Tag Archives: DeVos

Gone But Not Forgotten – Part 2

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

Hockey

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.

Soccer

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

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Generic… err Private Label Manufacturing in West Michigan

As discussed in a past post, West Michigan with its rich Dutch heritage has a reputation of being cheap. One thing that exemplifies the perception of cheap is the store brands or private labels products you can purchase in stores right along side the name brand products. You know the Meijer peanut butter, Spartan Stores frozen broccoli, or Walgreen’s toothbrushes. Almost every store has a complete offering of products with their store brand emblazoned on the product, and it is generally cheaper than the name brand version sitting right next to it. Well it shouldn’t surprise anyone that West Michigan is home to a number of these private label manufacturers making a wide array of products to sell to consumers with a store brand name on the packaging. Here is a list I have compiled, so lets get rolling!

Cheeze Kurls – But not only do they make Cheeze Kurls, but they also make balls, puffs, pops, fries, nuggets, pieces, among other delicious products. So while you might see their own brand on the shelves but most likely some of the store brands you purchase have been produced by Cheeze Kurls. Per this article 85% of their business is private label – some of the noted customers are Meijer, Spartan, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, CVS, and Rite-Aid.  Cheeze Kurls is located in the Walker area nearby Meijer.  Check out MiBiz’s piece on the company for an extremely thorough look at the company and on the snack food.

Quincy Street Inc.  – Is a private label meat (pork)  processor located in Holland on Quincy Street!  They definitely get extra points for originality in naming their company.

Request Foods – Surprisingly we have already covered Request Foods and how their company name was inspired by the DeVos’ Windquest boat.  I just don’t know about Holland companies and the way they go about naming their companies.  To recap Request Foods specializes in frozen entrees and provides private labeling, just look the picture and imagine your private label here.

Festida Foods –  Staying with the snack food theme, Grand Rapids is also home to Festida Foods, a private label manufacturer of tortilla chips and corn chips – what exactly is a corn chip and how is it different from a tortilla chip?  Earlier this  year they moved from Cedar Springs to a facility in Grand Rapids to meet their recent growth.

Artesian Distillers – Yes private label vodka, whisky, gin, or rum is now available, thanks to Grand Rapids based Artesian Distillers.  Based on their website they say they are working on opening up a tasting room in Rockford.  It’s a husband and wife team that started the operation.  I can’t wait to see my Meijer brand Vodka, or Spartan Rum.

Magnum Coffee Roastery – This one I found purely on dumb luck.  For some reason I was driving through Nunica (I know right), and smelled coffee in the air and saw this large building on the side of the road.  This lead me to do some more research on Magnum Coffee Roastery, and by research I just looked up their website.  Well they too offer private label brands.

Down Inc – Is a 50 year company based in Grand Rapids that produces down filled comforters and pillows for private labels.  In an interesting move Down Inc. actually named some of their customers in this Grand Rapids Press article – like Crate & Barrel, Room & Board, and how they supply JW Marriott and the Amway Grand Hotels (kudos to the hotels for buying local).  In a wise business decision of vertical integration – Down Inc is owned by Maple Leaf Farms – the largest producer of duck meat in the US.  So now we know where all those duck feathers come from, what a perfect idea… it almost makes too much sense.

Ranir – Oral care from West Michigan. Yes, Ranir in Grand Rapids is a leading private label manufacturer of oral care products – ranging from tooth brushes, to floss, whitening products to other assorted mouth related products.

Perrigo – One of the best known companies in the region is Perrigo based in Allegan.  They are the world’s largest manufacturer of OTC pharmaceutical products for the store brand markets.  As a company they have been broadening their product offerings with recent acquisitions of baby formula, and pet care brand Sergeant’s.  If you can be sure to check out their factory store in downtown Allegan so you can see all the store brands for yourself, side by side.  Here is an image from their historical medicinal display from within the store.

Pretty interesting list, and potentially mind blowing.  Especially if you were one of those people who always prefers Meijer cheese curls snacks over Spartan brand, you might be eating the exact same snack, or using the exact same toothbrush or whatever.  So any other private label manufacturers out that you are aware of?  Please share them with me in the comments section.

Hey! What’s Growing On?

As I am sure everyone knows Start Garden started today.  Start Garden is the next big thing from Rick DeVos and Pomegranate Studios, where people can submit ideas for a chance receive $5,000 in an initial investment.  Each week, 2 ideas will be chosen and given $5,000 and then the winners will be required to come back in 60-90 days and present where they are at with their winning idea for opportunity to get additional funding, in the amount of $20,000.  Ideas that are progressing well and have potential to become viable businesses can in theory receive up to $500,000 dollars from Start Garden.  The fund is backed up $15 million commitment from the DeVos family, so there is plenty of opportunities for many ideas to get a lot of investment dollars.  Throughout the process, ideas receiving funding will be able to get some resources and mentoring from Start Garden to help their idea move ahead.  The public gets to be involved in the process as well by choosing one of the weekly winners and public events will be held to present the progress of previous winners.

Some things I like about Start Garden:

  • Accountability.  Unlike the 5×5 Nights winners, who are not required to update anyone on their progress or what they have done with money that they won, Start Garden requires winners to come back in 60-90 days and update everyone on their progress.  Not to mention that great minds think alike, here is my tweet to 5×5 Night (Pomegranate Studio) on January 24, 2012 and their response.  I asked them if they followed-up with winners on their progress or what they were up to, and 5×5 responded that they didn’t..  I was always curious if there was an mechanism in place besides one own morals which prevent someone from coming up with a fake idea (charity/or good cause) and win the competition and just take the $5,000 and run.  Granted it would be a lot of work for someone to do all that but I am sure there must have been at least some hucksters who submitted ideas with this premise.  Plus people what to know what happens next, its like a cliffhanger and people want to see a resolution or at least the next chapter.  Start Garden did a great thing by adding in this extra step.
  • Helping ideas get off the ground, and giving them money
  • General philanthropy of the DeVos family
  • Getting exposure to some new, great, and interesting ideas (it could potentially give me more fodder for my blog)
  • And this great quote form Mlive “Backed by his wealthy family, [Rick] DeVos…” Wow way to empower all the troll commentators to like to spout negatives about the DeVos family.

Some things I don’t like:

  • All the garden talk.  I know its part of the name, and it helps complete the narrative, but look at this quote from Rick DeVos: ““Start Garden creates the field and brings the water. We ask the people to bring their ideas and plant them. And we ask existing businesses in our region to become the farmers. Because we believe the soil is fertile for business here and we can be the best place for somebody to have an idea and run with it”
  • Never did they really say what is going to happen to 5×5 Night, though by looking at the website, it does say “Site Closed Temporarily closed. Check out our new project Start Garden.”  None of the stories I read mentioned it, even the official press release never states what is going to happen to 5×5.
  • The logo should be green or brown instead of yellow… you know garden, things growing, greenery and soil.

Start Garden, cool idea, that I will be curiously following, and I am especially looking forward for the 60-90 day recaps which I think is the best part.  What are your thoughts?

HUGE Annoyance

I have a radio in my car.  No tape deck, no CD player, and no aux jack… so in my daily commutes I get stuck listening to radio.  With the West Michigan radio options already quite lacking, I struggle to entertain myself when a program I am listening to goes on commercial break.  There is often a lot of dial switching going on.

Not sure why the logo is cracking

Occasionally, I stumble upon WBBL 107.3  and if it’s in the afternoon I get to hear the HUGE (Bill Simonson) show… and I don’t like what I hear.  Maybe its the voice, or the whole on-air persona of all-knowing and talking down to callers of the show.  But those are minor things to what I really dislike… the constant barrage of sponsorships of everything, and all the ads that HUGE lends his voice over talents for.  It’s a constant to hear  Huge’s voice during the show, and throughout the whole commercial break.  Here is a small sampling of some of the advertisements that Huge does, and some of the sponsorships that I have heard:

Sponsored by The Ledger

Show sponsors include:

It’s a HUGE Deal!

For a casual listener it seems like there is a mandate that advertisers must use the voice of Bill Simonson in their radio ads or else.  Or perhaps that booming voice just helps in tough talking people to buy product xyz.  I know that a lot of radio shows do provide voice over services, but on the HUGE Show the percentage of those types of ads is vastly above and beyond what other shows do. Additionally, The Huge Show also goes over the top with having everything associated with the show sponsored like an inbox, or a website, or the phone lines… and then the constant reinforcement of this sponsor is out of control.

Sponsored by The Ledger on Twitter

Luckily, I am not the only one who feels this way, check out one of the more interesting blogs I have come across called Beeotch of The Day which seems to be run by someone in the Grand Rapids radio business.  Bill Simonson was twice nominated for Beeotch of The Day… once for his over use of sponsors and voice over ads , and nominated for the second time for just being plain lousy in the Radio rankings, and even getting bested by the other sports radio show in town on 96.1.  Furthermore, in reading over some of the MLive comments that were made on this story about the Free Beer and Hot Wings Show imitating and poking fun at Bill Simonson, many people also share similarly negative thoughts of HUGE, and notably commenter Thirdplanet who wrote the following “The reason this is so funny is because it is all so true. The Huge show is like one 3 hour commercial and apparently Huge will endorse anything. ”

Photo sponsored by The Ledger on Facebook

Lastly, what bugs me about Huge is that his Amway Inbox can be reached through his “State Wide” email address, and “State Wide” website.  “State Wide” email addresses and websites are available to anyone globally… so stop saying it, it sounds stupid, and makes you sound even more ridiculous.

Just listen to his show, and count the number of ads, and sponsors, its HUGE!

Out of curiosity is it cheaper usually to have a company produce its own commercial or to hire an on-air personality to do the radio spot?

Orlando Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide Steps Down Because of A Drunk Call

And you thought only young people drunk dial and usually toward their exes!  Well CEO of the Orlando Magic, Bob Vander Weide, drunk dialed the team’s star player Dwight Howard at 1am a few days ago.  The conversation involved Vander Weide stating to Dwight how badly they wanted him to stay in Orlando and play with the Magic, which is odd since he is not a free agent this year (but he will be after the 2011-2012 season ends).  As fall out of this phone call, Vander Weide is stepping down as CEO of the Magic, though it should be noted that his contract was set to expire on December 31st, so he might have been planing his exit for a while.  Though I doubt that the drunk dial was supposed to be the crux of his exit strategy.

Not sure what was louder the audio system or Bob’s shirt

Now a little background on Bob Vander Weide.  He is married to Cheri DeVos, daughter of the Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos, so he is firmly entrenched in the DeVos family business (more on that below, and this previous blog post).  The Orlando Sentinel did a nice piece on Vander Weide in 2008, which can be read here (it also talks about his private Gulfstream jet).  It gives some background on Vander Weide and how he became a part of the DeVos family and began working for the Magic.  In addition to his Magic responsibilities, he had many other West Michigan business, roles and organizations to keep track of or be a part of, such as:

There are rumors going around that Vander Weide stepping down is also related to some marriage troubles with his wife, which Vander Weide flat out denies.  He also states that by leaving the role of CEO of the Magic, he can devote more time to his family which includes 5 children.  Since he will still be a part of the Magic organization in a consulting role, and likely still traveling back and forth from Grand Rapids to Orlando, I am not sure how much more time he will spend with them but per that Orlando Sentinel article, he makes it happen by working remotely in Grand Rapids, and flying around in the Gulfstream when needed.

I would be curious to find out how the story of the drunk dial got leaked?  Was it Vander Weide’s paddle (does he mean ping pong?) & wine drinking buddies (They must have egged him on to call), or was Dwight Howard pissed about the call, and told some people in management? Or was it just general gossip.

If interested in the the whole transition of power at the Magic, here is the official scoop (warning more DeVos names in article).

ITAKEYOURMONEY&5T-SHIRTS.COM?

If you dabble in social media, and are active in the West Michigan social media scene you are probably familiar with iwearyourshirt.com (IWYS) , and its founder Jason Sadler.

So what exactly does IWYS do?  Well companies hire them for a day, and they will wear whatever T-Shirt the company provides for them on that specific day, and then IWYS team of 5, tweets, take photos, records videos, and do live streaming of the IWYS team wearing the T-Shirt and promoting the company.  Here is how it officially works and for the curious here is the pricing.  Amazing how one guy can bring in $333,000 a year, plus $60,000 for monthly sponsorships just for wearing a different shirt 365 days a year (though I suppose he has to pay his other 4 employees).

So why do companies have such a fascination with IWYS?  Initially looking at the business model it seems like an awfully stupid idea, that companies would pay people to wear their shirt just because they will tweet, shoot videos, and take pictures of themselves with the shirt.  It doesn’t seem to be a very sound strategy for engaging customers.  They do have a large following but are those followers actually potential customers?

But for some reason West Michigan companies have really jumped onto the iwearyourshirt.com bandwagon.  For 2011, the following are companies have partnered with IWYS:  The Stow Company, JW Marriott and

Yes that is a Griffin

Amway Grand, Experience

Grand Rapids (the CVB) and Good Life Granola.

Eh

If you are a loyal reader of The Ledger you will immediately recognize the connection between these some of these companies… Stow Company, JW Marriott, Amway Grand.   That’s right they are all associated with the DeVos family (It’s crazy what businesses are in their portfolio).

In any case, these companies paid Jason Sadler of IWYS to promote their companies and arranged for him to travel to West Michigan during the week of June 6 through June 12, 2011 and put him up in the Amway Grand and JW Marriott hotels, where he wore the following shirts:

2011 hasn’t been the only year that IWYS have been leveraged by these companies, some have a history as well.

The Stow Comapny

  • Amway Grand and JW Marriott hosted Jason for a whole week in 2010 – Though he only wore the JW Marriott t-shirts on June 14, and Amway Grand on June 21, he was still in Grand Rapids attending area events and promoting things for the hotels.  Looks like those other T-Shirt sponsors during that time got the short end of the stick.

Does IWYS actually do anything?  Looking at the comments on the company’s calendar day web page, they are either non-existent or lacking depth, I am surprised I don’t see any “First” comments.  Additionally who really wants to sit through 10 videos (5 YouTube & 5 UStream) on the same company (don’t even bother looking at the comments on YouTube), not to mention new videos are out there everyday of the year (it might be difficult to get caught up if you miss a day).  I’ll admit that I am not a big on watching online videos, and sitting through at least 2 minutes of promotion & pitching 10 different times doesn’t sound appealing even if I was.

What is the fascination with this marketing medium?  Have they had a good return on investment with this?  The only company, which a campaign like this would make, sense is Good Life Granola, since their products are relatively inexpensive consumer products that can be ordered online, quickly and easily with little thought.  It would be easy for anyone following IWYS to quickly and easily purchase some granola…but not so easy to do for a city, or hotels.  But for these other companies that don’t sell cheap tangible items, it doesn’t seem like a good fit.  For the hotels alone they spent over $3,000 for their days, not including the travel, lodging, and dining expenses that I am assuming the hotels paid for (at least on their days).  But I do give all the companies involved credit for coordinating the visit with IWYS, I wonder how many secret backroom meetings it took to get it all hammered out.

This relationship still leaves so many questions… but through the Twitter (follow me here) I was able to ask a couple of questions to Ryan Slusarzyk, Marketing Manager for the Amway Grand and JW Marriott hotels, so he was able to provide some insight. For the hotels at least the goal was not to sell rooms, but to increase their social media presence and to sell Grand Rapids as a destination to visit.  As a result of the IWYS campaign in 2011, the Facebook pages for the two hotels gained over 2,000 followers (many from Michigan and the Midwest)  and there was “significant impact on twitter. “  The hotels also used this visit to promote “The Hotel Kitchen” product line, which features tangible products that can be ordered and shipped.

Ok so I am starting to turn the corner a little bit on this because when Jason from IWYS was in Grand Rapids, he did many videos showcasing Grand Rapids, its restaurants, and things to do.  So I can definitely see that as being a benefit.  Selling a product line of dressings, salsas, and chutneys, is much easier to purchase and cheaper.  Though if he didn’t come to visit Grand Rapids, I would have to think that the campaign would not be as effective.  Something tells me IWYS other employees did not have very interesting/effective videos since they were promoting from their home base.

So who knows exactly how much value the IWYS campaigns bring in, especially for these intangible objects.  But according to Ryan, he is pretty confident that the hotels will partner with IWYS again next year.

What do you think?  Is this an effective marketing channel, and a good use of marketing budget? Will anyone dare leave a “first” comment on my blog?

It’s A Bird, It’s a Plane, No It’s ……

Mumbai, Minneapolis, and Grand Rapids, Oh My – What do they all have in common….. Skywalks!

So Grand Rapids has a Skywalk, which is an elevated enclosed walkway between buildings. The main point of skywalks is to give users a safe way to move between buildings (avoid traffic, congestion on streets) and to protect pedestrians from the weather.

The Grand Rapids Skywalk is 1.4 miles long, covers 7 city blocks, and connects multiple buildings.  The Skywalk starts at Devos Place off of Monroe, and snakes it way down Monroe, and heads East on Fulton and ends at the Van Andel Arena.  Here is a map and here is another map, and here is a confusing map with entrances and exits and non identified buildings.

It is hard to get information on the SkyWalk and so I took it upon myself through visual observation and Bing Maps and their Aerial View (which rocks) to create my own map of the Grand Rapids SkyWalk and identifying what buildings it connects (and the businesses inside those buildings).  But of course soon after I created that map I found this one which is perfect – oh well.  Please click on my map to make me feel better about not wasting my time.

I have been on the Skywalk once after a Griffins hockey game at Van Andel Arena, promptly got lost and exited as quickly as I saw an exit.  But luckily it looks like the City of Grand Rapids is fixing the Skywalk system with a series of wayfaring signs by Corbin Design out of Traverse City (the same company that did the street wayfaring system for the downtown).  Additionally according to this article they are also looking for ways to beautify the Skywalk.

With out further ado here is the path of the Grand Rapids SkyWalk (my map): Also note that the numbers below correspond to the Bing Map I created)

Van Andel Arena (#1)to 25 Ottawa SW Building (#3) to both 32 Market SW Building (#5) and the Parking Lot on Market/Fulton/Monroe (#7) to Courtyard by Marriott (#8) & Plaza Towers (#9) (at 11 Monroe NW) to Campau Square Parking Lot on Campau & Monroe (#11) to Campau Square Plaza Building (#13) (99 Monroe NW) to National City Bank Building (#15) (171 Monroe NW) then splits to JW Marriott (#17) and Amway Grand Hotel (#21) & Plaza.

The JW Marriott Route (#17) goes to Riverfront Plaza Building (#19)(55 Campau, 88 Campau) and ends.

The path to Amway Grand Plaza (#21) goes to Windquest Building (#24 my personal favorite) and  DeVos Place/Performance Hall (#25).

So it seems that this Grand Rapids SkyWalk may still grow in the future.  In fact the city of Grand Rapids as recently as 1/20/2010 in a Economic Development Corporate meeting was asking about viability of a skywalk at the Old Post Office, which it was told that a Skywalk is too expensive and not a part of the plan for the building (here is the link to the notes from that meeting).  But it goes to show that is still on the minds of city leaders and developers.

There  is a photographic slideshow of the Grand Rapids SkyWalk through Flickr.

Please share your SkyWalk stories and thoughts in the comments.  Does Grand Rapids even need a SkyWalk?  How did this all get started in Grand Rapids?