Wednesday, 01 December 2021 12:56

Revue's Crystal Ball

Written by  Revue Staff
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Revue's Crystal Ball. Revue's Crystal Ball.

A year ago, if you asked just about anybody on Earth what they had in store for 2021, they would say, “I have no idea.”

The Covid-19 pandemic made clear that we can never perfectly see the future — anything can happen. That said, as vaccinations rise, cases drop, and life returns to a new normal, the crystal ball has cleared up a bit. Many local businesses and arts groups are ready to start putting their plans for 2020 in action, or have moved on to entirely new plans thanks to all the changes in the past two years. 

After so much uncertainty, we wanted to find out what West Michigan has in store for the year ahead, from pivots to expansions, renovations, and other forms of growth. This is just a small sampling of all the amazing groups doing big things in our region, but here’s what they had to say.

MUSIC

WYCE Jess Martin

What does WYCE have in store for the coming year?  

After 18 months of running on a staff of two (Shane German and myself), the WYCE team expanded just last month to a staff of four. This means we have the ability to do a lot more even as everyone is navigating this crazy world each day. We are excited to have Jammies return after a year hiatus due to Covid on February 12, 2022 at The Intersection. We are also very much looking forward to getting more involved in our community and with our listeners and donors through various events and shows. 

What do you see in store for the local music world in the near future? 

I feel as though everyone is doing their best to figure out how to not only keep patrons at venues safe but also keep the music going for the musicians and fans. Covid policies will probably remain in place at venues or at the request of certain artists for a long time and I’m sure those restrictions will probably also be modified with more or fewer guidelines for entry along the way. It’s very important that everyone practice patience and kindness at venues and with venue staff as they deal with the challenges each show. 

LISTENING ROOM Quinn Matthews

What does The Listening Room have in store for 2022?

After 18 months of darkness, we turned the lights back on in Listening Room for a full slate of shows and have been busy, and plan to be through the end of the year and into 2022.  We’re lucky to have an intimate, seated room to accommodate between about 150-185 people depending on the act, with not a bad seat in the house audio or visually! We plan to continue that in full force in 2022 which we plan to be our first FULL year open all year. We’ll increase performances in Listening Room to 4-6, if not 7 nights a week. Local, regional, national, and international talent featuring folk/singer-songwriter, bluegrass, jazz, comedy, improv, and more!

THE PYRAMID SCHEME Tami VandenBerg

What does 2022 look like for The Pyramid Scheme?

The Pyramid Scheme is looking forward to a very big year in 2022. After an absolutely devastating year in 2020, and a pretty difficult year in 2021 (with numerous openings and closings), we are very hopeful that 2022 will be a year that we can remain fully open with a very full booking calendar. The Shuttered Venue Operator Grants we received from the SBA have been extremely helpful and set us up for an excellent year. We have filled all of our staffing positions again and move into 2022 with a fully trained and very diverse group. While we do expect a few cancellations and a bit of rescheduling in the first half of the year, we hope the 2nd half will bring us back to a more stable place as an industry.

What do you see in store for local venues in the near future? 

I believe it will continue to be an employee’s market vs. an employer’s market, and a venue’s market vs. a musician’s market. That is, venues are paying much higher hourly wages than in the past to attract excellent staff. I expect that will continue throughout 2022. Fortunately, The Pyramid Scheme has been so busy that these higher rates have not been a big stretch so far. With the federal funds we’ve received, I expect to keep wages quite high for the next 6-12 months if not longer. Conversely, I think the ‘venue’s market’ will also continue. Unfortunately, many venues closed for good throughout the last 2 years. This has led to fewer venues for musicians to play. In addition, musicians and performers have canceled 1-3 tours in the last year and many are anxious to get back out on tour. We are finding interest in performing at our venue is extremely high, possibly the highest it has ever been. Overall, we are very hopeful and extremely grateful for all of the support we have received.

CANNABIS

NEW STANDARD Howard Luckoff

 What does New Standard have in store for the coming year?

New Standard has had an exciting year of growth and we plan to continue setting a new standard for cannabis culture across the state in 2022. We have several new store openings in the works. More than anything, we plan to meet more of the communities we serve, expand our collaborations and partnerships with the amazing vendors and partners we work with, and continue give back to causes that are dear to us. 

What changes do you see for the cannabis industry in the near future?

The cannabis industry has just begun to emerge. We foresee it will continue to grow and become a more accepted and valued industry in the coming year, and years to come. Cannabis has so many amazing benefits. We have just begun to see the true power and impact of this little flower. We are excited to be at the forefront as more people are introduced to the many products already on the market.

TERRAPIN Demian Kato

What does Terrapin have in store for the coming year?

Growth! For the first time in Terrapin’s 12-year history, Terrapin Care Stations are opening beyond Colorado and into Missouri. It’s a very exciting period of growth for the company and for the brand. In addition to expanding our retail locations, we’re continuing to grow and evolve each of our brands (Terrapin, The Woods, and Double Bear) to constantly improve our voice and place in cannabis culture.

What changes do you see happening for the cannabis industry?

As the category grows and, as a result, reaches a broader audience, consumers will become savvier. With this newly refined perspective, cannabis brands will need to listen and respond to the ever-changing tastes of the uninitiated as well as the core audience. Influencing and contributing to the reciprocity that is the consumer experience is vital for brands to stay relevant.

PHARMHOUSE WELLNESS Casey Kornoelje

What does Pharmhouse have for the new year?

Pharmhouse Wellness remains committed to the revitalization of this neighborhood and the west Wealthy corridor. We plan to continue beautification efforts through additional green space enhancements, commissioned works of art for the public to enjoy, and tacticalism designed to improve pedestrian safety and walkability on west Wealthy. Business-wise, we anticipate our cultivation facility coming online in the first part of the year. This will be big for us and the first ever 100% locally owned, locally grown cannabis grow right here on the Westside. Super excited about that.

What about the industry?

On the local level, I would foresee additional shops opening in Grand Rapids, which translates to higher competition, and potentially more consolidation as the larger entities merge and acquire to improve market share. Federally we hope for more regulated access to banking and capital to help our business grow. We are closely watching the SAFE Act as it passes through the Federal legislative channels.

DINING

LITTLEBIRD/EARLY BIRD/QUARANTINO’S Christian Stachel

What does Littlebird have in store for 2022?

For our team at Littlebird, we’re very excited to be open for dinner. After a temporary closure over part of last winter and into spring, we’re thankful to embark on this next chapter. We have an amazing kitchen team, and reincorporating dinner service provides not only a great opportunity to stretch out creatively, but also to evolve a progressive and cohesive beverage program to accompany. This is definitely part of the reason why I myself relocated to Grand Rapids in May, in addition to helping reopen Littlebird.

Our mission is to continue supporting small and local farms and purveyors, but also to push wine forward in the conversation, especially regarding small farmers and families who are working ethically in the vineyard, expressing purity and a sense of place, in Michigan, and beyond. Now that craft beer is ubiquitous, and great cocktails are readily found around the city, I believe that wine is ready to explode. I can think of nothing more alive, in terms of soil & vineyard health, but also the overall expressivity of agriculture in concert with nature and its relationship with food. And I believe Grand Rapids is ready.

And how about the other restaurants?

We are designing a new bar at our pizza pop-up, Quarantino’s. Expect an expanded menu with housemade pastas and plenty of vegetable small plates added to our current pizza menu. We plan to add dine-in to our take-out and delivery only service by spring. The vibe will be fun and laid back. A neighborhood spot for food and drinks. Really a nighttime answer to Early Bird across the street. 

What does the future look like?

I would say the number one challenge is uncertainty. Without a clear idea of how (or if) things return to normal, all we can do is plan to move forward while also having more ideas in mind just in case things change. 

ESSENCE GROUP James Berg

What do the Essence Restaurants have in store for 2022? 

In the 2022 Essence plans on re-opening Grove at 919 Cherry St. The plan is to open it first quarter of next year. We did a complete renovation of the dining room. Updated logo and new kitchen equipment. New menu concept that encourages sharing and enjoying multiply flavors with you dining friends. The menu will offer clean diet selections, plant based, sustainable raised proteins and other locally sourced items.  A real unique and modern take on dining.  We are super excited to open it. The Green Well will go through small enhancement in the dining space and bar area. Bistro Bella Vita will introduce a new larger private dining space. Really looking forward to 2022!

What changes do you see in the dining world in the near future?

The pandemic change the hospitality industry over night.  It happened all at once. Unfortunately, the industry did not see this change when it happened. We are now recognizing it. Some good, some not so good. Who and how we hire has changed. The guests are looking for higher end experiences. The creative team members are difficult to find. People, people, people — where did they all go?  While this might be temporary, it doesn’t feel like it now. I believe the organizations and businesses that understand this change has happened and create positive change in their cultures will thrive in the future. We need to cater to our new work force, listen to what they are saying and design cultures around their feedback and the wisdom of the good leaders. Together, we can create a growing and thriving hospitality industry.

LINEAR Todd Hoort

What does Linear see in the crystal ball for 2022?

At Linear, we are still in the process of working through the pandemic and all the different curve balls it has thrown at us and continues to throw our way — that is our main focus for the foreseeable future. We feel that people will start to really focus more on healthy things. We feel food and drink will a part of this movement. We want to offer these healthy options to our guests. Less meats and fried foods and more vegetables and grains. The focus is making sure these new options are as delicious and desirable as the old options. 

THE ARTS

SAUGATUCK CENTER FOR THE ARTS Kristin Armstrong

What does 2022 have in store for Saugatuck Center for the Arts?

We have a HUGE year coming up at the SCA as we celebrate 20 years on purpose. You can read a little more about the introduction of our 20th year on our website. To summarize our year, we’ll be continuing our work in the community (and beyond) through innovative education, powerful exhibitions, creative outdoor events, and BOLD entertainment. We’ll be kicking things off with an amped up version of our FREE Jump Into Summer event on June 17 + 18, moving into a dynamic theater season opening with the award-winning Broadway smash hit Legally Blonde, a line-up of incredible and diverse concerts, and, of course, stacking all of this with transformative educational experiences for learners of all ages.

What changes do you see happening in the world of cultural arts?

Covid forced arts organizations to literally think — and get — outside the box (read: auditorium). The SCA learned, for instance, that audiences love outdoor concerts, so we opted to re-imagine our parking lot as a “Plaza” with a deck on the front of our building. So now we’re scheduling outdoor performances alongside our indoor events (we’re also hosting more Markets including outdoor fall events).  The increase in online viewing isn’t going to disappear. As a result, arts organizations are thinking about options for audiences ... which events will be in-person only, which hybrid, which virtual only? This wasn’t a conversation many organizations were having just two years ago.  

Covid demonstrated that if we are tied to indoor spaces, we are limited in serving audiences.  I think this was a deeply felt and learned (and completely unforeseen) lesson that’s pushing smart arts organizations to reconsider traditional models and create 21st Century models. The upside to new models: greater accessibility, greater flexibility, fresh perspectives, opportunities to hit “reset” and ditch processes that no longer served our community and mission.

ATTRACTIONS

THE RUSE ESCAPE ROOMS Bill Wiegandt

What do you see as the future for escape rooms?

Society is definitely trending toward becoming more virtual, with concepts like the ‘metaverse’ blurring the lines between our physical and digital lives.  Escape rooms will become more important than ever - providing an escape to reality rather than from it. We are developing a new room that presses even more into the shared experience narrative.  It shares some of the aspects of a traditional escape room but adds a role-playing element to it.  It’s a Soviet-era spy game where you don’t know who in the room you can trust... you have to rely on your intuition and interpersonal skills that we maybe haven’t used so much in the last two years!

Do you feel like escape rooms help people put aside their differences and come together for a common goal?

Absolutely. Like the old saying goes, nothing unites like a common enemy. In an escape room, the enemy is the clock. You’d be amazed at how groups suddenly become hyper productive in the last ten minutes!  In the face of large-scale problems like pandemics or global warming, I’m afraid we’re nearing that point on the clock. I’m hopeful though that the pressure we’re facing will diminish our political differences and that the same human ingenuity and capacity for collaboration we see every day in our rooms can play out in the real world. If it does, we’ll escape together. 

DRINKING

NEW HOLLAND Dominic Bergquist

How’s New Holland feeling about 2022?

We are very excited for 2022, as New Holland Brewing Co. will be celebrating our 25th anniversary! We have a full slate of new beers, old favorites, and a few super-secret spirits projects that we can’t wait to unveil!

What changes do you see in the craft beverage industry?

Within craft beer, and really bev-alc as a whole, I think we will continue to see a trend toward premiumization. That is inclusive of higher price points that are built on higher ABV products, better-for-you ingredients, and more robust storytelling that makes these products more of an experience than a commodity. 

EASTERN KILLE Steve Vander Pol

What is Eastern Kille working on for 2022?

Next year is going to be a big one for us. We sold our building this summer and are in the process of developing plans for a new distillery. We hope to be able to announce details on our new location in the near future but 2022 will be the last year we are distilling at our current location in the North Monroe neighborhood. To say goodbye to our original home at 700 Ottawa Ave and celebrate 6+ years of distilling here we are planning a handful of special releases throughout 2022 – including a couple six year old single barrel whiskeys and bringing back our original spiced rum. We look forward to sharing more when we can but are incredibly excited about what we are working on. 

What changes do you see in the distillery industry in the near future?

It’s always hard to predict the future, but I think we will continue to see the trend of finished whiskeys gaining popularity (the process of taking an aged whiskey and finishing it in a second barrel). Finished whiskey provides an additional layer of creativity to the whiskey making process and I think the small batch, hand-selected process used by craft distillers is especially well positioned to take advantage of this.

SPECIATION ARTISAN ALES Mitch Ermatinger

What is Speciation working on for 2022?

In 2022, we are going to focus even more on product diversification - specifically in the “clean beer” category. We will keep making plenty of those fancy fruited barrel aged sours and saisons, but non-sour beer is becoming a bigger and bigger part of our portfolio every day. IPAs, Stouts & Yellow beers aplenty!

What do you see in store for the craft beverage world?

Nobody should be surprised about this, but “craft” beer is going through some major changes right now. The sale of Bell’s and the overall decline in beer sales are big indicators of the direction of craft beer. Breweries will need to adapt quickly, and offer more variety, including seltzer, wine, kombucha, N/A, and possibly even other kinds of beverages will have to be considered by brewers and owners. Another challenge we face is the fact that prices for basically everything are going up at an astronomical rate, and that also includes wages. Our profit margin is getting destroyed and we all need that profit margin to stay open and make it worth it for everyone employed by the business. Sooner than later, consumers will see prices of beer go up too.

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