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Dewpoint settles in as major tenant in Knapp's Centre

As a leading provider of technology solutions, Dewpoint knows the value of staying connected with clients and employees. And that, company leadership says, is what's behind the IT company's move to the Knapp's Centre  on Lansing's Washington Square.
 
"That and it's simply a beautiful building," says Dewpoint CEO Andy Kotarba. "It's a first-class building that will be a real focal point for Lansing's downtown."
 
Founded in 1996, the Lansing-based Dewpoint has been headquartered on the southside of town since 2003, with offices in Detroit and Indianapolis. While the company collaborates with enterprise clients across numerous industries in the Midwest, New Mexico and California, many customers are close to Lansing's downtown.
 
About 120 of Dewpoint's 150 employees work as "embedded employees" at client sites. Of those off-site workers, close to 80 percent collaborate with businesses, services or government offices near the Capitol. Relocating downtown, Kotarba says, provides a central place—one that's "smack-dab in the middle of our client base"—where employees can drop-in every day.
 
"We want to make sure our team stays connected, and that they understand what's going on in our company," says Kotarba. "Our company's culture is really important to us."
 
Originally, Kotarba says Dewpoint was looking to establish a small spot downtown for off-site staff to meet with clients. But plans quickly changed as leadership saw the renovations underway at the iconic Knapp's Centre.
 
Dewpoint will be the first major tenant for the downtown landmark. The 10,000-square-foot space on the second floor will consist of floor-to-ceiling modular offices, shared work spaces, conference rooms, a large social space and kitchen, and lots of areas for employees to collaborate.
 
About 30 staff moved into Dewpoint's new headquarters the first week of September, with others enjoying the flexible, open environment on a "pop-in" basis. The space, too, will provide ample room for the company's ongoing growth.
 
"We will be increasing our involvement downtown as a new resident there," says Kotarba. "We'll be doing more with the downtown development group and with downtown activities. It will be great to take advantage of being in the heart of Lansing."
 
Source: Andy Kotarba, CEO, Dewpoint
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Flat, Black and Circular adds square footage and inventory

Flat, Black and Circular started out in a space about the size of a small walk-in closet. Today, the 37-year-old East Lansing store at 541 E. Grand River is knocking down walls to make room for its fourth expansion in 20 years.
 
"The way we look at it, the more years that go by the more stuff there is in the world," says Jon Howard, FBC manager and buyer. "It's inevitable that we expanded."
 
The iconic music reseller started as a partnership between Dick Rosemont and Dave Bernath to support their vinyl-buying habit. While audio formats have changed and evolved, the store has remained true to vinyl, making it well-poised for the resurgence of all things 33-and-a-1/3 RPM.
 
"Right now, vinyl is trendy with younger kids who want to build a collection," says Howard. "They've gotten hold of their parent's stereos and see it's good to have something tangible in their hands rather than all digital."
 
Howard estimates that the store currently houses 20,000 pieces of vinyl, a few thousand CDs, hundreds of DVDs, and even a few hundred cassettes. The store acquires most of its inventory through items that people bring in to sell. Other inventory comes through "the hunt" of garage and estate sales, liquidations, and through word-of-mouth.
 
Howard says the current expansion will add 300 square feet to the existing 1,300-square-foot store. Plans are to move in a few rolling shelves, fill them with classical selections, and create a quieter space for the classical aficionado. Part of the new space will also be set aside for displaying miscellaneous musical equipment.
 
"We're browsing friendly, and everything is in alphabetical order," says Howard. "We're also not musical snobs at all. We will all admit that we like some horrible music."
 
FBC staff includes Howard, Bernath and one part-time worker. Rosemont, who moved to Santa Fe New Mexico, serves as a consultant.
 
Source: Jon Howard, Manager and Buyer, Flat, Black and Circular
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

For Crepe Sake opens in Lansing City Market, creates six jobs

A little bit of France just came to Lansing.
 
In early-August, Mark and Deborah Owen cut the ribbon on For Crepe Sake in the Lansing City Market. And while steeped in American tradition, the creperie offers a delectable selection of the French cuisine that is sure to please the palette.
 
Mark says he and Deborah decided to open a creperie to offer downtown diners something aside from subs, pizza and traditional sandwich fare. Mark, too, was determined to offer gluten-free options that taste delicious for people like himself who experience Celiac Disease or are gluten-intolerant.
 
"Crepes are very sophisticated and different," say Mark. "We have dessert crepes that are sweet with things like cream cheese and strawberries. And we have savory crepes, too, with meats and cheeses and eggs."
 
Mark says he gave all his crepes French names like "The Louvre," "The Hunchback of Notre Dam," or "Pomme." Visitors can also select the "Laissez-Faire" and build their own crepe from available items. Beverage-wise, diners can pair crepes with a hot beverage like brewed Zingerman's coffee; a latte, espresso or tea; or go for a cool soft drink, gourmet soda or juice.
 
"You can have your lunch and dessert at the same time, depending on what you get," says Mark. "A crepe is a really thin pancake, with the ingredients folded inside. It's kind-of like pancake meets enchilada."
 
Mark says he and Deborah did a year of R&D before opening their restaurant, including visiting other creperies, checking out recipes and menus, and investing in a professional crepe maker. The 450-square-foot space in the Lansing City Market offers the Owens a chance to "start small" and build a following. For Crepe Sake employs four people, in addition to Mark and Deborah.
 
Source: Mark Owen, Owner, For Crepe Sake
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Marco's Pizza brings 24 jobs and authentic Italian cuisine to Okemos

As a high schooler, Donna Sturgis dreamed of running her own business. But it wasn't until after she had built a career and gone through the economic downturn that she struck out on her own.
 
In September, Sturgis will open her second local franchise for Marco's Pizza at 1871 W. Grand River Ave. in Okemos. Running a restaurant, she admits, is a departure from having worked her entire career as a mechanical engineer. But then she laughs and says she enjoys doing something that's just a "little different."
 
"When the automotive business went south, I knew it was time," says Sturgis. "I decided to open a franchise to fulfill my dream of being an entrepreneur."
 
Sturgis opened her first Marco's Pizza at Abbot and Lake Lansing in East Lansing in 2008. Over time, she grew her clientele and hired a staff of 19 people.
 
Sturgis hopes for the same success with her next Marco's Pizza in the Dusty's Cellar retail plaza. She gutted a space in the strip mall to bring it up to the franchise standards, including interior features like slate, tile floors, faux granite tables, and a counter made of cherry wood.
 
"It has an upscale look but you're only paying $20 or so for your pizza," says Sturgis. "You get an authentic Italian look when you come in."
 
That authenticity extends to the menu. Founder Paul Giamaro, Sturgis says, was born and raised in Italy, and brought his culinary talents and family recipe to the franchise.
 
"It's the same traditional dough and sauce recipe that we follow today," says Sturgis. "We make fresh dough and sauce in the store every day; it doesn't come from a freezer or factory. And we get all our vegetables locally from Michigan farmers."
 
Marco's menu features classic and specialty pizzas, fresh-baked subs, salads, and extras such as chicken wings, cheesy bread and cinnamon pastry.
 
Sturgis' new 2,000-square-foot store will employ 24 and seat 32 people. She is planning a grand opening for September 8 beginning at 9:30 a.m., complete with food sampling and kids' activities.
 
Source: Donna Sturgis, Owner, Marco's Pizza
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Painting entrepreneur automates paperwork for general contracting

Michael Henry learned how to scrape by, cut-in and get maximum coverage while in college. Today he's making a business of it.
 
Last May, Henry launched a full-service interior and exterior painting service with four staff—about a year after earning his degree in psychology from Michigan State University. He projects he will have completed about 50 jobs through MDH Painting by the end of the year, and estimates he will more than double his business in 2015.
 
"For the most part, I never saw myself having a 9 to 5 job," says Henry. "I knew the way I felt and operated before then."
 
Henry also owns and operates a second related business from the Lansing NEO Center. CorkCRM provides software expressly designed for construction contracting. Released by Henry and a team of computer scientists in November 2013, CorkCRM streamlines processes like estimating and preparing proposals, scheduling appointments, prospecting and tracking leads, generating contracts, processing time cards and expenses, and other traditional paperwork.
 
Henry's goal, he says, is to make it easier for contractors to do their work by leveraging technology for administrative functions. His company services about 10 contracting companies across the U.S., including Michigan, Florida, Arizona, California and Oregon. He also uses CorkCRM software when he estimates and coordinates jobs for MDH Painting.
 
"When I was working as a college painter, what I saw lacking was an all-in-one software system to run the business," says Henry who supervised crews for East Lansing's College Pro Painters. "We were doing a lot of things on paper and written documents, and it didn't enable the use of technology very well."
 
Henry says he hopes to eventually move from the NEO Center and into a larger office that can accommodate his growing staff. In addition to his four painters who work offsite through MDH Painting, Henry plans to hire an assistant for CorkCRM in the coming year.
 
Source: Michael Henry, Owner, MDH Painting and CorkCRM
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Piper & Gold expands and moves to Old Town

Moving to Lansing's Old Town was never out-of-the-question for Kate Snyder and her evolving public relations company, Piper & Gold.
 
"Coming out of a business incubator, you have that sense of community and that sense of support that surrounds you," says Snyder, principal strategist. "To me, that was important to have in a stand-alone office space. I knew I could get that in Old Town."
 
In mid-July, Snyder moved operations from the NEO Center on Clark Street to a space that used to be the city's "comfort station" near the railroad tracks. Historic and newly renovated, the two narrow rooms on the first floor of 313 ½ E. Grand River are just the right size, she says, for her small, outwardly-focused team.
 
"The move was a big step for us," says Snyder. "It gives us the infrastructure to continue to serve our clients and to enhance the way we do that. I'm very much about sustainable and controlled growth."
 
Snyder started the business in 2012 with the goal of providing traditional public relations with a digital twist. With an emphasis on non-partisan government organizations, nonprofits, associations and small business, Piper & Gold assists clients with communication strategy and planning, media relations, social media and serves as an extension of the clients' teams.
 
"I consider myself an accidental entrepreneur," says Snyder who did some consulting while working a traditional full-time gig. "It continued to grow, and I really enjoyed it. I decided to take the plunge, and am trying to create an environment that I've always wanted to work in."
 
Piper & Gold recently added a new team member, bringing the staff of the boutique PR firm to three full-time and two part-time employees.
 
Source: Kate Snyder, Principal Strategist, Piper & Gold
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

MLBA returns to downtown roots with new office

Scott Ellis is taking his association back nearly 70 years. But that's OK. It's where, he says, they belong.
 
Partly to celebrate their 75th anniversary, and partly to pick up efficiencies, the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association moved to a new downtown Lansing location in early July. The association moved from its former office on N. Fairview Avenue to an 8th floor suite at 101 S. Washington Square, providing what Executive Director Scott Ellis says is a room with a view.
 
"We have a wonderful view of the Capitol now," says Ellis. "And we have a nice facility for fundraising and hosting meetings."
 
Although smaller than the previous location, Ellis says the new 3,200 square-foot office is just the right size for his seven-member staff.
 
"The other space was just way too big," he admits. "And being down here with all the energy of downtown and having a beautiful view has really motivated everyone."
 
Ellis says that the MLBA was founded in 1939 and started out with a desk at the Michigan Beverage News Office in the Fox Theater Building in Detroit. In 1946, the MLBA moved to 111½ downtown Lansing, into an inauspicious space above the once Jean's Bar. After a series of moves around town, the association landed on N. Fairview Street in 1994, where Ellis says they stayed until realizing their destiny was in the city center.
 
"This is where we should be," says Ellis. "We needed to get back to our roots, be close to the legislature, and be close to where the action is to be a strong presence for the state of Michigan."
 
Ellis added that proximity to other associations that deal in hospitality and small business is also a plus. He says the MLBA hopes to have an open house sometime in September to connect with constituents.
 
"It's nice to be among all the places and people we work with on a regular basis," he says. "My staff loves being down here, too, and not having to drive everyplace. It's exciting to see the continued growth of downtown Lansing."
 
Source: Scott Ellis, Executive Director, Michigan Licensed Beverage Association
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Bloom Coffee Roasters stokes Lansing's caffeine craving from REO Town warehouse

Jared Field is building a business based on nostalgia as well as the future.
 
In the early summer, Field and his business partner Cameron Russell spilled the beans about Bloom Coffee Roasters and moved into a 2,000-square foot storage space in Lansing's REO Town. Along with an entrepreneurial spirit, they brought a small batch coffee roaster, some basic office equipment, and pounds of beans ready to roast into Lansing's newest line of craft coffees.
 
Field says his desire to introduce residents to the best coffee dates back to the love of the brew he acquired growing up in Michigan.
 
"For me, the coffee nostalgia goes back to when I was a kid and I'd spend time at my grandparents' cottage up north," he says. "It's that waking up to the smell of a freshly cooked breakfast and an overwhelming coffee aroma on a beautiful morning. It got me hooked."
 
Field didn't always set out to roast beans or to start his own business. As a new journalism graduate from Western Michigan University, Field took a job with a Kalamazoo coffee roaster. And while journalism jobs were sparse, the love for specialty coffee wasn't.
 
"I started roasting and fell in love with it," says Field who began roasting three years ago. "I told people I got the coffee buzz."
 
Field brought his knowledge of coffee to mid-Michigan after his father acquainted him with the start-up culture and coffee enthusiasm in Lansing.
 
After devising a strategy with the Michigan Small Business Development Center, Field partnered with Russell to build a small batch coffee retailer and wholesaler. The two roast about 20 pounds of beans a day and get their five varieties of coffee through the Minnesota based Café Imports.
 
Coffees are available online for purchase and delivery, and brewed cups can be found at Spotted Dog Café and the Waterfront Restaurant in the Lansing City Market.  Field says he is working to line up additional venues, and plans to add up to five staff as business grows. He also wants to set up community-based programs to benefit particular non-profits. 
 
"We strongly believe in Lansing and intend to be active in the community," says Field. "If we focus on roasting quality coffee and succeed, our business and the community around us will thrive."
 
Source: Jared Field, Owner, Bloom Coffee Roasters
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Michigan Creative brings designs to The Runway

Ever since he first heard of Lansing becoming the home of a premier fashion incubator, Brian Town has had designs on stitching together a clothing line. And as the founder and CEO of Michigan Creative, Town is well acquainted with start-ups and the entrepreneurial culture of Lansing.
 
"It's been a while in the making," says Town of fashion line he's launching through his marketing company. "We'd been thinking how cool it would be to have a shirt or a piece of clothing that was made right here in Lansing that you could wear anywhere."
 
Beginning in August, Town's Freshwater Apparel will be part of the inaugural class of The Runway—Lansing's fashion incubator, retail and production space in the renovated Knapp's Centre. Town will run business operations and some retail through a 200-or-so square foot office, while design, production and manufacturing of Freshwater Apparel will take place off-site through Lansing's Fashion Proto.
 
Town says Freshwater Apparel will offer high-end T-shirts and other casual clothing items and will float two shirts for starters.  The shirts, Town says, will be comfortable, stylish, and made with cotton and bamboo. The idea, he says, is to create T-shirts that are suitable for wear about town or on a casual workday.
 
"It's a fancy T-shirt, and not your typical 'I love such-and-such' kind of thing," says Town. "We'll work with Fashion Proto to make a couple 100 for starters."
 
Town says he plans to add other clothing items to Freshwater Apparel once they are up and running. Customers will be able to purchase shirts through the Knapp's Centre location or on-line. Town's hopes are that Freshwater Apparel will grow and become a stand-alone company with up to 10 employees.
 
"My first thought always comes to jobs," says Town, an avid supporter of the buy and make local movement. "Lansing has been known for manufacturing for years. So whether it's fashion or something else, the more we can make it here, there's no reason why we shouldn't."
 
Source: Brian Town, Owner, Freshwater Apparel
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

WDA creates modern workspaces with homey flair in new East Lansing facility

Efficiency and comfort are at the top of the list for long-time entrepreneur Konny Zsigo. And you'll see that when Zsigo moves his staff and base of operations this fall to a new headquarters in north East Lasing.
 
In early September, Zsigo will open the doors to the new headquarters of WDA at 4050 Hunsaker Drive. The interior of the nearly 12,400 square foot building owned by CRBE was custom designed for the mobile marketing company and as Zsigo says, will be like a second home to his 53 employees.
 
The company's new headquarters will be roughly 3,000 square feet larger than the current location on Northwind Drive. While the company was well served by the previous space, WDA's steady growth led Zsigo to seek larger, friendly spaces to call home.
 
"A big part of this move is to create a comfortable place for our employees," says the WDA president who hopes to add 15 to 20 more staff in 2015. "We've installed a much larger kitchen where we serve free lunch to all employees. We'll also have a coffee room with coffee and chocolate."
 
The Hunsaker Drive facility makes innovative use of space through custom-made environments that encourage communication among all employees. Zsigo says cubicles are non-existent and adds that no workspace or work surface is commercially made.
 
"Every desk is made to fit," says Zsigo. "A local vendor made the cabinetry, and we had designers create rooms, workspaces and traditional offices. There's a workspace for every personality type."
 
Zsigo founded WDA in 2001 and focuses on products that help brands reach their objectives in mobile media. He says the company has grown over the years by responding to the evolving needs of marketers in a high-tech environment.
 
"When I walk through this building and no one is around, it's overwhelming," says Zsigo. "The place is huge, with giant conference rooms and meeting spaces. It makes me feel proud to say I've been able to do this and to provide for some 50 or more employees. It feels really good as an owner of a small business."
 
Source: Konny Zsigo, President, WDA
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

DeWitt CrossFit gym rebrands, grows in popularity

While they recently rebranded their year-old gym, Brad and Bailey Hillard have remained true to their commitment to build community through functional, athletic training.
 
In mid-July, the Hillards opened the doors to Lake State CrossFit—a new, expanded version of CrossFit Malleus. The new gym, they say, provides space to "stretch out," as well as a memorable, easy-to-remember name for those interested in tackling the CrossFit phenomenon.
 
Located just a few doors down from their original facility in Clark Corners, Lake State CrossFit will continue to offer a certified training curriculum that provides an all-inclusive workout and fitness program for customers of any fitness level.
 
"My wife and I have always been athletes," says Brad who wrestled and played football throughout high school, and went on to coach. "It's in our nature. Once we started training in CrossFit, we believed in the concept and wanted to share it with others."
 
CrossFit, Brad explains, is an all-around, varied strength and conditioning program that pushes participants to perform at their highest possible level. Developed in the late 1990s, CrossFit workouts include interval training, weightlifting, gymnastics, calisthenics, plyometrics, running and other exercises.
 
"You're not a specialist in anything," says Brad. "Your goal is to be an all-around good athlete."
 
The Hillards say they build community at their 6,100-square foot gym through instructor-led training and social events related to gym activities. Since originally opening in June 2013, the gym has grown from just a handful of members to more than 80 strong.
 
"We're excited to see what the future brings," says Brad. "We're going to bring a kids program here eventually, as well as specialty courses. We want to offer a boot camp, too, that provides an on-ramp to people who might be feeling a little intimidated."
 
The Hillards invite anyone to give the intro course a try and to join the no-contract gym at 1161 E. Clark Lake Road, Suite 260. Lake State CrossFit employs two staff in addition to Brad and Bailey, with plans to add more as the gym grows in popularity.
 
Source: Brad Hillard, Owner, Lake State CrossFit
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Jersey Giant expands to downtown Lansing, hires six employees

When he was six or seven, Luke Slocum loved going into his dad's sub shop and watching sandwich makers layer slices of premium meats and cheese on fresh breads and top with crisp vegetables, oil and vinegar and condiments.
 
"I also remember wanting to go in and help wash dishes," says the 24-year-old Slocum of growing up in the family-owned Jersey Giant restaurant business. "I didn't eat as many sandwiches as people always think I might have, though."
 
In mid-July, Slocum took 10 years of experience working in family restaurants and opened one of his own in downtown Lansing. The new Jersey Giant at 220 S. Washington Square is the eighth location in the growing array of family-owned and operated stores in Lansing, Lansing Township, Williamston, Grand Ledge, Portage and the Detroit suburb of Woodhaven.
 
Slocum set up shop in the vacated Cup of Dessert that closed in May. The 1,800-square foot space, Slocum said, was the perfect location and fulfilled his dream for opening his first restaurant in downtown Lansing.
 
"I just love downtown," says Slocum who says Jersey Giant has had their eye on a downtown Lansing location for about four years. "I love that the area is on the way up and doesn't look like it's stopping anytime soon."
 
Slocum repainted, redecorated and brought in a three-door refrigerator. Aside from that, he says he got pretty lucky with a space that provides an ideal ambience and set-up for a sandwich shop.
 
The downtown sub shop will offer the standard 16 selections featured at other locations, including the signature Jersey Giant, Beasty and Jersey Devil. Customers can enjoy a touch of the Jersey shore through the menu and selections his father Britt originally built after moving to the area in 1979.
 
Slocum says he might add one or two warm subs to the menu come winter but hasn't decided yet. He has hired a staff of six and plans to be open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. He says he'll also be open extended hours from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday to catch the bar crowd.
 
"Being downtown at night, you tend to get a little hungry after the bar," Slocum says. "I'm young enough to uphold these hours and old enough at heart not to be out."
 
Source: Luke Slocum, Owner, Jersey Giants Sub
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Little Green Branches grows eco-conscious product lines for new families

As a mother of four children under 9, Missie Baldwin appreciates the ease and convenience of disposable diapers. At the same time, she hates the idea of trading green space for landfills every time she changes a diaper.
 
Baldwin switched to cloth diapers when her third child was born. Her friend, Stephanie White, owned Z-Bear—a store that specialized in eco-conscious baby products, including 21st century cloth diapers.
 
"Cloth diapers are a lot simpler than they seem," says Baldwin. "They're just as easy to use as disposables, and the only thing that it will add to your routine is one extra load of laundry a day."
 
Baldwin became such an expert that she bought Z-Bear from her friend and launched her career in retail. In June, she re-opened the 900-square foot boutique at 4976 Northwind Drive under the name Little Green Branches. She expanded the scope of the store to carry eco-conscious products for infants through pre-schoolers, and added a special section for moms.
 
"I'm looking to take the store to the next level," says Baldwin who recently hired three part-time people. "We'll even be providing a registry for new and expectant moms."
 
Little Green Braches sells cloth diapers and offers a cloth diaper rental program for newborns. Packages include fitted diapers and covers, a pail liner, and a special deep cleaning detergent. Customers rent and use diapers for a limited time and return them. Diapers are then washed and hygienically cleaned for use by the next family.
 
"Cloth diapers are extremely economical," says Baldwin. "It may seem like an upfront investment, but if you add up the cost of disposables, it will run you almost $3,000. You can get enough cloth diapers for about $200."
 
Aside from diapering systems, Baldwin carries baby wearing and breast feeding products, non-toxic toys, up cycled furniture, and a line of natural teas, herbs and soaps—some even made by Baldwin from products grown on her small organic farm. 
 
"I plan on having a dad department, too," says Baldwin. "I'm working on the products to put in there. It's coming soon."
 
Source: Missie Baldwin, Owner, Little Green Branches
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Outdoor events flourish at East Lansing downtown plaza

Reconstruction of public area that replaced parking with outdoor seating, an enclosed fire pit, and a protected stage has encouraged both patronage and performance in downtown East Lansing.
 
Since 2010, the new Ann Street Plaza has provided outdoor space for residents and visitors to enjoy a meal, browse merchants, and to enjoy weekend concerts, festivals and most recently, the inaugural season of the city's Open Mic at the Plaza.
 
"Open Mic has been in the back of our minds for a while," says Ami Van Antwerp, communications coordinator for the City of East Lansing. "We've held off until we have just the right space. Now that we have that, it's a great opportunity for people to participate and for people to watch, too."
 
Van Antwerp says East Lansing's Open Mic night is the only outdoor event of its type in Greater Lansing. Local singer-songwriter Jen Sygit hosts the once-a-week event that kicked off July 16 and runs Wednesday evenings through August 27.
 
The event, Van Antwerp explains, offers the opportunity for anyone interested in making music to perform two to three songs before a live audience. Signup begins at 6:30 p.m. with basic sound equipment provided.
 
The Ann Street Plaza was previously a combination plaza and parking lot. When construction began in 2010 on The Residences and St. Anne Lofts projects, city leaders worked with developers and contractors to make a more useful public plaza.
 
"This is the heart of our downtown where our clock tower is," says Lori Mullins, East Lansing community and economic development administrator. "It's a place where people can meet up and be together. It helps create a sense of place and defines character."
 
The plaza can accommodate about 250 people for an outdoor event—complete with bring-your-own chair, blanket or plaza wall seating. The 16,000-square foot plaza serves as a gateway for visitors to drop in to adjacent merchants before or after enjoying a meal, outdoor ambiance or a performance.
 
"We like to think that people have a new thing to do during the week and on weekends now," says Van Antwerp. "It's just another reason to come downtown in the summer."
 
Source: Ami Van Antwerp, Communications Coordinator, City of East Lansing
Lori Mullins, Community and Economic Development Administrator City of East Lansing

Sleepwalker one step closer to opening taproom in Allen Market Place

Approvals: Check. Painting: Check. Equipment: Check.
 
And by late summer or early fall, thirsty customers can check out a variety of brews at the Allen Market Place through a temporary "to-go" taproom of Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale.
 
"Our intent is to emulate 'pop-up' bars and restaurants that have appeared in large cities across the U.S.," says CEO Matt Jason of the work-in-progress. "These typically open for several months at a time, often to bring attention to a larger, already established business or to promote a future bar or restaurant."
 
In Sleepwalker's case, the 200-square foot taproom at 1629 E. Kalamazoo St. will preview plans for a full-sized brewery and distillery that Jason and his business partner Jeremy Sprague hope to open in the coming year.
 
Jason believes Sleepwalker's taproom will be the first of its kind in Michigan. He says while not technically part of the Allen Street Farmer's market, the market place location will attract customers for take-out craft beers in growlers, howlers and kegs. Customers will also be able to pair their beer and market finds with savory selections from Red's Smokehouse—a local barbecue establishment that shares kitchen space with Sleepwalker's.
 
"It will be good synergy with beer and barbecue to go," says Jason. "And like things at the market, our brews will include local ingredients and reflect seasonal changes."
 
While the exact timeline is pending federal approval, Jason says once open, the taproom will brew and distribute limited quantities of European and American-inspired craft beers. Plans for open hours include farmer's market Wednesdays, Friday afternoons, and to-be-determined weekend times.
 
"We've gone through all the hoops and are just waiting to hear back," says Jason who has received local and state approvals for the establishment. "The situation at the market is really unique. We're excited."
 
Since December 2013, Jason and Sprague have focused on fundraising and development for the community-owned business. The two have sought out and attracted 30 individual investors, and are more than halfway toward their $150,000 Kickstarter goal. Eventually, Jason and Sprague would like to build out a 3,000-square foot brick-and-mortar space on the East side or within Lansing's urban core.
 
"This is a great opportunity and fit for us," says Jason of the Allen Market Place location. "We'll be needing more time to finish our capitalization, so in the meantime, this spot gives us some more exposure and chance to grow."
 
Source: Matt Jason, CEO, Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor
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