Five last minute Mother’s Day tips for small retailers

Five last minute Mother’s Day tips for small retailers

I haven’t shopped for Mother’s Day yet, and I bet I’m not alone. There’s still time! Americans are expected to spend nearly $175 on mom this year, up $10 from last year, according to the National Retail Federation’s Mother’s Day Spending … Continue reading

First tasting generates smiles, not just due to wine

wine tasting 1

I attended the first wine tasting of Mt. Town Wine Club last night, the group I launched recently on behalf of Jim Holton, owner of Mountain Town Station in Mt. Pleasant. The gathering was small, but a big success. Every one of the 10 people attending left feeling happy … and not just from the wine! The smiles were a reflection of exceeding expectations.

Luckily my task was only to promote the event, helping encourage people to come mostly through the Facebook Group page, and other various social media channels. The details associated with ensuring the event was a smashing success were the job of Hillary Williams, and she hit it out of the park with our first event. From the informative tasting placemats, the generous pours, easy to fill out wine order forms and the outstanding appetizer spread … everything was above and beyond.

wine tasting 4

Together Hillary and I have partnered to gather a community of wine lovers, generate conversation and camaraderie, offer opportunities to come together, get to know each other and learn about and drink wine. The Facebook Group community is our chance to communicate and share interesting, fun things related to wine. These tastings are our chance to actually meet each other face-to-face, expand our knowledge and share a glass.

Last night Wine Club members gathered around a table inside Camille’s on the River with a shared love for wine. an interest in tasting some new varietals and becoming a bit more educated about wine. We introduced ourselves as we took our seats and we raised a glass, sharing a toast as the inaugural Mt. Town Wine Tasting group. Sommelier Belinda Ladouce of Fabiano Brothers walked us through the four wines and shared her wealth of knowledge about winemaking in Washington State as well as all things wine. The intimate setting allowed for lots of questions and conversation.


From the exceptional selection of wines to the incredible spread of appetizers, which paired beautifully with the wines, everyone walked away happy to be part of the inaugural Mt. Town Wine Tasting group, and looking forward to the next tasting. Here are just a few of the take aways from last night’s event (some wine related, some wine club friend related):

Wine Notes:

  • There are more than 600 wineries in Washington State, it is the nation’s second largest wine producer with 50,000 acres planted.
  • Washington has 13  American Viticultural Areas (AVA), federally designated wine grape-growing region in the United States all but one located in Eastern Washington.
  • Washington Ranks 2nd nationally in premium wine production.
  • White Riesling among most popular wine produced in Washington.

Wine Club Members Chatter:

  • Red wine lovers surprisingly liked the Riesling from Ryan Patrick Vineyards. “Who knew we could like a sweet white?” “Light … nice for summer.”
  • The grilled Halloumi cheese on top of piece of grilled biscotti, followed by taste of the Chardonnay described as “an explosion in your mouth.” (it really was yummy, my first taste of Halloumi cheese ever. I loved it.)
  • Best for last … the 2009 Red Wine from Shining Hill was definitely worth the wait. “This tops off the night.”

 wine tasting 2 wine tasting 3

Four marketing lessons learned at a favorite local shop

I spent my lunch hour in a shop in our downtown the other day because, well, I was invited. I came away with four marketing lessons from my visit. Continue reading

Confession of a Changemaker


I sat in a room in our city hall recently surrounded by a roomful of people just like me. I didn’t know when I got there we were all cut from the same cloth. And the realization that we all share the same traits didn’t actually hit me till I left the room and had a little time to contemplate the question asked by the city manager at the end of the hour and half talk given by Peter Kageyama, author of “For the Love of Cities”.

City officials invited Peter to town to talk about engaging citizen changemakers. I saw the invite posted on social media and I signed up right away. I was impressed to see the city hosting such an event and bringing Peter Kageyama to our community.


Listening to Peter talk about what some of the people he’s met across the country love about their cities was enlightening. It was when he asked the question of “where’s the fun in your town” and showed examples of how adding elements of fun to a community had prompted a sense of “surprise and delight,” thus leading to an emotional attachment — that the crowd sitting in that city hall room really began to become engaged.

Generating emotional attachments doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Kageyama proved this as he shared example after example of communities that have achieved wow-factor results by sometimes using things as simple as a garden hose or a swing placed in random spots throughout town.

Two of the biggest take aways from Kageyama’s talk: “Don’t over think solutions and aim low to help people see their community differently and remember what they love about the place they live.”

Mt. Pleasant City Manager Kathie Grinzinger concluded the presentation by asking the crowd “what’s next?”


“It’s not the government’s job to create our city. We want to get out of the way. So, what’s next to get folks to fall in love with our commuity?” – asked Grinzinger.

The what’s next question is what lead me to the realization that I’m just like everyone else sitting in that room listening to Kageyama talk about ways to turn our community into a place where people don’t simply just live, but love.

Addressing “what’s next” is the first step towards further developing this love affair between people and our community. This requires a confession from everyone in that room. This confession doesn’t need a priest or trip to church. What’s necessary is the acknowledgement of an important character trait shared between us (and among many others throughout our community, I contend).

Peter Kageyama came to Mt. Pleasant to engage citizen changemakers. The first step in doing so is getting the citizens in town who are changemakers to stand up, raise your hand and admit to being a one.

This confession is the critical next step in moving our community forward as a place people love as it removes the barriers, stops those with passion from waiting for permission to take action and forces those in the way of change to step aside. 

… I’ll go first in confessing … I am a citizen CHANGEMAKER!

If you attended the recent Engaging Citizen Changemakers session and experienced a sense of excitement and passion hearing Kageyama talk you are a changemaker, too. I encourage you to join me in confessing.

If you were not able to attend the gathering at Mt. Pleasant City Hall, but love our community and eager to share your zeal, then raise your hand and join in the confession, too.

The more citizen changemakers the better. Just imagine the “surprise and delight” we can generate by stepping up and coming together as a group.

Art Reach’s Festival of Banners — one small step towards collaboration

I don’t typically have to look far to find something that makes me smile in our community. A quick ride throughout downtown Mt. Pleasant and up and down Pickard Street in Union Township causes me to grin these days as I admire the artistic talent of community members displayed on light posts, part of Art Reach of Mid Michigan’s third annual Festival of Banners.

Milo & Mini

Ryan Backus - "Milo & Mini" - ArtReach of Mid Michigan's Festival of Banners

This year I experienced a close-up view of the banner project as our youngest son and resident family-artist submitted a design for the festival. I now have a stronger appreciation for local artistic talent after accompanying Ryan to “paint day”, where he spent several hours recreating the masterpiece he submitted on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper onto a 30-by-60-inch canvas, almost twice the size of him.

Ryan Backus - Festival of Banners "Milo & Mini"

Our family artist Ryan Backus proudly displaying his masterpiece for Festival of Banners

Ryan was one of 365 children, students, residents and artists to have their creativity displayed throughout Mount Pleasant and Isabella County. Watching local artists mix paint colors and bring their visions to life in vibrant color, I was in awe at the incredible amount of talent we have here in our town.

An interesting and unintentional outcome of the Banner Festival this year is collaboration. Who knew such an event could generate goodwill between community entities that have not always worked from a “we’re in it together” mindset in the past.

Union Township, Isabella County and the City of Mt. Pleasant have come together in the Festival of Banners. The event received rave reviews in its first two years as a City of Mt. Pleasant-only project, prompting Union Township and Isabella County to both voice an interest is expanding the project. As a result, banners are now hung throughout Union Township, Shepherd and Winn.

Considering the current push at the state level, from Governor Snyder himself, to encourage and reward collaboration within communities, I’d say the effort to join forces in the Festival of Banners is a small, but perhaps significant step, in the right direction for our local governing bodies.

As I see it, the door is opened … what other initiatives can we come together on to enhance and move our community forward?