Even before opening its doors in spring 2011, The Pyramid Scheme established itself as an appropriately irreverent bar and live music venue through its naming and branding.
You don’t need to live in West Michigan to recognize the influence of Amway, the direct selling giant based here. The company and its founders have had a wide-ranging effect on politics, entrepreneurial stimulus, and social welfare across the United States—including owning an NBA team (the Orlando Magic), funding a public art competition (ArtPrize), and starting a cancer research center (the Van Andel Institute).
Of course, the company did not get where it is today without some controversy, the culmination of which came in 1979 when the FTC accused Amway of being a pyramid scheme. These charges were dropped, and the company continues to successfully defend itself against similar allegations around the world. Close to home, decades of economic development efforts led by Amway’s founders have many locals seeing the company in a more benevolent light. Still, the perception lingers.
Given this history, the owners of The Pyramid Scheme took a calculated risk by building their brand on a not-so-inside joke, poking fun at one of the region’s most powerful players in the process. But the almost backhanded embrace of local color sets the perfect anti-establishment tone for a rock club. While clearly nostalgic of San Francisco in the 1960s or Seattle in the ’90s, the graphic identity and original promotional posters created for concerts (all designed by co-owner Jeff VandenBerg) are also spot-on.
If its opening weekend was any indication (two rowdy nights of shows headlined by Guided by Voices), the venue will be a breath of fresh air in a conservative little town that’s starting to grow up.