Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 12, 2009

'Obvious choice' wins DeYoung award


TRAVERSE CITY -- Not much goes on in downtown Traverse City these days without the fingerprints of Todd McMillen somewhere nearby.

McMillen, owner of McMillen's Creative Custom Framing on East Front Street, was honored Thursday night with the 17th annual Lyle DeYoung Downtown Achievement Award. It was presented at the annual dinner of the Downtown Traverse City Association held at the City Opera House.

"He's been involved in a lot of different efforts downtown," said Rob Bacigalupi, deputy director of the city's Downtown Development Authority. "He's really been a leader."

McMillen was raised in Gaylord and attended Northwestern Michigan College and the Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids. He was in his early 20s when he opened his store in the 400 block of East Front Street more than 20 years ago, before moving it to its present location at 326 E. Front St. several years later.

Bacigalupi said McMillen soon immersed himself in several volunteer and advocacy roles for downtown. He founded the Downtown Art Walk and the district's Public Art Committee, and sponsored the Downtown Art Fair Series. He's also served on the board of the DTCA for four years, including the last two years as president, and was named president for the coming year.

McMillen's also donated time and money to other local causes including Goodwill and the Dennos Museum Center. He's been recognized as a Volunteer of the Year by Goodwill, and an alumnus of the year by NMC.

Bacigalupi said McMillen also has served as a bridge in the changing generations of downtown business owners. He was a contemporary of past DeYoung Award winners like Bruce Rogers (1994) and Jim Lutfy (2001), but also helps mentor a new, younger set of downtown entrepreneurs. The presentation was made by last year's award winner, Kay Jerome, who called McMillen "truly the youngest old merchant downtown" and an "obvious choice" for the award.

One of McMillen's nominations for the award described him as "creative, energetic and enthusiastic," and noted that his company's Web site devotes nearly as much space to the downtown as it does to his business.

The DTCA also recognized outgoing board members Jim Valesano, Amy Parker and Michele Joubran. Board members for next year also include Brian Kluzak, Dave Leonhard, Pam Marsh, Sarah Jane Bye, Stacy Sheren-Colombo, James C. Smith, Amy Joslin and Jerome.