By Missy Black
Sometimes things get so hot they combust. Like a Phoenix, BlackLamb rises from the ashes where Lamb in Grand Rapids closes its doors. The reincarnation is part store/part studio with emphasis on owner Ryann Lambay’s jewelry line, candles and selections that are, “a lot more intentional with fewer categories but better items,” according to Manager Marissa Kulha. Imagine a more polished venue with a lot of black and white, minimalist touches and pops of texture and color. Fawn over the new airy studio packed with flowers, good-smelling things, jewelry and displays that will also be for sale (finally!). “We want it to resemble a more curated museum sort-of feel,” says Kulha, who teases and tempts with promises of new bag and skincare lines and loads of jewelry. A gnarly new website debuts around the same week the store opens on Aug. 7. A party is in the works for the grand opening so check the Facebook page and get giddy.
Another spot reaching scorcher status is Blu Veranda in Holland. Selling women’s clothing and accessories and men’s and women’s swimwear, the new “it” store has already hosted a Girls Night Out event and will soon be everyone’s favorite shop for bikinis, shorts and dresses. Say you knew it before…
It’s the kind of thing you read about and think other, super fabulous people do. It’s called Grand Night in White and it’s an elegant chic picnic/pop-up dinner in a heavily guarded secret location created to help raise funds for The Junior League of Grand Rapids. Held Aug. 17 from 6 to 10 p.m., at a location that will only be revealed three hours before the event, this magical evening asks guests to get in the spirit of things by dressing all in white, bringing white chairs, a table, a white table cloth and food items for a white-out of super stylish proportions. “From flowers in their hair to white pants, white dresses, white ties and jewelry, people will really get into it,” says Amy Steketee, chair of the Fund Development Committee. When the surprise location is announced, hundreds will gather in a unique public space for an elegant picnic loaded with spontaneity. Tickets are available for purchase at grandnightinwhite.eventbrite.com for $30 per couple, which reserves a table for you and a guest to enjoy another hush-hush entertainment opportunity at a venue that “you wouldn’t necessarily ever be able to have dinner at.” A little bit of mystery looks good on everyone.
HOTTER FASHION Hollywood Fashions
By Joe Gasmann
London, Milan, New York and Paris... and Grand Rapids. Just three years ago, one of those wouldn’t have belonged. Today, ultra-trendy boutique, Hollywood Fashions brings the haute couture extravagance of Rodeo Drive to West Michigan.
Located in the heart of Creston’s fashion district between an abandoned junkheap the hottest club in GR and an alley you might find a former starlet’s corpse in, Hollywood Fashions houses the newest designs by fashion’s hottest houses!
Be the it girl at your next cotillion with a new twist on a classic look; the little red riding hood nipple-less jumpsuit with optional cape is the perfect way to make an “I’m here, boys! Give me your singles” statement. Looking for power-player office attire? Pair a sensible 10-inch clear platform slide with a micro v-back thong for a look that will gain the approval of the dad we all clamour for!
By opting for minimal coverage, owner Theresa is able to advertise most of Hollywood Fashions' garments at “Mostly $9.99 or less.” In other words, “For the cost of your first customer of the night, or less... Probably.”
Though the Facebook page hasn’t been updated in eight months, be “Like” number nine and delight in the possibility of one day seeing a busty goddess modeling exotic dancewear showing up in your newsfeed. This store is so exclusive that it doesn't abide by normal (poorly advertised) business hours, have a website, or answer the phone, so count yourself privileged if you somehow manage to grace the showroom.
HOT FESTIVAL Audiotree Music Festival
By Jordan Brasko
Tis’ the season for music festivals, and Summer Santa is still delivering presents. West Michigan is home to many diverse and top-notch music festivals every summer, including Electric Forest, B 93 Birthday Bash and City Lights. Despite the vast amount of festivals coming to this side of the state, bands of the West Michigan alternative and indie underground scene have remained off the lineups this summer.
Enter Audiotree Music Festival.
Known for its in-studio concert series, Audiotree has had the opportunity to film and record some of the best up-and-coming local and national bands. On Aug. 31, the Chicago-based, artist-centric music company is picking some of its favorite bands to play outside of Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo for its first-ever music festival. Bands like Blues Traveler, Valient Thorr and Into It. Over It.
“We started doing live recordings at festivals like SXSW, and thought it’d be cool to set up our own festival in West Michigan,” said Michael Johnston, Audiotree’s business manager and festival organizer.
Johnston is a founder of Audiotree along with associate Adam Thurston, both Kalamazoo natives.
“We’ve put on little shows at Bell’s and The Strutt when it was open, but we wanted to do something more in West Michigan. So this is just taking it to a whole new level,” Johnston said.
Johnston says the goal is to start an annual festival where Audiotree can bring in fans from all over Chicago, Indiana and Michigan for years to come. Since it’s their first-ever festival, they hope to take what they learn this year and host an even bigger and better festival next year.
“We really tried to get the local music scene behind it, so we’re excited to have Greensky Bluegrass,” Johnston said. “There are also a few bands that a lot of people probably haven’t heard of, but who I can guarantee are phenomenal bands that put on a great show.”
But what really makes Audiotree Festival stand out from other festivals is its ticket costs.
“We didn’t want to gouge our fans like other music festivals. We’re much less focused on making money than putting together quality bands that anyone can come see, and will come back next year.”
HOT BIBLIOSOPH Kent District Library Director Lance Werner
By Kyle Austin
Lance Werner knows that the future of the library lies in innovation, and with the Kent District Library fresh from winning the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce EPIC award for excellence in business earlier this year, his organization has shown it can lead the way in connecting with 21st century patrons.
“We want the library to be your home away from home, a community hub,” Werner said. “We're committed to evolving to meet the needs of our communities in the hope that the services we are providing are replicated by other communities.”
KDL boasts the largest e-book collection of any library in Michigan, an advanced reader advisory database that connects patrons with new materials, a re-organized, user-friendly cataloguing system that lets patrons browse non-fiction books by category, and a bevy of other electronic materials that can be accessed anywhere, anytime for free. Consider this: of the approximately 148,000 households in KDL’s jurisdiction, the average household receives $1000 worth of service for a $70 investment via property taxes, a pretty fantastic deal for the community if you do the math.
“Libraries run like businesses as much as they can” Werner said. “I challenge any organization to beat that return on investment.”
HOT DINING Food Trucks
By Jayson Bussa
Some of the savviest chefs in West Michigan are taking advantage of the low overhead tied in with selling their tasty vittles out of a truck, and the idea is continually growing in Kalamazoo. You can credit trucks like Gorilla Gourmet (stationed at 305 Oakland Dr.) for really warming the area up to the idea. Now, there is a new truck on the block: Pig Out Take Out. Parked on the corner of Stadium Drive and Drake Road, Guy Ferry’s rig deals out mouth-watering barbecue. He didn’t spring for one of the 10 licenses to roam the area, but he said he’s going to see how this year goes parked at his current location. “Early on [the response] has been very positive, considering the fact that you just kind of show up and people have to find you,” Ferry said.
Pride Grows in West Michigan
By Lindsay Patton-Carson
You've seen the profile pictures. You may have had one. But you know what they are and what they represent. The little red squares with the pink rectangles (a modification of the Human Rights Campaign logo) took over Facebook and Twitter this past March, proving to the world that equality is hot and it's not going anywhere.
More specifically, LGBT equality is not just an issue specific to the LGBT community. The day after the Holland City Council voted against an anti-discrimination ordinance in July 2011, the Until Love Is Equal campaign formed as a response, bringing the LGBT community together with striaght allies to fight for equal rights.
In June, Holland Area PRIDE expanded to an outdoor festival and the largest Holland has seen thus far, showing residents in the area that they have support.
Similarly, other local and national pride festivals continue to get bigger. This past summer, Kalamazoo Pride celebrated its fourth year at Arcadia Creek Festival Place and brought in more than 10,000 people, as well as Manila Luzon from "RuPaul's Drag Race."
"I had no idea who she is, and my straight dad watches "RuPaul's Drag Race" and was educating me, and my stepmom chimed in ... so I'm getting out-gayed by my dad," said Jay Maddock, program director for the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center.
For its 25th anniversary, West Michigan Pride Festival moved back to its origins at Calder Plaza and added its first-ever parade. According to Christina Wade, executive director for The LGBT Network of West Michigan, straight allies are key to Pride's growth and success every year.
"Allies all the way," she said. "Allies are our volunteer base and just our community support overall is tremendous."
HOT RECORD LABEL Double Helix
By Jayson Bussa
OK, maybe we should call it a collective rather than a record label, but nevertheless, the Kalamazoo-based Double Phelix family puts out some ah-mazing music. Consider them the folk all-stars of Michigan, if you will, with names like Graham Parsons, Fiona Dickinson, The Go Rounds, Elk Welcome, Lasso and others in the mix. For information on the artists and Double Phelix’s mission, check out doublephelix.com.
HOT BAND Red Tail Ring
By Elyse Wild
Laurel Pemo and Michael Beauchamp of the Kalamazoo folk duo Red Tail Ring have been turning heads and enticing listeners all over the world with their brand of chilling, harmonious folk music. The duo's third and latest full-length album, The Heart’s Swift Foot, has even been getting the attention of some national radio outlets.
“We have taken steps to get our music out there. We sent the new album to a lot of DJs and bloggers and reviewers,” Beauchamp said.
Getting their music out there seems to be paying off. Pemo and Beauchamp play an average of 110 shows per year from coast to coast, playing anything from folk festivals to square dances.
“We are delivering our music in many different ways,” Pemo said.
The duo embarks to Europe in November for a three-week tour. This marks their second tour overseas. In 2011 they were invited by The State Department to act as cultural ambassadors in Denmark, performing and teaching workshops on old folk music.
“It is really interesting to see how people respond to the music. We think of Michigan as our home base. When we play out of Michigan, even if we are playing far away, we get really good crowds,” Beauchamp said.
HOT FOOD Self-Serve Frozen Yogurt
By Jamie Linari
If the recent weather is making it near impossible to keep from indulging in a sweet treat, at least now you can find something a more agreeable to your mid-section.
Frozen yogurt has become the hot food trend of the summer and is proving to last well into our chilly season. And, because most are self-serve, you can be as wholesome or as devious as you like.
Spoonlickers in Ada was one of first yogurt shops leading the way for the newfound craze.
“We wanted to make something for ourselves and friends, but stay true to what we believe in,” co-owner Dianna Darling said of the all-natural, locally made frozen yogurt. “There are literally four things in our yogurt. That’s the difference between having it real and natural versus something that just tastes good and is low calorie.”
Equally healthy and fun is Sweet Yo’s Premium Frozen Yogurt in downtown Grand Rapids. Sweet Yo’s offers more than 50 rotating flavors, multiple toppings and have started creating smoothies as well.
“Customers can experience a family fun atmosphere,” said owner Rosa Piccione. “We’ve seen lots of different combinations. The best part is you can make your own creation.”
As the name suggests, Let’s Swirl in Kalamazoo offers unique flavor swirls to its soft-serve. Go a little crazy with tastes like Euro-tart swirled with Georgia Peach or Fudge Brownie Swirled with Very Strawberry.
If you’re on the lakeshore and need something refreshing, try Orange Leaf in Holland. Want to make sure your fave flave is available before making the trek? Download the mobile app for current store flavors like Root Beer Float and Wedding Cake.
HOT COMING ATTRACTION Alamo Drafthouse
By Jayson Bussa
The days of sneaking alcohol into the movies are over! While question marks remain on when it will open, Kalamazoo readies for the coming of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, which will take the place of The Rave on the corner of Portage and South Streets. At Alamo, you can grab dinner and even some adult beverages while you watch Tyler Perry and his cohorts get into all sorts of shenanigans. Alamo will feature 10 screens and its team is keeping local residents updated via its Twitter feed: twitter.com/alamokalamazoo.
HOT COMPETITION The Second Great Lakes Regional Beard & Mustache Championship
By T Stastny
On Aug. 24,The Pyramid Scheme hosts the Second Great Lakes Regional Beard & Mustache Championship. And since Grand Rapids was named Beer City of 2013, this year’s championship has been dubbed “Beer City Edition.” Drink beer and bask in all the bearded glory of some of the area’s fiercest and furriest competitors as they compete for the title of Beard & Mustache Champion. These guys (and gals!) are way ahead of the game as far as “No-Shave November” or even “Christmustache” are concerned. Categories of the event include “Ladies Realistic,” “Mustache Natural,” “Full beard Supernatural” and many more. These otherworldly facial hair masterpieces will surely boggle the minds of Grand Rapids for years to come … or at least until they compete again.