Category: Business

How to look fresh for Michigan’s fall

Libins shirts sweaters

The turn of seasons marks a perfect time for men to turn over their closets from shorts and golf shirts to clothing that is more appropriate for the fall and winter months.

It’s also time to evaluate if what you’re wearing aligns with current styles, including fit trends which this year tend to skew toward more slim-fitting items.

Thankfully, Mother Nature has granted guys a couple extra weeks as warmer temperatures are expected to linger through September. Recent extended forecasts show high temperatures between 70 and 74 degrees for the southern half of Lower Michigan, and a few days in the 80s are still possible.

Here’s a quick refresher on clothing items that every man should have in his closet for a complete wardrobe, courtesy of Libins, the leading fine men’s clothing shop in the Kalamazoo area.

This fall, the experts at the store with a 60-year history of dressing Southwest Michigan men, say there are ways to beat the color tour chill with casual layers that are both comfortable and versatile for whatever the day may bring – from activities like football games and orchard outings to heading out to dinner with friends.

The clothing carried at Libins includes a wide array of fabrics that can help men gradually progress as the temperatures drop. Materials can vary from lighter weight fabrics in cotton, acrylic, wool and merino wool for the cooler days of fall. There are also multiple styling options for sweaters, such as quarter-zip, v- neck, crew neck and some full-zip options.

Here are some ideas that Libins shoppers have found appealing this year:

  • Long-sleeve sport shirts with stretch soft textures and great prints.
  • Quarter-zip sweaters to match back to the sport shirts.
  • Lightweight V-neck sweaters that are slim fit and match or complement the sport shirts.
  • Crew neck sweaters in ombre stripes.
  • Quarter-zip Sherpa pullovers.

If the occasion calls for an upscale appearance, Libins advisors recommend a sport coat or suit. Libins has styles and fits for all men.  These three have been popular:

  • Calvin Klein Extreme Fit: Tight fit in the coat in the shoulder sleeves and body of the coat. The pant fits below the waist and has a tighter fitting silhouette to the bottom of the leg.
  • Ralph Lauren Modern Fit: The shoulder is looser than the slim fit and a fuller cut sleeve still has a tapered look to the body of the coat. Pant fits slightly below waist and has a straight fit that is more open at the bottom.
  • Eisenberg Traditional Fit: This is the fullest cut suit that we stock. The coat has very little tapering to the body and sleeve. The shoulder is very roomy, and the pants are a classic fit, sitting at the waist and carrying a wide finish to the bottom of the leg.

Libins experts remind men not to overlook pant styling categories that will change the way clothes look. An incorrect fit will affect men’s overall appearance and turn an outfit from fab to drab. Here are the three primary fits:

  • Classic fit: Sits at the waist and has a full leg and wide at the bottom
  • Straight fit: Falls slightly below the waist and has a more tapered leg and is narrow at the bottom. Many brands for fall are making the straight fit and inch narrower at the bottom to give the pant a more slim look.
  • Slim fit: The most tapered of the options, this pant sits below waist and has a very tapered leg to the bottom of the leg.

And if men want to break out of the bland black dress socks that have been in their drawers for years, Libins now carries Happy Socks, a line of colorful and whimsical coverings that will shake up their wardrobe. There are also new prints from the Beatles, Andy Warhol and Rolling Stones to consider.

For more advice and ideas for fall and beyond, visit Libins website or take a moment to talk to one of the store’s fitting professional to create your best look.

Creating this thriving West Michigan restaurant while battling cancer ‘was part of his recovery’

Rosario of Maya Mexican Cafe

From the sombreros hanging on the wall to the “equipales” around the tables to the “muñecas” on display, so much of the décor inside Maya Mexican Grill & Bar is authentic, imported from the land of our neighbors to the south.

Then there’s the live mariachi music on Saturday nights and the delicious sugar- and salt-rimmed margaritas at the bar. And, of course, the extensive menu of genuine Mexican dishes such as Huachinango, Tampiquena and heaping Parrilladas is very tasty, or, shall we say, muy sabroso.

If you’ve never been to Mexico, step inside Andy Rosario’s restaurant in Rogers Plaza Town Center for the next best thing. Maya Mexican Grill is anything but watered down.


“In every sip of your drink you feel the tequila,” said Michael Martinez, bartender in the flourishing restaurant along 28th Street SW in Wyoming. “We always try to do our best to make it with a little bit extra. We always try to take care of our tables the greatest.”

Authentic Equipales at Maya Mexican Grill

In addition to booth seating, Maya Mexican Grill & Bar inside the Rogers Plaza Town Center features authentic ‘equipales,’ or chairs.

Just five years old, Maya Mexican Grill recently made the Top 10 of Michigan’s Best Mexican Restaurant Search. That’s especially interesting since Rosario, the owner, is a native of the Dominican Republic – and a cancer survivor.

When Rosario came to the United States as a boy, he lived with an uncle who owned a grocery store and as he got older Andy ran the store after school. That background led him to start one of the area’s first food trucks about a decade ago, when the trend was just making its way into West Michigan.

It was while running “El Loco Hungry” that Rosario honed his business mentality and whet his appetite for serving the public and interacting with customers. Soon, he was poised to open a full-service restaurant with a liquor license.

Pina Maya dinner at Maya Mexican Grill

Andy Rosario says he ‘found the passion of serving’ while operating one of the early food trucks in Grand Rapids. Now, he’s serving up delicious dishes such as the Pina Maya dinner at Maya Mexican Grill & Bar.

Rosario opted for a menu and ambiance rooted in his wife’s Mexican heritage, yet several unique dishes such as the Pina Maya – a hollowed-out half pineapple filled with steak, chicken, chorizo or shrimp – are infused with Dominican influences.

Maya Mexican Grill opened in 2014. Then, just a few months later, at age 36, Rosario was diagnosed with cancer. Nasal carcinoma, Stage 4. There was a tumor touching his carotid artery.

Against long odds, eight weeks of treatment in Ann Arbor proved successful and shrunk the mass. Rosario survived. Maya Mexican Grill began to thrive.

“Instead of sitting at home focused on his health, he was focused on Maya,” said Elizabeth Rosario, Andy’s wife and a local attorney. “I think that kind of helped him. That was part of his recovery.

“He’s always had this positivity to him. He’s my hero. I’m just super proud of him.”

Now 40, the soft-spoken Rosario looks back on his cancer as if it were a fever: “Take some Tylenol and move on,” he says. He poured himself into his restaurant, ensuring his kitchen has the freshest, choicest ingredients for dishes that Michigan’s Best raved about including fried red snapper (Huachinango), steak (Tampiquena) and an overflowing “molcajete,” or stone bowl, of grilled meats and vegetables featuring jalapeño peppers the size of bananas (Parrilladas) – not to mention a variety of classic fajitas and tacos.

décor at Maya Mexican Grill

The décor at Maya Mexican Grill & Bar features authentic art, figurines and other items from south of the border.

Rosario has adorned the walls with sombreros from Guadalajara and imported traditional Mexican chairs called “equipales.” On one trip to the Mayan archaeological site at Chichén Itzá, he found a heavy statue that was a pain to get through customs but makes a perfect mascot for the restaurant.

And, ironically, Maya Mexican Grill features artwork depicting an ancient calendar with a Mayan god bearing the burden of time on his back, kneeling under the weight of it. For Rosario, now cancer free, time is a gift, one he’s happy to share with guests.

“We’re still standing after all the struggle,” he said. “It’s a blessing.”

And it’s worth celebrating.

“I want people to come and enjoy with family and friends and have a good time. That’s really what it’s all about.”

How a Michigan credit union is a ‘game-changer’ for communities, non-profits

Lake Trust CU

Lisa Crawford, the director of the Detroit non-profit Humble Design, knows exactly how much impact community-minded businesses have on tightly run charities like hers.

“We literally could not do it without partnerships like we have with Lake Trust Credit Union,” she said. “They are a game-changer for us when they send full teams of people to volunteer for the day. It speaks to their dedication to the community and helping strengthen neighborhoods one home at a time.”

Lake Trust Credit Union, which is headquartered in Brighton and serves 175,000 members with 22 branches across the southern lower peninsula, is stepping up its commitment to Humble Design and five other Michigan non-profits with innovative programs for home mortgage loans and home equity loans that benefit its members and the larger fabric of the state.

As the community-based credit union continues its expansion throughout Michigan, adding new locations in Detroit on Woodward Avenue and Plymouth within the last month alone, its team Lake Trust CU Branchremains committed to donating its time and resources to help create and sustain strong neighborhoods.

“As both Detroit and Plymouth continue to experience significant growth and development, we saw this as an opportunity to contribute to the positive energy taking place in these communities while better serving small businesses and our members living and working in these areas,” said Nicole Whitely, a member experience manager for Lake Trust Credit Union. “These branches not only offer modern conveniences that impact the way we communicate with and provide solutions for our members, but they also expand our platform for building and growing strong relationships with our communities in Michigan.”

Lake Trust, through September 30, will give members who close a new mortgage or refinance their mortgage $250, and the credit union will also donate $250 to charity. Members who close a home equity loan will receive $100, and the credit union will grant a non-profit $100.

“Our goal is to build a stronger Michigan by improving communities and helping our neighbors,” said Whitely. “We want to put people first and help make the lives of our members better.”

In addition to Humble Design, which helps people emerging from homelessness transform their new housing with a coordinated design of donated furniture and household goods, Lake Trust Credit Union has partnered with:

  • The City Rescue Mission of Lansing, a shelter that uplifts the homeless.
  • Love in Action, which pairs medical professionals with support agencies in rural communities.
  • Shelter Association of Washtenaw County, a temporary shelter.
  • LaCasa, a Howell-based group that aids domestic violence victims.
  • Isabella County Restoration House, a mid-Michigan housing assistance group.

 

Lake Trust began the program in July and planned to have it in place through August. The overwhelmingly positive response led to the credit union extending the donation period through September.

The timing of the member benefit and the charitable donation comes at a great time. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, an industry trade group, average rates for a 30-year mortgage recently dropped below 4 percent for the first time in nearly three years. Rates on 15-year loans are even lower.

“We take pride in being involved in the community and focusing our efforts on giving back. It’s part of our culture,” Whitely said. “We don’t just say it, we show it with our commitment to helping neighborhoods thrive.

“We think this is a unique way of showing the dedication of our credit union.”

Crawford agrees, saying Humble Design is honored to have been chosen among the recipients of the financial boost.

“It’s been incredible to work with Lake Trust team members,” she said.

Visit Lake Trust Credit Union to learn more about how it benefits its members and Michigan.

Learning through play: Grand Rapids Children’s Museum program gets preschoolers ready for kindergarten

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum and Grand Rapids Public Schools are teaming up to get more preschoolers ready for kindergarten through the growing ‘Purposefully Playing Toward Kindergarten’ program.

On one side of the classroom, a few children gathered around a sewing machine and put buttons on clothes. Three kids worked on puzzles at a table nearby. A lone boy cut out paper dolls with scissors. A girl painted at an easel.

On a play mat with pictures of roads and buildings, four boys driving matchbox cars led a teacher around town to the school and then to the supermarket.

“Where are we going to go now?” the teacher asked.

Hmm, maybe to the bin of blocks in the corner, or the play kitchen against the wall, or to a sensory table with pieces of colored macaroni.

Welcome to “Purposefully Playing Toward Kindergarten” (PPTK), a growing summer program that emphasizes open-ended play to get preschoolers ready for kindergarten.

“It looks different for each child,” said Onalee Melton, a site coordinator at Buchanan Elementary School, one of four campuses where PPTK is taking place this summer. “We have the blessing with this program to guide kids into whatever they’re excited about.”

About half of incoming kindergarteners these days are not prepared to succeed in school. In some cases, the children are lagging behind in their understanding of basic math concepts or their use of language. In other cases, they’re not quite ready socially or emotionally.

PPTK aims to build all of those kindergarten-readiness skills through a unique partnership involving the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) and donors including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Delta Dental. In the program, GRPS teachers and paraprofessionals are teaming with “play facilitators” from the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum to immerse students in four hours of open-ended play time Mondays through Thursdays for five weeks.

It’s the same kind of open-ended play the children would experience if they were to visit the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum downtown. Only the PPTK program is right at their local neighborhood school.

‘There are so many barriers for our kids in these neighborhoods to get to the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum that we’re not going to just stay inside our four walls anymore,” said Maggie Lancaster, the museum’s CEO. ‘We’re going to come to you and provide this wonderful open-ended play where you are.’

‘There are so many barriers for our kids in these neighborhoods to get to the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum that we’re not going to just stay inside our four walls anymore,” said Maggie Lancaster, the museum’s CEO. ‘We’re going to come to you and provide this wonderful open-ended play where you are.’

The children at each of the four sites eat breakfast and brush their teeth each morning and get lunch before they go home. In between, they enjoy about an hour-and-a-half of indoor exploration – building things out of magnetic tiles, for example, or making bead necklaces or figuring out how the sewing machine works. They also get about an hour of outdoor exploration.

In other words, they learn through play – even if they don’t realize that they’re learning.

“When they play with bubbles, when they play with Legos, when they play with slime, that open-ended play is a critical part of brain development,” said Maggie Lancaster, CEO of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. “That’s where we come in. If you go into our museum you’ll never see signs. There’s no way that we’re ever going to tell anybody how to play with something or where to go or what to do. It has to be child-led. GRPS has provided that opportunity in this summer program as well.”

PPTK is a free program that began two summers ago with 25 children and now involves 205 children at four GRPS schools – Buchanan, Kent Hills, Martin Luther King and Sibley. Partners plan to expand the program even more in 2020.

Grand Rapids Children's Museum PPTKMany families can’t afford preschool, so PPTK fills the gap by exposing them to play-based learning in a structured environment with a high adult-to-child ratio. Having a safe space with the opportunity for open-ended play helps the children build confidence and a sense of autonomy, said Lauren Greer, director of education for the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum.

“The best parts are the tiny stories that come out of each day, where maybe one child who isn’t very verbal one day had a lot to stay about something, or some child has a breakthrough and discovers that they love painting and they paint all day,” Greer said.

“That’s how you know this is really valuable. The space that we’re providing these children for their social and emotional growth is most important.”

The growth of the program alone is evidence that parents find value in PPTK. But the program also is proving to be successful at preparing kids for kindergarten. By the end of the summer, 90 percent of parents feel that their children are ready for school, said Yazeed Moore, program officer with the Kellogg Foundation.

Plus, each child in PPTK gets a free Grand Rapids Children’s Museum membership for a year so they can experience even more open-ended play.

The bottom line is that through play, more children are having fun and getting ready to hit the ground running on their first day of kindergarten – which is critical to their chances of long-term academic success.

“Kindergarten readiness is so critical,” said Kate Lara, GRPS director of early childhood. “To be able to learn the academic skills of kindergarten, you need to have those social skills as your basis first. Right now (through PPTK), they’re learning how school works. GRCM PPTKThey’re learning that it’s a safe space. They’re learning that there’s expectations and that they can follow those expectations. They’re learning what a classroom is, how to function in school and how to function with their peers.

“We’re going to have 205 kids who are much more ready for kindergarten than they sure would have been without this program.”

‘Everybody is family’ at longtime Traverse City retailer

Long before Lauren Golden began working with customers at Golden Shoes three summers ago, her grandfather and great-grandfather were the community’s go-to experts for footwear. And long before that, going all the way back to the 19th century, the building where she helps customers find the right fit for their feet has been a shoe store.

For generations, 122 E. Front St. in Traverse City has been the place people come for quality shoes and excellent customer service.

It’s in the DNA of the place – and the people.

“Locals love to come back because they know the employees,” said Lauren, 17. “We treat them like the family community that we have here. It’s one big community.”

Welcome to Golden Shoes, as pure an example of local, Michigan retailing as there is. Golden Shoes operates in the same building as the business did in 1883 and it plans to be there far into the future, too.

Although you can find shoes in less personal ways in this day and age, Golden Shoes continues to thrive with a family atmosphere that provides the ultimate customer service and expertise.

For example, the store recently welcomed back a customer who moved to New Orleans. Since the family had outfitted each of their first five daughters with a first pair of shoes from Golden Shoes, they wanted to do the same for their new baby girl. So, they came all the way back to Golden Shoes this summer!

“That’s a tradition,” said Bill Golden, Lauren’s dad, who runs the business with his older brother, Craig. “Golden Shoes is a tradition.

“You can go anywhere and buy anything nowadays, but it’s still the experience of walking into the store and somebody recognizing you that brings people back here.”

Like a lot of family-owned local retailers, Golden Shoes has a long history. The store’s heritage goes back to the 1883 founding of Friedrich Shoes at 122 E. Front St. in one of the original buildings in downtown Traverse City.

Lauren’s grandfather, also named Bill, and her great-grandfather, Nathaniel, bought the store in 1954, long before her father was even born. It has been in the Golden family ever since, with Lauren’s dad, Bill, and her uncle, Craig, now running the business.

Through the years, many employees have become part of the family business. Members of the Golden family, for sure, but also many other people who now are part of the Golden Shoes family.

For some, working at Golden Shoes has literally become a family affair. When Tiffany Edge sought a job after 15 years as a stay-at-home mom, she looked to Golden Shoes where her mother, Shelly Edge, has worked since 2004. Even Tiffany’s daughter worked at Golden Shoes until recently moving out of state.

“I’ve stayed at Golden Shoes because of the family and the owners,” Tiffany Edge said. “They’re a good family to work for. They treat us with respect.”

Beyond the employees, the customers, too, are part of the Golden Shoes family. Employees greet customers by name and try to make sure everybody gets welcomed as they come in the door. It’s a more personal experience than shopping at a mall, or online.

“We can measure, and they don’t get that online where they play the shipping game back and forth,” Shelly Edge said. “We’re here to help people find what they need and fit them, and we take the time to do so. It’s not just ‘Here’s your shoes. Help yourself.’ We would never do that.

“We’re here to the do the No. 1 job for you, take care of you step by step. It’s nice to make people happy.”

As a result, Golden Shoes has customers in northern Michigan, New Orleans and all over the country, even from around the world. And they come back, again and again. “We see the same faces over and over,” Shelly Edge said.

“We’re very honest and tell them what they need,” Tiffany Edge said. “They appreciate that. Not only do they love that the business is very family oriented, they’re very appreciative of the service we give.”

Likewise, after nearly 140 years, Golden Shoes is appreciative of the Traverse City community. That’s why the business gives back to the community. Bill Golden, for example, has been a part of the Downtown Development Authority for the past eight years, helping to ensure that downtown Traverse City remains vibrant.

Golden Shoes also sponsors the annual Traverse City Cherry Festival and participates in Boots for Kids, a charitable program that provides winter boots to children. The children get measured to make sure they get a good-fitting pair of boots so they can go outside and play during the winter.

Whether it’s fitting kids from families in need with winter boots or store customers with the latest in footwear fashions, what makes Golden Shoes special is that employees take time to fit their customers and make sure they get the right shoe – whatever the customer’s unique needs may be.

“I love meeting people from all over, and it’s great when they fall in love with a shoe,” Lauren Golden said. “As they put on a really good shoe that is good for their foot, they instantly fall in love.”

Lauren Golden has one more year of high school, then plans to go to college. But whether she ends up in the shoe business long term or not, Golden Shoes is guaranteed to stay in the family.

As Bill Golden likes to say, “everybody that’s here is my family.”