Category Archives: Business

Serious Management Commitment at Main Street Pub

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Kitchen manager Dustin Marshall and two servers – Jodi Sanford and Stephanie Phillips.

By Sheryl Oswalt

My motto for this month will be, “Don’t believe everything you read.” I’ll be honest and say that I have put off reviewing the Main Street Pub because of the poor reviews I’ve read on-line and rumors of continual staff changes. From what I experienced, that’s old news. Not only does it have a new logo and a fresh coat of paint, it has a new staff prepared to make the restaurant the “go to” place for families in Vicksburg. The family-owned and operated Housler restaurant group started in Kalamazoo in 1989 and has grown to 12 locations in Michigan and Indiana. It made 208 E Prairie Street in Vicksburg part of the family of restaurants on March 27, 1990.

It sounds to me that the reason it has experienced change and turnover is because of a serious commitment to making this location successful. I think this time it has a winning combination. I met with the new manager, John Mazur-Baker and kitchen manager Dustin Marshall. John has only been at the Vicksburg location for a month, but his commitment is clear. He’s purchased a home and moved his family to Vicksburg. This is serious business; failure is not an option. Dustin lives locally and has been here for 6 months. He’s noticeably passionate about food and is very excited about participating in upcoming events in Vicksburg such as the Taste of Vicksburg.

Following a “Golden Rule” of meeting three new friends every day, you will find the staff all very friendly and attentive. During our interview, John couldn’t help himself and was jumping up when patrons came in to greet them and get beverages immediately. John has not only jumped into his new position; he’s also joined the local fire department.

In interviewing our local eating establishments, I have yet to find one that doesn’t do a great job of giving back and recognizing the value of community. What Main Street does is special–it offers a 10 percent discount to all Local Heroes. That includes those serving in the military, veterans, police, EMS and firefighters. Word has it that on Thursday nights (half price nacho night) you might just find our local South County firefighters there. In addition to the Local Hero discount, the restaurant offers a free brownie sundae to any youth in a sports jersey.

Since Dustin has been on staff, the restaurant has participated in the chili cook off and hosted an Easter egg hunt. For the upcoming car show on June 11, it’s opening early and putting on additional staff to serve you. Dustin is planning a special breakfast menu to start serving up at 9 a.m. You’ll find it offers four daily lunch specials and four dinner specials with one of each remaining consistent; for example, one of Thursday’s specials will always be Thanksgiving dinner. While the menu is very extensive and consistent throughout the chain, Housler is very flexible in allowing the cooks to experiment and personalize their own house specials in addition to the standard Main Street fare. Dustin is what I would call “home-schooled”. He proudly indicated that most of what he knew and loved about cooking he learned from his mother. He whipped me up an outstanding wet burrito, one of their best sellers. I think I was all surprised to hear that his homemade sloppy joes are also very popular. Other popular items are the ranch fritter wrap, gourmet mac and cheese and grilled steak kabobs made with sirloin steak. Whether you’re looking for a burger, salad, sandwich or even meatloaf, the restaurant has something for everyone. I’m currently working my way through the wrap menu.

Don’t forget that Main Street Pub also has a banquet room available for special events for up to 150 people. That room is available for use at no charge with the purchase of food and beverages from the restaurant. I would say with certainty that the restaurant has the largest dining facility in Vicksburg. Whether you prefer the seating of a conventional family style restaurant or are looking for drinks at the bar or patio, Main Street Pub has something for everyone. Check it out!

Eimo Corporation Receives Impact Award

Michigan Works! Southwest
Paul Cooley, an Eimo process engineer, is directly to the left of Gary Hallam holding the citation. Brenda Harrington, Eimo’s HR manager, is second from the right. State Senator Margaret O’Brien is in red and state Rep. Brandt Iden is in the bow tie.

Vicksburg’s Eimo Corp. was among 24 Michigan companies recognized for their commitment to create “more and better jobs in communities across the state.” The ceremony was sponsored by Michigan Works! with nearly 150 people attending in Lansing, including many state representatives.

“With employers like Eimo Technologies, Michigan’s future couldn’t be brighter!” said State Rep. Brandt Iden, R-Oshtemo.

A citation was read from Governor Rick Snyder: “On behalf of the state of Michigan, I would like to thank you for your dedicated service and congratulate this year’s deserving honorees. I am confident that your continued efforts to build a skilled and adaptable workforce in Michigan will positively impact our state for years to come.”

“The achievements honored through this year’s awards demonstrate what’s best about Michigan. Innovation, hard work, and a can-do spirit are the hallmarks of our state and its people – and the characteristics of each of this year’s honorees,” said Michigan Works! Chairperson Charlotte Mahoney.

Eimo was cited by the state for using Skilled Trades Training Fund money to provide “scientific injection molding” training to train 29 current workers and on-the-job training for 47 new employees, and for investing $8.8 million in the construction of a new production facility in Vicksburg which will create 50 new jobs.

Eimo continues to place a high value on our “Strengthen Our Workforce” initiative, said Gary Hallam, general manager of Eimo. “As one example, we held a Quality Leadership session attended by over 100 key Eimo people on Saturday, April 23 at Vicksburg High School. Lessons of the day included the importance of winning and success in the workplace, the power of positive energy, and making Eimo the best place to work. Eimo also donated an injection molding machine and EDM machine to Vicksburg High School for the Computer Aided Manufacturing class. Investing in young people by creating internships and promoting manufacturing as a career through partnerships with local educational entities such as VHS and KRESA is another important Eimo initiative.”

Eimo Celebrates Plant Opening

By Sue Moore

It was a major event last week at the new Eimo East plant on W. Prairie Street. Dignitaries, managers, workers, all converged upon the shiny manufacturing plant in the Leja Industrial Park to congratulate each other on getting a 70,000-square-foot building completed and fully operational in seven months.

The emphasis was on the teamwork that it took to accomplish this Herculean feat, according to Gary Hallam, general manager of Eimo One. He served as master of ceremonies as a parade of dignitaries stepped to the podium to congratulate the company.
The company produces decorative and precision plastic injection molding.

Hallam pointed out the state-of-the-art new molding machines and the fully functioning plant that didn’t exist seven months ago. Junya Suzuki, president and CEO of Nissha Printing Co., Ltd, the parent company in Japan, praised the employees in the plant for their dedication and hard work. He challenged them to achieve the next target of $200 million in revenue.

Ron Kitchens, CEO of Southwest Michigan First, told the audience of several hundred guests and employees that they’re the CEOs of their own responsibilities. He celebrated the men and women who come to Eimo every day to work. Great companies have great people and are passionate about their great products, he told them.

Bill Adams, Vicksburg village council president, cited a Japanese saying, “Kaizen” meaning change for the better. He believes that his governmental entity at least has adopted that approach, making it as easy as possible for companies like Eimo to expand in the village.

Frederick Construction, headed by Mike Frederick, got the building done on time and on budget. What it took was a team of designers, engineers, and great vision from the customer (Eimo) to make it happen, he said. “We had 150 people involved in the project in the seven months. It got done because these folks bought in to the process.”

Plant Manager Randy Bongard had a lot to do with the success of the project, Hallam said, when he came up with the mantra “Own It”. Bongard challenged every employee to take personal responsibility to make something better. He urged the 300 employees to make a conscious decision to “own it” and act on that every day.

Jim Sertic, former president of Accro-Seal and now a consultant, cited the good culture at Eimo, realizing that the employees try to do the right thing every day. “Results matter. It’s contagious.”

Stryker representatives were invited to the opening because the company is one of Eimo’s biggest and best customers. That company, Whirlpool and General Motors comprise about 90 percent of Eimo’s business.

Eimo East plant employees were singled out for mention by Hallam. They included Rob Bell, with 38 years of employment beginning with Victor Plastics; Steve Busher, who began in 1983 and has only missed one day of work in that time; Jody Crouch, with 28 years of service; and Gary Arndt, a 2014 hire, who has just been appointed quality assurance manager.

Following the speeches, everyone in the three Vicksburg-area Eimo plants was invited to lunch prepared by local restaurants.

Corporate Executives from Japan Come to Vicksburg

By Sue Moore

“Empowering Your Vision”–through leadership, passion, capability and technology–is the watchword of Junya Suzuki, the president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Nissha Printing Co., Ltd., in Japan, the parent company of Eimo in Vicksburg.

“In business and society, your nationality doesn’t matter. We share the same philosophy, that’s why we live and work together so successfully,” said Suzuki, who brought a contingent of the company’s sales staff with him for the Vicksburg open house.

“We are continually pushing ahead with product development activities. The goal is to apply our printing technologies to new areas and give Nissha a fresh image that represents a departure from the past,” the company says in its annual report.

Nissha was started as a printing company in Kyoto, Japan, by Suzuki’s grandfather in 1929. It specialized in high-end printing products at that time and still does. Junya’s father, Shozo Suzuki, took over in 1959 and began to grow the company globally. It entered the new field of printing on curved surfaces; Shozo Suzuki became the first person in Japan to produce a wood-grain transfer foil.

That’s where the purchase of Eimo in Vicksburg came into play for Junya Suzuki. The company figured out how to print on plastic products and came up with a film that could be transferred into mold making for any kind of art graphics that a customer wants. Eimo had been a customer of Nissha when the Vicksburg firm was making mobile phone cases. That sparked Nissha’s interest in owning the company.

When that business went to China, Eimo had to reinvent itself. It has been able to utilize Nissha’s technology that facilitates simultaneous molding and printing to decorate three-dimensional plastic surfaces. The new Eimo East plant was needed because new business has been scheduled that couldn’t be met with the current facilities. The company needed to expand and quickly, according to Gary Hallam, Eimo’s president.

Besides the plants in Michigan, it has production in Mexico, China, and Malaysia, all doing plastic molding to produce decorative molding parts, with the parent company providing the film. “Our next step is to upgrade our technology to achieve open innovation which would shorten our lead time in getting product to market. The goal is to restructure the company’s portfolio to concentrate on the automotive, home appliances, and medical fields,” Suzuki said.

“We can’t count on one single customer,” says Wataru Watanabe, vice president and senior director of corporate strategy planning. “We will stick to our core competencies of film and printing, and branch out from there.”

Authentic Mexican Restaurant Starts Up on Portage Road

By Sheryl Oswalt

Luckily the weather cooperated and we hit the road on a Saturday night to check out La Finca, the new Mexican restaurant at 10412 Portage Road. It wasn’t particularly crowded that evening, but we found the atmosphere to be warm and welcoming. The place is not over-decorated and dimly lit like many Mexican chain restaurants. It carries a fresh coat of paint and new tables and chairs with several televisions for viewing. It was bright and clean inside and out.

If my sources are correct; La Finca means “the farm”. No wonder I liked it so much! La Finca is owned and operated by the Ramos family. The Ramos children all went through the Kalamazoo School System and graduated from Loy Norrix High School. Having moved to Portage recently, they couldn’t help but notice that the building at the corner of Portage Road and Osterhout was available for lease. Dad started the conversation of bringing their dream to life. They started looking into it in June and on August 22nd they were opening their own restaurant. Dad–José–retired from his factory job of 20 years and daughter Noemi gave notice at her office job. Today you’ll find Mom (Maria) and José manning the kitchen and Noemi waitressing and managing the operation. Brother Uziel attends Western Michigan University. Both he and brother Abi pitch in to wait tables and help out where they can when they aren’t going to school or working.

Maria had always enjoyed cooking, gaining experience and recipes from her mother who still lives in Mexico. The tortillas are made daily from scratch, as is almost everything else on the menu. I didn’t order the guacamole but from what I could see it was a very generous portion and the on-line reviews of it were very good. The core menu selections on a true Mexican menu are typically rather basic; with the flavor and heat coming from the sauces. Their staple sauces for cooking are their red and green sauces with the green consisting of ground jalapenos and a few other secret ingredients.

They serve fresh mild salsa with their chips when you are seated. Bottled versions of the red and green sauces are brought to the table with your meal so you can heat things up if you desire. My favorite go-to Mexican entrée is the chicken chimichanga. My meal was delicious; crispy and tasty. I was only able to eat about half of it. I topped it with the fresh salsa and tried some of the red sauce; no green sauce for this gal! The texture of the outer tortilla held up when I warmed it up the following day giving me two meals for only $7.99. My husband had the chicken fajitas. While he managed to finish his plate, he too had plenty and enjoyed trying the sauces and experimenting to find just the right level of heat. No room for dessert on this trip.

The staff was friendly and attentive. The menu was extensive and in reviewing it I can almost see the family sitting down and discussing which family favorites would be included. Remember when Grandma used to make us this or that…? It was fun to see the Mexican menu names on one side along with the matching American name that we might be more familiar with. Their descriptions are informative; plan to take a little time to read and review the offerings. They offer a full breakfast menu that they offer all day. They have a children’s menu and also a section they call the Little Cravings menu when you don’t want the full meal; probably a great idea if you want to have room for dessert as the full meals are so generous in size.

Noemi was kind enough to give me a dessert after our interview and I certainly recommend that if you don’t leave room for dessert that you consider getting one to go. Their menu items were very reasonably priced and the portions plentiful. The service was good and the establishment was clean. We will definitely go back; I can’t wait to try the Flautas de Pollo next!

Scotts Family Earns Governor’s Citation

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The Russell Bartholomew family in front of their office building. From left to right: J.J. Piper, Thad, Ruth, Russ, Jr., Brad Bartholomew.

Utility customers who want to write smaller checks have a clear goal: Reduce energy usage. A Kalamazoo heating company that began its business in Scotts has gained statewide recognition for helping people achieve those reductions.

The owners of Bartholomew Heating and Cooling, siblings, were named “Contractor of the Year” at the first annual Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards, according to co-owner J.J. (Bartholomew) Piper.

“My brother Brad has a passion for helping people achieve more energy efficiency,” she said. “We were selected for the company’s work in helping more than 1,240 customers submit applications for energy-efficiency programs sponsored by Consumers Energy. Since 2011, projects the company has worked on have reduced residential natural gas by more than 121 million cubic feet and residential electricity usage by more than 10,000 megawatt-hours,” she said.

“In Michigan we are way behind in utility rebates. We are not solving the issue. We need to get to the root cause and use less energy.

“To do this, we need to take care of the whole envelope in a building by venting it properly, sealing pipes, and finding other ways to educate the building owner,” Piper said.

Consumers Energy offers rebates for a large number of energy-saving improvement projects. They include $200 or more for efficient furnaces and air-conditioning systems and various amounts for insulation, replacement windows, new thermostats and appliances.

Brad Bartholomew has been involved with two trade associations. Together they seek to increase the awareness of legislators and policy makers on how important the energy efficiency industry is for Michigan’s economy. That includes the health of its citizens, its environment, and the sustainability of its businesses. He is past president of the Michigan Air Conditioning Contractors Association, and currently serves as president of the Michigan Energy Efficiency Contractors Association.

This three-generation company was founded by Russell Bartholomew Sr. Ruth and Russell Bartholomew Jr owned it in Scotts, where they had a home office. A move to Emerald Drive in Kalamazoo came as the company expanded. The first two generations are unofficially retired but still keep a hand in things. J.J. and Brad have been joined in the business by Thad Bartholomew. Another brother, Rod, works for Consumers Energy. Which means it’s all in the family.

Marjo’s West Feeds a Family and Lots More

Photo by Sheryl Oswalt.
Photo by Sheryl Oswalt.

By Sheryl Oswalt

Nothing makes a month go by quicker than knowing I have all month to do one food visit, one interview and write one story. Sounds pretty easy but somehow every month I’m finding myself straddling the deadline rope! Restaurant owners are one busy group of people and like my farmer husband; every day is a work day. This month’s featured establishment is MarJo’s West in Schoolcraft and owner Rob Swarts was no exception.

Getting familiar with the establishment wasn’t an issue this month. I might not have sold a lot of farm equipment in my time working in Schoolcraft but I was able to have some good meals with my co-workers. MarJo’s meant all you can eat pancakes for Rob, a French dip for Anthony, and Alan and I were likely to have seafood or a burger. Sandy and Stan were happy to stay back and mind the store as long as we brought Stan back a hot beef sandwich with mashed potatoes. For my official visit, I went with the Philly cheese steak sandwich with fries and slaw, my husband had the famous hot beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and my step-son went with the meatloaf. The menu at MarJo’s is extensive and, if you were lucky enough to grow up like I did, full of the kind of things Grandma used to make. Not one of those menus where you can’t pronounce the entrees or have to ask what’s in them! Good old-fashioned home cooking kind of food. The service was fast and friendly. The atmosphere was very family friendly with several large tables enjoying the four generation type of meals; bringing in diners from 9 months of age to 90.

With the deadline looming, I caught up with owner Rob Swarts for a quick phone interview. After 20 years in the Rainsoft water treatment business, Swarts retired but was soon bored. So when his golfing buddy, Ken Fowler, decided to sell out and move to Florida, Rob found himself in the restaurant business. The location in Schoolcraft – MarJo’s West – has been known by several names including the Cottage Lunch in the 1940s and Molnar’s in the 50s and 60s. The 70s brought the Village Inn followed by Bell’s and eventually it became MarJo’s West with the purchase by the Fowlers in 1995. Rob Swarts and family purchased it in 2004. Today what was MarJo’s East is now the home of the Rise N Dine in Vicksburg.
Swarts credits the success of MarJo’s West to the long-time staff and the philosophy that the customer pays the bills. Rather than depend on daily specials, Swarts believes in giving the customer what they want, when they want it and lots of it. He brags that they go through more “to go” boxes than any other establishment – not because they do the most take-out business in the area but because their portions are so generous that there’s always left-overs. I can attest to that! With most meals averaging under $9 and enough food for two meals, it’s a very good value. They’ve been doing what McDonald’s just figured out – they serve breakfast all day, every day. He feels that ability for people to order whatever they want regardless of the time of day has allowed him to double his business.
Their menu features family style offerings with the highest quality ingredients. Their beef sandwiches are made with slow-cooked cuts that take 7 hours. I have thoroughly enjoyed their French dip sandwich myself but my former co-worker Anthony goes as far as saying their French dip is the best; and he’s lived in several states from Michigan to California and several in between Another key to their success is consistency. You will always find the staff friendly and efficient; some of them have been there longer than Swarts himself. The menu, food quality and quantity are consistent. Many of the regular patrons sit at the same table and order the same thing every day.

I think I’ll ask my husband take me back for breakfast. I think Marjo’s is the type of place which will offer a terrific biscuit and gravy. In case you were wondering, one public shaming was enough… My left-overs were safe this month!