Tag Archives: West Michigan

Michigan International Auto Show and Charity Spectacular benefiting Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital



This weekend is the Michigan International Auto Show and it has it all — from practical to grandiose and even downright exotic; if you love cars — or just pretty/shiny things — you will be in heaven at the #grautoshow16!

Car manufacturers from around the world bring their finest traveling displays with new vehicles – including sedans, vans, SUV’s, trucks, hybrids and sports cars to Grand Rapids. Not only is the Auto Show a great place to shop and compare options for every day vehicles, it is also the first opportunity for West Michigan residents to see many of the most recently released or “soon to be released” models!

On Wednesday, we had the unique opportunity of getting a sneak preview of this weekend’s show at the Michigan International Auto Show Charity Spectacular benefiting Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. The event supported more than 20 different programs at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. During the event, guests explored hundreds of new vehicles on display while enjoying a delicious strolling dinner and a live Wolverine Worldwide Fashion Show.

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The excitement started as soon as we walked into DeVos Place. James Bond theme music was playing in the background and as the archway (the #grautoshow16 version of the red carpet) opened up, we encountered our first car – the Aston Martin DB9 GT.  The car displayed is one of only 150 made, and is the official car used in the lasted Bond flick, Spectre. There was even a photographer on the ready to snap our pic as we struck a pose! Continue reading Michigan International Auto Show and Charity Spectacular benefiting Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital

Reception Welcomes Law Firm, Talcott Franklin P.C. to Grand Rapids l Acquisition of Jordan C. Hoyer Firm Celebrated



On Monday, June 22nd, SF joined a reception at City Flats Ballroom welcoming the new Grand Rapids law firm, Talcott Franklin P.C., formed by the recent acquisition of the Law Office of Jordan C. Hoyer, PLLC. Talcott Franklin P.C. is a national law firm, based in Dallas, Texas and its Grand Rapids office is the firm’s first expansion into Michigan.


Talcott Franklin P.C. is a national law firm known for its innovative strategies taking on the money center banks over the sophisticated investment vehicles that caused the financial crisis.

Attorney Talcott Franklin, author of the two leading treatises on financial crisis legislation and litigation, was interviewed during the reception by Attorney Curt Benson, co-host of the WOOD Radio program “The Lawyers” on 106.9 FM. The segment will be aired on “The Lawyers” on Sunday, June 28.





According to Talcott Franklin, “Despite the beginnings of economic recovery and the rebounding housing market, the deep-rooted structural failures of our mortgage system remain, and the potential looms for an even more cataclysmic financial crisis. We are tracking the warning signs of the next financial crisis.” Franklin’s comments offered specific insights to the connection of West Michigan to the national and international mortgage and investment markets.




Talcott Franklin P.C. is a national law firm known for its innovative strategies, which have been featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal business section, Bloomberg, Reuters, and MSNBC. The firm specializes in deciphering and explaining complex transactions and has litigated some of the most high profile cases stemming from the financial crisis.

The firm has a unique business model, eschewing the traditional practice of relying on new law school graduates in favor of hiring seasoned attorneys who typically have worked in house or in government before joining the firm. Because the majority of the firm’s attorneys have been consumers of legal services, they understand that law is a service-oriented profession.

The Talcott Franklin P.C. Michigan office includes: Jordan C. Hoyer, Curt Benson and Derek Witte.



First Timer’s Review of Founder’s Fest 2015


Founder’s Fest is anything but “just another beer festival.”  While this was my first time attending the event, it certainly was not my first time enjoying Founder’s Brewing Co. brews and bands – Founder’s Fest was the culmination of everything good in the Founder’s world. One of the highlights of the festival for me was seeing the diverse cross-section of attendees.  I lived in Colorado for about five years and that is a place that takes music festivals pretty seriously. Founder’s Fest felt like I was at a music festival back in the mountains; bringing together people from all walks of life, spanning the generations, they have created a community with a sense of consciousness for serving a greater good.

 The People.

It seems like everyone in Grand Rapids was at the festival!  I ran into so many friends, and saw people of all ages and professions enjoying great music and awesome beers together.  I made a point of speaking with some of the other festival goers and met a couple guys that had come from Asheville, North Carolina to attend the event – a father-in-law and son-in-law.  Even while extolling the virtues of their runner up “beer city” they clearly enjoyed coming to Grand Rapids and had great respect for the crafting done in West Michigan. After grabbing beers we enjoyed what shade we could find and the antics of performers strolling through the crowd; everywhere you looked there was something to see! There were also the more “mature” audience members that had brought their own chairs and set up near the back of the crowd, allowing for the 20-somethings to push towards the front to catch their favorite bands up-close.  




The Bands.

Speaking of the bands, another impressive aspect is that you rarely had to endure downtime without live music playing.  There were two stages set up in close proximity to each other, and as one band was finishing up a set on one stage, the next band was warming up on the other.  The variety of music was clearly aimed at providing something for everyone, and they succeeded. I heard everything from the FBC All-Stars covering Rage Against the Machine and Pink Floyd, to Elephant Revival which included a woman playing the washboard and a saw. Rounding it out was the Dirty Dozen Brass Band at the end of the night, the weather managed to hold so none of the acts were rained out (although the rain might have been nice, it was a concrete jungle out there). But hey, at least when it’s warm outside the beer tastes even more refreshing! 




The Beer.

The beer . . . oh, the beer!  If you’re not a beer drinker, you could still attend this festival and have a great time listening to the music alone… But let’s not kid ourselves – the beer is definitely the highlight!  Prior to attending i saw online that people had problems thinking they would spend all night waiting in line and paying $10 for a beer they could get any other time for $4.  That was not the case on either account. The most I paid for a beer was $6 and the longest I waited in line was about 20 minutes – and that was for a KBS!  We were standing in line for specialty beers (which was a separate line from the “regular” Founder’s beers), I was planning to have a CBS but the keg ran out about five people before us.  We were lucky enough (IMHO) to get some of the fresh KBS that was tapped to replace the CBS!  The traditional Founder’s beers were the same price as what you could get in the tap room – $4 – $6 each – and I never waited in line for more than 5 – 10 minutes for one of those.  If you were at any other festival, you would likely be paying $7+ for a Bud Light; to anyone who was complaining about having to spend money on both a ticket and beer, you obviously do not go to many music festivals. 




The Layout.

Overall, this festival was run very well and the layout provided for a great flow.  When we first walked up there was a line to get in – however, they had about six lines and they had an assembly line-like set up so they were able to move people through quickly.  There was a good sized ticket booth and beer tent right at the entrance, then another around the corner – both had lines that that went quickly and kept people moving.  The whole area was set up in an “L” shape, and the bands were in the corner – this meant you could be almost anywhere and have a view of the stage and hear the bands . . . and with a beer tent at each end, you didn’t have to wander far for refreshments either.  My one complaint would be that all of the port-a-johns were at one end – while this may have been good to concentrate the smell and all that, it would have been nice to have a small row near the entrance/exit. 



The Vendors.

I did not eat at the festival, but I did note that there were food booths.  I saw that Slows BBQ was there and I saw people walking around with Gyros.  The vendors that really impressed me were the ones selling “stuff.”  The festival focused on having local entrepreneurs – there were no booths selling carnival-type-flashy-thingy-loud-hats-and-stupid-shirts; there were booths with beautiful locally made items.  You could get clothing, but it was sustainable/recycled and made by a small business, there were wood working pieces, leather items, paintings, and there were not so many that you felt like you were at a craft show.  It was just right in the variety, originality, and quantity.

I will be back at this festival again! It was a great time, I saw people I knew from all parts of my life, made some new friends, had some excellent beers and listened to some fantastic music. The festival was well run and set up, I didn’t spend the entire time waiting in line, and didn’t spend any more on drinks than I would’ve in a normal night out at Founder’s.  It was a great event and a great way to celebrate this awesome Beer City USA town that we are lucky enough to live in!

Hungerford Nichols Announces Two New Shareholders


Photos Bryan Esler

Last week, we joined our friends, Hungerford Nichols CPAs + Advisors, at the Blue Water Grill to celebrate the election of Adriane Schrauben and Doug Schmitt to the position of Shareholder.


Both Adriane Schrauben and Doug Schmitt began their accounting careers with Hungerford Nichols and have advanced within the firm. “The addition of Adriane and Doug aligns well with our mission, vision and values and we are excited to have them as part of the leadership team.” says Rick Chrisman, CPA, MST, Managing Shareholder of the firm. “Our firm continues to grow as a result of our constant focus on preparing our next generation of leaders for the future. We believe that growth creates opportunities for all and this is reflected within our succession plan.”






Adriane specializes in the area of School District Auditing as well as heading up the Estate and Trust group within the firm. With over fourteen years in public accounting, she provides her clients with services including audit of financial statements, preparation of individual and trust tax returns and tax planning. Adriane is the third female Shareholder in the firm.


Shareholder Jerry Nichols shares, “Although her technical expertise is one of her strong suits, Adriane is successful in her ability to build long-term relationships with the people she serves. She is able to develop these relationships by focusing on solutions to the problems clients have.”

Adriane earned both her Bachelor and Master of Business Administration degrees at Grand Valley State University and is a national presenter of technical topics for the Association of School Business Officials International conference. She has also authored articles on estate planning.


Doug specializes in servicing closely-held businesses in the manufacturing, petroleum and retail industries.  He has twenty four years of experience in business accounting and tax services, including audit, review and compilation of financial statements, tax return preparation and tax planning strategies. Doug works out of both the Grand Rapids and Greenville offices and manages the Greenville office operations.

Doug has consistently demonstrated a strong commitment to quality. His leadership, hard work and attention to detail have contributed significantly to our continued growth and success. We look forward to his continued success in his new role.” says Tom Prince, CPA, MBA, Shareholder.

Doug earned his Bachelor of Business Administration at Grand Valley State University.


Hungerford Nichols CPAs + Advisors is a full-service CPA firm with offices in Grand Rapids and Greenville, MI. The firm provides accounting, business advisory, tax return preparation, tax planning, auditing, financial planning and IT advisory services with an emphasis on closely-held and family-owned businesses. The firm also services Governmental entities, Not-for-Profit Organizations and Employee Benefit Plans.  Hungerford Nichols has grown to become one of the largest locally-owned, independent CPA firms in West Michigan.  Visit their website at www.hungerfordnichols.com and join them on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/HANCbook


Allison Arnold: Graduating from childhood with high honors



Ernest Hemingway said, “Courage is grace under pressure.” If anyone exemplifies these words, it’s Allison Arnold.

To say Allison has achieved a lot in her 18 years on this planet is an understatement. The soon-to-be graduate of Grand Rapids Public School‘s City High School has done more before her first day on a college campus than many do in their lifetime…and she’s just getting started. She is an accomplished scholar, writer, intern extraordinaire, and activist who I am confident will spend her lifetime being a change-maker.

Born and raised in in Grand Rapids, Allison attended Huntington Woods Elementary through second grade and then St. Andrew’s Catholic School from third through eighth grade. Her writing career began with stories she wrote in Kindergarten. Her second grade teacher, Mrs. Bush, praised her for something she had written, and she was so proud that she hung it up in the house. But her “big break” came in the 8th grade when she won an essay contest sponsored by Sharpe Buick. By then, she had become more confident in her writing and developed a great passion for the written word.



When it came to choosing a high school, Allison was looking for a challenging curriculum and the opportunity to broaden her horizons. According to her mom, Chris, “We (Allison’s parents) decided that City High would be a good school for Allison, based on the academics, diversity of the student body, and rigorous curriculum. We wanted her to be in an environment that reflects the broad diversity of our community and world. It was very brave of Allison, being a ninth grader going into City. Many of the kids had established friendships so the social aspect was challenging, but has made her a stronger person in the long run.”

In ninth grade, Allison joined the Environmental Club, which helped her develop a passion for causes such as recycling and sustainability. In her junior year of high school, she won an honorable mention award for her essay for the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum. This led to an internship at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC), where she combines her desire to help the earth with her love of journalism to publish the WMEAC blog posts.

She is also an up-and-coming leader, having been chosen for some incredible opportunities including the Washington Journalism and Media Conference (WJMC), an annual event that brings together high school student leaders from throughout the country as National Youth Correspondents. In her sophomore year, she began helping out at the Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Diversity Learning Center at Grand Rapids Community College, where her mother serves as Director, and because of her work Mayor George Heartwell recognized her as one of his Champions for Diversity.

As part of the Michigan Women’s Foundation’s (MWF) Young Women for Change, Allison is learning to lead as a philanthropist. Young Women for Change is a group of high school girls who receive and evaluate grant proposals, determining which proposals fit their priorities; and fundraise so they can grant more requests for funds each year. Community activism and volunteerism are also a large part of their mission.

This past year in preparation for graduation, Allison has continued to expand her horizons by interning at WGVU. During her internship with The WGVU Morning Show, she greeted guests, assisted with show preparation, and learned the industry. Her mentor at WGVU, Shelley Irwin said, “It was my initial fortune to experience Allie in what she does best…following her passion of journalism! I have also witnessed Allie in front of several large audiences, sharing personal words of inspiration, moving the audience to tears. Allie is destined to follow her calling of motivating others to do their best.”

But all of these experiences, all of the amazing opportunities…it doesn’t mean that life has always been easy for Allison. She has had (more than) her fair share of frustrations and struggles as a young woman. In 2011, Allison was hospitalized for anorexia and depression. Striving for perfection, trying to solve all of the problems of the world, and attempting to be involved in every extracurricular activity available had taken her to a very dark place. Two years later, she is doing much better. That’s not to say she never has tough days, but Allison does not let it slow her down. In fact, she takes the time to talk to others about it because she wants to use her story to inspire others.

In 2012, Allison spoke at the MWF’s 25th Anniversary Luncheon, telling her story of a struggle with anxiety and an eating disorder. She gave a beautiful testimony, speaking with amazing grace and poise, and received a standing ovation from a room full of community leaders. Stacie Behler, Vice President of Public Affairs at Meijer, Inc., got to know Allison through the MWF, where Behler is a Board Member. “Allison was a wonderful ambassador and spokeswoman for the Michigan Women’s Foundation and its Young Women for Change programs. She spoke from the heart and shared her story with and inspired me and so many others to be mindful of the struggle young women may face with depression and anorexia. She is a strong, stellar role model that I am so proud of,” said Behler.

All of these experiences have helped prepare Allison for the next phase of her life—college. Starting this fall, she will move to Ann Arbor and become a University of Michigan Wolverine. She has been awarded the Grand Rapids Chapter of the University of Michigan Alumni Association’s scholarship; Latino Youth Scholarship; and the very prestigious Jean Fairfax Scholarship from the University of Michigan. The Fairfax Scholarship recognizes students with strong academic performance and a solid record of leadership, and will provide $40,000 towards her college education. She plans to study International Relations and Social Justice and Environmental Issues with a career in journalism and photography. She hopes to have a career at National Geographic one day.


Before she heads off to Ann Arbor, she will certainly be spending time at her favorite places in Grand Rapids – working out at The Funky Buddha Yoga Hothouse and the YMCA; eating at her favorite restaurants like Marie Catrib’sGroveBistro Bella VitaAmore Trattoria ItalianaMaggie’s Kitchen, and Speak EZ (she loves farm-to-table food and restaurants with a nostalgic atmosphere; and enjoying a good book in various coffee shops around town. You will also be seeing her all over West Michigan this summer as the newest member of the Stellafly team, as she will be interning as a writer. We’re beyond thrilled to have her join us and anticipate incredible things from this up and coming talent.

When I asked her what else she hopes to do in life, travel is definitely on the list. Her favorite city is New York, and she hopes to visit Seattle, Los Angeles, and take a backpacking trip through Europe—she’d like to become fluent in Spanish and visit Spain. No matter where Allison ends up, her heart will belong to Grand Rapids. She loves how “everyone is connected,” and she is thankful for all the people here who have cared for and supported her.

Most of all, Allison will do the things that make her happy, because in her words, “If you can’t do something that makes you happy, don’t do it.”





Sharing Good Times with Good Friends Every Month at Ramona’s Table in Gaslight Village


Story: Brian VanOchten
Photos: Ian Anderson

EAST GRAND RAPIDS – In our first installment, Stellafly sits down with food blogger George Aquino and entertainment writer Todd Chance, both of MLive Media GroupGrand Rapids, as part of a monthly series featuring local foodies and prominent personalities at Ramona’s Table boutique deli.

Aquino, originally from Manilla, Philippines, is the vice president and managing director of Amway Hotels and has a popular following as the food critic and blogger for The Grand Rapids Press. Chance, a native of Rockford, Ill., is a former radio show host who serves as Entertainment Concierge for The Press.

Our meal, prepared by chef Matthew Kemper and his expert staff, consists of appetizers and entrees from the remarkable catering menu and a wide selection of gourmet deli salads, sandwiches and dessert items.


Charlie Palm and Jackie Ziehm

Location: 2232 Wealthy St. SE, Gaslight Village, East Grand Rapids

Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday; Private parties available upon request.

Fare: Boutique deli focussed on farm-to-table, locally sourced ingredients in sandwiches, wraps and salads, plus homemade pastries. It offers RT2U carry-out and home-delivered meals every Tuesday and Thursday, and also specializes in catering.

Ambience: Dark wood tables and a fireplace help create a modern and cozy setting for casual lunch and dinner conversation. Order off the menu, pay for it at the counter and food is delivered to the table.

Phone: 616-459-8500
Website: www.ramonastable.com
Facebook: RamonasTable
Twitter: @ramonastable
Email: info@ramonastable.com


Appetizer round

The first items brought to the table are from the catering menu.

From blue jeans to black tie, Ramona’s Table caters private parties, private airline catering and events on-site and has additional seating capacity outside during the warmer months.




A couple of platters filled with candied bacon, stuffed cherry tomatoes, chipotle BBQ meatballs and Ramona’s signature boursin cheese bruschetta.

Stellafly: Hey, guys, thanks for joining us. Tell us about the impact social media has on your everyday life.

Chance: I had my own social media network because the morning radio show I hosted was my life. I shared everything that was happening within my life, so, when that went away, it was just a natural extension to still be able to have an audience and still be able to share it. Now, I found the business world and the personal world kind of merge. There’s that overlap between the two, which I kind of like.

You’re still able to get that feeling of connection with people, who are no longer listeners that are now readers, of what’s going on in my personal life. I think George and I are the same where our personal lives and business lives get blurred a lot. It becomes the same.

Aquino: Except, people know my wife’s name, people don’t know his girlfriend’s name.

Chance: (laughter) You know why? It’s your wife.

Aquino: Actually, my Facebook page, during work, I usually don’t mess around with it too much. Except during meals. I started Facebook just as an opportunity to connect with my friends in the Philippines.

Once I started posting what I do and I started my blog, what I’m doing in Grand Rapids, all these strangers started finding me. I’ve maybe friended 100 people, but then I realized when you’re out in the public and I started writing for MLive and The Press, every day, there’s always people who are following me or reading my articles. There’s a mix there. You really mesh your professional and your personal lives.

But if you love what you do and you’re passionate about it, it doesn’t feel like it’s work.

I’m posting what I eat and who I’m out with, but the impact on people, if they see you eating, it’s funny how if people read a positive review that restaurant’s business picks up. I was talking to a chef at Bistro Chloe Elan, who said, “My God, ever since you talked about the fish, we were doing five a day and now we’re doing 20. It’s getting exposure. I’ll always be honest, but my goal is promoting Grand Rapids whether it’s food at Ramona’s, an event or the people around. I’ll promote them because this is where I live.


Sandwiches/Gourmet Sides

A sampling of sandwiches (all $8.95) and gourmet side salads followed.

The menu price at Ramona’s Table includes choice of homemade roasted redskin potatoes, kettle chips, homemade coleslaw or any of the gourmet salads. Forget the typical bag of pre-processed potato chips and a pickle here.

The mouth-watering selections off the sandwich board:

  • Merry Mary: House roasted turkey, swiss cheese, tomatoes, wild mixed greens and cranberry aioli on cranberry walnut bread.
  • Spring Chicken: Chicken, basil pesto, Havarti cheese, roasted red peppers, balsamic drizzle, lettuce and tomato on homemade tomato and herb focaccia bread.
  • Tandoori Chicken: Spice-rubbed chicken breast, tomato jam, curried yogurt sauce, red onion and wild mixed greens on pita bread.
  • Grilled Pork Tenderloin: This farm-to-table monthly special is comprised of spice-rubbed pork tenderloin medallions, goat cheese, Fuji apples, mixed greens and honey mustard on a french roll.

The gourmet deli salads featured broccoli with almonds and raisins, cheese tortellini with basil pesto and a pleasantly surprising wheatberry salad that everyone was one of the highlights of the entire meal.

Stellafly: Social media is the perfect outlet for a food blogger.

Aquino: I think if you want to make your community a better place to live, you have to be a part of it. There isn’t a better avenue to promote that than social media, because it impacts so many people right away.

Chance: Yeah, what’s the most Twittered thing out there? Pictures of food. It’s like, “Oh my gosh, who cares what you just ate, it’s a grilled-cheese sandwich for crying out loud.” Comedians joke about it, but everybody likes to take pictures of food.

You’re an individual channel or brand. If you have spent the time and proven yourself to be a trustworthy source like George has with food, like I have with entertainment, you’ll follow that person.






A trio of dinner selections from the catering menu is up next.

It features succulent beef tenderloin bourguignon with a rich demi-glaze, mashed potatoes and carrots, grilled swordfish and a fresh salad consisting of mixed greens, squash, apples and blue-cheese crumbles.

The beef dish is love at first bite for Aquino and everyone else at the table.



Stellafly: Your impressions of the current food scene in Grand Rapids?

Aquino: I just reviewed a restaurant, it’s not published yet, it’ll be in April, and the article is about food in Buenos Aires (Argentina) and what we have here. All of these foods I’ve discovered, whether it’s in Hong Kong or Ko Samui (an island off the eastern coast of Thailand), I’ll compare them to what we have here.

I think there has been progress. Some restaurants might not have a solid menu, but they have two or three items that are really fantastic. We’ve come a long ways. There are naysayers, but, I mean, I travel all the time. A lot of what you will find outside Grand Rapids is already here. You just have to look for it, although you don’t have to look too far. Especially the last five years. You go down Cherry Street, you’ve got a solid caliber of restaurants. They weren’t there six or seven years ago.

I’m starting to see a lot of the elements of fine food here. There’s some things we’re still missing. I think we’re missing a good neighborhood Italian restaurant and we’re short on hip Asian restaurants like you see in L.A. or Miami.

Stellafly: Your favorite type of local cuisine?

Chance: For me, it isn’t a certain type of food. It’s the farm-to-fork concept. That’s my type of eating. Anything that can locally sustain West Michigan and make us self-sufficient, I love that concept.

Aquino: Well, of course, when it comes down to my last meal, it’s going to be something that’s close to my heart.

Filipino food will always be that special place.

Stellafly: So where might someone find good Filipino food here?

Aquino: My house and my friend’s house. I love to cook, I love Thai food, I love Vietnamese food. So, I have certain things that I just love. I also love Italian food. My wife’s Italian. Certainly, Asian food is near and dear to me. I always have to eat rice with a meal a couple of times each week.

You go to New York now and all of the critics there are saying Filipino food is going to be the next big thing. A couple of restaurants I just went to in New York feature Filipino and Thai, and it’s just awesome.





Dessert round

The fresh-baked items to finish our meal include carrot cake, turtle cookies and butter pecan cheesecake.

The carrot cake ends up being an epiphany for all of us.

Aquino puts the exclamation point on the night with a foodie alert to his blog via Facebook proclaiming co-owner Jackie Ziehm‘s scratch-baked carrot cake is the finest he has ever tasted in West Michigan.

Inside of a half hour, he gets 16 likes and numerous comments about the posting.

Stellafly: Your final impressions of the meal, fellas.

Aquino: I admit I’m a little bit ashamed I haven’t been to Ramona’s Table since I literally live a half mile from here. Word of mouth is so crucial. The wheatberry salad is stunning, the beef bourguignon was just spot-on, just a delicious meal, and I know I just had the best carrot cake in West Michigan this evening.

Those are three items that I would bet my life you would love if you come here.

Chance: “The candied bacon was delicious. I’ve had goat cheese rolled in cocoa and different treats before, but I’ve never had red grapes rolled in goat cheese and pistachios. I would’ve come here for the bruschetta and the goat-cheese-covered grapes alone. If Aquino says it’s the best carrot cake in town, I’ll have to back him up because I don’t even like carrot cake and I ate more than a couple of bites of that.

I really liked the Merry Mary sandwich the best – it’s Thanksgiving in a sandwich. I thought that was phenomenal.

Aquino: I must add that half the items we ate here tonight are from their catering business. I’ve been to enough events that have crappy catering food, so, if that’s an indication of what you serve, that’s something to look forward to.

It’s also a small business, family owned, a husband and wife here every day. We’ve got to support local businesses like this. They dished out high-caliber food. It’s really pretty impressive. I’ll be coming back to Ramona’s Table. I get my coffee just around the corner, so it’s going to be carrot cake and coffee for me. 


Future guests

Tell us which local foodies (chefs, sommeliers, bloggers) and prominent personalities you’d prefer to share their thoughts on topical issues when Stellafly sits down for a meal at Ramona’s Table.

Please submit suggestions in the comments section.

Grand Rapids Community Foundation Donor Party


VENUE: Kendall College of Art & Design of Ferris State University at the Historic Federal Building
DATE: September 28, 2012

When Diana Sieger and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation (GRCF) throw a party, the people come. Last Friday evening the Foundation held its annual donor celebration that included the presentation of the 2012 Jack Chaille Award for Community Philanthropy. Hundreds of those who support the GRCF newest addition of Kendall College of Art & Design’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, the historic Federal Building.

The group that gathered on Friday was essentially a “who’s who” of West Michigan philanthropists. Guests of honor John and Nancy Kennedy were joined by community leaders such as Ralph Hauenstein, Mike and Sue Jandernoa, John and Marie Canepa, Greg and Meg Willit, and countless others who are so supportive of the foundation’s efforts. They enjoyed hors d’oeuvres from YoChef’s Catering Company and great wine from Martha’s Vineyard. Conversation was lively, and the atmosphere was one of joyful celebration as everyone came together to toast the Kennedys and this community foundation that is near and dear to their hearts.

Midway through the event, everyone made their way into the auditorium where GRCF President Diana Sieger welcomed everyone and began with the fantastic news that during the 2011-12 fiscal year, the foundation raised over $20 million. They also made grants and scholarship awards of just over $11 million, supporting initiatives surrounding housing and education in West Michigan. The GRCF is one of Grand Rapids’ greatest assets, serving as a permanent endowment for our community.

Sieger then introduced GRCF Board Chair, Eva Aguirre Cooper of WOOD-TV. She noted the level of “strategy, seriousness, and diligence” that goes into each decision regarding which grants to recommend for approval, and recognized the trustees who were there on Friday night, including Wayman Britt, Paul Doyle, Carol Karr, Paul Keep, Christina Keller, and Cecile Cave Fehsenfeld. Also recognized were David Rosen, Kendall College President; and David Eisler, President of Ferris State University.

The program continued with the presentation of the 2012 Jack Chaille Award for Community Philanthropy. This year’s recipients were John and Nancy Kennedy. There was a beautiful video tribute to Kennedys that included comments from two of their children, and their friends Mike Jandernoa and Phil McCorkle. Sieger then invited the Kennedys to receive their award, and they had three of their four children with them—John, Margaret, and Tom. (Their son Paul was unable to attend)

The Chaille Award is given annually to GRCF donors who not only support the Community Foundation’s mission, but also many other community efforts. John Kennedy is President of Autocam and Nancy is a full-time community volunteer. They are involved with Grand Valley State University, University Prep School, Saint Mary’s Hospital, the Heart of West Michigan United Way, the Catholic Schools of Grand Rapids, and of course the Community Foundation. John was part of the original committee for grant distribution, and they established Employees of Autocam Fund at the GRCF. The Kennedys also made a leadership gift to help secure the new building for the foundation. All four of their children have served on the GRCF Youth Grant Committee, and both Margaret and Tom served as the Youth Trustee on the board.

John and Nancy Kennedy are the supporters every nonprofit dreams of having. They are engaged 100 percent with each cause they are involved in and as Diana Sieger said, they are “great examples of people who give from their hearts. They are not only generous with their financial gifts, but they are active and very engaged volunteers. When they are behind something, a project or a cause, their time, talent, and treasure go into it. They are purposeful about their philanthropy and only take on causes to which they can fully dedicate themselves.”

Sieger then presented the Kennedys with their award, which is different for each recipient every year. The Community Foundation created an invitation package for the event this year that, when put together, formed a beautiful poster. The Kennedys were given a framed copy of this poster for their home, which was very fitting being that the award was given during ArtPrize and in one of the largest venues for the event. It was truly a work of art!

Friday night’s event was sponsored by Fifth Third Bank; PNC, Varnum, LLP; AMBS Investment Council LLC; Baker Holtz CPAs and Advisors; The Bank of Holland; Ellis Parking Company; JPMorgan Private Bank; Lafleur & Godfrey Inc.; Merrill Lynch; and Northern Trust.

Thank you to Diana Sieger and the entire staff of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation for all of your hard work and dedication to our community, and congratulations on a remarkable year! Stellafly is very excited to see what this year will bring!

“Starry Night” — Painting Class at Brush Studio

July 13, 2012


I consider myself a fairly crafty (as in arts and crafts) person, so I was pretty excited when I first heard about Brush Studio, in Gaslight Village in East Grand Rapids. Brush is a new concept to West Michigan, offering painting classes in a social setting. You can take a class on your own, make it a girls or a couple’s night out, a family affair, or a team-building event for the office.

Brush is the brainchild of Lisa Jabara and Heather Callahan. The two met when Callahan began working at Hot Mama, another business owned by Jabara, and also located in Gaslight Village. They have known each other for five years and have been working on this venture for the past year. The idea came from Callahan after she and her husband had visited friends in Colorado and saw a similar concept called Canvas and Cocktails. She saw an opportunity for this in West Michigan and approached Lisa on the idea. Heather is a former 2nd Grade teacher with a creative arts minor in college, and Lisa has a business background, which made the perfect combination for starting Brush Studio.

One of the most popular offerings of Brush is their private parties. They work one of three ways—a group can reserve the entire studio for themselves, they can come and paint during a regularly scheduled class, or Brush will come to the group. Parties can be for kids or adults, and this is an excellent family activity.

For every class, Brush provides all materials—a 16×20 canvas, paints, brushes, and an apron. If your group would like to reserve the entire studio, you can select the painting they would like to create or Brush Studio artists will create a custom painting just for your event. Brush has partnered with Ramona’s Table in Gaslight Village to offer catering, and also offers beer and wine. If there is a specific type of beer or wine your group wants to have that night, Brush will make sure it is available to you. This can be a great way to celebrate a special occasion or even a team-building activity for the office. For this type of private party, the cost to have it Sunday-Thursday is a $200 fee plus a $35 painting charge for each individual, and on a Friday or Saturday, the cost is a flat fee of $2,500. Those prices do not include the catering.

Groups can also join a scheduled class for just the cost per painter (which varies from $30-$50 depending on the painting), and pre-order food from Ramona’s so it is there when they arrive. The staff at Brush makes sure your group is seated together and works hard to ensure everyone is having a wonderful time.

Lastly, Brush Studio offers “Brush To-Go,” an option that brings the paint studio to you. This could be a great way to add a little something extra to a dinner party at your home or have a fun team-building event at the office. This option is offered for a $200 travel/set-up fee plus $50 per painter.

On Friday night the Sparkly Stellafly and a few of her friends signed up for the “Starry Night” class, so they could re-create the famous work by Van Gogh. It was a fantastic experience. From the moment you walk through the door, the staff is highly attentive and extremely helpful in getting you set up with your palette, brushes, apron, and paint. Seating is already assigned when you arrive (so be sure and let them know if you are coming with friends and want to sit together) and there is a little bit of social time before the class starts.

As you get set up at your station, you also have an opportunity to order food from Ramona’s Table off of a custom menu they put together for Brush Studio, or purchase beer or wine from the bar.

Once the class begins, the instructor introduces the painting and the brushes that the class will be using. (Jabara and Callahan found local artists mostly through word of mouth and through some postings at Kendall College) Then you are taken step-by-step in creating the painting, and the rest is up to you. It was interesting to observe each painter’s style and interpretation of “Starry Night” and I was amazed at the fact that mine actually somewhat-resembled Van Gogh’s masterpiece.

During the class, the Brush Studio staff is walking around, offering to refill your glass, get you more paint, and answer any questions you may have. Our class last night included a private party and they had a very fun night. They had arranged for food from Ramona’s Table and pre-ordered their favorite wine, and it was all waiting for them when they arrived. When the class was over, there was still time to socialize and shop in the retail section offered in the front of the studio. All of the products are made by artists with some connection to West Michigan. On the night of your class, you receive 10% off all retail purchases.

All in all, this was a really fun way to spend a Friday night, and I highly recommend this for anyone—no matter if you consider yourself creative or not, it’s a fun way to get together with friends. If you are interested in trying it out, go to their website or check out their Facebook page for a schedule of classes and to register online. Or give them a call at 616.805.5099—tell them Stellafly sent you.

Be sure to check out Brush Studio online: http://www.brushgr.com/
and on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/BrushStudioGR