Category Archives: News

Hospital Sold to Lansing Based Health Care Developer

By Sue Moore

Several Vicksburg residents have been urging the village and Bronson Hospital to find a new use for the facility or a buyer that would renovate it. Their wishes materialized with the announcement that the former Bronson Vicksburg Hospital has been sold to Lansing-based New Leaf Management, LLC.

The purchasing company expects to do extensive remodeling as an assisted living center, to accommodate people who require 24-hour supervision but not necessarily skilled nursing care. Potential patients would first be screened to determine if there is a good compatibility fit to live in the residence according to Sami W. Al Jallad, the company’s executive director. The staff would evaluate the person’s mental and physical state and how they were functioning overall.

Admission diagnoses, according to the corporate web site, may include mental illness, traumatic brain injury, personality disorder and substance use.

Turning Leaf Residential Rehabilitation Services, Inc., is a Michigan-based assisted living provider and a sister organization to New Leaf Management, the purchaser. The parent company owns and operates 18 individually licensed programs on the west side of the state in Muskegon, Ottawa, Allegan and Kent counties. The leadership team is headed by Al Jallad and includes his wife Destiny, who is a psychologist and serves as the company’s administrator and director of operations. Sami’s brother Jamil, an interior architect, serves as facilities manager.

They are part of a team of clinicians and administrative staff who lead the organization. Jamil is the internal point person for the Vicksburg renovation. They plan to license 40 beds there, some in single rooms, others in doubles. There will be security features installed throughout, Al Jallad said.

The new owners will need to modify the facility for its use by building a new kitchen as the old one is way too large and considerably outdated, Al Jallad said. More bathrooms will be added with shower and bath facilities. Currently, they have no plans to utilize the area where the labs, ER and kitchen were located but that could change once they assess the functionality of the building. “Bronson did an exceptional job of maintenance even after the facility was closed,” Al Jallad pointed out. “They were great stewards and maintained their investment.”

The 40,000-sqare-foot former hospital and rehabilitation center was built and opened in 1969 after a successful community fundraising drive. Citizens collected donations to build the structure at 13326 N. Boulevard in Vicksburg after a hospital on N. Main Street became overcrowded. It was owned and operated by the village of Vicksburg. A few years later, it was sold to Bronson because it had more expertise in running a small 50-bed hospital and it was felt the hospital’s expertise could keep it afloat. Times changed in the hospital business. Over the years the facility was used primarily for rehabilitation, lab work, x-ray and emergency room coverage. Just over a year ago, Bronson bought Vicksburg Family Doctors practice next door to the hospital and shuttered the hospital facility completely.

According to Bronson Senior Vice President Mike Way, “Over the past several years, we have looked at many ideas for repurposing this building, always hoping we’d find a partner and solution that could make the best possible use of this facility and be beneficial to the community.  We’re extremely pleased to have found that perfect fit with Turning Leaf.”

Turning Leaf has been owned and operated by the same family for two generations. Executive Director Al Jallad said, “We look forward to the process of renovating and bringing renewed life and purpose to the former Bronson Vicksburg Hospital property. This is a very exciting moment for our employees, stakeholders, and most importantly the people who will benefit from this new residential program. We are very grateful to and could not have asked for better partners in the Bronson team, specifically Mike Way and Greg Milliken, as well as Jim Mallery and Bobby Durkee with the Village of Vicksburg during the sale and due diligence process. On behalf of our Leadership team, we look forward to continued partnerships with the Bronson organization as well as the village of Vicksburg and having the most productive impact on the local community as possible.”

Village President Bill Adams was delighted by the sale as it “completes one of the council’s major strategic goals from four years ago, in that we wanted to see the building repurposed to service our citizens, especially our seniors.”

Internationally accredited at the highest level by CARF, the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, and licensed by the state of Michigan, Turning Leaf works collaboratively with community mental health agencies and other regional stakeholders to serve individuals as close to home as possible.

Turning Leaf has 185 employees throughout the state and the organization expects to employ another 60-80 individuals to serve the Vicksburg location. The Bronson Family Doctors office next door to the hospital was not included in the sale.

DeNooyer Family Car Dealership Comes to Vicksburg

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Seated in the 1955 Chevy Corvette convertible which is featured at the Gilmore Car Museum are Todd and Bill DeNooyer. Standing from left to right: Jeff and Rachel DeNooyer with son Lucas; Todd’s wife Ruth; Adie DeNooyer; Ryan with his wife, Katie, and their son, Nicholas.

By Sue Moore

To sort out the DeNooyer family car dealership family, one needs to start with a genealogy chart. One branch of the family is settling in Vicksburg, having purchased the Simmons Ford dealership at the corner of Portage Road and VW Avenue.

The DeNooyer name has been associated with car dealerships in Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Elkhart, South Bend, Holland and now Vicksburg. The Simmons family dealership was Vicksburg-centered beginning in 1946 at various locations with Rovelle Simmons the proprietor and his son Gene moving into the business in the 70s. He started with American Motors, Kaiser-Fraser and soon a Ford dealership. Meantime, the DeNooyer family was building its Chevrolet family of car dealerships nearby in Kalamazoo.

All of this came to a head when Todd DeNooyer happened to meet Gene Simmons on a ski slope out West. Todd laid the seed in Gene’s mind that if he ever wanted to sell, the DeNooyer family would be interested in expanding to yet another location. Some years later, the two exchanged phone calls at almost the exact moment when Gene decided to sell and Todd heard that he might be interested in retirement. It didn’t take much horse trading after that and the deal was done.

The DeNooyer family celebrated the purchase with an Open House for the Vicksburg area in July where they found a welcoming community for their expansion. For now, Todd DeNooyer and son Jeff are heading up the Vicksburg operation as the dealers, while his son Ryan performs duties as general manager of the operation. All the staff has been retained except for the two general managers that Simmons had employed.

The biggest change customers will see in the coming months will be a renovation of the sales room and exterior signage. Their philosophy is similar to the Simmons family, “This dealership can only be successful if the service level is the best in the business,” DeNooyer said. “If we concentrate on superb service, everything else will fall into place.
There isn’t much margin in selling new cars these days as buyers can peruse the internet for the best deals and are well-educated when they come in to buy. They know the numbers and our job is to find the best deal we can for their needs.”

Simmons owned the collision facility two doors down from the dealership. That has been sold to a Kalamazoo company, Dunshee Body and Frame on W. KL Avenue. “We want to concentrate on maintenance and service in our shop.” DeNooyer said. “This is a process-driven business. A happy customer and happy employees create a community of support. It’s the golden rule applied right here as we work to install our culture. It comes through in our heritage. We believe in giving back as it was instilled upon us early on. We give to community endeavors that impact lives like Loaves and Fishes and United Way.”

Four generations of the DeNooyer family have their roots in the car business going back to Battle Creek in the early 1920s when Jeremiah (Jerry) DeNooyer opened a car repair shop, having come from a celery fields farm family in Kalamazoo. To complicate the understanding of the family tree, this man and his wife Lena became the parents of twin boys in 1926. They were named Jerry Lee and Gerald Jacob. The older twin went by Lee all his life and the younger one went by Jerry and is the man who moved to Kalamazoo and took over a Chevrolet dealership on Portage Road. He is the father of four boys named Bill, Craig, Jeff and Todd. Craig is the only one not in the car business; he preferred real estate development. It is the Todd DeNooyer branch of the family with two boys of his own that is taking over the dealership in Vicksburg.

“The challenge going forward in the car business is keeping brand loyalty at the forefront,” Todd said. He doesn’t believe that driverless cars will take away much of his business, especially in rural America. “It’s too hard to build a network of driverless cars outside of the big cities. The logistics of immediacy makes sense in the city but I don’t see it here. The U.S. is just too large a country. The disruptor in the industry is actually Tesla, not so much because of its electric cars but how they sell their cars without a franchise system of dealers in place. Manufacturers are watching and would actually like to be more like company owned dealerships. That’s why you see so many lookalike dealer facades now that consolidation of the industry is taking place,” DeNooyer said.

The Rim and Rail to Open in September

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Megan Oswalt and Kylie Rowe point to their big remodeling effort that is taking place at the former Krum-Hallam Chevrolet dealership on W. Prairie St. in Vicksburg. They are calling their event center The Rim & Rail, after the car maker and the many trains that pass by the location each day.

By Sue Moore

The old Chevy garage and dealership, abandoned and decaying near downtown Vicksburg for the last five years, will soon be jumping with the sound of wedding bells and music, with a few loud train whistles mixed in for good measure.

It will fulfill a dream of two young women who have been best friends since grade school. Megan Oswalt and Kylie Rowe are the founders of the Rim and Rail, the new event center at 343 W. Prairie Street.

They share a vision of converting the car repair portion of the building into a beautiful hall for wedding receptions. Not a lot of people could see their vision, but with parental support they have plunged ahead. They expect to open for their first event on Saturday, September 8.

Fittingly, the bride and groom renting the space on that date plan to enter the hall through the front overhead door in an antique vehicle to announce their arrival. It is the doorway that all makes and models of General Motors vehicles entered to get repairs done since the early 1960s. Thus, the new business name, Rim and Rail.

The two ladies have an appreciation for the history of the building which housed the Krum-Hallam Chevrolet dealership for 50 years before it was purchased by Cole Automotive. Cole moved the business to a new location on US 131 outside of Schoolcraft.
Oswalt and Rowe come from farm families and have kept the uniqueness of their heritage as part of the décor of the expansive building. In keeping with the history of the building, they have left the big beams supporting the 15-foot ceiling in place. Lots of insulation has been poured into the walls and rafters of the 10,000-square-foot wide open room. The walls have then been covered with salvaged siding from an Amish barn to give the interior a rustic look. They call it “industrial meets chic.” They will furnish it with 10 eight-foot wooden farmhouse tables, cocktail tables, serving tables, 28 60-inch plastic rounds, and 300 metal bistro chairs. Rowe said, “It’s all about creating a space with small town charm, where memories can be made.”
For wedding ceremonies, there is a large bride’s room and a slightly smaller space for the groom and his attendants. They are booking for weddings, corporate events, baby showers, anniversary celebrations, proms and graduation parties into 2020.
There is a pergola constructed on the west side for an outside area in good weather. Inside there is a fireplace at one end, a catering kitchen to serve meals for events, lots of storage in a pole barn in back of the facility and parking for 150 cars to the east.
The pricing is about average for the area, Oswalt said as she explained the market research that was done in the beginning. They had help from Southwest Michigan Small Business Development Center at Western Michigan University. “We wanted to make it easy as possible for potential customers to understand so we have included all the amenities in our basic price points,” she indicated.
Food service will be from area catering entities and alcohol can be served by a licensed bartender with insurance. They will work with area photographers, flower designers, live bands or DJs.
The two girls grew up together because their mothers were close friends. They would ride their bikes to each other’s homes during the summers and stayed close even though they went to separate schools.
Oswalt grew up on the family farm in Brady Township, attended Vicksburg schools and graduated from Grand Valley State University. She taught art in the Grand Rapids area as well as Midland for five years but wanted a change. She came back to Vicksburg to work for the electrical business of her parents, Dan and Kelly Oswalt.
Rowe’s mother is Shellie (Kannegieter) Snyder, a VHS graduate in 1983 who married into a Mendon farm family. They lived near the Oswalt family’s farm. She graduated from Mendon High School in 2006 and attended Kellogg Community College. She married a Mendon fellow and moved to Vicksburg where they started their family.
“We are so thankful for the village’s support throughout the development of this project. This is a dream come true for us. We couldn’t do this without the great support of our family and friends,” said Oswalt. “We are an adaptable venue that can host everything from large weddings to small parties and accommodate your unique taste in decor and style with ease.”

Destination Rural America Celebration

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A Music Fence will be constructed of farm materials for kids of all ages to play on and make music during the Destination Rural America event at the Vicksburg Historic Village.

By Sue Moore

A farm theme, with music, art, very large farm machinery and food will come to Vicksburg Aug. 25 when Destination Rural America – Daylight/Twilight takes over the Historic Village.

The event will be presented by three village organizations: the Cultural Arts Center, Farmers Market and Historical Society. The afternoon events are scheduled from 1-4 p.m.

Music? At Farm Yard Percussion Combustion, kids will learn to make music using items found on farms said Syd Bastos, executive director of the Cultural Arts Center (VCAC).

Art? Located in the red barn at the village will be a display of barn art photography by Sam Zomer, pastels by Helen Kleczynski and pencil by Kevin Pederson.

Besides the drumming, children and adults can inspect huge farm equipment, part of the way farming is done today. The Ben Fritz farm in Fulton along with other large-scale farmers in the area will be bringing, oversized corn planting machines, harvesting equipment, and big tractors for display at the Historic Village.

Kalamazoo Aerial Media will be demonstrating a drone, one of the tools used in larger farming operations today. Storytelling and musical performances will take place at the Gazebo. The Historical Society will have the buildings open in the Historic Village with docents on hand to show what rural America was like in the 1900s. Popcorn and lemonade will be available during this free event.

John Kern, board member of the Vicksburg Farmers Market, said that a greater divide stands between our rural and urban lifestyles than was there decades ago. At the same time, an energized local food economy has placed a new value on the vital role farmers play in all our lives.

Destination Rural America – Daylight/Twilight will celebrate our local farmers with a Farm-to-Table small plate dining experience at the Community Pavilion from 7 to 9 p.m.

Tickets for that event are priced at $40 each and will include a selection of wines from Lawton Ridge Winery in Oshtemo and beers from Distant Whistle Brewhouse in Vicksburg. The vendors at the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market will be supplying many of the ingredients for small plate items to pair with the beverages. Items in season at the end of August will likely be peaches, tomatoes, sweet corn, squash, salad fixings, homemade bread and pie fillings.

Michael Moore, chef and co-owner of Main Street Pub will be preparing the food. With many wonderful fresh options and Michael’s talents, this dining experience should be a very special treat. To add to the twilight event, Darcy Wilkin, co-host of Grass Roots on WMUK and a member of Corn Fed Girls, will be performing.

Tickets for the dinner will be available at the Farmers’ Market on Fridays, at Distant Whistle Brewhouse, the Depot Museum on Saturdays and Sundays from 1-4 p.m. or at vicksburgarts.com.

Detasseling Corn is a Big Summer Job for Teenagers

By Tanner White, student intern for the South County News

Many local Vicksburg and Schoolcraft teens in search of summer work often turn to corn detasseling. The job of detasseling entire fields over long days can be daunting and monotonous. Most workers are middle school and high school students from the ages of 12 to 18. Detasselers often work up to eight hours a day in nearly any weather conditions. Corn rash, blisters, sunburns, and soreness are just a few of the unpleasant results of such hard work.

Regardless, many teens take on corn detasseling as their first job.

Corn is the most prevalent crop in Michigan, with over 300 million bushels produced annually. Fields in Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties are exceptionally fit to grow corn due to the fertility of soil and to the high water tables providing easy irrigation.

What is corn detasseling? What makes hiring of local teens so crucial, and why do so many kids choose corn detasseling over other summer jobs?

Detasseling is the process of removing the tassel, a pollen-producing flower, from the tops of maize plants and placing them on the ground. This serves as a manner of controlling pollination, ensuring that pollen from one stalk doesn’t fertilize an ear of corn on a different stalk. The hybrid plants that result are more genetically similar, show stronger resistance to weather and disease and give a higher yield of corn overall. The corn produced from hybrid plants is specifically grown as seed corn, meaning it produces a desirable seed that will be replanted the following year.

The length of the detasseling season varies each year. A short season may last only two weeks, while a long season may last nearly an entire month. A season that starts very early may open around the 4th of July, and detasseling season rarely lasts long into August. The variation from season to season depends on weather, irrigation, insect activity, and a host of other factors. The longer the season, the more money a detasseler can make!

Detasselers are held to high standards to ensure a healthy corn yield each year. Most companies seek well over 99 percent of tassels removed per row. Despite these pressures, children across the state are willing to detassel for several years. Although it may be too late to find a spot on a local crew this year, those wishing to detassel should check back around April of next year. Nearly all local companies offer a per-year wage increase to encourage workers to return. The ability to earn an extra dollar per hour or more with experience keeps many coming back. Anyone seeking a contractor for employment is recommended to contact Nemire’s Detasseling (nemiresdetasseling@gmail.com) or a local detasseling crew.

Derek Shelburne Golf Pro at Highland in the Desert

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Derek Shelburne at his Professional Golfers Association event in California.

By Sue Moore

Derek Shelburne grew up on Indian Run Golf course where he lived from age five to when he graduated from Vicksburg High School (VHS). He was a championship golfer on a team that won three Wolverine Conference titles, proving that there is a future in golf if one is good enough. Now he has made a name for himself as a golf pro while working at a big-time club in Arizona.

It started when he picked up his dad’s clubs one day and began swinging them. He found he was pretty good at the game. He hung out at the Indian Run club house, spending his days there with enough money for lunch and the range until he was 16, and was then offered a job. In 2003 and 2004, he led the VHS golf team under the coaching of Rob Johnson and Jim Douglas. Johnson said Derek was “the very best of a lot of great players!” Upon graduation he went to Ferris State University to play golf and enroll in a program to get into the golf business as a professional.

Today at age 31, he just competed in an exclusive tournament in Seaside, Calif. for Professional Golf Association (PGA) golfers only. There were over 4,000 golf professionals that tried to qualify. He was one of 312 who qualified from all over the country to play in the championship.  At the tournament, Shelburne made it through the first cut after two days of play. It was down to 90 players but Shelburne unfortunately missed the second cut to 70 players after three rounds by 1 stroke. His score was par plus 8 for three rounds but he needed a par plus 7 to get past the second cut. He tied for 75th in the event out of the 312 golfers who qualified.

Angels Crossing called Shelburne to work there when the course was first opened in 2004, the year he graduated from high school. The course was based in the paper mill. Staff members would drive people over to the course to show them the first hole until the offices were built.

Shelburne’s first job out of college was at the Toledo Country Club, a top teaching club as recognized by Golf Digest. But it was only good for six months of the year, so he would drive the 2,000 miles to Arizona to work in the winter until the year-round job opened up at Highlands.

Now he is the assistant pro at Desert Highlands in Scottsdale, Arizona, hoping someday to become a head pro where he can run his own operation and still play in PGA sanctioned events.

His time at Highlands is devoted to customer service, planning golfing events and overseeing operations. Desert Highlands is a Jack Nicklaus-designed venue with highly manicured fairways and greens. The rough is transitional area with desert on all sides. Then the course reaches out to true desert with critters and cactus, he said. It looks tight but it is very playable, Shelburne said. It’s a challenging course and plays differently every day. It’s a members’ only course for those with a house or piece of land adjoining it. The one-time fee is $75,000 tacked on to the home sale, with an annual charge of $26,000 and monthly dues assessed for fees and security.

Shelburne and his wife Juanita live in north Phoenix with their two children, Devereaux, 3, and Deklan, 3 months. His grandfather lives there in the winter and his parents Rusty and Laurie Shelburne may be looking to settle nearby once they retire, he said.

Jim Halladay, Lead Singer in HairMania

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Lloyd Wallace on the left and Jim Halladay on the right, entertain the several thousand people who attended the Taste of Vicksburg in July.

By Sue Moore

A crowd of faithful admirers surrounded Jim Halladay and the band HairMania as they headlined the Taste of Vicksburg in July. He announced that he was a “Vicksburg kid and there’s my mother in the front row. I wouldn’t be here without her.” He grew up here near Indian Lake, graduating in 1988 from Vicksburg High School and Western Michigan University a decade later.

The band is well-known for its 80s “hair metal” sound throughout southwest Michigan. It plays big gigs at the Leelanau Sands Casino, Rib Fest in Kalamazoo and the South Haven Blueberry Festival, to name just a few. The four-piece band has been together since 2012, gaining lots of street cred with its flamboyant style, easy listening music and showmanship.

It wasn’t always that way. Halladay, who sings lead in the band, has a degree in biology and a minor in chemistry from WMU. He didn’t take music courses in high school but did receive a set of drums from his dad, Lee, when he was about 13. His older brother, Doug, played the guitar, so they jammed from time to time in his parents’ basement. For the last 11 years, Halladay has been working for AT&T as a telecom specialist. He drives to Lansing each weekday to work in the company’s central office across from the State Capitol.

On weekends, he dons leather apparel and joins with his fellow band members, often with his wife, Chris, and his mother, Susan, in the admiring audience. To characterize the band’s followers as groupies might be a bit much, but they do evidence the “mania” in the name with promo T-shirts, their own photographer/publicist and plenty of good songs.

Halladay has been playing in bands since early 2000. He met up with Paxton Olney, a bass guitarist at a Detroit concert and soon found out he lived at Long Lake in Portage and works at the Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek by day. The band needed a lead guitar player. It found Lloyd Wallace, a welder by trade. Their drummer, Terry Lewis, is new to the group as of 2018 and from Grand Rapids where he drives a delivery truck.

The hair is the thing. Halladay’s hair has always been shoulder length or even longer. When he worked at Felpausch in Vicksburg while going to WMU, his hair was long even then. His dad stopped in one day and informed him, “You need to get a haircut.” “I just got one!” Jim exclaimed. “I just don’t like getting a haircut. Maybe once every six months is all I can tolerate.”

“Our music from the 80s has seen a big resurgence.” Halladay said. “Young folks like it too and start singing right along with us. It’s just fun music and somewhat timeless. The 90s music turned to grunge and was depressing. Paxton started the band in 2010 and I joined in 2012 as he needed a front man. We have an authentic look; our costuming is largely from thrift shops. I found a leather vest that is real durable but can be hot in summer weather. Fortunately, we only play our set for an hour and a half.”

The band’s future includes playing at bigger shows and festivals where the crowds are more fun than playing in bars on a Saturday night, Halladay said. They open for Lita Ford at the Rib Fest in Kalamazoo on August 3 with relatives from all over coming to watch – including his mom, Susan Halladay, his greatest admirer.