BUSINESS Look who's talking Sarah Rooks

President, Watermark Center • Muskegon


Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Muskegon and I absolutely love my hometown. I can’t imagine living anywhere else or raising my family any where else. I am a Mona Shores graduate. I have two kids… Veda who is 17 and Owen who is 9. I have been married for 19 years to Ben Rooks.

How long have you been interested in bicycling? What motivates you to ride?

I was never really interested in bicycling. I was working on a movie production that was shooting in the Muskegon area. They had an office in my office and were here for about a month. The production crew was from all over and didn’t really have access to transportation so one of the girls asked if I knew anyone who had a bike that she could use. My friend Tracy Lorenz loaned his bike to the production. Nobody ended up using it and it was a really nice bike so I just sort of “permanently” borrowed it. (Sorry, Tracy I have no intention of giving it back) It then dawned on me that I live about five miles from work and half of my commute is along the Lakeshore Bike Trail…and I was in a car and somehow it seemed ridiculous that I was driving to work. At the same time my daughter was turning 16 and somehow she “permanently” borrowed my car which left me with the bike.

I am motivated to ride out of necessity; I have to get to work! I use my bike to commute and not only is it a great way to sneak in exercise in the day it makes good sense with the price of gas and three drivers in my household. My son told my boss one time that I am always late for work because I “stop to smell the roses”. With my workday commute following the gorgeous Muskegon shoreline, I can’t really be blamed.

do you have favorite places to ride?

I usually am riding just to get from one place to another. But I do like to ride down to Pere Marquette in the summer!

The Watermark Center is fairly new. What makes it unique?

The Watermark is a million square foot planned urban development in Muskegon. It is the former Shaw Walker Furniture Factory. We broke ground in 2004 with the Watermark Lofts and almost a year ago we opened Watermark 920, an event facility. This winter we also started a production company called Watermark Live and we produce our own events such as the popular “Inside the Mitten” series. With the success of our Watermark Live events we have received a lot of inquiries from people and businesses asking us if our Watermark team would produce events off site and for other groups and we are considering doing that as well!

There is nothing else like us on the Lakeshore. Stop in to one of our events and see for yourself!

What do you enjoy best about your job?

It doesn’t feel like work. We have an incredible group of creative and civic minded people involved with this project. We all love Muskegon and everyone here is so amazingly talented. Going to work is actually fun. Paul Schwing, Luke Sass, Mat Moore, Laurel Sass – we have a great team and with so many like minded people we are constantly challenging each other. We also work for a company that believes no idea is too big and nothing is impossible, it just has to make sense – it makes for a really productive environment. Moses Gross, the developer, encourages creativity and being able to have that kind of opportunity to not just work somewhere but to have a hand in actually creating something is pretty cool. We also work with some of the top professionals in their fields, for example Paulina Lawton, owner of Envision 360 Events has an office in my office allowing us to better serve our clients as well as avenues for creatively pushing our business forward.

What do you do to relax outside of work—besides bicycling?

I had to get some help with this question. I asked my husband “what do I do to relax?” he said “you never relax and even when you ride your bike it’s for a reason”. So then I asked my kids “what do I do to relax” and they said “you never relax”. So then I thought to myself if I have to ask people how I relax I must not ever relax. I don’t know how to answer this… I guess I relax when I sleep.

What books are you reading right now?

I wish I were reading something awesome that made me look really insightful or smart but I am actually reading “Easy Container Gardens, Combining Vegetables and Flowers”

What charity or nonprofit is dear to your heart?

There are several I try to at least give my time to. One of the projects I am involved in that I really really love is the Adopt a Classroom through Muskegon Public Schools. For the past two years we have adopted Ms. Donovan’s Third Grade Class at Nims School. We go in once a month and interact with the kids for a few minutes – for example last month we made Happy Spring cards for the residents at the Hume Home and we give a gift to the classroom, provide a treat or bring in some items on their wish list. I really love visiting with them and look forward to it every month.

I am also involved in Muskegon Rotary Club and the Greater Muskegon Woman’s Club and love both of those too!

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Relaxing!!!!

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