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Charlotte

Charlotte

Featured Story

Getting to know … Wambaugh and White

By Douglas M. Hoy

“Success is in the details.” How often have we heard this poignant proclamation? Let me introduce you to two local men whose business is based on exactly that — the details. Their names are Dan Wambaugh and Brian White. They are the sole proprietors of Wambaugh, White & Company. With no local notoriety, they produce sought-after, authentic Civil War clothing to customers across the nation. And they do it all right here in Charlotte.

I listened to Dan as he chronicled the beginning days of the business — to the how and why it all started and the formation of their partnership. We walked a bit among the vast amounts of fabric as Dan educated me. The work area was filled with numerous bolts of material. A huge pile of what a novice would consider scraps lay in a multicolor mound at the end of the cutting table. Dan pointed out that these pieces, now too small for any practical use, are sold to others. This secondary market will use these to make a wide array of cushions, headrests, cup cozies and if nothing else, stuffing. Nothing goes to waste.

For Dan, this all began in the summer of 2000, while he was attending Michigan State University. To produce extra income while following his desire for marketing management, he started a small sewing business in his room. Upon graduation, he ventured into retail sales, thinking this would help him with marketing practices. Let’s just say it did not go that way. Dan soon left the company — with not much to fall back on other than the small number of clients he had cultivated while in college.

Like most companies, this started small. However, with each contact came growth. One day, Brian, then a customer, had placed an order. Brian came by to discuss some of the finer points of what he needed. After a few hours of discussing what should be, could be, done, the idea was floated that just maybe they could work together as a team.

It has worked out wonderfully. Brian does much, not all, of the cutting of fabric. This frees time for Dan to work on the website, return phone calls, deal with supplies and so on. Tasks are divided yet combined, and it all works.

Most of their current business comes from Civil War “reenactment players.” Predicated by their combined belief in detail, they both do a vast amount of research. Dan gave me many examples of the importance of their striving for absolute authenticity to a degree which most would not even bother. It is not only the hard-to-find material for items such as the blankets, jackets, shirts and undergarments which require conscientious consideration. It filters down to items such as the buttons, how they are made, how they are finished and even the sewing loops to attach them to the uniform.

And the attention to detail does not stop there. The thread they use in many of the items is specially made per their request. This thread is not just limited to a certain texture, color and weight; it is down to which way the thread was spun, as there is a difference. You and I would never know, but they do. Due to this sort of detailed concentration, they are often sought after for movies as well as stage plays. They have done production pieces for both.

As we sat and talked, Dan stitched up a couple of canteen covers — a big seller for them. He told me their main source of business is what he calls “kits.” Their company will cut out all items to specification — supply all the “sundries’” to go with it and a set of easy-to-follow instructions. When the customer receives the package, all that remains to be done is the actual sewing, which surprisingly most customers prefer to do.

Dan and Brian do have a website, wwandcompany,com. But much of their business comes from well-satisfied customers who want to upgrade to more authentic parts of their uniform.

It’s much to handle day-after-day. There’s the research, ordering, going to the various fabric manufactures to verify the authenticity of products, processing orders, manufacturing and shipping. All emails are answered daily. All phone calls receive a response. They believe these small steps are what keep their customers happy and coming back. It’s all in the details.

PHOTO INFO:

Courtesy photo

Dan Wambaugh (left) and Brian White are the sole proprietors of Wambaugh, White & Company, making authentic Civil War clothing for customers across the nation.

Olivet

Olivet

Featured Story

Xact Excavating: Local grad takes to the dirt

Amy Jo Parish

Contributing Writer

There is a saying, “Give a man soil and he will prosper.” Gino Costello has taken that to heart this past year, sinking his shovel into the ground and opening his own business — Xact Excavating in Olivet.

For some, the summer after high school graduation is a time of celebration. When Costello graduated from Bellevue High School last year, it was time to get busy. His odd jobs with dirt and equipment while still in school helped him to prepare to branch out on his own.

His optimism and work ethic are apparent when Costello speaks about his business, and it is those qualities that have helped the business grow. 

Once customers experienced the quality and care he takes with the work, Costello said word of mouth brought in more and more jobs. What started as a few jobs on the side grew into a business all its own.

With the help of co-founder Brad Shrontz of Shrontz Trucking, Costello’s business has continued to grow since it opened, and Costello could not be more pleased.

“It has been pretty awesome, how it’s going so far,” said Costello.

From excavating, site work, ice and snow removal and even hauling, there is a long list of services that can be found at Xact Excavating.

The business gives Costello the chance to combine two things he really enjoys — working with equipment and working with people.

“I love working with people, and I think the best thing for me is that I get to do the whole job,” said Costello. “You get to see a project come together from beginning to end.”

The most surprising aspect, however, has been for the customers, not the young entrepreneur.

“My age surprises people. They sometimes aren’t sure at the start if I can do the job, but at the end, they say, ‘wow, you actually can.’”

For Costello, reading blueprints is like reading a book, and he looks forward to working in the dirt for years to come. His eagerness to learn has been a key part of his success thus far and helps him stay on top of new trends in the industry.

“I’m always trying to figure something out to make us better than the competition,” he explained.

For more information about Xact Excavating, visit the company online at xactexcavating.com. Xact Excavating is located at 22105 T Drive North in Olivet. Costello can be reached at 517-706-1563 or costellogman@gmail.com.

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Bellevue

Bellevue

Featured Story

Bronco basketball teams look to cap off perfect regular seasons

The road to perfect regular seasons for both the Bellevue boys and girls varsity basketball teams could go through Athens. 

The Bronco boys were 18-0 heading into its toughest remaining regular season test, a Friday, Feb. 22 showdown at Athens High School. Bellevue defeated Athens, which was undefeated at the time, earlier this season, 68-62 in Bellevue. The game could be much more difficult in a hostile environment.

The Lady Broncos, meanwhile, host Athens on Tuesday, Feb. 26. Bellevue defeated Athens on the road in their tightest contest of the season, 37-36. The girls were 16-0 heading into their game at Climax on Thursday, Feb. 21. Bellevue defeated Climax 49-15 at home earlier this season.

In their most recent action, Bellevue guards Wyatt Waterbury and Gino Costello led the Broncos to a 60-73 win over Climax, securing a third-straight SCAA West Division title. Waterbury paced the Broncos with 20 points, 6 steals and 4 assists. Costello added 14 points, and 4 assists. Carson Betz recorded a double-double, finishing with 10 points, 14 rebounds and 5 steals.

The team travels to Jackson Christian High School on Monday, Feb. 25 to open District play against Tekonsha.

In the girls most recent victory, Morgan Messenger led the way with 13 points as Bellevue defeated Waldron, 33-30. Mikayla Crawley finished with 10 points, 3 steals and 2 assists. 

The Lady Broncos host Colon on Saturday, Feb. 23, and finish off the regular season with home games against Athens on Tuesday, Feb. 26 and Tekonsha on Thursday, Feb. 28.

The team opens District play at Athens High School on Monday, March 4 against Battle Creek St. Philip.

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Eaton County

Eaton County

Featured Story

Debate over Canal/Columbia drain problem continues

By Deb Malewski

Residents and officials turned out in large numbers for a Feb. 6 meeting held at the Eaton Rapids Township Hall to discuss the ongoing flooding problem at Canal Road and Columbia Highway. In addition to dozens of residents, members of the Eaton County Board of Commissioners, the drain commissioner’s office and the road commissioner’s office were in attendance. Representatives of the engineering firm that handles the county drains, Spicer Group, were also there.
The Drain Code of 1956, through the State of Michigan, limits expenditures to $5,000 per mile per year for maintenance on drains, without a petition, it was explained at a previous meeting. This is money that is collected as taxes from the landholders in the drain district, not money from a special fund. Other improvements require a petition to take action.

Larry Protasiewicz, project manager of the Spicer Group, explained the process required by the drain code in order to start a drainage improvement project. According to Protasiewicz, it’s gotten to the point where a petition needs to be filed. The clay tile used for the drains has blowholes, collapses and requires frequent repair. The official name of the main drain in question is the Bentley-DePue Drain.
“The tile was never big enough,” Protasiewicz said. “But on repair we can’t change the size, due to the restraints from the drain code.”

To start the process, the following steps must be taken:
First, a petition is filed with the drain commissioner. It can be filed by five property owners, the municipality, the county, the road commission or the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The drain commissioner then appoints a Board of Determination — made up of three property owners who own property in the county but not in the drainage district. A public hearing is held to determine whether the drain or maintenance and improvement of the drain is necessary for the public health, safety or welfare. If the board determines necessity, a property owner has 10 days to challenge the determination in circuit court, and the township has 20 days after notification of the determination of necessity to appeal the decision in probate court.

The drain commissioner would determine the scope of the project, at which point the project is engineered and plans and specifications are prepared. Bids are requested, and notice is given to those in the district.
Michael Cronkright, who owns property at the corner of Canal and Columbia, expressed concerns over this procedure.

“There isn’t even a rough estimate yet for the cost,” Cronkright said. “If five property owners sign a petition, they are giving a blank check to the government without knowing the costs we are facing.
“The benefit is for the people down the road, not for the people getting their land flooded.”

Area resident Janice Heck said only a relatively few people would have to foot the bill for something that helps many more.
“Twenty-five hundred cars a day pass down Canal, on the shoulders of 200 people,” Heck said. “How is that fair?
“It is literally a seasonal road. We are being assessed as a primary road but not receiving the services.”
Patrick Murphy was another concerned citizen who spoke out at the meeting.
“We are obviously dealing with an antiquated system,” Murphy said.

Murphy went on to suggest that a survey be done to determine the water flow in the area and determine where the water is coming from.
Eaton County drain commissioner Richard Wagner said he has sought state funding sources to no avail and that he can shut the process down if it proves to be too expensive.
No decision has yet been made on the issue. Pumps were placed at the intersection and excavation was done to provide some relief from the flooding. This was done using $23,000 in emergency funding, according to representatives from the drain office.

Eaton Rapids Township Supervisor Scott Wilson said the township board will need to determine what is best for township constituents.

“We need to come up with a plan that will work for all,” Wilson said.
A special meeting, and vote on the drainage issue, has been scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. at the township hall. The hall is located at 2512 S. Canal Road.

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Vermontville

Vermontville

Featured Story

Maple Valley exchange students create positive impact

By Amy Jo Parish

Contributing Writer

Exchange students give up their home and their family for a year in order to gain new experiences in a foreign culture. Those experiences, however, can last a lifetime. This year, the Maple Valley School District welcomed nine exchange students into their halls. Though the students come from all around the globe, all were eager to experience America for themselves. For some, it was an eye-opening experience to come to the very rural setting of Maple Valley.

“I imagined it would be like the High School Musical movies, and it’s a lot more different,” laughs Julia Schnull from Germany. “It’s a lot more country life, but I really like it.”

Maria Sousa of Brazil made the journey without any preconceived notions of American life.

“I thought, it will be what it will be – no expectations,” said Sousa. “It is better than I could have expected.”

Along with a new language, the students have also been experiencing new cuisine. For the German students, they are used to sweet popcorn and the salty varieties have taken a bit of adjustment. Overall, the students said they have been enjoying the food.

“I’m gaining weight every week,” said Sousa.  a

A few students have found a new favorite food.

“Deep-fried pickles, they are so good,” said Sofia Kärki of Finland. “I would eat so many of them.”

The course work has been easier for all of the students, making it easier to adjust to new schedules and time zones.

“School here is so much easier, but it’s so different,” said Matilde Lenzi of Italy. “We don’t change classroom; teachers change, and we go on Saturday.”

Through all the differences and adjustments, Maple Valley High School Principal Michael Knapp said welcoming exchange students into the district creates a positive impact for not only the students but the community as well.

“It allows our students that don’t leave the area to get to experience other cultures,” said Knapp. “They get involved with extracurricular activities and in our school community, and our students just really embrace them.”

Maple Valley typically welcomes anywhere from 10 to 15 exchange students each year, some stay for a semester, others an entire year. The district works with CET USA, Share and other exchange programs to bring the students into the community. The organizations works with local families to match students’ interests with the families and ensure a positive experience for all those involved. Knapp said Maple Valley will continue to work with exchange student companies well into the future and is certain the host families and students are changed for the better because of the programs.

“In many cases, students and host families will visit each other down the road,” said Knapp. “It just spurs on what can be a lifelong friendship.”

The commitment of leaving family and friends for a year can be daunting, explained Knapp, but the experiences and memories make for an unforgettable 12 months.

“It’s a huge step for that student to commit to leaving their homes for a year,” he said.

The students could not agree more and would encourage other students who might be interested in becoming an exchange student to take the chance.

“It’s hard sometimes, but it’s worth it,” said Schnull.

PHOTO:

Photo by Amy Jo Parish

This year’s Maple Valley High School exchange students include (front, from left) Veerin Yimsmerjit, Thailand; Matilde Lenzi, Italy; Leo Roskouetz, Germany; Luisa Pidun, Germany; Julia Schnull, Germany; Maria Sousa, Brazil; (back, from left), Vilma Viitanen, Finland; Sofia Kärki, Finland; and (missing from photo) Sally Park, South Korea.

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Potterville

Potterville

Featured Story

New Potterville High School boys varsity basketball coach sets first camp

Newly hired Potterville High School boys varsity basketball coach, Jacob Briney, and his entire coaching staff, is offering a four-day basketball camp for area youth in second through 12th grade. The camp will be held four consecutive Sundays beginning July 21 in the Potterville High School gymnasium.

Students entering ninth through 12th grade will attend from 2 to 4 p.m. July 21, July 28, Aug. 4 and Aug. 11. Students entering sixth through eighth grade will attend from 4 to 5:30 p.m. and students entering second through fifth grade will attend from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

The cost of the camp is $50 per participant, which includes access to all four Sundays, and a custom Moneyball practice jersey. Checks should be made payable to Potterville Public Schools, attention Boys Basketball.

Registration forms must be completed before the start of camp and are available in the Potterville High School athletic office. There will also be an opportunity to register your child on Sunday, July 21 prior to the start of camp.

For more information, contact coach Briney via email at coachbriney@yahoo.com.

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Eaton Rapids

Eaton Rapids

Featured Story

Northfork Estate earns top marks for weddings

By Deb Malewski

Marta Brown will take the perfect wedding that’s in your head and dreams and make it a reality, she promises. Brown is the owner Northfork Estate, a wedding venue in Eaton Rapids. Brown and her husband were the first couple married at the venue, in 2015, and since then they have hosted over 74 other weddings at the 50-acre location. Northfork Estate is complete with a ballroom, dance floor, bridal suite, bar, dining area and more. The beautifully landscaped grounds include private ponds and patios. The venue features multiple locations to have the ceremony, both indoors and out, Brown explained.

Brown also acts as a day-of-wedding planner, which is a vital part of the special day. She makes sure every little detail of the event is taken care of so that the bride and groom can relax and enjoy their special day.

“I help them create the best of day of their lives,” Brown said. “They put that trust in me, knowing I will help them create the wedding of their dreams.”

What started out as a horse farm has developed into the largest wedding venue in the area, with a 9,000 square-foot Grand Hall which can seat up to 300 people. This allows both an intimate gathering or an arena-sized event. The venue can go from rustic to ballroom, Brown explained, depending on the couple’s preferences.

The wedding season at Northfork runs from May until October. Northfork Estate has won the “Best in Business” for wedding venues from the Lansing Bridal Association for three years in a row.

As you enter the property through an elaborate wrought-iron gate, you are greeted by a large bronze sculpture of a horse. Brown was a competitive rider for many years with Harley, an Arabian horse, who is now retired. Together, they earned national awards in Western and English riding. The life-size, extremely realistic sculpture was created by renown sculptor J. Anne Butler from Arizona.

Brown has worked for Tetra Corporation — a medical product company founded by her late husband, Paul DiMeglio — for 17 years. At Tetra, she is the director of special projects, which was an easy segue to becoming an event planner/ wedding planner as a business of her own, she explained.

“I do a really good job of throwing a party, and that’s what I do,” said Brown.

Brides seem to agree with her. Every online review is five stars, and they all express great happiness with their weddings. The attention to detail, attentive customer service and the excellent event coordination at Northfork brings many accolades.

Brown’s favorite part about hosting a wedding is the connection she gets to make with the bride and groom.

“Couples truly become part of the family here,” she said. “I spend two minutes alone with them before the event and love being part of the wonder and the excitement of it all.

“We allow them to have the wedding they want. They are free to roam the entire property, bring games and just enjoy the day at outdoor patios and cocktail tables.”

Northfork Estate can be reached by phone at 866-669-6977 or by email at marta@thenorthforkestate.com.

PHOTO INFO:

Photo by Deb Malewski

Marta Brown is owner and operator of Northfork Estate in Eaton Rapids.

Sunfield

Sunfield

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Mulliken

Mulliken

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