Grand Rapids Business Journal is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a little history of its own. Throughout the year, the Journal will revisit significant events that occurred each week 20, 15 and 10 years ago. For longtime Grand Rapidians, this is a chance to test historical trivia. For newcomers, it’s a chance to “catch up” with everyone else.
Twenty Years Ago
- Stow Davis opened a new plant at 4300 44th St. SE, the seventh for the 102-year-old furniture manufacturer.
The 120,000-square-foot structure was also to serve as a training center for employees, a resource center for dealer seminars and a showcase for all lines of Stow Davis furniture.
The new plant’s 55-acre site was highly landscaped, featuring ducks and geese on a pond, plus picnic grounds and a baseball diamond for employees.
- Johnson & Dean won an honorable mention in the Public Transit Authority Adwheel contest in Boston.
Winning the award was the firm’s “Thinkaboutabus” promotional campaign for the Grand Rapids Area Transit Authority. One of the winning ads was headed “Escape The Scrape,” a reference to shoveling the snow from one’s driveway.
The entry, which included print, radio and TV spots, was one of 400 in the competition. Johnson & Dean’s Keasha Palmer wrote the copy. John Kemler was the art director and Gary Meyer and Laura Grafton were the TV and radio producers, respectively.
- Schelde Enterprises beefed up its trophy case with the country’s most successful Mr. Steak franchise.
Dan Kross, manager of the franchise’s Alpine restaurant, received the Mr. Steak International Award for Outstanding Restaurant of the Year.
The Denver-based corporation conferred the award in competition with 255 other restaurants nationally.
Kross’ restaurant was judged a cut above based on business volume, staff relationships, community involvement, customers’ recommendations and spot-checks by visitors from the home office.
Meanwhile, Steve Dykstra, a 13-year Mr. Steak employee who managed the restaurant at 1420 28th St. SW, won the international award for outstanding volume.
- In 1981, Karol Caughron — formerly a homemaker with two kids — closed $3.6 million in residential sales for Westdale Better Homes and Gardens.
That was her second year in the real estate business. Even more remarkable, her sales in 1982 were nearly $4 million. In the first six weeks of 1983, she already had sold properties worth $1 million.
The Grand Rapids Real Estate Board doesn’t keep records about such sales, but a spokesman said no one could remember anybody approaching such startling figures.
Fifteen Years Ago
- Haven-Busch Co. announced that it would close its structural steel fabrication plant in Grandville after filling its current backlog of orders.
The announcement from the firm’s president, John H. “Jack” Busch, indicated that most of Haven-Busch’s 220 employees would be laid off.
Busch said the century-old company wouldn’t cease all operations, however. Once it completed a restructuring plan, Busch said, it would continue diversified productions. He declined to say what the products would be.
- Some local delegates to the Conference on Small Business in Lansing said they were skeptical about the two-day gathering. Gov. James Blanchard had billed the event as a vehicle for small business owners to directly influence state policy.
But many delegates said they were going to have to see it to believe it. They reported that they’re still smarting from what they regarded as a presidential brush-off at the White House Conference on Small Business two years ago.
“They say they’re really going to give some serious consideration to what we say, but what they say and what they do are often two totally different things,” said Kentwood CPA Paul Hense.
Harold Marks, a partner with the Prangley, Marks & Co. public accounting firm, said, “I would hope that this conference is more than just window dressing.”
- Dale Baker Motor Mall, Michelob-Michelob Light, Steelcase and WCUZ Radio were named Gold Sponsors of the third annual Greater Grand Rapids Open, scheduled for Aug. 15-21 at the Elks Country Club. Gold sponsors were those contributing $25,000 each to the tourney.
Silver sponsors — those contributing $17,500 each — were Ameritech Publishing, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, Coca Cola Bottling Co. of Michigan, Foremost Insurance Co., Polaroid Corp., Rapistan Inc. and WZZM-TV.
According to the organizers of the GGRO — John Schelling, a City of Wyoming police officer, and Bruce Pienton, an investment executive with Paine Webber — contributions were at $222,500. Both men were members of the Grand Rapids Jaycees, which sponsored the tourney.
- Senate Majority Leader John Engler came under attack from some GOP colleagues for spending too much time supporting the presidential candidacy of Vice President George Bush and too little minding his job as the top senator.
Among other things, he was criticized for neglecting to consult with his colleagues on bipartisan or executive decisions and monopolizing the GOP’s staff.
Other reports leaked out of the GOP caucus that Engler was too involved in working out his own political future.
- Tax reform clouded the outlook for prepaid legal services plans, relative newcomers to the spectrum of employee benefits.
The plans, which had been gaining in popularity during the past decade, lost their status as a tax-exempt benefit, causing insurers and attorneys to doubt that they ever would become as commonplace as, say, health insurance.
James Harper, senior vice president of the Paul Goebel Group, a Grand Rapids insurance agency that administers such plans, said, “With the passage of the law, things have kind of cooled.”
Ten Years Ago
- Several agencies and associations gave unqualified endorsements to the Grand Action Committee’s $80 million plan for a new 12,000-seat arena and two-phase reconditioning and expansion of the Grand Center.
Providing endorsements were the Greater Grand Rapids Lodging Association, the Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Grand Rapids Parking Commission, the Grand Rapids Transit Authority and the Heartside Neighborhood Association. Also supporting the proposal was the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.
Dick DeVos, Grand Action co-chairman and former chairman of Grand Vision, said, “Our support so far has been overwhelming.”
- Rapistan-Demag, the area’s largest materials handling firm, put forth a rosy outlook despite having suffered a strike the previous year.
“We’ve had no adverse effects from the strike last summer,” said President Pete Metros. “Morale is very high throughout the company and we have made substantial capital investments, including a new office building and cafeteria. We have just received approval to build a new 35,000-square-foot high bay manufacturing expansion to our Plymouth Avenue facility.”
He said business was especially healthy for the past two months, with steady volume coming from all the industries Rapistan-Demag served, including automotive and general merchandising.
- At the urging of Mayor John Logie, the Grand Rapids City Commission amended the city’s housing code to permit conversion of the Herkimer Hotel, 323 S. Division Ave., to single-room occupancy for low-income people.
The project was being developed by Dwelling Place Inc., in tandem with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
The project appeared doomed because the Housing Board of Appeals had — under the existing code — denied its request for variances relating to space, heating, bathroom and cooking facilities.
- Michigan Bell said that, once improved, an equipment switch it recently purchased here from Northern Tel Com would give business customers access to a wide array of new service options: blind transfer caller ID; call forward reason display; and conference circuiting for from six to 150 callers.
Bell spent $3.8 million for the switch and made $700,000 in improvements to it.
- The Grand Valley Metropolitan Council retained a team of five consulting firms to undertake a $250,000 study of regional growth. Jean Laug-Carroll, the council’s executive director, said that the use to which the study will be put had not yet been decided.
About half the study’s funding was provided through grants from Michigan’s departments of transportation and commerce.
The consultants were W.W. Engineering & Science, The WBDC Group, William J. Johnson Associates, Lillian F. Dean Williams & Associates, and Wondergem Consulting.
Gerald O’Bee, an agent with Connecticut Mutual Life, continued to make progress on his plan to establish a local center to address the unique concerns of family-owned businesses. He announced creation of a task force that would shape and direct the center’s work.