Tag Archives: Brand

West Michigan & The Hardware Store – Take a Walk Down the Aisle

Hardware StoreMaybe you only visit your small local one, or perhaps you prefer the big box one, whichever type of hardware store you choose you’d be able to find an interesting array of West Michigan made products. With West Michigan’s manufacturing footprint, it is only logical that there are many local businesses that are filling the shelves at hardware stores. So lets take a nice virtual trip through a hardware store and see what we can find.

Usually the most brightly lit part of the store is the paint section. Although this company isn’t actually selling consumers anything, they have quite the presence at the paint counter. X-Rite is a company that produces color measurement equipment and software. They manufacture paint matching equipment called spectrophotometers (spectro), allowing hardware stores and paint stores to match the color of anything a consumer brings in, giving you a can of paint in the exact same color of your sample. So next time you are at a paint counter take a look around and see if you can spot the spectro.

Now, the one thing that you always need MITmore of and never have enough of are tools. Hardware stores are the perfect spot to add to your collection or get that one tool you just need to finish your project. Luckily Michigan Industrial Tools based in Grand Rapids produces over 2,000 different types of tools under 3 sub brands  – Tekton, Maxcraft, and Workshop. I will also have to say that I am quite the fan of their logo with how they still worked in an “I” and a “T” in the “M”, very subtle but well done.

Another company with a lot of sub-brands is National Nail Corporation in Wyoming. Although they do offer numerous nails, the company is really staking themselves on the following two sub-brands – CAMO Fasteners and Stinger Cap Systems. The CAMO Fasteners system is a way to screw down lumber decking without having the screws showing, a hidden screw system (the video showcases it quite nicely.) Stinger Caps is a new way of attaching insulation wrap on new construction which seems a lot easier than a nail hammer.

Since we just got done talking about decks and hidden fastening systems, we might as well go to the lumber yard. Universal Forest Products based in Grand Rapids, produces lumber for decking, and almost every other use, in additUniversal-Forest-Products-Inc.ion to a wide range of other wood based products. If you have any more questions you might as well spend some time playing around in their little city program here.

hexarmor-logoPerhaps these two should go hand in hand. We have Grand Rapids based Hexarmor who produces gloves, armbands, and other apparel for personal protection against cuts, punctures, and other injuries. Their technology is a competitor of Kevlar and they have been getting into similar industries, and their focus is on protecting people. Klever Innovations located in Grand Haven developed a new type of box cutter called the Klever Cutter. This box cutter was created in response to 9/11 because the traditional box cutter being used as a weapon. The group that founded Klever Cutter set up to create a product that would open boxes, but would not cut the anyone, or damage the goods inside the box. So with the Klever Cutter you wouldn’t need a pair of Hexarmor gloves now would you?

Shuffling over to the home improvement area, we have some redundancy with the following two products Quick Door Hanger and EZ-Hang, (though if I had been “klever” I would have worked both of these companies into my last post). Both these products allow for quick, easy and plumb door installations. Quick Door Hanger is produced by Express Products located in Grandville. The EZ-Hang door is based in Hesperia. Express Products also produces the Fix-A-Kink product that helps fixed kinked hoses. It seems that they have found quite the niche with home improvement products for consumers.

Alright logograbber75we made it through the store, now its time to checkout. But even the checkout aisle has a few impulse items for us to look at. Especially in the fall and winter season you will be seeing many displays for hand warmers like Grabber (not at all fond of the name) based in Grand Rapids. There is an extensive write up in Rapid Growth about how they are more than just hand warmers and how the company got started.

Lastly, who couldn’t use a pair of new shades, that is where Global Vision of Byron Center comes in. They are a wholesaler of sunglasses, safety glasses, and goggles which are perfect for the hardware store. Interesting side note, apparently both Global Vision and Grabbers have the same marketing person – Matt Pickel. Someone needs to update their website.

We finally got out of the store, except now we have a cart full of stuff that we didn’t come in here to buy. Oh well that is how it usually works anyways.  So what did I miss? Do we need to go to the home and garden section next?

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The Miller’s

Having driven down Main Street in Zeeland before, I never paid much attention to some of the businesses located on the east stretch of the road by Chicago Drive.  Then one day, while driving down Main Street, it hit me- Herman & Howard Miller!  These two similarly named businesses are located right across the street from one another.  I thought it was quite peculiar that the Herman Miller facility is located on the north side of Main Street at address number 855, and Howard Miller is located directly across from Herman Miller on the south side of Main Street at address number 860.  I even took a photo (amazing right).

Obviously, I had to research this  connection and come up with some wild theories on how this curious arrangement came to be.  I even had the “Brothers from Other Mothers” blog title developed (I guess the Miller’s will do).  But this all came crashing down, as soon as I read the following line from Wikipedia– “Howard Miller Clock Company was founded in 1926 as the Herman Miller Clock Company division of office furniture manufacturer Herman Miller. It was spun off in 1937 and re-named, under the leadership of Herman Miller’s son Howard C. Miller.”  Digging into Herman Miller’s company history page they had a slightly different version of events, namely D.J. Dupree, the president of Herman Miller and son-in-law to Herman Miller, and brother-in-law to Howard Miller, spun off the company to Howard.   I should also mention that the companies are no longer affiliated with each other.

Sad to say but I am mildly disappointed, I was hoping for some more drama.  My great title, and all my wild theories went out the door, like pure coincidence, dueling brothers, extreme Herman Miller fanboy, or overly aggressive salesman trying to right the coattails of the Miller name and all along it was just pure nepotism (or was it), though maybe there was some dueling brothers-in-law back story.

Herman Miller Logo

But at least it makes sense.  Naturally having a company division spun off and close in proximity to the headquarters was beneficial back in the 1920s and 30s.  It would be interesting to learn more on why the Howard Miller was spun off.

Besides the same last names and H first names, and locations, there are some other similarities between the companies with their logos.  The rounded valley in the Herman Miller logo, and the rounded parts of the bottom and top of the U shaped parts that for the H in the Howard Miller logo.

Likewise, I also see a lot more similarities between Herman Miller logo with Motorola’s.  When I was new to the area I was always curious on why Motorola had such a huge presence in West Michigan (stupid, stupid, stupid).

Motorola

Read more about Howard Miller history here, and Herman Miller history here.

I wonder if they each have their own softball teams with the Zeeland Rec league, maybe that’s where the (most likely imagined) bad blood is.

Holland’s Creative Crass?

Well at least the name is an accurate description of the location of studio.  The front of the building is on the north side of 17th Street, and this Gallery & Studio is the “backside” of the building facing out onto 16th Street.  Here is a picture of the location. It is right behind WayCup Cafe.

Company Name Juggling in Grand Rapids

Local marketing firm Steketee Greiner Company (SGC) is now Agent X. SGC merged with an “experiential marketing agency” based in Chicago, called Agent X. They decided to retain the Agent X name, but reviewing the company’s history, the name switch should come as no surprise.

The company started in 2004 with Fiaba Creative located in Saugatuck. In 2007 Fiaba changed their name to Context MG. Context MG then moved to downtown Grand Rapids in January 2009. Sometime in 2009 (my guess is late summer) Context MG decided to change their name once again. This time the firm became SGC. SGC was named after the two founders Brian Steketee and David Greiner. This name was retained for about 1.5 years. Then in August 2010 SGC launched a new company called Catalyst SGC.

I understand the possible need to re-name a company when an acquisition or merger has happened, but 4 names over 7 years?. Often times companies want to either keep the stronger brand, or adapt names to retain the best from both companies, or even create a whole new name. But the only acquisition/merger, I could find was the most recent one between SGC and Agent X. The other 3 name changes were just new names. It must be difficult to build a brand, image, and clientele with one name, and then switch names and have to create or try to retain the brand, image again. Not to mention how confusing this could be for clients, and how expensive re-branding is for the firm (create new collateral, letterheads, redesign website, etc).  I wonder what the clients think of this name juggling.

But then again maybe this blogger should keep his mouth shut regarding changing names… West Michigan Business Blog is still transitioning to The Ledger.

Case in Point – People love Big Brands

In my recent post about well known stores & brands taking up shop in Grand Rapids like Anthropologie, The North Face, Apple Store, I made the following comment regarding a question about the trend of supporting local businesses:

“Thanks Wendy. I broadly define the local population of GR into the following two areas a) social activists, proponents of GR, and local first types b) everyone else. Everyone else consume based on familiarity, and convenience. So whereas you hear about all the good thing the type A population is doing, most consumers probably fall into type B, where it would be nice to drive an extra 20 mins to go to local store, then another 15 mins to go to local store B, but if I go to Big Chain I can just do all my shopping at once.

Plus big brands are identifiable. You can be reasonably assured that no matter who you talk to they have heard of GAP, H&M, and Nike. When you talk about the major shopping areas like the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, almost all the stores are either designer luxury brand stores, or well known national stores with multiple locations. That is what people talk about and that is what really gets the general populace excited.

Of course Grand Rapids will probably never get the wide range of stores that are featured in the key retail shopping districts in Chicago and New York, but I think that they can get a good mix of a couple of national brand stores to rally the masses, and then sprinkle in with a lot of smaller local retailers to fill in the gaps and help feed off the energy and masses that the national brand stores bring in.

But then again I have had no experience in urban design or economic development. I just call it like I see it.”

Well I think the recent news of P.F. Chang’s China Bistro coming to Grand Rapids (East Beltline & Knapp) illustrates my above comment perfectly.  WZZM tweeted about this on November 18th.  To show the excitement news about P.F. Chang’s in Grand Rapids, this news was tweeted and retweeted by about 23 different people (5 here , 6 here, 3 here, 4 here, another 5 here,).  Mostly with comments like Yum, and Yummy.

I could only find one negative tweet by CreativeIncite who stated the following: “Not excited about PF Chang’s coming to #gr – why would I be excited about another non-unique nat’l chain? Blah. #anywhereUSA”

I am surprised that there was not more of the negative backlash against this especially on twitter, which seems to have quite a high percentage of local-philes (my new name for Proponents of their city, region etc.).

Thoughts?

An Anthropologie Study on Grand Rapids Retail Environment

I am somewhat surprised that there isn’t more of a hub-bub surrounding the recent news that Anthropologie, a trendy & popular woman’s apparel, accessories, and home decor retailer, owned by Urban Outfitters is moving to Breton Village in Fall 2011.  The community has always been striving for well known brand names to move into the area, and Grand Rapids is heading in the right direction  look at some of the other current “cool” tenants of Grand Rapids like the Apple Store, and The North Face (which is opening up next weekend in Woodlawn Mall).

Well part of the reason people still do not think Grand Rapids has arrived could be  because we do not have a Trader Joe’s. (though it shouldn’t be) See examples here – read the comments as well 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
Not to mention Facebook Groups – by the way Trader Joe fans get your act together and consolidate, no wonder why Trade Joe’s doesn’t want a store here, look at this mess below:

So why is it thought that Grand Rapids still hasn’t arrived yet?  The real reason (my hypothesis) is that these stores are not in downtown Grand Rapids.  They are on the outskirts of town, or in the mall (which in many GR proponent view as evil).  Right now when people talk or brag about Grand Rapids they start with downtown, which basically has everything, except for a strong retail shopping presence.  When people talk about other downtown areas that they are found of retail shopping usually comes up, and more often than not the talk leads to international brand name stores, trendy boutiques, and the like.  Perhaps the DeVos family can kick off this initiative as well, after all Pamela DeVos (wife to Dan) is the designer and president of the Pamella Roland brand of designer womans clothes.

So what do you  all think would these type of stores be better off in downtown Grand Rapids and would they be supported and thrive with consumer spending?  Or is the Grand Rapids downtown just not have enough residents and visitors to support a well known retail store yet?

For my other post on Grand Rapids “arriving” click here.

Update:  So did WOOD TV 8 read my blog and get a story idea – click here for text and video .  Very cool of A.K. Rikk’s to use ArtPrize as an opportunity to explore (and exploit the crowds) the feasibility of opening up one of their stores downtown.  The short term leases sound like a great idea, and a good way for a retailer and the city to find a perfect match.  Why wouldn’t the city and property owners be more open to this concept.

Come on, iLean!

Groan, say hello to another “i” branded product, the iLean, a lightweight shelving unit (created & made in West Michigan).  Am I the only one who is getting quite tired of this whole “i” name thing?  It is getting out of control and whole “i” name has already been around since 2001, when Apple first released the iPod. So using “i” isn’t this fresh, new idea… it is now old, tired, and worn.  As far as I’m concerned, Apple is the only company that can use the “i” moniker with impunity (but they can still mess it up, case in point “iPad”).

Don’t get me wrong, its a great story of a Holland resident who had a need (portable shelving for her garden), created a solution (the iLean), created a company Angleworks and then ultimately through various partners (all in West Michigan) brought the product to market.  I love the stories about the entrepreneurial mind & spirit at work, and it looks like a cool product, but lets be a little more creative on naming this shelving unit.

Just google “ilean” and see how many pages it takes you to get to the official website.  Nothing on page 1.  There is a story on a mommy blog on page 2, a result on page 3 for Real Simple, then nothing until page 9 with a campus life blog, and after I hit page 20 of the search results, I give up… nothing for their official site http://www.ileanstore.com. So what did I learn, Ilean is a perfectly acceptable and widely used spelling for the name Eileen, and iLean needs some SEO help (any of you SEO types reading this should probably give these guys a call, and I would be more than happy to receive a lead commission as well).

They even named their accessories the following iLink, & iLedge.  Well good luck to Angleworks and their new product, the iLean.

Dexys Midnight Runners must be so proud!