Street Talk: If you can’t say anything nice …


While most of Michigan’s Republican leadership was in Cleveland, Ohio, last week for the Republican National Convention, U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, who represents Michigan’s 3rd District, decided to remain in Grand Rapids.

Amash said he didn’t feel right attending the convention when he couldn’t support Donald Trump as the party’s nominee.

Amash originally endorsed Rand Paul for president and later backed Ted Cruz once the field was whittled down to only a few candidates.

During a taping of “West Michigan Week” last week, Amash said he will not vote for either Trump or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8 and has yet to decide who will get his vote.

Besides the RNC, Amash discussed several issues during the segment, including his opposition to two gun control bills introduced earlier this month — one by U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-California, and the other by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas — and the Patriot Extension Act.

He also discussed his steadfast commitment to protecting the Fourth Amendment and his inclusion in the recently launched bipartisan Fourth Amendment Caucus, which will focus on protecting privacy.

But it wasn’t all work for the outspoken Republican. Based on his Twitter feed, it also appears Amash spent some time checking out Brewery Vivant earlier in the week.

Two-way street

As the Business Journal dives into a series of reports on Division Avenue, people and topics keep popping out of the woodwork.

There are businesses closing and blaming it on the population that frequents the neighboring nonprofits, a variety of businesses and nonprofits with differing views on where the neighborhood’s future is headed, and disagreement among various factions, real and fictional.

There appears to be quite a lot of underlying drama, so Division might be the perfect name for a street so divided.

A lot of admirable work and collaboration is going on in that area of downtown, however, so a recent email received by the Business Journal might just be on to something.

Grand Rapids resident Kurt French read the first installment in the series on Division Avenue last week and was inspired to start a petition to rename the street Unity Avenue.

A couple years ago the city stopped an effort to rename the street after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., following a similar effort more than a decade ago.

It’s a probably long shot, but it never happens if you don’t try.

“It feels like an impossible mission to accomplish, but I genuinely feel it would have a positive impact,” French wrote in his email. “Division Avenue doesn't have a great reputation, and this may be viewed as a beacon of light toward a new start or turning of the tides, per se.”

Flying high

It’s showtime for Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation.

On July 25, the college is scheduled to launch a virtual reality experience during the world’s largest aviation event, the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Airventure, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, that attracts over 500,000 people each year.

WMU partnered with Hollywood-based, Emmy award-winning Mandt Bros. Productions to produce the video for the first-ever VR experience for a collegiate aviation program.

The video, which uses a smartphone and is viewed through an interactive headset that fully encases the viewer’s field of vision, will immerse participants in the sights and sounds of the College of Aviation.

In addition to witnessing one of the most sophisticated flight fleets in all of collegiate aviation, participants will also take a virtual tour of WMU’s campus. This virtual experience includes the newly renovated aviation maintenance labs, state-of-the-art instructional flight simulators and much more.

It will be available to experience at WMU’s EAA Airventure booth through July 31.

“Virtual reality is allowing us to tell our story through emerging technology, and we are excited to launch the WMU aviation video at such a prominent event,” said Tom Thinnes, WMU’s College of Aviation director of recruitment and outreach.

Beginning July 25, prospective students can request a free WMU College of Aviation VR headset to view the video on any smartphone device at their convenience. Headsets will be available online at

Belly up to the bar

On Friday, July 29, New Holland Brewing Co. will create a special beer at its pub on 8th Street in Holland. The beer itself is pretty special — a rare German-style ale brewed with all-Michigan ingredients — but here’s the real reason to take notice: Every pint will send four meals to people struggling with hunger in West Michigan.

New Holland will donate $1 to Feeding America West Michigan for each glass sold during the month of September. It’s part of Hunger Action Month, a series of events designed to get people to take a stand against hunger, many of them for the first time.

“New Holland is stepping up to support local hunger relief in a big way,” said Feeding America West Michigan CEO Ken Estelle. “Their commitment to our community is genuine. We’ve seen that again and again, and I love that they’re making it so easy for people, particularly in the craft beer community, to get involved.”

Head brewer Steve “Bert” Berthel has invited a dozen Feeding America West Michigan staff members, volunteers and supporters to brew with him July 29. The beer, dubbed The Grateful Grain, is a recipe Berthel developed from the German Sticke Alt style. Berthel will put his own spin on it by using only Michigan-grown barley, hops and yeast.

“In Dusseldorf, brewmasters made a regular ‘Alt’ (old) beer and twice a year made a ‘Sticke Alt’ (old secret),” Berthel explained. “This special beer was slightly higher in alcohol content and hop bitterness and was made for special guests and for special events in the community.

“I think it is the perfect style choice for Feeding America’s event, and it is really exciting to debut the first-ever 100 percent Michigan-grown version of this beer style.”

The Grateful Grain will be featured during Rocktoberfest, a multi-course dinner Sept. 26 featuring food, drink and music pairings. Last year’s event showcased dishes from New Holland chef Dale Beaubien and other chefs from West Michigan and Chicago. The event raised the equivalent of 4,800 meals for Feeding America West Michigan.

Brewing will take place from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m., July 29. While only invited guests may take part in the brewing process, the taproom will be open as usual.

New Holland patrons can expect to see The Grateful Grain on tap in early September.

Last call

July 30 will mark the retirement of Mary Parrott after 35 years of serving customers at downtown’s Cottage Bar & Restaurant.

Recognition of Parrott’s run will take place from 5-8 p.m., July 31, at One Trick Pony Grill & Taproom, 136 E. Fulton.

“Mary was the first person I hired after taking over ownership in 1980,” said Dan Verhil, proprietor of both establishments. “Her humble demeanor and guest engagement skills made her more than a server — actually like a friend to her customers.”

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