The year 2019 marked Treystar’s golden (50th) anniversary. In recognition of this milestone, we’re featuring snapshots from our history. We hope you enjoy walking down memory lane as much as we do.
Robert Brown started Treystar by building two large mobile home communities in Kalamazoo County. Thanks to his expertise, hard work, and persistent desire to discover and cultivate opportunity, Treystar grew quickly from these humble roots. 1968: Bob, Susie (his wife), their two sons (“Brownie” and Fritz) and their dog (Blue) pack into the car and return to Kalamazoo after a 10-year hiatus. The family previously resided in Colorado, Idaho and Texas, where Bob had worked in plant management and sales with Boise Cascade Corporation. His tenure with Boise Cascade gives him the confidence to risk his own capital and chase his dreams of opening his own business.
Bob’s first independent venture was a 50-percent interest in Colonial Acres, a mobile home community on Sprinkle Road in Portage. Bob buys the remaining shares by the fall, and then purchases his own back hoe and bulldozer with the intent of developing more land between the original property and the Kalamazoo Airport.
After toiling with his “big trucks,” Bob’s crew informs him he’d “be better served by doing something else.” To that end, he purchases and rezones another 55 acres on the west side of Kalamazoo on KL Avenue to develop Colonial Manor.
Bob oversees the construction of 200 additional sites at Colonial Manor. (Bob and his partners build 650 mobile home sites over the next three years. A Detroit-based developer purchases Colonial Acres and Colonial Manor in 1982.) Bob and his mentor (Carlton Reed) spend their waking hours in a 10-x-10 office above the Capital Movie Theater on South Street. Within these close quarters, the two businessmen look after 40 or so tenants at Colonial Acres and brainstorm other potential investments.
Inspired by continued growth, Bob now invests in a machine tool company. LeVanes, Inc. manufactures tooling for injection moldings of precision plastic components for GM and Ford, as well as other non-automotive industries, and proves to be a very worthwhile transaction. Bob and a new business partner, Jay DeBruyn, renovate his second office space on the corner of Walnut and Burdick Streets. Bob enters the business world of banking this same year.
One meeting with a family friend, one scuffle in an Ann Arbor bar (stemming from the ever-contentious Michigan vs. Ohio State football game), and one rumor over the impending foreclosure of a major Kalamazoo bank leads Bob and four partners to take over the reigns of Industrial State Bank (ISB).
Bob acquires Valley Plastics, another molding operation. By 1975, Valley Plastics expands from its Plainwell location into a new 17,000-square-foot building on Kilgore Road. Because mobile home communities, banking and manufacturing facilities don’t keep him busy enough, Bob joins forces with Dieter Valka to seed the invention of a high-pressure painting and cleaning device. An instant success, the product receives an exclusive contract with Sherman Williams. They sell it outright to the paint company in 1977.
From 1980 to 1989, Treystar started growing into one of today’s leading real estate development and management companies within the greater Kalamazoo market.
Bob, Bob Rizzardi and Harley Koets buy an office building on the corner of Edwards and East Michigan Ave. Contractor Bob Maxwell and architect Bob Kiefer are hired to create what would become the Main Street East building, a historical office building with a four-story atrium and skylight. Bob and his partner Bill Becker set up shop in the landmark building. Craig DeNooyer joins Bob’s team to encourage other local businesses to move into Main Street East.
Detroit Bank and Trust buys Industrial State Bank (ISB) from Bob and Ron Bieke. Ron goes on to represent Detroit Bank and Trust’s efforts in outstate acquisitions, while Bob joins the Board of Directors. Detroit Bank and Trust moves into the Gilmore building and becomes Comerica in 1981.
The Sullivan Building is acquired. The building is designed by one of the country’s most prominent office architects, Louis Sullivan. This acquisition turned out to be the only “Sullivan” in Michigan and one of the most famous office buildings built in Kalamazoo before 1950.
The Doyle Building joins the fold. This is Queen Anne-style beauty built in 1891 by talented stone mason Bill Doyle. The original first two floors of the building housed the Kalamazoo Pant Company, while the top two floors were rented out as a rooming house, part of which was infamously known for being a brothel. During their renovation, Bob, Bob Rizzardi, Harley Koets and Bob Kiefer discover where the former “working ladies” hid the books with the names of their clients!
Bob, Craig DeNooyer, and Bill Becker invest with Joe Gesmundo and Jim Morren as part of the Moors Investment Group (MIG). The MIG had begun building single-family housing around The Moors, an 18-hole championship golf course. The four men enter into discussions with St. Joe Bank regarding rising interest rates and the loan terms on The Moors property. This two-month discussion basically includes three or four meetings with standoffs, stalemates and yelling. Bob and the others win the war, but all have to put down guarantees on a $1 million line of credit to keep the project moving forward. Bob and Craig further seed MIG, and then decide to form a new company called SaraSue (later changed to Treystar Holdings, LLC) to hold all of their real estate investments.
Bob’s father (Robert Sr.) passes away in February. Before his father’s death, Bob and his siblings persuade their dad to bequeath his $2 million estate to form a foundation that would benefit area college students and the Kalamazoo business community (with special focus on the family’s beloved University of Michigan). That foundation was and remains the Monroe-Brown Foundation, which provides more than $1 million each year in scholarship/internship awards and other educational contributions.
SaraSue again taps Bob Kiefer to design the Inverness Project at Woodbridge Hills, comprised of upscale duplex units off the 18th hole on The Moors. With some challenges, 16 units sell out by the fall of 1987.
Next the group tackles The Lakes, 40 two-story units located around two artificial lakes. A better fit for the market at the time, the units sell as soon as completed.
Bob relinquishes lucrative Valley Plastics to Jim Haas, owner of Summit Polymers. Valley Plastics was one of two molding companies in the U.S. with contacts for the design and manufacture of dashboard air vents for Ford and GM vehicles.
Bob and Ron Bieke leave Comerica to start Arcadia Bank. They also form Arcadia Investment Management under the leadership of Jack Wattles, as well as a venture capital arm called Arcadia BIDCO. The three B’s—Bieke, Brown and Becker—run Arcadia BIDCO from an office in the Comerica Building. Arcadia BIDCO takes up the lion’s share of Bob’s work life from 1986-1994, during which time the group provided the seed capital for over 20 startup companies throughout southern Michigan.
A couple of airline tickets to Washington D.C., one meeting with an inexperienced lawyer, a quick sandwich & beer for lunch, two sheets of lined notebook paper, and some serious guts and wits, result in Bob and Ron Bieke leaving our nation’s capital with ownership of another bank, for less than their original – and quite aggressive – purchase proposal. (The duo had gained control of Muskegon Federal Savings Bank, which had gone into foreclosure due to high interest rates and the ongoing recession.)
From 1989 to 1999 – goodbye bank investments, hello shopping centers and continued portfolio expansion.
Bob comes to the realization that banks will not be a major component of his future investments. Alongside his partner Craig DeNooyer, he puts his talents, attention and energy into further developing and enriching Treystar Holdings, LLC.
Craig continues to oversee the management and growth of Woodbridge Hills and The Moors Golf Club. Terry Patterson (who joined Treystar in 1987) adds his expertise to selling single-family homes and condominiums in Woodbridge Hills, leasing retail space in the Woodbridge Shopping Center and downtown Kalamazoo at Main Street East. Bob and Craig, along with partner Bob Lennon, negotiate purchasing Westwood Plaza and The Carillon Centre. Treystar now owns and manages three shopping centers, triggering the hiring of a full-time leasing agent.
To concentrate on pursuing clients for Treystar’s three shopping centers and other new growth opportunities, Terry Patterson fully transitions from residential sales to the commercial portfolio leasing and development.
Woodbridge Commons, a stunning new office building, is constructed in the woods on the west side of Moorsbridge Road overlooking the 18th green of The Moors. This building houses Treystar, Shepherd Products and Arcadia BIDCO.
Investments in Arcadia Bank (founded by Bob and Ron Bieke) and Arcadia Investment Management (managed by Jack Wattles) are sold. The eventual buyer of Arcadia Bank is Huntington Bank.
After determining apartment investment no longer fits with Treystar’s investment portfolio blueprint, the 72 unit Ramblewood Apartment complex is sold.
With the dissolution of Arcadia BIDCO, Bob and Ron sell two assets: the former Warner Vineyards building in Paw Paw and Hilltop Nursery in Lawrence. St. Julian Wine purchases the Warner Vineyards building and Hilltop is sold to an outside investor. Hilltop continues to operate as a premier grower of commercial fruit trees (primarily apple, plum and peach).
Treystar partners with Bronson Hospital to build an 18,000 square foot primary care facility on Centre Avenue overlooking the 7th fairway of The Moors Golf Club. Natural Health Center, a major new merchant, relocates from Maple Hill Mall to occupy 6,505 square feet of space in Westwood Plaza. (Natural Health Center expands to 8,320 square feet in 2004 and remains a loyal Westwood Plaza client to this day.
Treystar acquires the 20,000-square-foot Harding’s Market building anchoring the Westwood Plaza shopping center and begins a major redevelopment.
After extensive demolition and renovation, John Rollins Bookstore (16,000 square feet) and T.E. Murch’s Cafe (4,000 square feet) move into the former Harding’s Market space. Today, Kyoto Japanese Steakhouse, Biggby Coffee, Cold Stone Creamery and X-Golf occupy this site.
Fritz Brown relocates from San Francisco to Kalamazoo after serving in the business development office of Bechtel Corporation, one of the most respected engineering, construction and project management companies in the world. He joins the Treystar family business, working closely with Terry on the company’s growing portfolio of commercial and office buildings.
What’s in a name? During the years spanning 2000 to 2009, Monroe Management Company officially changes its name to Treystar and continues making a name for itself.
Treystar purchases the original Kalamazoo Savings Bank Building from Old Kent Bank (now Fifth Third Bank). Located at 151 East Michigan Avenue, the 14,000-square-foot, two-story building in the heart of downtown Kalamazoo is especially important to the Monroe-Brown family, as Bob Brown’s great grandfather (Charles Monroe) built it in 1902.
In 2001, the company realizes it needs a new name to more accurately reflect its diversity of investments and identity in the local community. In collaboration with STAP marketing, the Monroe Management Company name is changed and the name Treystar is born. “Treystar” embodies tradition, vision and growth, coinciding with the company’s overall mission of strategic development and added value.
Treystar adds another downtown building to its portfolio upon acquiring The Haymarket Building located at 161 E. Michigan Ave. This six story, 45,000 square foot building formerly was home to a Sears Department Store. Gordie Rogers and a group of investors completed a major renovation in 1984. This open, unfinished concept gave the building its unique feel which hadn’t been done in downtown Kalamazoo before and was home to Pension & Group Services and Oakley’s Restaurant, a long-time downtown Kalamazoo landmark. Currently the building is home to Eckert Wordell Architects, Innovative Analytics, The Wine Loft, and others.
Treystar fully renovates the former Kalamazoo Savings Bank Building at 151 East Michigan Avenue, and partners with Chris Fisher and the Keyser Agency to lease the building. For more than a decade, The Keyser Agency operated in the building until eventually outgrowing the space in 2016.
The Carillon Centre replaces its long-term anchor, Pier 1 Imports, by relocating Talbots from its 4,000 square location to the 9,000 square foot pad building. This relocation allowed Talbots to expand within the market and provide its three brand offerings (Misses, Petites, and Woman) under one roof.
Treystar acquires and redevelops the former West Towne Mall, anchored by Kmart, from a German Investment Group. Treystar also immediately purchased the former Standard Federal Bank pad building and began redevelopment of this project with the development of a 14,000-square-foot Harbor Freight Tools retail location, development of a Starbucks pad building, Arby’s restaurant pad building, and a 19,000 square foot Planet Fitness location.
Treystar divests interests in two office buildings within Woodbridge Hills and subsequently purchases strategic raw land in Portage, for future development, at the southeast corner of Centre & Portage and the southeast corner of Milham & 12th St.
Fifty years strong! Our latest installment continues to celebrate a colorful history filled with memorable moments and golden opportunities.
From the resurgence of the Main Street East and Haymarket buildings to the grand opening of a reimagined living office space, our fifth decade signals continued innovation and growth. In 2020 and the years ahead, we look forward to building spaces that work for our clients and the community we’re proud to call home.
Suffering from a difficult economic climate, the Main Street East and Haymarket buildings experience a lower than normal vacancy rate. Meeting this challenge head on, Treystar embarks on a sales and marketing campaign aptly themed “The Treystar Way” And transforms the Main Street East and Haymarket buildings into a community concept, offering tenants the opportunity to gather and celebrate successes via ice cream socials, cookouts, art hops and other activities. Many of the spaces within both buildings receive renovation enhancements that reflect a more modern, open-office feel. By 2012, Main Street East and Haymarket return to normal occupancy.
In 2010, Treystar embarks on a facade renovation of its Carillon Centre property, beginning with the former Classic Stereo space. Upon completion, the center becomes home to a broad range of vibrant tenants, including Jos. A. Bank, Intentional Yoga, Jude’s Barbershop, Milan Laser Hair Removal, Spectrum and America’s Best Eyeglasses.
Treystar and AVB partner with Lake Michigan Credit Union to construct a 2,800-square-foot branch on Centre Avenue near US-131 on the western edge of the Woodbridge Shopping Village.
Following the success of the Carillon Center renovation, Treystar makes a major investment in revitalizing the Westwood Plaza Shopping Center facade. Eventual tenants of this dynamic center include Penn Station, Kyoto Japanese Steakhouse, Biggby Coffee, Cold Stone Creamery, Lumber Liquidators, and X Golf.
Treystar and AVB partner with 1st Source Bank to build a 2,100-square-foot branch at 2381 Centre Avenue. The new location begins serving customers in 2015.
Treystar partners with Chemical Bank and the City of Kalamazoo Brownfield Redevelopment Authority to redevelop a former gas station site at the corner of Parkview and Whites Rd. in Kalamazoo. Today, the 2,800-square-foot, full-service bank serves as a beautiful reminder of what collaboration, hard work and environmental responsibility can accomplish.
The year 2017 also ushers in the debut of The Foundry at the intersection of E. Michigan Ave. and Harrison St. The 55,000-square-foot facility is part of the River’s Edge neighborhood. A nod to the site’s former use as a gray-iron and steel fabrication foundry, the project’s name represents both its resiliency and history, as well as its capacity to be molded into a reimagined living office space. The Foundry houses CSM Group, VML/Y&R, SalesPage, 7 Generations Architecture, Trellis and 600 Kitchen & Bar.
X-Golf, the state’s leader in state-of-the-art golf simulators, opens in Westwood Plaza.
Honor Credit Union begins redevelopment of the former Bob Evans pad building in University Commons. The bank is slated to open its new modern financial concept in 2020.
Spectrum launches a high-tech sales/retail location in The Carillon Centre.
Treystar acquires the former BP gas station at 4702 Main Street to incorporate the property into Westwood Plaza for future development.
Building on community excitement and appeal, Treystar executes an agreement to develop a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Westwood Plaza at the northeast corner of West Main and Drake Rd. The completion of Kalamazoo County’s second Chick-fil-A is slated for third quarter 2020.
Treystar represents the owner in the sale of the Wells Fargo Building located at 7900 Moorsbridge Road in Woodbridge Hills.