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Business Spotlight

COOKIE CHICKS
del Rosario, Holly

Cookie Monster might want to move to Comstock Park just to be near Cookie Chicks.  Owners Holly del Rosario and Tami Pelham, who started the cookie making business in 2015, moved to 3979 West River Dr. in downtown Comstock Park in 2017  to accommodate their expansion into making Fruit Bouquets for 1-800-FLOWERS.

They had been operating out of del Rosario’s home in Ada where she has a commercial-grade kitchen, but when they acquired a contract with 1-800-FLOWERS in December 2016 to do Fruit bouquets they needed a space dedicated to their growing business.  del Rosario said the Comstock Park location has worked well for the business.

“When I was considering locations for my business, I didn’t really know about it (Comstock Park), she said.  “When I read an ad on Craigslist about a great space, centrally-located to all the highways, plenty of parking with an address on the busy West River Drive with reasonable terms, I knew that I would not find any better fit than here.”

del Rosario said the location, along with support of the community has worked out so well that they are looking into expanding into a nearby space.  They’ve already brought other small food start-ups such as Lost Village Pierogi and Julie’s Pies of Rockford into the kitchen “to give them a chance to test the viability of their business.”

Cookie Chicks make “bake to order” cookies made with natural ingredients – pure cane sugar, pure vanilla – and no preservatives.  Their motto is “a Cookie Chick cookie is worth the calories.”  The business is by order and many of their customers are corporations who order gift boxes of cookies for clients or cookies for events.  The product is made and delivered the same day. With the partnership with 1-800-FLOWERS, they expanded into doing bouquets of flower-shaped fruit, and they do a combo of fruit and cookie bouquets, including custom made bouquets. Pictures of their creations can be seen on their Facebook page. Cookies can be custom packaged with a special logo or for a holiday or special occasion like a birthday.  Their delivery area extends west to Lake Michigan, north to Cedar, south to Middleville, and east to Lake Odessa.

The revamped space is a homey kitchen with white cupboards the two found at a Habitat for Humanity Restore.  A massive ten by four foot stainless steel table dominates the main room, and there is a stainless steel refrigerator, commercial sink, and a microwave.  del Rosario said the idea was to make the kitchen “look less commercial, more like a homey feel for other uses.”  The 750 square foot space is available to rent for events like cooking or wine and bouquet classes.  There are a couple of bistro tables and chairs in front of the shop so people walking or riding bikes on the White Pine Trail can sit and have a cookie and coffee.  There’s even treats and water bowls for canine friends.

del Rosario and Pelham met while volunteering at the Cannonsburg Challenged Ski Association, a program that provides adaptive ski lessons for people with disabilities.  Pelham, who lives in Lake Odessa and works for the State Department of Human Services in Lansing, brought cookies for the kids and volunteers who raved about good they were.  In 2015 del Rosario was looking for a job after being downsized from her job in communications marketing at Amway, and they went into business.  

del Rosario has a degree in marketing from the University of Connecticut and a Master’s degree in international marketing from Thunderbird University in Arizona.  She lives in Ada with her husband who is an engineer.  The couple has one grown son and one who will be a freshman at Kent Innovative High School.  When she’s not working (which is rare) she enjoys cooking, skiing, time with family and friend, going out with their two therapy dogs, and volunteering.


VERPLANK ELECTRIC

D. VerPlank

Dave VerPlank was the kind of kid who took things apart, like radios and toasters he found around his family’s house, and says, “I shocked myself a few times.”

VerPlank followed that love of all things electric and now owns his own electrical contracting business - VerPlank Electric at 3830 Mill Creek Ave. NE in downtown Comstock Park.  The company does electrical work for commercial, residential, and industrial properties including new construction, remodeling, and general repairs. 

He founded the company in 2002, and has relocated several times.  He moved the business to Comstock Park in the summer of 2014 from downtown Grand Rapids.  At his previous locations VerPlank leased the buildings and property.  He said he wanted to own his own building.  The Comstock Park building had previously housed a heating and cooling business.  VerPlank said he likes the location for its closeness to downtown Grand Rapids and the 131 expressway.  He also likes “the community and people.”  However the property is small.  The building has an office space as well as shop and storage areas.  There are nine employees including VerPlank and an office manager.  His service area is mainly greater Grand Rapids and West Michigan, roughly within a fifty mile radius of the shop, but he does do jobs outside that area.  Advertising is mainly by word of mouth.

Becoming an electrician is not an easy process.  It requires commitment and time.  There is a minimum of 8000 hours working and four years of supervised on-the-job training as an apprentice under the supervision of a journeyman as well as four years of classes. Then there is an exam to pass to become a journeyman.  To become a master electrician requires another 2000 hours under the supervision of a master electrician, and another exam to pass. To become an electrical contractor and have your own business, the company must have a master electrician on record and pass a contractor license.

VerPlank attended trade school at Grand Rapids Community College to become a master electrician and eventually own his own electrical contracting company.  He has also taught at the college and currently has two apprentices from GRCC working in his company, one of whom is close to become a journeyman.

It’s extremely hard to find people who want to go into the trades including electric said VerPlank, and an existing shortage is expected to worsen.  Baby boomers are retiring, and there aren’t enough new workers with the skills to take their place.  VerPlank said he thinks young people are more interested in technology that working with their hands.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 165,000 workers in the trades needed by 2024, and companies are already struggling to find talented workers.

VerPlank, who graduated from Northview High School, and his wife Heather live in Grand Rapids with their four children, who range from a high school senior to a sixth grader.  When he’s not working, VerPlank enjoys spending time with his family, off-roading with his jeep, fishing and “playing with new technology.”

Comstock Park Downtown Development Authority
P.O. Box 333
Comstock Park, Michigan  49321
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