Tag Archives: Defunct

Gone But Not Forgotten Part 3

Well enough of the history lesson, lets focus on the present.  Right now West Michigan area has a small amount of minor league teams:

Grand Rapids
– West Michigan Whitecaps – Baseball
– Grand Rapids Griffins – Hockey

– Muskegon Lumberjacks – Hockey

– Kalamazoo K-Wings – Hockey

That isn’t much, especially considering that Grand Rapids was once known as “The Nation’s premiere minor-league destination” during the 1990’s, according to Grand Rapids Press sports writer David Mayo.  Consider that in 2011 Grand Rapids was ranked as 178th on the Sports Business Journal’s list of the Top Minor League Market.  Back in 2005 Grand Rapids was listed as high as 25th, though losing the Grand Rapids Rampage was a large cause for the drop. Even more shockingly is that back in 1997 Grand Rapids was ranked as one of the top ten markets with sufficient capacity for a potential expansion NBA team by the American City Business Journal.

So what happened West Michigan?  Why have so many teams failed, especially after becoming a premiere minor league destination.  It’s obvious that hockey is king in Michigan, and with the Grand Rapids Griffins winning the 2013 Turner Cup, I can only see them getting more popular in the region. In addition being an affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, greatly helps legitimatize the Griffins and helps Red Wing fans in this region have a stronger tie to the Red Wings.  Some of the other hockey teams in the also have some affiliation, like the Kalamazoo K-Wings are like a AA affiliate to the Chicago Wolves (AAA) who are then an affiliate of the Vancuver Canucks (a NHL Hockey Team).  Whereas the Muskegon Lumberjacks are just located in a type of player development league without any professional team affiliation.

But what about the national pastime of baseball?  Baseball has  had a particularly long and sad history in Grand Rapids until 1994 when the Whitecaps finally starting playing.  The Whitecaps seem to be doing well in West Michigan, and one potential cause for this could also be that they are a minor league affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. This is a genius idea of both the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers to base at least one of their minor league teams on the west side of the state, instead of having the team in some far away state.  It’s a great way to build up fan support, and give people a connection to the professional team on the other side of the state.

One of my theories on why many minor league teams did not last in the region has to do with West Michigan’s love affair with high school sports. As a transplant to this region I was absolutely shocked, and dumbfounded by the attention that high school sports garnered, in the media, in the community, and in everything.  It blew my mind that high school sports got any attention on regional news broadcasts, and front page treatment on sports sections in the newspapers, and even their own tv shows after the evening news.  Even after living in the region for over 8 years I am still surprised by the attention high school sports get. Now granted I may change my tune in 10 years if my children start playing competitive sports in High School, but for right now I am sticking with my original convictions.  Thinking about high school sports, I find that they would be competing for the same time and money that minor league sports would from potential fans/consumers.  Attendance to high school sporting events, require admission fees, food vendor sales, same evening time-slots, especially on weekends.  So minor league teams have to compete against normal time and money commitments of fans, but also against even more convenient sports entertainment from the local high school teams.

I most likely guilty as anyone for not supporting the teams that we do have.  I can probably count on my hands how many games I have been too since moving to West Michigan, and to date I have only seen the Holland Blast, West Michigan Whitecaps, and Grand Rapids Griffins play.  Though it would be nice to have a nice constant presence of some other teams like in basketball or soccer… you know to give me and the family options on a Friday night…at least until the kids are in high school.

Any other thoughts on theories on the lack of success of minor league sports in West Michigan? Let me know.

Part III in our series on defunct sports teams in West Michigan –
Click here for Part I
Click here for Part II

Gone But Not Forgotten – Part 2

Part II in our series on defunct sports teams in West Michigan – Click here for Part I ,


Finally we will start talking about the sport that is near many West Michiganders hearts… hockey.  Michigan is a hockey mad state, and the West Side is no different.  Looking through the list of defunct teams you see a great number of them were hockey clubs.  It also wouldn’t surprise anyone that one of the two remaining minor league sports teams left Grand Rapids is a hockey team, the Griffins.

One of the oldest hockey teams that I could find in the area wasn’t in Grand Muskegon RedsRapids but in Muskegon.  The Muskegon Reds played from 1935 to 1938 in the Michigan Ontario Hockey League.  They played in the Mart Auditorium along with another team the Muskegon Sailors (who started in 1938).  Another interesting note is that the Chicago Blackhawks used The Mart as their preseason training facility.

Grand Rapids would get its team, the Rockets, in 1949 and they would go until 1956Rockets playing in The Stadium Arena, which is now known as the DeltaPlex. The Rockets left Grand Rapids in 1956 and moved to Huntington, West Virginia ( a hockey hotbed) and became the Hornets.

Zephyr Gas Can60_35One of the longest tenured teams in West Michigan was located in Muskegon.  The Muskegon Zephyrs started in 1960 and different variations of this team existed until 1992 (those they did change names quite frequently).  Zephyrs were owned by Jerry Delise, and they got their name from sponsor Zephyr Oil Co. of North Muskegon.  They even won the IHL championship in 1962. For the 1965-1966 season the Zephyrs renamed themselves and became the Mohawks.  They Muskegon_Mohawks_(IHL)_logoremained the Mohawks until 1984-1985 season when the team was sold to a new ownership group for $1, and then they became the Lumberjacks who played until 1992, before moving to Cleveland. But that was not last of the Lumberjacks in Muskegon, oh no… the Lumberjacks never die and rise again harder and stronger. The name was re-used twice.  The 1st time the Muskegon Fury took the name after the Lumberjacks left town, but they eventually relocated as well, moving to Evansville for the 2010-2011 season.  This Lumberjack vacancy was soon filled because Rochester Mustangs moved to Muskegon and became the new Lumberjacks who are still currently playing in the new USHL (a reincarnation of the past league).  No wonder it took me so long to write this post, its quite confusing with the teams coming and going, and keeping the same name, crazy ole Lumberjacks.

Grand Rapids BladesOne of the unfortunate realities of many of these teams is that they often only play for one season and then they disband or relocate.  Such was the case with the Grand Rapids Blades who played for the 1976-1977 season, and even won the USHL championship, then they ceased to exist.  Ready for a rabbit hole?  Ok in more recent history there was another Blades team, but this time located in Kansas City and they belonged in the IHL from 1990 to 2001.  Tying this back to West Michigan, guess who owned the Kansas City Blades, that’s right The Ledger favorite family… the DeVos’.  They purchased the team in 1996, the family also owned the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Orlando Solar Bears as well.  The wikipedia article on the Blades states that the DeVos family rather quickly became the fans enemies, with a series of changes they made, and how they attempted to move the Blades to Oklahoma City.

Give A Hoot!

Give A Hoot!

For all the teams that were born in Grand Rapids, and then migrated elsewhere, the Grand Rapids Owls were one club that did the opposite.  They started out as the Dayton Owls and they moved to Grand Rapids mid-season in 1977.  They lasted until 1980, when they disbanded the club due to financial reasons, and not being able to get a new stadium to play in.  The redundantly named Stadium Arena (now known as the DeltaPlex) was their home ice stadium, they missed out on the Van Andel arena by 16 years. Though Grand Rapids did miss some infamy by a couple of months, because one of the Owls players, Raymond William (Wild Willie) Trognitz was permanently suspended from the IHL, when during a brawl against the Port Huron Flags, Trognitz took his stick and struck it against a Flags player’s head, putting that player in the hospital.  The reason Grand Rapids escaped the infamy, because the team was still the Dayton Owls the time.

ggrizz2- jerseyShortly after the Owls closed up shop, the Grand Rapids Grizzlies took to the ice from 1980 to 1982 for the Continental Hockey League (not to be confused with the Russian version.

Then finally in 1996, the Van Andel Arena was built, and shortly there after Dave Van Andel and Dan DeVos formed West Michigan Hockey, Inc. which was able to bring the Griffins into town.  They effectively solved the problem of a lack of a stadium in Grand Rapids, which brought an end to the Owls.

Then there is roller hockey.  Apparently West Michigan had its own league eloquently named Michigan Elite Roller Hockey League.  In 2001 this league merged with the National Roller Hockey League (love cached websites!)  West Michigan was littered with the following roller hockey teams: Grandville Gators, Grand Rapids RiverFrogs, Kalamazoo Jones Soda (blatant copyright infringement), and Muskegon Comets.  Looks like there might have also been a Lansing Wild Cocks team, and the Kalamazoo team may have changed its name to the Warriors.


Perhaps unsurprisingly it’s been tough to dig up much information on soccer in West Michigan.  Grand Rapids had a team called the Explosion and Kalamazoo had a couple of teams one indoor team called the Kangaroos and an outdoor team called the Kingdom.

Well time to come clean, I am stretching this series into a three part-er.  So in the next installment I will be exploring some reasons why so many of these teams have come and gone in West Michigan.

Once again feel free to share any stories you have about these teams, or any pictures or anything else.

Part II in our series on defunct sports teams in West Michigan
Click here for Part I
Click here for Part III

Gone But Not Forgotten – Defunct Sports Teams of West Michigan – Part 1

Part I in our series on defunct sports teams in West Michigan – Click here for Part II

A blending of passions always yields some interesting results.  And recently I started blending two of my passions – sports and history.  Makes perfect sense right?  Fatigued with the high school sports (which after 7 years the local fanaticism, and hype still baffles me), and not really feeling the Griffins and Whitecaps, I started looking for something else.  Some how I stumbled into the world of defunct pro/semi-pro teams that once were.  Trust me there is a lot.  Many of these teams only competed for a year or two, and then they either moved to a different city, closed up shop, or their league folded.  Learning more about these teams and their history has been fascinating.  These teams covered the gamut of sports from baseball, football, basketball, soccer, and hockey.  Not only were these teams located in Grand Rapids, but there have been many teams that had homes in the smaller cities in West Michigan like Holland, and Muskegon.

It’s amazing how you start researching one aspect of this sports world and it starts unraveling more and more, such as the teams they played against, their leagues, and if your lucky you might also find photos of players, of the team, logos and if your lucky the stories.
Take for instance the Holland Oilers, which was a basketball team that played for two seasons in the Midwest Professional Basketball League in 1962-63 to 1963-1964 and even won the championship in 62-63 season.  The Oilers also had the first ever high school player drafted ever by the NBA, play for them as well.  The player’s name was Reggie Harding, and his fascinating, yet quite sad and tragic story can be read in full here.  Another interesting connection is that the Holland Oilers were coached angtacker1d co-owned by Gene Schrotenboer, and Gene also coached and co-owned the Grand Rapids Tackers, another Midwest Professional Basketball League team.  I have no idea how you can coach two different teams in the same league but yeah it was the 60’s, I guess anything can happen.  It’s difficult to find a lot info on the Tackers, but you can read more in the book “Thin Ice: Coming of Age in Grand Rapids” where a whole chapter is devoted to the team, check out the excerpt here.

Basketball in West Michigan also has a much more recent history as well – teams Grand Rapids Mackerslike the Grand Rapids Mackers turned Grand Rapids Hoops, turned West Michigan Mayhem.  Does anyone else remember the team travel bus of the Mayhem? I have fond memories of that bus rolling down the highway with its huge gaudy “wave” looking mascot guy emblazoned on the side.  It always resulted in a few double-takes.  What I find fascinating is GrandRapidsHoops8994the amount of success that the Hoops had when they started, and what happened to lead them to disband in 2003.  All mentions of the Hoops in local media state that the Hoops were quite successful early on in their career both with their playing and with attendance MichiganMayhemand fan support, so what happened?  How come they left town and ultimately disbanded?  I will be exploring this topic and writing down my thoughts on it in a future installment of this series.  That’s right Part 1 and 2 or maybe even 3.

More recently within the past 5 years Holland Blast, and Grand Rapids Flight  came into existence and just as quickly they left, Holland in 2007, and Grand Rapids in 2008.  The Flight also have the distinction of having the world’s tallest athlete on their roster with Sun Mingming.  Anyone see any games of the Flight with Sun Mingming playing? Here is an image below.  Living in Holland we did end up supporting the Blast.  It was a nice activity in the city and we attended a handful of games, and even got a T-shirt from the Blast.  Recently I just found out that Holland is home now to another basketball team, the Holland Dream though their season just ended a couple weeks ago. Hopefully, I will catch them next year, if they are still around.

So that was a little trip down in basketball history, how about we talk about our national past time – baseball.  Luckily, the West Michigan Whitecaps provide a nice little section on their website about the baseball history in this region. Baseball was played in Grand Rapids as early as 1882, and throughout the years many teams came and went and here are some of the notable names that were left behind:

  • Furniture Makers
  • Rustlers
  • Gold Bugs
  • Ganzeloids
  • Braves
  • Black Sox
  • Bissell Sweepers
  • Bill-Eds
  • Billberts
  • Billbobs
  • Bob-o-Links
  • Dodger Colts
  • Chicks
  • Orphans
  • Tigers
  • Cabinet Makers
  • Sullivans
  • Raiders
  • Jets
  • Joshers
  • Shamrocks
  • Wolverines
  • Champs
  • Raiders
  • Colts
  • Boers
  • Homoners
  • Grads
  • Rippers

The Jets dropping some bombs!

Those are some wild names, especially all the “Bill” & “Bob” names, not to mention the early corporate sponsorship with Bissell, and their product tie with the “sweeper” name.  As you could image it is hard to focus on all these teams so let’s pick out a couple of interesting ones to look at further.  For instance, the Grand Rapids Black Sox, featured future Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige who played for the team.  The owner of the Black Sox formed the team and tried to get them to join the Negro Leagues in 1953.  The Grand Rapids Chicks were a all girls baseball team that moved from Milwaukee to play in Grand Rapids from 1945 to 1954 in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. They were quite successful making the playoffs every single year that they were in Grand Rapids until the league folded. The Grand Rapids Historical Commission did a nice write-up on the Chicks.

The Chicks of course provide a great tie-in to my alma mater, University of Illinois at Chicago – UIC who in their earlier days were known as the Chikas (which was a Native American tribe) before they changed their name to the Flames (better).  Another baseball team playing in that same decade, was the Grand Rapids was the Jets.  They played in the Central League from 1948 to 1951, and played at Bigelow Field in Wyoming, who you can see in the above image doing some long toss.

Ottawa County Times Baseball Team picture

I guess they could have also played for the “Cot”s

Digging further back into the archives we can look at some teams in Holland that were operating back in the 1890’s – The Ottawa County Times, which sounds more like a newspaper than a baseball squad, but as we can see from the Grand Rapids names from this era of baseball anything goes.  Some other baseball teams that played in

Holland were the Internationals, Wooden Shoes

Who played domestically

The Holland Internationals – Who played domestically

(of course), and Flying Dutchmen (naturally).  With all this history of baseball in Holland, there is some basis for trying to bring back a minor league team to Holland.  It seems like there were a large number of teams all over West Michigan playing baseball. I am trying to learn more about them and plan to do so with this book “Baseball Fever: Early Baseball in Michigan

One other baseball note I wanted to see if I could get some follow-up on is the West Michigan Whitecaps “Turn Back the Clock” days they have done in the past. Per their website they did the following games where they honored these past teams and wore their uniforms:

  • 1899 Furnituremakers
  • 1903 Orphans
  • 1921 Joshers
  • 1922 Billbobs
  • 1948 Black Sox
  • 1950 Jets
  • Holland Flying Dutchmen
  • Ludington Mariners

So if you have attended any of these games or have photos of the players in the jerseys, I would love to hear from you or see the photos.

Football was also quite prevalent.  In the 1940’s there was the Michigan Independent Football League, which featured the Holland Hurricanes, and the Grand Rapids All-Stars. Holland Hurricanes Football Programs Some other teams found on the a game program, I dug out for the Hurricanes were the Ionia Independents, Highland Park Bears.  Around that time there was also a Southern Michigan Football League for which there is a nice little write up about the Bay City team, and some of the other teams in that league.

In much more recent years, there was the Michigan Football League, which has somehow been miraculously preserved with this fine website on the league and its teams   at http://www.semiprofootball.org/mfl.htm. I wish all these leagues had such a detailed website available about them.  You can read up more on the Grand Rapids Crush (which could have very well been the soda), and other MFL teams, like the Huskies.  I love the progression of the Holland Huskies though, they started out as the Hamilton Huskies in 94, then in 95 they moved to Holland to become the Holland Huskies, then in 1999 they moved to Grand Rapids and became the Michigan Huskies.  For me it just strikes me as odd that a team would start out in Hamilton of all cities.  Another team located in the city was the Grand Rapids Thunder, which was founded in 2003, but no longer seems to be in existence.

Well I think that is enough for now, next post we will take a closer look at hockey and touch upon soccer, and look into why minor league teams succeed or fail in West Michigan.

So did I interest you?  Do you have anything to share?  Have you been to any games, do you have any photos or additional information about these teams or any other teams that I didn’t mention?  Please share – post them in the comments or shot me an email at ledgerwm @ gmail.com.  I am extremely interested in learning more so anything you got, let me know. Let’s do a better job of preserving and sharing this piece of local sports history, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Part I in our series on defunct sports teams in West Michigan – Click here for Part II

Part 3: The Rise and Fall of Spearia – The Employees

Spearia.  If you have no idea what I am talking about please read this first before proceeding.

We have talked a lot about the company, Danny Beckett, and the filmmakers.  But what we haven’t focused on too much was Spearia’s employees.  Spearia being a web development company (though others may argue that they were event organizers) most of the employees were designers  and web developers.  At the company’s peak, 25 people were employed.  I was able to talk at length with one of these former employees who worked as a web developer.  But I also had many former employees comment on my first Spearia post who provided some great insight such as Pat Perry who left these comments:

“When this article speaks of too much focus on big splashy events, and not enough focus on the product, this is the truth. However, most designers and developers (The people who actually built the websites) were very talented and focused workers. While Danny went and promoted his community events, many just rolled their eyes, and kept on working on the website project they had been assigned to. During Free Lunch Fridays, many of us would escape to the private meeting rooms and close the door where we could keep working. Several of the employees at Spearia became annoyed with the “stunts” that their higher ups were pulling, which eventually led some of Spearia’s most talented and important designers and developers to find work elsewhere. One by one, the whole design team that I had worked with quit and found work elsewhere. Many developers left also. Its funny to read the critiques that this article points out, because they are echos of things many people on the team had been stressing for months. More work, more focus, less goofy stuff.

Unfortunately, the members of the Spearia team that were the most focused and passionate about the web, were not the ones in charge. So they left, and not to my surprise, they easily found new jobs designing, developing, and getting excited about the websites in other more productive environments.

Its going great, and I am thankful that Spearia gave me the chance to come watch, and work with some really talented designers. I often see many of the designers and developers that I worked under at Spearia, and it delights me to see their successes in other companies around Grand Rapids.”

I also received comments from Someone From Spearia who provided much more details on the cost of some of the events and also stated the following “What killed spearia was just bad business practices. Not willing to invest in the clients, bad estimates, bad contracts, etc.

I also received an email from a former employee who said “While I loved what I did there, I’m getting tired of us designers getting the blame for what happened.”

As I mentioned before I was able to interview a former web designer and developer from Spearia and below is a transcript of our conversation:

Whose ideas were all of these events?

“All of these events came from the top down.  I never quite understood the rationale (if there was one) behind the many events that we put on. I don’t like to think that it was all merely an ego trip, but sometimes I wonder.”

More Details on the Comstock event:
“I don’t know the financial details of Comstock, but I don’t think it was profitable. Some members of the team were always wary of a new, inexperienced company like ours putting on an event of that scale – especially with no main goal in mind other than to get our name out there.”

What was your personal take on the events?:
“I  usually didn’t want to do any of the events that Spearia held, and I stayed as far away from them as possible. I was more focused on doing my job.”

Why was Spearia looking for investors?
“I assume we needed cash.”

Why was the Indianapolis office opened? (note: per an email from Beckett, is office is still open and operational)
“I will never know. Most of the Spearia team was opposed to opening a new location; we had enough trouble hammering out our own processes without having to worry about keeping another location in check. It turns out that we never really interacted with the satellite office after it opened, which was unnerving and a huge concern for me. That decision never made sense to me.”

What was the purpose of all the vehicles?
“We had two cargo vans, three mopeds, and the RV. The official purpose of the vans were to be company vehicles for use in transporting cargo and people. For instance, we were allowed to borrow the vans in the event of car trouble, but I was never sure about the legal status of such use. The mopeds were for pleasure, and the RV was purchased strictly for Artprize (I believe).”

In your opinion what went wrong?
“Every company has it’s strengths and weaknesses, but I felt like things at Spearia were constantly improving and devolving at the same time. Anytime we started to gain traction and improve our workflow, something ridiculous and crippling would happen. That sort of environment isn’t enjoyable or sustainable.”

What were your thoughts on the video?  Was it accurate?
“Yes and no. I think it was an accurate depiction of Danny and how he operates, but I spotted many false statements that Danny made in the video. He mentions Spearia’s “initial purpose” of “growing the good in the world,” but I had never heard him say that before. He mentions our vision of “being this leading experience-based creative firm,” but this vision was not shared with the employees. When he first uttered this phrase in a meeting (earlier this year, I think), many of us groaned and disapproved. I won’t drill through each of the discrepancies, but you get the point. Also, every time Danny says “we” in the video, he usually means “I.””

Anything else you would like share?
“People usually know about Spearia because of our Free Lunch Fridays, the Comstock event, the Free Hugs event, and many other marketing events that Danny and the marketing team worked on. But underneath all of the noisy neon, crazy events, and brash slogans, there was a hard-working team of developers and designers, who really wanted nothing more than to create great things for the web. We weren’t interested in the glitz and glam lifestyle, but we also didn’t own the company and didn’t have much say in the extracurricular activities that went on. We constantly felt jilted and put to the side in favor of this month’s fun, new event. We got tired of feeling like this, so we left.
However, I don’t wish to put all of the blame on Danny for what happened to Spearia. We all share partial blame in how things went down, but we also all share pride in the great things that happened there. I worked with some truly amazing people, and I wouldn’t trade my experience there for anything. But at the end of the day, the culture at Spearia just wasn’t sustainable. It’s a shame, but it’s not a surprise.”

Of course you can always speculate what is going on behind closed doors but actually hearing first hand from former employees is pretty telling.  They paint a very interesting picture.  I find it fascinating that although a majority of the employees were designers and developers, it seems that not much input was solicited out of them (maybe they did but based on the comments above it doesn’t look that way).  Like would a Free Lunch Friday event with a live band affect your work environment or your deliverables.  Also admirable is the approach that my interviewee had that he doesn’t blame Danny for everything, because they all had a role in it.  All the employees seemed to echo that they enjoyed working for Spearia but just wish somethings were different (which is true for almost any job).

But I do have a request and a question for my readers.

My Request:  Please watch these Spearia videos below:

My Question:  What is your impression of these videos?  What were the employees thinking?  I will share mine in the comments.

For more insight into Spearia check out their YouTube and Vimeo channels.  Here is another video from Grand Rapids Business Journal , of Beckett giving a tour of building before Spearia moved in.  I find it fascinating that Free Lunch Friday idea as already developed.

Lastly, a special thanks for my interviewee (a former Spearia employee), and to all other former employees who commented as well.

This is Part 3 of the Spearia Tale.
Part 1: Spearia background & story
Part 2: The Filmmakers

For more reading and discussion on Spearia check out Urban Planet message board and the mlive – GR Press article on Danny Beckett

Part 2: The Rise and Fall of Spearia – The Filmmakers

In researching the whole Spearia situation I  was able to interview Justin Vander Velde a senior at Grand Valley State University, who created Switching Gears, the Spearia film.

First off let me talk about the film for a little.  Justin is majoring in Cinema Video with an emphasis on documentaries.  In a documentary class Justin and his four other classmates:  Matt Dayton, Jake Dawson, and Andrea Wallace (yes only four, it was a small class I was told) had a whole semester to create a documentary.  The classmates batted around some ideas before settling on the interesting story of Danny Beckett, and Spearia.  The former motocross rider turned entrepreneur and founder of a web development company.  Justin was familiar with Beckett because they had worked on some projects together in the past.  Justin approached Beckett about the documentary idea and Beckett was all on board with the idea, and agreed to help the classmates with their project.

Justin had a pretty good idea of how the documentary would turn out …  a cool company, with a cool ex-motocross guy doing things their own way, with cool events, sponsorships, and activities..  They started filming in September, with Justin asking the questions, and the other students were helping out with filming and editing.  By Mid-November the students thought they had their film basically wrapped up after they completed filming the Halloween themed Free Lunch Friday.  But also during this time the students sensed for the first time that something was amiss with Spearia.  This happened when they were interviewing Jason Dodge outside of Spearia office when he mentioned he was no longer the Marketing Director, but rather he was now a Project Manager.  A week after that interaction Jason left the company.  Then as mentioned in the video the team could not get a hold of Beckett anymore.  As you could image with students who have a grade on the line, panic quickly set in.

Eventually the students received a tip about the For Lease Signs on the Spearia building.  After they drove to Comstock Park and filmed the empty building, the students were left at a crossroads on how to proceed.  They needed to complete their film, and turn it in for a grade.  On one hand they had the story they initially were trying to do – Fun company being successful doing their own thing, but obviously there was now more to the story.  Or they could keep on asking questions and hopefully get a answer about the For Lease Signs.

The students decided to try to get the full story, and were still trying to make contact with Beckett.  Finally they got a hold of Beckett, since Justin had a personal relationship with Beckett, he had a hard time asking the hard questions.  Luckily, Jake picked up the slack and was able to ask Beckett the difficult questions that needed to be answered.

The classmates were happy with the way the project turned out but they would have liked to have more time filming and being able to wrap up the story properly.  They ended up working on editing the video just hours before the final film was due to their professor.

As you could imagine Justin and his classmates received a lot of feedback on the video after they posted it to Vimeo.  Though  about a day after it was posted, the video was taking down.  Justin wanted to change some privacy settings to the video, and it was not in fact taken down because of Beckett or his actions (Justin just wanted this to be clear).  Justin had a difficult time with this project because as mentioned earlier he did have a personal relationship with Beckett, and as you could imagine it would be quite difficult to be in the middle of everything filming this company as it is unraveling.   He did not want to tarnish Beckett’s image since he did help them out with the film.  But he did hear back from Beckett after the final video, and Beckett relayed his congratulations to the filmmakers and was very proud of the way the video turned out, and was happy to help them out in their class. Through various Facebook postings the students also got feedback from former Spearia employees who were happy to see the whole story out there and thought for the most part that everything was accurately depicted.

Justin said he will have to make another film for next semester.  He is leaving the door open to perhaps follow Danny Beckett more closely in what happens to him after Spearia.  Per Justin, Danny is looking at becoming a public speaker or writing books.  So it will be quite interesting to see what comes out of this.

What Justin and his classmates were able to capture is amazing in my opinion, and I thought they did a great job on the video.  I have never met Danny, so I am not sure how open he is in general, but I would have to think that as the filmmaker, he had to have some role in either asking the right questions, making Danny feel at ease to discuss the company so candidly, or both.

On top of that I thought that the students did a great job handling the curveball they were throw.  As mentioned the students thought that they had the video wrapped up after that Halloween themed Free Lunch Friday.  Then you find out that something is up, i.e. finding investors, people leaving or getting new titles, the For Lease sign on the building.  So all of a sudden you have to go in a new direction with the story, because all that fun, cool, crazy stuff Spearia was doing just doesn’t quite fit in the story anymore.

So then going back through the footage and being able to piece together the rise, the pinnacle, some surface cracks of trouble, and finally the demise of the company was great.  I watched the movie numerous times, and at first I did not zero in on the whole interesting exchanges with Jason Dodge, and Kristen  (the woman employee) who talked about the challenges of working with an ideas person, and then catching the awkward exchange regarding Jeff’s new position at Spearia.  I had to re-watch that portion a couple of times to really get the magnitude of those exchanges and how they fit in the story.  Getting that shot of Danny alone on the deck was a very demonstrative shot, and just getting Danny to tell you in his own words about the end of the company, and them showing the shots of the for lease sign to reinforce to the viewer what Danny is saying.  So nice job Justin, Matt, Jake, and Andrea.

In case you were wondering Justin did receive an A in the class.

This is Part 2 of the Spearia Tale.
Part 1 can be found here.
I will have one more follow-up post with some insights from a former employee of Spearia.

For more reading and discussion on Spearia check out Urban Planet message board and the mlive – GR Press article on Danny Beckett.

Spartan Stores Discontinues Michigan’s Best Campaign

Well that did not last long.  Back in July 2009 Family Fare (Spartan Stores) had started a Michigan’s Best campaign (see my original blog post)which highlighted food and products that are made in Michigan.  They would do this by adding little product tags on the shelves where the prices are listed.

Well they are no longer there.   I did a quick scan through the aisles of Family Fare and didn’t see any Michigan’s Best tags.  I purposely sought out products I knew were produced in Michigan such as Velvet Peanut Butter, and Koeze Peanut Butter (ok so I was in the peanut butter, and jelly aisle)








Too bad it was always fun seeing what products were made in Michigan, and I could feel a little better about supporting our state when I did purchase something produced here.  I emailed Spartan Stores to get an answer on why the program was stopped but I have not had any response.  I guess I am not a credible media outlet just yet.

S Nightclub & Bosgraaf Family – Trust Me, It All Makes Sense

In early July 2010, Holland’s “premier” nightclub S Nightclub and Sol Lounge closed down (by the way the mlive article gives a much better picture than the Holland Sentinel article).  Bummer right?  So reading the articles about the closure I started noticing some interesting aspects, which I want to explore more, so here comes the shovel because I am about to dig.  Ready?

S Nighclub & Sol Lounge opened in October 2008 was created and owned by Brett Flipse, left, and Brett Flipse Jr. (lovely image available courtesy of the Holland Sentinel).  Brett Flipse is also the former owner of the Ottawa Beach General Store.  He owned the general store for 12 years until the bank foreclosed upon the property in 2009.  I am going to go out on a limb and venture to say that perhaps the reason the Flipse lost the General Store (read about the controversy here & here & here) was because of his $2.4 million investment into the S Nightclub.  What a horrible position to be in leveraging one business to fund a new business and then being left with neither a mere two years later is quite a shame.  I won’t go into speculation on the validity of having a nightclub in Holland, especially in a less than ideal location of Lakewood Avenue (along Lake Macatawa or downtown might have helped out the business more) but I do wonder about the due diligence of this project.

Anyways Flipse gave up ownership of the nightclub back in late 2009 because of financial difficulties, and ended up giving the nightclub to the owner of the building who is Scott Bosgraaf.  According to the former general manager of the nightclub “Scott never wanted to operate the nightclub. He wanted to be a landlord. Instead of closing down, he wanted to continue operating to make sure the liquor license would stay, all the operational  audio-visual equipment would stay …now he can sell it as a nightclub.” According to the Mlive article, they seem pretty confident that someone will buy the nightclub and keep it running. Bosgraaf’s approach makes sense, pool everything together and sell it as a package, and by getting out of the day to day management of the club, he is sticking with what he know and what he does well.  Researching more into Scott Bosgraaf, it seems like he does a lot of things well.

Scott Bosgraaf has the following “projects” and business under his control:

Impressive no?  Well Scott is only one of 4 siblings who were born to Ted & Pat Bosgraaf, and if you start pulling back the peel on the Bosgraaf name, you will find a whole family of business owners.  Luckily a lot of light is shed upon this subject by visiting the Bosgraaf Homes website, where Amy (Bosgraaf) Alderink wrote up a family history  which goes a little something like this.  It all started with Ted and Jack Bosgraaf, who were brothers.  Ted was married to Pat, and they had four children – Mike, Brian, Scott, and Amy.  Ted and Jack were originally sod farmers who got their way into creating communities, such as Shady Pines in Allegan County, by converting their existing sod farms.  They built upon their experience to create Summergreen in Hudsonville, Spring Lane development in Holland, and in Grand Haven they created Sandpiper and redeveloped the Story and Clark Piano Factory, all under the Bosgraaf Sales and Leasing.  Eventually the brothers split and Ted started Bosgraaf Homes with his son Brian.  Soon the whole family was working in some capacity in Bosgraaf Homes.  Right now Bosgraaf homes is owned by Amy and Mike who bought out their father Ted for the business.  Alright so now we have some more Bosgraaf names we need to sort out.

Amy (Bosgraaf) Alderink has her hands in the following:

Then there is Mike Bosgraaf who along with Amy is a co-owner of Bosgraaf Homes.  Mike is married now divorced to Veronica, who is the entrepreneur behind Pure Bars (blog, twitter, facebook) company by creating vegan health bars for her vegetarian daughter.  More stories about her venture here & here.

Lastly, that leaves us with Brian Bosgraaf who owns Cottage Home (facebook & twitter), a custom home builder focused on building million dollar homes on Lake Michigan (feel free to drool over here), and additionally he also owns DwellTech (facebook & twitter), which is an home & commercial energy auditing company based in Holland.  He also worked for ICCF in the past as well.

Yes the Bosgraaf family has many layers as you can see here, maybe one of these days I will tackle the other famous Lakeshore families such as the DeVos or the Princes.  But you guys have probably have heard enough about them.

So are you guys going to miss S Nightclub?  Anyone ever been – thoughts?  Any more Bosgraaf businesses that I missed?