Street Talk: DeVoses toast new venture


The DeVos family officially owns a West Michigan hard cider company.

The Business Journal reported in January that RC Investors, made up of Dick DeVos, Rick DeVos, Ryan DeVos and Nathan Lowery, were buying a majority of Ridge Cider Co. in Grant.

The Michigan Liquor Control Commission approved the purchase, and Windquest Group sent a release out last week confirming the acquisition. Ridge Cider founders Bruce Rasch and Matthew DeLong did maintain ownership shares.

DeLong shifts to head cidermaker, while business operations move to Windquest. The investment is designed to help launch Ridge into regional distribution with bottled ciders.

It’s not the first time the DeVos family has ventured into the alcohol world. In 2016, the family also bought Holland’s Coppercraft Distillery.

In terms of cider distribution possibilities, imagine if the “other” part of the family business got involved. Western cleaning supplies and health supplements are very popular in China, so just think how that army of distributers would react if they could peddle bottled hard cider, too.

Egging them on

If this coming weekend is any indication, Meijer and other retailers could have their best Easter holiday ever.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts Americans will spend a record amount on treats this year, as parents continue to prove to children the Easter Bunny is real.

“Most consumers have almost an entire extra month to shop for Easter this year, and by the time the holiday comes, the weather should be significantly warmer than last Easter,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “That should put shoppers in the frame of mind to splurge on spring apparel along with Easter decorations. With the economy improving, consumers are ready to shop, and retailers are ready to offer great deals whether they’re buying Easter baskets or garden tools.”

Among the predictions Meijer made to go along with the NRF’s prognostication? The Midwest retailer expects to sell 1.6 million chocolate bunnies.

That’s a lot of bunnies. In addition, Meijer expects to sell 985,000 Peeps, 265,000 spiral hams, 2.4 million pounds of russet potatoes and 30 million eggs.

Peeps no longer are the most popular Easter candy, either. What sweet treat has supplanted the pure sugar fluff ball? Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter Eggs.

Petrol patrol

When paying for gas, Americans feel less is better for the economy.

A national survey by the National Association of Convenience Stores found 84 percent of consumers say lower gas prices are better for the economy.

Prices would have to reach $3.37 per gallon before people begin to drive less, and $4.43 before they seek out alternatives.

“Consumers say that prices have to increase by about a dollar per gallon from its current price before they consider cutting back,” NACS Vice President of Strategic Industry Initiatives Jeff Lenard said. “Gradual price increases also gradually push up the price at which they would drive less, and it would take a sudden, unexpected price increase before most drivers would consider driving less.”

According to the report, gas prices rise in the spring as new summer blends begin production and leads to an average price increase of 53 cents between February and the “seasonal peak” of late May.

Ever wonder how much a gas station makes on a gallon of gas?

The report also answered the question: An average gross margin of 20 cents per gallon, with an average 5-cent-per-gallon profit.


Three MBA students from Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business won first place and $6,000 in a case study business competition designed to give business and finance students real-world experience.

Robert Walmsley, Brent Pelishek and Russ Duba earned top honors competing in the annual Association for Corporate Growth Western Michigan’s ACG Cup.

Teams from Davenport University, Michigan State University, Western Michigan University, Cornerstone University and GVSU competed in the final round. The awards were announced late last month at the ACGWM Outstanding Growth Award reception at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids.

Teams from each school analyzed complex business cases and presented strategies, including identifying capital markets and developing merger/acquisition alternatives and financing options. Professionals from the corporate community and ACG membership served as judges for the competition.

Walmsley said the competition gives students insight into mergers and acquisitions, investment banking, financial advising and private equity.

“In analyzing the case we were given, finding the right balance of technical finance, high-level strategic thinking and concise communication was critical for success,” Walmsley said. “While I have worked for several years in corporate finance, I didn't have experience with mergers and acquisitions. The ACG Cup was a tremendous professional development opportunity which will pay dividends for me throughout my career.”

Duba said the experience offers students an opportunity to get in front of professionals who do this type of work every day, get feedback outside of an academic setting and network with others in the field.

Pelishek said: “My background is engineering and program management. Participating in the ACG Cup has piqued my interest in an area of business that I knew little about prior. I’d like to someday own a business, and understanding mergers and acquisitions will prove valuable in pursing those aspirations.”

The winning undergraduate team is awarded a $3,000 cash prize.


The Higher Learning Commission approved Western Michigan University’s request to offer programs at two locations in Florida.

The decision follows last year’s approval by Florida’s Commission for Independent Education, allowing WMU to operate regional locations on the campuses of Florida SouthWestern State College in Punta Gorda and the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School in Riverview near Tampa.

The HLC is the accrediting organization for degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in a 19-state region.

With the HLC’s approval, WMU will be able to move forward with its plans to launch aviation flight science and aviation management and operations programs, each leading to a bachelor’s degree, beginning with the 2017 fall semester. The aviation flight science program will be offered on the campus of FSW and the Punta Gorda Airport through collaborative efforts with the Charlotte County Airport Authority. The aviation management and operations program will be offered online.

“The Higher Learning Commission’s approval clears the way for us to deliver access to the university’s four-year programs that are most beneficial for the needs of individuals in Charlotte County and surrounding areas,” said Dawn Gaymer, WMU associate provost for extended university programs. “The approval will provide economic drivers for the region and create pathways for students to accelerate their career ambitions without leaving the state of Florida.”

When the alliance between FSW and WMU was announced in October, chairman of the Charlotte County Board of Commissioners Bill Truex spoke about the importance of the agreement for each school and the Charlotte County community.

“FSW has always been a pillar in this community, and with the addition of WMU, our community will reach greater heights,” he said. “These two strategic, successful universities will help to illuminate our workforce availability, attract businesses and expand our economic development even more.”

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