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Downtown Lansing to be among the first homes of "Shark Tank"-backed Tom+Chee restaurant

Next month Downtown Lansing will be among the first places to open a restaurant that is set to start spreading across the country. After appearing on ABC’s "Shark Tank" in May, the small, Cincinnati-based restaurant Tom+Chee earned $600,000 in investment funds, followed by more than 9,000 franchise requests from around the world. 
 
Fortunately for Lansing, franchisee Mark Wibel was in on the grilled cheese and tomato soup-themed restaurant concept early. Prior to appearing on the show, owners Corey Ward and Trew Quackenbush met with Wibel, and the result will be Tom+Chee's seventh location opening in Lansing on Dec. 10. 
 
"He has a pretty extensive franchising history," Corey Ward says of Wibel. "We were identifying the best candidates to open our first stores, and he just has tons of experience with multiple brands."
 
The 1,700 square foot restaurant will feature unique, affordable twists on grilled cheese, such as "Hippy+Chee" with hummus and vegetables, "Pep+Chee" featuring pepperoni and "Flying Pig" with turkey, bacon and pickles. Ward hopes the Lansing lunch crowd will receive the grilled cheese concept just as well as the crowds at their original restaurant.
 
"The buildign actually reminded us a lot of our first location in Cincinnati," he says. "The architecture looks familiar, and it's a nice location - an awesome lunch location." 
 
Tom+Chee will open with 10 to 15 employees. The restaurant will soon be joined by three additional franchise locations outside of Michigan, and a boom of 30 to 40 Tom+Chee restaurants is expected in 2014. Wibel plans to open at least two more locations in Michigan. Ward and Quackenbush will be featured this Friday in an update episode of "Shark Tank."

Source: 
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

LCC's $31M Arts & Sciences Building renovation unveiled as hub for creativity and innovation

Lansing Community College's newly renovated Arts and Sciences Building is more than just a facility to house students and instructors; it's a building designed to embrace learning, support inquiry and foster creativity. The $31 million renovation of the 180,000 square foot project was completed just in time for fall classes to begin in Aug., and LCC celebrated the building's grand opening in October. 
 
"Our goal was to build spaces that were inviting to students and enable learning and teaching in a place where everyone would want to be," says LCC President Brent Knight. "We set out to build spaces as good as any college or university in the nation for freshman and sophomore instruction."
 
The Arts and Sciences Building includes such features as a tutoring and study space called the Learning Commons, a visual homage to history's great writers called the Writers Walk, the Science Innovation Center and more than 250 works of art. Key to the design, says Knight, was creating spaces that could change with the evolving demands of higher education. 
 
"We have many large, open spaces in the building," he says, "so that will serve the college in the future, no matter how learning changes."
 
Now underway is another LCC project nearby on Grand Ave. Knight says the renovation of the student commons building will create an "instant Lansing landmark." 
 

Source: Brent Knight, Lansing Community College
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Custom Embroidery Plus moves to larger, 2,500 sq ft Lansing location

Custom Embroidery Plus is celebrating the opening of their new Lansing location. The new 2,500 square foot space near N. Cedar on E. Saginaw brings the company closer to downtown, as well as into a larger, more visible location. 
 
"We do screen printing, embroidery, Carhartt, scrubs and heat press," says owner Kirk Gartside.
 
The new Custom Embroidery Plus location is about 400 square feet larger than its previous Lansing location. Garside says the extra space will allow the business to expand both its services and its inventory. 
 
"We're MSU licensed, so we have MSU gear in here," says Gartside. "We just plan to keep growing."
 
The original Custom Embroidery Plus store is in St. Johns. The company employs seven to eight employees across both locations. 
 

Source: Kirk Gartside, Custom Embroidery Plus
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Smalley Investments looks toward growth in new home, historic Kerr House

The new home of Smalley Investments is giving the local investment management firm the chance to return to Downtown Lansing, just as their move is giving the home itself a chance to return to its historic status as an active building. The stately, 1854 Kerr House has been renovated for the needs of Smalley Investment is now a part of the company's growth. 
 
"It's an absolutely gorgeous structure," says owner Joe Smalley. "It has these huge columns in the front, and it's a very prominent looking building. It needed a lot of world, but I was able to see the potential. I saw I could put my stamp on it." 
 
Smalley did that with the help of local designer Bradly Rakowski, of Bradly’s Home & Garden in Old Town. Work on the approximately 2,200 square foot renovation began in April, and Smalley Investments moved in in June. The firm opened in Downtown Lansing in 1999, before later moving to East Lansing. Smalley says he is delighted to return to downtown.
 
"Being back downtown has really given us the ability to serve our business clients," says Smalley. "We now have a larger footprint, so we can have larger meetings with our new conference room."
 
The large space will also help the firm continue to grow in size. Smalley is currently in the hiring process and expects to hire up to two additional staff members over the next year. 

Source: Joe Smalley, Smalley Investments
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

FLEX City Fitness doubles space with new Downtown Lansing location

It didn't take very long for FLEX City Fitness to hit its stride. Just a year and a half after opening, the small group fitness business is moving from its original, 1,000 square foot location to a new, 2,200 square foot space on Washington Square.
 
"We grew about 50 percent in our first year, and we just wanted to be able to accommodate the growth," says FLEX City Co-founder Jenny Quinn. "We also wanted to stay committed to Downtown Lansing. We really believe in what's going on here."
 
FLEX City Fitness combines the community support of class exercise with the attention of a personal trainer with small classes. The classes alternate cardio and strength training, and the workouts change so clients are always surprised with a new challenge. 
 
"We have indoor cycling, treadmills, barre and more," Quinn says. "The intervals change every day, the different pieces of equipment change, so it keeps people's bodies changing and guessing."
 
Along with the new space, FLEX is developing online classes for clients who may not be able to attend as often or students who may leave town during the summer. The new studio will also have new equipment to improve clients' experience.
 
FLEX City Fitness will open for its first class in the new location on Aug. 19. The business is operated by Quinn and her partner, Trista Parisian with the help of two interns. They hope to continue their growth to add new instructors in the future. 

Source: Jenny Quinn, FLEX Citiy Fitness
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

The Runway to return fashion to the Knapp's Building in 2014

For decades, when young fashion designers wanted to make it in the industry, the obvious decision was to pack up and move to New York, Paris, London or precious few other fashion-centric cities. Could Lansing be the next hot spot for aspiring designers?
 
If it sounds far-fetched, consider the fact that The Runway, Lansing's forthcoming fashion business incubator isn't being created in the hopes that fashion talent will find their way to the city; it's to begin harnessing all of the fashion-based entrepreneurship that is already here. 
 
"When Jeff Smith and I were came on, we were evaluating and were looking for a unique thing we don't have an incubator for yet," says Co-Director the New Economy Division for Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP). We kept running into people who were starting their own fashion lines. There are a number of people who are getting formally trained in this area, and there are lot more people who are dabbling in it on the side."
 
On track to open in January of 2014, The Runway will soon be under construction in an 8,200 square foot space in the Knapp's Building, including a floor level and mezzanine level. The first floor will offer a flexible space for the designers in residence to sell their work, as well as events. The mezzanine level will include 13 offices.
 
Not only is The Runway a great fit for a community with so much fashion talent, says Szymusiak, but also because of the very building it will be a part of. 
 
"This is bringing fashion back to the most iconic department store in the area," he says. "The retail space for tenants will really bring that back to the Knapp's Building."
 
LEAP is the service provider for The Runway, which is funded by the Lansing Economic Development Corp. 


Source: Ken Szymusiak, LEAP
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

What Up Dawg? looks to expand into Downtown Lansing

The East Lansing restaurant known as the hot spot for hot dogs is continuing to grow with an eye on Downtown Lansing. What Up Dawg? recently expanded their sales with a new downtown hot dog cart, and is hoping to be the newest business in the bustling block of Michigan Ave. that includes The Loft and The Tin Can. 
 
"One of the owners of this building saw us and they really weren't interested in doing their own food, they just wanted to book musical acts," co-owner of What Up Dawg Seth Tompkins says. "They are trying to provide an atmosphere on that block where you can go to multiple venues all at the same stop." 
 
The new space would operate as a "What Up Dawg Express" says Tompkins, offering an abbreviated menu from a 400 square foot location. The format would be similar to other food businesses on the block, and be believes the location would be a great fit for What Up Dawg. 
 
"With the convention center there and all those bars, its great, and it's about two blocks from the Capitol," Tompkins says. "And what I really like about this location is that it's a good location in July, and good location in September."
 
While plans for the new location are still pending, Tompkins says he hopes to open by August if possible. In addition to the new staff member hired to operate the hot dog cart that is open daily on the corner of Washington and Ottawa downtown, the express restaurant would create two new positions. 
 

Source: Seth Tompkins, What Up Dawg?
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Capitol City Scoop to open this week with MSU Dairy Store treats

Downtown Lansing's newest business brings something new as well as something familiar to the neighborhood. Capitol City Scoop will be downtown's only dedicated ice cream parlor, serving MSU Dairy Store ice cream and opened by the owner of Downtown Lansing's The Barberrettes and Coterie Purlieu, Felix Compos.
 
"I'm hungry," says Compos. "I think Downtown Lansing needs these businesses that I've chosen. The Lugnuts and other businesses sell ice cream, but no one specializes in it."
 
A longtime MSU fan with family connections to the university, when Compos started thinking about an ice cream store, he immediately thought of the MSU Dairy Store. It only took a phone call to get the partnership moving, and with the local creamery's involvement, Capitol City Scoop will serve more than just ice cream. 
 
"We're going to have a chef and he'll be doing some foods," Compos says. "Quick stuff you can eat for lunch. Some of it will be a little Southwestern. We're bringing in real tortilla from San Antonio."
 
Capitol City Scoop will have 12 to 16 flavors of ice cream, as well as cheeses and lunches made by the in-house chef. Similar to Compos other businesses, the shop has undergone significant renovation to fit his classy, signature style, including an upper level seating area.
 
The shop is set to open on Thursday with a grand opening planned for next Monday. Capitol City Scoop will employ a staff of up to six.  
 

Source: Felix Compos, Capitol City Scoop
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

New downtown law firm focuses on the arts and non-profits

A background in theater arts, non-profit administration and law may not be a conventional career path, but it's what has made Katharine Hude's new law practice, Hude Legal Services, so special. 
 
"I love working with non-profits and artists because of my background," Hude says. "It's part of what makes me a little unique in terms of what legal service I offer."
 
A Lansing native, Hude opened her Seymour Ave. business in February in a building shared by other legal practices and non-profits. Her specialty extends beyond offering legal advice to those in arts and non-profit community, but also consultant services such as strategic planning and communications planning. 
 
"I think there are a lot opportunities for artists and entrepreneurs in the Lansing area," says Hude. "The arts community is being looked at more and more in terms of economic development and attracting talent. It's important." 
 
Hude hopes to continue to grow her new practice in Downtown Lansing. She hopes Hude Legal Services might in the future have a staff that may provide non-profits with administrative services the organizations may not be able to afford to maintain in-house. 
 

Source: Katharine Hude, Hude Legal Services
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Michael's opens in former Brannigan Brothers space

Now on its third identity in the last year, the former Brannigan Brothers location in Downtown Lansing recently opened as a new restaurant and bar called Michael's. According to bartender Benjamin May, the new name comes with a classier atmosphere.
 
"We have a lot more top shelf alcohol," he says. " We're trying to attract a different crowd, a little bit older, such as the grad students at Cooley."
 
The restaurant's interior has been completely renovated since its time as Brannigan Brothers. Michael's now features live blues music on Wednesday nights and is also focusing on catering to sports fans with several TVs, as well as the local lunch crowd. 
 
Michaels currently employs a staff of approximately 14, and May says the new business has been busy since their opening in mid-March. 
 
"It's been a lot busier since the new owner has come in," he says. "We've got a pretty awesome staff."
 
May says Michael's hopes to soon add live music on the weekends in addition to Wednesdays. 
 

Source: Benjamin May, Michael's
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

MODI Gallery offers new option for local artists

It began with Brendan Martin's desire to find the right place to show his own work, but now into its second show on Michigan Ave., the new MODI Art Gallery has the potential to become much more. 
 
After moving back to the Lansing area where he grew up after living in Philadelphia and studying art in New York, Martin noticed a gap in the local arts scene.
 
"There are [local galleries] with older, more accomplished artists, and others that sell postcards and jewelry," says Martin. "There isn't a professional environment for young, emerging artists. We wanted to be a tradition style gallery with one show per month." 
 
Together with partner Pat Abood, Martin set about changing that with the 600 square foot space at 605 E. Michigan Ave. A former medical marijuana dispensary, the pair invested some serious time and elbow grease into the storefront to transform it into a gallery, aided by funds raised on Kickstarter. 
 
MODI Gallery opened with a showing of Martin's work on Feb. 1. A second month-long showing is now underway, and artists have expressed interest in showing in April as well. That all depends, says Martin, on how MODI continues to take shape as an organization, as he hopes it will become more of a community project than a proprietorship.
 
"We want to stay open and be able to let people show there," he says. "We're looking at how we can do that." 
 
Martin is optimistic about MODI's future. He and Abood have already partnered with such organizations as the Arts Council of Greater Lansing and Lansing Art Works. 


Source: Brendan Martin, MODI Art Gallery
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Renowned interior designer opens Downtown Lansing studio

Just when it seemed Downtown Lansing's 113 S. Washington Sq. couldn't get any more chic, the second floor of My Sista's Boutique is now the home of Kendra Dennis Designs, an interior design and event planning firm with a notable history in the industry.
 
Before arriving in Lansing, Kendra Dennis made a name for herself as "Designer of the Year" in 2003 by the American Society of Interior Designers, as well as the Certified Interior Designers in 2005. Dennis has appeared on HGTV’s Home and Garden Show and has been the featured designer on TV One’s hot renovation show, Divine Restoration.
 
"I think I always was kind of a designer, from a child," says Dennis. "I was always creating. It was a gift I already I had, and I turned it into a business."
 
The renowned designer grew up in Texas, but now joins her sister – My Sista's Boutique owner, Tina Robinson – in Downtown Lansing. Kendra Dennis Designs offers residential and commercial design, as well as special event planning
 
"Commercial is less stressful but my heart lies in residential," Dennis says. "It's an emotional renovation. I also do custom furniture design."
 
Kendra Dennis Designs opened in the 2,500 S. Washington Sq. space in December and celebrated their grand opening March 1. Dennis employs a staff of three, and also provides space for a boutique of her daughter's work, fashion designer Tanesa Peterson.

Source: Kendra Dennis, Kendra Dennis Design
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Wandering Waffles brings all-day breakfast to City Market

If you think waffles are sit-down-breakfast food only, the forthcoming Wandering Waffles at the Lansing City Market would ask you to think again. 
 
Samantha Wilbur says she always comes up with big ideas while her military husband was deployed, and every time he'd come home, he would talk her back down to earth. But when she came up with an idea for a food truck, he totally agreed. 
 
"I said, 'You're supposed to tell me no!'" says Wilbur. "But he said he thought it was a great idea, so I started looking into the process."
 
As the idea for Wandering Waffles developed, it morphed from a food truck concept to a Lansing City Market business. Wanting to serve the after-bar crowd, Wilbur decided a permanent location without restrictions on nighttime hours was the way to go.
 
What kind of waffles does one eat at 1 a.m.?
 
"We do bacon, deli meat and cheese," Wilbur says. "We also have a pizza waffle with homemade tomato sauce."
 
The homemade waffle toppings will also include more traditional flavors of caramel and marshmallow fluff, all made with as many local ingredients as Wilbur can get her hands on. Wandering Waffles will also offer gluten free waffles and toppings.
 
The 430 square foot City Market restaurant is expected to open soon, with Wilbur and two other workers behind the counter. The entrepreneur hopes to see the concept grow into multiple locations in the future. 
 

Source: Samantha Wilbur, Wandering Waffles
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Public Sector Consultants to move into 10,000 sq ft downtown space

Starting this summer, Lansing's Public Sector Consultants (PSC) will be closer to the action downtown. The public policy research and program management firm has leased more than 10,000 square feet in the 230 North building, formally the Michigan Dental Association. 
 
"We looked at a number of places downtown, and we were really excited because basically it was a blank canvas," says President of PSC Peter Pratt. "We liked being all on one floor and having windows everywhere, and we like the idea of starting anew there." 
 
PSC will move to the third floor of 230 North after 21 years in their W. Saint Joseph St. location. While the new location won't be much larger in terms of square footage, Pratt says the layout of the new space will allow the firm to make better use of the space, including having more open common area and expanded meeting space.
 
"We have a curved wall in the reception area we want to do something interesting with in the reception area," says Pratt. "It's exciting. It's just going to be sort of a more unified, sort of funky feel."
 
The new downtown space, which was leased with tenant representation by CBRE|Martin, will also embody PSC's commitment to thriving downtowns. While the office will allow the firm room for growth, Pratt says the 28-person business is focused on slow and steady growth, adding a net gain of two staff members over the past couple of years. 

Source: Peter Pratt, Public Sector Consultants
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

MSUFCU to open Sparrow branch, add six new positions

Sparrow Health employees will soon have a new location to do their banking with Michigan State University Federal Credit Union – and a convenient one, at that. In 2013, MSUFCU will open its tenth Mid-Michigan location inside the Sparrow Professional Building.
 
“MSUFCU has been serving the Sparrow caregivers for more than a year and we have many caregivers as our members,” says April Clobes, executive vice president and chief operating officer for MSUFCU. “It means easier access to MSUFCU for the caregivers with a convenient onsite branch location and opportunity to meet with our financial services representatives to answer questions and help with financial decisions.”
 
The new 1,200 square foot branch was announced after MSUFCU was chosen from among seven financial institutions that submitted proposals to become the financial services provider inside the Sparrow Professional Building. According to Clobes, MSUFCU will offer Sparrow employees more than a place to put their money.
 
“We will also work with Sparrow to provide financial education to all the caregivers on topics such as buying a first home, to understanding credit scores, to programs for youth members,” Clobes says.
 
The new branch will employ a staff of five full-time and one part-time worker. MSUFCU now has 169,000 members, including MSU and Oakland University staff, students, alumni and their families. 
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