Cliff and Nancy Hill

Weathermen throw 2012 Resolution Walk a curve ball

January 5, 2012 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Falling all over each other, in hoping to usher in the New Year with a “sky-is-falling” weather forecast, the weather teams of West Michigan’s TV news outlets forecast a dire New Year’s Day. In forecasting an “over-the-top” winter blast to arrive New Year’s Day morning the intrepid meteorologists had cast a pall on expected attendance at the newly renamed Fred Meijer New Year’s Day resolution Walk, the 11th walk hosted annually by the Friends of the White Pine Trail (FWPT). Known in previous years as the Friends of the White Pine Trail Resolution Walk, the walk was renamed “to honor the memory of a man without whom the White Pine Trail would not be what it is today,” said Dave Heybour, Chairman of the FWPT. Yearly, playing upon a theme of sensationalizing weather forecasts, area weather prognosticators had predicted high winds, freezing cold temps, and 3” to 10” of snow to arrive late New Year’s Day morning, the morning of the Resolution Walk. (It’s easy to be right when the range of snowfall could vary by 7 inches, right?) As is often the case, the weather predictions weren’t even close. In Rockford at 8:00 a.m. New Year’s Day morning, the temperature was an unseasonable 40 degrees F., the wind was calm, and there was a sporadic mist in the air. As we were writing this article Monday evening, Rockford had received a scant 1-inch of snow covering paved surfaces. Nevertheless, the harm had been done. Because of the ratings driven forecast, attendance at the10 a.m. start of this year’s Resolution Walk was slightly more than half of what was expected. Following welcoming speeches by both Heyboer and past Rockford Mayor and current City Councilman Rich Moll, the Walk stepped off northward to a turn-around at 12-Mile Rd. then returned to the Walk’s conclusion at the Rotary Pavilion. Moll was the first City official, in the 11-year history of the Walk, to give an official Rockford welcome to event attendees. Those that showed up that morning, some who had “talked the talk” of a resolution to lose weight and others to simply step into the new year in fellowship with lovers of the Trail and the great outdoors, reaped the added […]

Downtown Rockford coffee house under new ownership

December 15, 2011 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY In early 2010 Joel and Melanie Pritchett and their three children, Daniel, Jordyn, and Taylor, were leading comfortable lives in Seattle, Washington. However, in April of that year, their lives were about to change. Melanie, who goes by Mel, found her management job with Verizon, in the Pacific Northwest, being eliminated because of a buy out by Frontier Communications. Verizon offered Mel the opportunity to transfer either to Wisconsin, Ohio, or Michigan. Not wanting to give up her 12-year management career, she and husband Joel decided that, of the three choices, Michigan was the place to be. Joel was a Minnesotan born and raised, loved mid-west winters, football, and NASCAR and Michigan had all of that and more – in spades. The plot thickened. In order to uproot their family and relocate to the Midwest, Joel had to resign from his 20-year management position with aviation giant – Boeing Company. For Joel it was a somewhat easy decision. He had become steadily disillusioned with the ever-escalating and never-ending corporate demands placed upon him and co-workers as a result of the worst decade-long economic decline since the Great Depression. In April of 2010, the Pritchett’s found themselves enroute to the “Mitten State”. They found a home in Grant and Mel resumed her career with Verizon in Muskegon. Joel found a job with a Michigan company and all was well, or so it seemed. A short year and a half later, the final axe was about to fall when Mel learned her position with Verizon was being eliminated by another round of corporate downsizing. “We had ‘had it’ with the corporate world,” said the Pritchett’s. Joel pulled the plug on his new job and buoyed somewhat by Mel’s sizeable severance package the couple decided to pursue a dream of small business entrepreneurship. They began, in earnest, to seek a location in Newaygo County to build a brick and mortar coffee house complete with a drive-up window. The coffee house decision was not a whim. Joel was raised in a successful family of restaurateurs’. For her part, Mel was a trained barista having learned the craft in a second job part-time position with Silver Cup Coffee in Seattle. So it came to pass, in […]

Happy Trails to you, Fred

December 8, 2011 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Last Tuesday afternoon found us at Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park to attend a visitation and pay our respects to a man we had personally come to know as one without equal – Fred Meijer. We were not there as reporters to cover Fred’s passing but rather as two of thousands, that afternoon and evening, who felt compelled to gather and reminisce with one another and Meijer family members about the life and times of Fred and the role he played in all of our lives. The “six degrees of separation” theory refers to the idea that everyone is on average approximately six steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person on Earth. That theory did not apply to Fred Meijer. In Fred’s case, it was more like one degree of separation. Is there a person in West Michigan that does not have a Fred story to tell? Certainly everyone present last Tuesday could attest to that. So much for computer-age social networks, Fred accomplished much the same with countless thousands of peoples in good old-fashioned face-to-face conversation. Fred was a man of the people who had an insatiable thirst for knowledge. If you crossed paths with him, he was always graciously approachable. In conversation, you became his new friend. He learned your name, what you did for a living, and how you felt about things in general. Both parties were enriched by the encounter and parted ways having learned something new and possibly, at the same time, enjoying a good laugh, oftentimes at Fred’s expense. Is there another billionaire anywhere who has freely made himself available to his fellow man more than Fred Meijer? We think not. Your reporters, the Hills, had the good fortune to meet Fred numerous times in covering events where he was present. Sometimes, also, it was just happenstance. It could have been at Meijer Gardens itself, where we are members, or it could have been at one of the local Meijer stores while we were shopping. Two occasions that stand out in our minds occurred while we were covering local events for the Squire where Fred was the focal point. On one in 2008, Fred was the guest of honor at a […]

Rockford Quick Lube brings “Gusher” to town

November 24, 2011 // 0 Comments

By CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Last Wednesday morning, we awoke with a taste for a Peppermill Grill omelette. So, off we headed to the popular downtown Rockford eatery. Entering the Northland Dr. business district from the north we witnessed an unbelievable sight. There appeared to be an oil derrick gushing black crude oil in front of Rockford Quick Lube, 360 Northland Dr., at the intersection of E. Main and Northland Dr. Pulling off the road, we noticed a large man gazing up at the gusher while repeating gushing over and over again, “I love it, I love it, I love it…” Seriously though, the evening prior we learned that local sculptor Steve Anderson, of Andersons Metal Sculpture, had been commissioned by Rockford Quick Lube owner, Roger Haveman, to create a one of a kind work of art. Completed, delivery was scheduled for Wednesday morning. With the oil derrick protruding from the rear of his large delivery van, Anderson had just arrived on scene and with the help of the Quick Lube crew unloaded “Gusher” and quickly erected and attached it permanently to a previously poured concrete foundation. Yes, Haveman truly did gush over and over again, “I love it, I love it, I love it…” Over the years, Haveman had much admired many of the Andersons’ sculptures already on display in the Rockford community and had been working with Anderson toward this very day for the past couple of years. “I’m in the oil business and my wife Elaine and I love sculptures so an oil derrick sculpture was a perfect fit for my business site.” said Haveman. Haveman told us that the timing for the installation was intentional. Rockford Quick Lube is about to celebrate its 5th anniversary on December 1st and Haveman decided to have “Gusher” installed as a surprise thank-you to his many, many loyal customers for all of their past support. “Gusher” stands some 19-feet tall. The derrick is constructed of heavy gauge angle iron and the undulating and flowing oil gusher is sculpted of steel sheet metal. “Gusher” was finished to withstand the elements with the derrick first being primed, then receiving a heavy coat of Rhyno-Liner (a protective coating spray-on truck bed liner) and then topped off with a […]

Rockford Brewing Company on tap for 2012

November 17, 2011 // 0 Comments

By CLIFF AND NANCY HILL “It was a short 2-month courtship and a marriage made in heaven,” said Rockford resident Brien Dews in speaking about a recently formed partnership with two other Rockford residents, all three having a dream of opening a microbrewery in downtown Rockford specializing in craft beers. Microbreweries have been a growth industry throughout the economic downturn of the past decade and craft brew beers lovers are legion. The partnership believes that a microbrewery in Rockford would be a perfect addition to the destination shopping and fine dining opportunities already available in Rockford. It is possibly the missing link! Dews is best known as Rockford’s Mayor Pro-Tem along with being an AWCI 21st Century Certified Clockmaker who owns and operates Rockford’s All Good Time Clock Service. For the past 7 years Brien has had a passion for his crafting of home brewed beer. Partner Jeff Sheehan has a decade of home brewing experience and for the past 5 years has been employed by the New Holland Brew Pub, in Holland, MI where he developed and tested new brews. Partner Seth Rivard has also been a home brewer of beer for 5 years and for the past 13 years has been employed by Alcoa Howmet in Whitehall, MI in the area of information technology (IT). In addition, Seth brings a degree in Business Administration to the table. Recently the trio entered into a purchase agreement with the owner of the property located at 12 E. Bridge St. (Directly across the street from the Rockford Historical Museum on the southwest corner of Bridge St. and the White Pine Trail.) The two-story space has approximately 1650 sq. ft. on each level. The second floor level has breath-taking and commanding views in all four directions. Rockford’s iconic Rogue River Dam is highly visible as is the river above the dam. The America’s Favorite Farm Market venue is a glance away. Michigan’s longest linear state park,The White Pine Trail, runs adjacent to the property. From its upstairs windows one can take in many of the popular seasonal Rockford events such as the Annual Ice Festival, the summer Huntington Rogue River Blues Series, the Start of Summer carnival festivities, Mitchell’s Run, and the Holiday Lighting Ceremony, to name some of […]

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