Street Talk: Eatery’s food for thought


This restaurant will have a little something extra on the menu.

At a taste-testing event Nov. 8, the Business Journal learned about an LLC created to give minorities a jump-start in business.

Forty Acres Lifestyle LLC recently was formed as the holding company for Forty Acres Soul Kitchen, a soul food restaurant announced in June that will soft open in late December at 1059 Wealthy St. SE.

Gemini Publications staff members Charlsie Dewey and Rachel Watson attended a tasting unveiling several dishes from Forty Acres’ new menu, including fried green tomatoes with fried okra, skillet cheese on flatbread, shrimp and fish po’ boys, cheesesteak bowls, hand pies and peach cobbler.

Lewis Williams — former general manager of LINC Up Soul Food Café that closed in June to make way for this new venture — is teaming up as a co-owner on the restaurant side with Darel Ross II, co-director of Start Garden.

Chef Trimell Hawkins — a graduate of the Secchia Institute of Culinary Arts at Grand Rapids Community College — will lead food operations. The trio plan to hire locally, with special outreach to minorities.

A portion of the restaurant’s sales will be donated to LINC Up, where Ross was an executive director from 2008 until this past winter.

Ross said the LLC will be broader in purpose than the restaurant and will fit with his longtime passion for helping minorities become entrepreneurs. He said the LLC’s first priority is to get the restaurant running and then will expand its focus to helping others start businesses.

The plan also will include some type of real estate development component, he said, although that won’t be unveiled at this stage.

He stressed that his role overseeing the LLC, though related topically in focus to his work at Start Garden, will be its own beast.

“This is not part of Start Garden,” he said. “It’s a separate venture.”

Raul Alvarez, principal at Grand Rapids-based public relations firm GTSD Group, lauded the LLC’s plans and said the community should keep a close eye on outcomes.

“This is good stuff,” he said. “Really good stuff.”

Diamond gem

The family-owned Richard Engels Jewelers announced recently its intent to close its doors once its entire inventory has been sold, and though owner Dennis Engels is looking forward to spending more time with his wife and children, he’s also reflecting on the legacy his family’s business had in the community.

Engels started working for his father, Richard Engels, at about age 10. He would come into the store to polish rings and fit watchbands after school and during the summer.

“I liked coming to work with my dad, and it really developed my inspiration to stay in the family business for so many years,” he said.

“I enjoy the interaction with the customers, the satisfaction of making somebody happy. I just enjoy what I do.”

Engels recalled a divorced couple that came into his jewelry store. He knew both of them well, as they had been customers over the years. Thinking they were getting re-married, he started showing them engagement rings.

But it turned out they were shopping for a graduation gift for their son.

“I was really embarrassed,” Engels said.

But his embarrassment soon turned to smiles after the couple returned to Richard Engels Jewelers about two hours later.

“He ended up buying her a two-carat diamond engagement ring and a platinum mounting, and they got married,” he said. “My wife and I were invited to the wedding, so that was kind of exciting.”

Engels said his customer relations have been a multigenerational affair, as he’s also sold engagement rings to customers’ grandchildren.

Richard Engels, one of seven brothers whose family emigrated to the U.S. from Poland in the 1920s, founded Richard Engels Jewelers. Richard Engels Jewelers opened in 1930 and moved to downtown Grandville in 1945.

Candid camera

Ever wonder what happens to your trash after it leaves the curb?

The Kent County Department of Public Works recently installed video technology at the Kent County Recycling and Education Center to help give residents an in-depth look at the county’s recycling program.

Cameras are installed throughout the recycling center to demonstrate aspects of the recycling process. The technology gives staff the ability to show detailed shots of the conveyor belt and what employees are picking out.

Public Works approached Custer Inc. to replace outdated analog equipment and further improve the facility’s technology. Custer installed two displays, a projection screen, a control panel, four HD cameras and an iPad mini 4 to control the equipment.

Kristen Wieland, communications and marketing manager at the Kent County Department of Public Works, said the technology offers ease of use while trying to give visitors an up-close view.

“We welcome thousands of people into our facility every year, so it’s important to have technology that can help us educate our visitors and show them the recycling process,” she said. “Video technology is a critical component of showing residents and businesses the impact of recycling. Custer installed tools that are simple to use, so we can spend more time engaging with visitors instead of wrestling with technology.”

Harvey Gershman, a solid waste management consultant at Gershman, Brickner and Bratton Inc., part of the team creating a master plan for a new sustainable business park in Kent County, has seen the new technology in action.

“I recently toured the Kent County Recycling and Education Center and was impressed by the video tour and how it helps people understand the enormity of what can be recycled,” he said. “A big part of successful community recycling programs is making sure residents know how to recycle and that it’s accessible. Custer’s innovative video system allows people to see what goes into recycling and reinforce the importance of separating the many recyclable materials properly.”

Kent County Recycling and Education Center’s free tours are about an hour long and include a classroom discussion about recycling and a view of recycling equipment in action from the observation deck. Sign up at

A thin line

While public grooming has long been frowned upon, one personal hygiene habit may be on its way to acceptance outside the bathroom. A recent national Nielsen survey reveals millennials are twice as likely to floss in public as baby boomers.

“Having food stuck in your teeth can be embarrassing or frustrating, but bringing out a string of floss and working it around your mouth can be disgusting for those around you,” said Don Cumming, global brand director for Plackers, a brand of oral care products produced by Ranir and Grand Rapids. "In recent years, however, we've seen a significant increase in adoption of convenient, on-the-go flossers. Given the results of this survey, it's possible that younger consumers are more willing to floss in public because they perceive flossers as less offensive than traditional floss."

The omnibus survey, commissioned by Plackers, asked respondents how likely they would be to floss their teeth in public. Nearly 30 percent of respondents age 18-35 indicated they would be somewhat likely or very likely to floss in public compared to 13 percent of respondents age 55 to 64, and only 7 percent of respondents age 65 and older. The data also revealed that men are more likely to floss in public than women.

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