Neighborhood businesses garner awards


Pablo Rodriguez opened Rodriguez Supermarket on Grandville Avenue SW just a few weeks ago. Courtesy Neighborhood Ventures

Ninety-six businesses were nominated for the 25th Annual Neighborhood Business Awards in Grand Rapids last week, with awards in more than a dozen categories presented by business leaders and city officials.

The top award was in honor of a flashy new supermarket that just opened at 1428 Grandville Ave. SW, owned by an ambitious entrepreneur. Pablo Rodriguez of Rodriguez Supermarket accepted the Gerald R. Helmholdt Grand Award Thursday night at the Wealthy Theatre event.

The Neighborhood Business Awards are sponsored by the Neighborhood Business Alliance and Neighborhood Ventures, with nominations coming from 20 neighborhood business associations throughout the city.

About 1,700 small businesses are based in the city.

Two of the many awards went to Metal Art Studio, 978 Cherry SE, for Best Reuse of a Building, and to Denym retail clothing shop at 443 Bridge St. for Best Interior Renovation.

“There are lots of great stories in our 96 nominees and 15 categories,” said Mark C. Lewis, president and CEO of Neighborhood Ventures, a nonprofit economic development organization dedicated to greater vitality and success in neighborhood business districts in Grand Rapids.

Lewis said the Rodriguez Supermarket is “a great story in many ways. We have a very successful entrepreneur who is diversifying his business portfolio by investing in the very neighborhood that he grew up in. Adding 18,000 square feet of full-service grocery including produce, a full-time butcher and commercial bakery is going to really impact the Roosevelt Park neighborhood in a positive way. This store also has the potential to fill a downtown demand for grocery with a short three-minute drive down Grandville Avenue.”

Rodriguez also owns a Rodriguez Supermarket in the 2000 block of South Division, ABRA Auto Body & Glass on 28th Street, and Extreme Car Audio, also on 28th Street.

Metal Art Studio is located in the East Hills business district, an area Lewis said is solidly built out — although he added that Metal Art Studio stands out.

“Opening up the façade on two street fronts make this one of those diamond-in-the-rough projects that caps off the development success found in that quaint neighborhood.”

Lewis called Denym “an exciting addition to Bridge Street. With big development projects already in the works, that neighborhood is rapidly becoming the next big thing.” He added that Denym and Conscious Collective next door “are exactly the types of retail business that we hope to see complement food and beverage projects that are going to hit that street in the next 12 to 18 months.”

Another key award at the annual event is the John H. Logie Business Champion Award, which went this year to Bonnie Nawara, CEO of Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women — also marking 25 years. Nawara is a former small business owner.

Other awards were presented to:

  • Rebel, a gift shop at 409 Robinson Road SE in Eastown, won Best Exterior Maintenance.
  • Stonesthrow Home Furnishings at 1428 Plainfield Ave. NE in the Creston business district won Best Window Display.
  • Mitten Brewing Co., 527 Leonard St. NW, took Best Exterior Renovation.
  • Best Longstanding Business went to Sam’s Supermarket at 601 Eastern Ave. SE in the Franklin and Eastern business district.
  • Best Neighborhood Restaurant went to Brick Road Pizza, 1017 Wealthy St. SE, one of several Grand Rapids businesses that donated prepared food for the Taste of our Neighborhoods reception before the awards ceremony.
  • Best Neighborhood Pint went to Bob’s Sports Bar, 725 Michigan St. NE.
  • Outstanding New Business award went to Posh Petals Floral, 2150 Plainfield Ave. NE, in the former Roxy Theatre at the Cheshire Village business district.
  • The Silver Line took the award for Best New Construction.
  • The 2014 Good Neighbor Award went to the West Side Corridor Improvement District Plan, covering the Stockbridge, West Fulton and West Leonard neighborhoods.
  • Best Promotion was presented to SpeakEZ Lounge, 600 Monroe Ave. NW, for its 2014 World Cup promotions.
  • The P. Michael Wanroy Award for a Volunteer in Business was given to Laurie Williams, a marketing rep at Star Collision CARSTAR, 1560 Plainfield Ave. NE, a member of the Creston Business Association.

Among the presenters of the awards was Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell and Mark Stiers, president/COO of DTE Energy Gas.

DTE Energy led the list of corporate underwriters of the awards program, according to Lewis. Another major supporter is the Michigan Economic Development Corp., which was also represented at the event.

The Neighborhood Business Alliance is an information and advocacy organization in Grand Rapids made up of representatives from all 20 neighborhood associations. It partners with Neighborhood Ventures to serve and advocate for neighborhood business districts and the neighborhood businesses located there.

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