Best Of The Best

    The Michigan Retailers Association tomorrow will honor two Grand Rapids firms as the largest and smallest recipients of its 2002 Michigan Retailer of the Year award.

    Receiving the honor at a Tuesday luncheon in Lansing will be Naked Plates and Alticor.

    Naked Plates, owned and operated by Laura Porter McMurry is the Breton Village store that’s well known locally by virtue of being the supplier of more than 1,000 bowls a year for an annual God’s Kitchen fund-raiser.

    Alticor, internationally renowned as a direct sales giant, also was honored because of its partnership with Sigsbee Park Elementary in southeast Grand Rapids under the Grand Rapids school district’s Partners in Education Program.

    Through its own partnership with God’s Kitchen, Naked Plates helped raise more than a half-million dollars in the “Soup’s On For All” fundraisers from 1996 through 2001. The event was cancelled this year in the wake of the 9-11 attack, but plans are in the works for a 2003 event.

    Each year, McMurry’s store supplied at cost more than 1,000 soup bowls that her customers and employees decorated — as did members of service organizations, volunteers from businesses and area celebrities.

    McMurry’s store has absorbed all the costs of the glazing, firing and payroll associated with the bowls.

    The association also notes that her store is active in the local Make-A-Wish Foundation.

    Alticor, operated by Chairman Steve Van Andel and President Doug DeVos, is known as a major contributor to several charities and local institutions.

    The association, however, focused on the involvement of Alticor employees in mentoring and tutoring Sigsbee Park pupils and coordinating a Santa’s Workshop that gives kids a subsidized opportunity to Christmas shop for their families.

    The firm’s workers also donated items to a Cool Bee Incentive Store that rewards students for perfect attendance and completing homework. Alticor also hosts job shadowing and career days at its Ada headquarters and helps fund Junior Achievement programs at Sigsbee and eight other schools in need.

    The results of their efforts, according to the MRA, included a rise in MEAP scores.

    “The Retailer of the Year awards honor the best of the best,” said LarryMeyer, chairman and CEO of the MRA, which founded and sponsors the awards program. “Those honored are representative of the thousands of retailers across the state who are enhancing the quality of life in their communities through countless charitable and volunteer activities.”

    The awards will be presented Tuesday at the fifth annual Michigan Retailer of the Year Awards luncheon, at Michigan State University’s James B. Henry Center for Executive Development in Lansing.

    • Is this a move that’s somewhat akin to Sweden importing women from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula?

    State officials last week announced that they had cut a deal to export Michigan wine to Germany. That’s right — export to, not import from. It’s the first time Michigan has exported and sold several varieties of wines on a commercial scale to Germany.

    “This initial sale and effort holds tremendous promise for Michigan’s grape growers, wineries and vintners, and highlights the growing high-quality and tasting recognition Michigan wines are receiving, especially in such an internationally acclaimed wine region,” said DanWyant, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture.

    With help from the state, the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council and five state wineries sold a container of Michigan wines for export to Germany. The sale totaled 213 cases and was valued at $17,365.

    Wyant said further marketing efforts were on the horizon. The wine council has received another International Market Development Grant. Leveraging these funds on a 3 to 1 basis will allow the industry to develop trade-show pavilions in Germany and London next March and May, respectively.

    The state has 32 wineries and tasting rooms, and acreage for growing grapes has risen by 24 percent over the past five years. Michigan wineries produce more than 200,000 cases of wine each year, making the state 13th in wine production.

    Now, if we can just engineer a trade for some of that German beer …

    • Got culture? Grand Rapids does, and now the rest of the world is about to find out more about it.

    David D’Arcy, cultural arts correspondent for National Public Radio, will be at Frederik Meijer Gardens at 9:30 a.m., Thursday, to help launch a Web site that will tell the world about 100 of the area’s most impressive outdoor sculptures.

    The site,, hopes to draw a million hits within its first year.

    “People from all over the world know us by some of the important outdoor sculpture that exists here, such as La Grande Vitesse, by AlexanderCalder, Ecliptic by MayaLin, and now the important works in the Sculpture Park at the Gardens,” said Curator JosephBecherer. “This new sculpture Web site communicatres the breadth of sculpture here; it should be a tremendous advocating force to visit this region.”

    • What would you like to see in a downtown Grand Rapids entertainment district?

    The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday will hear a proposal for such a district, but visitors to the Journal’s online publication,, got a chance to jump the gun last week and weigh in with their own opinions.

    The survey results? One-third of those casting votes opted for a riverboat casino on the Grand. Another third wanted to see more bars and restaurants downtown. Next up were more live music and dancing venues (18 percent), followed by studio-sized film theaters and small performance theaters with just over 7 percent each.


    Ohlman and his group will present the entertainment district report without specific suggestions, but now at least the chamber has some info on what

    viewers would like to see.


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