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ROWSTER New American Coffee (632 Wealthy Street SE) serves as the host site for an exhibit showcasing the past and present of Wealthy Street. Titled “Then and Now,” the photography display generates an image of the history and renovations of Wealthy Street. Photographs taken by Daniel E. Johnson and Ryan Pavlovich in the exhibit will be auctioned off in a silent auction this summer. Proceeds will be used to fund signs for Rowster and other businesses part of the Wealthy Street Business Alliance (WSBA) in an effort to increase awareness of the growth taking place within the street.
“Wealthy Street business owners are proud and fulfilled with their life’s work and it shows; they are an inspiration and a reason to visit one of our many amazing businesses,” says Kurt Stauffer, owner of ROWSTER. “They create the experience that makes you feel as if you are part of history in the making.”
“This is what Wealthy Street is. We try to project an image and the image is people who are rediscovering the past or taking the old stuff and fixing it up, making it new and showing it, reinventing themselves in the process,” adds Stauffer.
The exhibit is a collaborative display of two separate projects created by photographers Daniel E. Johnson of Wealthy Street Photography and Ryan Pavlovich of Ryan P. Photography. Johnson holds a history of over two decades in restoring photographs and provided the ‘Then’ photos, which he originally obtained through archives in the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
“In the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, tax assessors would go up and down the street and take pictures of buildings so they had some record of what the building was like,” says Johnson. “I was interested in how things have changed in trying to preserve some of that history and see the progression- how people are taking pride in the neighborhood and keeping it restored.”
Pavlovich became involved in the exhibit when in passing he mentioned to Stauffer that he was working on a study of small business owners.
“His goal was to capture them in their business in a way that told the story of their commitment and passion and showcase the hard work and tools of the trade that make their business possible,” says Stauffer.
Stauffer is a member of the WSBA and says he felt a need to showcase business owners. Pavlovich volunteered to capture owners of Wealthy Street businesses and the owners in their businesses.
“Taking these images and talking with the many business owners was a chance to allow them to step back and look at what they have accomplished as well,” says Pavlovich. “I think it’s easy to overlook the work that goes into some of these places and to take a step back and really look where they have come is well deserved.”
“We thought ‘How do we celebrate the idea of coming in, taking an older building and a dream?’ [It’s] not just business people, not just dreamers," says Stauffer. "These are people who come from all walks of life and have a passion and a desire to do something really great and they're doing it here because they want it to be important.”