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Adrian “A.B.” Butler, Hip hop artist/DJ

GR Hunks: Rebooted

By Alexandra Fluegel
Photography by Adam Bird

Thirty years ago, brave Grand Rapids Magazine staffers embarked on a quest for the “10 Best Hunks” of Grand Rapids. It was the late ’80s, there were men in Speedos and furs, and we’ve been trying to forget about it ever since.

Until now.

As part of this year’s Man Issue, we’re devoting the next few pages to men in Grand Rapids who represent a different take on the word “hunk.”

We’ve done away with the shirtless photos and references to big jungle cats. Instead, we sought out men who represent the Grand Rapids community and whose best qualities are more than skin deep.

Who says “hunk” has to mean something superficial? Not us.

For this task, we asked our staff and our readers (via social media) to nominate men who inspire, entertain, or simply make the lives of those who know them a little bit better because they’re around — and we must say, you did a great job, Grand Rapids.

It was impossible to include everyone nominated, though we wanted to; instead, we’ll be taking suggestions all year-round via social media using #GRhunks. Every so often, we’ll profile another hunk-worthy guy, so let us know who you’d like to see.

Now, without further adieu: meet The Hunks.

Adrian “A.B.” Butler, Hip hop artist/DJ
Q: We see you everywhere! What projects are you currently working on?
I feel like I’m working on everything right now, home projects not included. I’m performing, finishing my full-length album to be released Oct. 18 with a crazy party at The Pyramid Scheme. I’m also working with Downtown Market on their Market Masquerade, a Halloween celebration, and with Vault of Midnight, who’s hosting a super villain-themed Halloween party Nov. 1 at The Pyramid Scheme. And I’m cleaning my home office, always.

Q:Hip Hop isn’t the most female-friendly music; as the father of two daughters, how do you feel about the genre?
To simply say that the genre is “not female friendly” does a great disservice to all of the artists who work hard to cultivate positive, thought-provoking messages in their music. I don’t deny the existence of the non-female-friendly elements in hip hop, but that’s not encompassing of all the music in that genre.

I’ve learned so much from all the women I’ve known and, personally, I have always had a great respect for the women in my life, so I believe that feeling is transparent in my music. As the father of daughters, one of my main concerns is their positive self-image, so I’m always ready to fight against any negative female messaging.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and who was it from?
“Don’t be afraid to go to an event by yourself. If your friends don’t want to go and you do, then you should go.” — My mom.

Q: How would you describe your wardrobe style and where are your favorite local places to shop?
I really just like to wear what I like, what feels right and fits well. I like to have fun and take a few risks, as well. I like to shop everywhere — A.K. Rikk’s, All City Kicks, H&M, Target, Aldo, the mall, Zara, thrift stores — the list goes on.

Q: What music are you obsessing over right now?
Lana Del Rey, Schoolboy Q, Beyoncé, Passion Pit, Outkast, Interpol, Kelis, Phantogram, and all the mistakes on my new album.

Sean Black, Insurance agent, Sean Black Agency
Q: What are some of the lessons you’re teaching your son about “being a man”?
The lessons I try to teach him are that you need to be responsible for your actions, work hard and be confident in your abilities.

Q: Where can we catch you on the weekends?
If my son doesn’t have some type of sports events, I’ll be on the golf course or up at the lake enjoying the water in the spring and summer. During the winter, you’ll find me on the basketball court officiating women’s college basketball.

Sean Black, Insurance agent, Sean Black Agency

Q: What’s the best life advice you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?
I wouldn’t call it life advice but rather watching the actions of my parents, Joel and Mary Lou Black. They always put me and my siblings first and showed us unconditional love. Now that they have grandchildren, they are doing it again by being there to help raise them and providing the same love. I’m thankful every day to have the family I did growing up.

Q: If you could meet anyone dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Brett Favre. Even as a longtime Lions fan, Brett Favre was always and still is my favorite athlete.

Bob Hughes, President, Advantage Benefits Group
Q: You’ve been an advocate and well-known name in local cycling. How did you get into the sport?
I grew up playing lots of sports and during college I started watching the Tour de France. Eventually, I drove to a bike shop and said, “I want a bike like Lance Armstrong” — yes, I was that guy. Then I decided to try a spin class and ended up riding next to a guy named Craig Rawlings. His wife, Margo, was teaching the class. Long story short, they took me under their wing and told me I should try racing. I ended up racing that summer and got addicted to it. Ten years later, Craig ended up becoming one of my best friends and has done more than his share helping build the team and put on races.

Q: In 2006, you were featured in a Grand Rapids Press story about how GR biking culture has changed. What has happened since then?
Biking culture keeps growing here! You see a lot more people on bikes, more bike shops, bike trails, lanes, racks and events. We also have a terrific advocacy group with GR Bicycle Coalition. Just like the craft beer scene, I really see the bike scene continuing to grow because we have so many different riding opportunities and niches, there is literally something for everyone.

Bob Hughes,
President, Advantage Benefits Group

Q: What other hobbies do you have?
I love to race sailboats. It’s a huge passion and I have been doing it for years, so I guess I’m into outdated modes of transportation. I’m addicted to MSU sports and have been a longtime Big Brother and Junior Achievement instructor, which I really enjoy. I also play electric guitar and love to ski.

Q: Where is your favorite place to grab lunch and what’s your go-to thing on the menu?
Grand Central Market is a block away, and I love their Reuben! In the summer, a grilled chicken sandwich.

Q: What’s the last thing you googled?
Probably the weather on the Leelanau peninsula — my favorite place in the world.

Jonathan Elliott, Restaurant manager, Eastown Brandywine
Q: Where do you shop and how do you decide what you’re going to wear?
I have become a huge online shopper; for me, it’s just the easiest. When I’m getting ready, I like a key, staple, classic designer item. You can dress up jeans and a T-shirt with a sport coat, colorful belt and a great pair of shoes. Details make the difference.

Q: Grand Rapids has made strides in becoming more LGBT-friendly. What do you think is the biggest challenge and what has been the biggest change?
GR has a very strong LGBT community with a large number of individuals who work tirelessly to make a difference within the community for equality. The biggest challenge is acceptance. A huge change I have noticed over the years is gay bars and clubs. While they used to be filled with only gay people, now they’re becoming places anyone — homosexual or not — can feel comfortable hanging out in, and as that happens, the clientele is growing, which is good for those business owners.

Q: Working in the restaurant industry requires having a thick skin. What tricks have you learned to stay positive?
Working in this industry teaches you to be able to take pressure, ridicule and “proverbial” hits better. It can be tricky to always remain upbeat, but I try to take the good with the bad. The best part of the restaurant industry is the community, and one of my tricks is just being surrounded by humorous friends and co-workers. They can always uplift my mood and make me laugh. We all need that little nudge of encouragement and a good laugh, restaurant industry or not.

Jonathan Elliott, Restaurant manager, Eastown Brandywine

Q: Where are your favorite places to hang out in Grand Rapids?
I live downtown and it is my playground. One of my favorite “hangouts” is grabbing an iced coffee and strolling through downtown and people watching. It’s a great city and it’s remarkable how fast downtown is progressing and changing. The redevelopment of old buildings is quite inspiring, and I love that there are a lot of people who take pride in being a resident of Grand Rapids.

Q: What do you do to relax?
It’s important to take one day a week for yourself. A day of limited phone calls, messaging, social media — just a day to disconnect. Disconnecting to reconnect with myself is the balance I’ve found to fulfill my soul. It also never hurts to throw in a massage or treat yourself to a facial!

Aaron Ofseyer, Meteorologist, WZZM 13
Q: You grew up in Dallas and “fell in love with severe weather.” What was it about storms that captured your attention?
When I was 9 or 10, we had a century-old pecan tree in my family’s yard that was struck by lightning and split in half, and that really stuck with me. Growing up in Dallas, the weather is really dynamic, and it’s something that’s always been an interest.

Aaron Ofseyer, Meteorologist, WZZM 13

Q: What’s it like trying to predict weather in Michigan?
Well, there’s a giant body of water that makes things challenging here — that’s the reason meteorologists gray faster here.

Q: How do you prepare to be on-air?
I make coffee every morning — I’m the coffee guy. On a typical day, I wake up at 3, I’m at the station at 4, and by 4:45, I’m making coffee. I tend to make it pretty strong — life is too short to make weak coffee.

Q: If you could meet anyone dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Nolan Ryan. I was a pitcher in high school and college, and he is my idol.

Q: What’s the last thing you watched on Netflix?
I don’t get to watch much TV since we had our daughter, Lula, but my wife and I did just finish Season 1 of “The Americans.”

Tuan Tran, Supply chain guru

Tuan Tran, Supply chain guru
Q: We heard you’re a great cook. What’s your signature dish?
I love to cook because it’s my stress reliever and I love making people happy by filling their bellies. My signature dish would be Asian-style baby back ribs. I learned the family recipe from my dad a number of years ago. He’s a great cook and the person who inspired me to learn how to cook.

Q: The people who nominated you described you as “kind, sincere, loyal.” What characteristics/qualities are most important in a person?
The most important qualities in a person would be: kind, thoughtful, funny, adventurous and hard working. 

Q: How would you describe your wardrobe style and where are your favorite local places to shop?
I love to dress down for the most part, but I do enjoy dressing up for special occasions. I’m mostly a T-shirt and jeans type of guy, and I find fun T-shirts at Denym. If I want to dress up, then the place to shop would be A.K. Rikk’s.

Q: Where can we catch you out on a Friday night? Sunday morning?
I love relaxing on a Friday night out on the JDek of the JW Marriott. The menu is fantastic and the service is excellent. Sunday mornings usually begin with church and end with brunch at Sundance with good friends.

Q: What’s the last thing you listened to on the radio?
“The Herd” with Colin Cowherd on ESPN radio. I’m pumped for the football season to start again

David Scrace, Technical recruiter, Randstad Technologies
Q: How does it feel to be selected to the first group of newly rebooted GR Hunks?
I’m really out of my element. I’ve never used that word to describe myself. My mother’s really proud to say she’s raised a “hunk.”

Q: Sounds like O’Toole’s Public House is your hangout. What do you like about it?
I used to work there for about 10 years; I officially hung up my bottle opener in October of last year, but that’s still my go-to spot. It has a feeling to me of being the neighborhood bar for young professionals on the west side.

David Scrace, Technical recruiter,
Randstad Technologies

Q: What’s something people would be surprised to find out about you?
I’m a pretty open book, so the things that are surprising are pretty unimportant, like the fact I’ve never had a Three Musketeers bar. People might also be surprised to hear I’m not an IPA fan. I prefer porters to pale ales, but for some reason it’s what people always offer and buy me.

Q: What’s the last thing that made you laugh?
That’s tough, I laugh all the time. Honestly, the thing that’s most recently made me chuckle has been this whole Hunks process. From the photo shoot, having my buddies in the background watching, to hearing what everyone wrote in their nominations — it’s been hilarious. But it’s also been humbling because my friends mean a ton to me, and I really value those relationships. It means a lot that people took time out of their day to nominate me.

Q: You had a lot of people nominate you. What makes people like you so much?
My parents (Dale and Mary Scrace of Grosse Pointe). I do feel like I’m a good guy, I’ve got a good heart and I’m a good friend, and I’ve gotten all that from them. Growing up, I watched them be kind to their friends and even strangers, and so that’s how I am now. My folks are amazing people and they’re so important to me because everything I am, I owe to them.

Raul Alvarez Jr., Chief communicator, storyteller and synergist
Q: You’re involved with a lot of organizations in GR. What causes are most near and dear to you?
Literacy: Its social and economic impact on individuals, families, our communities and society in general is so powerful yet misunderstood. Save Second Base and my work with Komen (Race for the Cure) in other communities and here in Grand Rapids. And Habitat for Humanity: Having grown up with seven siblings and moving from house to house because of our migrant farmworker background and always being blessed with a home (no matter how small), I believe every family deserves a house to call home.

Raul Alvarez Jr., Chief communicator, storyteller
and synergist

Q: Are there any words of advice you’ve received that have stuck with you?
My professional and personal mantra is simple: “Work hard. Work smart. Have fun.” I attribute the first two to my late father, and I added the third because I think it’s good for mental and physical health, and it helps maintain a sense of sanity. “Have a fun and productive day” is how I close most of my written messages because it encompasses this mantra.

Q: What’s the most exciting thing about living in GR right now?
The question should be “what isn’t?” But seriously: the vibrancy of this community through economic development/investments and philanthropic attitude; the disruptive (yes, I said it) nature of the design community and local entrepreneurs; and the “what’s next?” attitude.

Q: Where’s your favorite local place to get lunch and what’s the best thing on the menu?
Two of them: Wealthy Street Bakery: No. 7, the Monaco; and Supermercado Mexico: steak tacos, vegetarian gorditas.

Q: What’s the last thing you googled?
“The Art of Possibility” — a great book, but I had forgotten the authors’ names and had just recommended it to a young professional who I thought would enjoy it.

Patrick Besta, Owner, Med-Equip Products LC
Q: You mentor patients at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. What is that like?
I enjoy helping newly injured people because I know what it is like to not know what is ahead of you. I can offer so much real life advice they would not get in the hospital. I can use my life-changing accident to help others and that makes me feel good.

Patrick Besta, Owner, Med-Equip Products LC

Q: You’re a multi-sport adaptive athlete. Do you have a favorite?
Out of wheelchair tennis, basketball and softball, I would have to say I like them all because they offer different experiences. I enjoy the challenge of playing tennis as an individual sport, but like having a team to play with as well. I like to be competitive and am always working on my techniques or skills to get better. This way I am keeping active all year round.

Q: Are there any sports you haven’t tried and would like to?
Race car driving would be fun to try.

Q: We hear you’re an avid traveler. Where is your dream destination?
Australia. I have always wanted to go there, but would have to go when it is summer there. I like hot weather destinations. It is not fun being in the snow when you use a wheelchair. I have been to Hawaii and really liked it — one of my favorites so far.  

Q: Do you have a go-to phrase you turn to when facing challenges?
I feel lucky when I think about my life now and always think my situation could be a lot worse. Lots of people look at me and think it must be awful being in a wheelchair. I am used to it and don’t feel bad at all. I have a plaque with a picture of a basketball hoop on my desk that I like to live by. It says, “Opportunity: You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” 

Q: Will the Lions ever win a Super Bowl?
Maybe this is the year! Isn’t that what we always say?

Massi Bechiri, Landlord; construction/sheet-metal fabrication

Massi Bechiri, Landlord; construction/sheet-metal fabrication
Q: Where can we catch you out on a Friday night?
On a Friday night, I might be on a date with my wife or having a drink with a friend at Brewery Vivant or The Meanwhile. Either way, my Friday nights are usually spent in meaningful conversations about politics, religion, world issues — or futbol (not the American kind).

Q: Who inspires you?
There are so many personalities that inspire me, from Jesus to Mahatma Ghandi to Mother Theresa to Matoub Lounes, a leading voice for democracy and human rights for Berbers in Algeria, where I am from. I’m inspired by the ways they fought for justice.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about Grand Rapids?
The restaurants and breweries. The food and brewing cultures are incredible here.

Q: What’s the last concert you attended?
My most memorable concert would be with Matoub Lounes (also an Algerian musician; he was assassinated in 1998). I had the chance to visit him in his house just a week before he was killed. But that was 20 years ago; more recently, I always really enjoy concerts at Meijer Gardens or anything outdoors.

Ruben Elder, Landscape artist; creator, Ruben’s Chuck Wagon BBQ Sauce
Q: People rave about your BBQ sauces. What was it like seeing your sauce on local grocery shelves?
It felt great. I knew it would be a long process, but when we would do demos, we’d have 200 to 300 people lining up. I knew the sauce was excellent.

Q: Can you tell us your secret?
I can’t tell that! But I grew up in East Texas watching my dad cook, so I gained a lot of what I use from him. The first time people really told me I should sell it was when I was working at Michigan Plating and Stamping in the ’60s and there weren’t many places to eat. We only got 15 minutes, so I said, ‘I’m gonna cook.’ I made a grill and they’d bring in wild game, and I started making my sauce to put on and they said, ‘You have talent.’

Ruben Elder, Landscape artist; creator, Ruben’s Chuck Wagon BBQ Sauce

Q: You’re also known for your landscaping abilities. How’d you discover your talent?
That was another East Texas thing with my dad — he was a landscaper. I always wanted to do it and he didn’t think that I could because I wanted to do things different. Once I came to Michigan, I started. I look at a bush for 30 seconds and then I can do something with it — and it’s never the same thing twice.

Q: Do you still like doing it?
Yeah, it’s how I find my peace and it’s where I get my exercise. It’s all in your head, really. Like what people do with pencil and paper, I do with clippers — I’m an artist. I want to start reaching out and teaching kids my skills. I mean, I make it look so easy!

Q: When you’re not hard at work on those things, where can we find you?
In the basement — my “clubhouse” — watching my big TV. I love sports. I’m a Lions fan, even though I think I did more damage to my heart by watching them play than by playing football myself. I was set to be drafted right out of high school, but I decided to go to college instead. Now with all the things they’re finding out about concussions and all that, I think I made the right choice. GR

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