Second to None: Grand Rapids Local Businesses

June 8th, 2015

New city, new opportunities.

That was the mentality I had when moving to Grand Rapids, a place I had never before been. As the new 616 Apprentice, I was eager to dive in and experience the culture of a city that I would be calling home for the summer. I was determined to shy away from normal, everyday businesses that can be easily accessed back home in Illinois. To indulge in the wide variety of local businesses and restaurants, making me a true Grand Rapidian. So, that’s what I’ve done. And I have not once looked back.

Only a few weeks in, and I’ve already seen some incredible local treasures. From the delicious breakfast I had at Bagel Beanery, to the one-of-a-kind shopping I did at Martha’s Vineyard, I have experienced some of Grand Rapids’ best. The greatest part? Supporting local business. After the 616 Community Conversation with Local First on May 19 at Osteria Rossa (yet another awesome local business), I better understand the importance of local business on a city’s economy. Shopping local paves avenues for the success of an entire community.

As a millennial, revitalizing urban economies is a necessity; that is where my future lies. In a city like Grand Rapids, that future could be very bright. This community cares about and seizes local opportunities, and I encourage you to take advantage of local opportunities as well. Who knows? It could enhance your taste buds. It could enhance your experiences. And it could enhance your city. It’s a win-win and an opportunity that is second to none.

Go out and see what our city has to offer. My next stop? Lunch at A Moveable Feast.

Written by:  Andrew Donsbach, Apprentice

Tribal Thoughts: Be a part of the conversation.

May 27, 2014

“Local First is about relationships. Relationships between people and businesses and place.” – Elissa Hillary, Executive Director of Local First

One of my favorite things about this community is that there are so many opportunities to get involved and be part of the conversation. If you have questions, an opinion, or if you are just looking to connect and dig a little deeper, many conversations are open for discussion.

We recently began our speaker series titled Community Conversations. Our first guest was Elissa Hillary with Local First. Many of us know Local First as a sticker in the front window or as the hosts of a Street Party every summer. What you may not know, are many of the initiatives that are in place to help local businesses not only grow, but grow responsibly through a certification called B-corp. Local First also supports spending locally by educating consumers on the value of spending dollars at locally owned businesses, specifically by promoting its members.

I have had some people ask what Local First offers its members or say that they don’t know what exactly the organization is all about. My answer is always the same… ask questions and be a part of the conversation! If you have suggestions – offer them. If you want to be involved, but don’t know how – find out. The idea behind the Community Conversation speaker series is just that. A place to learn more, ask questions, offer suggestions, and find out how to get involved.

Our next series is June 16 at 4pm at Osteria Rossa with Tami VandenBerg of Wellhouse. Come with questions!



by Monica Steimle

Raised in Holland and educated at Grand Valley State University, Monica has a passion for West Michigan. Her background in real estate spans over 15 years at some of downtown Grand Rapids’ most well-known commercial real estate companies.

Monica lives with her three children in Belknap Neighborhood. She currently sits on the boards of Local First and Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.



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Top 10 West Michigan charities for 2014 donations


It’s that time of year again: time to select a few last charitable organizations to support through end of year donations. Whether you’re making donations from your own personal funds or on behalf of a company, giving is an important part of building and belonging to our community.

The following list is a union of the 616 Tribe’s personal passions and 616’s overlying mission to build a greater Grand Rapids. For it is in giving that we receive.


DA Blodgett/St. John’s Home
Sometimes, for their own safety, children cannot live with their parents. DA Blodgett helps children who have experienced abuse or neglect with emergency shelter and healing therapy. They match kids with stable families through their foster care and adoption programs. Little things can make a huge difference to a child in need.


Friends of Grand Rapids Parks
Friends of Grand Rapids Parks organizes volunteers and resources to better Grand Rapids City parks while educating citizens on the importance of healthy public spaces and trees. As a local development company, we are committed to building vibrant communities, and along with that effort comes public spaces. We are truly passionate about healthy, safe and green public spaces that have the ability to bring people together. That’s community.


Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids
By providing job training, placement and transitional work programs to individuals that experience struggles when entering the workforce, Goodwill is changing lives and communities through the power of work. Much of this is supported by material and cash donations, which many of us do already. What you may not know, though, is that you can also support Goodwill Industries through their Blue Spoon Catering services. Good eats. Good cause. Goodwill.


Habitat for Humanity
In 2014, Habitat for Humanity played a large role in the transformation of Grand Rapids’ west side. Over 5,900 volunteers engaged to complete 15 homes (with 10 more underway for 2015) and 70+ repairs. Not many know this, but Habitat for Humanity doesn’t simply give homes away to those who are less fortunate—people must qualify and meet specific standards to be admitted into the program. Recipients qualify for a 0% APR mortgage on their Habitat home. Learn more about how Habitat for Humanity gives back to those in need.


Every year, nearly 2,000 youth experience homelessness throughout Grand Rapids. Whether they’ve left home due to familial dysfunction or abuse, aged out of foster care, or have been told to leave, each one is maintaining life—often in harm’s way—with little support. We believe that all people, children especially, are worth fighting for and deserve to feel safe and be loved and surrounded by a healthy community. HQ does exactly that for our GR youth. HQ is a runaway and homeless youth drop-in center on State Street that provides rest, resources, and life-readiness tools for children.


Kids Food Basket
Kids Food Basket knows that nutritious meals are crucial to brain and body development in young children. This non-profit organization provides a sack supper to over 6000 children in West Michigan daily. It’s a community-run program that relies on volunteers and donations educate and attack hunger.


Local First
Local First is dedicated to building an economy grounded in local ownership. They support local businesses through awareness and advocacy and share the belief that local businesses help build a strong local economy and healthy community. Local First educates folks on how to support the growth of these businesses and realize the impact of our dollars on the local economy. When you discover the power of local spending, it becomes easy to participate and donate to this organization.


Sunny Crest Youth Ranch
Sunny Crest Youth Ranch provides a safe, loving environment that positively influences the social, emotional, physical and spiritual development of young men and their communities while also providing training for various life skills. Retired educators and Founders Ron and Ellyn Coppess are very passionate about seeing the return of skill-based education. Ron explains where this passion comes from “Where have the hands-on programs in school one? Thousands of young men and women would blossom in the world if their education was more than just an information overload.” Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – Albert Einstein


Since 2005, the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology has been committed to youth and adult career training and arts engagement. WMCAT addresses underemployment with job training for adults in highly specialized, high-demand jobs. For children, they create opportunities to learn and explore by mentoring and teaching street art, fashion design, film, and other arts in eight of WMCAT’s different labs.


“The YWCA West Central Michigan is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and girls, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.” It is a place of hope, healing and renewal that offers support and services to victims of domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Their empowerment programs for woman and youth are especially inspiring. Locally, the Sojurner House, which serves over 500 women and children each year, was renovated to offer a larger and more comfortable place of refuge.