Tag Archives: Only in West Michigan

Hung

Confession time, I have way too many saved bookmarks on my internet browser.  Occasionally I go through and try to purge any links that no longer work or that I don’t find interesting anymore.  Now every time I did this I always hesitated on one link on whether I should delete it or keep it.  Well I decided to keep it and look now I have a blog post.

The link in question is http://www.robertcarltonhangers.com/.  Robert Carlton, is not a distinguished English Gentleman, but rather a local manufacturer of “high quality wooden hangers,” located in Zeeland, MI.  Per the website Robert Carlton is owned by Bennett Wood Specialties, which is a 4th generation family owned business that started back in 1906. Granted hangers aren’t really sexy or exciting like micro-breweries or start-ups, but all the same I stumbled upon this link and decided to save it.  Luckily though I happened to stumble upon on a different link this time for http://www.hangersplus.us/. Hangers Plus is a company located in Coopersville, that makes hangers! Now with Hangers Plus, they have a huge variety of hangers – plastic or wooden, US or European Style (who knew?), tops, bottoms,  outwear, or intimate…the possibilities are endless. They also manufacturer their hangers around the world – Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and India.  They also have numerous other locations.  Which is quite impressive for a company most have never heard of, tucked away in Coopersville, quietly making hangers.

How do you like that two hanger companies in West Michigan?  Honestly it isn’t a big deal, but I would have never thought that West Michigan would have had one hanger company, let alone two.  But it just goes to show the width breadth of products that are made by local companies, and also showcases how one seemingly simple product can have some many variations and ways to differentiate yourself.

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
– Muskegon Lumberjacks – Hockey

Kalamazoo
– 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

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.

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).

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.

Update on Scott Bosgraaf

Well its gotten to that point, where Scott Bosgraaf deserves his own post. Oddly enough it seems that he has been following in his former lessee, Brett Flipse’s footsteps.

Scott Bosgraaf in front of what could be a building (at least GR Press knows how to label file photos)

Last time I wrote about Scott Bosgraaf he seemed to be doing quite well, owning several companies and building developments, but as you can see many of these are running into trouble:

Huntington Bank was a major financier for Bosgraaf, had enough, and decided to pursue action against Bosgraaf.  The bank began to take some properties into foreclosure, and initiated some lawsuits to receive payment on loans.  Auto Sports Unlimited (which was used as an umbrella company to Bosgraaf Commercial, and Holland Transmission Service) and Faargsob (Bosgraaf backwards) where used as collateral for some of his developments, and both have filed for bankruptcy.  The legal battles between Huntington Bank and Bosgraaf are ongoing so we will have to wait and see how this will all play out.

The situation between Bosgraaf and his lenders has been brewing for awhile.  Back in January 2011, I noticed lots of visitors to The Ledger were searching for “Scott Bosgraaf foreclosure” or some variation of that.  At the time I could not verify any of that information, but now the press has caught wind of the story.

Read more at Holland Sentinel, Grand Rapids Press, Argus Press, and my original post here.
Though I do love the title for this Scott Bosgraaf photo “Scott Bosgraaf of Baker Lofts stand in the wine cellar at what could be Theodore, the new restaurant at Baker Lofts. ”  At what could be… really?