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Uptown Updates, Spring 2021

By Dana Kroll, Uptown Marketing and Communications Specialist

Hello, and Happy May!

Welcome to our Spring Newsletter. Before we begin, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge something very important, and that is: The Uptown District of Grand Rapids is grateful for the support that our community and visitors provide our businesses, all year round. Our organization, Uptown GR, Inc., works every day to show you our gratitude by consistently creating a space for you to enjoy amazing and “brag-worthy” experiences while you’re here.

We know that you can choose to do your shopping, dining, and errands anywhere in our wonderful city, and that you choose Uptown as your go-to spot. We thank you, and our many local businesses do too.

Now, on to the latest fun stuff to look forward to in Uptown this spring!


Ingrid Miller
Executive Director
Uptown GR, Inc.


Spring has definitely sprung in Uptown!  After what has been a tough couple of seasons for us all, we’ve pulled out the stops to highlight our show-stopping district. Here are some of the of the latest ways that we are making sure we’re looking fresh and inviting.

As you peruse, know that each and every one of these initiatives is made possible through the planning and hard work of our various volunteer committees. The projects are funded through our Corridor Improvement Authority (CIA) and Business Improvement District (BID). Take a look:

Planting Season: The Uptown landscape is quite lush right now, thanks to the following endeavors: A partnership with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, who have planted 50 new trees throughout the district; a revamp of all of our public beds and garden areas, including fresh mulch; the addition of beautiful new planters coordinated by the East Fulton Business Association along that district.  The district’s beauty is also in no small part due to our other business associations and business owners themselves as well; you’ll find that many have outdone themselves to spruce up their flower boxes, planters, patios, and courtyards, too.

Ambassador Program: At the beginning of the year, Uptown partnered with Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc.  (DGRI ) and Block-by-Block  to add a boots-on-the-ground maintenance program for the entire district. Our Uptown Ambassadors can be seen throughout the district, emptying trash receptacles, removing graffiti, handling rubbish removal along curbsides, and more. These folks are deeply passionate about their community and enjoy being stewards of information to our visitors and businesses. You’ll recognize them by their branded uniforms and caps. We are happy with their efforts thus far, and we are betting that you may notice that things are looking just a little sharper in Uptown these days. 

New Artworks: In a continuation of our commitment to support local artists and beautify the district, we have sponsored a new mural, in our Eastown district; it will be located on the Matchbox Diner building. We’ll let you know via our social channels when it’s happening in case you’d like to observe the artist at work. Meanwhile, our website offers a useful map highlighting all of the installations that can be seen throughout our neighborhoods, including the most recent new mural we sponsored, on Brewery Vivant, last fall. You’ll find it here.

Facade Improvement Program: In 2020 Uptown kicked off its Façade Improvement Program, created to support business and property owners by providing applicants a reimbursement towards façade rehabilitation. We know that a significant part of the pedestrian experience is to be found in the enjoyment of our buildings and spaces, many of which are historic, and we want to help keep them vibrant, beautiful and in good repair. Approved projects thus far include 967 Cherry Street, the location of our beloved Cherie Inn, as well as 1048 Wealthy Street, the soon-to-be home of Paddle North, a new business to the district. You’ll begin to see these projects taking shape in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled!


The last time we updated you to the new businesses that have joined us (or will be doing so soon) was some time ago (time flies when you’re having fun).

Here are the latest businesses to celebrate, those that have joined us since we last touched base with you:
Meeting House Tattoo
KCM Japanese Fusion
Red Bowl Hibachi
Root Farmacy
Eastown Cereal Cafe
Fresh Apparel
XTreme Cryo
Terra Bagel
Basalt Tex Mex
Calder Investments
Hey Barber
Strike Back Fight Club
J Visser Design
Cubi Market
Marvelous Me Books,
and Remington (both located within the newly revamped Sparrows Coffee)
Ageless Beauty
The Bradbury (located within Stoffer Home)

And here are some that are coming, soon:

Tamale’s Mary
Monarch Investment
Paddle North
The Good Cookie
RENDR Custom Homes


Another exciting addition that is in the works within our East Hills neighborhood, is the Hermitage At Diamond project. As one of our recent Uptown Instagram posts shared, this historic church is undergoing a complete restoration and renovation right now. The goal? To create an amazing space that will be dedicated to the creation, performance, display, and teaching of the arts. The project has a ways to go, and its restoration team is actively seeking community and local business engagement, as they’re eager to tap the Input, opinions, and talents, of the people most likely to be impacted by this amazing addition to our community. To that effect, please take a moment to visit their website for more info about the project, and, for ways to get involved.


Uptown is not just where you go to do things, it’s where you go to get things done. Somewhat surprisingly, service-based businesses comprise the largest share of our total number of businesses. We boast close to 175 professional businesses to choose from that will help you with everything from your taxes to your transmission, from your hairstyle to home-buying and selling, and everything in between. We took some time to chat with just a few of our service business owners in Uptown, who have fun perspective to share on being a part of our business community:

Business: E+L Salon
What: A full-service salon focusing on creating an inclusive environment for its guests
Location: 1 Carlton Ave SE D, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
Interviewee: Lauren DuCharme, Co-owner

What year did E+L open; how long have you been in business?
We opened in January of 2018. After working at two other Grand Rapids salons together, Erin and I realized our similar vision.  E+L stands for “Elevate + Love” which we strive to do every day through beautiful hair, an inclusive space, community involvement with local charities and continued education for our stylists. 
 We are lucky enough to be the first and only salon here at Fulton Square. 

Talk about your staff.
We are currently a small, yet mighty team of five women. Erin + I am co-owners + stylists. Cait is our manager and Carissa + Kristyn make up our incredibly talented styling team. 

What clientele do you service, types of projects do you do, services do you offer?
We offer hair cutting and coloring and facial waxing services. We specialize in natural, dimensional color and blonding. 

What are some of your favorite things about being a business located in Uptown?
The neighborhood! When we first opened our doors in 2018, people who live in the area stopped in to welcome us. We were humbled by how excited our new friends were for us to be here. Many of them had campaigned to keep the businesses in Fulton Square independently owned.  Some even introduced us to their dogs. This neighborhood is the absolute best for dog watching!

What’s the most memorable or interesting thing that you’ve seen happen over your years located in Uptown?
COVID hit at the beginning of our third year open. We will never forget as a newer business how much the Uptown community (this newsletter included!)  has stood behind us-from sharing well wishes to helping put our salon on blast during this difficult time – we are forever grateful. 

*image: courtesy

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Business: Storr Printing
What: A small but mighty print shop located in a quaint, mid-dentury modern building located on Cherry Street
Location: 938 Cherry St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
Interviewee: Carrie Dirkse, Management

When did Storr begin?
My dad, (Dan) Started SPS in 1977 and has been in business ever since. Prior to buying the building on Cherry they worked out of the basement of our home, not for long.

Who staffs the shop?
Donna (my mom) is the sole owner and it’s just the two of us since my dad passed away in 2017. I (Carrie) took on his role in the shop and office.

What clientele do you service, types of projects do you do, services do you offer?
We can do most anything. From wide format to business cards. Newsletters, envelopes, letterhead, and everything in between. Most of our customers are local.

What are some of your favorite things about being a business located in Uptown?
It’s a vibrant and bustling neighborhood. Friendly. It’s been neat watching the neighborhood transform over the decades!

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Business: MercuryHead Gallery
What: One-of-a-kind framing and print service company offering expert advice and counsel on all your art and photo preservation needs,  with a “mom-n-pop” small shop approach. 
Location: 962 Fulton St E, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Interviewee: Laury Baker, Management

When, how, and where did you begin?
Ben Perrin, owner, opened MercuryHead Gallery in October of 1999, in the location we are at today.

Who operates the shop currently?
Ben manages the frame shop where he chops and joins custom picture frames in-house. I manage the front end and our printing department. This includes creating reproductions of artists works, photo restoration, personal photo printing, and full photo editing services. We both work with our customers on frame design. We also have one additional professional picture framer and one photoshop expert.

What clientele do you service, types of projects do you do, services do you offer?
We do work for businesses, organizations, individuals from all over West Michigan, and several out-of-staters. Custom picture framing for everything you could possibly think of.  Printing services offered include fine art reproductions, photo restorations, and snapshots, onto canvas, fine art papers, and photo papers. Many people come to us for reproducing old family photos or to create large prints of their own art or photography, including cellphone photos. We work with local artists making digital images of their original works and producing art prints for them to sell through the farmers market, art fairs, and their Esty sites.

What are some of your favorite things about being a business located in Uptown?
The location is great in that it pulls from all the outskirts and a large walkable customer base. The process of restoring our space to its original beauty was a labor of love. It has been great to see and be part of the transformation of this district becoming a safe and viable area again.

We are grateful for all the support making it possible for us to do something we believe in and are passionate about. The great relationships that have formed along the way; both customers and fellow entrepreneurs is one of the things we love most about being a local business.


A few things on the horizon to begin thinking about and making plans for:

Memorial Day – May 31

Father’s Day – June 20

June is Pride Month


Uptown is adding to our team and you might be just the fit we are searching for. We’re seeking to add a Project Coordinator, and candidates have until May 17 to submit their resumes and cover letters. If you are looking for a fun and fulfilling way to Support Local through your work, we encourage you to look at our press release and job description here.

For more information about this and all things Uptown, please contact Ingrid Miller.