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Michigan’s Best Magazine, Spring 2020

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Dear Friends,

It was not so long ago that Michigan’s Best comprised only stories of our great state’s flavors. The food searches led by the energetic John Gonzales and Amy Sherman have proven to be a source of appreciation and inspiration for hundreds of thousands of readers. You spend so much time with this content on our website that we felt compelled to bring you more of what you clearly love!

In 2019, Michigan’s Best expanded to include stories of the Arts, nonprofits, Michigan’s businesses, and more. Innovations, adventures, and initiatives were waiting to be discovered by our team and shared with readers. This expansion, featured both on and at, gave us a chance to tell more stories about the people, places, and happenings in the State, produced both in digital and print formats.

winter rafting in Gaylord, MIYou may have been following this movement that Michigan’s Best has in your Sunday newspaper. Each week, we feature just a few of our favorite stories in the section you’ll find wrapping your advertising content. But there were so many stories to tell!  We needed to share more.

What you hold in your hand is just one more way these stories have been collected and packaged. This “magazine” represents a collection of the stories we’ve told so far. We sincerely hope you find it informative, perhaps intriguing or inspiring.

Eric Hultgren checks out Project 1If you’d like more of this content, you’ll find it on the sites mentioned here. But you can also follow along in real time by connecting through social media. We hope you join us along our journey to uncover Michigan’s Best stories and the people that bring them to life.


The Michigan’s Best Team

(Comprising Journalists, Videographers, Photographers and the dozens of unsung team members that shape this content into its digital, print, graphic, animated, or visual form.)

Download the Michigan’s Best Magazine, Spring 2020

Free ticket program shows arts group’s commitment to first-time experiences

Opera GR presents Turandot

When the curtains open on Opera Grand Rapids’ May 1 and May 2 performances of Turandot – the company’s largest production in more than a decade – nearly 20 percent of the audience will be seeing the art form for the first time – and for free.

Opera Grand Rapids has committed $40,000 to its Community Tickets Program, which will distribute 900 tickets, 450 for each of the two shows at DeVos Performance Hall, to community organizations for distribution to people who are interested in the opera but have been priced out of access.

Opera GR, Turandot production“This is an investment that creates an avenue for people and eliminates the barriers to seeing Opera in Grand Rapids,” said Emilee Syrewicze, the opera’s executive director. “These are prime seats that we are keeping open for people to experience this classic artform.”

“We want to approach diversity, equity and inclusion with intention. We hope the result is easier access to the performing arts. We’re excited, and we think this is an important step for our community.”

The new outreach partners Opera Grand Rapids with local arts and service organizations including:

  • Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities
  • Grand Rapids Public Library
  • Salvation Army of Kent County
  • Woodlands/Suburban Library Cooperative
  • Grand Rapids Urban League
  • Community Food Club
  • Dwelling Place
  • Gilda’s Club

Patrons of the community partners can request tickets through the groups Opera GR, Turandotand must not be prior ticket purchasers. Syrewicze said more community associations can partner with Opera Grand Rapids by calling 451-2741.

“We are providing an opportunity to see Turandot, and at the same time, we’re helping elevate the profile of other community cultural groups,” Syrewicze said.

Turandot, from composer Giacomo Puccini, will be a stunning experience, and it is described as a visual, dramatic and musical feast for the senses. The production will feature the full Grand Rapids Symphony and a large chorus in addition to the talents of top opera performers. It features opera’s most iconic aria “Nessun dorma,” which was most famously performed by Luciano Pavarotti.

The opera’s investment is made possible by its supporters, who have generously donated because they understand the importance of being inclusive.

Opera Grand Rapids is in its 52nd year and is the longest continuously operating opera company in Michigan. It is also recognized as one of the premier mid-size operas in North America.

“The arts can change lives,” said Syrewicze, “and we want to be a part of that.”

Turandot, from composer Giacomo Puccini, at Opera Grand Rapids May 1 and 2

World’s second-largest castle ‘has everything you could want in an apartment’

The Grand Castle

Anyone driving by The Grand Castle gets a sense of the building’s momentous size. Construction materials for the 522-unit apartment community off I-196 west of Grand Rapids included 200 million pounds of concrete, 900 tons of steel and 320,000 kilograms of granite.

The Grand Castle is indeed grand. In fact, at 1.2 million square-feet, it’s the second largest castle in the world!

But you have to tour The Grand Castle to get a full appreciation of how grand it really is.

The Grand Castle in Wyoming, MI

The Grand Castle is a pet-friendly apartment community featuring an outdoor dog park with two separate fenced-in areas and several play elements. Taryn Willett visits the dog park with her shepherd mix ‘every day, multiple times. There’s always a dog to play with,’ she said.

How each apartment has brand-new stainless-steel appliances, granite countertops, full washer and dryer and its own water heater, plus high nine-and-a-half-foot ceilings.

How there’s a variety of floor plans that fit a variety of living situations and budgets, and more than 90 percent them get at least one covered parking space.

How the extraordinary architecture is complemented by unparalleled amenities:

  • Outdoor swimming pool and clubhouse
  • Castle-themed playground for kids
  • Two-story library with a “Beauty and the Beast”-style twin staircase
  • On-site gym with cardio and weight training equipment
  • Game room with ping pong, shuffleboard and arcade games
  • Spacious outdoor terraces and sun decks
  • 23-acre lake for fishing and kayaking, with a waterside walking trail
  • Covered loading docks for easy move in
  • Expansive courtyard with outdoor seating and water fountain
  • Fenced-in dog park
  • Fitness classes, watch parties and other organized social events
  • Conference rooms for personal parties
The Grand Castle, Library

A two-story library at The Grand Castle features a twin staircase, a la ‘Beauty and the Beast.’

“It has everything you could want in an apartment,” said Taryn Willett, 27, who lives on the sixth floor with her fiancée, dog and cat. “We like it for a lot of reasons.

“It’s newer, cleaner. It has a fresh feel. And it’s actually a really good price for the area considering it’s very close to downtown. We’re actually paying less money (than we were at our previous apartment) for a new building, and it’s closer to the highway. That’s a really huge plus because you can get anywhere in 10 minutes.”

Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany is the inspiration for both Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland and The Grand Castle outside Grand Rapids. The 19th-century palace includes a copper lion standing guard atop its turreted roof, just like The Grand Castle.

There are a lot of apartments in West Michigan, but there’s only one castle. The Grand Castle was inspired by a similar marvel in southern Germany.

The Neuschwanstein Castle itself was a monumental feat of construction for its time, requiring more than 500 tons of marble, over 1,700 tons of sandstone and some 400,000 bricks. It also featured then-innovative amenities including central heating, running water and toilets with automatic flushing.

The Neuschwanstein Castle attracts upwards of 1 million visitors per year. Yet, only 522 tenants get to call The Grand Castle home.

“I teach dance at night and once my little dancers found out I lived at The Grand Castle they were like ‘Are you a princess?’” said Brooke Hanges, who lives in a 2-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor with her puppy.

“My nephew is 3 and he thought that was the coolest thing to have Aunt Brooke live in The Grand Castle. He even put together a Lego structure of the Castle for me.”

Apartment in the Grand Castle in Wyoming, MI

‘It’s all updated and new,’ said Brooke Hanges, who moved into The Grand Castle last year. ‘Everything is open, and the high ceiling is huge. I don’t feel like I’m in an apartment. I feel like I’m in a home.’

A year after opening, The Grand Castle is more than 70-percent occupied. Studio apartments rent for as little as $730 per month, while three-story penthouse suites have more than 4,000 square-feet. One-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans also are available ranging in size from 712 square-feet to 1,500 square-feet, with rents from $930 to $1,770 per month. The apartment community also includes several accessible units with barrier-free features.

Preferred employer discounts of 5 percent or more are available to employees of many of the Grand Rapids-area’s largest employers.

The Grand Castle is proving to be a great fit for people of all ages. In addition to 20-somethings just starting out and mid-career professionals, many residents age 55 and up are finding a home at The Grand Castle, too.

“It’s no maintenance,” said John Green, 72, who moved into a two-bedroom apartment with his wife after downsizing from a 4,900-square-foot home on 18 acres. “We love it here. It has so many things that make it worthwhile as far as things to do.”

As for The Grand Castle’s distinctive architecture, Green loves it.

“Whenever we have somebody come to visit, we never get the excuse that they couldn’t find it.”

How being ‘one-stop shop’ helps design-build contractor finish jobs on budget, on time

While the term “helix” often gets used when talking about DNA, the building blocks of life, Josh Weiner first heard it in the context of construction when his firm was developing Kalamazoo Commons.

The Rave parking garage at Kalamazoo Commons downtown

The Rave parking garage at Kalamazoo Commons downtown

To make room for a mixture of uses including apartments, offices, retail and a movie theater, an existing downtown parking ramp had to be remodeled on a smaller footprint. In order to keep the same number of spaces, the design/build team proposed an innovative helix – a circular, upward moving drive that motorists use to access levels of the ramp.

The team came up with the idea because, in this case, the builder and designer were both. Continental Companies

“It was through (owner) Jerry (Stifler) and his design team that we came up with the helix,” said Weiner, CEO of the Meyer C. Weiner Co. “I have found over the years that his attributes and education have made his model of being a design-build contractor particularly beneficial to developers like me, who always seem to be wanting projects done quickly and seamlessly from beginning to end.

“With both the design and the building capability, not to mention the engineering background, that certainly streamlines the process.”

In many ways, Continental has been the building block of Kalamazoo over the past half-century. You don’t have to drive for long to pass a building designed and constructed by Stifler’s team. From strip malls on Westnedge Avenue to the Holiday Inn West off U.S. 131 to the iconic Wings Stadium, Continental has had a hand in over 3,000 projects during the past 50-plus years.

Stifler started Continental in 1965, three years after beginning his career with another Kalamazoo-area construction firm. When his employer told him he had qualified for the company’s retirement plan, he quit. Stifler wasn’t in business to retire. He was in business to build buildings.

His first solo job: a church building on Whites Road near Kalamazoo Country Club.

“I had about $1,500 to my name,” Stifler recalled. “I didn’t get a bond. I couldn’t get a bond. I bid it anyway.

“They didn’t ask for a bond.”

The Globe Building in Kalamazoo

The Globe Building in Kalamazoo is one of more than 3,000 projects that The Continental Companies has done in the past 50-plus years.

Through more than 3,000 construction projects across 14 different states, Stifler has never brought on a partner. He alone leads his company of 17 people including architects, project managers, field superintendents, carpenters and support staff.

Under Stifler’s leadership, Continental became one of the Kalamazoo area’s first design-build contractors – handling both architect and general contractor roles. More than 50 years after Continental was founded, design-build construction firms remain rare. Even more rare are companies such as Continental that provide design-build services with excellent cost control, construction quality and timeliness. In large part, Continental is able to get things done on a tight schedule at lower cost because project design is in house.

Continental’s design-build model includes free preliminary designs and a guaranteed budget with guaranteed completion dates. It results in cost savings of up to 28 percent compared to conventional design-bid-build construction. Plus, although a design-build model makes sense for many projects, Continental has a successful track record of associating with different architects when the situation warrants.

The company’s extensive design-build portfolio includes Pheasant Run, one of the area’s first condominium projects, restoration of the historic Globe Building downtown, revitalization of the Rave theatre block that’s home to Kalamazoo Commons and reimagination of the former Pinz Kalamazoo bowling alley that’s now known as Revel & Roll.

former Pinz bowling alley into Revel & Roll entertainment center

The Continental Companies worked with Treystar to turn the former Pinz bowling alley into Revel & Roll entertainment center. ‘If you hire an architect you’ll get a great big fee,’ owner Jerry Stifler said. ‘Our architectural fee is probably half of what everybody else’s is. That’s a real advantage, especially for developers.’

In 1974, Continental designed and built Wings Stadium, which went on to host concerts by The Beach Boys, Gordon Lightfoot, Rod Stewart, Elvis Presley and scores of other music greats through the years.

“That’s where I got my reputation,” Stifler said. “We finished it so fast and on schedule and under budget that I was written up as the world’s greatest contractor.”

Continental has built retail centers, office buildings, manufacturing facilities, entertainment centers and residential projects all over Kalamazoo – from ground-up development projects as small as a few thousand square-feet to complicated remodels and renovations that cost upwards of $20 million.

All the while, Continental has gotten the job done on time and on budget.

“Delivery dates, completion dates all are very critical, and Continental has been great at performing and meeting those deadlines,” said Weiner, whose firm has worked with Continental on over 20 projects over the past 30 years.

“We’ve found the pricing to be very competitive, the seamlessness of development optimal and the fact that Continental has a great reputation in the field all have led us to do a lot of work with Jerry.”

Gregory A. Taylor, principal of Phoenix Properties in Kalamazoo, has worked with Continental on several projects over the years including office and commercial buildouts as well as renovations. The design-build contractor’s experience and unique capabilities – like how the company self-performs some general construction trades with its own crew – makes Continental “more nimble” than many other contractors, he said.

Continental currently is working with Taylor and the Jim Gilmore Jr. Foundation on a $5.5 million renovation of the old downtown building at 162 E. Michigan Ave. that way back in the 1800s was an opera house. It has taken lots of design time figuring out how to convert the upper floors of the building into apartments, and Continental’s design-build model has been key.

If you want a design-build concept, they’re a one stop shop,” Taylor said. “Continental playing both the role of general contractor and architect, which is a little unique, helped relative to the multiple iterations they had to do.

“We’re on schedule, on budget and looking to finish things by the end of February.”

The current project at 162 E. Michigan Ave. is updating first-floor office and retail space, putting a snowmelt system in the sidewalk and adding 26 apartments to the upper floors. There’s no helix in the plans. But Continental is the project’s lifeblood all the same.

Said Stifler: “We designed it. We built it.”

‘Most sensory-friendly city in Michigan’ continues opening activities to families

Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, MI

Cathy Blatnik felt isolated, like a prisoner in her home, after her youngest son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and epilepsy before he turned three.

A bright or flashing light, a loud noise, any unexpected turn of events of the day could trigger an outburst, and then a life-threatening seizure.

Going to the movies as a family? That was not an option.

Heading to a ballpark for a game? Couldn’t do that, too many external stimuli existed.

How about a visit to a museum? Again, the unknown lurked around every corner.

“It was very lonely. We did absolutely nothing,” said Blatnik, of Okemos. “We couldn’t even take him to the grocery store because it was so exhausting.”

Wharton Center for Performing Arts in Lansing, MI

The Wharton Center for Performing Arts helped lead the Lansing-area’s dedication to sensory-friendly events when it brought a production of “The Lion King” to the stage in 2018. In April, “Junie B. Jones” will also have a performance that caters to those on the autism spectrum.

Today, the options for the Blatnik family and others living with sensory issues have opened up. The Lansing region has embraced and become a statewide leader as a sensory-friendly center for people with autism and other disabilities.

In less than two years, Lansing has transformed into what Blatnik calls the “most sensory-friendly city in Michigan.” Leaders at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts, the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Mid Michigan Autism Association have trained more than 1000 people across regional attractions, restaurants and hotels on how to create supportive and welcoming environments.

April’s designation as Autism Awareness Month serves as a point of pride for those who have taken the lead on meeting the needs of neuro-diverse guests. “The collaboration between private and public entities has created a jammed calendar of sensory-friendly events for the month and the rest of the year,” said Julie Pingston, executive vice president of the visitors bureau.

Here is a sampling of experiences from 2019, available to families with a member on the autism spectrum, or with developmental disabilities, sensory processing disorder, and other conditions:

  • Sensory Friendly Show of Dumbo at both NCG Cinema or Celebration Cinema
  • Autism Friendly event at Jumpin’ Jax hosted by Comprehensive Early Autism Services
    Lions at Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, MI

    Potter Park Zoo recently became certified as the only AZA certified sensory-inclusive zoo in Michigan, and the center holds monthly events that are focused on serving neuro-diverse guests.

  • Sensory-Friendly evening hours at Impression 5 Science Center
  • Sensory-Friendly show at Abrams Planetarium
  • FALCONERS program at Potter Park Zoo
  • Junie B. Jones at Wharton Center for Performing Arts

The Lansing region has a full calendar of neuro-sensitive events for April 2020 and beyond, found by clicking here, and the area was recently recognized with the Governor’s Award for Innovative Tourism Collaboration at the 2019 Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

“No one put this on a to-do list, but it has become a cornerstone of our community to make all of our attractions sensory-friendly,” said Pingston. “We want to elevate our community so that there’s more awareness, more understanding and more ability to serve and welcome families.

Impression 5 Museum in Lansing, MI

The Impression 5 Science Center is a fun hands-on experience for family members of all ages.

“Our message is that Lansing is open to you and we will continue to work to make this the best experience visitors to our community can have.”

Blatnik said her advocacy began with her family – Dominic is now 14 – and continues because she doesn’t want others to go through what she did when her son was young. Studies show 1 in every 59 children are diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

“The satisfaction comes from seeing a family smile, from seeing the relief on their faces that they can live and that people care about them,” she said. “Recently, a family was looking for help after their 2-year-old was diagnosed with autism. They were looking for resources, and I was able to hand them a whole book of things to do and where to go.

“That didn’t exist when we were starting out. We didn’t want to keep Dominic in a bubble, but at the same time, we had to know what we’re walking into and what the risk was. It was and still is really a matter of his health and his life.”

Laura Zeller, the director of communications for Impression 5 Science Center, said the facility has worked with experts from Michigan State University and the autism association to conduct two audits to understand how to be a more welcoming venue.

Impression 5 Museum activities, Lansing, MI

The Impression 5 Science Center is a fun hands-on experience for family members of all ages.

Changes have included developing a special sensory-friendly night once per month and implementing tools to help prepare families for a visit during regular hours. There are social stories, which vividly describe and guide guests around the museum before their visit, as well as new signage indicating potential sensitivities at exhibits. The center has also created sensory backpacks equipped with fidget spinners, headphones and other methods of assisting neuro-diverse families through the hands-on experience.

“We want people to feel that we are open and accessible,” Zeller said. “What we’ve seen from families is just a huge sense of gratitude and appreciation. They just want to be able to participate and have an entertainment and learning option that is welcoming.“Families can be themselves and be comfortable here and across Lansing now, and we think that’s a great feeling to provide as a community.”

Pingston agrees: “There’s nothing better than doing something that helps others,” she said.

Learn more about the Lansing area’s sensory-friendly commitment here.

Arena transformation is a game-changer for Muskegon Lumberjacks, community

Mercy Health Arena-Muskegon Lumberjacks

When the capacity crowd at Mercy Health Arena (formerly L.C. Walker Arena) celebrates a Muskegon Lumberjacks goal by yelling “You got Jacked,” it’s a fun taunt at the opposing goalie.

But it’s equally appropriate as a measure of excitement felt by the thousands of fans providing a home-ice advantage for Michigan’s only United States Hockey League team.

With a $2.7 million renovation and elite hockey talent – the Lumberjacks have had 18 NHL draft picks and 51 players earn college scholarships in just the last 5 years – the hockey and the social experience has changed from preconceived perceptions, said Mike McCall, the Lumberjacks president.

“Our number one goal is to make sure we created something for everyone,” McCall said. “When you come into this building, there’s a wow factor, there’s a vibe and there’s a sense of fun. We’re grateful to have the opportunity to present that night in and night out.

“(The renovation) is helping to revive the downtown. The Muskegon area is growing. The vibe in the whole community is improving. There’s a new sense of pride and we want to be one of those helping lead that.”

The project was unveiled in late 2018, and this will be the first full season for fans to experience the team’s 30 home dates that stretch into April. The upgrades include a new and improved concourse area, suite boxes, club and lodge seating, and the creation of a party platform that includes a beer garden, bar and open-air and interactive kids’ zone.

The new concourse design keeps fans inside the arena rather than leaving the seating area and into a closed off hallway. The work brings concessions to the inside and is transformative.

“The great thing about this openness that we created in the arena is that it’s really created a social environment. People can walk around, and they can see the game, they can see their friends, they can see their kids. It’s really one big party.

“You can grab a beer or a hot dog and still watch the game. You are right on top of the action. There’s no better place to watch a hockey game.”

Attendance was up 20 percent last year despite a reduction in the number of seats, McCall said, and that shows people are responding to the changes.

The USHL took notice too, honoring the Lumberjacks with the 2019 “Organization of the Year” award.

“Our goal is to win it again this year and the next year,” McCall said. “We want to continue to be the best team in this league.”

Muskegon LumberjacksThe Lumberjacks, who feature players ages 17 to 20 on the development track to major college or professional hockey, are a community experience and attribute, McCall said. With the majority of the team’s games on Friday or Saturday nights, the setting is ideal for families, business or group outings or just getting friends together.

“Coming to a Lumberjacks game is a release,” he said. “You’re going to yell, you’re going to scream, and you’re going to cheer. You’re going to see people you know, have some food and beverages and just have a great time.”

That is exactly the atmosphere that Andrea Sponaas has witnessed.

“If there’s one thing that’s been consistent, it’s been the jaw-drop (from people) as soon as they walk in,” said Sponaas, the vice president of corporate partnerships for the team. “You can tell the people who have not been here since the renovations. It’s awestruck. It’s ‘Oh, my gosh, this is fantastic.’”

Lumberjacks games are safe, clean, affordable and convenient, Sponaas said, and the team’s leaders wants to keep the momentum going.

“We’re making sure we’re bringing in new fans and exposing them to how great this league is and exposing them to the atmosphere that we’ve built,” said Sponaas, who was with the team 10 years ago when it launched in Muskegon.

“The Muskegon Lumberjacks of today are an entirely different experience. If folks haven’t been to the game recently, experienced the arena changes, I think they’re really missing out.”

On the hockey side, Lumberjacks Head Coach Mike Hamilton said fans can expect 100 percent effort and an exciting, active style of play. The USHL is the highest level of junior hockey in the country, he said. Prospects come from around the world to play in the league. The players have moved away from their homes – in some cases their countries – to pursue their dreams.

“Everyone who plays youth hockey, this is their goal,” he said. “Every night they’re being evaluated, not just by us, but if you look around, there are NHL and college scouts. The dream starts here.”

“They make a huge commitment just to be here and develop into the best hockey players they can be, but they recognize that they’re here to be part of the community. Muskegon is invested in them and their actions on and off the ice reflect on Muskegon. We win together.”

Visit the Lumberjacks website to find the team’s schedule and learn more about Muskegon’s team.

Clothing every man should have in his closet for a complete wardrobe

shirts hanging in a closet

There comes a point in every man’s life when it’s time to embrace being an adult and move the crusty old concert T-shirts, the weekend golf polo, the cargo pants and that 11-year-old button down to the back of the closet.

Sure, break them out when you’re feeling nostalgic or they serve a particular need, but don’t sport them when you want to dress to impress.

That doesn’t mean guys need to go on a shopping spree that will bust the bank, and it doesn’t require guys to go “fashion forward” or out of a general comfort zone. There is a way to stick to your style and look sharp while working with the basic guidelines on the essentials for your closet.

Here’s what to start shopping for:

A classic suit in charcoal, black or navy

  • Choose a solid color or a pattern that will stand the test of time, making this suit the correct choice for any need, such as job interviews or special events that include weddings and funerals. It’s a can’t-go-wrong option.

4 coordinated dress shirts

  • A basic white, two color-coordinated shirts and a pattern that matches the suit, giving guys the flexibility to alter the appearance while still keeping it simple.

2 ties

  • Two ties will provide the same versatility that you seek when you vary your shirt selection. Make sure that the ties can be worn with at least two of the above dress shirts.

A sport coat or blazer

  • A quality sport coat or blazer balances your style for a dressed-up look that doesn’t require a full suit. Again, it’s important to match this piece of clothing with your shirts and ties, keeping your look consistent, yet different.

2 pairs dress pants

  • These will work with your sport coat or for even less formal occasions with one of your dress shirts or a sweater are appropriate.

A pair of dress khakis

  • Simple, understand and classic khakis are standard wear that will serve you for years.

Three sport shirts

  • As with everything else, these pieces should tie back into the group, providing value and extending the diversity of your wardrobe.

One dress sweater and one causal sweater/quarter zip

  • These are for layering over shirts.

A nice pair of jeans

  • This pair of jeans could become your favorite, but they’re not for days on the couch or working outside. Restrict them only for a relaxed look and pair with the sport coat when appropriate.

A dress belt

  • This accessory, like the jeans, are for use only when wearing the suit or blazer. A belt will last for years if you don’t wear it out with everyday wear.

Two casual belts, one black and one brown

  • Here are your everyday belts.

Black dress shoes

  • Bulletproof, quality dress shoes are a must to round-out your suit for formal occasions.

Brown business casual shoes

  • These complement your outfit for dress or casual events.

This is a no-nonsense approach to updating your closet and feeling good about the way you look in every imaginable scenario. There is variety, but also consistency that makes many of the pieces interchangeable.

As always Libin’s experts are happy to lend their decades of experience in outfitting men to look their best. Stop in and talk to our team when you’re ready to update your clothing with the indispensable elements of style.

2020 prom tuxedos: Trends, tips and where to go to get it right

teens in tuxedo for prom

The words comfort and performance generally aren’t adjectives used when it comes to describing tuxedos, but that’s changing this spring.

The Michael Kors Legacy Performance Tuxedo has altered the landscape by pairing its unique CoolMax stretch fabric with Sorona to provide maximum flexibility on the dance floor while stopping sweat from slowing you down, said Brenda Pierce.

“The tux is so breathable that it is going to be a big hit,” said Pierce, who manages Libin’s, the Kalamazoo-area shop that specializes in prom tuxedo rentals for Southwest Michigan. “It’s a different feel and a different level of comfort than anyone is used to.”

Pierce and the expert staff at Libin’s have helped high school students find the right outfit for their prom adventures for years. With prom season right around the corner, it’s prime time for juniors and seniors to start thinking about their threads for the big night.

The jacket’s side-vented trim and tapered styling, satin notch lapel and satin double besom pockets complement the traditional look, likely making it the most popular tuxedo for 2020.

Other 2020 rental tuxedo trends include floral patterned bow and long ties as well as passing up the normal leather loafer for the purchase of a slip-on sparkle shoe that shines on its own.

Teens renting their first prom tuxedo or those looking to try something new can take the advice and expertise of Libin’s fitters by getting a complete tuxedo package that starts at $99 through May 16.

Here are other tips from the experts at Libin’s:

Don’t wait

Teens are notorious for procrastinating, but this is one time that students should think ahead to avoid a last-minute scramble. Selection and sizes of tuxedos can vary – and do occasionally sell-out – so it’s best to get fitted and place an order at least a month in advance of the prom date.

The right tuxedo for teens

There are four keys:

  • The appropriate size and fit: No matter how sharp the look, it falls apart if the fit isn’t right. Big and baggy doesn’t work with tuxedos and a slim-fit isn’t for everyone. Take advantage of experts for measurements and their advice on what to wear.
  • Match your partner: The night is too important to chance that your tuxedo and its accessories are a color shade off your prom date’s dress. To get the perfect match, bring the dress or a swatch of the fabric to Libin’s.
  • Stay consistent and true to your style: Prom night should be relaxing and there should not be any anxiety about trying to pull off a different fashion. Your tuxedo should be a style that complements you.
  • When in doubt, a traditional look always wins the night: You simply can’t go wrong with a classic black tuxedo.

Other styles

There are tuxedo trends that give guys the ability to stand out from the crowd and make their mark with a different look. One emerging direction are paisley print jackets from Mark of Distinction tuxedos. Teens who opt for the cobalt blue, apple red or granite designs will standout when pairing the coats with black pants.

Another bold look is from Kenneth Cole, which is offering its burgundy tuxedo jacket for pairing with black tuxedo pants. This comes in an ultra slim fit and has a two-button closure and a front welt pocket if the wearer wants to add a pocket square.

The safe bet

As previously mentioned, the traditional black and white tuxedo goes with anything. Teens are always safe with this choice, and it will match any formalwear dates choose for the prom. Again, it’s about the appropriate fit and Libin’s professional staff can help you get the right style and make sure it is fits properly.


Pairing the look of your tuxedo jacket and pants with the other elements of your prom night comes down to a mix of personal preference, natural design fit and what your date is wearing. This is another spot to use the consultation from a Libin’s expert.

  • Shirts and ties: Wing collars and laydown collars are standard. If you’re wearing a long tie, there’s no decision to make as it is always worn with a lay down collar. A bow tie can accessorize either shirt style, and the decision comes down to your comfort level.
  • Vests: The no-exception rule is to have this selection match your jacket and/or your date’s colors.
  • Shoes: Unless opting for the sparkle shoe, the key is to not break tradition. Shiny black patent leather or tan footwear also works with any black, grey or navy tuxedo. A white tuxedo requires a white shoe.

For more information, read more at Libin’s website, visit at 1028 East Cork Street or call (269) 381-0746.

Ready for spring? Kick start the season during Traverse City Wellness Month

Traverse City Wellness Month - spa

No doubt, winter in Michigan can be a beautiful time of year. But the cold and snow season also can feel so dark and dreary, making us just want to hole up indoors like a bear in hibernation. In the winter we tend to eat more and do less. No wonder it’s the unhealthiest season of the year!

Well, now winter is coming to an end. Finally! And that means it’s time for us to spring into action and get healthy.

Spring brings longer days, giving us more time to be outdoors. More time to enjoy the natural beauty all around us. More time to re-engage the outside world and be social. And guess what? More sunshine. Get ready for a healthy dose of Vitamin D!

Seriously, we should make our New Year’s resolutions in the spring, not in the middle of winter. That’s why many places to stay in Traverse City are teaming up to offer special Wellness Month packages during April. In addition to discounts at participating hotels and resorts, you’ll get a package of coupons for deals on everything from massage and yoga to chiropractic screenings and healthy dinners. Plus, you’ll get a free bag of delicious Lulu Fuel Granola!

How are you going to break out of the winter doldrums and make the most of Michigan’s spring this year? Here are just a few ways you can kick-start the season on a trip to Traverse City during Wellness Month:

Traverse City Wellness Month - yogaNestled in a gorgeous setting high above the bay near the tip of Old Mission Peninsula, Chateau Chantal is one of Traverse City’s most iconic wineries. During Wellness Month, the winery will also be a yoga haven. Come stay at Chateau Chantal’s B&B from April 17-19 for the Weekend Yoga Retreat. You can unwind with private yoga sessions, wonderful wines, delicious dinners and downtown shopping.

If you can’t make it to the yoga retreat that weekend, no problem. When you stay at a participating hotel, your Traverse City Wellness Package includes coupons to Yen Yoga & Fitness that you can use any time during April.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National LakeshoreSpring is a great time to visit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It will feel like your own slice of paradise to immerse yourself in America’s Most Beautiful Place before summer crowds arrive.

You can let the lake breeze wash over you as you walk the beach and come face to face with returning migratory water birds like the cute little piping plover. Maybe you’ll even find a coveted Petoskey stone. In recognition of Wellness Month, admission to the park is free on Saturday, April 18.

When you stay at a participating hotel, your Traverse City Wellness Package includes deals on massage at Living Light, free lotions from Great Lakes Bath & Body and a free stress relief roller ball from Old Mission Lavender. Those are just a few of the luxury spas and salons in Traverse City where you can relax in style.

Traverse City Wellness Month - hot stone massageHave you ever taken a hot mineral bath? Enjoyed a cherry-scented paraffin manicure or a massage with oven-warmed stones? They’re all great ways to get your body and your emotional health in sync for the seasons to come. Another way: Take advantage of Relax and Recharge packages at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa.

Speaking of relaxing and recharging, Grand Traverse Resort & Spa is teaming with Black Star Farms on a VIP Wine & Spa Weekend April 10-11. Perfect for couples or for a girls’ weekend, the event combines resort lodging with a behind-the-scenes wine tasting tour, spa treatment and healthy breakfasts each morning.

Traverse City area WineryIn fact, throughout Wellness Month there are wine and cheese tastings, special happy hours and other wine-themed activities happening all over Traverse City.

Open your mind to the historic wisdom of Tibet when the Loseling Monks perform a one-of-a-kind show on Friday, April 17, at the Dennos Museum Center on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. Through the mystical and sacred arts of ancient music and dance, you’ll broaden your awareness of Tibetan civilization and contribute to world peace by supporting Tibetan refugees in India. Tibetan Loseling Monks perform a one-of-a-kind show

Special events to nurture your mind and spirit are planned throughout Wellness Month.

With most of winter’s snow melting away by April, the chance returns to lace up your running shoes and get outside. What better way to pick up the pace than to take part in northern Michigan’s premier celebration of off-road running?

runners in the Traverse City areaThe Traverse City Trail Running Festival at Timber Ridge on April 24-25 features a two-person adult 10k relay on Friday, with individual 10k, 25k and 50k runs on Saturday. Plus, there’s a free race for kids, too!

Wellness Month isn’t just about your physical, emotional and spiritual health. It’s also about the health of your relationships! Isn’t it time for a girls’ weekend? Or, how about an intimate getaway, just the two of you? Traverse City Wellness Month couple getaway vacation

Grand Traverse Resort & Spa is offering Carefree Getaway and Do Not Disturb deals during Wellness Month. Or, get the girls together and live it up during a wine weekend in Traverse City.

Let’s not forget to treat your body well with delicious, healthy food. When you stay at a participating hotel, your Traverse City Wellness Package includes the option of a $50 dinner for two featuring an appetizer, two entrees and two desserts. Delivery is free to many area hotels. Or, you can head out to any of the dozens of incredible restaurants in Traverse City that serve healthy, locally-sourced food.

We haven’t even mentioned the free guided group meditation, free eco-fin foot treatment or discounted chiropractic screening at Jovia Wellness that comes with your Traverse City Wellness Package, when you stay at a participating hotel. Or the beautiful northern Michigan golf you can play in the spring. Or the guided walking tours of the largest historical renovation project in the Western Hemisphere.

There are so many ways to get your wellness in gear this spring in Traverse City. Start here and customize a visit that will put winter behind you for good and really get things on track for a healthy 2020!

Where snowsports survive until April, and then weather gives way to waterfalls

After eyeballing sparse seasonal snowfall totals across the Lower Peninsula, Kyle Lafrinere steps outside his office and assesses the crowd at Marquette Mountain, where guests are hitting the hills, riding the terrain park rails and heading out for some backcountry skiing.

“We definitely haven’t had that problem here,” Lafrinere said, with a bit of a laugh, referring to the accumulation of snow elsewhere in Michigan. “We’re using all natural snow, better snow than what the machines make. But we’ve upgraded our snowmaking infrastructure, so when we need it, we’ll have it. New snow guns, new pump system, those will keep us going (later than most ski areas).”

Marquette Mountain opened in mid-November and Lafrinere expects that it will remain open until mid-April, making it a prime attraction for ski-deprived snow-seekers across Michigan. Snowfall is down in Michigan except for the Upper Peninsula, and as usual, winter will last longer in Marquette, providing an outlet for fatbikers, snowshoers and snowmobilers who have been stymied by the lack of storms. Marquette in winter

“If you’re looking to get outside, there’s no better place than Marquette in the winter,” Lafrinere said. “We’ve got everything that you want to do in the area. There’s a lot of variety for skiers of all abilities here to enjoy themselves.

“Plus, there are all sorts of options for people who want to do other activities. It’s pretty amazing to have a spot where you can do it all.”

Here’s a rundown of what to experience in Marquette, including a primer on where to grab brunch to fuel your adventures:

Noquemanon Trail Network

skiing in Marquette, MI

The all-purpose 50K trail system with point to point journeys or looped adventures can be used for snowshoeing, hiking and cross-country skiing. The fast trail features flowy terrain, steep descents and large bermed turns at different points on outings. Ski and snowshoe rentals are available at the Forestville Trailhead, which is popular among first time visitors. Users on foot or snowshoe should avoid trails that are groomed for skiing. Dogs are welcome, on-leash, on many of the trail routes.

Winter Hiking

Trails up Sugarloaf Mountain and Blueberry Ridge remain popular in the winter.  Snow-covered views of the Marquette region and its features are breath-taking. The half-mile trail will be slower-going with snow, but the terrain is manageable for people of all fitness and skill levels. The city’s 12-mile multi-use trail is another great option to get those steps in. The Eben Ice Caves, Yellow Dog Falls and Hogsback Mountain are other potential outings.


Marquette is home to more than 60 miles of bike trails that can be used during the winter months, showing that the riding doesn’t have to wait for the warmer months (although the trails are great then, too.) The Noquemanon network is known for its ability to challenge all users while also offering rides for beginners. Meanwhile, the Range Area Mountain Bike Association in Ispheming has 20 miles of groomed winter trails among its 77 total miles of handbuilt singletrack. There are multiple trailheads that can be found here.


The U.P. is a snowmobilers Mecca with 58 trails covering more than 400 miles, all maintained by various clubs and organizations. There are stops for good food and fuel along the way as you travel through dense forests, wide open ranges and experience up to 3,000 feet of elevation change. Find all the resources, including maps, trail conditions and regulations to learn before your travels.


There are 11 amazing waterfall options around Marquette. The changing seasons give waterfalls a unique look whenever visitors travel north to explore, but the late winter and early spring produce water volumes that peak with the snow melt. The mesmerizing views and sound of rushing water will make visitors feel like they’ve stumbled upon one of the most beautiful places on earth. Family and pet friendly options include Wright Street Falls in Marquette and Laughing Whitefish Falls State Park in nearby Alger County. Morgan Creek Falls is another great choice, but the trail is open to snowmobilers until March 31 so hikers may want to wait until April 1.

Visit Travel Marquette to learn more about the region and plan your visit.