demonstrates a solid relationship between retailer and producer while drawing the customer to the product. Let's face it, if it helps sell more groceries, your grocer will do it. It's a stimulus package without a bailout. Really though, it means jobs. It starts with you.
We're in a hushed economic state of emergency. No one wants to say it, but I will. It's politely called a recession because like all major storms it doesn't exactly fit the textbook definition of a something worse-a depression. We're all in this together regardless of in-state geography, age, gender, race, or employment status. Don't expect the other 49 states to feel sorry for us or understand our situation-they won't. Take action for just $10 each week. The required effort is minimal while the results are extraordinary.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
I'm an organic farmer. Well, not yet, but I will be. That's my dream. Let me back up just a bit. I graduated from Wayne State with the aspiration of becoming a teacher. After all, it was practical and safe and that's how I was raised. Look both ways before crossing and color within the lines. So I taught Science for a few years until I realized I was off course. I strayed from the dream. So to remedy the matter, I took a job working for the railroad. This was more practical and safer. After all, I paid union dues now. It was fun and by definition, a good job. Until yesterday, when I found out that I'm getting laid off. Chrysler is our biggest customer and when they don't move cars off their lots by rail, jobs get cut. I got cut. I strayed from the dream.
I'm 35 years old. I have a beautiful and wonderfully supportive wife. She too is unemployed. I'm also the proud father of a little blonde haired, blue-eyed angel of a son. He's a toddler and thinks the sun rises and sets with me. To him, I'm Superman. In reality, I'm just an ordinary guy--with an extraordinary dream. It's big enough to share.
So why did I create Made in Michigan? If more people bought Chrysler cars, I'd still have a job. My story is far from unique. I asked myself how I can help someone else in a situation similar to mine. It's simple, buy the products of the Michigan company they work for. It goes beyond the product--it's an investment in people. It's said that a rising tide raises all ships. This maxim holds more truth today than it ever has. Buying Michigan made products keeps the economic cycle vibrant. It keeps the money here. It keeps jobs here. It keeps people here. It keeps the spirit here. It's time to take a bold, fresh look at how and where we spend our money. I started this movement two weeks ago on Facebook. The first week, only my wife joined ( I told you she was supportive). I decided to step out and invite 60 people to join me. The majority of those people joined and offered positive feedback. I asked them to invite just one guest each. They favorably responded and the group doubled in size in just 72 hours, united in cause. Since then, I estimate a new guest joins Made in Michigan about every 30 minutes. No we're not breaking Facebook speed records but the word is out. People are ready to buy, ready to support. They want to know what the products are and where they can get them. Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit. I've since been in contact with a major grocer who would like to partner with our movement and is open to ideas. This is the start of something big. You simply can not stop an idea whose time has come. Michigan, our time is now.
As for me, I've already made peace with my situation. I have a wonderful family, therefore I have everything. I've gained far more than I've lost and I have an opportunity to again follow my dream. The slate is clean once again and I'm going to go back to school to study organic horticulture. Classes start in April.
I invite you to follow me on this journey.