Category: Business

Gazelle Sports’ dedication to community: ‘We believe movement can change your life’

Gazelle Sports

Joe Trupp, in a sense, has come full circle.

After struggling through the first run of his life, a four-miler at the age of 34, Trupp began hanging out and asking questions of staff at the Gazelle Sports in Kalamazoo, inadvertently becoming part of the movement community that 11 years later he now helps build and herd.

“The way I felt after that run, gosh, it was incredible and different than anything I had ever felt in my life,” said Trupp, who manages the same Gazelle Sports store in Kalamazoo that helped launch his passion for running and healthy living. “I fell in love with being part of this community of people who help each other, think about each other and inspire each other.

“Gazelle encourages people to grow, whatever that means to them, and I feel good about going to work knowing that I’m helping other people feel good.”

It’s that sense of commitment and camaraderie that has driven Gazelle Sports from its modest beginnings as a running specialty store in 1985 to its center as a five-location, locally owned and operated retailer for athletes of all pursuits.

Gazelle Sports locations in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Holland, Northville and Birmingham provide a statewide footprint for the retailer, but the stores – more importantly the people who work and shop at them – never lose the reflection of their community. That’s on display through carefully curated gear, sponsored events and run camps and clinics that encourage positive lifestyles.


The stores focus on retail excellence, customer care and being a support system, Trupp said. Employees work to get to know people coming in the stores and strive to understand their goals before guiding them through items that will help them achieve success.

“We want people to be a part of the Gazelle family,” Trupp said. “We want to encourage you to take that first step of a run or that first yoga class, whatever your interest is. We want to meet you where you’re at and be a part of that journey to help you get where you want to go.

“That’s the goal, not to just sell you something, although we obviously hope that will happen. Our people want to learn your story, gain your trust and let you know that we’re on your side. Movement is the mission. Your success is our reward.”

Trupp thinks back to his progress as a runner, which led him from a friend challenging him to run a half marathon to him tackling an ultramarathon in roughly a year. He remembers on that first run it was a group of women involved in the Gazelle Sports training club who taught him the importance of conversational running, that if he couldn’t talk comfortably, he was going too fast.

The message, and the result of listening to experienced runners, delivered for Trupp, who worked at a hair salon located across the street from Gazelle Sports at the time. His persistence and quest for knowledge led the run specialty store to offer him a part-time job, which led to a full-time position, and then five years ago a leadership role.

“That group took me under their wings, and I learned so much,” he said. “If Gazelle hadn’t been there to help me, who knows how (the half marathon) would have turned out. I learned the sky was the limit, and then I got to be a part of a team providing that same thing to others.

“It’s really amazing, I was not a runner, and I was on a different path, but that’s why we say that we believe movement can change your life. It does exactly that. I want to be that person for others who are just starting out, getting back into a routine or are just looking for someone to talk to.”

Michigan high school students ‘open up new worlds’ at renowned flight school

View from an airplane cockpit

Once Regan Lezotte completed Crosswinds Aviation’s high school flight program and then earned her private pilot’s license, she knew her next move was to share the excitement by becoming a flight instructor.

Crosswinds Aviation student explaining an airplane dashboard“Teaching is awesome because I’m taking my passion and bringing it to somebody else,” said Lezotte. “I can open up new worlds to them. (At Crosswinds) I’ve seen a lot, I’ve experienced a lot and it’s fun knowing we’re training the next generation of pilots.”

“Once you get into the air, that’s when the fun starts to happen.”

Matt Dahline, owner of Crosswinds Aviation and a 20-year pilot, said the look on students faces the first time they are in the air and at the controls of an aircraft is the inspiration behind the flight school.

“They love it, and that fascination with flying takes another step,” he said. “It’s about the smiles on their faces and opening up opportunities to them.”

“We are passionate about exposing as many kids to aviation, and we are committed to helping to make a positive impact on the aviation industry’s pilot shortage by producing as many qualified pilots as possible.”Crosswinds Aviation logo on an airplane rudder

“We know that any committed high school student looking to get into the aviation can do it. It takes dedication, hard work and a passion for the skies.”

Crosswinds high school programs, which are open to juniors and seniors, are available at Livingston County, Oakland County International and Bishop International airports. Students from high schools in Livingston and Genesee counties, where Crosswinds has partnerships, typically spend a majority of their day at their home school and then two hours at Crosswinds for ground and flight instruction over two consecutive semesters.

“We love partnering with our local schools and communities and showing the students the future flying provides,” Dahline said. Crosswinds Aviation instructor and student

Crosswinds instructors prepare pilots with a firm base of flying fundamentals that launch a lifetime of success in aviation, either as a professional or recreational pilot. The curriculum readies students to complete their written exam while also providing:

  • Exposure to many aspects of the aviation industry
  • Meet with industry experts
  • Free 10 hours of simulator time per student ($250 value)
  • Computer-based ground training ($200 value)
  • EAA will reimburse students that take and pass FAA written exam ($150 value)

 

 

Commercial airline pilot Ryan Lawrence got his start at Crosswinds after enrolling in the high school program as a senior. He and his parents scouted various flight schools and determined the modern fleet of aircraft and the family atmosphere at Crosswinds was the perfect fit.

“It was a no-brainer,” Lawrence said. “Earning my private pilot license was the best head start I could possibly get. The instructor set me up for success. It was a professional environment and learning experience the entire time. It was very one-on-one, and it was great every time we went up for a flight and every time we met in the classroom.”

Now, Lawrence looks around airports and sees the industry’s growth threatened by a shortage of available pilots prepared to replace a wave of veterans who will soon be hanging up their wings. He knows Crosswinds can change the trajectory of students’ futures.

“If you’re interested in aviation, now is the time to get started,” said Lawrence, who is flying regionally and plans on becoming a captain. “At Crosswinds, everything is laid out for you and there’s a great support system to show you how to get to where you want to be.

“Crosswinds was able to help me make my dream of being a career pilot come true.”

20 minutes to anything: Here is the center of Detroit

Greektown Casino-Hotel Casino

Maybe it’s a home game for the Detroit Lions, Tigers, Red Wings or Pistons.

Or perhaps a night on the town with friends?

How about a concert or Broadway show at the historic Fox Theatre and its next-door neighbor the Fillmore Detroit?

And let’s not forget live jazz clubs, comedy performances or other late-night entertainment.

Whatever brings you to Detroit, you’ll find the Greektown Casino-Hotel at the center of any stay-and-play visit.

Guests at the 400-room, 30-floor hotel have prime access to its exciting 100,000-square-foot gaming floor, a destination in and of itself, in addition to being less than a mile and a 20-minute walk – shorter with a cab or ride-sharing service – to many of Michigan’s best and biggest attractions.

Here’s a primer on what’s nearby:

  • Little Caesars Arena
  • Ford Field
  • Comerica Park
  • The historic Greektown neighborhood
  • Fox Theatre
  • The Fillmore Detroit
  • Campus Martius Park
  • Hart Plaza

Before heading out to an event, Greektown offers its own incredible entertainment and dining options. There are more than 2,500 slots and 60 table games over two floors of gaming activity. The playing floor, machines and dealers are routinely identified as the best in Detroit.

Sam Arabo, an executive casino host, recommends guests visit the hotel-casino’s restaurants during their stay. There is a wide diversity at Monroe Market, a 24-hour curated collection of culinary experiences in a setting similar to a street market. The market has six restaurants that serve everything from burgers and pizza to BBQ and southern-style fried chicken.

Meanwhile, Arabo said a visit to Prism, the property’s signature steakhouse, seafood and pasta fine-dining, is a must-stop.

“We’ve won several awards for our food selection, our wine selection,” Arabo said. “Everybody enjoys it.”

Greektown staff members excel at attending to guests needs and making them comfortable during their stay.

“Customer service is our biggest thing,” Arabo said. “If a guest is happy, my job is easy.”

Why Greektown is the center of NFL gameday in Detroit

Tailgating at the Lion's game, brought to you by Greektown Casin-Hotel

Step outside Greektown Casino-Hotel on a Sunday morning in the fall or winter, and there’s no doubt when it’s a National Football League gameday for the Detroit Lions.

Fans dressed head-to-toe in Honolulu blue and silver stream by. Greektown restaurants and bars are packed. Tailgaters fill nearby parking lots with tents, grills, spaceheaters, generators and fully customized RVs to support their team and enjoy themselves before kickoff.

It’s a community event with statewide draw, allowing perfect strangers to become fast friends over a game of sack toss or throwing a football around, a cold beverage and a bite to eat – and Greektown Casino-Hotel is at the center of it all.

After staying at the neighborhood’s premier hotel and gaming floor, but before hitting the stands, guests can hang out in the entertainment center’s incredible dining areas.

Check out Bistro 555 for the breakfast buffet that will fill you for the day’s adventures. Pop into Monroe Market, a 24-hour curated collection of culinary experiences that line 11,000 square feet in a setting similar to a street market. The market has six restaurants that serve everything from burgers and pizza to BBQ and southern-style fried chicken.

Or guests can also choose to head out to Greektown favorites like the Old Shillelagh, Astoria Bakery, Red Smoke Barbecue or Fishbones.

From there, it’s a short 10-minute walk to Ford Field, but one ripe with opportunity for the full Lions experience.

The franchise’s official pre-game party tailgate is at Prize Plaza on Brush Street, and it has free admission. The close-to-the-stadium spaces opens at 10 a.m. and features beer tents, music, food trucks and interactive fan games. There are also large-screen televisions for watching and listening to pre-game commentary.

But for the more colorful tailgating visit, continue on to the parking lots at Eastern Market. This is the hub of pregame activity and where you’ll find thousands of diehards who arrive early and stay late. They pack for the apocalypse and leave unwanted. Burgers, brats, ribs, side dishes, you name it, and it’s being prepared.

Groups who have celebrated pre-games together for years – and gone to great lengths to put on a heck of a party – are welcoming of fellow Lions fans and willing to give tours of specialized Lions-themed vehicles.

Take the “Since 1957” tailgate leaders, who bought an RV and decked-out the vehicle in Lions memorabilia of all sorts. They’ve been together since 2005 and have designated themselves as “Since 1957” because that’s the last time the team won a championship.

They make sure to put on a spread and “keep everyone hydrated” before kickoff.

Once the game is over and Lions fans are ready to wind down or keep the party going, it’s a quick jaunt back to the Greektown Casino-Hotel for the night.

‘You know the good they do,’ co-workers say about this West Michigan charity

SCG volunteer

It had been their tradition for more than two decades. Several co-workers from Spectrum Health Hospice would get together for dinner once a month on Tuesday nights, and for the holidays they’d exchange Christmas ornaments.

But 25 years’ worth of ornaments adds up. Some of the women started saying they have so many that they don’t know what to do with them all. Others said they no longer put up a Christmas tree and don’t need any more ornaments.

So, they started a new tradition. A couple years ago, the Tuesday Night Steel Magnolias decided to take the money they’d been spending on ornaments and give it to charity instead.

Santa Claus Girls presents

Their chosen beneficiary? The Santa Claus Girls.

“You know the good they do,” said Judy Carlon, a Kentwood woman who’s one of eight members of the group that took its name from their Tuesday night dinners and their mutual love of the “Steel Magnolias” movie.

“You can watch the money given out. You see them buying the gifts, wrapping them and delivering them. Everybody seems to know the Santa Claus Girls.”

For more than 110 years, the Santa Claus Girls have been a community tradition. Our community provides the volunteers who run the charity and the donors who fund it. The end result is that thousands of Kent County kids experience the childlike joy and wonder of the Christmas season by receiving a gift.

If you’re familiar with the Santa Claus Girls, you know about the impact that The Press-sponsored charity has on the community each and every Christmas. You know that the Santa Claus Girls has been a beacon of hope in West Michigan for generations. Maybe you even received gifts from the Santa Claus Girls when you were a child.

But in case you don’t know much about the Santa Claus Girls, here’s why it’s so important for you to be a part of this community mission that’s a West Michigan legacy:

  • The Santa Claus Girls started buying, wrapping and delivering Christmas gifts to Kent County children in need way back in 1908. Then, same as now, the goal was to provide Christmas gifts to boys and girls who otherwise wouldn’t receive any. Learn more about the charity’s history here.
  • Any child age 6 months to 12 years from families in need in Kent County can register to receive gifts from the Santa Claus Girls. Each delivery includes five items: an age-appropriate toy, book, warm hat, gloves or mittens, a sweatshirt or pajamas, and candy.
  • Santa Claus Girls presents for Kent County kidsEach year, hundreds of volunteers take phone calls to register gift recipients, buy items, wrap presents and deliver the packages. This year’s workspace on 36th Street SE is donated by Knoll, Inc.
  • Because the Santa Claus Girls is 100-percent run by volunteers, more than 98 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to sharing the Christmas spirit by providing gifts for children. The charity has a long-term, proven track record of using the community’s donations efficiently and effectively.

RELATED: Restaurants: Use this $10 coupon to support West Michigan holiday tradition

The $200,000 it takes to make the miracles happen may sound like a daunting amount. But with individual and business donors throughout West Michigan, a community effort makes it all possible.

Last year, a wide variety of individuals, businesses and social groups contributed to the  Santa Claus Girls hats for Kent county kids Santa Claus Girls in amounts that ranged from $2.18 to $50,000. In addition to donations from a wide range of West Michigan businesses, money came in from the Tuesday Night Steel Magnolias, the Golden K Kiwanis Club of Grand Rapids, Sons of American Legion Squadron No. 305, the Union High School Class of 1961 Peppermill Breakfast Club and scores of other groups and clubs.

Last year, for the first time, online donations to the Santa Claus Girls accounted for 10 percent of the charity’s $200,000 fundraising goal. The average amount given online was $136, but gifts of any amount helped the Santa Claus Girls deliver presents to more than 13,000 children from over 5,000 families.

You can help the Santa Claus Girls deliver gifts to another 13,000-plus children this Christmas whether you donate $136, $13.60 or $1.36. Every bit helps, no matter how big or small. In fact, if every household in Kent County donated just $1, that would be enough to hit the Santa Claus Girls goal.

No stamps in the house? No problem. Envelopes not necessary, either. These days, it’s easier than ever to support the Santa Claus Girls. Just click here and make a contribution via PayPal.

Two years ago, when the Tuesday Night Steel Magnolias started giving their ornament  money to charity, Carlon mailed in their donation to the Santa Claus Girls. Last year, she submitted the donation online through the charity’s Web site.

SCG volunteer wrapping gifts“I think I was in a hurry last year and I couldn’t find the address, so it was easier to go online,” Carlon said.

See how easy it is for you to join the tradition of helping the Santa Claus Girls make Christmas wishes come true. Let’s continue West Michigan’s heritage of providing a gift to every child at Christmas!

Why this independent sporting goods store cares about more than selling gear

Livingston County, MI

Why this independent sporting goods store cares about more than selling gear

Skip Lee, the owner of Portage-based Lee’s Adventure Sports, has a business plan that flies in the face of many retailers.

“We don’t exist just to sell you an item,” said Lee, the second-generation owner of the outdoor sporting goods store at 311 W. Kilgore Road in Portage. “We’re here to give you access to the gear you need to have an experience, to get outside and enjoy yourself.

“We’re going to make sure that you have the equipment that fits what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. You can see, feel and touch what you’re buying. You’re not guessing if it will fit or if it’s what you really need.

“You can’t get that many places these days.”

Lee’s is an all-season shop that outfits adventure seekers of all pursuits, from downhill and cross-country skiing and snowboarding in the winter to kayaking, paddleboarding and backpacking in the spring, summer and fall.

Lee’s is the rare remaining independent sporting goods store in a world that has become dominated by massive big boxes and the pages of internet giants. The shop carries the same name-brand items of Patagonia, The North Face, Marmot, Kavu and more that can outfit shoppers from head-to-toe in technical and casual wear.

What many don’t know, Lee says, is that the pricing is no different than what customers will find elsewhere. And it comes with an added benefit the others can’t offer.

“People want to come in and talk about what they are going to buy, and we can be that valuable resource and knowledge to recommend items that fit their lifestyle,” Lee said. “Our staff is passionate about being outdoors and doing exactly what our customers are going out to do.

“And if you’re someone who is just starting out on something, we can be the voice of experience.”

Lee’s has been dishing out that information since 1954, when his parents, Bill and Evelyn Lee, started their business as a general toy and hobby shop. It evolved over the years to focus on outdoor sports and adventure as the family identified it as a market in need and it fit with their desire to be in nature.

Lee said he and his staff thrive on interacting with first-time customers and visiting with returning shoppers. Several years ago, Lee recalls, a father and son came in while Christmas shopping, and when they came back, they cited the service they received as the reason behind another trip.

“They valued that in-depth conversation about what finding what they were looking for,” Lee said, noting that the lag time between shopping stops is because the clothes and gear Lee’s sells stand the test of time.

“You’re buying equipment, jackets and other products that have value and will last for years. It’s a different and better buying experience than what you’ll find somewhere else.”

Lee’s turns over its inventory seasonally, but can assist in any sport’s off-season. The shop is also at the forefront of emerging technology and new gears.

“Things are always getting better and because we’re out there and working with the best brands, we’ll have that new and improved piece of equipment,” Lee said. “We’re here to help you get what you need.”

One of the best of Grand Rapids: Find your next drinking and dining destination here

Rockwell Republic Drinks

Brunch in a beverage? You can get that at Rockwell Republic on the weekend.

Or guests can roll in for mid-day and end-of-the-night happy hours, an expansive food menu available late into the night and an around-the-clock imaginative lineup of local beer and craft cocktails.

It’s that sort of creativity and desire to cater to customers that has built a dedicated following for the side-by-side bar and restaurant in the Heartside neighborhood of Grand Rapids. The appreciation for the dining and drinking spots, which expanded and then became a centerpiece of the city’s downtown growth for a decade, is obvious.

“The food is Asian American deliciousness,” online reviewer Montana Krukowski wrote.

“If you have friends who can’t agree on what type of cuisine to eat, this is the place to go. Their menu has so much to choose from,” Namchi Do said. Rockwell Republic food

Katie Barcelona wrote: “Great happy hour deals, food and drinks are great and so is the atmosphere. This is one of my go-to places.”

Those responses to guests’ experience are what Jesse Tackett, Rockwell Republic’s general manager for three years, and his staff want to hear.

“We want to be the place that you’re interested in going to every time you go out because you can always do or try something new,” Tackett said. “Our variety is unmatched, from sushi to tacos to a perfectly cooked filet, you’ll find it here.”

Rockwell Republic’s setting is often discussed because of the distinct atmospheres each offers at 45 S. Division Ave. Rockwell’s feel is a lively Chicago-like gastropub, a spot to grab an after-work beer from the 30 tap handles, a handcrafted cocktail or a taste of one of the more than 200 bourbons that are available.

On the building’s other side, Republic’s scene is a wine bar/dinner house vibe where people can relax with a significant other, family and friends or business partners looking to unwind. The extensive wine list adds a something-for-everyone option.

Rockwell Republic sushi roll surf & turfThe restaurants share exposed-brick walls, high ceilings, dark mahogany wood and eclectic lighting that fit either a casual night out or a hit-the-town outing. Rockwell Republic also benefit from the shared second story bar, and a roof-top deck to soak in the urban setting during the warmer months.

Tackett describes Rockwell Republic menu as Pacific Rim inspired with sushi, seafood and share plate choices, but the restaurants achieve a balance with a mouthwatering array of appetizers, sandwiches and entrees. Daily features turnover weekly, and the fare changes seasonally as the chef creates new dishes.

“The idea is to keep the mainstays, but at the same time evolve with something new,” Tackett said. “We keep it fresh.”Rockwell Republic sushi

Now, back to that brunch in a beverage. Rockwell Republic’s “Massive Mary” has reached its legendary status as the best in Grand Rapids by stacking a quartered bacon cheeseburger beside a beer cheese dip filled pretzel bun and a stack of beer-battered onion petals. Positioned in a 32-ounce mason jar with a perfectly prepared Bloody Mary, the drink is the definition of a Saturday or Sunday started right.

“If you haven’t tried it, you need to,” Tackett said. “And once you have had it, you’re going to come back for it.”

Weekends also feature a Bloody Mary bar that guests can create the drink they desire, and the offering is one of the daily specials that draws people to Rockwell Republic.

Other specials include:

  • Daily drink happy hour from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Daily sushi roll and share plates happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Monday: Wine 40% off from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. and live jazz.
  • Tuesday: $6 Rockwell and Republic Original craft cocktails from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m.
  • Wednesday: $13 pitchers of sangria 3pm-close and 25% off classic cocktails 9 p.m. to 12 a.m.
  • Thursday: $1 off all whiskeys and all draft beers 5 p.m. to close and 50% off martinis 9 p.m. to 12 a.m.

Visit Rockwell Republic online to plan your first or next visit to the best of Grand Rapids has to offer.