It was late 1989 and the vast majority of properties were owned by absentee landlords and in a dismal state of repairs. Crime ran rampant, especially on Charles street, hockey stick wielding Cherry Boyz terrorized the neighborhood, drug dealing was all too evident and the “store” was a haven for both underage alcohol purchases, and other criminal activities.
in 1990 two separate incidents sparked reaction from neighbors to band together and defend their neighborhood. In the first of these events, four neighbors who decided to walk the block from Henry to Charles, in broad daylight, were overpowered and beaten by youths- one of the neighbors was beaten severely and required hospital care.
The second incident involved members of the Cherry Boyz who came out of the store with hockey sticks in hand and began vandalizing properties on Cherry and attacked anyone who may have been outside their home. One younger tenant at 700 Cherry was held down on the ground while a fellow gang member crushed his leg with a large rock pulled from a retaining wall. Again, this took place about four in the afternoon.
Soon after these incidents over 20 neighbors held a meeting at the current East Hills Office and it was decided to revive the old JHCCO Block Club. It was also decided that a concerted effort MUST be put in place to do something to turn the neighborhood around. Some members of that original meeting group are still property owners in the area and include Gabriel Works, John O’Connor, Sharon Wierenga, Ken Wierenga, J.B. Schott, Bill Peterson, Ron Portenga and Michael Smith.
At a second meeting held a couple weeks later, it was decided that the term “block club” did not fit the overall effort and John Fetter suggested the term “Cherry Hill”, it was voted on and immediately accepted. To this day it is that title that helps define our area from Cherry Street to Wealthy running north south and includes Charles, Henry and James running east to west.
The problems of gangs, crime and drugs were well known but the group decided to focus on the cause of the problems. Two of these stand put causes were the Short Stop Party Store which the Cherry Boyz more or less used as home base and the high number of non-caring, absentee property owners. A small committee was established to address the party store. After much convincing the committee was successful in gaining the cooperation of the Grand Rapids Police Department and the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to monitor the store through undercover surveillance. This resulted in the termination of their liquor license. With this the owners relented and finally sold to partners Howard Picard and Ed Shangle. After an arduous period of rehabbing, in which much of the neighborhood pitched in, the new Cherry Hill Market opened December, 1991. The transferring of ownership of the Short Stop Party Store marked a huge milestone and the end of “phase one” revitalization but much work remained.