Near neighborhood businesses celebrate diversity


Grand Rapids Business Journal is reporting on several aspects of business startups and entrepreneurial efforts in the downtown and in near neighborhoods — all are an impetus to “shop local” this holiday season, and they provide ample examples of diversity in the business community.

One particular new story comes from the Creston neighborhood and underscores the strength of neighborhood business districts. The article details plans by four partners who will open Creston Brewery in 2016.

Creston neighborhood native and brewery partner Molly Bouwsma-Schultz commented, “We wanted to start in an area that was diverse.” The partners will offer music and dance space along with their special brews and a menu featuring unique spices in the fare.

“When I think of Creston, I think of color, spice and diversity. And that means fun,” she said.

As was emphasized last month during the 26th annual Neighborhood Ventures Neighborhood Business Awards, the unique elements of each business district are a draw for both entrepreneurs and consumers. In response to this year’s winners, Neighborhood Ventures Executive Director Mark Lewis noted the increasing level of investment and its transition across the city.

“A lot of focus has been on, of course, the near west side. We are seeing a lot of nominations coming from over there, whereas Wealthy Street was hot a couple years ago,” said Lewis. “There is a lot of activity along Michigan Street — new construction, new businesses — and those are reflected in our nominations.”

Indeed, investments in near neighborhoods has been a trend in urban areas across the U.S. — so much so that the Urban Land Institute/University of Michigan Trends Report made note of it in 2012, as the stranglehold of the Great Recession was loosening.

The diversity of business owners and types of businesses opening — from Creston Brewery to the LINC Community Revitalization project at Madison Square, and from the new west-side brew pubs to Michigan Street retailers — has been naturally occurring without designated city drafting of plans and goals — which provides a level of sustainability.

Entrepreneurs and businesses in general are at odds with “fitting into a plan” because the nature of free enterprise is unique and cannot be planned or coerced. The growth of near neighborhood businesses is not to the credit of Neighborhood Ventures, but Neighborhood Ventures honors those business owners who put plenty of sweat equity and personal financing into their plans.

The Neighborhood Business Awards are co-sponsored by the Neighborhood Business Alliance, an advocacy organization comprised of representatives of 20 business districts in the city. Neighborhood Ventures is a nonprofit economic development organization supporting the work of the businesses and the neighborhoods.

“This long-standing celebration is the only event in the city that continually recognizes the hard work and dedication of our neighborhood business owners and other community stakeholders,” Lewis told the Business Journal.

It’s certainly worthy of note.

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