"When we teach—from babyhood—people to move well, they'll enjoy doing it, and they'll continue doing it." Such is the philosophy of Gymco president and co-founder Doreen Bolhuis, which she relayed to the New York Times in a 2010 video report. The importance of starting young kids on the road toward athleticism is something Bolhuis is passionate about, especially as a former elite-level gymnastics coach who's been teaching for more than 35 years. It's a concept she calls "physical literacy," and she's appeared on news outlets such as Today, CNN, and ABC News to discuss how young children's physical training and development is just as important as their mental growth. Along those lines, Bolhuis created the GymTrix line of DVDs to help parents develop babies' fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
And Bolhuis's enthusiasm for childhood fitness is apparent at Gymco, where her staff undergoes a four-step technical and philosophical certification protocol on sports development. She has transformed what began in 1980 as a few classes held in a barn behind a local retirement home into a 5-acre, 16,000-square-foot first location and a second, state-of-the-art facility on the north side of town.
When you walk into either site, you'll see kids scaling rock walls, doing back flips, and defying imaginary pirates as they walk the plank-like high beam, improving their physical skills in sports, gymnastics, and cheerleading classes. What aren't as obvious are the internal changes that begin to manifest, from improved self-confidence and perseverance to the gradual building of character. Fulfilling her start-them-early mission, Bolhuis also offers classes designed specifically for preschoolers and kindergartners.
In Gymboree Play & Music's most popular class, Play & Learn, tots master skills such as cause and effect, problem solving, and good communication through games and play. The notion that learning should be fun for the under-five set permeates all of Gymboree's classes. From music and art to sports activities, most classes are calibrated for development at six-month age intervals. Mixed-age classes teach cooperation, as kids play movement games or perform songs on musical instruments. Older children take the school-skills class to learn skills that will help them in school and during conference calls with the president. All of this takes place in a well-padded indoor playground with tunnels, slides, and bridges designed by nationally renowned playground designer Jay Beckwith to withstand tiny bare feet and the wrath of resident trolls.
At Mark's Mattress Direct, friendly sales folk guide shoppers through no-pressure perusals of the show room's bounty, confident that the store's commitment to same-day delivery and factory-direct, cost-saving techniques speak for themselves. With an arsenal of bedding from trusted brands such as Corsicana and Englander, the inventory caters to the needs of every customer, from the entry-level Burnaby innerspring mattress for the casual napper, to the luxurious Bella pillow top for the more experienced marathon sleeper. Pallets of gel memory foam conform to tired bodies, giving them renewed strength and well-being each morning, while Michigan-made Clare mattresses deliver restful nights of sleep while contributing to the regional economy.
At Take 5 Catering, chefs make midday feasts fresh daily, transforming ingredients from local farms into sandwiches, salads, soups, and signature cakes. Every house-made menu item jumps off the pages of recipes created by master chef Angelo Darin and master baker Kelly Bordeaux, including the signature italian meatloaf sandwich, made with braised meatloaf stuffed with mozzarella and spinach.
Caterers deliver orders of $20 and up free of charge and ferry lunches to diverse locations such as homes, offices, and disembarking blimps within 45 minutes of order placement. Clients can solicit their meals by phone or email, and party-throwers can spruce up spreads with custom-frosted sheet cakes.
At House This, keen-eyed staffers help outfit shoppers in distinctive apparel and jewelry and aid them in fulfilling their abodes’ decorative desires. Along with clothing from popular lines such as Hazel, Trinity, 1921 jeans, and Mystree, the shop stocks candles, lamps, mirrors, and furniture. Decorators can spruce up bare walls with framed artwork, prominently display an automobile’s smog-check certificate inside assorted picture frames ($23–$45), or prop up masterpieces in progress on iron easels ($10–$30).
A congregation of antique dealers sells their vintage wares at the annual Grand Rapids Antiques Market, which is fueled by nostalgia's fumes and hosts time travelers as they venture into the rich history of Americana. The market dips buyers and sellers alike into an antiques-filled reservoir overflowing with the past's furnishings, accessories, sporting goods, and 2-year-old laptops. Professional appraisers check out homeowners' potential gems, and live auctioneers corral the highest bid with lassos woven from their own bristly mustache hairs.