Street Talk: Table talk welcome


Grand Rapids Downtown Market is partnering with Start Garden, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women and the MSU Extension on a new endeavor meant to strengthen the region’s food system.

On Jan. 15, the Grand Rapids Downtown Market will launch “Culinary Conversations,” a peer-to-peer collaboration and networking group for West Michigan’s food industry professionals, including growers, producers, chefs, bartenders, restaurant owners, entrepreneurs and others.

Each monthly meetup will include networking and educational opportunities. Panelists for the first session include entrepreneurs from Founders Brewing Company, Green Collar Farms and Amore Trattoria Italiana.

“Feeding and nourishing our community is the core function of our food system, and connecting food innovators with experts will help us build a healthy ecosystem,” said Mimi Fritz, president and CEO of the Downtown Market. “A healthy local food system is an excellent economic indicator — and that West Michigan is on the right track to becoming self-sufficient to feed everyone who makes this place their home.”

West Michigan has more than 12,200 local farms, as well as hundreds of locally owned restaurants and food processors.

“We are passionate about creating a local culture that helps food ideas become successful businesses and create a network for their growth,” said Laurie Supinski, program manager at Start Garden. “In the food and beverage world, creating a culture of entrepreneurship and investing into that culture is extremely important to make sure that local businesses are supported.”

Added Kelli Smith, business development officer at GROW: “We’re seeing more and more diversity in the local food scene, and that’s absolutely fantastic, but we want to keep trying for more. We’d love to see more women in leadership and ownership roles in our local food community, and we have the resources to help support that initiative.”

More information and registration for the events is available at

The Culinary Conversations series includes:

“Creating Your Local Food Network” — 5-7:30 p.m. Jan. 15: Panel discussion on how critical community connections and local support led to their success in the local food, beverage and agriculture industries, with panelists John Green, executive chair of Founders Brewing Company and investor and chair of Revolution Farms; Brian Harris, founder, Green Collar Farms; Jenna Arcidiacono, owner and chef, Amore Trattoria Italiana; and moderator Lisa Knight, director of the Urban League Center for Health and Wellness.

“Generation Yum” — 5:30-7 p.m., Feb. 20: Speaker Eve Turow Paul is a researcher and writer about food culture and explores how 21st-century innovations and pressures are reshaping the human food experience, most evident among millennials and Generation Z. Author of “A Taste of Generation Yum: How the Millennial Generation’s Love for Organic Fare, Celebrity Chefs, and Microbrews Will Make or Break the Future of Food,” Paul has consulted with Google Food Lab, the Culinary Institute of America, SXSW and many others.

“Food System Disparities” — April 5 (time TBD): Chef Tunde Wey is an author and social justice activist born in Nigeria who immigrated to Detroit as a teenager. He is a co-owner of (revolver) in Hamtramck, a community table restaurant where a revolving lineup of chefs serves locally sourced, communal menus in the style of traditional French guesthouses. Currently based in New Orleans, Wey started the Blackness in America Dinner Series, which offered a chance for people to come together in 14 cities across the country to discuss how blackness intersects with their work and lives. This event will be a dinner discussion exploring the history behind racial wealth and health disparities and how people can change systems of oppression.

Helicopter parents?

A few weeks back, Street Talk made mention of Andrew Challenger’s global outplacement and executive coaching firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, and its 33rd annual free career help hotline.

The two-day hotline offered callers tips on career advancement, job searches, switching jobs, résumé writing, etc. Challenger said hundreds of people took advantage of the free help, with the majority of callers being older job seekers and recent college grads just entering the market.

The third most frequent category of caller? Parents looking for advice for their adult children.

Just thought you would want to know that.

Be our guest

Airbnb hosts in Michigan earned $78 million from 600,000 guests in 2018.

Airbnb is an online platform that allows people to rent their homes or bedrooms for a fee to short-term guests, similar to services at a hotel.

Airbnb said its service caters to tourists less able to afford hotels, those who desire to stay in neighborhoods or cities that lack hotels, and families who prefer to be together under one roof.

The company said there are now more than 7,600 Michigan hosts who share their homes via Airbnb, typically earning about $6,300 annually in supplemental income.

The most recent report from Pure Michigan shows Michigan hotel occupancy rates, daily prices and revenue also have grown steadily.

The state has been generating new revenue through a tax agreement with the Michigan Treasury Department announced in 2017 that allows Airbnb to collect and remit the Michigan state use tax on behalf of its hosts. Airbnb said it delivered $4.2 million in tax revenue to the state in the first year of the tax agreement.

Airbnb this year made agreements with Kent County and Genesee County to collect and remit their respective lodging taxes on behalf of local hosts.

The company said the platform provides expanded lodging capacity for Michigan communities when hotels sell out during popular times, such as in lakefront communities during the summer tourism season and in Ann Arbor during college football weekends.

The company said it also added the Experiences section of its website in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and other Michigan cities this year, offering information about local activities. The company plans to expand the information in Michigan in 2019.

So, which Michigan counties are doing the most business with Airbnb?

Based on total host income and total guests, Wayne County takes the top prize for 2018. Approximately 80,000 stayed in the Detroit area, generating $9.2 million for the Airbnb hosts there.

Closer to home, 23,000 Airbnb users spent time in Allegan County generating $4.1 million in income for their hosts. Ottawa (30,700 guests and $4 million in host income) and Kent (36,300 guests and $3.3 million in income) counties found themselves in about the same neighborhood. On the lower side, 9,800 Kalamazoo County visitors generated $1 million for their Airbnb hosts.

Wayne County makes sense due to the presence of professional sports teams and a large metro area with plenty of entertainment options.

But for those who are bent on truly experiencing Michigan, Airbnb hosts “Up North” are reaping a bit of a windfall.

Just behind Wayne County on the Airbnb leaderboard is Grand Traverse County with 53,200 guests spending $8 million with their hosts. Throw in other northern hotspots (Leelanau County with 15,900 overnight visitors and $3 million in income, and Charlevoix County with 15,200 guests and $2 million in host income), and a picture of Michigan as more of a preferred vacation destination begins to emerge.

Must be Kid Rock was on to something with his anthem to northern Michigan, “All Summer Long.”

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