People, Places and Products
PEOPLE, PLACES AND PRODUCTS TO WATCH 2015
PRESIDENT OF INHABITECT, LLC
If you think green roofs are simply roofs painted green, think again.
Meet Nate Griswold, whose name is landing on many developers’ short list these days. Griswold installs custom green roofs – also called garden roofs, living roofs or eco-roofs – on the roofs of both commercial and residential developments.
The TC native founded Inhabitect in Traverse City in 2013 and has quickly grown – literally – a niche.
Griswold has worked in the green roof industry for 10 years – more than 1,000 green roof projects across North America and consulted on stormwater policies for New York City and other cities – and said the trend is just hitting Traverse City.
“Pretty much every big project or development that’s going on right now is at least looking at them,” he said.
The roofs, which Griswold describes as “vegetation over a waterproofed surface,” feature a heavy-duty waterproofing membrane and root barrier, drainage/water retention layer, filter cloth, soil and plants. The gardens provide a key benefit in stormwater management: instead of rain water hitting the surface of the roof and running off – carrying particulates from the rooftop – green roofs retain and filter the water on-site.
Current consulting projects around town include the Uptown Riverfront Townhomes along the Boardman on State Street, the new Cherry Capital Foods building on Barlow Street and Munson Medical Center’s Cowell Family Cancer Center, set to open in 2016.
CEO OF ONEUPWEB
There’s a new energy at Traverse City’s Oneupweb and his name is Fernando Meza. Only in Traverse City two years, the Los Angeles native moved here from New York to take an account executive position at the digital marketing company. Now he sits at the helm, after taking over from founder Lisa Wehr.
Meza, 34, is two months into his owner/CEO role and said so many people and businesses in town have reached out to the company that wouldn’t have reached out before – and that energizes him more than anything else.
“It’s a great business and we’re doing great things, but if you couldn’t spend $10,000 a month we couldn’t help you,” said Meza. “Now we’re having conversations with local companies about partnering up and even if we can’t help we’re giving them feedback.”
Meza is already in negotiations for a new location for the company with a staff of approximately 40 – although he’s keeping the specifics under wraps for now.
Meanwhile, the nearly 24,000-square-foot waterfront building where Oneupweb resides in Greilickville is for sale for $5.4 million (MLS# 1780931).
Meza is a new spark at the top and one worth keeping an eye on.
PRESIDENT OF PASSAGEWAYS TRAVEL/DEVELOPER
It’s going to be a big year for Tom McIntyre. His Washington Place development is moving right along at the northeast corner of Cass and Washington streets. The five-story, 75,7000 square-foot building includes 23 residential units on the upper four floors and commercial space on the street level. Target date for completion: June 2015.
McIntyre is also managing member of East Bay Plaza, LLC on Munson Avenue where he is overseeing construction of a 4,500 square-foot building in an out lot of the retail center, which includes anchor tenants Tom’s Market, Dunham’s, Dollar Tree and Jo-Ann fabric and craft store.
The new commercial space will include Biggby Coffee, a Sprint store and one other yet-to-be-announced tenant.
McIntyre has said his long-range plan for the plaza could include acquisition of nearby properties and the eventual addition of affordable housing and a big box retail store or restaurant.
This new building will reflect the new façade and fresh look McIntyre has planned for the entire plaza.
WALMART IN KALKASKA
By most measures, three hundred jobs coming to an area that just four years ago was struggling with 18 percent unemployment would be a welcome development. But that would depend upon the employer. With 11,088 stores Walmart is the world’s largest company by revenue, and they’re planning to add one more store to that count with a 128,000 square-foot super center near County Road 612 in Kalkaska.
The retail giant’s final proposal to the Kalkaska Planning Commission is scheduled for January 8 – and county residents have been debating the pros and cons of the potential new arrival since the company’s plans were first made public last fall.
For most residents, the retailer’s interest shows promise for more than just a good sale. A Downtown Development Authority (DDA) study found residents commuting to cities such as Traverse City spend an average of $9,800 per year by doing so. And while some of the projected jobs include seasonal and part time positions, the average hourly wage for Walmart employees throughout its 95 Michigan stores is $12.93 plus benefits.
Despite the proposed benefits, many business owners are concerned the mega store will hurt the family-run businesses that have operated for generations in the village. Other residents are worried the jobs aren’t quality jobs and question if the retailer is the right fit for their town.
According to Village Manager Scott Yost, however, if any employer proposed to bring hundreds of jobs to a village of 2,000, “it would be incumbent on our village government to manage that prospect so it came true.”
BENZIE BANKS HITTING TC MARKET
Sure, Chemical Bank purchased Northwestern Bank and Fifth Third and a few other area banks and credit unions have new leaders, but the financial institutions to watch in 2015 are State Savings Bank (SSB) and Central State Bank (CSB), both headquartered in Benzie County. The banks are owned by Harry “Scrub” Calcutt, the former chairman and CEO of Northwestern. After leaving Northwestern following FDIC charges of ” “unsafe or unsound banking practices and breaches of their fiduciary duties” earlier in 2014, Caclutt took an operational role at SSB and CSB.
And he didn’t waste any time making the two banks relevant players in the Traverse City market. A new State Savings Bank loan center was opened on Front Street, along with an investment and trust office just a few blocks away on Cass. In a few short months, Calcutt recruited talent from Northwestern and other local institutions, including Peggy Campbell and Linda Waisanen (mortgage), Tom Riedel (underwriting), Ryan Sterkenburg (investment/trust), Scott Ashurst (commercial lending), and Mary Mrozinski (cash management).
Calcutt says the new offices and hires “demonstrate that we feel we have something to offer area residents and businesses,” and that ” both have been successful by focusing on providing exceptional customer service to both individuals and businesses.”
And, more change is coming in 2015. Though the two banks have operated under separate names for more than fifteen years, they will merge this year.
LEELANAU COURTHOUSE PROPERTY: ROUND TWO
A county-owned 2.1-acre parcel on the river in the heart of downtown Leland may be one of the most prized pieces of real estate on the market in Leelanau County right now. But will the county find the price it’s looking for?
The former site of the county’s courthouse had yet to see an offer after six months on the market – that is, until late December. Problem is, the offer is just over half of what the county is asking for it.
Realtor Mark Eckhoff of Three West in Traverse City holds the listing for the land. He said the $1.4 million price tag was arrived at following an appraisal by Northern Michigan Real Estate Consultants. But Grand Rapids-based developer Joel Peterson recently made an offer of $800,000.
“The Leelanau Planning Commission approved [the land] for residential PUD (planned unit development),” Eckhoff said.“The PUD allows for 22 residences, a combination of homes, condos and duplexes.”
Eckhoff said the need for the purchaser to build the homes means investments will need to be made in the property after purchase. That’s why Eckhoff believed the previous listing and selling price of $2.4 million was out of line. That buyer defaulted on the payments and the property returned to the county.
The County Board of Commissioners did not immediately reject the offer, but instead directed County Administrator Chet Janik to begin negotiations with Peterson, according to a recent report in the Leelanau Enterprise. Whether those negotiations end with a sale is anyone’s best guess.
SUGAR LOAF RESORT: WILL 2015 BRING A BUYER?
There are likely very few people in the area who will have any faith in the following statement: there are once again parties with an interest in Cedar’s Sugar Loaf Resort, closed since 2000.
Owner Remo Polselli has told some media outlets he expects a sale, but in real estate nothing is final until the paperwork is signed. Sometimes not even then, as he previously sold the resort to Kate Wickstrom before getting it back.
With the significant amount of money needed for repairs, renovations and razing non-viable parts of the property, it will take an investor with both money and vision – two things past owner Kate Wickstrom and controversial entrepreneur Liko Smith were unable to bring to the picture.
Realtor John Peppler of the Glen Arbor office of Coldwell Banker Schmidt is the property’s listing agent.
“There is some interest by a couple of parties,” he said, but that is all he will say.
Steve Haugen, Leelanau County building code official, said he has been in contact with Polselli. There are many buildings on the property with issues that need to be addressed. Plans call for the Sugar Barn to be demolished by spring if not sooner. Its roof caved in last winter.
“It would be up to a new owner to decide what they want to do with each (building) as we move forward,” he said. “The main lodge needs a ton of work.”
Businesses throughout the county would welcome the return of “the Loaf” with open arms. “Snow brings in people. Having Sugar Loaf operational would change everything immensely,” said Tony West, the food and beverage director of the Leland Lodge.
NEXT STOP: GREILICKVILLE CORRIDOR?
Could Elmwood Township become the next major tourist destination in northern Michigan? If you ask township officials, the answer is a bold “yes.” Here’s what township leaders are thinking: the complete modernization of Elmwood Township Marina, traffic and infrastructure improvements and a rebranding effort capitalizing on the community’s location between Traverse City and Leelanau County.
The township is awaiting two studies: an engineering analysis organizing a multi-phased improvement plan to the marina with associated costs, and a traffic study evaluating the feasibility of rerouting Grandview Road through the township’s Brewery Creek Center property (across from the marina) and installing a traffic light at the road’s intersection with M22 at the marina entrance.
With a signal in place to handle the extra traffic load, Elmwood Township could look at constructing a multi-level parking deck on the Brewery Creek property to service the marina. The township is legally prohibited from adding any more boat slips until it has parking spaces in place to support them.
The township board is also using a $7,500 grant to explore rebranding of the one-mile Greilickville corridor, possibly transforming what is now a commercial corridor and “passthrough” into a waterfront destination – capitalizing on that mile of waterfront and the only deep-water port in the area.
REDESIGN OF DIVISION STREET … FINALLY
Following several community input sessions, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is scheduled to bring preliminary design proposals for the Division Street in April. Because it is a state road, the project will be managed by MDOT.
While there is near consensus in the community about what is wrong with Division Street, the solutions are wide-ranging and have been the subject of many heated debates. Remember roundabouts?
The Michigan legislature directed $500,000 toward the planning process now underway so there is a strong commitment to getting the 1.2-mile design right. Following the release of possible designs in April, MDOT will go back to the drawing board to narrow it down to the preferred scenario supported by the community and unveil the final result in June.
DEVELOPMENTS ON TAP
– Federated Properties is eying a spring date to break ground on a five-story, mixed-used development at 124 West Front Street, next door to the Traverse City Record-Eagle. Project architect Keith Owen said April or May is a “realistic” timeline for construction to begin. Owen also predicted Federated will begin marketing to potential residential and commercial tenants – including a proposed ground-floor restaurant – “after the first of the year.”
– Construction of the Meijer superstore in Acme got off to a rough start with erosion issues after heavy rains in the fall. The 196,000 square feet grocery and department store will anchor approximately one million square feet of retail space at the new Grand Traverse Town Center at the intersection of M-72 and Lautner Road. It is slated to open in 2015.
– After four long years of planning, permitting, delays, environmental cleanup, loss of funding and numerous other challenges, developer Jeff Schmitz is targeting an August 2015 for his Hotel Indigo in TC’s Warehouse District. The completion of the hotel accompanies a total renovation of the former Warehouse Marketplace (now Warehouse MRKT) and just announced plans for a nearby indoor/outdoor market.
– Will downtown TC get its first major market-rate apartment complex – opening up more housing options for people who want to be close to where they work and play? Talks continue with a developer about a project at Front and Pine (across from J&S Hamburg) on the west side of downtown Traverse City that would include more than 200 apartments in a nine-story building. Should this development come to fruition, it would require the City to construct an additional parking structure. The property is owned by investors Erik Falconer and Joe Sarafa
ONE COOL ROLLING PIN
First there was the DrawerDecor system, a custom organizer for messy kitchen drawers that attracted the attention of many national publications, including Better Homes and Gardens, Fine Cooking and Real Simple and a solid customer base. Then came along the MagneticTowel and then the FingerMitt, a five-finger heat resistant silicone glove funded via Kickstarter in July 2014.
Now, KMN (kmnhome.com) founders and inventors Keith Nielson and Kevin Vann, of Traverse City and Suttons Bay respectively, have just wrapped up a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign for an aluminum rolling pin.
The self-described “engineers, foodies and inventors” are inspired by everyday kitchen items that need to be improved upon and modernized.
What’s so special about a rolling pin? Made from anodized aluminum, it’s the ability to hold the cold long after being chilled – which keeps any heat from being transferred to the dough. It also has laser-engraved measurements for the perfect size crust and is available in a variety of good-looking colors.
Going back to Kickstarter, the 30-day campaign for the rolling pin ended in early December with 843 backers and a little more than $41,000 pledged. The first product deliveries will start in February.
While ideas for their next projects are always rolling around in their heads, including some items for outdoor grilling, Vann said 2015 will be the year of the sale.
Right now the products are available via KMN’s website, but the duo plans to zero in on retailers in the new year.
“We’re shifting from R&D mode to sales mode for 2015,” said Vann.
After gaining popularity in big cities on both coasts, the raw juice movement got fairly busy in Traverse City in summer 2014, after Kris Rockwood opened Press On Juice on Garfield Street in June and Alexis Parrin and Michelle Corteggiano launched the Raw Juice Company inside The Parlor on Lake Street in July. In the short time since, both companies are experiencing high demand as locals and tourists alike have embraced their products.
Press On Juice is located away from the downtown bustle and thus is unlikely to get any walk-in foot traffic, so Rockwood started small, selling at farmers markets while learning the tools of running a business.
But then, “The absolute embrace of community, word of mouth sales, threw us into an area we didn’t expect,” Rockwood said. “We are now expanding operations and buying new, larger equipment.”
She has also recently partnered with health and wellness businesses including Yen Yoga and Fitness and Ironworks Gym (the facility for Hagerty employees) and a website – originally launched for preordering juices that could be picked up the following day – soon went statewide and will eventually boast national operations.
Though Parrin and Corteggiano aim to bring raw juice to locales where it hasn’t caught on yet, it caught on quickly in Northern Michigan. “It’s exciting that Traverse City is on board, given it had limited access to raw juice until recently,” said Parrin of the Raw Juice Company.
Patrons of The Parlor are given tastes of the raw juice via handcrafted cocktails that use Raw Juice products, but to get the word out even more the company is ramping up local education via seminars juice parties (with a format similar to Pampered Chef parties) around town in the works for early 2015 and has launched a national website.
Traverse City Whiskey Co. will open the doors to its distillery/tasting room at Fourteenth and Cass streets this month. Grand Traverse Distillery opened its sixth tasting room last month (its second of 2014) and a third spirits producer recently announced its plans in Traverse City. There is little doubt this town is sweet on spirits.
The newest entry in the local market, BareKnuckle Spirits, plans to base operations in Garfield Township, at the corner of LaFranier and Airport Roads. It will feature a production area for light and dark whiskeys (along with gins and light and dark rums) and a 1,053 square-foot tasting room. As of mid-December, the distillery was still in the state application process, according to Michael Brower, a Muskegon-based liquor attorney with partners in the BareKnuckle deal. It has, though, received the necessary local government approval to proceed. Stay tuned for more details in the coming months.
Meanwhile, the Grand Traverse Distillery has expanded its operations within town – and within the state – from its original site off of Three Mile Road. Though a few unforeseen snags kept the distillery from opening its 2,700-square foot Front Street tasting room and retail space in Spring 2014 as originally planned, it has been bustling since its grand opening in September.
According to Perry Harmon, operations manager, it’s been steady growth since. “We did our first holiday Ladies Night in December,” said Harmon, “and that evening we did more than $5,000 in sales.” But the distillery has also gone a little south – to Grand Rapids, that is, where a new tasting room had its grand opening in December.
“We sell more in tasting rooms than in all distribution channels combined,” said Harmon. “We sell every drop of our whiskey in house and can’t make it fast enough.”
Though the distillery has no plans to go national, it its growth model is to continue to expand statewide. It also has tasting rooms in Leland (seasonal), Frankenmuth and The Village at Grand Traverse Commons (Tastes of Black Star Farms).
The local cider scene is about to get busier, with Bellaire-based Short’s Brewing Company entering the market and Left Foot Charley ramping up its own production.
Short’s announced its new Starcut Ciders label in November, but it was a project that was a long time coming, said Marketing Director Bridgett Beckwith, who noted the idea started with head brewer, Tony Hansen.
“Since early in his career, Tony had an interest in cidermaking,” said Beckwith. “Now that we have more than 300 beers in our portfolio, this was a great time for him to have an additional creative outlet. He has been inspired by local orchards and has wanted to tap into that and create some new products while supporting local agriculture.”
Though Starcut – which refers to the pattern revealed when an apple is cut in half – offered 10 ciders on tap for its launch celebration at its Bellaire brewpub, its plan is to have one cider on tap at all times. Short’s is currently working on distribution to put Starcut Ciders in northern Michigan restaurants and bars in 2015.
Left Foot Charley in Traverse City is not a newcomer to the cider scene, noted winemaker Bryan Ulbrich, but after grape production took a weather-related downturn in 2014 and the apple crop was abundant once again, the winery has tripled its cider production and expanded distribution to three states – New York, Minnesota, and Illinois.
“We’re producing three main ciders and are working on a fourth, seasonal cider,” said Ulbrich. “We’re not reinventing anything – cider is one of the oldest alcoholic drinks in America and the apples up here are exactly what’s needed for cider. We’re just tapping into what’s always been here in these old trees. But now we have another outlet for this valuable resource.”
RING SWING GAMES
Who knew a gimmick to get people to stop at a tradeshow booth would end up being Rick Steele’s next invention? Traverse City resident Steele, who with wife Wendy invented and launched the Tape Wrangler, a duct tape dispenser in 2008, is now spending his days designing games. To be exact, “themed ring swing games,” Steele explained.
Steele has spent the last two years designing, building and rebuilding a series of games he calls Extreme Ring Swing – based on the simple ring and hook game.
He has three different themes in development – Shoot The Bull, Anchors Away and The Brew Czar – each with its own target, ring swinging object and scoreboard graphics.
Steele has come a long way from his original rudimentary design. The game can be played indoors or out and can stand up to all kinds of wear and tear. Right now he is working on making the scoreboards digital that players can operate with a smartphone app.
“This is way more fun than tape dispensers,” said Steele.
As far as a market, Steele is eyeing companies that need to entertain, events and fundraisers. Check out a game video at extremeringswing.com.