Baseball-themed day of free samples draws crowds by BETH ALTENA Rockford Ric’s Food Center is a busy place these days four years into their location at 6969 Belding Road. The store was especially busy Saturday, May 5 with the Spring Taste of Ric’s, where vendors and store staff offer free samples of many food products. There were about 40 stations offering samples from wraps and sandwiches from the Ric’s deli to rootbeer floats in dairy. The meat and seafood department were especially busy as people lined up for samples of the store’s signature kielbasa and tasty crab cakes, sale priced at just a dollar each for the day. According to Store Director Dave Brickner, the events are greatly anticipated by both customers and staff, and this year’s included a drawing for a free grill valued at about $700. Brickner said the store is a busy one for the chain, and beer- and wine-tastings on Saturdays from 3 to 6 p.m. have been very popular. The store has been holding the tastings for the last seven months, and the selection of wine and beer is the best in West Michigan, Brickner believes. “Michigan has so many good breweries we have been able to focus on Michigan-made beers,” he stated. Michigan also has a great selection of locally made wine, but the store also features wines made worldwide. “We are so event-oriented,” Brickner said of his Ric’s. April was Michigan Wine Month, May includes the Taste of Ric’s and Mother’s Day, and the new one-day sales have been big successes. Brickner also expressed enthusiasm regarding the proposed development for the property surrounding the store, which was a Planned Unit Development for residential homes, townhouses and other businesses along the Belding Road frontage. The development went to the bank after sales failed to take place and the economy spiraled down, but now one of the town homes built on the site has sold—a happy sign of better times to come.