Insiders know to shop on the regular at Art of the Table (606 Wealthy St. SE). There's much to like at the specialty food, beverage and tabletop store located in the Heritage Hill section of Grand Rapids. Now with their new loyalty program, you can get paid to eat like a king. Owner Amy Ruis and her staff can enroll you in the loyalty program by entering your name in their fancy electronic television typewriter. Then, for every $100 you spend on beer, wine or liquor, you get a buck ($1) back. One customer saved up her bucks to buy a special bottle of champagne for her wedding. Another couple likes to "let it ride" until they get to an amount that will buy them a splurge bottle. Many spend it each time they reach the hundred dollar milestone. The computer keeps track of everything, just like the NSA, my pets. Poppa Steve is saving his bucks to buy a bottle of The Macallan 1926.
Big changes are happening at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (2 W. Fulton), Grand Rapids' contemporary arts space. The UICA recently added a little pep to its step by opening a new retail and exhibition space. Called The Shop, the former knick-knackery has been re-imagined by curator Curator Maggie Vance to display fine arts and home design items with personality, quirky character and lovely aesthetic. More than 20 artists are represented selling handmade original works in the brightly lit shop cocooned within a downtown parking ramp. The chic merchandise includes ceramics, wearables, jewelry and works on paper. "By diversifying The Shop and utilizing West Michigan's talent, we have been able to cater to many people's interests, budgets and personalities," Maggie said. Look for autumnal hand-crafted finds and holiday gift ideas beginning in September.
Head downtown and you will come across Woking Taco outside of the Grand Rapids Art Museum (101 Monroe Center NW). The new addition to Grand Rapids' soon-to-be thriving street food scene was launched by Kyle Lenkey and his mentor Benjamin Gott, founder of Boxed Water Is Better. A former GVSU student, Kyle was casting about for business opportunities while kicking off his career in private equities. He and Benjamin got the idea to reinvent carnival and botulism stalwart the walking taco. By using Chinese takeout containers, they knew that they could quickly and easily serve a tasty meal in nearly any locale. They spent the past several months learning the food trade, jumping through regulatory hoops and modifying a hotdog cart from the Concessions Cart Company of Jackson, Mich., which is the Cadillac of munchy mobiles. You can order chicken or veggie Woking Tacos, which cost $5. Both come with Fritos and fresh lettuce, beans and rice and the secret Woking Taco seasoning. Look for Woking Tacos on Monroe Center five days per week through November.
Just Add Water (450 Center St.) is a new beach lifestyle store that opened this summer in Douglas. Offering everything you need for in, on and around the water, Just Add Water fills a critical need for buying more cute stuff on the lakeshore. Located at the corner of Center and Ferry on your way to Oval Beach, the adorable blue shop has a sandy beach in front, along with colorful chairs and paddleboards and other resort accoutrements. It was too much for the bronzed Miss Carolita, who demanded that this reporter brake his 1962 Stingray for some high-quality browsing. A half hour later, our bags were bursting with adorable T-shirts and prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella and a bottle of wine. Yum. Our daughters found the perfect water shoes and a ball that skips on the water. Owner Margo Mikolitis understands the resort lifestyle as co-owner of Lakeshore Lodging, a successful property management company she operates with her husband, Mark. "We felt that the community needed a neighborhood store that could anchor the west end of the downtown," Margo said. The shop is popular with locals, as well as boaters and vacationers who often stop in to say goodbye at the end of their stay in the Saugatuck/Douglas area.
The Division Avenue Arts Collective (DAAC), which went defunct in July, will be holding periodical public planning charrettes to explore how best to serve the market of pre-pubescent suburban cognoscenti of heavy metal.
The Holland Farmers Market Chef Series continues: Chef Mitchiel Paul from deBoer Bakery will teach how to make Hippy Hash on Sept. 7, while Alonzo and Rosario Salinas, from Margarita's Mexican Restaurant, will use fresh market ingredients to make authentic Mexican dishes on Sept. 14.