At the winter edition of the young business alumni series MBA@Calvin, recognition was given to alumna Amy Heerspink Ruis ’93, owner of Art of the Table, a specialty food, beverage and tabletop retail store in the resurging Wealthy Street business district of Grand Rapids. Ruis is the third recipient of the MBA@Calvin Horizon Award, which is given to a young alum "rising star" in the business realm.
Ruis opened her store at a time many shied away from the central city, red-brick-layered Wealthy Street, joining a number of entrepreneurs (a number of them also Calvin grads) in developing attractive and interesting business establishments.
"It’s interesting that I’m receiving a business award from Calvin because I majored in education,” said Ruis. Yet by the time I was a senior, and Econ 151 was the only business class on my roster, I was managing and buying for a kitchen store—and student teaching.
"Since then I have done a few other things, all in business, but I have never taught in a school, because it didn’t awaken me the way retail always did. However, I teach every day. I teach my staff, I teach my customers. I am also a student. I learn every day, more and more, about my profession.”
The success of Art of the Table has been noted by local and national retail journalists. Ruis was named one of the 50 Most Influential Women of West Michigan by the Grand Rapids Business Journal and Gourmet News’ 20 Under 40 list of gourmet store owners.
She has also been a leader in local business organizations, encouraging local investment and neighborhood revitalization.
“We all worked hard together making a decrepit building on then-ugly Wealthy Street into something of beauty,” said Ruis. “Yet with some perseverance, loans came in and people started pitching in and before you knew it, we had a community of believers—and out of that dirty place came light and joy. It’s amazing how God touches things into which we pour our minds and hands.”
MBA@Calvin chairperson Jeremy Louters ’03 lauded Ruis for “living out her faith and calling” and pointed to her example as a strong witness for Christians in business.
"Since starting Art of the Table, my mind and heart has been opened to a neighborhood that struggles to be both the place it was—and what it has become. I wonder often if what I’m doing does any good, but in those times I remember I am so thankful to be so involved with those doing good in a neighborhood in the midst of an awakening,” said Ruis.