GRAND RAPIDS — He was part of the clever ruse last year that let the Neighborhood Business Alliance completely surprise Sharon Evoy, then the director of the Neighborhood Business Specialist Program, by giving her the distinguished John H. Logie Neighborhood Business Champion Award.
So on an evening when small-business owners had the spotlight all to themselves, the alliance rewarded Ed De Vries last Thursday for his many accomplishments, and not just for playing along with last year’s successful ploy.
De Vries was honored on two levels. One, for being a trustworthy businessman who has historically renovated a number of commercial and residential buildings in the city. And, two, for being a staunch supporter of business in the city.
“Ed has many beautiful buildings to his credit, in several business districts, including Landmark Lofts, 800 Monroe and the Aldrich Place building,” said Mayor George Heartwell, just prior to handing the owner of Ed De Vries Properties the award.
“Ed gives generously of his time to his business association, Monroe North, serving on the board and on the beautification committee,” added Heartwell.
The day before he received the award, De Vries turned a grand opening at Clear Water Place, his latest development at 1430 Monroe Ave. NW, into a fund-raising event for public school students. De Vries joins Evoy, now director of the Downtown Alliance, and Logie, a former three-term mayor, as winners of the prestigious, three-year-old champion award.
The Neighborhood Business Alliance named Mercantile Bank the winner of the equally prestigious Gerald R. Helmholdt Grand Prize for putting its new $12 million corporate office on a brownfield site in the West Leonard Business District. The bank’s decision to locate at Leonard and Scribner, instead of in a suburb, has given the business district a cornerstone on which to build.
Mercantile Bank joins the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, the Huizen family’s downtown furniture store EQ3, Swift Printing Co. and Pioneer Construction as Helmholdt Grand Prize winners, an award named in honor of the late businessman and former mayor Gerald Helmholdt.
Two new awards were handed out for the first time in the celebration’s 16-year history. Fouad and Marie Catrib won the Best New Business Award for Marie Catrib’s restaurant, and Michael Kuczyk won the Best Longstanding Business Award for the Cherie Inn restaurant.
Additional winners were Wealthy At Charles for the Best Window Display; the Monroe North Business District for Best Exterior Maintenance; Terra Stella for Best Use of a Sign or Awning; Sun Title for Best Interior Renovation; Ernie’s Barber Shop for Best Exterior Renovation; C&J Plaza for Best Reuse of a Building; and La Flor Café Children’s Carnival for Best Promotional Event.
The Fifth Third Bank branch in Alger Heights and Madison Hall Townhomes shared the honor for Best New Construction.
Deanna Demory, development specialist for the Neighborhood Business Specialist Program, said more southeast-side businesses than usual were nominated for awards this year, with most in the Seymour Square, Madison Square, Boston Square and Alger Heights districts. In all, 104 were nominated across the 10 categories.
“Usually, the Uptown area and the Plainfield corridor get the largest number of nominations,” said Demory. “I think it shows the economic recovery that is starting to happen in those neighborhoods.”
Blue Cross Blue Shield, Huntington Bank, Ed De Vries Cos., Fifth Third Bank, Law Weathers & Richardson, and Mercantile Bank were the event’s major sponsors. The reception and awards ceremony were held in the Loosemore Auditorium on the downtown campus of Grand Valley State University.