Modern Day Floral & Events Opening Celebration


The Sparkly Stellafly had a fabulous assignment Thursday night—to check out the opening celebration at the Modern Day Floral & Events Boutique at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids.

Not only was the evening a chance for friends and family to toast the opening of this beautiful place, it was a testament to what can happen when you have a goal and work tirelessly to make it happen. Modern Day Floral’s owner, Jenn Ederer, had a dream of having a design space in this historic hotel, and Thursday night was her time to shine.

The Modern Day Floral & Events Boutique is located on the concourse of the historic Amway Grand Plaza. The first thing you notice is the century-old chandelier with the custom drum-shade that hangs near the entry. This is the centerpiece to a space that is filled with beautiful linens, florals, custom invitation samples, and plenty of rental items including china and specialty seating—everything one could want when planning an special celebration.

As guests sipped Veuve Clicquot Champagne and enjoyed plenty of sugary treats from the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel’s pastry chefs, they raved about how spectacular the boutique looked. It seemed to sparkle from every angle, and it was clear that many hours of hard work and love went into getting the boutique ready to open. No detail had been forgotten, including a lovely sitting area that featured a large flat-screen TV to showcase photos and videos of Modern Day’s work, and plenty of fabric samples and idea books to peruse while planning an event.

While the majority of her clients are brides, Jenn sees this new location as a way to showcase their work with everything from birthday parties to mitzvahs to baby showers. Throughout the boutique there are several vignettes that display gorgeous china, invitation, and linen combinations. Seeing these displays might just be what one needs to take a spark of an idea and turn it into a spectacularly designed event.

And of course there is the cooler full of beautiful arrangements, ready for purchase and perfect to put in your home or give as a gift. Each of these designs is unique and is created by the Modern Day Floral team of designers. And of course you can always order a custom arrangement to give to someone on their birthday, anniversary, or just because it’s Tuesday. Everyone loves flowers, and a Modern Day Floral bouquet is extra special!

Check out Modern Day Floral & Events on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and visit their website. And when you are downtown, stop by the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, take a look at their new boutique, and check out the flowers in the lobby and throughout the first and second floors of the hotel. Modern Day is the official florist in the Amway Grand Plaza.

LUV Manicures & Pedicures — Grand Opening


Today was the Grand Opening for the newest nail salon in Grand Rapids, LUV Manicures & Pedicures. This Sparkly Stellafly never turns down an opportunity for some pampering, so I decided to check it out and bring my friend Adrienne along for the ride. Hey – a pedicure AND a manicure in a five-star salon for only $30? That just sweetened the deal.

I arrived for my appointment just a couple of minutes late and was greeted at the door by some very eager and happy LUV employees. The sign-in process is all done on a computer and it took about 2 minutes and before I knew it I was sitting on their very comfy waiting area furniture with a glass of lime-infused water in my hand. I resisted the yummy cupcakes and cake-pops from The Cakabakery, but they were a hit with everyone around me.

As I looked around the salon one of the first things I noticed was a wall of “cubbies” which I later found out are called the “LUVicles.” I was told that for $22 (a one-time charge) you can buy a “LUVicle” which holds all of the salon tools and they are for you and only you so that each time you come in, the same tools are being used. This seemed like a very good idea for those who are regular clients.

After just a few minutes Adrienne and I were greeted by our nail techs and taken back into the pedicure area. There were 16 pedicure chairs, each with plenty of massage features and each cluster had its own flat screen TV.

Let the pampering begin.

My tech, Lorie, did an excellent job with both my manicure and pedicure and I appreciated her filling me in a little bit about the team at LUV. They all just spent time in the last two weeks training together in the Detroit-area stores. Some of the Detroit employees were on-hand for the opening and even though it was a new store, there was a great chemistry amongst the staff.

While my feet were soaking in the footbath, I had an opportunity to speak with Kelly Stecco, Vice President of Operations for LUV, and the one who has been overseeing the launch of LUV in West Michigan. She also opened LUV’s sister company, Lady Jane Haircuts for Men, right next door to LUV. Lady Jane Haircuts opened in May and offers a “man cave” environment for haircuts—everything from flat screen TVs to an air hockey table.

LUV offers many packages that can be found on their website at The Grand Rapids location is at the SE Corner of 28th and the East Beltline and their phone number is 616.940.8011. It’s so important that we all take a little time for ourselves, and this is the perfect place to do just that.

When my pedicure and manicure were over, although I was sad to see it come to an end, I walked out feeling very relaxed and already thinking about when I might go back for my next one … perhaps there is a LUVicle in my future…

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“Toast the Sunset” Celebrating the Solstice on the Beach in Muskegon


On the longest day of the 2012, those who Love Muskegon watched the Summer Solstice sun descend at Pere Marquette Beach.

Linda Medema and Katie Trzaska have dedicated their careers to the love of Muskegon. Linda Medema serves on the team that manages the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts, a vast complex that can host three concerts in a single night, the largest event in the restored Michigan Theater, built in 1929, with seating for 1700 people. In November 2010, the City of Whitehall tapped Trazska to manage the 400 seat Howmet Theater in north Muskegon County, a position that came open when the Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association asked Cindy Beth Davis-Dykema to keep watch over the lighthouses managed by the association. Davis-Dykema has exceeded expectations, adding the White River Lightstation to the association while assisting Trzaska in growing youth theater programs at the Howmet.

All of these lakeshore treasures are never far from the mind of the Community Foundation of Muskegon County, who has diligently searched for programs to share the resources of Muskegon with all residents of the county and the thousands of visitors who arrive each year. The foundation found Peter Kageyama, a consultant who sparked the Love of Cities movement with his book, For the Love of Cities, and in December 2011, Kageyama’s message inspired thirteen local professionals to dare the cold waters in swimsuits, bearing high letters spelling out their passion: “LOVE MUSKEGON”.

The foundation brought back Peter Kageyama for a second engagement, early in the warmer month of June 2012, and added the team of Peter and Michelle Royal. The Royals have become in demand around the TEDx circuit for their ability to facilitate audiences and record ideas in a living work of art called a graphic recording. The graphic recording from the Love Muskegon sessions has found a place in the plate glass windows of the Frauenthal lobby, close to the statue of Buster Keaton, a summer resident from the years of the Actors Colony, 1908 to 1938, in the dunes of Bluffton. Teams in the audience were challenged to create rituals for Muskegon, and Medema and Trzaska asked their team to hold a “Toast the Sunset” event at 9:28 PM on Wednesday, June 20th, 2012, and the team rallied behind the idea. So as evening came to Pere Marquette Beach, visitors found Trzaska waving a sign in welcome and Medema explaining the idea to over 120 guests, assisted by a bullhorn.

A few groups brought fancy cheeses and crackers to enjoy before the sparkling, alcohol free Catawba toast. One group sprinted for wind chopped Lake Michigan to dive in before the sunset. Bluffton resident Kara Olson, a management consultant once based in Los Angeles, taught her sister’s children the fine points of beach volleyball, the two children recent arrivals from Texas. The Love of Muskegon has existed for decades, with Native Americans of an Ottawa village greeting European setters in 1837. Joe and Jane Catey have celebrated their love for decades of Pere Marquette Beach sundowns. Wednesday night, the couple observed their 53rd Wedding Anniversary on the concrete porch of the bath house, facing sundown and sharing cake and cheeses, using a walker as an impromptu picnic table. The couple have loved Muskegon by raising their children in a home on the beach and leading local organizations, such as the local educational team called Darling Cetaceans.

Tom Whitehead and his wife Donna have sailed Lake Michigan from the channel of Lake Muskegon for years. Whitehead explained that clouds make the Muskegon sunset spectacular. He enjoyed his experience watching the sunset celebration in Mallory Square during his visits to Key West, but the cloudless skies failed to diffract sunlight into purples, blushes and mauves. As a man of the sea, Whitehead quickly pointed out the position of the sun above the twin piers of Muskegon harbor, and explained how the sunset travels towards Holland after the Summer Solstice, a journey of 66 degrees from West-Northwest to West-Southwest. The couple knows how to keep a community on course, and the two have participated as community foundation ambassadors, a donor leadership group of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County.

A bank of clouds along the north horizon caused a last minute adjustment when the blazing sun set behind them minutes before the official time of 9:28 PM. Thus, Medema and Trzaska accepted an idea from the audience. Toast the sun’s disappearance and toast again when the official time arrived. The people drank to that idea twice. The twilight lasted for more than twenty minutes, and since everyone had at least a cellphone camera, hundreds of pictures of friends and family standing close together rose up to the stars and out onto the Internet. As soon as the sun had officially set, the Freighter Manitowoc set forth from the channel for Holland and Chicago, a fact confirmed by Lieutenant Mark Taylor of the Muskegon Fire Department, the Muskegon correspondent for BoatNerd.Com, an online periodical based at Port Huron, Michigan’s Great Lakes Maritime Center. A first responder trained as a rescue diver, Taylor shows his love for Muskegon by keeping a unblinking eye on Lake Muskegon and the big lake.

Dogs are cherished in Muskegon; however, our best friends were asked to bring their human friends to a Canine Solstice on the Dog Beach south of Pere Marquette, a second park called Kruse Park. Canines have welcome to play, swim and cruse the strand of beach below a length of dunes that hosts a complex system of dune walk trails. The dog beach extends from north Kruse Park to the Beach Street curve. Chris Willis organized the Canine Solstice, a woman who moved her family to Muskegon from a blueberry farm in Nunica to enjoy the dog beach.

When she learned that the city was considering the closure of the dog beach, Willis organized the Friends of the Muskegon Dog Beach to avert the crisis. Willis operates a human performance firm, Media One, in Grand Haven, providing human resource consulting to Amway and Hewlett Packard. Attracted by event, Photographer Joe Gee brought his camera and his dog Happy and captured the fun as Happy led him around. Gee specializes in lakeside photography for canines and their humans; also, he has documented the eagles of Mona Lake and the flooded Celery Flats. Willis’ passion for making the dog beach a home for all four-legged friends has paid off for Muskegon. Painter Topher Crowder, an adjunct professor at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, purchased a beach front home for his family and their dogs. Crowder has taken up painting Alfresco on the dog beach, a series of paintings he plans to exhibit in handmade frames.

“Freedom” A Benefit for Our Wounded Heroes Presented by Fashion Has Heart


The Peter Martin Wege Theatre at the Grand Rapids Ballet Company was the perfect setting for an intimate performance by the Grand Rapids Ballet Company, Grand Rapids Symphony, Royal Danish Ballet, and Genesis Percussion on Thursday evening.It was all to benefit those who have risked their lives to protect our freedom, as part of the Fashion Has Heart initiative.

Brian Lennon, attorney with Warner Norcross & Judd LLP and a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, served as Master of Ceremonies for the evening. He welcomed everyone to the theatre, gave a preview of the evening, and introduced Jane DeYoung, who sang the National Anthem. Hearing our country’s anthem brought into focus the reason we were all there last night—to pay tribute to those who risk their lives every single day to ensure that we have the freedom to do things like come together and watch these performers.

Three members of the Grand Rapids Symphony performed first, including two on French Horns and one pianist. They were followed up by two performances from the Grand Rapids Ballet Company (GRBC), who just finished their 40th season. Yuka Oba and Giovanni Yoshida are two talented dancers originally from Japan and who just finished their first season as part of the GR Ballet Company. Their Esmeralda Pas de Deux was beautiful and full of energy and grace. They were followed by Rachael Riley and Nick Schultz who performed the Balcony Pas de Deux from the GR Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet.

Next came two members of the Royal Danish Ballet who are originally from Michigan. Holly Dorger and Bryant Steenstra brought the Black Swan Pas de Deux to the stage, this performance originating from the classic ballet Swan Lake. They are both currently touring with the Royal Danish Ballet in the United States. To finish off the performances, Genesis Percussion took the stage and gave a very powerful performance. This drumline is comprised of students from throughout the state of Michigan.

This collaboration between arts organizations in Grand Rapids (and Denmark) was wonderful, but the real stars of the evening were the individuals representing Fashion Has Heart. Mike Hyacinthe, who started this initiative last year, talked to the audience about how this organization began. Initially they were selling clothing to raise proceeds for wounded veterans. It was not until he met Corporal Josh Hoffman. Corporal Hoffman was left a quadrapalegic from his injuries sustained while in Iraq. He saw the t-shirts that Hyacinthe was selling and wanted to know if there was a way for him to get involved. This sparked an idea that resulted in several t-shirts being designed around Corporal Hoffman’s story, and were sold throughout the United States.

Fashion Has Heart has grown and this week five members of the military—one from each branch—arrived in Grand Rapids and are working with designers from Bates to create five boot designs. The Heroes included Air Force Tech Sergeant Israel Del Toro; Army Specialist Danielle Byrd; Coast Guard Electrician’s Mate Third Class Michael Bell; Marine Corporal Josh Hoffman; and Navy HN Darrell Butler. Corporal Hoffman was unable to attend the event Thursday night but it was very evident that he was there in spirit.

Michael Hyacinthe said his goal is to double the number of Heroes next year and continue to grow the program each year after that. If you would like to follow this journey, check out the Fashion Has Heart Blog at Consider making a gift to help their cause, too, as a way to thank them for the sacrifices they have made for our freedom.

The June B. Hamersma Society’s 4th Annual Planned Giving Luncheon


Hospice of Michigan (HOM) made an exciting announcement at a press conference held on on Tuesday at Fifth Third Ballpark with the help of Mitch Albom, acclaimed sports columnist, radio host, author, screenwriter, and playwright. Albom’s play Ernie will be in Grand Rapids for a special two-week run in September as a fundraiser for this amazing organization, which is the original and largest hospice in Michigan. HOM cares for more than 1,000 patients per day in 56 counties, offering programs to make the end-of-life a dignified process for patients and their loved ones; educational programs for physicians and healthcare professionals; cultural diversity programs for end-of-life care; and research and education programs.

Following the press conference the organization hosted its 4th Annual June B. Hamersma Society Planned Giving Luncheon. Named for the founding chair of the HOM Foundation, this donor society recognizes those who have made arrangements for the organization in their estate plans. The lunch included donors, volunteers, and members of the community who each seemed to have a special reason for supporting the organization. Everyone who I spoke with had an experience with Hospice of Michigan, and as they recalled their experiences, there were smiles.

Dr. James Fahner, chair of the HOM Foundation Board and pediatric oncologist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital was there to welcome everyone. He then introduced John R. Smith, an emeritus board member for Hospice of Michigan, and former executive director of SECOM, South End Community Outreach Ministries, in Grand Rapids. He gave a very moving testimony to the care that his loved ones received at the end of their lives from Hospice doctors, nurses, and volunteers.

Following the lunch, Dr. Fahner introduced Jack Doles of WOODTV-8 who was very excited to introduce the guest of honor, Mitch Albom. As Albom began, it was clear that his remarks were straight from the heart. He talked of his relationship with his professor from college, Morrie Schwartz. His book, Tuesdays with Morrie, tells this story so beautifully, but to hear Albom tell the story himself is very impactful. (If you have never read this book I highly recommend it to everyone)

Albom and Schwartz were reunited years after Albom graduated from college, when he saw is former professor on TV, talking about what it felt like to die. Schwartz was suffering from Lou Gehrig disease, which completely debilitates an individual physically, but mentally they are unaffected. So Schwartz was able to talk about what the end of life was like from a first-person perspective. The professor and student began having regular conversations about this topic, with Albom visiting Schwartz for 14 Tuesdays before he passed away.

There was one particular line that struck me (and many others in the room) in his story. It was what Morrie Schwartz told Mitch Albom when he asked him when he was the one dying—and people were coming to see him and say their goodbyes—how did he end up being the one who listened to them?

Morrie said, “Giving makes me feel like I’m living.”

This man who was in his last days, who had every reason to be angry or sad or depressed or all of the above, was continuing to do what he had always done—teach. Continuing to help others figure out their life when his was nearing the end. He was giving them one last gift.

The story of Morrie Schwartz is the reason Mitch Albom is so passionate about the mission of Hospice of Michigan. This passion has led him to bring his play to Grand Rapids to help this organization raise money to fulfill that mission.

Ernie debuted in April 2011, nearly one year after Mr. Harwell lost his battle with cancer after 10 months. It played to sold-out crowds at City Theater in Detroit, just one block from Comerica Park. It is set on Harwell’s last night at Comerica Park, where he is about to give a “thank you” to the grateful city of Detroit. As he walks out onto the field, he encounters an unusual boy who is eager to know all about him. Harwell gives one final broadcast—the “broadcast of his life.” It stars Will David Young as Harwell, and the Boy is played by Timothy “TJ” Corbett.

Realizing that a loved one is in his or her last days on this earth is one of the most difficult things to experience. Hospice of Michigan’s doctors, nurses, volunteers, and staff members make this process much easier on the family and friends of the patient, removing the stress and worry of things that might take time away from enjoying their last moments with their loved one.

Tickets go on sale at Ticketmaster on Monday, June 25 and are $30 each. The show will take place at Wealthy Theater and there will be 10 performances from September 13-23, 2012.

On September 12, Hospice of Michigan will hold “Opening Day.” Tickets to “Opening Day” are $250 and include either a matinee (2:30 p.m.) or evening (8:00 p.m.) performance and dinner and cocktails at the Amway Grand Plaza in between performances. Following each show there will be an intimate conversation with Albom and the play’s actors. These tickets are available by calling (616) 356-5266.

To learn more about Hospice of Michgian, visit their website:  And if you ever meet a Hospice employee or volunteer, be sure and tell them thank you for everything they do—these are amazing people.

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The Official ‘Ernie’ Benefitting Hospice of Michigan Facebook Page:






D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s End of School Year Celebration


As Danny, a 12 year old resident at D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s, St. John’s Home campus, sat down at his end of the school year celebration, he waited patiently as his housemates names and their awards were read off. “Mr. Consistent- John, Mr. Come-back kid- David.” Danny waited to hear when Mr. Jon, his counselor at the Ryan House, would get to his name. “And finally,” Mr. Jon read, “our Librarian Award goes to Danny, because I could never get his nose out of a book.” Danny ran to the brightly decorated gazebo, received his award, and handed Ms. Amanda her certificate of appreciation, all of this with the biggest of grins on his face.

“Ms. Amanda” is Amanda Rhines, Campus Activities Supervisor, at D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s and organizer of the event. Danny is one of the 50-70 children who call St. John’s Home, home. The night was an opportunity to celebrate more than just the academic success of these children. The children at the St. John’s Home campus are some of our community’s most vulnerable. These children, like Danny, are victims of abuse and neglect so severe, trauma so great, and effects so substantial, that they come to receive residential treatment. But for that night, these children forgot about their past and enjoyed their successes. They shared silly stories from the school year with their counselors, who have become their mentors and friends; they blew bubbles and received awards. Most importantly, they felt loved and appreciated.

Director of Residential Services, Rosalynn Bliss, ended the night congratulating the children’s successes, “We are so proud of the achievements of our St. John’s Home students both in the classroom and out. These are some of our community’s most vulnerable children. This banquet gave them an opportunity to not only congratulate one another on a successful school year, but gave us an opportunity to express how proud we are and to celebrate their many successes. This is essential to the growth and positive development of our children.”

Danny saw it a little simpler, “I had fun and liked the bubbles.” He then proceeded to his house to finish reading the last Hunger Games book, Mr. Librarian indeed.

D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s is a 125-year-old accredited agency that works in partnership with the community providing comprehensive services to children and families, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, foster care, adoption, and family support, as well as, residential treatment and emergency shelter care at St. John’s Home.

To learn more, visit their website:

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Al Green Plays Meijer Gardens — ‘He’s Still Got it!”



Time on stage: 1 hour

Highlight: “Let’s Stay Together” captures all of the best elements of Green’s signature soul, gospel and R&B sound. It alone is worth the price of admission.

Lowlight: The “Amazing Grace” interlude seemed a bit forced considering the rest of the pacing of the show.

GRAND RAPIDSAl Green stepped onstage Monday night at sold-out Frederik Meijer Gardens holding long-stem roses that he proceeded to pass out to admiring female fans in the first few rows.

His entire performance turned out to be one big, bold, beautiful bouquet of soul.

The 66-year-old soul singer had the middle-aged crowd singing and dancing to his most cherished hits throughout a 1-hour performance that proved the former Grand Rapids resident still has it.

From the beginning, the impeccable Green, who wore a sharp black suit and satin bow-tie and vest to match the color of the roses, left no doubt that he still can hit all the right notes on classics such as the smoldering “Let’s Stay Together,” “Tired of Being Alone, “I’m Still in Love with You” and “Love and Happiness.”

“There’s some people here who’re wondering if Al Green’s still got it. I know he used to have it,” he said, teasing the audience before holding a pitch-perfect note for what seemed like forever late in the show.

Green, who has sold more than 20 million records, was greeted by a standing ovation, confirming his return home as one of the undisputed social events of the summer at the Meijer Gardens Outdoor Concert Series.

The smiling Green and his 12-piece band ripped through soul, gospel, blues and funk-tinged classics that reminded everyone why he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and why Rolling Stone magazine ranked him 66th on the list of the 100 greatest recording artists of all time.

He launched into the Roy Orbison standard “Pretty Woman” in the first 15 minutes.

The high point of the evening came midway through his set when he just couldn’t resist performing the all-time favorite “Let’s Stay Together,” which still inspires people of all ages, shapes, sizes and ethnicities to let loose of their inhibitions and just bump and grind as it if were 1972 all over again.

He also delighted the audience with smooth samplings of Motown standards such as the Temptations’ “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” and “My Girl” as well as Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and others.

In the midst of a 90-degree night, Green was the portrait of cool.

He kept blowing kisses and tossing roses to the crowd during the show. His adoring fans couldn’t help but return the affection, responding with repeated standing ovations right through the set-closing “Love and Happiness.”

No encores. None needed.

Dayve Stewart, part of Green’s touring band, warmed up the audience with a sublime performance on the saxophone. His version of Michael Jackson‘s “Rock With You” set the perfect tone for the evening.

For more information on the Frederik Meijer Gardens’ Concert Series:

The Race for the Crown — the 62nd Annual Miss Michigan Pageant


Stellafly has been following Miss Spirit of the State 2012, Sarah Suydam, since her crowning at the Aquinas College Performing Arts Center in January. On Saturday night, she represented the Grand Rapids-based Spirit program in the final night of competition for the 62nd annual Miss Michigan Pageant, our state’s largest scholarship program for young women.

Muskegon’s Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts hosted the competition, and Suydam stood on stage at the top of the show along with 30 other women from across the state, vying for a $10,000 scholarship, the title of Miss Michigan, and the opportunity to represent the Great Lakes state in the coveted Miss America Pageant in January. Suydam, 22, of St. Clair Shores, is the 10th Miss Spirit of the State to compete on the Miss Michigan stage.

Suydam’s name was the 6th to be called into the Top Ten finalists, which lead her to compete in the fitness, talent, and evening wear competitions with the other 9 finalists: Miss Washtenaw County Lauren Brown, Miss Oakland County Kelly Oles, Miss Pride of the Peninsulas Abby Grimmett, Miss Jackson County Meagan Budd, Miss Grand Valley State University Alexa Allor, Miss Wayne County Shelby Gardiner, Miss St. Clair Shores Angela Venditti, Miss Stateline Cassandra Kramer, and Miss SouthCentral Michigan Elyse Losen.

For the lifestyle and fitness in swimsuit competition, Suydam sported a turquoise two-piece trimmed in black with small diamond-shape accents. In the talent competition – dressed in a black floral lace and feather cocktail dress complete with crystallized red rose in her hair -she reprised her vocal performance of the Etta James classic “Something’s Gotta Hold On Me”, which won her the Talent Award at the end of Thursday night’s preliminary competition. The contemporary version of the song, recently sampled in FloRida’s hit “Good Feeling”, attracted hoots and hollers from the crowd of more than 1,000 people throughout the performance. When the lights hit Suydam in the evening wear competition, she stepped forward in a white chiffon and embroidered lace v-neck Tony Bowls gown embellished with 867 large rainbow crystals on the skirt. Along with Suydam, Spirit Executive Director Noddea Moore Skidmore, and store manager Joshua Grimes of The Perfect Dress in New Jersey, the designer himself assisted in the selection of the gown, which is a part of his Fall 2012 Couture Collection.

As the Top Ten contestants were brought back to the stage to announce the Top Five, there was not much suspense or waiting for Suydam’s name to be called – she was the first to be announced. The Top Five rounded out with Miss Oakland County, Miss Grand Valley State University, Miss Wayne County, and Miss St. Clair Shores. In the Top Five Chat, a part of the evening that is not judged and used for “fill” as the auditors tabulate the scores of the judges final ballot, the final five were each asked a question about Michigan by one of the judges on the panel. Suydam’s question came from Dr. David Weinandy, Professor of Communication at Aquinas College, “What Michigan athelete, past or present, do you most admire and why?” Suydam took a personal approach to the question and cited a former volleyball team member that mentored young players and lead by example both on and off the court.

Within minutes, the show was coming to an exciting peak. The audience sat in suspense as the names of the 4 Runners-Up and the new Miss Michigan were read by former Miss Michigan titleholders Ashlee Baracy and Katie LaRoche. Suydam was ultimately named 3rd Runner-Up and recipient of a $3,000 scholarship, and her longtime friend and hometown girl Angela Venditti reacted in disbelief as she was crowned Miss Michigan 2012.

As the curtain fell, the contestants surrounded Venditti, a five-year veteran of the Miss Michigan program, and a two-time contestant in the Miss Spirit of the State pageant, finishing Spirit’s first-runner up in 2011. Venditti was the Friday night Preliminary Swimsuit Competition winner, as well.

Backstage, Miss Spirit of the State Executive Director Noddea Skidmore embraced Suydam in a congratulatory hug. “You did it,” she said. Suydam went into the week stating that her goal was to make the Top Ten, and that winning a talent award would be beyond what she ever imagined. Both goals were achieved. “I’m so happy for Ang,” Suydam exclaimed, as she and Skidmore looked on as the new Miss Michigan received congratulations. “I’m going to go to Miss America to cheer her on!”

About her experience competing for the Miss Michigan title as Miss Spirit of the State, Suydam said at the post-pageant Afterglow celebration, “I don’t ever want to have to pass on my Spirit title! I want to be Miss Spirit forever.” However, Suydam continues to make plans for her future with the Miss Michigan program, intending to compete in a few competitions this summer, the first being in her hometown of St. Clair Shores, which the Miss Spirit of the State volunteers are encouraging. “She was the perfect ten year anniversary titleholder for us,” said Skidmore, “She’s one of the most awesome young women I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. She is a great girl, a great listener – very coachable. She’d say What can I do to be better? I’d say Let’s do this… and she’d do it the first time, and do it right. She worked hard in these few months and it showed. I’m really, really proud.”

To follow the journey of the two Spirit titleholders, visit


So a couple walks into a bar…and they buy it. Meet Michele Sellers.


“Anyone who likes to hang out in bars at some point will whimsically say, ‘Oh, it would be cool to own a bar, ’” said Michele Sellers. “A lot of people say it; most people don’t really do it.”

Except Michele Sellers and her husband Mark actually did it.

Under Barfly Ventures LLC, Michele and her husband Mark Sellers own several downtown Grand Rapids hotspots. The pair started with Hopcat, a thriving bar on the corner of Ionia and Weston in downtown Grand Rapids. They also own Stella’s Lounge and the Viceroy on Commerce and McFadden’s Saloon — also on Ionia.

Recently, the Sellers announced plans to re-open the historic Grand Rapids Brewing Company on the corner of Ionia and Fulton. All beers will be brewed using organic grains and ingredients. This will make GRBC Michigan’s only all-organic brewery.

A self-described “beer geek,” Michele Sellers professed her enthusiasm for a re-energizing a beer brand that began in 1893.

“I am really excited to have our hands on a piece of history and play a larger role in the community,” she said. “It’s really cool to be able to have just our own craft beer that’s still rooted in the past.”

Yet Sellers admitted that prior to 2006, she never had any serious plans to own even one bar. Rather, her career began in Berkley, a suburb of Detroit near Royal Oak.

“I have a long and storied career as a record store employee. I was working at a now defunct company called Harmony House,” she said. “I worked there for two years and then I moved companies. I was an avid music fan. I went to college. I dropped out of the University of Michigan and landed a job in the mail room of an IP (intellectual property) law firm. And I became a paralegal at that firm.”

During her time at the record store, Sellers started brewing beer with her friends in her tiny kitchen in Berkley. It was at this point, Sellers became what she described as a ‘beer geek’.

“We didn’t drink anything yellow and fizzy,” she said. “We looked down our noses at people who did..”

Sellers has since compared notes with her husband. While Michele was experimenting with lambics in college, Mark was still drinking Meister Brau in cans.

“When I met Mark, he was not well versed in craft beer,” Sellers said. “He was a fan of Sam Adams. I believe his gateway beer was Sierra Nevada. He likes hoppier beers.”

The couple married at the Round Barn Winery in Baroda, Michigan in 2006. On a post-honeymoon trip, they both had an eye opening experience.

“We ended up driving around Lake Michigan without any schedule or itinerary of any kind,” Sellers said. “One day, we ended up at Shorts Brewing Company in Bellaire.”

She described that visit as a “religious conversion” for both of them.

It was on that trip that the Sellers came to realize that Michigan brewers are “…tightly knit and supportive of each other.” Far from being a competitively cutthroat industry, brewers seem to respect and enjoy each other’s accomplishments.

“We figure what’s good for one brewery is gonna be good for the industry,” said Sellers. “And that’s good for all breweries.”

Still, the honeymooning couple had no intentions of owning a bar. When Michele learned that one their favorite restaurants in Grand Rapidsthe Sierra Room — would be closing, she remembers saying, “Bummer. I like that place.”

Her husband Mark, however, had a different reaction.

“He said, ‘No, let’s buy it’,” she said.

Michele thought he was crazy.

“I am far more risk averse than he is,” she said. “So we kind of joke that he is sort of like the mad scientist, and I’m the one who says ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute, wait a minute. That’s crazy.’”

Michele needed to be convinced.

“I’ve learned now not to say ‘I think that’s a bad idea,’” she said. Instead, Michele said she listens and takes a few days to get back to Mark when he wants to begin a new venture. She needs a little time “to think about pitfalls” before committing to anything.

Mark Sellers respects his wife’s judgment.

“You know how you have legislative, the executive, and the judicial branch of the United States Government?” he said. “She’s probably the judicial. She stops me from making hasty decisions sometimes. She makes me slow down and think through things more. And that’s a good thing. Check and balance.”

Like the three branches of government, there are also three decision makers at the bars: Garry Boyd, Mark, and Michele. Michele describes Boyd as the third crucial point in the decision-making triangle.

“The three of us working together have divergent strengths and weaknesses,” Michele said. “Together, we avoid things from going wildly awry in our wild enthusiasm for a project.”

Aside from providing a thoughtful voice, one of Michele’s favorite roles is that of social organizer: she loves hosting events and parties.

“I really enjoy playing hostess here. We have had many increasingly large parties over the years. It’s one of my favorite weekends of the year when we throw a summer party. We throw an increasingly large New Year’s Eve party as well. Those are my two favorite days of the year. Kind of the madness of the preparation and the organization.”

Embracing new and exciting ideas with wild enthusiasm also appears to be a consistent theme in the both Sellers’ lives.

“In an 18 month period, we got married, we moved to a different state, bought our first house, changed jobs, leased and renovated a bar, opened a bar, ripped out our kitchen, and got a dog,“ said Michele Sellers.

After that whirlwind, Michele felt she had enough of tumultuous change. However, eclectic and electric variety appears to be a constant in the Sellers’ lives.

“I am less adaptable to change than Mark is,” Michele said. “However, whenever I start to feel overwhelmed with things –’oh, I want to buy a new business!” I want to do this, I want to do that’ — I remind myself that it’s better than being bored. To me, that would be the worst thing in the world.”

It doesn’t seem that boredom is a new venture that Michele Sellers will risk any time soon.