Business Schism in West Michigan


I was once told by a business adviser that when entering in business with a partner, you better know everything about your partner, because you will be “sleeping with your partner”.  Rereading this statement, I think he stated it much more clearly and concisely, but the point is things are about to get really intimate with you and your partner, so you better know them inside and out, have a similar vision, and be able to work together well.

Inevitably lots of times these business partnerships do not always work out for one reason or another.  But wouldn’t you love to know why?  What happened? What are the grievances?  Well I have compiled a short list of businesses in West Michigan which were started by two partners (in most cases or families) and now they have split up and each partner is doing their own thing, most often in the exact same line of business as the one they worked with their partner in.  Awkward!

Case 1:  New Holland Brewing Company & Brewery Vivant

New Holland Brewing Company was started by two friends (grew up together in Midland, and both attended Hope College) Brett VanderKamp and Jason Spaulding in 1996.  Spaulding sold his shares in NewHolland in 2008. The only reason I could find on why he sold his shares was to “focus on economic development work with Lakeshore Advantage.”, where he worked as Vice President of Business Services. After his stint at Lakeshore Advantage, Spaulding attended a brewing school in Munich, Germany and after that we worked as a bar manager at Zingerman’s Roadhouse. Now just  two years later, Brewery Vivant, a Spaulding creation at 925 Cherry Street SE Grand Rapids, MI has a scheduled opening of December 2010.  Could it be a non-compete agreement has expired?  Luckily to avoid some of the awkwardness, the breweries are located in different cities.  And what is up with Rooster logo – I like roosters (here & here) as much as the next guy but roosters are like this year’s “it” corporate animal.  I would what will be next – perhaps the stately Goat.

Case 2: Crazy Horse Steakhouse & Saloon and Salt & Pepper Savory Grill & Pub

In 1997, Mark Herman and Mike Karas became co-owners of Crazy Horse Steakhouse & Saloon in Holland, MI.  After 12 years of ownership Karas sold his share in the restaurant to Herman, in 2009.  Then in summer of 2010 Karas opened up Salt & Pepper Savory Grill & Pub at 11539 E. Lakewood Blvd in Holland.  Of course Karas declined to provide any details on why he sold his ownership in Crazy Horse, and he had the following quote from the mlive article on his new restaurant “I think he wishes me well.  I wish him well” regarding Herman.  It is not hard to read between the lines and assume that there might be some bad blood there, either that or someone is taking the high road.  Not surprisingly Karas got right back into restaurant business by opening up his new place just about a mile away on the same street as Crazy Horse.

Case 3: Holland Transplanter & Mechanical Transplanter

Yes this is the second time I have mentioned these companies in my blog, and yes I am just as surprised as you are.  Both these companies produce transplanting equipment for the agriculture industry are both are located in Holland.  Holland Transplanter was founded in 1927 and Mechanical was founded in 1953.  From what I gathered, the current owner, and descendant of one of the founders of Holland Transplanter, has a brother-in-law who runs Mechanical Transplanter.  Those family get togethers must be quite interesting.  This is almost as bad as it can get.  Not only is the company a direct competitor, but they are in the same city, and they are in your family as well.

Case 4:  Wild Dog Rescue and Wishbone Pet Rescue

Alright  I am having a hard time nailing this one down, but here is what I know (I did get an update from Chuck who is involved with Wild Dog- see comments below).  Laine Mossey founders set up the Dog Rescue operation in Saugatuck and also ran a dog shop in the area.  The original name was Wild Dog Rescue, which was later changed to Wishbone Pet Rescue.  The Wishbone Pet Rescue was involved in the very unfortunate Chance story.  The dog was savagely beaten, poisoned, and hung to die, fortunately the dog survived and was left in the care of Wishbone.  At some point during this process Laine (the president) brought on a board of directors to help out with the pet rescue portion of the business.  But apparently there was a difference in philosophy between the president, who wanted to solely rescue pets and the board, who wanted to help the Allegan County Animal shelter.   Now there are two Dog Rescue organizations in Saugatuck area, Wild Dog Rescue (which also runs the Wild Dogs store, and a kennel called Mossey Hollow) and Wishbone Pet Rescue.
One more side note I found this website – http://wilddogsaugatuck.com/ which looks like it was started by the owner Wild Dog, the rescue and pet store, and their issue with the Douglas restaurant called Wild Dog Grille.  Though I think they can choose to name their restaurant the same name, since they are not in the same industry, but it still smacks of poor taste to take on the same name especially in a small community like Saugatuck/Douglas.

Case 5:  Gary Crane UPick Farm & Cranes Orchards

Drive down M-89 in Fennville and inevitably you will come across a stretch of road with orchards on both sides of the road, and with signs on both sides talking about Crane’s U Pick Orchards.  Well although they share the same name (kind of) they are not the same.  In fact ask anyone working at either place and they will definitely tell you they are not associated with the other.  I wonder what happened.  First here are the players – The Gary Crane U-Pick Farm or “Crane’s U-Pick”at 6017 124th Ave is on the North side of the street, and can be recognized with their large white barn.  Cranes Orchards is located on the South side of the street at 6054 124th Ave, is highlighted by the large red Crane’s restaurant.  Interestingly enough both Gary Crane UPick and Crane Orchards offer a detailed history of the family and the two farms.  Here is Gary Crane UPick version and here is Crane Orchards version.  I am not going to dig into this one too much because it hurts my head but it looks like the grandsons of the original founders, ended up going out on their own and operating their own farms in 1985.

Special Case: Adidas & Puma

Some of these stories are eerily similar to the Puma and Adidas story.  The Dassler brothers (Adi and Rudolf) who founded the original company, eventually split up and created separate companies in Puma and Adidas.  Now both companies are located in the same small German village of Herzogenaurach.  Raise your hand if you knew that Puma and Adidas were founded by two brothers, and if you did, let me know and next time I see you, I owe you a high five.

Apparently these individuals were not too please at having to go to bed with their partners.  Does anyone have any more examples of schisms with business partners?  At risk of sounding very tabloid-esque or gossipy… does anyone have any details on what caused these above splits?  Inquiring minds want to know.

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8 responses to “Business Schism in West Michigan

  1. Hello,

    I just wanted to touch base with you on your article, the reason you are having trouble pinning down the problems between Wild Dog Rescue and Wishbone Pet Rescue is because you don’t have the correct information. Wishbone was started by Lanie Mossey, who has the store Wild Dog BowTique in Saugatuck. Lanie has been involved in animal rescue for more than 15 years, and has been responsible for the placement of more than 500 animals in good homes in the last 6 years alone. She decided to start Wishbone to have a greater impact on the abandoned and abused animals in West Michigan.

    Lanie asked several local people to join the board. Lanie brought her contacts, relationships, and reputation to the table. After several months and the Chance incident, it became clear that Lanie and the rest of the board were looking in two different directions. Lanie wanted to save animals by direct action, and because of the Chance incident four members of the board decided they wanted to focus on improving the Allegan Co. Shelter. Lanie then left Wishbone to concentrate on rescue, and has since formed Wild Dog Rescue, a full 501c3 org.

    There are issues between the two groups that are touchy, mostly due to personality conflicts and differences in vision. However, those problems have been exacerbated by Wishbone’s board and their territorial behavior. They have driven away several members of their board, good people who wanted to help animals. They have also driven other rescue groups out of the area in the name of fund raising. These are some of the issues that cause Lanie to step out.

    Lanie has since taken over a kennel at the south end of Douglas, the old Barkington’s business, and has re-opened the kennel for boarding and day care, re-naming the property Mossey Hollow. She continues to work every day for the welfare of the animals of West Michigan through rescue, rehabilitation, and placement in homes under the name Wild Dog Rescue. The rescue is completely funded by donations and the support of her friends and caring people in the area. She also works with other area rescue groups to find homes for animals in need in the area. Lanie is also the person most people in the area call when they find a stray or abandoned animal, and she is always willing to house and care for the animals until they are reclaimed or find new homes.

    Please contact me for more information or if you have other questions. And, thank you for feeling the restaurant showed bad taste by naming their facility the same as another, older area business. You can’t imagine the impact this has had on Lanie’s store, Wild Dog BowTique.

    Chuck

    • Hi Chuck,

      Thanks for the information. I will go back through and edit my post with the information provided. It is unfortunate that these organizations are having trouble coexisting especially when they have the same simple goal of saving animals. Hopefully both organizations can continue in their missions without conflicting with each other.

      In regards to the Wild Dog Grille issue I am guessing it is too late for them to change their name but I can’t imagine it being good business for having people confuse a restaurant with a dog store & rescue. Does Saugatuck/Douglas have a local chamber of commerce – perhaps they could be a good mediator in an issue like this.

      Best of luck with your Mossey Hollow venture.

  2. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for your input, Lanie is my wife so I know the whole story first hand. As far as the restaurant, we found out they chose the name Wild Dog before they even opened, they were debating between two names. We approached them and begged them not to go with Wild Dog, when they chose to go forward we approached the chamber, then threatened to sue. We even had a lawyer contact them with threats of court action, but they ignored everything. The best part is, Lanie has a US Trademark for Wild Dog and her logo. Unfortunately she does not have the means to fight that battle.

    One other thing I wanted to mention, you seemed surprised that there are two rescue groups in Saugatuck, the truth is there are many more in the area. There are a lot of good, caring people devoting a great deal of time to animal welfare in West Michigan.

    Thanks again for posting my comment above, feel free to contact me if you want more info.

    Chuck

  3. It is my opinion (and that of Dave Ramsey) that partnerships in general are a bad idea. For every Google, there are 300,000 failed partnerships. Part of Dave’s bent against partnerships is when they go into debt and one partner wants out. It becomes nearly impossible to dissolve because one partner can’t shoulder the burden.

    It is much preferred to hire the person into leadership or do a legal joint venture than to “partner.” Small businesses are awesome, but they also fail. You have to expect some angst when you pour your heart into something and its failure affects personal relationships.

  4. The schism that sticks out most freshly in my mind is the one in the Russo Family. There is the G.B. Russo & Sons store, that has been located on 29th Street in Kentwood since I have been in Grand Rapids (2004). This year, the new John Russo Wine Warehouse and Deli opened a few miles away near 44th and Kalamazoo, selling many of the same types of goods.

    I can only imagine there was some kind of falling out that caused John Russo to go and open his own shop, but I don’t know any of the details.

  5. Pingback: It’s SPREADING…Beer Spill in West Michigan! | The Ledger

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