SOURCE: Michigan Retailers Association

October 10, 2006 11:45 ET

2006 Michigan Retailers of the Year Announced

LANSING, MI -- (MARKET WIRE) -- October 10, 2006 -- Two retail businesses that make outstanding community involvement an integral part of their operations were honored today as 2006 Michigan Retailer of the Year.

Receiving honors at the ninth annual awards luncheon were:

--  Terra Stella, Grand Rapids;
--  Becky Beauchine Kulka Diamonds and Fine Jewelry, Okemos.
"The Retailer of the Year Awards provide the opportunity to honor the best of the best," said Larry Meyer, chairman and CEO of the Michigan Retailers Association, which founded the awards program and co-sponsors it with the Michigan Press Association. "The award recipients represent the thousands of retailers across the state who make a difference in their communities through their countless charitable and volunteer activities."

Recipients are selected by an independent panel of community leaders: Nancy Barker, retired vice president, Northwood University; Rick Blanchard, assistant business editor, The Detroit News; Jan Hayhow, former board chair of Michigan Retailers Association; Sandra Katt, Grand Haven manager of community affairs; Michael MacLaren, executive director, Michigan Press Association; Claude Martin, Winkelman Professor Emeritus of Retail Marketing, University of Michigan; David Scott, Marketing Specialist, Mid-Michigan Radio Group; Brenda Sternquist, professor of retailing, Michigan State University; and Dennis Toffolo, director, Oakland County Community and Economic Development.

The 2006 Michigan Retailer of the Year recipients:

Terra Stella, Grand Rapids / Katherine Alsobrooks, Owner

Opened in September 2004, Terra Stella -- "a retail and healing space offering ritual and meditative tools from a variety of traditions" -- is already making a positive impact on Grand Rapids by reaching out to and celebrating the various cultures within the city. For example, in celebration of the Chinese Year of the Dog, the store helped raise funds for two canine-centered organizations: Paws with a Cause and the Humane Society's Hurricane Katrina dog-rescue mission. The store also celebrates Hispanic culture's Dia de los Muertos every year.

More notably, this past summer the store participated in Grand Rapids' "The Red Thread Project," which involved thousands of volunteer knitters joining forces to create a unique work of art featuring thousands of hand-made hats. The hats were attached to a knitted red thread more than a quarter-mile long and became the centerpiece of a public performance involving hundreds of community members wearing the hats to show the connectedness of individuals. The hats were then donated to local nonprofit organizations for distribution to people with cancer. Each hat included a personal story for the cancer patient.

The project, which originated in Memphis, was organized in Grand Rapids by two of the city's key arts organizations. But Terra Stella's involvement was unique in several ways. It helped organize "Senior Neighbors" to donate more than 200 hats and it designed and sponsored the creation of the world's largest hat loom and the world's largest knitted hat. The loom was built by a group of students at a local public high school, and the Paul Bunyan-sized hat was knitted by another group of students from the public alternative high school.

Becky Beauchine Kulka Diamonds and Fine Jewelry, Okemos / Becky Beauchine Kulka, Owner

For years Becky Kulka has been a tireless force in the Junior League of Lansing, helping it raise funds and awareness so that it can have a larger impact in its support of women and children at risk. She also serves on the Ingham Regional Healthcare Foundation's Volunteer Board of Trustees. In her role with the Foundation, she has chaired the Foundation's Festival of Trees Committee and been an integral part of its Spring Gala event. She will serve as co-chair of 2007 Gala event.

Her store has donated jewelry and gift cards valued at more than $150,000 to over 150 events and organizations, including Race for the Cure, the Meridian Township fireworks, Okemos Public Schools and the Retired Michigan State Police annual event.

The full measure of Becky's contribution to her community is most evident through her interactions with it, from her inspirational address to the membership of Inforum, a professional women's organization, to the more informal talks she gives to area Girl Scouts who tour her store and learn about becoming a woman business owner.

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