Oh, Hello Co. owners to open new downtown Grand Rapids store

Grand Rapids

A March 29, 2020 photo shows Oh, Hello Co. Paper & Gifts store at 40 Monroe Center Street NW in downtown Grand Rapids.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The pandemic isn’t stopping a pair of business owners from opening a second store in downtown Grand Rapids.

On Wednesday, the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority approved a roughly $22,000 grant to support Alex and Kayla Benda’s new store, Courage and Soar.

“We appreciate your willingness to take another risk and the reward will come I’m sure,” DDA Chair Rick Winn said.

The moment was déjà vu for the Bendas, who were awarded a similar grant in December 2019 to support their original store, Oh, Hello Co. Paper & Gifts. The Monroe Center shop celebrated its grand opening a month later.

Courage and Soar will be located at 50 Monroe Center NW, between the future Gazelle Sports store and Oh, Hello Co. Paper & Gifts. The new store takes over the former site of Gina’s boutique, which closed several months into the pandemic.

“Downtown there was a lot of vacancies that came from 2020 and it really did hurt a lot of the businesses downtown. We were able to thrive and survive through it and we actually came out positive on our books and we realized there’s an opportunity downtown to give downtown what it needs … businesses coming down to create that cluster,” Alex Benda told the DDA. “We recognized right next door we had that power to make that change.”

Alex Benda said the idea for a second store started as a joke and grew into a goal. The sales success Oh, Hello Co. Paper & Gifts experienced during ArtPrize was the final push they needed to move on a second store.

“Basically what we would do in one week (we did) in a day,” he said.

Alex Benda said Courage and Soar will build on a concept “that has been bubbling over and out of our store”: local art at a higher price point than the majority of Oh, Hello Co. Paper and Gifts’ inventory. He said Courage and Soar will also sell Michigan-centric clothing, filling a hole in Grand Rapids’ brick-and-mortar makeup when The Mitten State closed its Bridge Street NW store.

The new store’s proposed design includes clouds hanging from the ceiling, fine art for sale on the store’s back wall, and a display of the store’s motto: “Courage doesn’t always roar and even pigeons soar.”

“Which is this idea that you don’t have to live the life or the role that you were born into,” Alex Benda explained.

“It fits us as people,” he later told News 8.

Courage and Soar will embrace the same priorities as Oh, Hello Co. Paper & Gifts: supporting local artists and engaging the community through hands-on workshops, potential business block parties and a scavenger hunt showcasing downtown.

“Taking advantage of everything is the reason we’re successful. We’re not living in a silo and so we have the help from the community,” Kayla Benda told the DDA.

The Bendas expect to start renovations as soon as their five-year lease is signed. If all goes well, Courage and Soar will be open by early March.

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