The staff of Re/Max Lakeshore-South Haven is shown from left: Nick Stegman, agent; Joseph Williams, agent; Ben Stegman, agent; Michael Harris, agent; Brian Stegman, agent; Mary Macyauski, agent; Denise Moore, agent; Sueanne Wickman, corporate administrator; Joel Genzink, owner; Carol Genzink, owner; Dru Cash, agent; Shandra Redwine, office administrator.
Re/Max Lakeshore moves to new location in South Haven
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
With growth comes change and Re/Max Lakeshore-South Haven is capitalizing on that by moving into new quarters.
The real estate company's new office suites are located at the corner of Broadway and Quaker streets, downtown, just two blocks away from the company's former office on Broadway Street.
“We've gone from five to nine agents in the past two years,” said Joel Genzink, who owns the Re/Max franchise in South Haven along with his wife, Carol. “We looked at renovating the (former) office building but thought this would work better.”
The new office has 3,000 square feet – twice the former office's size.
The two office suites have been completely renovated and updated to include a new reception area, offices for the real estate agents and brokers, conference rooms and bathroom and break room facilities.
One figure that will remain from the former building is veteran real-estate agent and associate broker Ben Stegman, who started the Re/Max franchise in South Haven in 1984 and owned it until 2015 when he sold it to the Genzinks.
“It was time to do something different,” said Stegman, who has been involved in the real-estate business for 44 years.
Over the past decades, Stegman became a force to be reckoned with in the South Haven market. He earned sales awards from the Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors on a regular basis and served as the group's president in 1984. He also earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the association and was named one of Outstate Michigan's Top 100 Real Estate Agents in 2004.
Over the years, Stegman's family was actively involved in the real estate business. Jacqui, Ben's wife, helped her husband open the original Re/Max office in South Haven and the couple's two sons, Brian and Nick, grew up and joined the company as real estate agents.
Even though he sold his Re/Max franchise, Ben Stegman will still be a familiar face at the Re/Max Lakeshore South Haven office, where he will serve as associate broker. Brian and Nick will also continue as real estate agents.
“I need to stay healthy and active and work,” Ben said.
Genzink said he's pleased Ben and his sons want to continue with Re/Max.
The Genzinks acquired their first Re/Max franchise in Holland in 2007. They then purchased the Grand Haven franchise offices in 2013. With the South Haven franchise, Re/Max Lakeshore has a total of 65 real estate agents.
The Genzinks live in Holland with their three children.
Never Miss Cafe in South Haven is one of 11 restaurants in the state chosen by a travel website as the most "Unsuspecting Restaurants in Michigan with Food So Good It Should Be Illegal." (Photo by Yelp)
Never Miss Cafe a hit on travel website
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Its name sticks in your mind — Never Miss Cafe.
But the name isn't the only reason why the South Haven restaurant caught the attention of a travel website this month.
Apparently, it's the heaping plates of homemade food served up each day for the cafe's customers.
Writer Sophie Boudreau of OnlyInYourState.com chose Never Miss Cafe to its list of “11 Unsuspecting Restaurants in Michigan With Food So Good It Should be Illegal.”
OnlyInYourState.com caters to travelers who are looking for activities to take part in while vacationing. The website's writers often take a fun, informal approach when choosing attractions, businesses and restaurants it thinks travelers will enjoy.
Like the other eateries chosen for the website's latest list, Never Miss Cafe isn't considered one of the better known restaurant's in Michigan, but as Boudreau penned, it “serves food so amazing that it should be criminal.”
She went on to write, “If you’re looking for a modest but incredibly delicious spot to grab a meal in Southwest Michigan, Never Miss Cafe simply… can’t be missed! Grab an amazing breakfast, an order of biscuits and gravy, or a country-fried steak — patrons regularly rave about this eatery’s prime service and awesome food.”
Ironically, Never Miss Cafe owners Lee and Doreen Duren had no idea their restaurant was picked for the Top 11 list.
“I had no clue,” Lee said. “One of our customers came in and told us about it.”
The Durens opened Never Miss Cafe four years ago. The modest blue and red concrete block building at 05110 Blue Star Highway may not be much to talk about, but its food has attracted not only the attention of locals, but out-of-state visitors as well.
Never Miss Cafe is listed on TripAdvisor.com as the eighth most popular of South Haven's 50 establishments that serve food. Taste, Clementine's and Maria's restaurants grabbed the top three spots.
Travelers, like “John R” of Wheaton, Ill., gave Never Miss a good review on TripAdvisor.
“It may not look like much,” he wrote, “but the food is excellent, the service good, and great prices. I got the vegetable omelette with swiss - it was loaded.”
The Durens take pride in preparing their meals for customers.
“Everything, it's all fresh. We do a lot of dicing and slicing,” Lee said.
Doreen does most of the cooking at the restaurant.
She's been manning grills at restaurants in southwest Michigan since the age of 17, starting at her dad's restaurant.
“I was born with a spatula in my hand,” she quipped.
Omelettes, biscuits and gravy and soups are among the most popular items served at Never Miss Cafe, according to Doreen.
“They love the pot roast and hash brown omelette,” she said.
Doreen and Lee said they're not sure what to make of their new-found popularity on the OnlyInYourState.com restaurant list, but said they were happy to be chosen.
Lee jokingly voiced one concern, however, regarding the restaurant's limited seating.
“It's gonna make us too busy so you won't be able to come in and eat,” he said, laughing.
Visitors Bureau chooses officers for 2017
Officers and members of the South Haven/VanBuren County Convention and Visitors Bureau's Board of Directors have been named for 2017.
Lou Adamson, a realtor and co-owner of Martha's Vineyard Bed and Breakfast in Casco Township, was re-elected as president. The other officers re-elected to their posts include vice president Duane Zuber, general manager of Comfort Inn & Suites in Paw Paw; treasurer John Marple, innkeeper at Old Harbor Inn and marina manager for the City of South Haven; and secretary Stephanie Timmer, vice president, retail sales manager at Chemical Bank. The remaining voting board members are Bob Kisielewicz, owner of Black River Inn Bed and Breakfast in South Haven; Kip Kerby, executive vice president of Great Lakes Belting & Supply Corp., in Paw Paw, and new member Tom Rummel. owner of Hardt Insurance in South Haven.
Deb Davidson, director of South Haven Downtown Development Authority, and Becky Kark, editor and general manager of the South Haven Tribune will continue as non-voting advisory board members.
Honor Credit Union plans to build new branch office in South Haven
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
South Haven Township's planning commission plans this week to review a site plan from Honor Credit Union, which plans to build a new branch office.
The credit union is seeking township approval to proceed with building the new branch on Phoenix Road, east of the Hampton Inn motel, said township Zoning Administrator Patrick Hudson.
The new location would replace the current branch at 749 Phillips St. in the city of South Haven, said credit union spokeswoman Kaylee Williams.
A former church would be demolished to make way for the new credit union branch, and plans call for having the new branch in operation by the end of 2017, Williams said.
The credit union on Phillips Street has been in operation since 1991, but lacks the space for drive-through service lanes, Williams said.
“We will be able to offer our members the convenience of a drive-through” at the new 5-acre site, she said.
“This location will also be very convenient for our members to access as well,” she said. Phoenix Road is a major commercial area.
The township Planning Commission will review the site plan at its meeting at the Township Hall Wednesday night.
The site is zoned commercial so no public hearing is required, Hudson said.
Honor Credit Union has 14 locations in western Michigan, and three more in the Upper Peninsula. Its headquarters are in Berrien Springs.
Sophie's Steakhouse and Bar at 7379 North Shore Drive in South Haven will be relocating to the former Thirsty Perch restaurant in downtown South Haven. (Tribune photo)
Sophie's Steakhouse plans to relocate downtown
By TONY WITTKOWSKI
HP Staff Writer
Sophie’s Steakhouse and Bar is moving locations, and the owner hopes it will be open by New Year’s Eve.
The current location at 7379 North Shore Drive is expected to remain open, only as an event center. The restaurant that’s known for its steak and wine will move to the building that used to house Thirsty Perch, 272 Broadway St., in South Haven.
David Militello, owner of Tello Restaurant Concepts – the umbrella business that owns Sophie’s, Thirsty Perch and Pullman Tavern – said he decided to relocate for two reasons.
“Overall, I always wanted to move the steakhouse further in town because there’s more business and it’s busier,” Militello said. “The other side of it was we are completely shut off by road construction for the next nine months. There’s no way that business could last that way because it’s a huge inconvenience. So, it made sense to either shut the doors or move.”
Militello, along with his father/business partner, has owned the building on North Shore Drive since 1998 when he opened Tello Italian Bistro there.
In 2004, Militello bought a building at 524 Phoenix St. and relocated Tello's to downtown South Haven.. After that, the Militellos remodeled the building on North Shore Drive and reopened it as an events center named Lakeshore Ciao!
“We ran it as that for a few years before adding a restaurant in a portion of the building,” he said. “That’s where Sophie’s was born.”
But when Sophie's moves, the North Shore Drive building will revert once again to being an events center with two rooms to seat up to 300 people.
Militello said Sophie’s menu will take on some of Thirsty Perch’s favorite selections, including seafood and lake perch.
Thirsty Perch officially closed Nov. 14 as renovations began.
The Thirsty Perch building, which was a former bowling alley, has some historic details in it that will be maintained through the renovation, Militello said. The move is expected to be completed mid-December and Sophie’s will be open in time for New Year’s Eve.
With an updated menu that will include a wider price range of food selections and an expanded bar area, Militello said Sophie’s will expand its reputation as “the restaurant not to miss in South Haven.”
“We will also be open for lunches and Sunday brunch, so with the causal bar dining side it’s like getting the best of both restaurants in one location,” Militello said. “I suspect we are going to be completed in four weeks. I want to be open the week before Christmas, but restaurants hardly ever open on time and under budget.”
To stay up to date on the restaurant’s progress or took book reservation near New Year’s Eve, visit www. tellorc.com.
Honor Credit Union merger in the works
By TONY WITTKOWSKI
HP Staff Writer
BERRIEN SPRINGS — Honor Credit Union has announced a proposed merger with a Battle Creek-based financial institution, which is pending a member vote in 2017.
The Berrien Springs-based credit union’s planned partnership with Battle Creek Area Community Federal Credit Union was announced through a news release.
Upon regulatory approval and a positive member vote from the Battle Creek credit union members, BCACFCU would become a part of Honor Credit Union.
“Collaboration is what the credit union movement is all about,” Honor CEO Scott McFarland said in the release. “We’re excited to partner with BCACFCU and the opportunities that will come with working together with this great team and community.”
Honor spokeswoman Kaylee Williams said BCACFCU selected Honor Credit Union to align resources with “in order to offer greater opportunities for both memberships.”
“This is a voluntary merger pending a member vote from the Battle Creek,” Williams told The Herald-Palladium on Tuesday. “Battle Creek put a lot of thought and preparation to make sure this made sense for everyone.”
BCACFCU’s total assets are nearly $19 million with a membership of about 2,500. HCU’s total assets are more than $706 million with a membership of about 63,000.
In Berrien County, HCU has six locations, including Benton Harbor, Berrien Springs, Coloma, Niles, St. Joseph and Stevensville. Williams said the lone branch in Battle Creek would become an Honor Credit Union location.
“We are excited to be entering a partnership with Honor Credit Union,” Liz Amundson, CEO of BCACFCU, said in a release. “Combining forces with an organization that shares our core beliefs and values is key and we look forward to expanding upon our tradition of excellent member service.”
Williams said the member vote would take place in January, which follows a December Q&A session in Battle Creek.
The Q&A session will be at the BCACFCU branch at 240 North Helmer Road in Battle Creek at 5 p.m. Dec. 13. Williams said the forum would be open to the public.
HCU is no stranger to mergers. In 2014, HCU merged with SIR Federal Credit Union, which previously served residents in the Negaunee, Marquette and Gwinn areas in the Upper Peninsula.
Allegis Credit Union, previously based in Kalamazoo, joined HCU in 2012.
This is among a few big moves HCU made in 2016. Honor recently opened its new operations center in Berrien Springs and broke ground a few months ago on a new St. Joseph branch along Niles Avenue. It also plans to build a new branch on Phoenix Road near 73rd Street in South Haven in 2017.
Additional information for both credit unions is available at www.bcacfcu.org and www. honorcu.com.
MBG Marketing receives grant to help improve blueberry crops
MBG Marketing in Grand Junction is one of 18 recipients in Michigan that will be receiving grant funds from the federal government to improve specialty crops.
MBG is expected to receive a $95,335 grant to development and demonstrate ways to reduce the impact of blueberry gall wasps in Michigan.
Blueberry stem gall wasps, which are native to eastern North America, can infest new and actively-growing blueberry stems during bloom, according to information from Michigan State University Extension. Levels of infestation of blueberry stem gall wasp have increased in recent years.
The grant that MBG and other agriculture-based businesses and organizations landed comes from the United States Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
“Each of these projects will help enhance the growth of Michigan’s food and agriculture industry,” said Clover Adams, director of Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “We look forward to working with the grantees on the successful outcomes of their work.” The grants, with a maximum award of $100,000 each, are being awarded to enhance the competitiveness of the state’s specialty crops.
Kay and Neil Vandebiezen of Grand Junction are shown at Stocchiero Farms examining apples for purchase. With 825 family-run farms growing apples in the state, there are many places to buy apples like Stocchiero Farms, located on M-43 Highway, east of Bangor. (Photo by Kim Ingalls)
Growers pleased with apple harvest
By KIM INGALLS
For the Tribune
Thanks to new planting practices and a near perfect growing season, Michigan apple growers are expecting to harvest a record crop this year.
The Michigan Apple Committee estimates that a whopping 31 million bushels of apples will be picked this fall - a 7 million bushel increase from last year, and a record-breaking crop for Michigan.
“We have been seeing a steady increase in crop size each year,” said Diane Smith, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee. “This increase is in large part because of technological advancements, as well as an increase in the number of growers participating in high-density plantings (1,000 or more trees per acre).”
In 2015, Michigan growers harvested close to 24 million bushels of apples. Average harvest is about 22 million bushels per year. Michigan apples are typically shipped from mid-August all the way through the following June. Packers and shippers around the state work throughout the year shipping Michigan apples to 27 states and 18 countries worldwide, according to Smith.
"It was a good year all around," agrees Tony Stocchiero of Stocchiero Farms east of Bangor. "All the little things that can hurt a crop didn't happen. Usually you have one or two little things to deal with like a frost but not this year. We didn't even have to turn on the wind machines."
The near-perfect growing season has kept his family-run farm humming. In the farm's main building, workers busily sort and pack apples into plastic bags that have been washed, waxed and dried through a computer run conveyor-type machine. From there, the apples are packed in cases, loaded onto trucks and shipped to buyers.
Not all of Stocchiero's apples leave the area. Apple lovers can stop at the farm's retail fruit and vegetable stand to pick up old-time favorites like Empire, Golden Delicious and Jonathan or even some of the new varieties like Honey Crisp and Jonagold.
“Michigan Apple growers share a common goal of producing flavorful, high-quality apples,” said Smith. “They work with tree fruit researchers to implement the latest growing techniques and use new technology to monitor growing conditions. Michigan growers are committed to bringing the best quality fruit to the consumer.”
The Michigan Apple Committee is a grower-funded nonprofit organization devoted to marketing, education and research activities to distinguish the Michigan apple and encourage its consumption in Michigan and around the world.
Dan Decker (left) and Dave McCarty, owners of Great Mead Hall & Brewing Co., in Bangor, standing in front of their building, which is under renovation for the opening of the business in October.
Great Mead Hall joins a growing number of mead-making establishments in Michigan
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
BANGOR — If all goes well, Bangor will have its very own meadery in October.
But what exactly is a meadery?
“It's like a brewery that produces beer, except we'll be producing mead,” said Dan Decker, co-owner of The Great Mead Hall and Brewing Co., along with Dave McCarty and Jay Moberly.
Mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water. Sometimes various fruits, spices, grains, or hops are added. The ancient beverage dates back to 6,000 BC in northern China, where honey, rice and other fruits with organic compounds of fermentation were found in pottery vessels. It also was widely drank in Europe and Africa during ancient times.
But even though mead is an old drink, it's making a definite comeback.
“There is a quiet renaissance in mead making,” said Chris Stamp, president and winemaker at Lakewood Vineyards, in a 2013 issue of Wines & Vines magazine. “This niche market is partly driven by technological advances that eliminate some of the problems inherent in commercial mead production.”
Michigan leads the country in the number of breweries and wineries that make mead, according to Gotmead.com. Of the 225 meaderies listed on the site, 20 are from Michigan. California has the second highest number with 19 followed by Washington with 15. Michigan's mead makers are scattered throughout the state, but closer to home, Paw Paw Brewing Co. also produces it.
Dave McCarty, the mead maker for The Great Mead Hall, is no stranger to the beverage. He's been making it since 1987.
“It started with Dungeons and Dragons,” he said, chuckling. “There is a chart in the game with beverages and it listed mead, so I had to figure out what mead was.”
McCarty did some researching and has been hooked on making mead ever since.
“I dabbled in making beer but I feel I didn't make good beer so a stuck with mead,” he said.
The Great Mead Hall and Brewing Co. will offer a variety of McCarty's recipes, including bottles of mead flavored with apples, blueberries, cranberries, pears and the traditional honey mead.
McCarty, who lives in Casco Township, was content to make his mead at home and share it with friends, but several years ago, he began to seriously think about making it commercially.
“Some people said you should sell this, so three years ago I started looking for real estate,” McCarty said.
When he found out the former Bangor Antiques building, 212 Monroe St., was for sale, he decided to turn his dream into a reality and purchased it earlier this year. He then enlisted the help of co-owners Decker of Bangor and Moberly of Grand Rapids to bring the project to fruition.
“Dan is the lynch pin,” McCarty said. Decker has been overseeing much of the renovation of the two-story building, which was built in 1916. To get the building ready, the owners first had to update all the plumbing and electrical wiring for the production rooms, which are in the lower level of the building. They're now tackling the main floor, which will house the tasting and seating areas. There's also an attractive mezzanine overlooking the main floor.
“It really hasn't been modified since it was built,” McCarty said. “The main floor still has all the hardwood floors, which we've been stripping. It's been a long process.”
The production room already contains barrels of aging mead waiting to be sold to retail outlets.
“Mead needs to be aged at least nine months,” McCarty said.
He's still waiting to get state approval for his mead bottle labels. Once that is done The Great Mead Hall and Brewing Co. will be ready to officially open in October. The company will first focus on selling mead to retailers and will then turn its attention to opening its doors for customers to sample and purchase mead.
The staff of Chemical Bank's downtown branch in South Haven celebrate the company's centennial this past week.
Chemical Bank celebrates 100th anniversary
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
A South Haven bank celebrated a milestone this past week.
Chemical Bank, which has two branch offices in South Haven, turned 100 years old this past Tuesday, and marked the occasion by offering cake to its customers.
“From our start on Main Street in Midland to our most recent expansion into neighboring states, we’ve continued our commitment to delivering service as a community bank,” stated David B. Ramaker, chairman, CEO and president of Chemical Bank. “While our footprint has grown, we’ve remained committed to our founding principles: providing personalized service, local and rapid decisions while improving the quality of life in communities where we live, work and play. We look forward to honoring our customers, communities, and employees who have enabled our success throughout this century long journey.”
To celebrate its centennial, Chemical plans to host a series of customer appreciation events, along with employee and community celebrations at its banking locations throughout the state.
Chemical Bank, whose corporate offices are in Midland, can trace its roots in South Haven to two of the town's first banks — Citizens State Bank and First State Bank. Both banks were kitty-cornered from each other at the city's main intersection of Phoenix and Center streets.
Citizens State Bank was located in what is now Clementine's restaurant, while First State Bank built its quarters on the northwest corner of the intersection where Chemical Bank now resides.
Prominent South Haven area business leaders, including George Hale, owner of South Haven's first store - Hale & Company, and Jay R. Monroe, founder of South Haven, started the two banks in the late 1800s.
By the 1920s, the owners of First State Bank decided to build a new building, which Chemical Bank still occupies.
“Although some sources have conflicting dates, I believe this building was constructed by First State Bank in 1926 at a cost of $125,000,” said Jake Grimes, manager and assistant vice president for Chemical Bank's downtown location.
Both banks remained separate until 1943 when they merged to become the Bank of South Haven. First State Bank was chosen as the location for the merged institutions. Transferring the monetary assets from Citizens State Bank proved a formidable task as an article from the Benton Harbor News-Palladium recounted:
“Property and money to the bank was conducted...from Friday through Monday. Saturday evening, a truck with winch hauled heavy safes to the sidewalk and 600 safety deposit boxes were carried diagonally across the Phoenix and Center street intersection under police guard and Chief Fred E. Roper and deputy sheriffs guarded the transfer Sunday evening of 40 money chests.”
The Bank of South Haven retained its name until 1963 when it became Citizens Trust and Savings. It not only had new owners but the building got a facelift.
“A complete remodel was started by Citizens Trust and Savings Bank in October of 1964 and completed in November of 1965,” Grimes said. “This remodel included Italian Marble interior columns and teller windows, Tennessee Marble floors, Brazilian granite exterior columns and Indiana limestone exterior. The total remodel of the interior and exterior totaled approximately $335,000.”
Local contractors were used to complete the project including Woodley & Shine, general contractors; Bradley Electric Corp.;Wagner Plumbing & Heating; and Triangle Sheet Metal Works.
During the 1970s, Citizens decided to build another branch office in South Haven at the corner of Blue Star Highway and M-43 Highway to serve customers in outlying areas.
More changes were in store for the bank with the banking industry mergers of the late 20th century. In 1994 Citizens was acquired by Shoreline Bank, headquartered in Benton Harbor. The new millennium brought a new owner — Chemical Bank, which took ownership in 2001.
Chemical Bank's two South Haven locations now employ 18 retail, commercial lending, residential mortgage and human resources employees.
Chemical Bank first opened its doors for business on March 14th, 1917 in Midland, as Chemical State Savings Bank. Today, Chemical Bank has grown to 249 banking centers across a three-state footprint and has over 3,500 employees. Chemical Bank serves over 500,000 households and in 2016, it achieved the distinction of becoming the largest banking company headquartered in Michigan.
Bronson welcomed to South Haven
South Haven leaders, area residents and Bronson Healthcare team members gathered for a community celebration last week in honor of Bronson South Haven. The former South Haven Health System became Bronson South Haven on Jan. 1. South Haven Mayor Robert Burr proclaimed Feb. 8, as Bronson South Haven Day alongside Frank Sardone, president and CEO of Bronson Healthcare and Joanne Schroeder, chief operating officer of Bronson South Haven. From left are Frank Sardone, president and CEO of Bronson Healthcare; Joanne Schroeder, chief operating officer of Bronson South Haven; and South Haven Mayor Robert Burr.
Study: Tourism makes a large impact on Van Buren County's economy
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
If people wonder how tourism impacts Van Buren County's economy, a local group has some answers.
“Tourism is a key component to our local economy, and lodging is an important indicator of the vitality of tourism spending,” said Lisa Marovec, marketing director for the South Haven/Van Buren County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “2016 was another strong year for tourism in our area and across the state.”
The visitors bureau represents 40 lodging establishments throughout Van Buren County as well as other tourism-related businesses. In an annual report released at the end of January, the bureau noted a 8-9 percent growth in its membership assessment revenue from 2015 to 2016.
The assessments are based on the 5 percent lodging tax that hotel-goers pay when they spend nights at lodging establishments. Money generated from the tax is used by the visitors bureau to promote tourism in Van Buren County.
Although the increase in assessment revenue doesn't indicate exactly how many more people stayed at lodging establishments in 2016, it is one of the indicators the visitors bureau uses to gauge how well the tourism market is doing.
Lodging businesses in the bureau's assessment district generated more than $18 million in revenues this past year and that's just the tip of the iceberg for the amount of money tourism generates in Van Buren County.
A study recently released by the Michigan Travel Commission indicates that 1.45 million people visited Van Buren County in 2014 generating a $231 million impact on the economy.
Although the lodging industry's revenues seem small compared to all the money earned from visitors to the county, hotels and inns actually play a prominent role in the tourism economy.
“The (2014) study showed the average daytime visitor to the state spends $70. However, an overnight visitor spends $385. But of that amount, only 22 percent is spent on lodging. The rest is spent on food, beverages, retail and attractions,” said Scott Reinert, executive director of the South Haven/Van Buren County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
As a result, the visitors bureau has been retooling its marketing efforts this past year to encourage people to stay in South Haven for not just a day, but several nights or longer.
“Attracting overnight guests to our area is important not only to our lodging members, but to the entire local economy,” Reinert said.
Nearly 60 percent of tourists visiting Michigan towns are considered “day trippers.” The figure is most likely the same in Van Buren County, according to the visitors bureau. To entice visitors to make South Haven their travel destination, the bureau doubled its marketing budget this past year to launch a new website and a new logo, increased its billboard presence on Interstate 94 between Chicago and Ann Arbor, updated its office building, utilized Facebook and Instagram more, and created new weekly events calendars and monthly online updates for its members.
The marketing efforts gained the attention of prospective visitors:
• Visitors to the website increased from 134,352 in 2015 to 294,969 in 2016.
• Facebook likes increased from 2,970 at the end of 2015 to 8,058 at the end of 2016
• Instagram followers topped 5,576 in 2016, for an increase of 72 percent from 2015.
But challenges await the bureau in 2017. When it conducted an independent study through Destination Analysts in 2016, the bureau found that 58 percent of survey respondents had never heard of South Haven. The bureau also found that 85 percent of its lodging assessments are generated in May through October.
• A study from Travel Weekly in 2015 shows that people 55 and older, who typically spend the most on travel, are now starting to spend less, while the study showed Millennials plan to spend more on travel.
• South Haven attracts two different types of travelers — families during summer months, and couples, primarily, during other seasons.
To meet those challenges in 2017 the visitors bureau plans to establish a comprehensive marketing mix in all media platforms, including the production of a TV commercial to be released to the Chicago market – one of the top draws for tourists to South Haven. It also plans to expand the season of overnight lodging by working with various groups to promote new off-season events, including a jazz festival and New Year's Eve celebration. Other goals include:
• Redesigning the annual Visitor's Guide and increase its printing from 50,000 to 75,000
• Improving marketing efforts in Paw Paw
• Promoting South Haven's “Find Your Escape” theme
• Undertaking an independent study to determine the effectiveness of the bureau's 2016 advertising campaign to determine what would inspire visitors to return and book stays in South Haven.
New board members named to SH chamber of commerce
South Haven Area Chamber of Commerce has chosen two new members to its Board of Directors.
Heidi Gesiakowski and Ken Overholser will begin their duties this month. Each will serve a three-year term.
“The South Haven Area Chamber of Commerce is honored to welcome Heidi Gesiakowski and Ken Overholser to the Board of Directors,” said Chamber Executive Director Kathy Wagaman. “They offer unique perspectives and experience in their respective industries that will help to develop and serve the community of South Haven.”
Gesiakowski, who owns Taste restaurant along with her husband Joel, earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Western Michigan University. She and her husband opened Taste in 2013, and the restaurant quickly became a popular destination for locals and visitors alike.
Overholser is office manager of Consumers Credit Union’s South Haven Branch. He has a bachelor of arts degree from Albion College, and began his banking career in South Haven in 1988. He has been with Consumers Credit Union since 2006. Overholser has been involved with many community organizations over the years, and is currently Secretary of the Kiwanis Club of South Haven.
South Haven High School graduate Stacy (French) Moulter has opened one of the area's first gluten-free bakeries in Holland. Sandcastle Breads carries a full line of pies, cookies, breads and more. The shop is located next to Younkers department store in The Shops at Westshore. (Photo by Kim Ingalls)
Woman's bout with Celiac disease leads to new career
By KIM INGALLS
For the Tribune
At age 29, Stacy Moulter was diagnosed with a life-changing medical condition that has led to a new career.
After 20 years of working at Johnson Controls, the South Haven native, who has Celiac Disease, has opened her very own bakery that specializes in gluten-free goodies.
Located in The Shops at Westshore next to Younkers department store, Sandcastle Breads is the result of Moulter living with a disease that requires her to follow a special diet.
"This (Celiac Disease) was a total lif style change for me, so of course I turned to what was available in the stores at the time," said Moulter, 40, who now resides in Kentwood. " I couldn’t believe that I had to pay $8 for cookies that taste like cardboard. My grandmother used to work at the Golden Brown Bakery in South Haven and she had shown me her trade secrets before she passed. I started playing with flour mixtures and gluten-free recipes and found a great combination of flour, and was able to convert regular wheat flour recipes into gluten free 'yummy tasting' baked goods."
Her mother, Sherry French, worked at a local grocery store and would often have customers asking for "good" gluten-free baked goods. With no local source, French sent them to Grand Rapids. That changed when Moulter started baking. Mom convinced Stacey a market existed for her goodies.
"My mom talked me into selling my products at the South Haven Farmers Market in 2012,” Moulter said. “My macaroons put me on the map at the farm market so much so I had to at least bring 40 packages with me every Saturday."
Gluten is the main protein in wheat, barley, and rye, so it is widely found in bread, cakes, cookies, and pastries. If someone who is allergic to gluten eats one of these, it causes an immune response in the cells lining the small intestine, preventing absorption of nutrients, so people who have Celiac Disease must be vigilant about avoiding these foods.The biggest difference in gluten-free baking is the flour. Without wheat flours, bakers must use a blend of rice flours, potato starch, and other grain meals.
"Celiac Disease, as I quote my doctor who diagnosed me, 'is one of the worst diet-controlled diseases out there, but there are consequences if you do not follow the diet to the letter,'" she said. " I was lucky to have a mom who cooked homemade dinners all my life so I basically could adjust my cooking to no flour or find a substitute. I saw a total of three doctors. One just diagnosed me 'with just bad indigestion,' another almost took my gallbladder out but sent me to a specialist instead. That doctor found proof of Celiac through an upper/lower GI. I had damage in my intestines as a result of not catching it at an earlier age. Although it took at least a year to diagnose, the doctor believed I had this disease longer than just a year. I believe that I had this for over 10 years and just passed it on as either I ate something too greasy, something wasn't cooked all the way or I just ate too much. Apparently I was wrong."
Although she enjoyed making cookies to sell at the South Haven Farmers Market, working full-time, and then baking for hours afterwards began to take a toll on Moulter. Then about a year ago, her husband, Alan, had a suggestion.
He had heard about a contest being offered by the Shops at Westshore in Holland. The winner would be given free space, for up to a year, to set up a shop in the strip mall.
"The contest 'Set Up Shop at the Shop" was kind of a fluke thing," explained the 1994 South Haven High School graduate. "My husband saw the promotional reality TV-style contest at a gas station in Holland and brought it home. I debated about putting my application in because the 'What if I win' scared me so much, so I almost quit three times. "
But, she didn't. In fact, out of the 25 applicants, Moulter won.
The application was simple as Moulter discovered. One of the main questions was, "What kind of small business would you like to put into the Shops at Westshore?”
“They were looking for something unique for the area, a local entrepreneur, and of course to promote the new mall," Moulter said.
Moulter ended up being chosen earlier this year among four finalists who were invited to "pitch" their business idea to a panel of four judges. For her idea of a gluten-free bakery, she won a free-year of rent at the strip mall and more than $10,000 in media and marketing support.
"I am so happy that we are ready to open to the public and look forward to meeting others within our community that experience gluten sensitivities or allergies," she said. "While I bake only gluten-free goods, many of my customers do not have gluten dietary concerns. They just like my cookies."
UPS Store manager Glenn Cowles (left is shown with Gabby Machado.
UPS employee named national finalist for service excellence award
An employee of the UPS store in South Haven earned recognition at a national convention.
Gabby Machado, a print specialist, was named a finalist for UPS company's Center Associate Excellence Award for 2015-16.
The national UPS Store franchise convention took place this year in Nashville, Tenn. Machado was one of six finalists selected for the award.
The award was based on several criteria, including: outstanding customer service, being a team leader and making a conscious effort to implement promotional programs. She was awarded with a certificate for th honor at an area quarterly meeting in October.
“We are very lucky to have Gabby within our community,” said Glenn A Cowles, co-owner of The UPS Store in South Haven. “She is so courteous to every customer and continues to exceed their expectations with printing & shipping solutions. She makes it easier for me to do my job of operating two The UPS Store franchises in Van Buren County.”
Gabby just recently crossed the 5-year mark of employment with the center. She also attends Western Michigan University where she is studying to become an applied behavior analyst. She also volunteers her time to the Al-Van Humane Society and supports the Toys for Tots Literacy Program. Last year, Gabby was instrumental in helping UPS collect over 800 books that were donated to local schools.
“She is an active participant in our Toys for Tots Literacy Program Campaign,” Cowles said. “She would ask every customer to donate to help a child read. Without her help, along with other staff members, our campaign wouldn’t have been as successful last year.”
The UPS Store hopes to exceed the success of last year’s campaign and donate more books to local schools and educational programs. The campaign began this month and runs through the end of the year. For more information, contact (269) 637-8388 or visit https://www.theupsstore.com/about/toys-for-tots-literacy-program.
Chemical Bank employees are shown planting trees at Elkenburg Park this past week as part of Chemical Bank Cares Day.
Chemical bank staff rolls up their sleeves for annual volunteer day
Thanks to a group of Chemical Bank employees, nine new trees have been planted in Elkenburg Park to provide more shade.
“The City of South Haven provided the trees and mulch and we provided the labor,” said Jake Grimes, Chemical Banking Center manager and vice president.
The employees offered to plant the trees as part of the annual Chemical Bank Cares Day, which takes place on Columbus Day. Normally, bank employees are given the day off, however, several years ago, Chemical Bank decided to start the Cares Day, statewide, so that employees could volunteer to help with projects in their communities.
A total of 25 Chemical Bank employees from the South Haven branch offices took part in Cares Day this past Monday, according to Grimes.
While nine of the employees planted trees in Elkenburg Park, 12 others helped Al-Van Humane Society by organizing its resale shop, cleaning animal cages, and taking adoptable dogs on a parade in South Haven. An additional four employees offered their services to South Haven Public Schools by cataloging books for the FARM Bus and prepping the food service gardens for winter.
“Companywide, Chemical Bank had approximately 2,500 employees volunteer, completing over 200 projects to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve,” Grimes said.
Truck driver James Heiser of Grand Junction (center) is shown at a ceremony where he was honored for driving one million consecutive miles without a preventable accident.
Grand Junction truck driver recognized for safe driving record
Landstar System, Inc. a worldwide transportation services company, has recognized James Heiser of Grand Junction as a One Million Mile Safe Driver. During his career with Landstar, Heiser has driven one million consecutive miles without a preventable accident.
Heiser is one of 122 men and women who make up the 2015 class of Landstar Million Mile Safe Drivers recently honored at an awards ceremony in Orlando, Florida, for their outstanding safety records and professionalism behind the wheel. Collectively, the 122 owner-operators have safely driven more than 122 million miles – that’s more than the distance from the earth’s surface to the sun.
On average it takes a Business Capacity Owner 10 years to travel a million miles, a distance that would take the typical driver 67 years to complete. BCO is Landstar’s term for the independent owner-operators who provide the company with transportation capacity under exclusive lease arrangements.
“Jim Heiser is among the safest and most talented Business Capacity Owners in the industry. Grand Junction should be very proud of him and this outstanding accomplishment,” said Landstar President and CEO Jim Gattoni.