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Some businesses close; others expand or change ownership

Excitement surrounded the opening of Kmart in Hastings in the fall of 1990. The new strip mall and eventual satellite businesses changed the face of West State Street. Other businesses remain, but Kmart quietly closed Dec. 15, just shy of 30 years in Hastings. (Reprinted Sept. 4)




Greg Chandler

Staff Writer

Barry County's business community experienced some changes throughout the year. Some businesses closed permanently, while others opened, expanded or went through ownership changes.

The Kmart store at 802 W. State St. in Hastings closed Dec. 15 after 29 years in business. The closure was announced in early September by Kmart's parent company, TransformCo., which had acquired a substantial portion of the assets of Sears Holdings in 2019 after that company had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The Hastings closing was part of 77 Kmart store closures nationally, including eight in Michigan. By February 2020, Kmart is expected to have only one store remaining in the state where the company was founded, in Marshall.

When it opened in 1990, Kmart and the accompanying strip mall radically changed the look of the main west entrance to the city, occupying the acreage that hosted the county fair for more than a century.

Another closure earlier in the year and a bit farther west has left retail space empty. The Save-A-Lot store closed May 3 after 17 years in Hastings. The discount grocer had been spun off in 2016 by its parent company, SuperValu. Leppink Inc., which also owned other Save-A-Lot stores in Michigan, would not disclose why the store shut down.

Secondhand Corners also closed in May after 30 years in business at the corner of State and Jefferson streets. Rick Heath, who owned the business with his wife, Karen, decided to retire. Tom Kramer, a Grand Rapids-area business owner who now lives in Hastings, purchased the building and is renovating the structure to include apartments in the second and third stories and a mix of retail and office space on the ground floor.

April 28 brought closure of the Prairieville Family Diner after 44 years in business. Mother and daughter Betty Irons and Brenda Brigance ran the restaurant at the corner of Delton and Norris roads. Irons' husband, Gordon, had started the diner in 1975, and it was owned by the Irons family the entire time. The diner for years offered free Christmas dinner to everyone in the Prairieville community, sometimes serving more than 100 people that day.

Other long-time local businesses were transferred from one family to another.

Girrbach Funeral Home was sold Jan. 7 by Ray and Deb Girrbach to Dale and Sandra Billingsley. The funeral home has been in business for 126 years, and had been owned by the Girrbach family for 53 years, with Ray representing the third generation of family ownership. Dale Billingsley had worked at Girrbach since being hired as a director in 2016. He brought 10 years of experience as a funeral director and 17 years as a pastor to his new ownership role. Ray Girrbach said he wanted to sell the business to someone “who was personally involved in the community.”

King's Appliances, Electronics and Mattresses in downtown Hastings changed ownership Oct. 1. Ryan Cooke, who owned a television repair shop in Grand Rapids, bought the State Street retailer from brothers Mike and Tim King, who had been with the business for 47 years and had owned it since 1994. The Kings had been looking for a buyer for the store for several years. Their father, Ivan King, who had been one of the founders of Flexfab, had purchased the store in the early 1970s when it was known as Music Center. Ivan and his wife, Melody, ran the business for nearly 25 years, with help from their five sons. Ivan King was still involved with the business, managing finances and tracking inventory until the time of the sale.

One of the oldest businesses in the county has a new name. Early in 2019, Hastings City Bank changed its name to Highpoint Community Bank, in what bank president and chief executive officer Mark Kolanowski called “a strategic decision for us.” Kolanowski emphasized that the rebranding did not reflect a change in ownership, the structure of how the bank operates or its leadership. Highpoint is a subsidiary of HCB Financial Corp. In addition to its home base in Hastings, Highpoint serves Middleville, Caledonia, Nashville, Wayland, Bellevue and Marshall. The company will begin its 134th year in business in 2020.

Hastings Fiberglass Products moved into its new $8 million facility at 1301 W. Green St. The company also marked 60 years of business this year. An August open house at the new facility included tours, demonstrations and lunch at the site for global manufacturer of products and tools for the electrical power and communications industries. The company is owned and operated by the Baum family, local philanthropists who have contributed in many ways to the community. Earl McMullin started the business in 1959 with just five employees, most of whom were family, including McMullin's daughter, Earlene Baum. She said the company owes much of its growth to her husband, Larry Baum, who cultivated new business opportunities with electrical utility companies, such as Consumers Energy and Detroit Edison.

In early September, D&S Machine Repair in Rutland Charter Township announced a 12,000-square-foot addition to its facility at 847 N. M-37. The machine press and repair shop is investing $1.5 million into the expansion with plans to add at least 10 new jobs to its workforce of 45 employees. D&S also announced it would launch an apprenticeship program in partnership with Michigan Works and Grand Rapids and Kellogg community colleges to train the next generation of skilled trades professionals. Part of the new space will include training rooms for the apprenticeship program.

A new $15 million skilled trades training center opened in Wayland that offers apprenticeship opportunities to people looking to make a career in the skilled trades. The 67,000-square-foot center was funded by the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights. Supporters say the new facility will help address the great need for workers is such field as carpentry, millwright work and floor laying.

Two new restaurants opened in downtown Hastings.

Hastings Riverwalk Cafe opened April 29 doors in the former Mills Landing restaurant at 228 N. Jefferson St. Owners Nate and Katie Winick chose the name to reflect its location. The Winicks had previously owned Stefano's Pizza (now Three Brothers Pizza), Fall Creek Restaurant and Northside Pizza.

Main Street BBQ opened its third restaurant in Hastings in the fall at the site of the former County Seat Restaurant at 128 S. Jefferson St. The company also has restaurants in Grand Rapids and Lowell.

E-commerce giant Amazon Inc. put on hold plans to open an 850,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Gaines Township, northwest of Barry County. The company had been expected to open the $150 million facility in the fall of 2019 in time for the holidays. Amazon spokesman Andre Woodson said the company remains committed to opening the facility in early 2020. Factors such as customer demand and available workforce will enter in to the decision to open the facility, he said. Amazon had broken ground on the site in June 2018 and received approval for an occupancy permit from Gaines Township in June 2019. The project was expected to create 1,000 full-time jobs.




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