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The 'Biggby Ladies' are back outside waving to cars & spreading joy

Gail Broekema and Kolleen Bruinooge have spent several hours almost every day since last May sitting outside their favorite coffee shop on Plainfield Ave
Biggby Ladies back outside
Posted at 5:08 PM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 19:07:21-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A pair of women affectionately known as the 'Biggby Ladies' have returned to their lawn chairs outside their favorite coffee shop, waving to every car that passes by. It's become a daily tradition for the pair, out there almost every single day since May 2020.

FOX 17 first spoke to cousins Gail Broekema and Kolleen Bruinooge back in August, as they were becoming something like local celebrities.

As we reach the 1 year mark of COVID-19 hitting West Michigan, FOX 17 is checking back in on some of the brighter stories we've covered during the pandemic.

"We had a lot of people that would stop by and... they would ask us, what are you doing, and we told them, and they're like, Oh, my gosh, I drive by every day and you put a smile on my face," Broekema told FOX 17 Wednesday morning.

"And that's why we did it, we wanted to do that."

It all started as just something for the women to do after they would workout together at a nearby gym.

"And they closed the inside of the coffee shop, and so we took our chairs outside, and we thought, as long as we're out here, let's just start waving at people just to kind of spread the love," Broekema said.

That was in May of 2020. Since then, they have spent nearly every day sitting along Plainfield Ave, spreading joy.

When you spend any amount of time sitting with the women, it is abundantly clear just how many people they are touching. Drivers see them and immediately wave back with a smile creeping across their face.

And, the honking... Almost every 3 or 4 vehicles, someone will lay on their horn. You can almost hear the joy in the quick succession of beeps they let out.

“How can that not make you feel good inside? I mean, you're making somebody smile through all this,” Bruinooge said.

But they say they didn't fully grasp just how big of an impact they were having on people until their story aired on FOX 17.

“Actually, until you guys came out to interview us, it really didn't hit me on what an impact we were making,” Bruinooge said.

Even through the frigid winter months, they were out in their spot almost daily— though they were usually waving from the comfort of their heated vehicles.

That is, until the snow started to melt a few weeks ago.

“I was going into Gail's car one day, the first day the snow was melting, and I get out here, I looked at the grass... and all of a sudden, all these cars started honking and… they remember us!" Bruinooge said.

Like a sign that better days are just around the corner, the 'Biggby Ladies' are back.

“It was so fun," Bruinooge said

"All of a sudden there were like, 4 or 5 cars… We’re just standing here looking at the grass and they're honking. It's like, they know us, They remember!”

The pair plans to continue their routine at least until their Biggby location opens their indoor seating back up.

But, Broekema said, "even if they open up, we'll pick a couple of days a week and we'll still be out here.