GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan – Vickie LaGarone spends a lot of time these days checking the CDC’s website for her clients. She is the founder and CEO of Genuine Vacation, a family-owned travel company in Grand Rapids. LaGrone is so on the website that she said she knows it “back and forth,” and that’s a good sign of things to come. “Business was slow there when the pandemic first hit, but now business is starting to pick up for the third quarter and beyond,” LaGrone said in an interview with Zoom last week. “I think once this is all over things will bounce back and travel will resume for sure.” She said more and more people are booking trips for the summer and fall terms. Travelers are also planning spring vacations and people are flying everywhere. “A lot of people are going to the Caribbean, Mexico , in Aruba. But some islands are starting to close their borders, which is a bit sad to say, “said LaGrone.” A lot of them are starting to close, especially St. Martin and the Grenadines. They won’t let us not going there yet. “So, given that a pandemic is still ongoing, she suggested anyone traveling this year to always check your destination’s COVID protocols. She said they were changing. every day, even in the United States. “On January 26, the United States implemented a negative COVID test for international travelers 72 hours before return,” she said. LaGrone also recommended to take out travel insurance, which can cover “J ‘was myself in the San Francisco area, north of there, with my husband a few years ago, and ended up with a blood clot and ended up in the hospital this weekend, ” said Debbie Haas, vice president of travel products and services for AAA. “I had $ 60,000 in bills before you could blink, and my travel insurance paid for all my expenses.” Haas said these are the types of things AAA travel agents talk to their customers about. They too are seeing an increase in travel plans this year and think purchasing travel insurance is a must. “There are many reasons you might have to cancel your trip that go far beyond COVID. So let’s just say that a loved one in your family gets very sick themselves and you can’t go on vacation, ”Haas said in an interview with Zoom last week. “Travel insurance covers those kinds of things, or if you are traveling and need medical assistance, counseling, or transportation, travel insurance can help.” Haas said AAA travel agents were answering all kinds of questions. “We even work with preferred travel providers who will be doing tours, and these people are going ahead and making sure we choose venues that meet all safety guidelines,” Haas said. “So that you can really sit back and enjoy and relax on your vacation.” That’s the goal, Haas said. She, like LaGrone, believes the industry will rebound once people travel more. So, she suggested reserving your plans now. “If there’s something on your wish list, go ahead and make a reservation,” she says. “You may find that if you wait until the last minute you won’t have the choice you want or even wait until later in the spring as more and more people lock in the big ones. destinations. If it’s something that has limited capacity, you want your reservation to be on the books. »Follow FOX 17: Facebook – Twitter – Instagram – YouTube.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Even though the pandemic is so severe at work, the Incubator Kitchen Program at City Center Market has had an excellent year teaching people how to start their own food-related businesses.
Ryan Bolhuis is a culinary operations manager and says the Incubator Kitchen Program is helping to create 11 new food start-up businesses and mentoring 170 local entrepreneurs by 2020. In total, the Incubator Kitchen Program has helped launch 85 new businesses since 2013.
“Our overall approach is to reduce overhead costs, that’s one of our main goals because it’s very important for any small business especially in their first year,” Bolhuis told Fox 17.
This program offers 5,000 square feet of commercial kitchen space and all the equipment a food, caterer or beverage entrepreneur will need when they bring their ideas to life.
“Our greatest strength is training people through the licensing phase, which can certainly be the most terrifying aspect, again, the whole process, all our training is free,” said Bolhuis.
One company that started in 2020 thanks to the Kitchen Incubator Program is “Let’s Stay Home Cocktail Kits”, with owner Eric MacAulay saying it took him about four months from the time he started the program until the product was marketed.
“If it weren’t for the Incubator Kitchen Program, we might still be in the planning stages and working to launch our business instead of being here now,” MacAulay explained to Fox 17.
“Let’s Stay Home Cocktail Kits” offers an alcohol-free blender that Eric descends from his days as a bartender, with four core flavors of lavender blueberry, rosemary peach, strawberry mint and basil ginger. Each bottle offers enough mixers to make ten cocktails or mocktails for those who prefer alcohol-free.
KALAMAZOO, Mich. – No word on when indoor dining will reopen in Michigan, bars and restaurants exist continue to feel the pain.
Food Dance Cafe is a favorite restaurant for many in Kalamazoo, and although the owner is saddened by the thought of closing its doors for good, the aftermath of the pandemic has made him consider his options.
“It’s very expensive to open and close, and very costly to staff,” said Julie Stanley, Owner & Executive Chef of Food Dance Cafe.
After 26 years, the Food Dance Cafe in Kalamazoo may be closed forever due to the pandemic.
Owner and executive chef Julie Stanley said closings and openings cost them many times financially, even with the help of PPP loans.
“If we don’t have PPP money, then we will never open it. It does hold on for now, but that’s all. Now it’s gone. Yes, you can file again but all that helps, “said Stanley.
With an 11,000 square foot building and a large kitchen, this restaurant can’t take it home every day like other businesses because of the way they prepare food from scratch.
“How much inventory can you keep? How can you change your product? How can you do what you need to do? It’s really hard,” said Stanley.
According to a survey conducted by the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association5,600 or 33% of restaurateurs said they were unlikely to be in business in six months. Food Dance Cafe said they could be one of those restaurants.
“It’s devastating. I just don’t know what else to do … it’s a huge death and a constant process. As with all deaths, it’s never as I thought we would end. It’s out of our control, that’s what happens. , “said Stanley.
All restaurants in Michigan are currently closed for indoor dining until at least January 15. There was no indication from the state whether they would extend the order.
Food Dance Cafe is currently evaluating over the next month or so to determine whether they will re-open or close the doors for good.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Previously Kent County Community Action Opening a food distribution event on Thursday morning at their offices on Wealthy Street, dozens of cars lined up on Jefferson Avenue. Some were already in the parking lot with open suitcases.
“We’re shooting for 900 households,” said Susan Cervantes, director of KCCA. “And, we’ve averaged that for the last four distributions we’ve had.”
As soon as 9 a.m., vehicles drive to the central doors, one by one, where workers and volunteers carry large boxes of food to the door and their luggage or rear seats.
“We have fresh apples and pears. We had frozen hamburger patties, pork loin, and pork chops. We have canned food, like peas and corn, “said Cervantes. “Then there’s some elbow macaroni, some sauce, some juice.”
Cervantes said each box was worth between $ 75- $ 90. This was meant for people to put together as a meal or to supplement any meal they may already have at home.
“It means a lot because it is difficult to get food,” said Winona Gray, who was one of the first riders to receive a box. “It helps people who donate. Otherwise, we probably won’t have enough money to eat for a month. “
Since the pandemic broke out in March 2019, many families have experienced food insecurity and hunger, said Cervantes. The pandemic and subsequent closings and lulls have caused widespread job losses and difficult times for many.
“Very hard. Very loud Mom,” said Ken Stokes when asked how the last few months have been for him. “I mean I just hope everyone enjoys this and then things get back to normal and we can carry on from there.”
Cervantes added that it can be embarrassing for people experiencing food insecurity to seek help. However, she was pleased that Kent County Community Action was busy all morning, handing out food to anyone passing.
“That’s why we are here. We are here to help, “said Cervantes. “What we feel with all of our services, not just food distribution, is that we have resources to help you. So let us help you and then you can use your resources to fill in your blanks. “