Tag Archives: Zeeland


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.

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).


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.

Looking the Part?

I’m sure you’ve seen them, bad publicity photos, cheesy professional headshots.  You know those ones where it looks like the person is just smiling a little too hard, or they are holding their head at an awkward angle.  Depending on your position, having a good professional headshot is a must, and it should go without saying that the individual being photographed should dress professionally as well, and a president or CEO would be one such person.

Well the family owned business issue of “Business” the publication from Holland Chamber of Commerce brings us this:

Could you imagine if he had a lei on?

Jeff Mulder is the CEO and President of ODL (manufacturer of decorative door glass and other residential products) an international company headquartered in Zeeland, that employs over 800 people in 6 countries.  So he is not the CEO of a small machine shop in town, but of a pretty large company.  But why, oh why was it decided that wearing a Hawaiian shirt for a headshot was a good idea, and even more shocking, why was this photo submitted for use in this publication.  So maybe wearing the power suit with red tie, might not be the best choice of photo for the family business issue, so why not go with the ODL embroidered shirt from Land’s End?  Though it could be worse, they could have gone with the edited out significant other photo, those can always be found on Rapid Growth’s Jobs Landed section (Exhibit 1, Exhibit 2, Exhibit 3, Exhibit 4).

Why so serious?

Not to be overlooked but there is also just plain angry photos, like the above from one of the members of Status Creative.  Why is Scott Erickson so angry?  It looks especially odd right next to his co-worker Rob Bliss, who sports quite an affable look in his photo.

Do you have any favorite bad publicity photos you would like to share?  Share them here or on The Ledger facebook page.  Does a weird, bad, or awkward photo, change your thoughts of that person?

Maybe It’s the Factory Outlet Stores That Make West Michiganders Cheap

(Note this story originally appeared in the the August/September 2011 version of Urban Street | Shore West Magazine)

West Michigan has a reputation…thrifty, cheap, frugal, any way you put it West Michiganders like a deal, or so they say.

But there may be a reason for this; our region is home to a large number of manufacturers.  Often times these manufacturers have overruns, returns, or just old inventory that they need to get rid of.  Lucky for us many of these corporations have factory outlets stores that are open to the public.  These factory outlet stores enable the manufacturers to move some of their extra, old, or returned products, which are available at considerable discount to patrons of the store.  Let’s take a closer look at some of the outlet stores, and see what we may find.

As the name implies, Lakeshore Candle Company produces candles.  These candles are hand poured in their Zeeland facility, where they also have an outlet store at 9434 Pentatech Drive.  According to President Jon Haveman, the store was started as a way to move candles that do not meet their stringent quality standards for their retail store customers.  So often times the outlet store may feature “second quality” candles, which may be up to 50%, discount.  “Second quality” means that the candles have small defects like the wick isn’t centered, or the color is the wrong hue, or maybe label issues, none of which affect how the candle’s performance and fragrance.  Those with non-discriminating eyes, these “second quality” candles are just as good as the ones shipped to customers.  Lakeshore Candle Company’s outlet store is open 10 to 4 Monday through Friday.

Another well-known local manufacturer is Haworth, one of the leading producers of office furniture and workspaces, and they too have a factory outlet store.  But their story is a little more unique.  Haworth has a zero waste to landfill policy, meaning that they do not send any garbage to a landfill.  Recycling and re-using are of huge importance to Haworth.  The outlet store at 1451-100 M-40 in Holland, sells a wide variety of items.  In addition to production overruns, returns, and old products, you might even find some items coming from Haworth’s own facilities that they can no longer use.  So not only could you furnish your home office, but you might also pick up fabric to reupholster the couch, locker to store items in the garage, and even find some extra corporate gifts that might look great in your new office.  You’d surprised at what you may find, and the inventory changes very quickly so be sure to check back often for new items.  According to Haworth, it’s recommend to call the store ahead of time to confirm hours as there may be special sale or inventory hours.  Normal hours are Monday through Thursday 10 to 6, and Friday 7 to 4, and the store can be reached at 616-393-4300.

If you are willing to take a little drive to Allegan, you can also purchase medicine, vitamins, and other healthcare items for a significant discount (as long as you don’t mind the generic labels) from the Perrigo factory outlet store.  Perrigo is a leading manufacturer of over the counter medicines and vitamins, and prescription pharmaceutical products.  The outlet store is at 300 Water Street in Allegan, and their hours of operation are 11 to 5 Monday through Friday, and 9 to 1 on Saturday.  The store can be reached at 269-673-7962.

For those of you still looking for deals be sure to check out the following places as well:

  • Holland Bar Stool Company at 12839 Corporate Circle Place in Holland, has an outlet store where you can pick up stools.  Visit www.barstoolshowroom.com for more details.
  • Zeeland based Herman Miller, another leading office furniture manufacturer, uses Office Outlet at 455 West Washington Street in Zeeland, as their outlet store.  For more information visit www.officeoutlet.net.

Maybe West Michigan does not deserve its reputation as being cheap, but with so many local manufacturers selling their products at discounted prices, how can you resist.

By the way a special thanks to Haworth and Lakeshore Candle Company for answering some questions and providing additional information about their outlet stores.

Schaap & the West Michigan Media

I have never been in a West Michigan news room, but I imagine it would go something like this:

Not an image of a reporter working on his deadline story.

Editor: “Johnson, do you have your article ready for the next issue?”
Reporter: “Boss, I thought the deadline for my story was next week.”
Editor: “JOHNSON! I need an article on my desk by tomorrow morning”
Reporter (to self): ” Damn… I need a story fast, I better call Schaap”

It's Schaap. Wonder if the yellow face might be sort of a Bat Signal, when media needs a story.

Every publication has written at least one article on Aaron Schaap.  But many have written two, three or even more, therefore providing proof  to my above hypothesis.

Who is perpetuating this cycle… the journalists or Schaap?  Are journalists tripping over themselves to get a recorder in front of Schaap or is Schaap pursuing the journalists with a barrage of calls, emails, and press releases?

Yellow face in background again must be the Schaap signal

So why is everyone writing a story on Mr. Schaap?  By the looks of it, he has a lot going on with his companies (The Factory, Elevator Up, Downstream), and with the local start-up and tech scene.  Is it a prerequisite for any business publication in the area to do a story on Schaap?  Probably not but the man does get a lot of coverage.

Seems like there would be an easier way to hold a pin? or is it an elevator (up) button?

It’s no surprise that the Mlive/West Michigan Business Review and the Grand Rapids Press have been working on the Schaap angle for years.  Fortunately not all of their stories focus solely on Schaap, they also include some other people, but they have some great photos (my personal favorite is the Tech Industry one):

Sharing the Thunder - One of the rare Schaap photos featuring other people

If you ever read the Holland Sentinel, they rarely have any business stories in their paper.  You have to search their website to even find their business section, and the actual stories in the paper are usually just AP wire stories.  So it is even more surprising that they have two stories on Schapp (Pitch Night, and Momentum) and even had Aaron as respondent on Street-Talk.

Grand Rapids Business Journal finally got in on the action with a Schaap feature just last month – “On-The-Job Training as an Internet Entrepreneur“.  I am surprised it took them that long (by the way GRBJ search function is awful, searching for Schaap will not bring up that story, and it is quite a pain not being able to actually read any of the stories…definitely a bummer).

MiBiz also has a few stories covering Schaap – DownStream, G33k, Entrepreneurs (you will have to log-in to read these stories).  As has Rapid Growth in covering his Pitch Night and Factory news.  The Rapidian touched on Schaap in a couple of stories (here, here) and even GrubSheets did a story.

Aaron levitating

Lastly the newly launched Startup Stories vlog did their first vlog post on Schaap and his Downstream company (honestly who else would have they done their inaugural story on?… Carl Erickson and Atomic Object, yeah right)

Mr. Schaap does have a great story, (which is surprisingly open and candid) and the guy is quite a good marketer of himself and his companies.  But his relationship with the media somewhat reminds me of Rob Bliss‘ relationship with the media (but without Mlive commenters making derisive comments), with the constant coverage.

Damn it, I just wrote an Aaron Schaap story as well.

Happy that The Ledger did a story

What I Learned from the Zeeland Pumpkinfest Parade

Living in Holland, Michigan or for that matter any town in West Michigan, and chances are pretty good that your city has parades, not just one parade but multiple parades a year, all through the historic downtown area.  As an adult (in my humble opinion) you see one parade you’ve see them all. But I have children, children who enjoy parades, and of course they smile and laugh a lot at parades, and I love it when my kids smile and laugh, so we go to parades, lots of parades.  So as part of my parade activities, besides eating the candy my kids don’t want, is to pay special attention to the local businesses that are in the parade.  So at the 2010 Zeeland Pumpkin Fest Parade, I came across the following companies that caught my attention.

Lakeshore Candle Company (facebook link) – They wisely were handing out candles at the parade to almost all of the women in attendance.  But they were not just any candles they were Pumpkin Spice (extra points for relevance) votive candles in a glass container to boot.  Perhaps even more significant is the 3″ x 3″ card affixed to the packaging.  The card had company info, a list of all area stores in Holland and Zeeland that sell their candles and a 10% off coupon for Lakeshore Candle products at those local retailers.  The card also had an invitation for their 1st annual open house, at their headquarters at 9434 Pentatech Drive in Zeeland.  The open house is from October 5th through the 7th with tours available at 10am, 1pm and 3pm daily.  Perfect.  Lakeshore Candle Company used the parade and hit a home run with their marketing, by immediately capitalizing on this event, and getting everything out of it that they could. 

They know their market – women (I think it is fair to same that a vast majority of women enjoy scented candles), and they controlled their free sample giveaway to exactly the market they wanted to hit, they walked the parade route and handled candles to the women in attendance.  Secondly, they took this opportunity a step further with their 3″ x 3″ card that was included.  To build upon this initial sample giveaway, they allowed the samplers two different opportunities to “take the next step” with the company, by A) either buying another Lakeshore Candle Company product at an area store with their 10% off coupon or B) Become more intimate with the company by visiting their facility for an open house and tour the week following the parade.  By visiting the facility, a consumer might feel even more of a connection with the company because they were there, they were welcomed, and they got a free candle at a parade.  So chances are next time they are shopping for candles they should be more inclined to choose the candle company that treated them well.   Face it when was the last time Yankee Candle Company gave you a free candle and glass, plus a tour of the headquarters and a 10% off coupon?  Oh and they also had candy for the kids.

My Trail Buddy (facebook link) – was the second Zeeland company that caught my eye. They had about 6 guys on these off-road (trail) motorcycles.  More like smaller motorcycles.  I liken it to a pony where as the motorcycle would be the horse (I am sure those guys at My Trail Buddy appreciate that comparison).  Could be a new slogan “My Trail Buddy the pony of motorcycles.”  Anyways those things looked like fun, and I had to look them up online.  My Trail Buddy builds classic reproduction trail 70 bikes, and creates and sells parts for these bikes as well.  You can buy kits for their trail bikes as well.  From what I could gather you take these bikes out on the trails just like an ATV, and if you have no idea where trails are they do have a link to some trails.  I wish they were giving our free samples.

Thank you Lakeshore Candle Company and My Trail Buddy for catching my attention at the Pumpkin Fest, nice job!

Who is going to the open house?

Another Story in ShoreWest/Urban St. Magazine – Cornhole!

Once again I have another story (here is the 1st) in ShoreWest/Urban St. Magazine, a local lakeshore area bi-monthly publication for the Grand Haven, Holland, and Saugatuck/Douglas communities.

It’s about cornhole so check it out here –  ShoreWest Oct-Nov 2010 – Cornhole Article .  The story talks about two local companies in the cornhole business – Michigan Custom Cornhole a board manufacturer in Zeeland and Great Lakes Cornhole Bags a bag producer in Hudsonville.