Max’s South Seas Hideaway—a passion project for owners Mark Sellers, founder of HopCat, Martin Cate and Gecko, a renowned Hawaii-based Tiki and Polynesian artist—opened in October 2019. “Max’s [is] the largest-scale Tiki restaurant to open anywhere in the world in decades, and will put Grand Rapids on the map for ‘Tiki tourists’ and fans around the world,” says Cate.

The restaurant will feature Sellers’ collection of midcentury and modern Tiki artifacts and boasts three custom bars, several semiprivate Tiki huts, an intimate dining room and two private dining areas.

“When you step inside Max’s, you’ll enter a fantasy world unlike anything previously seen in Grand Rapids,” says Sellers. “Everything from the music, to the service, tropical cocktails, artwork, and gourmet food is being created to transport guests to a place far from their day-to-day life. Our goal is for people to forget the outside world exists, if only for an hour or two.”

Cate, who is the restaurant’s bar owner and expert mixologist, created the cocktail menu. Cate is well-known for co-authoring “Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki” with his wife Rebecca; the book won the 2017 James Beard award in the beverage category. Max’s will serve classics like the Mai Tai and Zombie along with specialty cocktails, all of which use fresh tropical fruits and juices, house- made ingredients, top-shelf rums and premium spirits.

The gourmet food menu from chef Joseph Peebles will include a classic Pu Pu Platter of shareable Polynesian-inspired appetizers, fresh seafood selections and dry-aged steaks, as well as vegan and vegetarian items.

Later this year, Max’s will also open its own ceramic studio where custom-designed Tiki mugs and other ceramic items will be manufactured for sale inside the restaurant and through Max’s online store. A boutique Tiki-themed hotel is also slated to open on the building’s third floor later in 2020.

Over the years, any corporate event planner can admit to spending countless hours researching the perfect venue or vendors for their gatherings. After attending or hosting hundreds of events, New York-based Daphne Hoppenot was no stranger to this research and was frustrated by its repetitive nature. However, it was planning her wedding in 2018 that pushed her to realize the lack of resources in the corporate events market compared to the wedding industry, and set out to see if other meetings and events professionals were struggling with the same problem.  


Freelancing has become a new ball game since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, as many companies cannot afford to keep full-time positions, but still need those tasks completed. Although many more professionals have had to join the freelancing community since March, Tracy Judge had the passion for the freelancing community two years ago–long before the pandemic hit–and founded her company Soundings Connect in order to directly connect meetings and events industry freelancers with customers. 


Event planners often prepare for the worst, but one thing they likely didn’t anticipate was a global pandemic when selecting event cancellation insurance policies for their 2020 gatherings. Panicked planners began contacting Marcia McKinney, owner of Northeast Insurance Advisors, in late February and early March, but as meetings and events ground to a halt, they were already out of luck.

“It’s kind of like trying to buy homeowner’s insurance as your house is starting to catch fire... it’s too late,” says McKinney.