Tag Archives: Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce

IW Inspiring Women Liz B.

Inspiring Women at home and around the world

Orchids in full bloom
Enigmatic orchids

Note: This is the third installment in a feature series about Inspiring Women. It is dedicated to all women who are trying to make a difference and better other people’s lives, as well as their own.  In putting together this feature series, I was inspired by several moments in life that in particular stand out.

No.1  A dedication of a Relax, mind, body & soul book by Barbara Heller from my son Jake: “I dedicate this to my inspiring and motivational mother.” Kuba

No. 2  While on a story prior to Mother’s Day, I dropped in at Ace Bernard Hardware to talk about the prizes with owner Charlie Bernard. We talked also about the Lowell Area Chamber and its director Liz Baker.

“You know what I like about Liz, she keeps re-inventing herself,” Bernard said.

No. 3 Again on a story prior to the International Women’s Day I talked to Sow Hope president Mary Dailey Brown.

“If you want to make a difference in this world, seriously consider helping impoverished women. Helping women is the key to unlocking poverty.”

No. 4  At a parents teacher conference at Cherry Creek Elementary in Lowell in mid 1990s: “Mrs. Pala, we do not give up,” teacher Karen Latva said.

IW Chamberdirector Liz Baker reinvents herself and Lowell events

Name: Liz Baker

Position: Executive director

Residence: Alto

Hobbies & interests: camping, ATVs, kayaking, antiquing

Volunteer: Schneider Manor board, Lowell Community Wellness Board

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI – Lowell Area Chamber director started with a filing cabinet and a phone in the old white building on the east end of town in 1994 as a secretary. Most people don’t remember where the old chamber was.

“What did I get myself into,” she said.

Liz Baker
Lowell Area Chamber director Liz Baker

Being behind most events in Lowell, Baker manages to keep low profile in her back office. Prior to becoming the director, she had her own cleaning business.

But aunt Betty said Baker had more in her than just doing an ordinary job.

The chamber was first established as a Board of Trade in 1906.

FMB president Jim Bosserd recommended Baker and the chamber hired her.

“I was the assistant director, and I didn’t know who was the director,” she laughed. “What should I do?”

At the time, the chamber did two events: Christmas parade and annual dinner. The Lowell Area Schools said somebody needs to be at the chamber.

“They took a leap of faith and hired me,” Baker said. “I became the executive director.”

Then came the big question.

“How are we going to pay for the Riverwalk?” said Baker.

The two day festival started originally on Labor Day with arts & crafts, entertainment, duck race and a pig roast.

“It just started and we made money,” she said. “From then on I was free to create festival that I wanted to.”

Baker started going to the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to get money.

Liz Baker
Lowell Area Chamber director with conceptual plan.

Her biggest accomplishment was the partnership with Lowell Area Schools for the annual March Expo 19 years ago. At the time it was the only community expo in the area.

Sizzlin’ Concerts with Lowell Arts are a big hit, as well as two Girls Nights Out, one in the spring, one in the fall. In the early years, Riverwalk was still on Labor Day.

Since, people leave for the holidays, the chamber moved the Riverwalk to the second weekend in July.

“It made world of difference,” she said. “It has evolved with corporate ducks and sponsorships and we went back to a two-day event, well three with the concerts.”

The fireworks are not cheap. The show costs $6,000 to put on. It is sponsored by Laurels of Kent.

The Riverwalk Festival is the biggest fundraiser for the chamber. It brings in between $18,000 to $25,000.

“Most of these events depend on the weather,” she said.

Harvest Celebration is in the fall, and it has been going on for 15 years.

“It is a community event organized by the chamber with marketing funds,” Baker said.

Jodie Haybarker started Christmas through Lowell, a three-day event.

“How can we get businesses involved?” Baker said. “What better event for the chamber. It has been running beautifully.”

DDA sponsors Christmas activities like Santa visits on the Showboat. The Christmas parade route changed and it went to a night parade five years ago.

“Changing the route was good, it was hard on the little ones,” she said.

With this huge output Baker relies on 200 volunteers.

The secret to successful events is early preparation. Volunteers start getting ready for Expo in November, while preparations for Riverwalk start in February.

“We’re very diligent about technology, our marketing is going to the website,” she said.

The concert line-up starts in January/February. Then there also member events such Breakfast Clubs (12) and Lunch & Learn (4), as well as business after hours (2).

Because Lowell is a family community, when the school is out not much happens.

And Baker moved to a new office in the back of the building on the Riverwalk. The general contractor was Evert Bek.

Baker has a part-time person on staff, Catherine Bek, and twice a week Carol Briggs and Peggy Idyma help out, and Barb Zandstra will be back.

As far as weaknesses, Baker says about herself that she gets easily attached to people and things.

“I am getting bigger shoulders now, but I am an emotional sap,” she said. “I love my job. There’s always enough variety and excitement.”

That is why Charlie Bernard of Ace Hardware said about Baker that she keeps reinventing herself.

She was also chair for the Riverwalk Showboat Development plan in 2014. Baker is motivated by Lowell’s vision.

“I want Lowell to be the best there is,” she said. “I go to  other communities for inspiration.”

West Michigan Chamber Network does round tables.

“We take ideas from each other,” she said. “But we get robbed quite a bit. We’ve been a role model for MDOT for outside the box thinking.”

Lowell enjoys an amazing camaraderie, according to Baker. “We pull together.”

For two years, the bridge project was the biggest challenge, and then of course the economic downturn.

“The economy just tanked in 2004-2005,” she said. “The big box stores are hard for retail. But, I can’t stop them. I’d like to see a better balance, see more restaurants, small boutique shops and sports kayak shop. I don’t know if we have the right demographics.”

Trail projects are moving ahead, Lowell is in their center.

“It will bring us, business, visitors and tourists,” she said. “We have a designated water trail. And the national headquarters of the North Country Trail (NCT) are located here.

How about plans and visions for Baker and Lowell?

Baker would like to see the Showboat rebuilt and a permanent stage on the Riverwalk.

There are conceptual plans for a permanent stage.

“We want to grow to be sustainable and to be here for years to come,” she said.

And Expo is coming up on March 28th at the Lowell High School. The Expo covers the area of the Lowell Area schools, this include seven townships and the city of Lowell.

“It’s a big deal for us,” Baker said. “I’ve never had a problem finding an exclusive sponsor. If you’re not at the Expo you should be.”

The board sets goals such as getting out more into the community, how to sell yourself and to be the best you can be.

“The businesses need to be taught that too,” she said. “You keep pressing forward, motivating businesses and being their cheerleader. They have to reinvent themselves too. They have to take that first step and become members.”

There are approximately 300 members, and people call for referrals.

“It gives them credibility,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of vacant buildings.”

Here are a few comments from the chamber’s facebook page:

“I’ve always been amazed at how much our Lowell Chamber of Commerce achieves and is involved in our community,” wrote Tina Maire Greene. “I can always count on the chamber for suggestions and recommendations when I need them for particular services.”

“Best Chamber of Commerce ever. They go above and beyond to provide residents and businesses with fun, family friendly activities and events,” wrote Ella K. St. Germain.

Liz Baker-the woman behind the superwoman

1-What makes you feel good about yourself?

I exercise, eat right and healthy.

2-How do you strike a balance between work and family?

Family has to come first. Sometimes they take the back seat. That’s the honesty.

3-What do you do for yourself?

First family, spiritual wellbeing and work. That’s how it plays out for me.

4-What is your biggest fear?

I am fearless.

Copyright © 2015 Emma Blogs LLC. All rights reserved.


Lowell on water is down to earth

Free Association

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt:“Free Association.”

Down to earth people are the fabric of Lowell

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, – I make my home in Lowell, a small town in the Midwest. It lies at the crossroads of two major waterways, the Flat River in the northeast and the Grand River in the southern part.

What I’ve always liked about this hometown is the people who live here. They are down to earth folks who earn their living the hard way. Many of them work two part-time low paying jobs with no benefits.

The median family income is around $40,000.

Downtown Lowell.
Lowell rowing team on the Flat River.

But, what is most fascinating about Lowell are the people who care about each other. They get together to rejoice and celebrate their successes as in the annual Lowell Area Chamber membership gathering that awards the Person of the Year.

They mourn together when a great citizen passes such as recently Ray Zandstra, and many others who have made a difference in the community.

And in order not to forget community giants like Ivan Blough, the people of Lowell establish foundations and scholarships. The one that honors this truly down to earth man is called the Ivan K. Blough Vocational Scholarship.


KDL library
The KDL Engelhardt Library in Lowell sits right on the Riverwalk.Being fortunate enough, the town has received bequests from local philanthropists such as Mr. E., that is Harold Englehardt.

In May of 1996, Englehardt’s will set into motion a legacy that  benefited the Lowell area community forever. Known as a low-key, humble man who lived his life simply and without fanfare, Englehardt was a self-made millionaire who chose to give back to the community he loved.

Englehardt gave a $12.7 million bequest to the community which in turn created the Lowell Area Community Fund (LACF) See more at: http://www.grfoundation.org/lowell#sthash.4QQlenYl.dpuf

Another area philanthropist was late Peter Wege who donated money for farm preservation and nature education in the Wittenbach Wege Agriscience Center.

100 Posts
Wittenbach/Wege Agriscience nature center

The community also fights together; in the fall it is the annual Pink Arrow Pride game that spreads awareness and raises money to fight cancer.

The community honors its veterans, late and alive, in the annual Memorial Day parade.

Lowell Main Street
Main Street before Pink Arrow game.

It stepped up in an uprecendented effort to fight hunger and poverty when local churches created the Flat River Outreach Ministries (FROM) in 1998.

The community collects food for the FROM pantry throughout the year in different food fights like the north side against the south side of the town. Residents bring cans of food to the annual Riverwalk parade in July.

“Can you imagine, all these people bringing cans to the parade,” said former pastor Roger LaWarre of the First Congregational Church of Lowell.

The community loves the arts and it has named the gallery inside Lowell Arts after another philanthropist King Doyle.

It preserves history as local businessman Greg Canfield saved three buildings on the bridge from demolition and turned them into the Main Street Inn,

People of the past, present and the future make up the fabric of this resilient community that is bound together by love and caring.

Copyright (c) 2015 Emma Blogs, All rights reserved


Lowell Expo 2014

Lowell Expo brings in spring

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

LOWELL, MI- Always held on the fourth weekend in March, the annual Lowell Expo sponsored by the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce has become a community perennial over the years.

It is also the only community event when chamber director Liz Baker wishes for bad weather.

“We want people to come inside and visit,” said Baker.

This year’s 18th Expo was well attended with more than 150 vendor booths. The event was complete with local entertainment by the Lowell Area Schools groups and by bluegrass band of the WMBA Eazy Idle led by Dave Simmonds.

Bluegrass band Eazy Idle with Dave Simmonds
Bluegrass band Eazy Idle with Dave Simmonds

These included newcomers: the Red Barn Market from Vergennes Township with owner Barbara Roth and River Edge Bed & Breakfast and Gathering Place with owners Brenda and Bill Schreur, as well as the Candlestone Resort of Belding.

Follow EW journal for stories on the above mentioned businesses.

There were signature mainstays of the event like the Lowell City Directory represented by Cathy Acker at the entrance, the Lowell Area Farmer’s Market with Dave & Betty Deans and Lowell Arts with director Lorain Smalligan. The farmer’s market this year opens on June 12th in front of the Tractor Supply Co.

Cathy Acker with Lowell City Directory at the Lowell Expo.
Cathy Acker with Lowell City Directory at the Lowell Expo.

Ada Lowell 5 were also represented by Amy Petersen.

The city of Lowell had on display Riverwalk Stage and Showboat Plans as part of the future masterplan.

The Expo serves as a great platform for new organizations such as the Rebuild Whites Covered Bridge group led by Christine Baird and Keith Salter.

The group hopes to raise $300,000 for a new replica of the Whites Bridge that burnt on July 6th of last year. They are selling memory bricks for Memory Lane, and beautification project at the bridge. Join their facebook group: Supporters for Whites Bridge. Whites Bridge Benefit will be held on June 7 at the Qua-Ke-Zik Sportsman’s Club on Riverside Drive.

Al Halbeisen and Betsy Davidson with Lowell Trails at the Expo
Al Halbeisen and Betsy Davidson with Lowell Trails at the Expo

          The Lowell Area Schools Food service offered a complete menu along with vendors’ samplings by Litehouse, Frozen Creek Floral & Farm.

Hubbert’s Kettle Corn had fresh kettle corn samples in front of the Lowell High School.

For upcoming fundraisers for the Whites Bridge replica check the local & events page on EW Emma’s Writings journal.

Rebuild Whites Bridge group at the Expo
Rebuild Whites Bridge group at the Expo







Related links:

Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce


Lowell City


Lowell Area Schools


Lowell Arts


Lowell Area Historical Museum


West Michigan Bluegrass Association

Kent County Youth Fair

Litehouse Inc.


Ada Lowell 5 cinema


Candlestone Resort


Hubbert’s Kettle Corn


Lowell City


Lowell Area Schools


Lowell Arts


Lowell Area Historical Museum


Ada Lowell 5 cinema


Candlestone Resort


Hubbert’s Kettle Corn





Red Barn Market


River Edge Bed & Breakfast and Gathering Place


Golden Law Offices




Copyright © story and photos by Emma Palova

















Meet Mr. Greg Canfield- person of the year

Greg Canfield named person of the year 2014

Mr. Greg Canfield has been named the person of the year 2014 by the Lowell Area Chamber.

“I thought only old people get this title,” he laughed.

In the past, Greg along with his wife Deb were awarded the Brick Award 2011 for bringing back to life the three buildings owned by the Reedy’s and what is now the Main Street Inn. And of course the Canfield Plumbing & Heating business running fast for the last two decades.

“Our main focus is on the plumbing business,” said Canfield.

Greg Canfield in front of Main Street Inn
Greg Canfield in front of Main Street Inn

The rough winter has been a boom for the plumbing business. “We had to pick which customer needs our help the most,” he said. “We got 100 home calls.” The biggest problem was when people were gone, and the home got flooded or the pipes froze.

The plumbing business employs 15 full-time employees, while the Main Street Inn has eight part-time employees. However, the elegant Inn nestled on the Flat River is the talk of the town, and a lifeline to downtown businesses.  The lobby has new additions that are rarities today,, an old red coke machine and a phone booth.

The  favorite rooms are the ones overlooking the Flat River and the Showboat. One room is dedicated to prominent late citizen Ivan Blough for his love of the Showboat, the other one is the honeymoon suite. The 1880s building has no problems with plumbing, because it’s all new. During the remodel, Canfield moved the plumbing into the walls, and found out about the second story that was on the original building.

“It was a major undertaking,” Canfield said. “We had to pour new foundations on the river bottom. The building is 98 percent new.” There are seven guest rooms, three rooms are upstairs with a spacious community room. Four rooms are on the main level, along with the lobby and a conference room. The conference room is used by various groups such as the Flat River Watershed group as well as for bridal or baby showers, and wedding rehearsals.

“The plumbing business carries us,” Canfield said. “You can’t outsource that to China. The Inn brings people to downtown area. They can walk to Backwater Cafe. People love the art shops and the antiques.”

It is one of  Canfield’s many goals to make Lowell a destination town like it used to be when the  Flat River Antique Mall was still operating. This will include improving parking and handicap accessibility. As a member of the Downtown Development Authority, Canfield said the DDA is looking at developers seeking assistance.

Future plans include purchasing the 12,000 square-footMoose building and turning it into a pub, a banquet hall and a hotel on the third floor.

“It will be like an extension to the Inn.”

Canfield, now for his involvement in the historic district commission and Lowell Light & Power, the Downtown District Authority, and the construction board of appeals,  is the man of the year.
“I am so humbled to be along the people who preceded me.” he said.

Canfield attributes his success to being surrounded by great people. “I am surrounded by my family, my wife, co-workers and neighbors. Lowell is a wonderful community.”

Canfield said he would do it all over again.

“It’s very rewarding helping people solve their problems,” he said.

Canfield has a handful of stories about cool people who had stayed at the Inn. A lady who was suffering from terminal cancer rented the entire building for the  family to enjoy and celebrate her life.

“It’s a fun way to remember her,” he said.

At a different time, Canfield saw his guests from Las Vegas walking around Lowell and skyping from computers.

“It’s very humbling to be put along other people who have received this award,” he said. “I want to dabble in other things than plumbing.

Canfield, a history buff, likes to bring people to the Lowell historic district.

” I do it for the downtown, to bring people in,” he said in a recent interview. “I care for the community.”

Relevant links http://www.mainstreetinnlowell.com

:owell Area Chamber of Commerce: http://www.lowellchamber.org