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Uptown. Your New Favorite Place To Work

By Dana Kroll, Uptown Marketing and Communications Specialist

If you’ve spent any time visiting Uptown, following along with our social media accounts, or scoping out this website, you are already very likely a GR enthusiast and a supporter of all things local. Good on you! You’re our kind of people – those who give us purpose and are the momentum behind why we’re the growing, energized district that we are.

You are also hopefully also familiar with where Uptown is and what we’re all about, but, let’s revisit that, because why not?

The Uptown district of Grand Rapids is located to the East of downtown proper and consists of four unique and thriving business districts: Wealthy Street, East Fulton, East Hills, and Eastown. Located between these four distinct districts are close to 400 businesses, nearly all of which are independently owned, and which cover many sectors of industry. We’ve got restaurants, bars, sweeteries, and entertainment venues; retail shopping and boutiques galore; there’s coffee shops and breweries; theatres and music venues; countless salons, spas, health studios, and gyms; service providers for everything from business to design to automotive and more; plus, an impressive host of non-profits that call us home as well.

We’re proud to say that Uptown really does have it all, and we want to be your favorite place…to visit. To explore. To shop. To enjoy. To experience. Today we share yet a new favorite that we want you to think of us for. What’s that, you ask? Uptown wants to be your favorite place…to work.

Are you among those who are seeking that next employment fit for both your skillset and your values? Is it important to you that your next job not only pay the bills but engage and reward you in other ways too?

Many of our businesses – those same businesses we mentioned above – are actively hiring. And just as frequenting the independently owned businesses here is a special and rewarding experience, so also is being a member of the many teams that make them Go.

As you seek your next role, consider these reasons to explore employment in Uptown:

Photo courtesy Eastown Veterinary Clinic, who currently seek to fill several positions. Note that compensation package does include occasional smooches, as pictured:

The sense of community:

Check out our stats in the blue ‘Get to Know Us’ section of our website, here.

A really distinctive feature of the Uptown district is how we’re laid out, geographically. Our four business districts are already very closely located to each other and therefore easy to navigate between, but the cherry on top is that they are also nestled amongst five lovely, established, and historical neighborhoods just bursting with residents of all sorts – families, young professionals, retirees, college students, and everything in between. We’re easily walkable or bike-able, and our city offers public transit, designated bike paths, and tons of parking throughout. Because of this, a giant part of the client base you’ll serve as an employee of a business in Uptown, are people right here in our own community. Not to mention, lots of our business owners and operators are our community members too. Many of us also live right here in Uptown (and some, in live/workspaces, to boot). What this means is that in several ways, revenue earned, and revenue created, circulates through the community in a way that creates continually returning investment, both fiscally, and societally.

The ethos:

Did you know? Small businesses power our economy. They account for 44% of US Gross Domestic Product, they create two-thirds of net new jobs, and employ nearly half of America’s workforce? *

Our small business owners are a hardy and admirable group. They are not only experts in their craft, with a passion for what they make and provide, but they specifically seek out the help of passionate people (like you!) who desire to be a contributing part of their community and business vision. Because of this, small business working environments tend to foster an amazing culture of complementary-minded individuals. There is value placed in the people who help to make small business dreams a reality, and small business owners can often invest in their teams in unique ways that larger corporations often don’t have the flexibility to accommodate. National turnover rates are lower, and retention rates are higher, in small businesses versus larger corporations, and it has been theorized that positive work culture and balance play a key role in this statistic.

Supportive Cultures Abound in Uptown. Pictured, Hugs At a Recent Uptown Mixer, Held at Palace Flophouse Salon.

The emphasis on equity:

Here’s another cool ‘Did You Know? Nationally, women-owned businesses are one of the fastest growing segments of the small business community (up from 5% in 1970 to 38% today) *. Similar statistics can be found as it pertains to BIPOC, queer, and other minority owned businesses.

It’s true. Small and local business environments statistically make for an excellent place to foster diversity and equity. Uptown is proud to say that we’re pacing to meet or exceed these national statistics currently, but we’re not just interested in the numbers for numbers’ sakes. For us, it’s much more important than that. It is about building a truly diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment for all – patrons and businesses alike. In Uptown, it is an imperative that we build a business community that is as diversified and colorful as the residents and visitors who choose to invest their time and money here.

Our organization, Uptown GR Inc., has invested in expert-led counsel and guidance in the area of DE&I and operates a committee dedicated to doing the work needed in order to be able to ensure that ours is a district that is a truly welcome place for all people who wish to open an independent business (or work in one!). The Grand Rapids Pride Center calls Uptown its home, and both the GR chapter of the NAACP and twenty-six additional non-profits do as well. If this aligns with your values, then ours is an environment you should consider spending your working hours in.

The breadth of opportunity:

We’re home to 83 food and beverage businesses, 72 retail businesses, and 176 service businesses.

We’ve welcomed nearly 40 new businesses to the district from beginning of 2020 to now. Yes, that means that new businesses continued to open even amidst a pandemic lockdown! And the fresh faces and spaces are ever continuing to join us here. But we’ve definitely got roots too. Many of our businesses have been located and operating in Uptown for decades.

It’s an amazing experience to work in an environment with such a diversity of offerings at your fingertips. Not just across the categories of industry to be found here, but also, across the levels of employment that can be found as well. Our businesses seek a range of candidates in everything from entry-level to highly trained experts in their fields. The opportunity to network with others who value a strong and vibrant small business community is limitless!

The brag-worthy stats:

Our district is an award-winning place to spend your time, whether at work or play.

Consider this: Of the twenty businesses who have achieved coveted ‘B Corps. Statuses’ across the entire state of Michigan, a full quarter of them – that’s five – are located right here, in our Uptown. What is B Corps.? Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps. are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.

Plus, forty-six of the current “Bests of the West” are located in Uptown, per the latest results of an annual contest held by one of the city’s most renowned publications. This contest spans businesses across all of West Michigan. Wins are earned by public vote, which means that forty-six times this year alone, West Michigan residents voted that a business in our district is the absolute best in its category. We even scored two of the top three spots for ‘Best Shopping District’! Our collective total wins over a five-year span are in the hundreds. It can be pretty rewarding to work in a place that is considered to be the very best that there is.

And finally, as mentioned, the entire district, and its businesses, are supported by the Uptown GR Inc. Our organization is comprised completely of volunteers and helmed by award-winning leadership (our Executive Director, Ingrid Miller, was recently honored as a recipient of the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 2021 ‘40 Under 40’ award). As an employee of Uptown, you have an opportunity to be a part of our committees, to engage with community leadership and decision-makers, and to make a direct impact in the district in which you work.

Cakabakery Currently Has Some Sweet Opportunities For the Right Candidates!

So, jobseekers and lovers of all things local, how’s that for food for thought? We hope we’ve given you some interesting info to chew on. Our businesses would love to get to know you, and not just as a customer. Take a look at our directory here for a deeper dive into the businesses that call Uptown home, and follow us at @uptowngr, for leads on where to look for your place here. Let us be your new favorite place…to work.