GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As the city of Grand Rapids gets ready for ArtPrize to kick off Thursday, businesses are busy stocking inventory, staffing up and hanging art.
Uccello’s on Monroe Center across from Rosa Parks Circle has been planning for months, Assistant General Manager Caitlynn Bupp said.
“We start planning several months ahead,” she said. “We spend some time during our manager meetings once a week to look back at things that we could have done better years before.”
The restaurant, which is also hosting around 20 artists in its atrium, is getting ready for its fourth ArtPrize as a downtown restaurant and its third year as a venue. One of the biggest things Bupp said it’s focusing on is staffing.
Servers can work long shifts during the competition, Bupp said, and her team works to keep those shifts from getting too long. They also work to keep the back of house staffed to keep ticket times at the restaurant’s standard.
Last year, Uccello’s set its highest sales record during one of the first weeks of ArtPrize, and Bupp anticipates that record could be broken this year.
“ArtPrize is doing a lot more at Rosa Parks Circle, community events and stuff like that. So I’m sure we’re going to see a lot more foot traffic this year even since previous years,” she said.
She said her staff members are excited for the start of ArtPrize.
“We start mentally preparing ourselves weeks ahead — months, actually, maybe months in advance — we have a countdown that we keep up in the break room for the guys,” she said.
Throughout ArtPrize, Uccello’s will have snacks and Red Bull in the breakroom for staff members, and it will be holding staff spirit weeks to keep them pumped.
“It’s a great money-making opportunity for these guys. So that’s also the big cherry that they’re looking at,” she said.
For downtown retail stores, ArtPrize brings in a considerable amount of foot traffic. Both the Vault of Midnight on Monroe Center near Ionia Avenue and Oh, Hello Co. Paper & Gifts just down the street said ArtPrize is their busiest season.
“This is the biggest time for us,” Kayla Benda, the owner of Oh, Hello Co. Paper & Gifts, said. “The most revenue is during ArtPrize, so this is our make-or-break season. Christmas is good, but ArtPrize is where we sink or swim.”
She said they’ve been doing a lot to prepare, by ordering more inventory for the shop and reorganizing to highlight the artists the store is hosting.
“We’ve actually shifted a lot of our tables to make sure that the flow of people coming through to look at the art is really smooth, and that it feels like part of the gift shop experience and less bulky, like we just shoved them in the corner,” she said. “So we’ve been moving things around like crazy.”
The Vault of Midnight has also made sure to stock up on what customers will be looking for, shop manager Cody Clair said.
“We got some of our perennial books that we try to keep up on. We’ve got a bunch of blind boxes like Sonny Angels and Smiskis that we’re trying to order up the wazoo because we know how much people are going to be buying those,” he said. “And then mentally we all just kind of take a breath, as the customer traffic can be quite heavy, but it’s all great.”
After ArtPrize will come the holiday season, so Clair said ArtPrize is the “lighting of the torch” for the comic book shop’s busiest season.
If you’re downtown for ArtPrize on Sept. 16, you can stop at the Vault of Midnight for Batman Day.
Oh, Hello Co. Paper & Gifts’ next-door sister store, Courage and Soar, which Benda also owns, is hosting a Coffee and Books Drop event on Sept. 21, with a complimentary coffee bar from Littlefoot Coffee Roasters.
She said the store, which opened in 2022 and is getting ready for its second ArtPrize, will also be hosting art for the festival.
All three businesses say they’re ready for the crowds ArtPrize will bring.
“We see so much foot traffic during ArtPrize, like it’s insane how many people come through,” Benda said. “So we’re super excited.”