The Prince of Kalamazoo

September 29, 2012

Undoubtedly, one of the most prominent relationships in any boys Life is between him and his Father.

Thankfully, I feel that I’ve grown up with a very, very successful Father-Son relationship. My Dad has taught me about selflessness, hard work (even if I don’t always exhibit it), and about the value of getting an education.

My Dad is the greatest.

And…

My Dad is the King of Kalamazoo.

About 30 years ago, Kalamazoo was dead. The city was barren because it was deemed unsafe by most in the surrounding area. Businesses failed faster than they could start. Hardly anyone lived within the city limits. WMU students made sure to stay on campus and avoided the city like the plague. And my Dad was on a committee that was determined to change that…

Kalamazoo needed a jump start. It needed Life to be breathed into it. It needed to be invigorated. It needed…college students. And the committee knew how to reach them.

See, there’s this thing called “Bronco Bash.” Bronco Bash used to be a party held on campus at the start of the Fall Semester each year.

Not anymore. Now, because of the committee my Dad was on, Bronco Bash extends into the downtown area.

This change may seem small, but it had a huge impact. Thousands of college students were given vouchers for sales in the downtown area and let loose into the city. The streets of Kalamazoo were swamped with college kids having a blast at Bronco Bash. Games were played. Vats of Jell-O were slid into. Sales were made. Scavenger hunts were hosted. And business in Kalamazoo was skyrocketing. All of a sudden, WMU students were comfortable with maneuvering in the downtown area and spent their free time throughout the year providing business to shops downtown. And, as if that wasn’t enough, WMU students started to enjoy Kalamazoo so much that they would make it their permanent home after graduating. Kalamazoo was thriving.

 

And that’s how Kalamazoo got it’s jump start. That’s how Kalamazoo became the Kalamazoo it is today.

This worked out unbelievably well for my Dad, an architect and builder. (The founder of SouthWest Builders.) Suddenly, there were businesses coming into Kalamazoo, all trying to get a bite of the college student apple…and they all wanted fresh, renovated spaces to work in. My Dad was happy to supply this demand. And not only that, the flood of WMU students who stayed in Kalamazoo after graduation all needed places to live. And my Dad had a knack for building condominiums. The condos in his buildings would be bought out before he even finished the project.

In total, my Dad has renovated about 12 buildings downtown.

From the Arcadia to the Style Shop to the spaces above Cafe Casa to the South St. Coffee Shop to the Kinko’s on campus to the Park Club to the Keystone Bank building to Trough and Denning, my Dad has affected them all. My personal favorite, however, and the one I never forget to mention, is the Olde Peninsula Brew Pub. I love the Olde Peninsula. And I love going there with my Dad even more.

The story of the Olde Peninsula is an impressive one. Dad renovated the space for the owners, Steve and Marie, and it was costly. The couple sank everything they had into creating the Olde Peninsula. Dad finished the project and watched in awe as every Saturday night, the street would be lined with people waiting to get a seat in the Brew Pub. Within a year, Steve and Marie had paid off all of their debt. The Olde Peninsula, to this day, is a smashing success. It’s still packed every weekend with tons of Kalamazoo citizens brought in by the effect of the committee, my Dad, and the Bronco Bash.

And so, I think of my Dad as the King of Kalamazoo.

It’s actually a challenge to walk the streets of Kalamazoo with him because he’s frequently stopped by seemingly random people who know his name and he knows theirs. They always take a moment to catch up before we walk on. And after each of these moments, I can’t help but look at my Dad in this new light. Like he’s the King of Kalamazoo.

And I suppose that kinda makes me the Prince of Kalamazoo.

That’s why I look up to my Dad. That’s why he’s a great Father. He’s changed lives. He’s made his mark on this city. He’s been imprinted upon the very buildings of Kalamazoo. He breathed Life into an entire city. He met the demand required of all these new citizens and gave hundreds of people the homes they live in today. He made a difference in the world. This humble man from a small town where he was constantly told he would never amount to anything…he changed an entire city.

He changed an entire city.

“I had fun. I had a blast doing it. It was a lot of hard work. But it was always fun.”

So, I idolize him. My Dad. My Father. The King of Kalamazoo.

Is this a post written in arrogance? Of course not. Do I really think I’m a Prince? Not even a little bit.

Do I think my Dad is a King?

100% yes.

-Brian Wiegand (An Idiot, A Superman in training)

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3 Responses to “The Prince of Kalamazoo”

  1. Molly Says:

    Fabulous! Peter is definitely among the royals of Kalamazoo. Stop using ‘and’ at the beginning of sentences. Olde peninsula is packed every time I go in, it’s one of my favorite small business owners stories. Also, I’m stealing your green jacket this weekend =]

  2. Peggy Martin Says:

    Brian I am your Dad’s Cousin Peggy (Petitpren) Martin and I am very proud of you and of your Dad. It is great to know that one person can make a difference. Thanks for sharing his story. Hope to see you at the Family reunion next year.

  3. Kathleen Eriksen Says:

    I agree wholeheartedly. My name is Kathleen and I worked with your dad on the Riverfront Condo Development in Battle Creek. Your dad is honest, hard working, resourceful, and tenacious. He’s also very lucky to have a loving son like you. Great article! I’m sure your dad is very proud of you.


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