In a way, all of Best of the West is about the people. We don’t have any categories for Best Automated Factory Robot — although, even if we did, it takes a human to design that robot. But in this section, we narrow our focus to the specific people who shine bright in our community, as well as the businesses who work hard to make our lives better.
We place a lot of trust in our hair stylists, our wedding photographers, our car mechanics — even our bartenders. When someone repeatedly earns that trust, and with some charisma to boot, word gets around.
For instance, tattoo artists Gareth Hawkins and Tony Putt both retained spots in the top three, having become well-known for their versatility, creativity and precision. Amy Lee of Gremlin House joined the pack as well. We all make mistakes, but Lee helps you fix them, with a focus on cover-up tattoos and realism.
We also added a few categories, such as piercing artist, realtor, dog groomer and attorney — even more people we put our trust in. One less conventional new category is “advocate/activist,” designed to honor those who work to make our community better in both their work and personal lives.
Tami VandenBerg tops the list, thanks to her work with Well House, a nonprofit providing affordable housing to the homeless in Grand Rapids, as well as her work to legalize weed in Michigan, among other causes. After years and years of tireless activism, VandenBerg has become a prominent name, face and hairstyle in Grand Rapids.
Next up on the list is EatGR, a Facebook group and Instagram page that posts pictures of food and does paid advertising for local restaurants, as well as runs an online blog and periodically releases a publication, all promoting local restaurants.
Then, we have Carol’s Ferals, an all-volunteer organization that works to reduce the number of stray cats, both through adoption and the TNR method (trap, neuter and return). Carol’s Ferals works with the community to give a home to cats, having spayed/neutered more than 11,000 felines since opening in 2006. The nonprofit also supplies Happy Cat Cafe with cats for adoption.
Tied for third is Tommy Allen, the publisher of Rapid Growth Media and volunteer/board member with multiple local nonprofits, including UICA, West Michigan Center for Arts and Technologies, West Michigan Environmental Action Council and more. He’s an artist, an activist and just a general man-about-town.
We’ll let the rest of the results speak for themselves.
People & Services Winners
1. Tami Vandenberg
3. (Tie) Carol’s Ferals
3. (Tie) Tommy Allen
- James Scozzari, Tanis Schultz
2659, 85 Campau Ave. NW R305, Grand Rapids
- Michele Giordano, Giordano Law
- (Tie) Martin Mead, Mead Law,
(Tie) Raquel Salas-Guzman, Avanti Law
(Tie) Stacy VanDyken, Stacy VanDyken Law
- Westside Garage
856 7th St. NW, Grand Rapids
- Community Automotive Repair
- Butch’s Complete Car Care
- Lake Michigan Credit Union
Multiple locations - lmcu.org
- Huntington Bank
- Chase Bank
- King’s Room Barbershop
Multiple locations - kingsroom.net
- Foremost Barbershop
- Jude’s Barbershop
- Mallory Root, Roots Brew Shop
600 7th St. NW, Grand Rapids
- Yoshi Saka - Field & Fire Cafe
- Kelley Sommers - Go Java
- Dan Dixon - Founders Brewing Co.
235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
- Josh Atkinson - Cedar Springs Brewing Co.
- Brian Denboer - Harmony Brewing (Eastown)
Bed & Breakfast
- The Lafayette House Bed & Breakfast
135 Lafayette Ave. NE, Grand Rapids
- The Leonard at Logan House
- Peaches Bed & Breakfast
- Freewheeler Bike Shop
915 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids
- Grand Rapids Bicycle Company
- The Spoke Folks
- Breton Auto Wash
1970 Breton Rd SE, Grand Rapids
- Cascade Car Wash
- Crystal Clean Auto Detailing
- Jenna Arcidiacono - Amore
5080 Alpine Ave. NW, Comstock Park
- Ryan Bolhuis - Rockford Brewing Co.
- Shaun Wooden - Cedar Springs Brewing Co.
- Mallory Knight, Fido & Stitch
820 Monroe Ave. NW #140, Grand Rapids
- Leah Bell, Eastown Veterinary
- Wendy Petersen, the Fairy Dog Groomer
Multiple locations, mvpsportsclubs.com
- Allegro Coaching
- Grit Life
- Hailey Ullrey, Meraki Salon
17 Squires St. Square NE, Rockford
- Cassandra Didaskalou, Cheeky Strut
- Kathy Kang, Capelli Salon
- Kathryn Chaplow, Kathryn Chaplow Design
- Peter Jacob, Peter Jacob Kind Creative
- Rock Kauffman, Rock Kauffman Design
- Urban Massage
1507 Painfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids
- Chasing Vanity Salon and Spa
- Design 1 Salon Spa
- Chasing Vanity Salon and Spa
150 Wealthy St. SE Grand Rapids
- Posh Nails & Spa
- Capelli Salon
- Grand Rapids Ophthalmology
Multiple locations - seeitclear.com
- Rx Optical
- Rockford Family Eyecare
- Christian Roberts, Street Fit Coaching
- Kendra Bylsma, Allegro Coaching
- Sam Parker, CrossFit Grand Rapids
- Devin Hendrick
- Heather Dixon
- Katy Batdorff
- George Egy, Honest to Goodness
- Nicole Ashley, Honest to Goodness
- Valerie Nelson, Lightning Revival Tattoo
- Santiago Gomez, Santiago Properties
- Pete Bruinsma, Grand River Realty
- Chris Freeman, Clarity Realty
- Cheeky Strut
216 Grandville Ave SW, Grand Rapids
- Capelli Salon
- Meraki Salon
- Stu McCallister
- Kaira Williams
- Catye Palomino
- Gareth Hawkins, Sovereign Arms Tattoo Co.
- Tony Putt, Love Tattoo
- Amy Lee, The Gremlin House
- Honest to Goodness - Tattoo & Piercing
333 Grandville Ave. SW #300, Grand Rapids
- Sovereign Arms Tattoo Co.
- The Gremlin House
- Eastown Veterinary Clinic
1350 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids
- Family Friends Veterinary Hospital
- (Tie) Cascade Hospital for Animals
(Tie) Plymouth Road Animal Clinic
- Lindsey Rae, Cheeky Strut
- Morgan Goulish, CityFlatsHotel
- Elyse Riemersma, Posh Petals
- Funky Buddha Yoga Hothouse
1331 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids
- AM Yoga
- Twisted Hot Yoga
Spencer Penfield Photography
When you only have one shot at capturing one of life’s biggest moments, you need someone who is able to nail it every time. That’s exactly what Spencer Penfield does as a wedding and couples photographer. His portfolio is warm, candid and natural, and though based out of Grand Rapids, Penfield has flown all over the United States and beyond to capture lovebirds’ special days. He has the ability to put even the most intense nerves at ease, guaranteeing gorgeous shots no matter the circumstances. Yes, he’s your wedding photographer, but he’s also someone you’ll want to call for coffee the next week. — Michaela Stock
Abby Manchesky, Abby Manchesky Interiors
Maybe it’s just me, but when someone has the vision to style a room, it seems like absolute sorcery. Yet the talented Abby Manchesky does it on the daily, speaking the language of furniture placement, color, texture, fabrics, mirrors, wallpaper and that wink of something unexpected that magically wraps everything up into one big, impactful and stylish bow. She keeps it simple yet personal, and homegirl finds the best artwork. My eyes thank her for the clean, modern and fresh design, rooted in sophistication. I guess you could call her a maker of happy places. Oh, and her decorating tips are spot on, but now I’m just gushing. — Missy Black