At each of their three locations, co-owners and co-founders Dianna and David Darling insist upon fresh-baked, scratch-made and locally sourced toppings that customers won’t find anywhere else. It’s all part of the farm-to-table – or, perhaps, kitchen-to-spoon – concept the Darlings have brought to frozen desserts.
“It goes right from here to there – kitchen to spoon,” baker Alecia Fanning said of the Spoonlickers’ uncompromising approach to scratch-made toppings using the freshest ingredients. “A lot of people are a lot more conscious of it. I think people are more willing to pay a little extra for that if it’s homemade stuff, rather than if it was made in a factory or mass produced or came from a machine.
“I think the love goes into it,” she added. “They can tell it’s a much better product.”
It’s all about quality at Spoonlickers, with its signature chocolate ganache, butterscotch, homemade granola, scratch-made brownies, cookies, pumpkin pie, whoopie pies, cinnamon streusel crumble and marshmallow squares. It grinds the peanuts for its peanut-butter sauce. It toasts its own coconut.
No one in the industry comes close to that sort of freshness.
“A lot of people don’t do it, so, for us, it’s especially unique, just knowing a lot of what us bakers make is from scratch,” said Grace Tuttle, a junior supervisor at Spoonlickers who preceded Fanning as baker. “I think it is important to a lot of people. There is a difference in quality a lot of the time.
“It’s just about knowing that you’re eating something homemade or local products, it’s just different than getting it from wherever,” she said. “I’ve been to several of the frozen yogurt stores. I think when you go around and sample them, you can really tell the difference. I can immediately tell when I try other places that it’s a dry powder mixed with water.
“It’s a lot better here.”
The proof is in the pantry and refrigerator at Spoonlickers’ flagship Eastown store at 1551 Wealthy St. in Grand Rapids. Top-shelf ingredients, such as couverture chocolate and Nielsen Massey vanilla, go into making ganache and buttercream, respectively. Farm-fresh eggs, King flour milled in Lowell and Meijer brown sugar are examples of locally sourced items Spoonlickers’ baking staff uses.
All of the milk and cream used in production of its soft-serve frozen yogurt and baked goods comes from southwestern Michigan dairy farms, which results in a freshness its customers truly can taste.
No compromises. No cutting corners. Period.
“Everything we can buy locally, we do,” David Darling said. “All of the milk, all of the dairy for our yogurts and gelatos, it comes from southwest Michigan. People love the fact that we toast our own coconut.
“We have never wavered. The reason we do this is, because if we don’t, nobody else will,” he said. “It makes us different. It’s so much better because we control what’s going in (these toppings).”
For example, Spoonlickers uses only couverture chocolate for its ganache.
It has a higher percentage of cocoa butter than regular chocolate. Sure, it costs more, but the difference is quality is worth it.
“It’s the reason our ganache is as good as it is. We don’t cut any costs when it comes to the quality of ingredients,” David Darling insisted.
The objective is using the fewest ingredients of the highest quality to achieve unprecedented results.
It requires keeping a close watch on inventory, since many of the ingredients have a shorter shelf life than other packaged and processed FroYo and ice cream toppings at national chain stores.
“Sixty-five percent of what’s kept on the shelf is raw ingredient,” David Darling estimated.
The commitment to using the freshest and highest-quality ingredients is a reflection of what’s happening in the farm-to-table dining movement, as well as the craft beer and independently distilled spirits industries.
Earlier this year, the Darlings posted an item on the company website at www.spoonlickersgr.com that challenged the status quo when it comes to sacrificing freshness and quality for inferior mass-produced toppings. It sparked a profound dialogue and more than a thousand responses.
“I’m not sure all of our customers understand what we do and why we do it, but a lot of them do,” David Darling said. “It’s why they tell us, ‘You have to do our wedding, our children’s birthday parties and other events.’
“It really matters to people.”
It is a constant source of pride for the Spoonlickers’ kitchen staff.
“It definitely adds a lot more enjoyment to what you do, especially because they don’t cut any corners here. They’re using real ingredients, like real butter, not shortening. That makes it a lot more enjoyable,” she said.
“You just make sure it’s made right.”
Tuttle, 21, of Kentwood, said the same commitment goes into making larger cakes, which can be ordered for special occasions or purchased from the freezers located in all three Spoonlickers’ stores.
“I don’t know of any other frozen yogurt places that make homemade cakes. We make the batter, we freeze the yogurt, mold it all together, make our own frosting, make our own chocolate ganache for it, and decorate it all by hand,” said Tuttle, who’s pursuing a degree in food and beverage management at Grand Valley State University. ‘That takes a lot of time. There are a lot of local homemade products going into that cake.
“I think that’s pretty unique. I don’t know of other ice cream places that bake their own homemade cookies or homemade brownies,” she added. “I don’t know of anyone else that quite does that.”
David Darling refers to Fanning and Tuttle as the “rock stars” of the operation.
Both says they’re delighted to be part of a local business that does things the right way for the right reasons.
“I think it’s something we should talk about a lot more,” Tuttle said. “People hear ‘homemade’ and think that’s cool, but a lot of them don’t realize that what we’re actually making … they’re eating. That’s something really unique. I don’t know of any other frozen yogurt places or ice cream places that do that.”
Last week, we joined our friends, Hungerford Nichols CPAs + Advisors, at the Blue Water Grill to celebrate the election of Adriane Schrauben and Doug Schmitt to the position of Shareholder.
Both Adriane Schrauben and Doug Schmitt began their accounting careers with Hungerford Nichols and have advanced within the firm. “The addition of Adriane and Doug aligns well with our mission, vision and values and we are excited to have them as part of the leadership team.” says Rick Chrisman, CPA, MST, Managing Shareholder of the firm. “Our firm continues to grow as a result of our constant focus on preparing our next generation of leaders for the future. We believe that growth creates opportunities for all and this is reflected within our succession plan.”
Adriane specializes in the area of School District Auditing as well as heading up the Estate and Trust group within the firm. With over fourteen years in public accounting, she provides her clients with services including audit of financial statements, preparation of individual and trust tax returns and tax planning. Adriane is the third female Shareholder in the firm.
Shareholder Jerry Nichols shares, “Although her technical expertise is one of her strong suits, Adriane is successful in her ability to build long-term relationships with the people she serves. She is able to develop these relationships by focusing on solutions to the problems clients have.”
Adriane earned both her Bachelor and Master of Business Administration degrees at Grand Valley State University and is a national presenter of technical topics for the Association of School Business Officials International conference. She has also authored articles on estate planning.
Doug specializes in servicing closely-held businesses in the manufacturing, petroleum and retail industries. He has twenty four years of experience in business accounting and tax services, including audit, review and compilation of financial statements, tax return preparation and tax planning strategies. Doug works out of both the Grand Rapids and Greenville offices and manages the Greenville office operations.
“Doug has consistently demonstrated a strong commitment to quality. His leadership, hard work and attention to detail have contributed significantly to our continued growth and success. We look forward to his continued success in his new role.” says Tom Prince, CPA, MBA, Shareholder.
Doug earned his Bachelor of Business Administration at Grand Valley State University.
Hungerford Nichols CPAs + Advisors is a full-service CPA firm with offices in Grand Rapids and Greenville, MI. The firm provides accounting, business advisory, tax return preparation, tax planning, auditing, financial planning and IT advisory services with an emphasis on closely-held and family-owned businesses. The firm also services Governmental entities, Not-for-Profit Organizations and Employee Benefit Plans. Hungerford Nichols has grown to become one of the largest locally-owned, independent CPA firms in West Michigan. Visit their website at www.hungerfordnichols.com and join them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HANCbook
The scholarship packages that each of the colleges have created are set aside for Challenge Scholars students specifically and each differ slightly in their requirements and what is provided. “When Challenge Scholars launched two years ago, these four colleges became some of our strongest champions. The scholarship commitments we announce today add another element to the partnerships that are already bringing additional resources to students, parents and faculty at our three Challenge Scholars schools. Together, with Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) we are ensuring students on the West Side have the opportunity to reach their full potential as students and citizens. I’m grateful to our partners for their caring and generosity,” Diana Sieger, president of Grand Rapids Community Foundation said.
“This community is truly blessed to have well engaged, community-oriented higher education institutions like Aquinas College, Ferris State University, Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University. They have been major partners with GRPS for decades, and once again, they have stepped to the plate to support our students.
Challenge Scholars is a game changer and the momentum continues to grow thanks to partnerships like these,” Teresa Weatherall Neal, superintendent of GRPS said.
The local college presidents, whose schools are committing these scholarship packages provided these comments.
“Ferris State University has been an active partner with the Grand Rapids Community Foundation in its efforts to encourage students to attend college. We are pleased to support the efforts of the Challenge Scholars program and look forward to encouraging these students not only to attend college, but to graduate,” Dr. David Eisler, president, Ferris State University said.
Dr. Steven C. Ender, president, Grand Rapids Community College said, “We know it takes a village to raise a child. The Challenge Scholars program provides the foundation for our community to work together to offer the guidance and support necessary for students to learn and grow, follow their dreams, and achieve success. Providing educational opportunities for West Michigan residents for nearly a century has given us, at GRCC, the first-hand knowledge that expanding access and support for education empowers our community’s most precious resource—its citizens.”
“I believe strongly in providing educational opportunities to our community’s young people,” Grand Valley State President Thomas J. Haas said. “The Challenge Scholars program fits in perfectly with Grand Valley’s mission to provide access to a college degree and increased opportunities. I have visited Harrison Park and sat and talked with the children. They’re remarkable, and show such promise. This program absolutely will make a difference in their lives and in the future of our community. I can’t wait to welcome some of these students to our campus.”
Dr. Juan Olivarez, president, Aquinas College said, “Aquinas College is proud to invest in the future by investing in students enrolled in the Challenge Scholars program. The families I have met at Harrison Park School are committed to their children’s education and are willing to make the necessary sacrifice to see their dream realized. Aquinas College is honored to partner with them in this dream.”
GRAND RAPIDS – Imagine a place where the most creative minds in West Michigan congregate on a regular basis Monday through Friday to share ideas and collaborate on projects that shape the business landscape.
It is the very place Steve Frazee and Bill Holsinger-Robinson are designing.
Frazee and Holsinger-Robinson, co-founders of HUB Grand Rapids, are leading a plan that combines a stimulating workplace with a highly charged social atmosphere where the seeds of regional economic development are planted and nurtured to produce positive outcomes in the community.
You might think of it as Facebook with bricks and mortar, windows and floors, inner-glass partitions, coffee stations, offices and common areas that form the epicenter of local economic growth.
“Imagine HUB Grand Rapids is the social club of the most creative and forward-thinking people in the community,” said Frazee, whose personal bio at hubgrandrapids.com aptly describes him as an entrepreneur, consultant and evangelist for the power of business to create a healthy world. “You’re in your office and you’ve got a team of people who are tying to solve your problem or innovate something, and they’re like, ‘We need to get away from the office. Where do we go?’ They’ll go to HUB Grand Rapids.”
It’s not just a concept: HUB is set to become a reality in 2013.
Investment dollars are lining up from impressive local sources, and both Frazee and Holsinger-Robinson, who ran ArtPrize during its first 2½ years of existence, are close to announcing more than 10,000 square feet of office space in a building located within the technological SmartZone in Grand Rapids.
Full details about the location are expected to be forthcoming this month.
“It’s all about developing a community of creative people, knowledge workers. It’s the core of the super-creative class – the 3 percent of the community who do most of the creative work,” Frazee said. “We’re bringing those people together and giving them things to start to make their lives more interesting and effective.
“We don’t have a space yet, but you can do a lot of work without a space.”
Varnum is on board as the legal partner for the project.
The goal is to attract participants at three levels: investors, partners and members.
It’ll require 50 initial members as anchor tenants, about half of which already have pledged support to the project, according to Holsinger-Robinson, a self-described entrepreneur, strategist, design thinker, technophile and change agent. He sees unlimited potential for HUB Grand Rapids.
It just requires a different mindset to comprehend the infinite possibilities.
“I don’t know if its a new way to do business or if it’s a really old way to do business,” Holsinger-Robinson said. “To a certain extent, it’s about bringing motivated people together to do some really good work in the community, that’s not locked down for single purposes. It’s just getting smart about what our needs are as a community, and it’s a community where we’re trying to drive growth and innovation.”
It has the potential to be as simple – and as productive – as that.
“This is one of the best ways to drive growth and innovation. As a community, if we were specifically all about driving wealth creation and efficiencies, we’d have a very different sort of model,” said Holsinger-Robinson, co-founder of GR Collective and the Frederik Meijer Endowed Honors Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Grand Valley State. “So much depends on economic constraints, but we’re in a very different space right now where different sets of specific skills and talents are valued again. It’s about the super-creative core of classes that we need to focus on and harness to the best of its abilities.”
Nurturing ideas in the rainforest
The HUB is the place where social interaction meets entrepreneurship.
Frazee and Holsinger-Robinson were inspired to press forward with plans for HUB Grand Rapids after listening to author Greg Horowitt, whose book “The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley” during a speaking appearance in Grand Rapids in October. They share Horowitt’s outlook that social networks in places like HUB will spur innovation that changes how business is done in the future.
“Human systems become more productive the faster that the key ingredients of innovation, talent, ideas and capital are allowed to flow throughout the system,” Horowitt explains in the book. “Ironically, the greatest economic value is created in transactions between people who are the most different from one another.”
HUBs are an important part of the new ecosystem of innovative thinking.
There are social entrepreneurship clubs in the following locations in North America: Atlanta; Bay Area (San Francisco and Berkeley, Calif.); Boston; Boulder, Colo.; Chicago; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Los Angeles; New York; Seattle; and Washington, D.C. Another location is being planned for the Detroit area.
Additional HUBs have been planted around the globe: Amsterdam; Brussels; Bucharest; Copenhagen; Dubai; Helsinki; Johannesburg; London; Madrid; Melbourne; Milan; Prague; Rotterdam; Rome; Sao Paulo; Stockholm; Tel Aviv; Vienna; and Zurich. Others are popping up in far-off places all the time.
“It’s a big deal to have one here,” Frazee insisted.
The economic-gardening concept continues to spread.
“You’ve got to get a lot of people together trying a lot of experiments. That’s what happens in the rainforest. A lot of stuff grows, some stuff dies, it’s very organic and it all sort of feeds on itself,” Frazee said. “That’s a new way of thinking compared to the old post-industrialist metaphors that were mechanical and productivity based – with conveyor belts and machinery and cogs. Instead, this is all organic and biologically based.
“What Bill and I are doing is bringing our part to growing the rainforest in West Michigan – the ecosystem of entrepreneurship and innovation. We’re tending that. HUB Grand Rapids is going to be such a fertile spot because it has so much creativity packed into one area,” he added. “It’s the right time because, if you look at what’s happening in preparing West Michigan for the economic future, there’s some catch-up work that has to be done. Specifically around social enterprises, which are businesses with positive human outcomes. There are a lot of people in this area that don’t even know that phrase.”
In the economic rainforest, all things are possible.
“I’ve got an idea and I want to develop it. Where do I go? That’s really the space we want to play in,” Holsinger-Robinson said. “In farming, you predict your yield all of the time within a couple of bushels. Typically, you’re looking for the same yield over and over and over again. It’s repeatable, it’s predictable. The rainforest pretty much is not. It’s about cultivating whatever works well in that particular season and giving it time and a whole series of conditions that you don’t have control over.
“It’s not one crop that we’re looking to harvest. It’s a multitude of things.”
Frazee and Holsinger-Robinson have experience in tending the economic garden.
Frazee founded TEDxGrandRapids, part of a non-profit organization that stimulates independent events surrounding technology, entertainment and design in communities around the world. He sees HUB as the next logical step in the evolutionary process of doing business differently in Grand Rapids in the future.
“The new world of economics is about collaboration. It’s about sharing ideas, about working to make things better. It’s not so much ‘me’ against ‘you.’ It’s ‘us’ working together,” Frazee explained. “That frame is so new for some people who built their success on the old-school competition model that we’ll have to spend a lot of time educating and talking and bringing them into this new way of thinking and building trust. If you’re used to a competitive ‘us’ versus ‘them’ model, we’re talking about building the ‘we’ space where we all work together.
“It’s a huge paradigm shift. That’s hard. It’s the hardest thing we have to do right now.”
Frazee and Holsinger-Robinson are enlightening more and more local people.
“We have lots of conversations,” Frazee said. “One of the reasons I like this area is there’s a chance to have an impact. You can have an impact in crafting the personality of the area, because that’s what’s happening right now. It’s not fully baked right now, whereas, if you go other places, it’s already fully baked.
“The old models are based on hierarchial command and control. So, somebody has to be in command and control,” he said of changing the thinking about doing business as usual. “Some of the work we’ve done recently and talking to people about what we’re doing, there’s a lot of, ‘What’s going to be the actual outcome?’ This is self-organizing, which is the way everything is going. It’s a biological metaphor.”
How it all fits together
HUB Grand Rapids will serve all sorts of people in the business community.
The fund-raising goal of $500,000 is expected to come from anchor tenants or investors, participating businesses that rent space in the building and individuals wanting to be part of the collaborative atmosphere. If all goes well, Frazee and Holsinger-Robinson said the HUB location could open by May.
There are a multitude of membership levels (monthly dues):
HUB Club ($25): All events and online global community access.
HUB Supporter ($149): Four days per month facility access, plus HUB Club.
HUB Member ($275): Daily facility access Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., plus HUB Club.
HUB Curator ($395): 24/7 keyed access to the facility, additional benefits, plus HUB Club.
HUB Individual Sponsor ($150): Three HUB Curator memberships.
HUB Office Small/Team ($995+): 150 square feet or more of private office space, plus two or more HUB Curator memberships.
HUB Corporate Sponsor ($995+): Includes three rotating HUB member daily access and sponsor privileges.
The makeup of HUB Grand Rapids is 30 percent community space (kitchens and lounge areas where social interaction rules), 30 percent hot-desking space (individuals on a first-come, first-served basis) and 40 percent small/team offices (comprised of four to six people occupying permanent spaces in the building).
The initial goal is for 231 members in the first year of operation.
That number is expected to more than double to 464, reaching full capacity in subsequent years.
“The HUB network is a huge global trend,” Frazee said. “This is not a new idea, it”s just new here. All of these facilities have been able to raise the start-up capital from their communities. We’ll get there.”
HUB Grand Rapids hosted an introductory gathering prior to Thanksgiving.
It was the first of what Frazee and Holsinger-Robinson promise are many more events spotlighting the organization in the months ahead as it finalizes preparations for becoming part of the actual landscape here.
“In many ways, Grand Rapids is an amazing place, which is why I’m here. In many ways, however, it’s behind the times. Why is this the right time for HUB Grand Rapids? Bill and I are trying to bring West Michigan into the future – and not just following what other people have done, but really trying to lead,” Frazee said.
“I feel confident by the middle of next year, this will be one of the key places to hang out to get things going with truly awesome people. The expectation is that when corporations send their people here, magic will happen,” he added. “That’s our job – to create an environment where the magic happens.”
Holsinger-Robinson is looking forward to that coffee-shop atmosphere taking shape. He and Frazee have consulted with architects and designers, had a local construction firm prepare a bid for the planned space and expect to formally announce those plans in January or announce HUBGrand Rapids is seeking a different space.
Either way, it’s all happening.
“It’s the best of the places where you go when you need to get heads-down work done. It’s the best of the social environments where you go to share ideas. It’s the best place you go where it’s business, or even as an individual, you’re excited to see your brand be a part of it, and you’re proud to show your logo around the building,” Holsinger-Robinson said. “It’s a coffee shop. It’s a little loud, a little cozy and you know everybody when you walk in. You not only share social things with them, but you also open yourself up to vulnerabilities to share that crazy idea you had in the shower this morning.”
He explains all of this, naturally, while sipping coffee at a hot spot on Wealthy Street SE.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a rainforest or a coffee shop metaphor. HUB Grand Rapids is putting the most creative minds in local business in the same space to collaborate on difference-making ideas.
“That’s why so much cool stuff happens in coffee shops,” Holsinger-Robinson said.
BY :: SPARKLY STELLALY
PHOTOGRAPHY :: TIM MOTLEY
VENUE: Kendall College of Art & Design of Ferris State University at the Historic Federal Building
DATE: September 28, 2012
When Diana Sieger and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation (GRCF) throw a party, the people come. Last Friday evening the Foundation held its annual donor celebration that included the presentation of the 2012 Jack Chaille Award for Community Philanthropy. Hundreds of those who support the GRCF newest addition of Kendall College of Art & Design’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, the historic Federal Building.
The group that gathered on Friday was essentially a “who’s who” of West Michigan philanthropists. Guests of honor John and Nancy Kennedy were joined by community leaders such as Ralph Hauenstein, Mike and Sue Jandernoa, John and Marie Canepa, Greg and Meg Willit, and countless others who are so supportive of the foundation’s efforts. They enjoyed hors d’oeuvres from YoChef’s Catering Company and great wine from Martha’s Vineyard. Conversation was lively, and the atmosphere was one of joyful celebration as everyone came together to toast the Kennedys and this community foundation that is near and dear to their hearts.
Midway through the event, everyone made their way into the auditorium where GRCF President Diana Sieger welcomed everyone and began with the fantastic news that during the 2011-12 fiscal year, the foundation raised over $20 million. They also made grants and scholarship awards of just over $11 million, supporting initiatives surrounding housing and education in West Michigan. The GRCF is one of Grand Rapids’ greatest assets, serving as a permanent endowment for our community.
Sieger then introduced GRCF Board Chair, Eva Aguirre Cooper of WOOD-TV. She noted the level of “strategy, seriousness, and diligence” that goes into each decision regarding which grants to recommend for approval, and recognized the trustees who were there on Friday night, including Wayman Britt, Paul Doyle, Carol Karr, Paul Keep, Christina Keller, and Cecile Cave Fehsenfeld. Also recognized were David Rosen, Kendall College President; and David Eisler, President of Ferris State University.
The program continued with the presentation of the 2012 Jack Chaille Award for Community Philanthropy. This year’s recipients were John and Nancy Kennedy. There was a beautiful video tribute to Kennedys that included comments from two of their children, and their friends Mike Jandernoa and Phil McCorkle. Sieger then invited the Kennedys to receive their award, and they had three of their four children with them—John, Margaret, and Tom. (Their son Paul was unable to attend)
The Chaille Award is given annually to GRCF donors who not only support the Community Foundation’s mission, but also many other community efforts. John Kennedy is President of Autocam and Nancy is a full-time community volunteer. They are involved with Grand Valley State University, University Prep School,Saint Mary’s Hospital, the Heart of West Michigan United Way, the Catholic Schools of Grand Rapids, and of course the Community Foundation. John was part of the original committee for grant distribution, and they established Employees of Autocam Fund at the GRCF. The Kennedys also made a leadership gift to help secure the new building for the foundation. All four of their children have served on the GRCF Youth Grant Committee, and both Margaret and Tom served as the Youth Trustee on the board.
John and Nancy Kennedy are the supporters every nonprofit dreams of having. They are engaged 100 percent with each cause they are involved in and as Diana Sieger said, they are “great examples of people who give from their hearts. They are not only generous with their financial gifts, but they are active and very engaged volunteers. When they are behind something, a project or a cause, their time, talent, and treasure go into it. They are purposeful about their philanthropy and only take on causes to which they can fully dedicate themselves.”
Sieger then presented the Kennedys with their award, which is different for each recipient every year. The Community Foundation created an invitation package for the event this year that, when put together, formed a beautiful poster. The Kennedys were given a framed copy of this poster for their home, which was very fitting being that the award was given during ArtPrize and in one of the largest venues for the event. It was truly a work of art!
Thank you to Diana Sieger and the entire staff of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation for all of your hard work and dedication to our community, and congratulations on a remarkable year! Stellafly is very excited to see what this year will bring!