2/23/2023: From the gym to gaming to a business idea

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The Daily News and Events Roundup

For those who live, work, and play in Kalamazoo County

Thursday, February 23, 2023

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A local fitness coach, sidelined by the pandemic, created an energy drink company for gym rats and gamers alike that is expanding beyond Kalamazoo after some help from another local business owner. Also: Ice storms have closed much of Kalamazoo County for a second day. And food pantries are bracing themselves for the end of pandemic-era food benefits.

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A sweet idea to eliminate the sugar

Loot Energy founder Jon Elms laughs while holding a can of Loot Energy while sitting on couch with an unnamed woman.

Jon Elms says the COVID-19 pandemic was indirectly responsible for him becoming an entrepreneur.

Elms, 34, who lives in Kalamazoo with his wife, Emma, and 2-year-old daughter, Piper, saw his primary source of income as a fitness coach shrink from 40-to-50 hours a week to about five hours of online programming.

Elms turned to video games “to fill the time,” not anticipating it to be a source of income, or that esports had become so popular since his gaming days a decade ago as a student at Saginaw Valley State University.

In his research on esports, Elms says he found that dedicated gamers frequently hire personal trainers to help them stay in good physical shape, like fitness buffs he worked with. “Aerobic health helps you respond,” he says.

He also discovered that gamers frequently consume energy drinks while they are playing, but many of those drinks, Elms says, are high in sugar content.

“There’s a market here for a healthier energy drink that’s aimed toward gamers,” he recalls thinking. “That’s when I started researching energy drinks.”

But first he needed to do away with all the sugar and the lingering aftertaste.

“I’m a fan,” says Dan Kastner, who owns Factory Coffee in Kalamazoo and assisted Elms in the development of Loot Energy, a Kalamazoo-based drink that is shipped to online customers from coast-to-coast. “My big hurdle for other energy drinks was the medicinal, chemical aftertaste and we worked very hard to make sure that was not (the case with) Loot,” he says.

Read what it took to get the right ingredients, plus where in Kalamazoo you can find Loot Energy.

More News You Need To Know

Storms close much of county for second day

Many schools and businesses are closed for a second day in a row due to ice storms blanketing the region. Almost every school district in Kalamazoo County has shut down today, as have Kalamazoo city and county government buildings. That’s after rain and ice downed trees all over the county, in some cases knocking out power.

Thousands of county residents have lost electricity, according to Consumers Energy. The company said it has crews out restoring power as fast as they can, but power outages may last through Friday for some customers. As of 9pm last night, Consumers Energy reported 154,000 outages statewide. There’s no accounting of how many were without power in Kalamazoo County. [MLive, WWMT]

Food pantries prep for cuts to food benefits

In just one week, emergency food benefits will end for hundreds of thousands of Michiganders. During the COVID-19 pandemic, federal officials boosted the amount families received under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Last month, they announced those expanded benefits would come to an end in March. That means as many as 700,000 households in Michigan will see their food assistance reduced.

Under the pandemic expansion, a single person making $700 a month after expenses would receive $281 in SNAP benefits. As of March, that same person will only receive $71. Such as stark decrease has food pantries across the state scrambling to deal with what is expected to be a surge in people needing help. Already, Kalamazoo County’s Loaves and Fishes has struggled to keep up with demand. In December, the organization reported that inflation had reduced the amount of food it could afford to purchase. “And as soon as we get it … it goes right back out because our service numbers are so high,” Associate Director Greta Faworski told WWMT at the time. [Detroit Free Press, WWMT]

Kzoo approves more outdoor alcohol permits

In the midst of the pandemic, state lawmakers came up with a way to help out bars and restaurants while also giving people a way to socialize somewhat safely. Social Districts allowed bars and restaurants to sell alcohol to people who could then walk around outdoors with them within a designated area. Local governments were given the authority to decide where those social districts would be and what businesses could participate in them. Earlier this week, Kalamazoo city leaders approved social district applications for two more businesses.

The city commission gave the go-ahead for HighDive Kitchen & Bar and Shakespeare’s Pub to sell alcohol for consumption outdoors. The approval still has to go to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission before it becomes official. That would add the two restaurants to a growing list of businesses in the city’s already established social district. That district covers most of downtown Kalamazoo. [MLive]

Things To Do In Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo Restaurant Week – Downtown Kalamazoo

Tough Topics: The Absence Of Money Talk For Our Youth – Black Arts & Cultural Center
3:30PM 2/23

Happy Hour with Steve – The Park Club
4:30PM 2/23

Locating Identity in the Abstract: A Panel Conversation – Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
6:00PM 2/23

KFS Local Filmmaker Showcase – Kalamazoo Film Society
6:30PM 2/23

Team Trivia at the Library – Richland Community Library
7:00PM 2/23

The Mountaintop – Kalamazoo College, Nelda K. Balch Playhouse
7:30pm 2/23-25, 2pm 2/26

Sophistafunk w/ The Mainstays – Bell’s Eccentric Café
8:00PM 2/23

Tab Benoit WSG JD Simo – State Theatre
8:00PM 2/23

Karaoke – Shakespeare’s Pub
8:30PM 2/23

Music with Steve Kamerling – Brick + Brine
6:00PM 2/24

Trivia & Soul Food – Black Arts & Cultural Center
6:00PM 2/24

Bear Tracks Music – Green Door Distilling Co.
6:30PM 2/24

Jurassic Park in Concert – Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra
7:00PM 2/24

Something Rotten! – Center Stage Theatre
7pm 2/24-25, 2pm 2/25-26

Museum – WMU, Richmond Center for Visual Arts
7:30pm 2/24-25; 1pm 2/26; 4pm 2/26

Peter George – Final Gravity Brewing Co.
8:00PM 2/24

Ebony Vision: Celebrating 20 Years – WMU, Dalton Center
8pm 2/24-25, 2pm 2/25

Up and Under’s Up and Comers – Rugger’s Up & Under
9:00PM 2/24

Garage Sale Art Fair – Kalamazoo County Expo Center
9:00AM 2/25

Birding Basics: Fundamentals of Bird Identification – Ayurvedic Wellness Center
10:00AM 2/25

“Planting For & WITH Future Generations” Class – Wedel’s Nursery
11:15AM 2/25

Spring Swap Meet – Jerico
12:00PM 2/25

Locating Identity in the Abstract: An Artmaking Workshop with Maya James – Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
1:00PM 2/25

2023 Choreography Showcase – Tye Chua Dance
1pm & 5pm 2/25

Up in the Air: The Unique Adaptations of Birds Registration – Kalamazoo Nature Center
1:30PM 2/25

Returning & Reskilling: Wilderness Cooking & Fire Building – Kalamazoo Nature Center
4:30PM 2/25

“The Sinking Ships Tour” Sleep Signals – Papa Pete’s
6:00PM 2/25

“Local Favorite” Bill Johnson – The Distant Whistle Brewhouse
6:00PM 2/25

Secrets to Die For – A Murder Mystery Event – Gilbert and Ivy
6:45PM 2/25

Fascinating Rhythm – Chenery Auditorium
7:30PM 2/25

Darcy Wilkin Whatzit Hour feat. Lillian Werbin – Dormouse Theatre
7:30PM 2/25

Mighty Big Rig w/ LVRS and Basic Comfort – Bell’s Eccentric Café
8:00PM 2/25

See more upcoming events here.

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