Street Talk: Local revolution

The words “buy local” mean many things to many people, but what it really boils down to is the choice to support your neighbor in his or her business venture.

Owning a business is scary, and growing one is even scarier.

So every once in a while it’s nice to tell the story of someone local who not only has succeeded, but also has ascended to the level of setting an example for others.

Guy Bazzani, founder of Bazzani Building Co. in Grand Rapids, is one of those people.

Craig Clark, owner of Clark Communications here in town (another local business!), dropped us a line explaining a national campaign launched last week by Deluxe Corp., one of the largest check suppliers in the world, in celebration of the company’s 100th anniversary.

The campaign, called Small Business Revolution, spotlights 100 businesses across the country that are giving back to their communities in a variety of ways. The campaign can be seen at

“They were the only company in the state to be selected,” Clark said of Bazzani, which is No. 59 on the list of 100.

Bazzani designs and builds high-performance green buildings in urban neighborhoods, with the goal of revitalizing communities and inspiring local businesses to collaborate and thrive.

Bazzani followed in the footsteps of his father, also an entrepreneurial builder, and saw the industry as a way to improve his neighborhood in Grand Rapids and others like it.

“I decided to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem,” he said.

“The construction and development business is a lot of destruction before you get to something constructive.”

That’s why the company approaches its work as giving back rather than taking away. Bazzani said his company makes sure to preserve historic buildings and incorporate green buildings into existing communities, making them healthier places to live and play.

Despite the recognition, nothing makes Bazzani happier than the relationships he’s built and the positive growth he’s witnessed in the community.

“As a small business owner, you rely on the close relationships you build. You build them well and you hope they last through the rough times. And they certainly have for us.”

Garden party

In July, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, one of the nation’s most significant botanic and sculpture experiences, broke attendance records for the second consecutive month, making it the best-attended month the organization has ever seen.

Crediting the opening of the new eight-acre Japanese Garden, officials said 101,000 guests visited Meijer Gardens in July. This compared to 80,000 visits in June.

“When planning a project of this magnitude to fit within our unique mission, you always hope it’s well received, but to see the amount of support from guests all over the world is overwhelmingly remarkable,” said President and CEO David Hooker.

“We sincerely hope that people continue to experience all our gardens, art and all other offerings as they change throughout the seasons.”

The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden opened to the public June 13 and features traditional Japanese garden components such as waterfalls, elevation changes, extensive boulder placement, authentic structures and a functioning teahouse as well as a Zen-style garden.

Breaking with tradition, contemporary works by sculptors Anish Kapoor, Jenny Holzer and Zhang Huan are on view in the garden.

Hooker said another draw for visitors is the once-in-a-lifetime exhibition “Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan,” which will remain open until the end of this week.

The 158-acre complex averages approximately 600,000 visitors annually.

Hope springs eternal

Mel Trotter Ministries, a local nonprofit serving the hungry, homeless and hurting of Greater Grand Rapids, will host its first annual Season of Hope event Monday, Sept. 28, at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. The unique and inspiring dinner event will allow Mel Trotter supporters and friends to enjoy community and connectedness, while listening to Liz Murray, a New York Times bestselling author.

Murray is the author of “Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard” and the inspiration for Lifetime’s original movie “Homeless to Harvard.”

Murray was born in the Bronx to drug-addicted parents in the early 1980s. She became homeless at age 15 after her mother died from AIDS and her father moved into a homeless shelter. After living on the streets for years, Murray rose from her hardship, graduated from high school and pursued a degree at Harvard.

Her story is inspirational and will provide guests with a fresh perspective on possibility and hope, said Dennis VanKampen, executive director of Mel Trotter Ministries.

“Liz is not unlike many of the men, women and 50-plus children who stay at Mel Trotter Ministries,” said VanKampen. “Her story is raw and very real. But someone, somewhere, saw her not for who she was but for who she could be. And that made all the difference. Her life was transformed. She went from ‘homeless to Harvard.’”

Tickets for the event go on sale Aug. 24. All monies collected will be used to support Mel Trotter’s daily programs and the work done to end homelessness in Greater Grand Rapids, VanKampen said.

Wish upon a star

Fledgling astronomers will be able to spread a blanket with other sky watchers and see streaks of light dart overhead at the Perseid Pajama Party this week.

The event, put on by Grand Rapids Public Museum in conjunction with the Grand Rapids Amateur Astrological Association, is returning to Cascade Township Park Aug. 12 and 13.

When the annual Perseid Meteor Shower reached its peak over the past two years, the sky was flooded with obscuring moonlight, which cut down on optimal viewing. This year, the moon will be in a new phase, making the meteor shower visible once again, according to Kate Moore, vice president of marketing and public relations at the museum.

The viewing party will take place from 11 p.m.-3 a.m. both nights. The event is free to the public. GRAAA members will orient viewers, conduct sky talks and oversee telescopes for the viewing of Saturn and other sky objects.

Moore said the Perseid meteors typically become more numerous after midnight, when the constellation Perseus, from which the blazing streaks of space debris seem to radiate, climbs high in the sky. Participants are able to come and go throughout the event. Parking is located on the grounds but will not interfere with viewing.

Sleeping bags, blankets and warm clothing are recommended for the evening. Space will be available for lawn chairs and picnicking. Alcoholic beverages are not permitted. And those bringing flashlights should be cognizant of what’s going on around them (it’s a viewing party!).

Moore said the “pajama party” will be held only if the sky is clear. Status updates will be available on the astronomy association’s website,

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